Response to Zakir Naik's

Questions Commonly Asked by Non-Muslims


Q. Why is a man allowed to marry more than one wife in Islam? Or why is polygamy allowed in Islam?


1. Definition of Polygamy

Polygamy means a system of marriage whereby one person has more than one spouse. Polygamy can be of two types. One is polygyny where a man marries more than one woman, and the other is polyandry, where a woman marries more than one man. In Islam, limited polygyny is permitted and polyandry is completely prohibited. Now coming to the original question, why is a man allowed to have more than one wife?

I accept Dr. Naik's definitions.

2. Qur'an is the only religious scripture in the world that says "marry only one" Qur'an is the only religious book, on the face of this earth, that contains the phrase 'marry only one'. There is no other religious book that instructs men to have only one wife. In none of the religious scriptures like the Vedas, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, the Geeta or the Bible does one find a restriction on the number of wives. According to these scriptures one can marry as many as one wishes.

This is an argument of semantic irrelevance. In spite of Naik's attempt to put the Bible in a semantic straight-jacket, the Scriptures are very clear that monogamy was God's plan for mankind. In the first book of the Bible we read:

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. (Malachi 2:15)

Jesus said:

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6 )

It was only later, that the Hindu priests and the Christian Church restricted the number of wives to one.

How could the Christian Church restrict the number of wives to one when the first book of the Bible spells out God's plan of monogamy? I also wonder what significance Hindu marriage customs have on this discussion. Why does Naik use the beliefs and practices of another religion, which he considers false, to support his belief in Islam - which he considers to the be truth?

Many Hindu religious personalities, according to their scriptures, had multiple wives. King Dashrat, the father of Rama, had more than one wife. Krishna had several wives.

Dr. Naik misunderstands his ancestors' religion. Dasharat married three women in order to produce a male heir. He had a daughter but he wanted a son (or sons) to assume his royal responsibilities. Kausalya did not produce a son, so he married Sumitra, who also failed to produce a son, and then married Kaikeyi. In spite of Dasharat, polygyny is not a universal practice in Hinduism or in Hindu mythology. Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Shatrughna were all monogamous. Krishna had many wives because the women desired to marry him. Hinduism also mentions polyandry in the case of Draupadi, who had five husbands.

Once again, I must ask Dr. Naik why he appeals to Hindu mythology in order to defend his Islamic beliefs? Do the legends of Hinduism somehow validate Islam? Why does Dr. Naik appeal to the practices of unbelievers in order to justify his religion?

In earlier times, Christian men were permitted as many wives as they wished, since the Bible puts no restriction on the number of wives. It was only a couple of centuries ago that the Church restricted the number of wives to one.

No, Paul preached monogamy from the beginning of the Christian Church:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; (1 Timothy 3:2 )

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. (1 Timothy 3:12)

If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. (Titus 1:6)

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." (Ephesians 5 :31)

Polygyny is permitted in Judaism. According to Talmudic law, Abraham had 2 wives, and Solomon had hundreds of wives.

Dr. Naik gives us the story of Solomon - an excellent example of what happens when we refuse to follow God's plan, and follow our own desires:

He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. (1 Kings 11:3-4)

God is not compelled to honor a human institution which is contrary to His Divine Plan. Muhammad's polygamous lifestyle was hardly a picture of domestic bliss. There were rivalries between his wives and concubines and he once needed a "revelation" from God to restore peace in his house. For more information on this incident, read Sex, Oaths, and the "Prophet" (Sura 66).

God made Adam and then created Eve as his companion. This was God's ideal model for the human race. God established marriage and He honors the union of one man and one woman. Whenever we deviate from God's Divine Plan (whether in polygyny, polyandry, adultery, pre-marital sex, or homosexuality) we can expect negative consequences in this life, as well as on the Day of Judgement.

