Posts Tagged ‘historic facts of polygamy’

West’s moral dilemma!

October 30, 2016

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Morality, in general, is a contentious subject but ironically, it becomes even more so in the Western setting for it is thought that i) they are the most righteous. ii) It is their right to set moral standard. iii) Elevated morality by divesting it from its bedrock– Religion. iv) Their standards should be emulated by all others.

Recently I was faced with two such issues and explaining them from an Islamic perspective, proved to be like fixing a square peg into the round hole of western morality. One was about the polygamy sanctioned in Islam and the other about the permissibility, of having intimate relations with the believing women, of the vanquished enemy, taken in as captives/enslaved —“What your right-hand posses”—Qura’an.

Polygamy, in western discourse, is an oft-recurring issue. This time, it cropped up as a fall-out of an Egyptian female professor Suad Saleh of Al-Azhar University’s interview aired on Egyptian T.V Al-Hayat. It was picked up and reproduced, with distorted English translation, by INQUISITR on 16th of January 2016. Offensive words were used to exploit and rile up public sentiments which; especially in the heavily charged atmosphere due to TRUMP factor, engendered the highest level of ISLAMOPHOBIA in the history of the USA.

My immediate response to the post was as under. (Edited for grammatical accuracy)

“Surprisingly Dr. Andrew Holt (An English-speaking Anti-Islam commentator exploiting and misleading the people) did not get appalled at the rampant fornication, infidelity and out of wedlock births in the western society but got appalled and concerned about the treatment of female POWs  in a very limited context of war. This clearly exposes the height of his hypocrisy. There has been hardly any war, in the human history, in which women have not been the worst victim of sexual abuse, including the most recent ones of Vietnam and Mid East; especially Iraq) If we do it with en-masse impunity across the board it is OK but if it is done in war situations on a minuscule level is too bad! Professor is simply playing insane to exploit the situation for his advantage. The situation explained by the lady professor is taken out of context for designed exploitation. Otherwise, in earlier scriptures, women have also been treated as the property of the man. In Islam, however, this treatment extended only to those who are taken as captives/slaves. It sure sounds heinous until thought through objectively; which is not as bad as sex slavery forced upon millions around the world for profiteering. It is actually a matter of perspective. It is objective for some and exploitative for the others. It’s positive implications, in  a particular, set of circumstances, however, cannot be overemphasized”

The theme of the interview was “expunging” the extramarital sex and Modern-day slavery; in the light of Islamic “Fiqh” (jurisprudence). For Muslim men are engaging in sexual slavery by buying slave women from poor countries,

Elaboration

The logic and rationale behind the permissibility of sexual relationship with captured women in war   are multifarious. The fact is that excesses are always committed in wars. Islamic laws, therefore, ensured the elimination of inevitably unbounded mistreatment through sanctification and accordance of rights; which were not even conceivable before Islam, as women were treated like a herd of animals. Slavery under Islam is distinguishable from usual slavery in the sense that it makes it incumbent upon the master to be fully responsible for all their worldly needs, under the concept called—“kafala” The master is permitted to have sexual relations with her but if she is not willing or comfortable then he is ordered either to marry her with another slave of her choice or sell her off. A slave woman cannot be forced to have sexual relations with the master. She also cannot be forced to have sexual relations with more than one man at a time. If a woman is captured along with her husband then that marriage remains intact and no one else can have sexual relation with her. Women other than people of the book are absolutely forbidden for such intimacy before their conversion, for which she cannot be forced. Raping a slave woman is a punishable crime like raping a free woman. ( Muwatta, Book 36,Chapter 16,Narration 14).  A child born to a slave woman (in whatever state, live, still, dead, premature) grants a special status of “UMM AL WALAD” (mother of a child) hence, she cannot be sold. She gets automatically emancipated at the death of her master even if he does not manumit her in his lifetime “… the very purpose of marriage is (to make) intercourse (permissible) but the purpose of possession (of slave-women) is not intercourse.” (Al-Muntaqa Sharah al-Muwatta, Darul Kitab al-Islami, Cairo, 1332 A.H. vol.4 p.82)

 

The concept of slavery sounds gruesome but justifies the end and purport; induces them to accept Islamic faith, which would necessitate either a formal marriage followed by complete integration into the family unit and society or freedom. A pertinent anecdote of the Prophet (PBUH) himself, who married slave or captured-in-war women, named “Juwairiyah”, “Qibtiyya” & “Safiyya” would invite a-man-of-intellect to reflect on this issue objectively. As a consequence, out of respect for “Juwariyah” becoming the mother of the faithful, more than 100 women of her tribe were also emancipated. Her father, who was the leader of his tribe, also became Muslim.

