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Friday Sermon: Takathur: Piling Up Worldly Possessions

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By Babatunde Jose

The Quran says: Al haaku mut Takathur; Competition in worldly increase diverts you. Takathur, or Piling Up. In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things), Until ye visit the graves. But nay, ye soon shall know (the reality). Again, ye soon shall know! Nay, were ye to know with certainty of mind, (ye would beware!) Ye shall certainly see Hellfire! Again, ye shall see it with certainty of sight! Then, shall ye be questioned that Day about joy (ye indulged in!)  (Quran 102:1-8)

This Sura warned of the evil consequences of worshipping worldly possessions which leads to greed and avariciousness and increases the propensity to acquire more and more of worldly material benefits and pleasures, position, and power. This one pursuit has so occupied men that they are left with no time or opportunity for pursuing the higher things in life. They mortgage their soul on the altar of acquisitiveness.

The Quran says: “These blessings which you are amassing and enjoying thoughtlessly, are not mere blessings but are also a means of your trial. For each one of these blessings and comforts you will surely be called to account in the Hereafter.”

In his Tafsir of the above Sura, Sayyid Qutb, the ‘Martyr’ says of the men who pursue the higher things of life thoughtlessly: You drunken and confused lot! You who take delight and indulge in rivalry for wealth, children, and the pleasures of this life, from which you are sure to depart! You who are absorbed with what you have, unaware of what comes afterwards! You who will leave the object of this rivalry, and what you seek pride in, and go to a narrow hole where there is no rivalry or pride! Wake up and look around, all of you! For indeed, “you are preoccupied by greed for more and more, until you go down to your graves.” (Verses 1-2)

The passion for piling up more and more has made people heedless of God, of the Hereafter, of the moral bounds and moral responsibilities, of the rights of others and of their own obligations to render those rights. They desire to have more and are overwhelmed by this greed; they have become wholly insensitive as to the ultimate end of this way of living. In the course of their pursuit, they fill God’s earth with tyranny and wickedness and  destroy humanity itself.

It is rather unfortunate that the thieves among us lack contentment; no amount of stealing can satiate their lust for the juicy morsel. As an anonymous commentator puts it: “they lack the grace to stand up from the dining table and look away from the food tray when their belly is full.”

No doubt, excessive stealing becomes tantamount to malady. If not, how do we term the case of that NDDC acting managing director that fainted in court. He was a made man, a professor of medicine. Yet he and his ‘band of merry-men’ robbed the corporation blind. Truly, the case of the Niger Delta is disheartening. Every effort to turn around the region from its legendary deprivation is squandered on the altar of individuals’ greed. Since 1999, an estimated N16 trillion, an amount that could build three cities like Dubai, has been squandered with nothing to show. What is sad about the situation is that indigenes of the region have been fingered as architects of the mismanagement of the NDDC and other allied agencies including a ministry created to develop the Niger Delta region. What became of the NNDC scandal? Hmmmn!

Another avaricious serial raider of the national coffer was the lady with the ‘diamond bra’ who had no reason to dip her filthy hands into the cookie-jar. A trained architect and former executive director of Shell before being appointed Petroleum Minister, she failed the test. She is today a fugitive offender.

The rivalry for wealth does not even recognize age, if not, how do we account for a grandfather like ex-NECO Registrar, a professor, that stole almost a billion. He was detained and charged to court for stealing money he would never need.

They say people steal government funds because they fear falling into the poverty trap. But how do you explain allegations of corruption levelled against men of standing who were corporate titans before becoming governors who allegedly stole their state blind?

With ₦100 billion you can build a brand-new town, local government area, of 15, 000 low-cost housing units complete with roads, schools, hospitals. ₦100 billion would build a new ten – faculty university, that can accommodate 20,000 undergraduates and graduate students. But an accountant allegedly stole such a staggering sum. A fellow of ICAN. A distinguished member of a privileged elite group. Haba!

Remember the case of the banking Amazon who received a sentence of eighteen months after a plea bargain. The list of her thievery would fill a primary school A4 exercise book. According to the press release of the CBN of October 8, 2010, the first lady of banking’s “assets forfeited include 94 choice properties around the world (USA, Dubai and Nigeria) and shares in 100 Companies, 80 of which are listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange, while 20 of them are non-listed, all valued at the sum of N191.4bn.” Kilode?

