MARRIAGE IS ONE OF THE GOALS OF NATURE
The basic reality of sexual relation between man and woman is most clearly established by human—nay, even animal—nature; Islam being the religion of nature, confirms it without any doubt. Procreation—the goal nature wants to achieve with this union— is the basic factor and the only reason, which has transformed cohabitation into marriage, and raised it from mere carnal relation to a durable union. That is why we see that the species of animals in which both parents jointly bring up their offspring – like the birds in their guarding the eggs and feeding and bringing up the chicks, and those animals who need a den or lair for giving birth to and bringing up their offspring and for preparation and protection of which the female needs cooperation of the male – have opted for a constant attachment and exclusive relationship between the male and the female. In this manner they come together, and share the tasks of guarding and hatching the eggs, and this cooperation continues till the chicks grow up and go their own way; then the parents separate (if they separate at all), then a new cycle begins. It shows that the real cause of marriage and the rationale for matrimony is the instinct of procreation and bringing up the children. As for the satisfaction of sexual urge or joining hands in struggle of life, like earning and saving money preparation of food and drink, obtaining household effects and, in short, managing the domestic life—these things are not a part of the goal of nature; they are mere preliminaries of, or benefits accruing from, marriage.
It is clear from the above that:
Freedom and licentiousness shown by the couples—husband or wife cohabiting with other than his or her spouse without any restraint whenever and wherever he/she desires, like animals world where male mounts female wherever he gets the chance – as is the norm of the day in ” civilized” countries, likewise fornication and particularly adultery;
Treating the marriage as a permanent union, and prohibition of divorce and separation, not allowing either party to dissolve the marriage and marrying another spouse – as long as the couple is alive;
Elimination of procreation and refusal to rear children; laying the foundation of marriage – tie on sharing the domestic life, as is prevalent in “advanced” countries; and consequently sending the newborn children to public nurseries established for their nursing and bringing up;
All this goes against the laws of nature. The nature has equipped human being with instincts and organs, which totally oppose these “modern” habits, as we have mentioned above.
Of course, there are animals in whose birth and rearing male’s continued presence is not needed. Once the female becomes pregnant, she takes on herself all the duties of pregnancy, and of nursing and rearing the offspring. In such cases there is no natural need of durable union between male and female. Such animals are free to cohabit as and when they feel the urge, to the extent that does not disturb the nature’s aim of preserving the species.
It would be a folly to think that it won’t harm man to disturb the system ordained by creation, to go against the dictates of nature, provided one compensated for the resulting defects with thought and deliberation; and that in this way he would freely enjoy the life and its blessings.
But such thought is nothing short of madness. These natural structures — including the human personality – are composites made of innumerable parts. When each part is kept in its proper place, following the laid down conditions, it creates an overall effect agreeable to the goal of nature, the aim of creation. This effect leads the species to its perfection. It is not unlike the medical mixtures and compounds, which require particular ingredients with especial qualities and prescribed measure and weights, and are dispensed with laid down process; and if changes are made even slightly in its weight or quality it will lose its effects.
Man is a being, naturally created of various parts compounded in a particular way; this especial process results in some inner qualities and psychological characteristics, which in their turn produce various actions and activities. If some of these actions are changed from their natural position, it will badly disturb the alignment of those qualities and characteristics, which in its turn will dislocate all the intrinsic characteristics and qualities from their natural position, will deviate the whole being from the path of nature; this would severe man’s link with his natural perfection, and turn him from the destination the nature was urging him to reach.
If we look at the general calamities mankind is submerged in nowadays, which render people’s endeavors to achieve comfortable and happy life null and void, and which are threatening the humanity with downfall and ruination, we shall find that it has been caused, in the main part, by the total absence of piety, and by the mastery that stupidity and cruelty, violence and greed, have got over human psyche; and the biggest factor in this mastery is this licentiousness and permissiveness, this discarding of natural laws concerning marital responsibilities and rearing of children. The system adopted nowadays for domestic life and for bringing up the children, kills the instincts of mercy and kindness and erases the traits of chastity, modesty and humility from man’s psyche, from the first moment of his awareness to his last breath.
