Wives : Are 4 Enough?
Polygyny is marrying more than one woman. There is widespread belief that this is mainly practiced among Muslims. Is the belief True? NO. The Official reports of 1974 in India, highlighted the shocking fact that polygyny among Muslims is lowest than held beliefs (Adivasis: 15 per cent, Buddhists: 7.9 per cent, Jains: 6.7 per cent, Hindus: 5.8 per cent, Muslims: 5.6 per cent). Let us analyse this issue in most religions.
Why is the belief that this is a Muslim tradition? Because the Quran states so. Does it in reality? Yes – Verse from Surah Nisa of the Glorious Quran states: ‘Marry woman of your choice in twos’ threes’ or fours’ but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly, (with them), then only one’ [Al-Quran 4:3]
It is important to understand that the Quran permits but does not order a man to have four wives. More importantly, the Quran stipulates that a man is responsible for the maintenance of his wife or wives. If a man has more than one wife, he has to provide separate living accommodation for each of his wives. In fact some even argue, Quran is the only holy book to say “Marry One” and protects the rights of women.
Karen Armstrong in her book titled “Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam” says: “We have to see the ruling about polygamy in context. In seventh-century Arabia, when a man could have as many wives as he chose, to prescribe only four was a limitation, not a license to new oppression”
My understanding of Islamic history reveals that this edict in Quran is meant to protect the women of that era when there were widespread wars. There were many widows and they were exploited. Hence it was ordained to have one wife and give three more women shelters provided the man can look after each one with equal rights.
Turkey banned Polygyny in 1926 and Tunisia in 1956. In some Muslim countries, like Egypt and Iran, a man is required to get not only the consent of his first wife but also the approval of a court prior to entering into plural marriage. The Moroccan code has a provision for the court to deny permission. A similar provision exists in Jordan. Whereas the fact is only 2% of Muslim marriages world wide are of this nature.
Polygyny in Hinduism. As for this practice in the Sanatan Dharma – read more at http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/h_polygamy.asp It is a known fact that many of our ancient kings had many wives.
in India though not banned in the scriptures, The Hindu Marriage Act 1955, prohibits taking more than one wife. However this is bypassed or misused most of the time. One leading political figure in a southern state has more than one wife. The concept in Tamil Nadu is called “Chinna Veedu” (literally translated as small house). For some it is a prestige to have a Chinna Veedu. Polygyny is also noticeable in hill tribes and other areas. The upper-caste Gujarati version of bigamy is called Maitri Karar, meaning friendship document. A 2013 report in India Today said that people in Ahmedabad were “opting for it”. Many also misuse the law by converting to Islam, as was evidenced by Haryana Deputy Chief Minister in 2008 when Chander Mohan became Chand Mohammed to marry again.
There is however a problem with this aspect. If a man deserts his lawfully wedded wife to live with another woman, the only remedy available to the aggrieved woman is divorce. However, most women may not view divorce as a viable option due to social pressures. Clandestine bigamy among Hindus has a worse effect than open polygamy among Muslims. Muslim men are legally bound to provide proper maintenance. Hence, we may argue that a “second Muslim wife” is better off than the “second Hindu wife”, who has no legal status or rights under the law. In the Supreme Court ruling of 2010, in D. Velusamy case, the second wife was denied maintenance and held to be a “mistress”. This is a serious matter, which merits urgent attention and intervention.
Polygyny in Jewism. Abraham had 2 wives, and Solomon had hundreds of wives. The practice of polygyny continued till Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah. (960 A.D to 1030 A.D) issued an edict against it.
Polygyny in Christianity. Polygamy/bigamy in the Bible is first mentioned in Genesis 4:19: “Lamech married two women” Several prominent men in the Old Testament were polygamists. Jacob, David and others all had multiple wives. However the New Testament does not mention it. There are many Church sects in Christianity which practice plural marriage esp. in Africa.
What does the Supreme Court Say? India’s Supreme Court in Feb 2015, has ruled out the practice of having multiple wives for Muslims arguing that it is not a fundamental right for those who practice Islam. Judges TS Thakur and AK Goel said that Article 25 of the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession and practice of religion, but does not guarantee the practice of polygamy.
The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women says polygamous marriages should be discouraged and outlawed because they are unequal and have negative emotional and financial impacts on women and children.
So What is it! Only a married man knows how difficult it is to run a family even with one wife. I wonder how many would jump into another marriage knowingly, except for some emotional angles like child bearing/ health issues. Even in that case we need to ensure proper protection and care should be given to the first wife under the law.
Whatever be the argument, religious or otherwise, it is best to adopt One Man – One Wife policy. Our laws should be codified to ensure security of women. Would there be a different opinion on this? What is your say?