The elite are the ones destroying the social architecture of our nation with their unbridled hedonism and their greed for piling up of worldly possessions. Our political elite, despite their jejune certificates, lack the intellectual capacity to solve our economic problems, and worse, they lack the contemplation of the right philosophy of public service. 

No living person needs a billion. What for? God didn’t create us to be excessive. Every extra gift, talent, grace, money, and wealth we have, is not totally for us. But for society. We are to give, give and give, for humanity, and posterity. Although nature and law permit optimal material rewards and compensation for our efforts. That is why the Accountant General of a Federation, Governor, Senator is well remunerated above others.

We are under the delusion that the abundance of worldly goods and surpassing others in it, is real progress and success, whereas the opposite is the case. Soon you will know its evil end and you will realize that it was a stupendous error in which you remained involved throughout your life.

In several Hadiths it has been reported from the Holy Prophet that the believers and the disbelievers, both will have to account for the blessings granted by Allah.

The Holy Prophet in Ahadith makes it explicit that not only the disbelievers but the righteous believers too will be questioned. As for the blessings which Allah has bestowed on man, they are unlimited and countless:

And He giveth you of all that ye ask for. But if ye count the favors of Allah, never will ye be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude. (Quran 14: 34).

About the blessings that accrue to man in consequence of his own labor and skill, he will have to render an account as to how he acquired them and in what ways he expended them. In respect of the blessings directly bestowed by Allah, he will have to give an account as to how he used them. And in respect of all the blessings, overall, he will have to tell whether he had acknowledged that those blessings had been granted by Allah and whether he had expressed gratitude for them to Allah with his heart, and by word and deed.

The Prophet said (If the Son of Adam had a valley of gold, he would desire another like it…). The case of a Nigerian Senator whose 40 properties have been forfeited by a court injunction exemplifies the Prophet’s saying. EFCC told the court that the landed properties, 10 of which are situated at Enugu, three in the United States of America, two in the United Kingdom, one in Lagos, nine in Dubai, and 15 located in the Federal Capital Territory, are suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of crime.

The servant says “My wealth, my wealth.” Yet he only gets three (benefits) from his wealth: that which he eats and finishes, that which he wears until it is worn out, or that which he gives in charity and it is spent”.

Bukhari reports, on the authority of Anas Ibn Malik that The Messenger of Allah said:“ Three things follow the deceased person, and two of them return while one returns behind with him: The things which follow him are: his family, his wealth and his actions; his family and his wealth return while his actions remain.” (i.e. of those three things, the only one which benefit him is his actions).

Then, shall ye be questioned that Day about joy (ye indulged in!) (Quran 102:8)

Meaning, on the Day of Resurrection, you all will be questioned concerning your gratitude towards the favors that Allah blessed you with, such as health, safety, sustenance and other things.

Bukhari, At-Tirmizi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas that the Messenger of Allah said: “There are two blessings of which many people are deceived (i.e. about which they wrong or deceive themselves): Health and leisure time.” That is, they are slack, or negligent in giving thanks for them, neither making full use of them nor fulfilling their obligations regarding them.”

This Surah reminds one of the story of the rich man in late Yusuf Olatunji’s native ballad ‘Oba Oluwa loni dede’. The narrative exemplifies the fact that “We come with nothing and will go with nothing.”

O Allah we thank thee for all You have blessed us with. We recognize that it is not by our power but by Your Grace.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend.

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Islam

Friday Sermon: Hijab 2: By Choice or by Force?

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By Babatunde Jose

 “Even though the hijab is related to religion, its acceptance is up to the individual. There is no compulsionBut if a girl wants to wear it, she should be given the chance to do so.” Syed Hasnain Akhtar, professor of Arabic at Delhi University.  Unfortunately, this has not always been the case in many countries.

The perception of the hijab dates back to Hadith when the “verse of the hijab” descended upon the fledgling Muslim community in 627 CE. Now documented in Sura 33:53, the verse states, “And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts”.

The wearing of the veil has since become a contentious issue as a result of controversial interpretations that has led to its being forced on women in many places and in others, being banned. There is no end to the Hijab War.

In the 1960s and 1970s Western clothing largely dominated in Muslim countries. For example, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, women went out in public without the hijab. This changed following the Soviet Afghan War, military dictatorship in Pakistan, and the Iranian revolution of 1979, when traditional conservative attire including the abaya, jilbab and niqab made a comeback.

