Every man knows what Qur’an says on polygyny and in many instances, he can even locate the verse, unlike any other topic in the Noble Qur’an. It’s the most famous and adorable verse (for married men) from the Qur’an (Surah An Nisa 4, 3). Indeed, few try to find its explanation and very few might ponder over it. For a long time, I thought how to find if I am unjust unless I take another wife :). This is my little thought drafted hoping to help myself and others evaluate our intentions.
And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].
..let’s find out what the verse says (and warns) contrary to our understanding of the luxury and fun in having more than one wife.
Let’s first know that an “orphan girl” is taken care by her guardian. And he is supposed to take of her and her wealth till she becomes an adult. You might have noticed multiple times while reading the Noble Qur’an that Allah forbade accommodating the orphan’s wealth and to be just to them. In this verse, the meaning of dealing unjustly with orphan girls is in the sense that: they (the orphan girls) were married by their masters if they were wealthy and beautiful; otherwise, they were not touched. Now, when they get married to their masters, their wealth get mixed with that of the masters. Moreover, the dowry he would pay her might not be equivalent to the dowry paid by a suitable external match for her. This is injustice to her, so Allah commands the masters to marry other women of their status (who they can pay suitable dowry), two, three or four .
Now, the core part: “if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one …”. As soon as Allah gave us the option of multiple wives, He immediately put a condition of being just. This is not something new to us, but Allah is reminding it here to be just or else we are transgressing the human rights (huqooq al-ibaad) set in Islam. I said this is not something new because we can relate this to our routine decisions where we have more than one responsibility and we act justly. For example, we have two kids – we bring two chocolates home, we have 10 students – we give them all bonus marks, and so on (but with respect to things, if we have two cars – we maintain them both but like to ride on one more; if we’ve two pair of shoes – we keep’em both clean but one pair is precious) In case of wives (humans), Allah reminds us to fear being unjust though Allah knows we cannot be just . That’s something to pause and reflect. Allah knows shortcomings in our nature, yet He reminds us to be cautious in being just. Subhanallah! and recall how we treat our children knowing their shortcomings and obvious mistakes. Allah is the Most Merciful and Ever Merciful.
Now, the word “injustice” is used for orphan girls in the first part of the verse, and repeated while talking about the wives. The injustice about the orphan girls is explained by Aaishah radhiallahu anha , but to my search, I couldn’t find and explanation of injustice done among the wives and how can we know that without ever having multiple wives in the first place. I am not saying we need to take few wives and test ourselves in the field of being just and if we fail, divorce all except one. No. Here on, I am applying my own intellect to understand the verse which can be an ignorant interpretation and possibly a false. Correct me if you see me creating a fitna.
The injustice among wives can be known before even taking a second wife. How? (The crux of this article). It all depends upon the intentions of the one who is planning for a second wife. If he is looking out for another wife because he thinks he has time, money, physical ability and (optional) an intention to help struggling widows/poor, then I think his injustice, if exists, can only be seen after taking a second wife, but not before. But, If a person is intending to take a second wife because he is fed up with his first wife in terms of her habits or etiquette or use of tongue or housekeeping, spending etc, then he is already being unjust to her by belittling her status in front of the anticipated second wife. There is a high chance that such a person, after marriage, will love, respect, spend time and money more so on his second wife due to his differences with the first one. In such a case, If a person is intending to take another wife, he has already a thought of injustice hoping a better one than the one at home. Hence, Allah commands to have only one, that will give some attention to the first wife, rather than being completely neglected in the presence of a second wife. This verse is indeed a security to the first wife, warning men of being unjust due to their anticipated inclination towards the other. Subhanallah!
Additional thoughts: Who doesn’t like more wives? Apart from always having an option to set your mood right or eat better food, polygyny gives a sense of mindfulness and competence in the wives towards their common husband. If one thinks that everybody brings their own rizq in this world, then, the major threat of financial inability is lifted. Yet, men today be excessively patient with most annoying wives who abuse them even outside their
homes houses. On the other hand, the very nature of jealousy amongst many of the righteous wives discourage their husbands from thinking of another wife. In actual, today’s men, with minimal liability and decision-making lessons, do not find (dare) polygyny as a blessed option while witnessing their already chaotic and tangled married life.
Disclaimer: If you think I am misinterpreting the Qur’anic verse or overdoing with my opinion (rai), then do let me know what scholars have explained about doing injustice among wives. I would be happy to retreat my words and post the correct scholarly understanding.
- “You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire” Surah An-Nisa 4, 124