بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
The Case for Polygyny
By QuranandBibleBlog Author: stewjo004
“They’re calling it lies simply because it’s not within reach of their knowledge or comprehension…” (10:39)
This article is in response to a question on Twitter “If polygamy is morally permissible in Islam why can’t a woman have two husbands?” from a Christian apologist by the name of Michael Jones who you may remember from the Quran and Bible blogs YouTube channel being refuted here and here). Now the simple answer, especially for someone who calls themselves ‘Inspiring Philosophy’ and ascribes to belief in a Creator, is “divine command theory.” God is the one who created males and females and He is the only source to determine what is right and wrong. Basically, in layman’s terms “because God said so. The end.” With that being said, my guess from the question is the real intent is to say since polygyny is allegedly bad and “unfair for women by allowing multiple husbands for women” it therefore wouldn’t be sanctioned by God (despite this being very debatable according to the Bible) and thus is reason to cause doubt on Islam being true. The problem with Jones here is it appears he’s never actually been in a polygynous setup and is likely talking theoretically while the author has and whose wives prefer the arrangement. So, let’s go over the wisdom of God allowing polygyny (multiple women one man) while not doing the same for polyandry (multiple men one woman). Before discussing this point some caveats need to be noted:
- Because Islam is an entire civilization you have to sometimes zoom out and look at the whole system at work and not just magnify one aspect
- I will attempt to keep the points as neutral as possible for all audiences but, because Jones is a hardcore Bible-thumping Christian I will sometimes present mutual understandings of relationships from both Abrahamic worldviews
- We will also try and mention that there will be no psychological differences in how men and women perceive relationships as one could simply argue that’s just social programming that a woman only wants one partner while men are “naturally more promiscuous”. We will assume in this case both genders are equals emotionally and psychologically (even though I don’t believe most people would agree) and that it’s a fact that men on average have higher sex drives, and hygiene and reproduction between multiple sex partners is easier.
Alright so with all that out the way, let’s begin:
Starting the conversation off, as much as people don’t like to admit it, all relationships have to be based on mutual benefit, whether it be worldly or spiritual, in order to be a good relationship. When dealing with poly, the partner everyone is sharing is for lack of a better term the “lynchpin” that binds the rest of the relationships that may have never would have otherwise interacted. There needs to be a mutual benefit for everyone otherwise they’re just taking a loss and will understandably be upset. There are only 24 hours in a day and bar none, polygyny’s biggest advantage over monogamy is there are more “hands-on deck” in order to get things done. The “trick” in getting the setup to work is to plan out roles between everyone. In polygyny, because there are more wives splitting up the “daily grind” tasks like cooking, cleaning, child raising, and relations, this frees women up from household duties to study or explore more hobbies with their free time whilst still being able to have a physically, emotionally and spiritually fulfilling relationship. Some small examples:
- Wife 1 takes care of cleaning, getting the kids up in the morning, and meal prep
- Wife 2 cooks, drops off/picks up kids from school, and is on “night duty” if the kids wake up
Or a bit more complex
- The husband is in business, wife 1 wants to pursue a career as a business lawyer. While she is in school studying, wives 2,3 and 4 will cover household tasks but in return when she opens her practice, they get to increase their standards of living when she brings her newfound wealth back into the household while also acting as free legal for the husband thus bringing in even more income.
Again these were just some quick things off the top of my head, and each household would have to tailor to their lives what works for them, but the point is made; the crux is if properly planned and done, with 1 man and 4 women you have 1 sustaining source raising 4 healthy households.
This now brings us to the first issue in a polyandry setup: what is the primary benefit for the men in this relationship? As I said previously, the person who the partners are sharing is the “lynchpin” and every person has to benefit in order for the relationship to work. The main benefit of polyandry for the men is basically cheap sex and (if all husbands are brothers) not having to divide assets during inheritance which is what this setup was historically used for:
“… “classical polyandry” in Asia has allowed families in areas of scarce farmable land to hold agricultural estates together. The marriage of all brothers in a family to the same wife allows plots of family-owned land to remain intact and undivided.”
