From WikiAhmadiyya, the free encyclopedia on Islam and Ahmadiyyat

Polygamy - the practice of a man simultaneously marrying more than one woman - is permitted in Islam under certain circumstances, though it is relatively rarely practiced. 


In the pre-Islamic era, it was commonly acceptable for men to marry an unlimited number of wives. However Islam limited the number of wives an individual could take to four:

Marry of women as may be agreeable to you, two, or three, or four; and if you fear you will not deal justly, then marry only one

- Quran 4:4

Rarther than encourage multiple wives, the Quran sought to limit the practice and only permitted more than one 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.

He creates the pairs, male and female.

- Quran 53:46

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 more preferable for a man to take two wives than to fall into adultery or to divorce and abandon an earlier wife and 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 husband spends more than he otherwise would on food, clothes, accommodation, education and other necessities by purchasing an increased number of goods for his larger family can increase the spread of wealth among wider society and businesses. 


The prophet of Islam, Muhammadsa married on multiple occasions. His first marriage was to Khadija, a widow 15 years his senior who had children from a previous marriage. At the time of his marriage he was 25 years old and it was Khadija herself who proposed. During their marriage, which lasted approximately a quarter of a century until Khadija's death, enemies of Islam offered the Prophetsa bribes including the most beautiful women in Arabia if he would denounce his claim to prophethood. However Muhammadsa steadfastly refused and Khadija remained Muhammad'ssa only wife for the duration of the union. 

Following Khadija's death a number of women proposed to Muhammadsa. In pre-Islamic Arabia, life for divorced or widowed women was hard. Due to warlike nature of the pre-Islamic Arabs, deaths among soldiers may have left the male population significantly lower than the female, meaning a number of women were unable to find partners. Moreover, economic circumstances could be difficult and previously married women were often seen as less desirable spouses. Muhammadsa wished to raise the status of divorced and widowed women and so married a number of such ladies during the final years of his life - to improve the circumstances of the individuals in question and to remove any taboos that existed against marrying divorced and widowed women among the Arabs. 

Notably, during this period Muhammadsa had been established as the chief of Arabia and could have chosen to marry only the youngest, richest, most beautiful girls but instead accepted proposals from older widows and divorcees, transforming them into 'Mothers of the Faithful'. 

See also