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Is polygamy a teaching that still applies in the modern world?

As Ahmadi Muslims, it is our purpose to bring the world back to the Holy Prophet sas and the Promised Messiahas. Hudur aba said:

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community should not be considered a liberal or reformist sect of Islam. Rather we are following the original teachings of Islam as prescribed by the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammad sas .

(Peace Symposium Canada, Oct 22, 2016)

Growing up in the West, some Muslims, unfortunately, develop an inferiority complex about certain teachings, and if we cannot overcome this complex, it will always fog our attempts to interpret these teachings. Islam teaches polygamy for all time, not just for pre-Western civilization. In commentary of the verse 4:4 (the verse on polygamy), Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih IV rta said:

According to some people, it is a condition that there be an environment of orphans. They say that the permission of 2 or 3 or 4 wives is on the condition that many orphans be left as a result of war; otherwise, it is not permitted. If this is accepted, then the marriages of all such good people on whom this condition is not fulfilled, from the time of the Holy Prophetsas till now, will become doubtful. Many of those marriages were such that they were not for the benefit of any orphan. To translate this verse in a way that affects the Holy Prophetsas  negatively  is a wrong translation, whether it affects others or not.

(Urdu Tarjamatul Quran Class #51, Surah an-Nisa’, 4:3–15)

Hadrat Zafrullah Khan ra writes:

Some modern Muslim writers, in their anxiety and eagerness to curry favour with the West, have sought to argue that as polygamy was permitted on condition of equal treatment of wives (Holy Quran 4:4) and equality was declared impossible of achievement (Holy Quran 4:130), it follows that the permission was in effect revoked. This line of exegesis is entirely mistaken and is utterly untenable. The text of 4:130 itself clearly contemplates continuation of a system of plurality of wives. Besides, 4:130 was not interpreted by the Holy Prophet sas or his companions as revoking the permission granted by 4:4; nor was such interpretation ever commended by Muslim Jurists through the centuries.

(Woman in Islam, p. 19–20)

Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra said:

There is no reason we should fear the West and hide any teaching of Islam or consider it inapplicable.

(Khutbat-e-Mahmud, vol. 3, Khutbat-e-Nikah, p. 396)

Now we have to ask ourselves honestly, have we accepted that Islam teaches polygamy? The Promised Messiah as said:

Some ignorant Muslims, when they are arranging a marriage, check to see if the person they are willing to marry their daughter to has a first wife or not. So if there is a first wife present, then they do not want to marry to such a person at all. So it should be remembered that such people are only Muslims by name, and in a way, they are helpers of those women who become angry at the second marriage of their husbands. So they should also fear God.

(Fatawa Hadrat Masih Mau‘ud, p. 162)

Here, the Promised Messiah as did not say that we have to marry our daughters to people who already have a wife, rather, he said that rejecting a proposal for this reason alone is un-Islamic. The emphasis is that we should not have an aversion to the teaching of polygamy. Pause and think about that for a moment. This is the level of rejecting false western ideals and accepting the beauty of this teaching of Islam that we have to reach. We can only conquer the ideologies of the world when we have no fear of the world’s ideologies.

Only after we have accepted this teaching of Islam with an open heart can we be in a position to explain its limitations while being honest to ourselves and others. Otherwise, we will only explain its limitations as a way of trying to get out of accepting that this is a teaching of Islam.

Updated on January 4, 2019

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