It has come to my attention upon introspection and advice, that the situation of women’s opinion on polygyny cannot be rectified without first providing clarity, resolution, and equipping men with the tools and arguments necessary to shift the mindset of their womenfolk.

In the following essay, I wish to illustrate an argument that various societal and practical obstacles make polygyny untenable given the existing makeup of western civilization where Muslims live and I would like to contend that the benefits of polygyny are only truly realized in a traditional Islamic society with: joint family homes and infrastructure, traditional family dynamics and hierarchy, downscaling of the materialism surrounding marriage rites, and freeing up women’s time currently occupied by secular academic and career pursuits. I present the following essay to argue one major point and that is that we need polygyny in order to have a healthy Muslim society, and in order to have polygyny we must shift mindsets away from a secular frame of marriage to an Islamic one.

Monogamy as a societal practice is evil and fundamentally shapes society in a manner that is not conducive to the aims and the goals of the Shariāh and the beneficial growth of a human being. It is now the status quo by which marriage operates and anything other than it is considered an affront to morality itself. You will find Muslim women amongst western diaspora to be vehemently anti polygyny. Statements are commonly heard or read such as “I would rather send my man to a prostitute than to share him with another wife”, “I would rather marry a kafir than be in poly.” And the all too famous, “I have no problem with polygyny, I just don’t want it for myself.” What is so insidious about these statements is not that many Muslim women tainted by secular norms of marriage and feminism have a problem with practicing polygyny in a modern setting, but rather violently recoil at the mere theoretical idea of polygyny often skirting the bounds of kufr and blasphemy to push back against the idea.

Many men reading this essay will shudder at the thought of sharing this piece in public, lest they come under scrutiny for second guessing the gynocentric order of things. But it must be refuted that a monogamous society harms almost all members of a family including the wife, husband, and children. For the husband, it’s obvious, you deprive him of the ability to increase his offspring, lineage, and fulfill a physical and emotional need via multiple partners. Men never stopped being polygynous. They simply stopped polygynous marriages. What thrived however were affairs, mistresses, and a copious consumption of porn and masturbation. For the children, you deprive them of additional siblings, a male figure, additional caretakers, and protection from single motherhood. For the wife, you deprive her of her autonomy and a societal frame of living. This woman is now responsible entirely, often without help, to take care of the domestic upkeep of an entire house. Three meals a day, laundry, watching the kids, cleaning, emotionally and physically being there for the husband and children. This remains to be the case even if she isn’t working a career job and is only taking care of the home and is only amplified when you add in career aspirations and other pursuits women now hold. Someone may argue, “why can’t the husband help her out?” This line of thinking seems to suggest that the husband doesn’t have his own work but also ignores that even if the husband helps out, and eases the burden, it doesn’t change the fact that she is now the sole woman bearing this burden vs. sharing it with other women. There are by default certain roles and duties which land upon the wife, childbirth and rearing are the most obvious. Even if a father is around, the tarbiyyah of a mother is distinctly different.

In addition, now a woman’s entire self identity and who she is, is consumed by one man, and this one family. This is symbolically seen via the modern notion of a woman losing her maiden name when she marries. When Jane Parker marries Joe Brown, she becomes Jane Brown. Jane Brown effectively is subsumed into the life of Joe Brown, and she cuts off from her previous identity and who she was.Now what happens when Jane Brown gets divorced and marries another man named Jack Smith? She now becomes Jane Smith. She goes from husband to husband, changing names, changing identities, and never becoming a fully realized person that is independent of this family unit. This is the real “loss of independence” that has infamously been taken advantage of by second wave feminists, not the lack of a right to work an email job in an LED-lighted cubicle. In contrast to what Islam advocates, in which you are your own person, with your own responsibilities and your own deeds. Yes, you become a wife and have responsibilities towards your spouse and children of course, but you don’t lose the sense of who you are, you don’t lose your family, your identity or your lineage by way of your father. Now, the above points ignore the fact that in today’s time women have more autonomy as compared to anytime in history, even in modern monogamous relationships and are the least subsumed into a man’s life and the last name changing is merely symbolic and nominal. This is true, however, the reason for this isn’t monogamy but rather the blurring of gender roles and functions and a plethora of problems surrounding marriage. Even if feminism is removed, the other problems of monogamy remain.

As much as we’d like to deny it, Muslims have bought almost entirely into non-Islamic frameworks of marriage, both religious and secular, going so far as borrowing every celebration tactic, song and pomp, and even trinkets like wedding rings and engagement bands. We have adopted monogamous ideas from foreign cultures like Hinduism where it’s better to be sent to the grave than to be divorced and return to your father’s home and where the husband is a literal divine figure and representation of god. This topic becomes tricky due to the allowance of ethno-cultural identity within Islamic life, but what do you do when the cultural identity of marriage which you’re adopting from, has monogamy or shirk built in as a fundamental pillar of their culture? What do you do when polygyny is seen as anathema in the culture? Does this have an impact on how you understand marriage altogether?

I would like to assert that from my analysis, Muslim women don’t have a problem with sharing their husbands with other righteous women if they’re being taken care of justly. What they have a problem with is the social status change and judgment that will immediately hit them in a setting where monogamy is the norm. Women like to talk.

“I wonder why her husband had to get a second, she probably wasn’t enough for him.”

“She clearly wasn’t a good enough wife, so he needed another woman”

“We are holding a dinner, do we invite both wives?”

“I can’t invite his other wife, I’m not stabbing his first wife in the back, she’s my friend!”

And various other versions of this. The social pressure of conforming to polygyny in a monogamous society is way too much for modern women and thus the standard line “I don’t mind polygyny, I just don’t want it for myself.” Now ask a normal Muslim woman, if you were on an island and there were two women and no others to judge, would you have a problem with a husband marrying both, and the answer will usually be no. Modern Muslim diaspora have been on a steady diet of Disney films, high school romance stories, bollywood song and dance, and a complete and utter mirage of love and marriage that’s been set up for them. These understandings of love, marriage, intimacy, and family have been embedded so deeply within the modern psyche that asking a woman to accept the idea of polygyny is such a shock to the system because it makes women question the entirety of their worldview on marriage and life.

The below are points broken down into two categories. The first are the points which are a defense of polygyny as a societal practice and the second are points which are often used as rebuttals.

Distributive Familial Obligations

Women experience a reduction in consistent familial responsibilities due to the shared nature of duties amongst co-wives. This is generally not a problem early on in a marriage and in a honeymoon stage, but cross the threshold where you throw in children and other life tasks, this becomes a tremendous load and a woman almost in a way sacrifices a portion of herself to handle this household. It is a big responsibility to be solely physically responsible for fulfilling the sexual needs of your husband in a time when sexual promiscuity, fahisha, and lewdness are at an all time high.

Enhanced Personal Time

When a husband divides his attention among multiple wives, it affords each wife intervals of autonomy, enabling her to pursue individual interests. Moreover, with the presence of co-wives, duties such as childcare and education become collaborative efforts, shared with fellow wives and elder family members such as additional in-laws. It’s a misconception for Muslims to equate co-wives with mistresses; co-wives are expected to embody piety, reverence for Allah, and uphold virtuous conduct. Even when there is “Ghayrah” (often translated as protective jealousy, which I will cover in detail below), it is limited and controlled. On the whole, co-wives collaboratively manage domestic responsibilities from child-rearing to routine darity but also ensures each wife has tasks like grocery shopping. This shared duty not only osters solidarity but also ensures each wife has quality time, if be it for personal pursuits when the husband is preoccupied with another or moments when it’s her designated time with him.

Architectural and Societal Reconfiguration

In a polygynous society, there’s a compelling need to restructure both homes and the broader community. The conventional approach of multiple suburban houses or high-priced city living isn’t feasible. This system inherently compels communities to design homes with separate kitchens, distinct living areas, individual rooms, and multiple entrances and exits, while also prioritizing larger shared spaces. After all, having multiple wives means having multiple sets of in-laws, which further amplifies the need for expansive shared living areas. This model counters the trend of investing vast sums in suburban sprawl and inefficiently used spaces.

Making Marriage More Efficient and Cost-effective

When polygyny becomes prevalent, one may experience multiple marriages throughout their life and thus the frequency of ceremonies becomes overwhelming. Attending, or hosting prolonged, two to three day festivities would be impractical. Instead a smaller event would suffice and would be on rotation perhaps after a Maghrib prayer in the Masjid, “X and Y are getting married today, please stay a few moments for the Nikkah and food from their families.” No more $15k rings (since a man isn’t going to wear 4 of them), no more $20k mahrs, and no more $50k wedding halls.

De-stigmatizing divorce and healing trauma

Divorce is a hated thing by Allah. And it’s even worse when you have divorce and people then remain unmarried creating a single society. A polygynous society allows divorced women to be easily married considering how often and quick marriage happens. In addition it allows people to not have to stay in difficult marriages for unreasonable reasons, like abuse, toxicity, or religious reasons. It also stigmatizes divorce as in a polygynous society, the likelihood that a man divorces a wife is lower given the fact that he knows that as soon as he divorces she will likely go marry another man. There are many cases in which women remain in abusive marriages for various reasons including money, children, or societal shame. The allowance of polygyny also allows this abused wife to be free of her husband for the period of time she shares with her co-wife while still maintaining the marriage.

Facilitating Matrimony

When men don’t believe they only have one shot at marriage, they are going to be far more relaxed in the criteria they look for, creating many opportunities for women who otherwise would have a harder time getting married. Also, the obvious, because men are marrying more women obviously more women will be married. I could continue going but I think these points are satisfactory and additional points could be built on top of these.

Common rebuttals against spiritual gaslighting

“The Prophet ﷺ was initially monogamous so why do men need more wives?

It’s very important to note that being monogamous in a polygynous society is not the same as being polygynous in a monogamous society. There are certain benefits and societal changes that come with a polygynous society by default and even if you do not have more than one wife, you will still gain from the benefits of the society being structured in this manner. We see this already in the marriage of the Prophet ﷺ, in which we know that Sayyidah Khadjia (RA) was married twice prior to the Prophet ﷺ. Another point to be mentioned is that all of the marriages of the Prophet ﷺ were for a reason and a purpose. It is possible that one of the wisdoms of this marriage is to show us that monogamy is permissible otherwise people may have taken his practice of polygyny as necessary. Secondly, we know that the Prophet ﷺ did practice polygyny, so taking simply one art of his life and leaving the rest is not how we understand the sunnah.

“The Prophet ﷺ did not permit Sayyiduna Ali (RA) to take a second wife

This is a famous story that’s shared by many whenever polygyny is brought up. That the Prophet (SAW) prevented Sayyiduna Ali (RA) from taking a second wife when married to Sayyidah Fatima (RA). This story is true. However, what is often left out is that the woman which Sayyiduna Ali (RA) was seeking to marry was the daughter of Abu Jahl. How can it be that the daughter of the Prophet ﷺ share a husband with the daughter of the enemy of Islam? In addition what is also left out is that Sayyidah Fatima (RA) is no ordinary woman. She is the greatest woman to walk the face of this earth. Is it possible to show equality to another wife when one of your wives is the daughter of the Prophet ﷺ? Allahu Alim. This may be one of the hidden wisdoms of why the Prophet ﷺ said no, however it would be an incorrect view to take from this incident and project it onto all of polygyny as we know many of the Sahabah took additional wives, as did Sayyiduna Ali (RA), as did the Prophet ﷺ himself.

Sayyidah Aisha (RA) was “jealous” and so our extreme jealousy is warranted

This is an often used line and a complete misunderstanding of the feelings that Sayyidah Aisha (RA) exhibited towards the Prophet ﷺ. There are two different types of emotions that are expressed in the Arabic language which translate to “jealousy” in the English language.

The first is الغيرة – Al Ghayrah

The second is الحَسَد – Al Hasad Ghayrah is sometimes translated as jealous or protective jealousy, for which there is a better term I read from Ustadh Mostafa Azzam, that can be used, and that is territoriality. The word is primarily associated with the feeling of zeal in the sense of protecting one’s honor, rights, or possessions. There’s nothing wrong with this emotion, it’s narrated in a Hadith that Allah has Ghayrah over his creation.

إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ أَحَدٌ أَغْيَرَ مِنَ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنْ يَزْنِيَ عَبْدُهُ أَوْ أَمَتُهُ

“Indeed, there is no one with more Ghayrah than Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, when His male servant or female slave commits zina.”

For this reason I don’t personally like using the word jealousy for Ghayrah because jealousy by its nature in English denotes a form of weakness and it is kufr to attribute this weakness to Allah. The second word used is Hasad, which is often translated as envy or jealousy which is what most people think about when they think about the word jealousy.

If you go through the Hadiths which refer to Sayyidah Aisha (RA) and her feelings towards the Prophet ﷺ and his other wives, the word Hasad is not used. The word used is Ghayrah, yet most of the translations often translate the word to jealousy.

Anas said that when the Prophet was with one of his wives one of the mothers of the faithful sent a bowl containing food and the one in whose house he was struck the servant’s hand with the result that the bowl fell and was broken in pieces. The Prophet collected the pieces of the bowl, then began to collect in it the food it had contained, saying, “Your mother is jealous.” He then detained the servant till a bowl was produced by the one in whose house he was, gave the sound bowl to the one whose bowl had been broken and kept the broken one in the house of the one who broke it.

Unfortunately this has led a lot of people who have not understood the Arabic or the concept of Ghayrah to start assuming that Sayyidah Aisha (RA) was just like them and unable to control their emotional outbursts upon learning about another wife. Having territorial protection over your husband, your children, and your house is normal. There’s nothing wrong with a woman feeling this, however when we think of jealousy we often confuse it with the one that Iago planted in the mind of Othello, pushing him to kill Desdemona.

“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on.” (Iago – Othello)

Many take this understanding and apply it in situations of polygyny. It’s okay if a wife treats her co wife differently because she has Ghayrah for her husband, this is normal, but instead now she’s thought of as a mistress with an extreme sense of envy as Othello did for Desdemona. The reasons provided could be further elucidated and broken down with statistics and greater analysis; however, the intended goal was to demonstrate that many of the common arguments against polygyny are fairly hollow and mostly emotionally driven with a bias of how marriage is understood based on secular framing. This is not an argument that is meant to convince women. I don’t think that’s possible since the argument from a women’s perspective isn’t based on a future forecasted model regarding the theoreticals of what society could be or how it was, and how polygyny is beneficial and necessary. For most women the argument is, how will it impact me today and how will it change my family and relationship causing a sense of unease and confusion when the argument has not been properly handled and laid out.

Once understood, polygyny is a healthy, normal, and critical part of the Islamic understanding of marriage. To fix the large marriage crisis we now face in our community, I believe it is necessary to reframe our understanding of marriage back to an Islamic one. This reframing requires polygyny and it’s for this reason that we must understand what underpins many of the current knee jerk reactions against it. We must start with removing the secular understanding of marriage first from our mindset and once that happens, we can then take steps to practically start to shift societal norms, including polygyny, back into an Islamic frame.

And Allah and His Messenger ﷺ know best.