Thursday, April 24, 2008

Polygamy and Societal norms

The nation and perhaps the entire world have been paying attention to the recent raid on a compound belonging to the Fundamentalist Church of Latter day Saints [FLDS] in El Dolado, Texas. It has been said that sexual abuse of children, forced marriages and assault was taking place on the property.

As the days continue to unfold, so do the details of the circumstances surrounding the initial investigation, the raid on FLDS property and the subsequent action of taking hundreds of children into state custody, the accusations continue to fly. One which sticks out in my mind is that children were "indoctrinated" to accept marriage. For more, see the following link, [url][/url].

Do not all parents "indoctrinate" their children? I found the wording of that very arrogant and condescending. In any case, it has now been said that the initial investigation was the result of a prank, a bad joke, on the part of a FLDS detractor [ see [url][/url]]

Nonetheless, the beliefs, dress, and moral code of the followers of this Mormon breakaway faction are very odd to mainstream American culture, the most striking is their practice of polygamous marriage. Those who enter into polygamy have traditionally been seen as sexual deviants, acting contrary to Biblical norms. In the days of early Mormonism, polygamy, better described as Polygany, was seen as a command from God. Persecution from both society as well as the government forced the movement to abandon it in 1890 [see [url][/url]]. This was not universally accepted among Mormons, leading to schisms, the FDLS being just one of many such examples.

In any case, I find it very strange that while Homosexuality is acceptable and legal, persons with multiple sexual partners [married or otherwise] cannot face any legal consequences for their actions or lifestyle choice, individuals seeking marriage, of their own free will, are roundly condemned and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We venture to call this Evident Hypocrisy! We are asking here, why the hypocrisy? Please explain why polygamy is wrong, and yet homosexuality is not? Why is polygamy immoral and contrary to state law, when plural relationships, usually without marriage, or simply "playing the field" are acceptable, without fear of government interference?

Sometimes it is asserted that Polygamous relationships place an unfair burden on state and national resources.However, would not any other relationship, with its consequent children, also place the same burdens? It seems to me that such reasoning is untenable, an excuse to simply attack what is different, something which presents a totally different set of values and morals, in many cases exposing our own inadequacies as a nation and society.

Polygamy in Islam

In Pre-Islamic Arabia, a variety of marriages and relationships were seen as acceptable, including polygamy. However, an unlimited polygamy was practiced. The Qur'an limits the number of wives a man is allowed to take to four, and what is most interesting about this is that the Qur'an itself links polygamy to social welfare.

And if you are fearful that you cannot be just with orphans, then marry women of your choice, two, three or four. And if you fear the inability to be just [again], then one woman ..that is the most suitable in preventing you from being unjust.

[Qur'an 4:3]

The Muslim community, under the leadership of Muhammad ,were under much pressure, as men had been falling in battle, leaving behind widows and children with no means of support. This was a solution to several problems,but the main one addressed is that of social welfare. Any religion that does not give guidance for practical situations of like nature does not deserve much attention. In the above cited Quranic text, it appears that it is suggested that instead of guardians being appointed to manage the inheritance [if any] of the family, the guardian himself, or someone willing to take on this role, should unite with that family, take on the responsibilities and struggles together, as a means of overcoming pressure, but also to build a cohesive family, a large body that will be there for mutual support financially, spiritually, and so forth.

This has little to do with sexual adventure. The Qur'an is presenting an alternative family system, with limitations of course. It should also be noted that rulers and leaders often took on wives from other nations/tribes/families etc.. as a means to build traditional relationships and solidify alliances. This is apparent in the figure of Solomon, whom the Bible says had as many as 700 wives[ 1 Kings 11:3]. The Prophet Muhammad himself had similar reasons in mind, as we see that he also married several widows.


Polygamy is not for everyone, indeed it is not recommended for those financially or emotionally incapable of handling such responsibilities. In any case, as an institution it does not deserve the sort of bad press it has received and continues to receive.

If it is to be practiced, it should be for the correct motivations, and not simply for "adventure". Marriage, whether in polygamy or not, should never be rushed into. We suggest following the advice of Muhammad himself, which is to pray [salaat al -Istikhaarah] and then seek advice from people [Ft.1]

This was by no means a comprehensive look at Polygamy, but nonetheless we pray that this has caused you to at least consider the choice of others and not look at it with contempt. I am also interested in the views of those who have experience in polygamy, from any religion, in order to have a productive and meaningful discussion.


[#1] Al Qahtaani, Sa'eed, Fortification of the Muslim through remembrance and supplication from the Qur'aan and Sunnah, pp. 105-108 [Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Dar al Khair, 1996 edition]

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Al-Kauthar: Legacy of the Prophet

"Surely We [Allah] have given you [O Muhammad] 'Al-Kauthar'. So, pray to your Lord and sacrifice. Surely, the one who is hateful to you [O Muhammad] will have no legacy" [Qur'an 108:1-3]

This rather short Surah was given to the Prophet Muhammad [Peace be upon him] during a great personal tragedy. His sons had been dying, and to add insult to injury, the Mushrikeen were celebrating these tragedies, themselves holding the view that with no male heirs, the message of Muhammad would simply die out. Details of these incidents are widely available. {Ft.1}

The title and key phrase to this surah is "Al Kauthar". This name has been variously interpreted, among the ideas is the widely accepted notion that Al Kauthar is the name of a body of water, a pond, Divinely promised in this Surah to the Prophet himself. Many traditions have entered the Hadeeth literature, both Sunni and Shi'i collections, and thereafter the books of Tafseer [Quranic commentary] that have elaborated upon the nature of this pond, the events that will take place in Paradise, and a variety of other tales. {Ft.2}

Even if we accept such tales to be correct, we are still overlooking some important details surrounding the text, its implications for the future of the Muslim community, and the power of the revelation itself.

