Thoughts that originate deep within

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 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?


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6 thoughts on “Wives : Are 4 Enough?

  1. Capt Ram Chander, Comdt Retd on said:

    A well researched article.


  2. Anil Pokhriyal on said:

    @Sajan very well articulated and well researched article. It busts so many myths across so many religions being passed down for over centuries backed up with legal and religious facts. Personally am now less ignorant. Kudos brother.


  3. Amish Chadha on said:

    A nicely worded article which bares polygyny in many religions and people of authority. Well the decision to have more wives is with the permission of the first wife but how many men do so in the rural areas. The literate knows how difficult it is to maintain a single wife but for the working / labourer class its another earning hand and so is the reason for having many children. Does Any religion encourage having many children or its again the literate and illiterate difference which decides on increasing the population of this country. Well written as always .


  4. Nice article well researched!! Points raised by Amish are relevant and need to be answered in the form of law by the Supreme Court of India. Creating a law doesnt mean much, least, people are educated about it. Especially in rural areas of India where every man and woman must know this fundamental principle and law. Kudos Sajan!!


  5. Dr Shahab Mohamed. on said:

    An indepth article, message conveyed in easy language as always.


  6. All these so called HOLY Books were written at a time when the ladies were often widowed due to the wars, hunts, diseases etc as the men folk generally ventured out. Now to apply them is real stupidity.
    My father’s eldest brother is a Syrian Orthodox Christian priest in Kerala. As per the advises rendered by the priest at the end of a wedding ceremony, one line states (based on Bible) you must multiply like the sand particles on the riverbed. He said he removed this line from his book and whenever he conducted a wedding he never said this line as he felt it to be impractical and also a sin in today’s world.
    Hence, anything is so-called HOLY, it is high time to change it.
    All the atrocities committed in the name of all the religions is all because of this untoward feeling of HOLY and the Godmen are the ones who really exploit it to fool the public and rake in the money (Only Dollars Please).


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