 

An important fact to be kept in mind is that in Islam there is no concept of “Rape” in a husband-wife relationship. A woman has to satisfy the sexual needs of the husband unless there is a permissible reason such as menstruation or some sickness etc. A slave woman, on the other hand, seems to have been given more latitude than a free woman. Needless to say, that master/husband has to be kind and compassionate (romantic, amorous) as is established by the Prophet (PBUH)’s Sunnah. Similar kindness has to be accorded to the Captured woman. It should also be borne in mind that Islam is a religion attuned to human nature. Human nature; tendencies and inclinations along with preemptive, preventive measures are, very much at the root of its injunctions. Excesses are committed in wars and would continue to be committed, despite UN Human rights and Geneva Convention declarations. Islam, therefore, has enforced a pre-emptive system, in the face of human frailties way before these declarations and laws were even conceived.

 

POLYGAMY

Polygamy had been rampant since pre-Islamic era. Prophet Solomon (R.A) reportedly had 300+ wives. Having a large harem of women/wives had been a norm. Polygamy, before 20th Century, had been in practice among Eskimos in Northern fringes of North America and Greenland when anyone hardly even knew about them. It is still practiced in North America and elsewhere in Americas; by Mormon and some other tribal communities. In the Middle East and Africa, it is a commonplace. It’s logical reason seems to be unbridled avarice and machismo. Then Arab and African tribal societies afforded it a political flavor; marriages began being solemnized for buying the loyalties of other tribes.  At the advent of Islam however; a limit of maximum four, at any given time, was set, thereby dispensing with the custom of numerous wives and countless children simultaneously.

Non-Muslims wonder and also object, that why it was not restricted to just one wife? Divine wisdom; in some matters challenges the objectivity of our ingrained ordinary beliefs; possibly for two reasons, either to leave us at the threshold of despair, rejection, and unbelief or, to transcend to a higher level of contemplation to appreciate the efficacy of Divine wisdom. Qura’an in Surah Nisa-4, V-129 clearly states that “you do not have the capacity to be judicious among your wives regardless of how sincerely you intend to. Therefore, do not lean towards one and neglect the other, leaving her hanging. And if you do the best you can God is forgiving and merciful”. It is also said in another verse # 3 of the same Surah that “if you fear that you won’t be able to do justice Just take only ONE

Great pioneering sociologist William Graham Summer in1906 explains the customs and traditions like this— “The right way is the way which the ancestors used and which has been handed down. The tradition is its own warrant. It is not held subject to verification by experience. The notion of right is in the folkways. It is not outside of them, of independent origin, and brought to test them. In the folkways whatever is, is right. This is because they are traditional, and, therefore, contain in themselves the authority of ancestral ghost. When we come to the folkways we are at the end of the analysis”

Herodotus—Greek author of First great narrative history wrote, which is also a recurring theme in the literature of social sciences— “Different cultures have different moral codes. What is thought right within one group may be utterly abhorrent to the people of another group, and vice versa” judging one right and other wrong means we have an independent standard. Whereas there is no such independent standard in reality; every standard is culture-bound.

These point of views (Divine wisdom expressed through human intellect) should be convincing enough to set aside the –vehement objection– as to why the polygamy, slavery, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) have not been outlawed in Islam in one strike. Slavery and FGM are not approved in Islam. Islamic injunctions on these issues are annihilative in essence.

In the case of polygamy, however; there are several logical arguments which could be offered in its favor; but most intuitive would be that, since man belongs to the larger group of social animals hence his natural tendencies “ought” to be in line with that of the group—multiple mates. This is probably why there have always been more women than men to meet this threshold. Man, from the known history of mankind, has been endowed with the head of the family and beholder of rationality status. He has also been enjoying the companionship of numerous women to satisfy his natural propensities. The limitation of one wife seems to be unnatural, counter-intuitive and counter-productive.

Deviation from this natural order is vividly evident in the moral decay of the western, artificially constrained one-for-one, societies. The number of wives in Islam however, was restricted to rational maximum “four” commensurate with the level of social developments and level of responsibilities at the same time. (Pattern of Prophet Mohammad {PBUH}’s marriages with, more than one widow, one older than him and a business woman, divorcees, pubescent girl etc, on the one hand, sets the standard for a successful marital relationship while, on the other, proves the efficacy of more than one wife).

 

 

Historical perspective of polygamy

 Antique Egypt Law: A man could marry more than one woman under some circumstances.

Babel Law: according to Hammurabi laws if a woman could not bear a child or had a serious disease the husband could have a concubine.

Chinese Law: If the wealth of the husband were sufficient, he could marry secondary wives. Antique Brahmans: According to the book Vishnu, men could marry one, two, three or more women in accordance with their classes. In the laws of Manu, the husband had to choose his first wife from the same social class; he could marry a woman of lower classes as his second wife. Ancient Iran: Polygamy was legal.

Under Roman Law: It was permissible to have a concubine, without a legal wedding.
In The Bible (Old Testament) It is stated that Prophet Dawood (David) married several women. In Old, Testament polygamy is also mentioned in several other places. Polygamy existed in Judaism.

 

 

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