What is Al-Kauthar?

The name 'Al-Kauthar' comes from the root Ka-tha-ra, meaning "much" or "plenty", translated by 'Abdullah Yusuf 'Ali as "the abundance" . It is said to have been revealed in Makkah, in the early part of Muhammad's mission, when he [The Prophet] was still under immense pressure from his foes, living in the midst of constant danger. Despite these disadvantages, the messenger of God is told, in essence, that he has been granted a perpetual and continuous gift of heritage- in the form of the Quranic revelation itself.

In another Surah, Muhammad is reminded of his humble origins, the blessings given to him, and that as a result, he is to be more steadfast in his dedication to the Divine will.

"Did he [Allah] not find you [O Muhammad] an orphan, then give you shelter, found you misled, then gave you guidance, found you in want, and enriched you?...And testify to the blessings of your Lord." [Qur'an 93:6-8, 11].

This is another reminder of Al-Kauthar given to the Prophet. Under normal circumstances, a person from such humble origins would live and die a forgotten person to history, however, the reality is that the text given to him, the Qur'an, is perhaps the most widely read, studied and memorized book in the world, and it is also quite clear that Muhammad is the most beloved character among mankind. He may have lost his sons to illness, but indeed his legacy has not been lost to the one billion strong Muslims worldwide, to the people who automatically say Sall-Allahu 'Alayhi wa sallam after repeating his name {ft.3}, to the people whose emotions are stirred to action when his name and character are maligned, as in the recent cartoon scandals.

In short, Muhammad the man was given a multitude of blessings in the form of the Qur'an itself, and Muhammad as God's final Prophet was consequently never forgotten, becoming a source of blessing and guidance for all humanity. {ft.4}

"Have We [Allah] not opened for you your chest, removed from you your burden, which placed strain on your back, and elevated for you your reputation [and standing]..?" [Qur'an 94:1-4]

Results of Al-Kauthar

We have a saying in the United States "to him whom much is given, much is expected". This expression is very applicable and related to the Prophet, his followers, and is, in short, the message of Surah Al-Kauthar.

"So, pray to your Lord and sacrifice. Surely, the one hateful to you [O Muhammad] will have no legacy" [Q 108:2-3]

The above verse begins with a particle of consequence["fa"], showing that devotion to spiritual growth, to the betterment of society , is only natural, after encountering the profound blessings of Allah, Subhaanahu wa Ta'aalaa. The actions of reflecting faith and blessings will be lasting, perhaps beyond the limits of our own thinking and imagination.

"{God swears} By the time. Truly, humans are in consistent loss. Except those who believe, perform righteous deeds, and enjoin to one another [the pursuit of] truth and patience" [Q 103:1-3]. A very clear example of this is given in the following Hadeeth:

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous decendant who prays for him (for the deceased)'' [Muslim].

The last verse of this profound Surah "Surely the one hateful to you [O Muhammad] will have no legacy" shows both the limited thinking of the Prophet's foes, as well as their fate. While they are willing to celebrate his personal tragedies, and inflict harm to him whenever possible themselves, they are shown to have arrogated to themselves a sense of importance and power. Yet, despite that, we are also shown that they were themselves insecure and quite jealous. They feel that Muhammad must be destroyed, at any cost. Many opponents of Islam are leading figures in other religious communities, and while a fear of losing followers to another religion is very normal and expected, what should not be expected is lying, slander and intentional misrepresentation of the Prophet's character, the propagation of falsehoods about the Qur'an itself, about Islam itself, from religious figures, despite the fact that their own religious texts finds such actions to be reprehensible. {ft.5}

In a personal sense, this verse has given a correct account of the fate of Muhammad's foes. Arabs in that time valued sons above all else, for it is the sons who would carry on the family line, and the philosophy [if any] of their fathers. Despite Muhammad's personal losses, his ideological heirs are countless, while there is none who claim to be associated with the line or legacy of Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab, and the other opponents.


This Surah, although very short, is also comprehensive in its approach and message. It is our humble view that this Surah should be displayed in Muslim Mosques and homes, in the places where prayer is observed, so that we are always reminded of the message. We would be reminded to always have the priorities in proper view, that to follow Muhammad is to worship God alone, and translate our faith into actions, for the sake of our own personal offspring, for the sake of the world. Our legacy, if we have that frame of thinking, will also last throughout time.


[1] Haykal, Muhammad Husayn The life of Muhammad, pp. 68-69 [Indiana, Plainfield, American trust publications, 1995 printing].

[2]Khan, Muhammad Muhsin Summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari, pp. 875-876 [Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Darus-salam publications, 1994 ].

[3] This phrase is usually rendered as "peace and blessings of God be upon him". AS of late, the translation "Prayers and peace be on him" has become increasingly popular. While this is a linguistically correct rendering, it is not the preference of the author, as it gives the mistaken notion that Muslims are to pray to the Prophet. This phrase actually has the sense of asking security, assistance, and protection to Muhammad, as well as his followers. For more information, obtain our lecture "The remembrance of Allah is the greatest" [CD] , in which the Quranic verses and Ahadeeth relating to this are examined. To obtain, e-mail

[4] See the Qur'an 21:107 and 7:158. Also see our entry in the work entitled The language of revelation[pp. 220-221 'Muhammad'] as well as pp. 216-218 ['Abraham']. For more information, e-mail

[5] One good example of how lying is frowned upon in religion is in the following Biblical reference."Keep falsehood and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread...Do not slander a servant to his master, or he will curse you, and you will pay for it." [Proverbs, 30:8, 10, NIV study Bible, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 2002.