Can’t we compensate for these deficiencies through our reason and contemplation? Forget it. Reason and understanding, like other faculties of life, is a tool acquired by nature as a means to bring the deviating factors back to the natural path. It is not meant to negate the endeavors of creation and dictates of nature; otherwise it would be tantamount to killing the nature by the very sword it had given in man’s hand to defend himself. Moreover, if the reason (a tool of nature) is used to support the depravity and decay of other natural faculties, this tool also would be damaged and misaligned like those others.
We are witnessing today that whenever man tries to remove, through his thinking, one of the catastrophes threatening the society, he opens the gate of a greater and more disastrous calamity; and sufferings and travails extend their tentacles some more.
Someone among these people might say: The psychological traits like chastity, generosity, modesty, kindness and truthful – ness, which are called spiritual virtues, are relics of the era of superstition and barbarity; they are not good for the modern advanced man. Chastity puts fetters on man’s many desires. Generosity negates man’s endeavors for gathering money, and disregards all the troubles he had undergone in earning it; more- over, it encourages the poor to remain idle and degrade himself by begging here and there. Modesty is a bridle that prevents man from freely expressing his ideas or demanding his rights. Kindness weakens the heart; and truth does not agree with demands of today’s life.
COMMENT: This talk in itself is an example of the deviated thinking, which we have mentioned above. This man is oblivious of the fact that these virtues are essential for a human society; if they are removed, the society cannot remain alive as society even for an hour.
What will happen if these characteristics were removed from the society? Everyone will exceed his limits to snatch others’ rights, properties and honor; nobody will offer any help to meet dire needs of society; nobody will feel any shame in breaking the laws of the land; no one will show any mercy to weaker groups — who cannot be held responsible for their weakness—like children and others; everyone will lie to everyone else, giving him wrong information and false promises. The society will disintegrate at once.
This man should understand that these virtues have not gone, nor will they ever go, away from this world. Human nature adheres to them and it will keep them alive as long as it is calling the mankind to live in society. The most important thing is to arrange and moderate these traits, so that they conform with the goal of nature, which invites man to a happy life. If the attitudes reigning nowadays over the advanced societies were really virtuous or truly well balanced, they would not have pushed the society to such depravity and disaster; instead they would have led mankind to safety and peace, comfort and happiness.
To come back to our original topic: Islam has put the institution of matrimony in its natural place—as we have mentioned earlier. It has allowed marriage and forbidden fornication and illicit sexual relations. It has established the marriage tie, putting up with possibility of its dissolution, that is, divorce; and made this bond exclusive to a certain extent, as we shall explain below. The foundation of this bond was laid on procreation and bringing up the children; there is a well-known saying of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.): “Marry, procreate, increase your number. . .”
DOMINATION OF MALES OVER FEMALES
Observation of animals’ sexual behavior shows that the males have a sort of domination and authority over the females in this matter. It is as though the male considers himself to be the master of the female, possessing the right to mount her. That is why we see the males fighting each other for the females, but not vice versa; the fema1e does not stand up to fight another female if the male goes to the latter. Likewise, love-rites, the equivalent of proposals in our society, are initiated in animal kingdom by the males, not the females. It only means that the female is by nature aware that in this respect the male is the active and dominant agent, while she is only a passive receiver. Do not be mislead by occasional ingratiating behavior of the male with the female when he fawns on her by doing whatever would please her; it is but a part of love-play, which he does to heighten the desire and increase the pleasure. But as far as the domination and mastery is concerned, it springs from his virility and its natural function.
The idea that strength and power are inseparable concomitants of the males, and softness and submissiveness, the characteristics of the females, is found more or less in all nations, and has filtered into various linguistic idioms and expressions. They call a tough unbendable thing as “male”, and a tender pliable item as “female”; e.g., [in Arabic] they say: Male iron, male sword, male grass, male place, and so on.
This idea is generally common to the whole human species, prevalent in different societies and various nations —although there might be some difference in degrees.
Islam has kept this reality in view in its legislation. Allah says: Men are the maintainers of women, because of that with which Allah has made some of them to excel the other. . . (4:34). Islam has made it obligatory for a wife to submit to her husband if he wants to cohabit with her—whenever possible.
As far as we have observed, the question of “monogamy or polygamy” in the animal world is not definitely settled. In cases where the male and the female have to live together (because the male remains busy whole time in helping his mate in “domestic” affairs, raising the children and looking after them) “monogamy ” is the rule, i.e.; the female remains exclusively attached to the male. Yet sometimes the system may be changed through skill, planning and guarantee of security, i.e., by domestication and training, as is seen between cock and hens and even pigeons, etc.
