Muslim Law

About The Polygamy Law Among The Muslims In India

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Last Updated: Nov 07, 2023
About The Polygamy Law Among The Muslims In India

The Uniqueness Of The Islamic Law In India

Polygamy in India is generally prohibited in all religious communities except the Muslim community. The Muslim civil law is quite different from the laws of other religious communities. One major aspect of this uniqueness is that Islamic law generally allows the practice of marrying more than once. There is a basic difference between the marriage laws of Hinduism, the majority community of India, and Muslim, the primary minority community of India. While amongst the Hindus marriage is a sacrament, marriage in Islam, known as Nikah, is a civil contract between a man and woman to spend their life as husband and wife. In fact, as per the Muslim marriage act in the Indian Constitution, marriage is described as an act of devotion (known as Ibadat in Urdu and other Islamic languages).

Also read Muslim Marriage Law In India: Know About Marriage, Divorce, Second Marriage

The Revelation Regarding Polygamy  

As per the tradition, Prophet had said reportedly that marriage is an obligation for every physically & mentally fit practitioner of Islam. In fact, the Prophet had said that one who marries accomplishes half of his religion, while the other half can be accomplished by leading a righteous life.  

Besides, there are various schools of thought in Islam, that mandate that a man should adopt righteous means to earn a lawful livelihood. He should also pay Mahr and should provide the resources to bring up his wife and children.    

In the Islamic scriptures, there is a verse that allows the practice of polygamy. It was revealed to the Prophet after the battle of Ulhud. In this battle, many Muslims lost their lives. This caused many women to become widows and many children were rendered, orphans. Thus, it was incumbent upon the Muslim survivors to take care of these women and children.

The verse which was revealed to the Prophet was like this:

The verse goes like this, “If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them), then (marry) only one.”

Various facts become evident from this verse, namely:  

Polygamy is neither compulsory, nor it is encouraged, only it is permitted.

The allowing of polygamy is not about satisfying one’s passion. On the contrary, it is characterized by a lot of compassion towards women (widows) and children (orphans). This is a matter confirmed by the atmosphere which prevailed in the geography where this verse was revealed.

And despite this demanding situation and the noble intention, this permission is very much restricted when compared to the usual practice which was prevailing among the Arabs in Saudi Arabia those days, when many married more than 10 wives.   

So, dealing with one’s wife is an important part of life’s obligation. This includes to providing house, food, clothing, kind and fair treatment, which falls under the mandatory responsibility of the husband. However, if one can not deal with them justly, then as per the Quran, - Marry only one.

Justice Factor: The Verse Which Discourages Polygamy

Also, if you combine this verse with another verse in the same chapter, shows discouragement of these plural marriages.

The other verse puts it straight:

“You are never able to be fair and just as between women even if it is your ardent desire,” so goes the verse.

The need of justice and equality eliminates the provision of fantasy ‘that a man can possess as many wives as he pleases.’ Also, it does away with the concept of a secondary wife (the categorization of one’s wives for a polygamous man). This is so because all the wives should have the same status and all equally entitled to the claims and rights over their husbands.

Further, as per Islamic Law, should a husband fail to provide sufficient support to his wife, she can go to court and ask for a divorce.

The Word Is Marry

Also, the verse says marry and not abduct, seduce or buy.  Besides, what is marriage in Islam? Marriage in Islam is a civil contract and it cannot be validated unless both parties give their consent. Therefore, no woman can be married forcefully or given to a man who is already married.

Also read Can Hindu Women Inherit Property From Their Parents? The SC Decision That Changed It All.

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