From WikiAhmadiyya, the free encyclopedia on Islam and Ahmadiyyat
Marriage in Islam (also known as 'Nikah') is an institution between a man and a woman, as described in the Quran.
Islam grants Muslim men and women the right to take divorces from unsuitable marriages. However, the rights of women are greatly protected in these circumstances. Men are prohibited from demanding the return of any of the gifts they have previously given their spouses. They are instructed to 'send them away' in a kind manner, not to act 'wrongfully' and not to prevent them from marrying another husband. Moreover, women are granted custody over young children and fathers are expected to continue the provision of financial support for both the mother and family - and both divorced parents are instructed not to make one another suffer on account of their children.
In the pre-Islamic world, it was somewhat common and accepted for men to marry an unlimited number of wives. However Islam limited the number of wives an individual could take to four:
This limit should not be misunderstood as encouraging the prevalence of multiple marriages. It only allows permission to take more than one wife if the man can deal with her 'justly', meaning support her economic needs and treat the wives equally and kindly. Throughout Islamic history, it has been a far more common practice for most men to take only a single wife.
There are several reasons why multiple marriages are permitted. Firstly, to care for orphans - a man whose relatives are deceased and is left in care of a large number of orphans may require additional help from an additional foster mother. Secondly, in wars throughout history the majority of soldiers have been male and in widespread wars such as the First and Second World War, millions of men have been killed in a short space of time from a single generation. Rather than leave a number of widows to live their lives unmarried due to the comparatively smaller number of men who survive, it is considered better for men to marry widows. Moreover, Islam views it as far better for a man to take two wives than to fall into adultery or to divorce and abandon a first wife and her family for the sake of marrying a second.
In the case of wealthy men there is an economic advantage in polygamy. The more women he marries, the more his wealth is shared. Each of his wives has her circumstances improved. Moreover, having to support more wives and more subsequent children means the rich man spends more than he otherwise would on food, clothes, accommodation, education and other necessities and in so by purchasing an increased number of goods for his larger family can increase the spread of wealth among wider society and businesses.
Prior to Islam, it was common for Arabs to marry relatives, including step mothers. The Quran forbade such practices and the marriage of all close relatives, with the exception of marriages between cousins.
Cousin marriages are not necessarily promoted by Islam and certainly are not compulsory. However, one reason they are permitted is that Islam claimed to be a universal religion for all people and all times. In many parts of the world, isolated villages and towns with small populations were common through history - and continue to exist in some remote parts of Asia, Africa and South America - where almost every person living is distantly related to every other. If all cousin marriages were forbidden in such areas, the people living there would have been unable to breed altogether. In fact, much of the population globally owes its survival to these types of unions being permitted in earlier generations and even in countries where such marriages are now frowned upon or forbidden, they were relatively common only a few decades ago.