The problem here is this in turn stagnates the economy by causing wealth to circulate amongst a few which Islam strongly condemns, as it says in the Quran regarding the reasoning behind war spoils distribution laws:
“…This is so it doesn’t just circulate among those of you who are rich…”
This forms the basis for many of our economic laws and principles such as Zakat (tithe that is distributed to the poor) and inheritance laws.
If we zoom out further into child raising, in a polygynous set up this allows for the children (which I’m sure Jones would agree is one of the primary goals of marriage) emotional support from four loving mothers. In polyandry, to start how would we know (especially before modern DNA testing) who the father even was? While someone may then say: “Well they’ll all raise it!” This would be an ideal setup that sounds good on paper until we come back to the real world and have to start discussing divorce, death, and custody. Divorce would be complex because of parental lineages and so it makes the chance for injustice by leaving the strong possibility that no matter which party is awarded custody, another man would be burdened with raising another man’s child or a man would not actually have the ability to raise his child.
In polygyny, divorce is almost exactly like standard monogamy. Moving on, childbirth was historically one of the main ways women died, so if the “lynchpin” of the poly setup is the woman and she was to die this dissolves the whole unit and so again which husband gets custody in this case? Speaking of death, the matter becomes even more complex when you factor in other laws now like inheritance distribution between 4 providers. All in all, the purpose of marriage is to build stable societies and clearly dictate descendant responsibilities to respective lineages
Another area polygyny’s advantages shine is during wartime. As men get killed off, women are who matter when it comes to rebuilding society. If the war goes well Muslim men would replenish losses with concubines. If the war was disastrous, men can go home, do polygyny and fairly quickly replenish the population as polygynous marriages typically have a lot of children while also in turn solving the issue of surplus widows and their children.
Now the question from the opposing side might argue “well that’s not fair to the women.” Well, the reality is, why everyone is trying to argue for “equality” the fact of the matter is men and women have different biological functions and thus it creates different advantages, disadvantages, and roles for all sides. As the Quran says:
“…the male is not the same as the female…”
For one, women will have a higher ratio of yes no matter what. For example, if there were 100 women in the room to have relations, a man might on his best day get 7-12. A woman on average could get 70-80. So, just off this social reality, there is already an inherent “inequality”.
Men have traditionally been the head of the household due to having to provide for and protect it, which makes us essentially expendable in the grand scheme of things. In return for exclusivity and focusing on raising the next generation women are provided for and kept out of harm’s way. There’s nothing fundamentally in polyandry assisting the woman in her roles while polygyny does. Furthermore, this entire setup would throw off the entire family dynamic as we know it if we kept traditional household roles. A woman having multiple husbands would have the potential of multiple leaders giving conflicting commands as opposed to polygyny with one leader over multiple households.
Hopefully, in this article, I was able to show some of the wisdom behind our Creator allowing polygyny as a marital setup and its benefits to society. It is also my hope to show that Muslims, a people who at one point were running 3 continents, have some logic to their laws. I think one of the main points to take from this conversation is God is All-Knowing and He sees things from angles we could never have imagined. Just because someone doesn’t initially get why God allowed or forbade something, especially when based solely on their life experiences or understanding, doesn’t make it wrong. May He continue to guide and bless us. And may we learn to respect and submit to His commands. Ameen.
 Exodus 21:10; 2 Samuel 12:8.
 See the concept of “human sperm competition”.
 Quran 59:7.
 Quran 5:36.
7 thoughts on “The Case for Polygyny”
Stew, I cleaned up the article a bit.
No issue, I didn’t do as much proof reading because I was trying to get it out while the topic was still relevant. InshaAllah I’ll probably do a bit of cleaning up myself when I get home.
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Did this Jonas…or Jones…yeah Jones whatever guy even read the OT
Christians just don’t want to say its just cultural bias. Once you start having laws for something and refer to it as a blessing your religion endorses it. The usual comeback is “God only allowed this evil because it was practical” the problem with that argument then is why is same sex union or a variety of other types of relationships unequivocally banned then?
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Pick and choose pick and choose, that summarizes their history…their theology is a mess…well “mess” is a gross understatement
@ Black Frieza
I would say “car crash” is a more accurate statement
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Just so everyone can see it’s not just “ol crazy Stew” saying it. Here is a woman who’s article I had never seen before today saying similar things: