Home Family and Marriage Polygamy but not polyandry

Polygamy but not polyandry

By : Amin Dagher

Islam, the religion of equality and non-discrimination, has been historically stigmatized  as being a religion that, not only oppresses women by demanding them to wear Hijab,  but also a patriarchal one where men hold authority over women and have a privilege over them. Islamophobics support this view by alluding to the Islamic law that permits plurality of wives, but forbids a woman from having more than one husband.

As we unravel this misconception of Islam being an anti-feminist religion, we must define the outline of our research. Any stipulation or law is based upon certain conditions.

Why polygamy? When studying the matter from a biological view, men are more inclined to have more frequent and more intense sexual desires than women: the issue of sex drive, that is defined as the strength of sexual motivation, is a key point in marriage.  Though people get married for various reasons including legal, social, financial, and even religious reasons, the libidinal reason still constitutes a primary point.

No studies and researches indicating stronger sexual desires among women were found. Basically, a person with a stronger sex drive would desire more than just one sex partner. And since it has been historically, biologically, and scientifically established that men have a stronger sex drive than women, then they are entitled to have more than just one wife at a time.

Moreover, studies have assessed that the maleís frequency of response to sexual stimulation is higher than that of the femaleís. In all Western countries and cultures which abominate polygamy and consider it an illegal act, the rates of extramarital affairs are skyrocketing. This fact further asserts our point.

Imagine a family with one mother and two fathers. How could they possibly be able to identify if the children were from the first father or the second? Thus, prohibiting polyandry would preserve the lineage by assuring recognition the recognition of the right lineage of people and their children, by which the social kinship and social network is kept sound and stable. In the case of polygamy, the father of a child is always known and therefore the lineage is easily determined. As for the case of polyandry, the father is not necessarily obvious and therefore the lineage of a child is also obscured.

Even on the level of raising children, Islam perceives the family as a social unit in which the fatherís role is primary. The father, who is physically stronger than the mother,  is supposed to be involved in a responsible, protective and supportive relation with the children. On the other hand, the mother is endowed with the responsibility of giving birth, breastfeeding, and nurturing the baby. 

In addition, the demographic factor plays an important role. Since men were busy hunting and participating in wars, thus the mortality rates were high. So there were an excess of women over men.  

It is important to note that Islam did not initiate polygamy. Among all pre-Islamic civilizations, polygamy was a recognized institution. Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians were all polygamous societies; men had as much wives as he pleased. Even in Greek and Roman societies, concubinage was accepted. However, Islam regulated this process: it proposed that the numbers of wives would be no more than four wives; and brought responsibility to practice by demanding men to treat the wives justly and equally.