After the Iran Islamic Revolution of 1979, the Hijab Law was decreed. It led to protests and demonstrations by women.

However, in Turkey there has been a decline in women wearing the hijab in recent years, although under Erdoğan Turkey is becoming more conservative and Islamic.

Egypt did not pronounce any ban on the hijab, but a movement to rededicate themselves to Islamic values led some college aged Muslims to adopt the jilbab as a dress code. Soon this movement expanded outside of the youth realm and became a more widespread Muslim practice. Women viewed this way of dress as a way to both publicly announce their religious identity as well as a way to simultaneously reject western influences of dress and culture that were prevalent at the time. A case of choice.

Many people, both men and women from backgrounds of both Islamic and non-Islamic faith questioned the hijab and what it stood for in terms of women and their rights. There was questioning of whether in practice the hijab was truly by choice or by force of social coercion.

Today the hijab means many things for different people. For Islamic women who choose to wear the hijab it allows them to retain their modesty, morals, and freedom of choice.

There are a few topics that take a lot of heat when discussed. One such topic is the hijab. Is it a choice? Or a forceful compulsion on Muslim women?

Ms. Neha Saleem, who observed the hijab said: “There is no compulsion in religion. One should not force someone to wear the hijab no matter how old they are, though one can suggest it and tell them how it’s a good thing. Ultimately, though, it is a matter for the people and their own personal choices. I wear a hijab because I like covering myself and I feel protected.”

But society cages women in various lengths of cloth in the name of chastity and dignity. In a few Muslim states, hijab is not mandatory by law, but it is the society that conditions the modesty of the women in the name of the hijab. The cultural concept of hijab or modesty controls the society and freedom of women – this is so badly inculcated in the psyche that there is nothing that can be done to alter it. This cultural concept defines the modesty of women and brings the entire focus to their bodies in exactly the same way as using a woman’s naked body to sell products.

The hijab is currently required by law to be worn by women in Iran, Afghanistan, and the Indonesian province of Aceh. But it is no longer required by law in Saudi Arabia since 2018, although Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has stated that women must still wear “decent and respectful attire”.

In Gaza, Palestinian jihadists belonging to the Unified Leadership (UNLU) have rejected a hijab policy for women.

Other countries, both in Europe and in the Muslim world, have passed laws banning some or all types of hijab in public or in certain types of locales. Women in different parts of the world have also experienced unofficial pressure to wear or not wear a hijab.

The Muslim Reform Movement holds that Quran 53:33; 33:59; 24:30-31 simply meant “barrier” and that it was used in the context of both men and women; the jilbab and the khimar were pre-Islamic clothes and the Quran simply recommended how to wear these, rather than imposing a new clothing requirement.

Turkey had a ban on headscarves at universities until recently. In December 2010, however, the Turkish government ended the headscarf ban in universities, government buildings and schools.

In Tunisia, women were banned from wearing hijab in state offices in 1981 and in the 1990s, more restrictions were put in place.

In 2017, Tajikistan banned hijabs. Under existing laws, women wearing hijabs are banned from entering the country’s government offices.

On 15 March 2004, France passed a law banning “symbols or clothes through which students conspicuously display their religious affiliation” in public primary schools, middle schools, and secondary schools.

On 13 July 2010, France’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill banning wearing the Islamic full veil in public. It became the first European country to ban the full-face veil in public places, followed by Belgium, Latvia, Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark and some cantons of Switzerland in the following years.

In 2016, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s supervising judicial authority upheld a ban on wearing Islamic headscarves in courts and legal institutions, despite protests from the Muslim community that constitutes 40% of the country.

The blatant sexualization of the body in both cases causes women to be perceived as nothing more than a source of temptation, pleasure, and sin. Owing to such notions, when a girl is little, she has to be dressed in a ‘modest’ way, during her adolescence she is forced to wear a dupatta and finally as a grown woman, she knows her position lies behind the hijab.

Considering the verse in Qur’an 24:31, which states that they should cover their “adornments” and not show them to strangers outside the family, it can be thought that the Qur’an introduces a new scale of chastity in the public sphere. This has become a veritable weapon in the hands of Talibanic Islamists who now interpret it as Allah’s enforcement of the hijab on women: A practice which Afghanistan and Iran have today carried to a notorious level, abridging the fundamental rights of women. A sad irony to a supposed religion of peace, equality, and freedom.