The practice of polygyny continued till Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah (960 A.D to 1030 A.D) issued an edict against it. The Jewish Sephardic communities living in Muslim countries continued the practice till as late as 1950, when an Act of the chief Rabbinate of Israel extended the ban on marrying more than one wife.

Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah agreed with God's plan for humanity.

3. Hindus are more polygamous than Muslims. The report of the 'Committee of The Status of Woman in Islam', published in 1975 mentions on page numbers 66,67 that the percentage of polygamous marriages between the year 1951-1961 was 5.06 among the Hindus and only 4.31 among the Muslims. According to Indian law only Muslim men are permitted to have more than one wife. It is illegal for any non-Muslim in India to have more than one wife. Despite it being illegal, Hindus have more multiple wives as compared to the Muslim. One can imagine what would have been the percentage of polygamous marriages among the Hindus if the Indian government had made it legal for them. Earlier, there was no restriction even on Hindu men with respect to the number of wives allowed. It was only in 1954, when the Hindu Marriage Act was passed that it became illegal for a Hindu to have more than one wife. At present it is the Indian Law that restricts a Hindu man from having more than one wife and not the Hindu scriptures.

Once again, I am not sure why Dr. Naik appeals to Hinduism [as he considers Hinduism a false religion] in order to defend his faith. Why not cite the Mormons in the 19th century, or the many indigenous religions which also practice(d) polygamy? How do these belief systems, which Dr. Naik believes are false, "prove" the "truth" of Islam? Also, I have traveled across northern India twice during my lifetime and I have never encountered a Hindu with more than one wife.

Let us now analyse why Islam allows a man to have more than one wife.

4. Qur'an permits limited polygyny As I mentioned earlier, Qur'an is the only religious book on the face of the earth that says "marry only one". The context of this phrase is the following verse from Surah Nisa of the Glorious Qur'an: "Marry woman of your choice in twos threes or fours" but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly, (with them), then only one" [Al-Qur'an 4:3] Before the Qur'an was revealed, there was no upper limit for polygyny and many men had scores of wives, some even hundreds. Islam put an upper limit of four wives. Islam gives a man permission to marry two, three or four women, only on the condition that he deals with them justly. In the same chapter i.e. Surah Nisa verse 129 says: "It is very difficult to be just and fair between women". [Al-Qur'an (4:129)]. Therefore polygyny is not a rule but an exception. Many people are under the misconception that it is compulsory for a Muslim man to marry more than one wife. Broadly, Islam has five categories of Do's and Dont's.

(i) "Farz" i.e compulsory
(ii) "Mustahab" i.e recommended or encouraged
(iii) "Mubah" i.e permissible
(iv) "Makruh" i.e "not recommended" or discouraged
(v) "Haram" i.e prohibited or forbidden

Polygyny falls in the middle category of things that are permissible. It cannot be said that a Muslim who has two, three or four wives is a better Muslim as compared to a Muslim who has only one wife.

Why was Muhammad permitted more that 4 wives?

5. Average life span of females is more than that of males. By nature males and females are born in approximately the same ratio.

During paediatric age however, in childhood itself a female child has more immunity than a male child. A female child can fight the germs and diseases better than the male child. For this reason, there are more deaths among males as compared to the females during paediatric age. During wars, there are more men killed as compared to women. More men die due to accidents and diseases than women. The average life span of females is more than that of males, and at any given time one finds more widows in the world than widowers.

In spite of this, the Sex ratio of the world's population is 1.01 male(s)/female (2000 est.) (Source).

The breakdown by age is:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female

Therefore, polygyny is practical only if young men are willing to marry old women.

6. India has more male population than female due to female foeticide and infanticide.

India is one of the few countries, along with the other neighbouring countries, in which the female population is less than the male population. The reason lies in the high rate of female infanticide in India, and the fact that more than one million female foetuses are aborted every year in this country, after they are identified as females. If this evil practice is stopped, then India too will have more females as compared to males.

