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]


KdoeSkie said...

Assalaamu Alaykum, I found this post to be very informing. Its nice when someone can step out of the box and present something or an idea in a different light than what "mainstream" media makes it out to be. Personally, I could never have more than one wife(she's a handfull by herself lol) but you are right! If we can fight so hard to accept multi-racial and same-sex and transgendered/sexual relationships and/ or marriages, then we should give the same respect to those who choose to live their lives in polygamy!! I honestly think that with divorce rate over 50% there's not much room for criticism on the part of these people finger pointing. Its a money thing for sure!!! Salaam