Coming to our own species, polygamy was a custom prevalent in most of the ancient nations like Egypt, India, China and Persia; and even Rome and Greece, who supplemented the wife with concubines who lived with her in the same house. Some nations, like the Jews and the Arabs, observed no limit; some married ten, twenty or even more wives; reportedly the king Solomon had married hundred of women.
Mostly, polygamy was prevalent in tribal and other similar communities, like villagers and highlanders. A head of family in such societies always felt a pressing need for a large coterie of followers Polygamy was his way of achieving this goal; increased births gave him a large number of sons, who in some years became a force for defending his interests—a necessary part of life in those communities — and raising him to the leadership of the community. Also, the increased number of marriages increased the circle of relatives through affinity.
Some scholars have said that the main factor leading tribesmen or villagers to polygamy was their preoccupation with a lot of back-breaking jobs, like carrying and transporting loads; shepherding and cattle grazing; farming and irrigation; hunting, cooking and weaving; and things like that.
This theory is correct to a certain extent; but contemplation of their psychological traits proves that these factors had a secondary importance in their eyes. What we have mentioned earlier was the primary and basic concern or a nomad. Also it was this factor which led them to gather adopted sons around themselves.
There was one more basic reason which increased the number of wives in those societies, and that was the presence of women in much greater number than men. In those tribal societies battle and war was a never-ending phenomenon, as was assassination and murder. Such killings continued to decrease the male population, and women’s number increased to a level where the only way to fulfill their natural needs was through polygamy. Think over it.
Islam has ordained marriage with one wife, and allowed marrying up to four, provided the man is able to treat them equitably; it has at the same time taken steps to remove the difficulties and shortcomings found in polygamy, as we shall mention later. Allah says: and they (women) have rights similar to those upon them in a just manner (2:228).
OBJECTIONS AGAINST POLYGAMY:
First Objection: It creates evil effects in society. It hurts the feelings of women, frustrates their hopes and stops the fountainhead of love in their hearts. The love is transformed into a desire for revenge. They neglect the household, do not look after children’s welfare, and pay their men in their own coin. Thus they indulge in adultery, embezzle their property, and tarnish their honor. The society immediately sinks to the lowest level possible.
Second Objection: Polygamy goes against the system, which the nature has obviously established. Census figures, obtained from various communities generation after generation, show that the male and female populations are almost equal. It means that nature provides only one woman for one man. To disturb this balance goes against the nature’s programmed.
Third Objection: Allowing polygamy encourages men to lust and avidity, and gives boost to such tendencies in society.
Fourth Objection: Polygamy degrades women in society, as it counts four women as equal to one man; and it is an unjust assessment, even from Islamic point of view which treats two women as equal to one man, e.g., in inheritance and evidence, etc. On that basis too, marriage with only two women should have been allowed—not with four. Marriage with four is deviation from justice, however we look at it.
These objections have been written by Christians or by those sociologists who advocate equal rights for both sexes in society.
Reply to the First Objection: We have repeatedly explained that Islam has laid the foundation of human society on rational, not emotional, life. In sociological field, it follows what is good for the society in reason, not what is desired by emotions or feelings.
It does not mean that Islam kills the emotions and feelings, or negates the divine gift of natural instincts. It is accepted in the Psychology that difference in education and training creates difference quantitatively and qualitatively in psychological traits and inner feelings and emotions. For example, many rites and customs that are highly appreciated by the Orientals are looked down upon by the Occidentals, and vice versa. Every community differs from the others in one way or the other.
Religious education and training in Islam raises the woman to a level where her feelings are not injured with such things. Of course, the Western woman has become accustomed since many centuries to being the only wife, and has been taught this idea generation after generation. This has created in her a psychological aversion against polygamy. Proof of this may be found in the shocking licentiousness and promiscuity of men and women prevalent in the “advanced” nations nowadays.
Do not their men satisfy their lust with anyone they like and who responds favorably to their advances —no matter whether she is within prohibited degree or outside, is virgin or deflowered, is married or unmarried. It has reached a stage where one cannot find among them a single man or woman in a thousand who has not indulged in illicit sexual relations. Not only that; now they have plunged into sodomy to the extent that no one seems clean of it. The debauchery has become a norm of the day, so much so that just last year it was proposed in the British parliament to legalize the sodomy – after it had spread among them “illegally”. As for the women, and especially virgins and spinsters, their affairs are even more amazing and more shocking.
Would that I knew why the women in those countries are not sorry for this state of affairs? Why are they not embarrassed by it? Why are their hearts not broken by it? Why are their feelings not injured when they see all this debauchery from their men? Also, why is the man not annoyed when he marries a girl and finds her deflowered and comes to know that she had already been bedded not only by one or two men? Why does he start boasting in the morning that her bride had been so popular with men that tens, rather hundreds, had vied with each other to win her favors? Why this insensitivity? Is there any reason except that this wantonness and immorality has been going on for so long, and this licentiousness and lasciviousness has so captured their minds, that now it has become a second nature to them; now it neither hurts their feelings nor looks strange or objectionable to them. It is as we had mentioned earlier that the prevalent customs mould the feelings and emotions in their own mould, and do not let them take any other shape.
As for the claim that polygamy makes the women neglect their house, ignore the children’s education and incline towards illicit sexual relations and embezzlement, experience shows hollowness of such talks. This law was ordained and enforced in the early days of Islam, and no scholar of history can claim that it had caused any disturbance in the social order. The reality was poles apart from such claims.
Moreover, the women who marry a man as his second, third or fourth wife—in Islamic or other polygamous societies—enter into marriage contract willingly, with their open eyes. They belong to the same society, they are not captured from other countries, nor have they been brought here for this purpose from outer space. Yet they willingly agree to such marriage for one or the other sociological reason. It follows that woman by nature is not against polygamous marriage; nor are her feelings injured by it. If there is any resentment it should be shown by the first wife; when a woman has remained alone with her husband, she would not like intrusion of another woman in her house, lest her husband show more attachment to the new wife, or the new wife acquire more authority, or differences raise their heads between the two wives’ children, or things like that. It shows that unhappiness and resentment, if there be any, springs not from natural disposition, but from an incidental situation, that is, remaining for sometime alone with the husband.
Reply to the Second Objection: The argument by the equality that nature supposedly maintains between numbers of males and females are untenable for many reasons:
1. Marriage does not depend on equa1 rates of birth alone; there are many other factors and conditions that control it. First of all, maturity of mind and capability of marriage appears sooner in girls than in boys. Girls, and especially in hot climates, are ready for marriage as soon as they reach the age of nine; while boys do not attain puberty before the age of sixteen (and this is what Islam has kept in view for deciding the age of marriage).
Its evidence may be found in the behavior prevalent among the girls in the “civilized” countries: Rarely does a girl remain virgin up to the age of the “legal adulthood”; and the only reason is that nature makes her ready for marriage long before bestowing that ability on boys.
Now, let us look at a group of boys and girls born during the last sixteen years—and supposedly both sexes are equal in number. How many marriageable boys will be there in the group? Only those who are sixteen years old, that is, those born in the first year of the period under study. But how many girls of marriageable age will be there in the group? All those who were born from the first to the seventh year of this period [i.e., the marriageable girls will be seven times more than the marriageable boys]. Increase the period under study to twenty-five years (the age when men usually reach their full maturity and strength). How many men and women of marriageable age you get in this group? The men who were born during the first ten years, and the women who were born during the first fifteen years. It gives us an average of two women for each man, by natural law.
2. Census reportedly shows that expectancy of life is greater in woman than in man. In other words, men die earlier, leaving some women who would remain alone, with no man to marry them if monogamy is to be the rule.*
3. The ability to procreate continues longer in men than in women. Usually women reach menopause at the age of fifty, while men’s virility continues for years and years after that. Sometimes his ability to procreate continues to the end of his natural age, i.e., a hundred years. Accordingly a man’s reproductive period, about 80 years, would be double of that of a woman (which is about 40 years). This premises in conjunction with the preceding one proves that the creative nature allows the man to marry more than one wife. How can nature bestows the ability to reproduce and then prohibit the use of receptacles suitable for that reproduction? Such contrariness is not the way natural causality works.