In India, Muslim women are allowed to wear the hijab and/or burqa anytime, anywhere. However, in January 2022, a number of colleges in the South Indian state of Karnataka stopped female students wearing hijab from entering the campus following the state government circular banning ‘religious clothes’ in educational institutions where uniforms are prescribed. This led to the celebrated Karnataka High Court case of 15 March 2022. The Court, in a verdict, upheld the hijab ban in educational institutions where uniforms are prescribed, arguing that “the practice is non-essential in Islam.”

Among the issues raised are: What is the ambit and scope of essential religious practices? Is the wearing of a headscarf an essential religious practice? An essential part of a religion means the core beliefs upon which a religion is founded. It is upon the cornerstone of essential parts or practices that the superstructure of a religion is built, without which a religion will be no religion. If taking away that part or practice results in a fundamental change in the character of that religion or in its belief, then such part could be treated as an essential or integral part of the religion. We may then ask: Is the wearing of the Hijab an essential part of the religion of Islam? This is the litmus test.

Wearing a hijab may be a practice, it may be an ideal or a permissible practice, but to raise it to the level of an essential religious practice, something more is required. It has to be shown that if the headscarf is not worn, the identity of the person as a believer in the faith itself would be jeopardized.

It could be argued that wearing of a headscarf may be a religious practice but is not essential to the religion as non-following of such practice would not lead a believer to be non-Muslim. The essential religious practices are those practices, if not followed, would render the person religion-less.

In this vein, it is worth considering the issue of wives for example. The Muslim law permits marrying four women. Personal law nowhere mandates or dictates it as a duty to perform four marriages. No religious scripture or authority provides that marrying less than four women or abstaining from procreating a child from each and every wife in case of permitted bigamy or polygamy would be irreligious or offensive to the dictates of the religion.

The Five Pillars of Islam are: Profession of Faith (shahada). The belief that “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God”; Prayer (salat). Alms (zakat); Fasting (sawm) and Pilgrimage (hajj).

We must not end this sermon without reference to what is happening in Afghanistan.  Today, nobody would call what is going on in Afghanistan Sharia, the dictates of hadith nor define it as based on any known Islamic injunction.  It is not only a blatant travesty of Islam but also an abuse of fundamental human rights of the female gender.

How can they be more Muslim than the holy Prophet?  Afghanistan is everything bad about Islamic fundamentalism.  It is not Islam, but religion gone awry.

The veil by whatever name it is called should be by choice and not by force. Secondly, being a choice, society should stop making political weapons out of it by banning it in whatever guise.

Barka Juma’at and happy weekend

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Friday Sermon: Hijab 1: A Historical Excursion

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By Babatunde Jose

The issue of the veil and hijab has created so much controversy and continues to do so depending on which side of the religious and social platform we stand to observe the unfolding events. The issue raises many fundamental questions which cut across historical, social and traditional spheres, Quranic pronouncement and Hadith, Islamic jurisprudence, Sharia and the whole gamut of Islamophobia and Hijabophobia. Finally, issues of law across nations where the question has been, to ban or not to ban.

We would start our discourse with a historical excursion into the institution of veiling across the ages and its metamorphosis into a symbol of Islamic identity.

We shall interrogate the Quranic provision and determine if it was recommendatory or mandatory. Therefore, without the hijab, would the Muslimness of a woman become null and void? Can what is made recommendatory by the Holy Quran be metamorphosed into mandatory dicta by hadith which is supplementary to the Quran? These and other issues shall be explored in the Sermons to come.

There is no doubt, the controversy over the hijab arose out of the age-long interpretations given the Quranic verses, some hadiths,  and the role of Islamic schools of jurisprudence after the demise of the Prophet.

Veiling did not originate with the advent of Islam. Evidence of veiling dates back as far as 2500 BC. Elite women in ancient Mesopotamia and in the Byzantine, Greek, and Persian empires wore the veil as a sign of respectability and high status.

In ancient Mesopotamia and Assyria, they had explicit sumptuary laws detailing which women must veil and which women must not, depending upon the woman’s class, rank, and occupation in society. Female slaves and prostitutes were forbidden to veil and faced harsh penalties if they did so. Veiling was thus not only a marker of aristocratic rank, but also served to “differentiate between ‘respectable’ women and those who were publicly available”; pro bono publico.