Let's look at the numbers:

India 1.07 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Abortions and female infanticide are barbaric and evil, and Indian society deserves to be criticized for killing their precious little girls. America also should be criticized for its sinful practice of abortion. However, the Indian gender ratio imbalance is less that many Muslim nations:

Bahrain 1.3 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Djibouti 1.07 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Jordan 1.1 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Kuwait 1.5 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Oman 1.31 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Qatar 1.93 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Saudi Arabia 1.24 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
UAE 1.51 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

I would like to ask Dr. Naik why this is also the case in Muslim nations?

7. World female population is more than male population

The world's female population is less than the male population. There are an estimated 3,059,307,647 males and 3,019,466,887 females on earth (Source). In other words, there are nearly 40 million more men on earth than women!

In the USA, women outnumber men by 7.8 million.

No, there are approximately 134,774,894 men in American and 140,787,779 women, a difference of 6 million, However, it must be noted that of these 6 million women, 5.9 million of them are 65 years old or older. (Source)

New York alone has one million more females as compared to the number of males, and of the male population of New York one-third are gays i.e sodomites.

New York City has 3,437,687 males and 3,884,887 females, a "surplus" of over 447,000 females. (Source) However, as in the case of the general population, the majority of these women are 65 years old or older. I wonder how Dr. Naik came to the conclusion that one-third of all males in New York City are gay? There are 3,437,687 males in New York City. Of these, 1,113,888 males (or 32%) have never been married - the rest are married, divorced, or widowed. To reach Naik's estimate, we have to assume that all unmarried men in New York City are gay, as well as some married/divorced/widowed men! Also, perhaps Dr. Naik never thought of this - some females are gay. There are 1,080,026 unmarried women in New York City, and perhaps some of them are gay!

The USA as a whole has more than twenty-five million gays. This means that these people do not wish to marry women.

What is the source for this statistic? In spite of Dr. Naik's apparent expertise concerning "Gay America", he continues to ignore the existence of Gay females!

Great Britain has four million more females as compared to males.

There are 29,303,077 men in the U.K. and 30,208,387 women, with nearly 1.6 million more women than men over the age of 65.

Germany has five million more females as compared to males.

Germany has 40,451,865 males and 42,345,543 females, or 1,893,678 more females than males. However, there are over 3 million more women than men in the 65 years old and above group! (Source)

Russia has nine million more females than males. God alone knows how many million more females there are in the whole world as compared to males.

Again, the majority of these women are over 65 years old.

8. Restricting each and every man to have only one wife is not practical

Even if every man got married to one woman, there would still be more than thirty million more females in USA who would not be able to get husbands (considering that America has twenty five million gays). There would be more than four million females in Great Britain 5 million females in Germany and nine million females in Russia alone who would not be able to find a husband.

In the United States, there are 28,200,083 men who have never been married and 23,434,118 women! (Source) How can we have polygyny with this difference? Also, I would like to know Dr. Naik's sources for data on homosexuals. For Naik's numbers to be correct, we must accept the fact that there are only 3 million straight single men in the US!

Suppose my sister happens to be one of the unmarried women living in USA, or suppose your sister happens to be one of the unmarried women in USA. The only two options remaining for her are that she either marries a man who already has a wife or becomes public property. There is no other option. I have posed this question to hundreds of non-Muslims and all opted for the first. However a few smart people before accepting, said they would prefer their sisters to remain virgins.

Public property!??! I do not believe that Dr. Naik's sister (or any woman or man) is the "property" of anyone! The Bible tells us:

The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:4)

Biologically, it is not possible for an average man or a woman to remain celibate throughout life. It may be possible in exceptional cases of one in ten thousand. In the vast majority, the person either gets married or performs illicit sex or indulges in other sexual perversions. Sex hormones are released in the adult body every day. That is the reason why Islam has prohibited monasticism.