4. The carnages like battles and wars liquidate mainly the male population, compared to which women remain almost unaffected. As mentioned above, it was a strong factor in the spread of polygamy in the tribal societies. If those widows and spinsters are not cared for through polygamous marriages, then what are the alternative available to them? Either fornication or negation and nullification of their natural faculties!
This problem had raised its head in West Germany a few months before writing these lines. There the spinster women spoke about the hardships and difficulties they were facing because they could not find any man free to marry them; they demanded from the government to allow them to contract polygamous marriage—in Islamic manner. The idea was to permit the men to marry more than one wife in order that those spinsters should not be deprived of their natural rights. But the government rejected the demand, and the Church refused to agree—although tacitly they agreed to the spreading of adultery and fornication and to the ruining of would-be generation.
5. Even if we close our eyes from all the above factors, the argument of equality of the numbers of both sexes would stand only if we suppose that every man in the society marries polygamous – up to four wives. But nature has not prepared every man for it; only a few, and not all, can marry more than one wife. Islam has not made it compulsory for every man to enter into many marriages; it has only made it lawful—for him who is able to treat all wives equitably. This permission does not create any difficulty or disturbance; and its clearest proof may be found in the Muslim and other polygamous societies where it has not created any shortage of women and no man fails to find a wife for him. In contrast with that, we find in the monogamous societies thousands of women who are left in the lurch, as they cannot find anyone to marry them and provide them a chance to settle in life; their only outlet is fornication.
6. Apart from that, this objection could only be advanced if Islam had not had provided this rule with checks and balances for keeping it safe from those imaginary defects. Islam has made it compulsory for a man who wants to marry more than one wife to behave with them with justice and equity, to live with them in fairness, and divide the nights between them; it has obliged him to maintain them and their children equitably. Obviously, not every man can easily spend on, let us say, four wives and their offspring, keeping within the circle of justice and fairness in his dealings with them; it may be done only by some of the well-to-do people.
Moreover, there are some lawful Islamic ways which may be used by a woman to encourage and oblige her man not to marry another wife after her.
Reply to the Third Objection: This objection springs from not looking attentively at the Islamic way of education and training or at the goals of this shari’ah. The education given to women in an Islamic society—as approved by religion—trains them to keep themselves covered, makes chastity and modesty their second nature, and protects them from breach of decency. Consequently, a Muslim woman grows up with far less sexual desire than is found in a man. This is in spite of common belief that sexual desire in a woman is stronger and greater. Why has this idea spread? Just because by nature a woman seems more concerned with her adornment and beauty. But the fact is otherwise; and no Muslim man (who has married women grown up in Islamic atmosphere) can have an iota of doubt about it. In reality, an average man’s sexual desire far exceeds that of a single woman —even of two or three of them.
Let us look at it from another angle. Islam is very concerned that none should be deprived of necessary natural desires or essential biological demands. From religious point of view, it is not good for a man to dam up his sexual desire and remain frustrated, as it would lead him to indecency and immorality. But a woman remains justifiably incapable of sexual relations for about a third of her married life, e.g., during monthly periods, advanced stages of pregnancy, delivery, breast-feeding and for similar other reasons. But it is necessary to provide for prompt satisfaction of the husband’s desire. It is the necessary conclusion of the repeatedly mentioned principle that Islam has laid the society’s foundation on rational, not emotional, basis. It is therefore a great danger from Islam’s point of view to leave the man unmarried or in his above-mentioned sexual frustration, as it would lead him to lustful thoughts and immoral activities.
Apart from that, the Law-giver of Islam considers it very important that the Muslims should have lots of offspring, in order that the Earth should flourish with goodly prosperity at the hands of a Muslim society, erasing polytheism and mischief from the World.
It is these and similar other considerations which have led the Islam to legalize the institution of polygamy; it was not for spreading lustful ways or encouraging lecherous behavior. Had our detractors followed the dictates of justice, their own social customs—popular among them who have built their society on the foundation of material enjoyment — more deserving to be accused of spreading immorality and encouraging licentiousness, than the Islam which has based its social order on the foundation of religious bliss and felicity.
Furthermore, just the fact, that man has the permission to marry other wives, pacifies and calms down the avidity, which a sense of deprivation could have agitated. Every deprived one is greedy; when one is forbidden a thing, his mind remains continually busy in devising plans to get that thing. Every Muslim — even if he has only one wife —is satisfied and contended that he is not prevented from satisfying his sexual desires if a need; arose in future to do so. This in a way calms down his such desires, and protects him from inclining towards indecency and tarnishing other’s honors.
A Western scholar has rightly said that the strongest factor that has contributed in spreading adultery and immorality in the Christian nations is the Church’s prohibition of polygamy.**
Reply to the Fourth Objection: This allegation is totally unacceptable. We have described in a previous discourse, when writing on the rights of women in Islam***, that no social system whatsoever —be it religious or secular, ancient or modern—has ever honored the women as much, and cared for their rights so comprehensively and perfectly, as the Islam has done; and we shall further explain it somewhere else. As for allowing a man to marry more than one woman, it is not intended to be a negation of women’s social prestige, nullification of their rights or degradation of their status in life; it is founded on several underlying benefits, some of which have been mentioned above.
A lot of the Western scholars—both men and women—have admitted the goodness and perfectness of this Islamic law, and the social disorder and dangers inherent in prohibition of polygamy. Interested readers should look for their comments in their books.
The strongest argument used by the Western detractors of polygamy, which they offer before their audience with much embellishment, is the condition found in those Muslim families where there are two or more wives. Such houses are devoid of happy life and good living. No sooner do the two rival wives enter the house than they start envying each other. (People call envy, the disease of rival wives.) Thereafter all the kind of feelings and noble characteristics which are ingrained in woman’s nature— love and tender-heartedness, kindness and gentleness, compassion and affection, good advice and looking after husband’s honor in his absence, faithfulness and devotion, mercy and sincerity for husband and his children from other women, and care for the house and household — are changed to their opposites.
The home — the place intended for man’s comfort, where he expects to rest and relax after his daily toils and troubles, when he is dead tired in body and mind after the drudgery of earning his livelihood—is transformed into a battlefield where life and honor, wealth and prestige are freely attacked and violated; nothing is safe from any side; horizon of life becomes cloudy, pleasant existence, a thing of the past. In place of bliss and happiness, appear hitting and slapping, abuse, invective and curse, backbiting and tale bearing, spying, intrigue and trickery. Children quarrel and dispute with one another. Things sometimes reach a stage where the wife plans to kill the husband, and some children kill the others or even their father. Kinship is metamorphosed into a never-ending feud that for generations causes bloodshed, genocide and downfall of the house. Add to it the effects it brings to the society: unhappiness, moral corruption, cruelty, injustice, transgression, indecency and lack of security and trust. (There is also another dimension to this problem) when you add legality of divorce to the permission of polygamy. These two factors, combined together, create in the society connoisseurs, who live luxurious lives and whose interest is centered on satisfaction of their lust and avidity; their passion revolves around getting this woman and discarding that one, raising one’s status and lowering the other’s. It is nothing less than thwarting and frustrating a half of the mankind, i.e., the females, and submerging them into sorrow and grief. Their degradation results in depravity of the other half (and the whole society is demoralized).
COMMENT: This was the gist of what they have said, and the objection is true—but its targets are the Muslims, not the Islam or its teachings. When have the Muslims truly followed the Islamic teachings, that Islam could be held responsible for the consequences of their misdeeds? Centuries have passed that there is no good government, which could train them with noble teachings of the shari’ah. On the contrary, the first people to rip apart the curtain put up by the religion, to break the laws of the shari’ah and to violate its limits were the very Muslim rulers and people in power—and people follow the customs of their rulers. It is not possible to narrate here even a small portion of the life style in the “Muslims ” Kings’ palaces, or the scandals indulged into by the sultans and governors, since the days the religious government fumed into monarchy and sultanate; otherwise we will have to write a complete book on this subject. In short, the objection, if valid, can be laid against the Muslims: that they adopted a way of life, which could not bring any happiness in their homes, and followed a policy, which they could not prevent from deviating from the straight path. The whole blame lies on the men, not on their women or children—although every soul is responsible for what it has earned of sin. Why? Because it was these men’s behavior—they thought nothing of sacrificing their own happiness, and that of their families and children together with the clean environment of the society, on the altar of their greed, lust and ignorance — that was the root cause of all these disasters and fountain-head of all these destructive troubles.
As for the Islam, it has not legislated polygamy as a compulsory and obligatory duty of every man. It looked at the people’s nature and at the difficulties some of them faced now and again, and so it concluded that polygamy contained definite goodness [for solving those problems], as was described above in detail. Then it looked minutely at the negative effects of polygamy and its dangers. Consequently, it allowed polygamy for the underlying benefit of humanity, but at the same time imposed such a restriction on it as to remove the chances of all those disgraceful depravities—that the man should be confident that he would live with them in equity and treat them justly and fairly. Islam allows plurality of wives only to him who is sure of himself in this respect. As for those who do not care for their own or their families’ and children’s happiness and felicity, whose only mark of honor is satisfaction of their stomachs and genitals, and in whose eyes woman is only a means to satisfy man’s lust and to give pleasure to him, Islam is not concerned with them, nor does it allow them to marry more than one—if we say that they are allowed to marry even the one, with that mentality of theirs!
Moreover, there is a mix-up in this objection between two completely separate aspects of religion, i.e., the legislation and the governmental authority. It may be explained as follows:
According to modern scholars the criterion to judge about a laid down law or prevalent tradition whether it is a good law and tradition or bad, is to look at the acceptable or unacceptable effects and results obtained from enforcement of that law in the societies, and whether or not the societies in the prevalent condition accept the law faithfully. I do not think they are oblivious of the fact that society sometimes is fettered by some customs, traditions or accidents that do not agree with the law under study; in such a condition, the society should be reformed in a manner as not to hamper or negate the said law or tradition, in order that it may be seen how the law works; and what effect it brings in its wake—whether it is good or bad, beneficial or harmful. The only difference is that their criterion for a laid down law is the currently prevailing desire and demand of the society—whatever that demand may be. Thus what agrees with their current wishes and demands is considered a good law, and what goes against it, is bad.
That is why when those Westerners saw the Muslims wandering in the valley of error, steeped in immorality in this life and wickedness in the next, they attributed to the Islamic shari’ah (which the Muslims supposedly followed) all the evils found among the Muslims, e.g., falsehood and embezzlement, indecency and usurpation of rights, prevalent transgression and ruined homes, and in short the whole spectrum of corrupted social order. They thought that the Islamic tradition and system is like other social systems in its implementation and effects. The other systems conform with their members’ desires and demands. So, those scholars thought that Islam too has the same quality, and that all these social disorders have been generated by Islam; that it is this religion that gives rise to depravity and corruption (and among them are found the most depraved and the most immoral persons; as they say, there are all kinds of game in the belly of the wild ass). Had it been a real religion and its laid down laws really good and containing people’s welfare and felicity, it would have produced good and beautiful effects in the society, instead of becoming a curse for it.
But these people have confused the nature of a good and beneficial law with the nature of a corrupt and harmful people. Islam is a composite unit of spiritual knowledge, moral teachings and practical laws—all of which are interrelated. If one part is damaged or tampered with, the whole is damaged, and its effects are changed. It is not unlike the medical compounds and mixtures, which require, for their health-restoring effects, their proper ingredients and a proper place to prepare them. If some ingredients are spoiled or adulterated, or if the directions for its use are not properly followed, it will not bring the desired effect; rather it may produce opposite result (and harm the patient).
At this juncture let us admit for the sake of argument, that the Islamic system could not reform the people, and could not erase common social vices and depravities—because its legislative base was unsound. But why is it that the democratic system has not succeeded in our eastern countries as it has in Europe? Why is it that the more we try to go ahead on this path the farther back we fall? No one has any doubt that the vices and depravities have taken deeper roots in our society today (when we have become civilized and enlightened) than it was fifty years ago (when we were uncivilized barbarians!). Today our society is devoid of social justice; we trample on human rights; we do not give higher education to our masses; and we lack all the social benefits and blessings — for us these are merely names without substance, words without meaning.
Ask them the reason, and they will say: This good system has not worked among you because you have not really put it into practice, have not tried to implement it properly. Well, why this excuse is acceptable in case of democracy, but not in case of Islam?
Let us suppose that Islam, because of the weakness of its foundation (God forbid!), could not capture the people’s hearts and could not take deep roots in the society; and consequently its rule could not continue, it lost its vitality in the Muslims’ social order and was discarded at the first opportunity. But why did the democratic system—the universally appreciated system— go away, after the World War I, from Russia? Why were its trace lost there? Why was it replaced by the communist system? Again, why did it give way, after the World War II, to the communist system in China, Lithuania, Estonia, Albania, Rumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, etc.? Why does it pose a danger to other countries, after having established considerable influence in them?
Now let us look at the communist system. It flourished for about forty years; and spread to, and ruled over, nearly half of the mankind. Its rulers and champions are never tired of boasting of its excellence and superiority. According to them it is the only clean stream that is unpolluted by dictatorial tendencies and democracy’s exploitation; the countries where it has taken roots have turned into Utopia. If this claim is correct, then why did the same rulers and champions, some two years back, stand up to condemn the rule of its matchless leader, Stalin, who had led and governed Russia for thirty years? Why did they announce that his rule was despotic and dictatorial, and that it was nothing but enslavement in the guise of communism? Everyone agrees that Stalin had great influence in legislation of the laid down laws and their enforcement and all that follows. In other words, all this was produced by the will of an enslaving dictator; it was a one man’s rule, which revived thousands and killed thousands; made some people happy and kept others oppressed, deprived and unhappy. Only Allah knows who will come after these (present rulers) to condemn them as they had done with their predecessors. ****
Look into history books and you will find mention of a lot of systems, civilizations and cultures that governed the societies for sometime; some were good, others bad; then they passed away because of various factors—the strongest being the treachery of the leaders and feeble will of the masses.
Would that I knew what is the difference between Islam (as a social system) and those other transformed and changed systems, that the excuse (of leaders’ treachery and followers’ weak-wiliness) is accepted in their case and rejected in the case of Islam? Yes, today the word of truth has fallen between a formidable western might and an imitative eastern ignorance; neither any sky shelters over it nor any earth raises it up. However, it should be clear from what we have mentioned above that whether a system is effective or not, and whether its hold on the people remains strong or it loosened, depends not so much on its correctness or incorrectness—so that this aspect could be used to prove its truth or falsity. It is rather affected by so many other causes and reasons. There was not a single system in the long human history but it produced results for sometimes and then became barren; it ruled over the society for a stretch of time and then passed away—all this for some factors acting for or against it; and We bring these days to men by turns, and that Allah may know those who believe and takes witnesses from among you (3: 140).
In short, the Islamic shari’ah and its laws differ in their fundamental philosophy from all other social orders prevalent in various human societies. These [man-made] social systems go on changing with change of times and policies, but not so the Islamic laws. The Islamic laws — consisting of obligatory, prohibited, like, disliked and permissible—never change. Of course, those actions which a person has the choice to do or not to do, and every disposition which he has right to enact or leave, the Islamic ruler has got authority to order the people to do it or forbid them doing it; he can dispose such matters as if the society were a single body and the ruler its thinking mind and soul.
Had there been an Islamic ruler there, he could have prevented the people from the inequities and injustices they commit in the name of polygamy or for other pretexts, without affecting any change in the divinely given permission. It would have been a general executive order based on an underlying benefit, just as a man might decide for his personal reasons not to marry more than one wife—not because the rule had changed but because it was only a permission which he had full right not to avail himself of.
It is supported by a report published recently in a newspaper (Ittila ‘at, Tehran, 11th Day, 1335 A.H. Solar (= 1st January,1957), quoting the Census report of France as follows: The census shows that in France 105 boys are born for every 100 girls Yet the women have a plurality of 1,765,000 over men in a population of about 40 million. The reason for this disparity lies in the fact that the boys have less resistance to diseases than the girls, and consequently by the age of nineteen boys’ number decreases by 5 per cent. Then their number continues to decrease up to the age of 25 – 30, and by the time they reach 60 – 65 years of age, only 750,000 males remain alive vis-à-vis 1,500,000 females. (Author’s Note)
** Vide John Davenport, An Apology for Mohammed and the Koran, which has been translated into Persian by the scholar, Sa’idi. (Author’s Note)
Mr. Sa’idi has translated the title of the said work of Davenport as: which if retranslated into English would mean ‘Offering Apology to Muhammad and the Qur’an’. He seems unaware of the difference between ‘apology for’ end ‘apology to’, and of the fact that the word ‘apology’ as used in this title, means, explanation or defense of belief’, etc. The title, therefore, means ‘In Defense of Muhammad and the Qur’an’. ( tr. )
*** Vide al-Mizan (English Translation) vol 4, pp. 61 – 83. ( tr.)