The human sex drive does not justify polygyny nor does it justify any other sexual perversions. God gave us a sex drive, however, God also gave us a model, in the form of marriage, where we are to channel these drives. Whenever we deviate from God's plans, whether in the form of polygyny or other perversions, we can expect to pay the consequences of our actions. The Bible tells:

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:8-11)

In Western society it is common for a man to have mistresses and/or multiple extra-marital affairs, in which case, the woman leads a disgraceful, unprotected life. The same society, however, cannot accept a man having more than one wife, in which women retain their honourable, dignified position in society and lead a protected life. Thus the only two options before a woman who cannot find a husband is to marry a married man or to become public property. Islam prefers giving women the honourable position by permitting the first option and disallowing the second. There are several other reasons, why Islam has permitted limited polygyny, but it is mainly to protect the modesty of women.

How does Dr. Naik know that it is "common" for men to have extra-marital affairs - what are his data sources? Dr. Naik also ignores the fact that women have affairs as well! After all, a man cannot have an affair by himself! He also ignores the possibility that men with multiple wives might have affairs; and, once again, makes the disgusting reference to women as "property".

The Qur'an tells us about the "honourable position" of women in Islam:

Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe. (Sura 2:223)


Q: If a man is allowed to have more than one wife why does Islam prohibit a woman from having more than one husband?

Answer: A lot of people, including some Muslims, question the logic of allowing Muslim men to have more than one spouse while denying the same 'right' to women. Let me first state emphatically, that the foundation of an Islamic society is justice and equity. Allah has created men and women as equal, but with different capabilities and different responsibilities. Men and women are different, physiologically and psychologically. Their roles and responsibilities are different.

I believe that the aforementioned passage from the Qur'an answers this question : women exist for the pleasure of men.

The following points enumerate the reasons why polyandry is prohibited in Islam:

1. If a man marries more than one wife, the parents of the children born of such marriages can easily be identified. The father as well as the mother can easily be identified. In case of a woman marrying more than one husband, only the mother of the children born of such marriages will be identified and not the father. Islam gives tremendous importance to the identification of both parents, mother and father. Psychologists tell us that children who do not know their parents, especially their father undergo severe mental trauma and disturbances. Often they have an unhappy childhood. It is for this reason that the children of prostitutes do not have a healthy childhood. If a child born of such wedlock is admitted in school, and when the mother is asked the name of the father, she would have to give two or more names! I am aware that recent advances in science have made it possible for both the mother and father to be identified with the help of genetic testing. Thus this point was applicable for the past, and may not be applicable for the present.

Does living in a polygamous household have a psychological impact on children, especially young girls?

2. Man is more polygamous by nature as compared to a woman.

Man is sinful by nature, do we need to invent sinful institutions such as polygyny to rationalize our nature? Does God accept one sin as being "less" than another sin?

3. Biologically, it is easier for a man to perform his duties as a husband despite having several wives. A woman, in a similar position, having several husbands, will not find it possible to perform her duties as a wife.

I wished that Dr. Naik could have elaborated more on this point, it really does not make sense!

4. A woman who has more than one husband will have several sexual partners at the same time and has a high chance of acquiring venereal or sexually transmitted diseases which can also be transmitted back to her husband even if all of them have no extra-marital sex. This is less likely in a man having more than one sexual partner, and none of them having extra-marital sex. The above reasons are those that one can easily identify. There are probably many more reasons why Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, has prohibited polyandry.

This makes no sense at all. If these people lived in this arrangement with no extra-marital relations, by what vector would venereal diseases be transmitted? How would any veneral disease enter this group with no sexual relations to outside partners?

In conclusion, monogamy is God's plan for humanity. When we deviate from God's plan, we suffer. Pointing to the practices of other polygamous societies does not provide a defense for the practice of polygamy in Islam. Justifying the sin of polygyny, as a remedy for the sins of adultery, homosexuality, and fornication is absurd and questions the Holiness and Wisdom of God.

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