Strict seclusion and the veiling of matrons were also customary in ancient Greece. Between 550 and 323 BCE, prior to Christianity, respectable women in classical Greek society were expected to seclude themselves and wear clothing that concealed them from the eyes of strange men. Roman custom included the practice of the head covering worn by the priestesses of Vesta (Vestal Virgins).

It is not clear whether the Hebrew Bible contains prescriptions with regard to veiling, but rabbinic literature presents it as a question of modesty. It became an important rabbinic virtue in the early Roman period, and it may also have been intended to distinguish Jewish women from their non-Jewish counterparts in Babylonian and later in Greco-Roman society. According to rabbinical precepts, married Jewish women have to cover their hair. According to Fadwa El Guindi, at the inception of Christianity, Jewish women were veiling their heads and faces.

The Bible attests to the veiling of women as we read in the passage in 1 Corinthians 11:4-7: “every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head”.

The early Church Fathers, including Tertullian of Carthage, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus of Rome, John Chrysostom and Augustine of Hippo attested in their writings that Christian women should wear a headcovering, while men should pray with their heads uncovered.

There is archaeological evidence demonstrating that headcovering was observed as an ordinance by women in early Christianity, and the practice of Christian headcovering continues among female adherents of many Christian denominations today.

In the Indian subcontinent, Hindu women cover their heads with a veil in a practice known as ghoonghat. Intermixing of populations resulted in a convergence of the cultural practices of Greek, Persian, and Mesopotamian empires and the Semitic peoples of the Middle East. Veiling and seclusion of women appear to have established themselves among Jews and Christians before spreading to urban Arabs of the upper classes and eventually among the urban masses. In the rural areas it was common to cover the hair, but not the face.

According to Leila Ahmed, the rigid norms pertaining to veiling and seclusion of women found in Christian Byzantine literature have been influenced by ancient Persian traditions, and there is evidence to suggest that they differed significantly from actual practice.

Available evidence suggests that veiling was not introduced into Arabia by Muhammad, but already existed there, particularly in the towns, although it was probably not as widespread as in the neighboring countries such as Syria and Palestine.

Similarly, to the practice among Greeks, Romans (Byzantines), Jews, and Assyrians, its use was associated with high social status. In the early Islamic texts, the term hijab does not distinguish between veiling and seclusion, and can mean either “veil” or “curtain”.

Allah says “O Prophet! Tell your wives & daughters & the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (screen themselves completely except the eyes), that will be better that they should be known as respectable women so as not to be annoyed or molested. (Quran 33:59)

 The Holy Quran does not make wearing of hijab or headgear mandatory for Muslim women. Whatever is stated in the above Ayat, is only directory, because of the absence of prescription of penalty or penance for not wearing hijab, the linguistic structure of other verses supports this view.

The only verses in the Qur’an that specifically reference women’s clothing are those promoting modesty, instructing women to guard their private parts and draw their scarves over their breast area in the presence of men.

The contemporary understanding of the hijab dates back to Hadith when the “verse of the hijab” descended upon the community in 627 CE. Now documented in Sura 33:53, the verse states, “And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts”. This verse, however, was not addressed to women in general, but exclusively to Muhammad’s wives.

As Muhammad’s influence increased, he entertained more and more visitors in the mosque, which was then his home. Often, these visitors stayed the night only feets away from his wives’ apartments. It is commonly understood that this verse was intended to protect his wives from these strangers. During Muhammad’s lifetime the term for donning the veil, darabat al-hijab, was used interchangeably with “being Muhammad’s wife”.

Because Islam identified with the monotheistic religions of the conquered empires, the practice was adopted as an appropriate expression of Quranic ideals regarding modesty and piety.  Veiling gradually spread to upper-class Arab women, and eventually it became widespread among Muslim women in cities throughout the Middle East.

Veiling of Arab Muslim women became especially pervasive under Ottoman rule as a mark of rank and exclusive lifestyle, and Istanbul of the 17th century witnessed differentiated dress styles that reflected geographical and occupational identities.

By the 19th century, upper-class urban Muslim and Christian women in Egypt wore a garment which included a head cover and a burqa (muslin cloth that covered the lower nose and the mouth). The name of this garment, harabah, derives from early Christian and Judaic religious vocabulary, which may indicate the origins of the garment itself. Up to the first half of the twentieth century, rural women in the Maghreb and Egypt put on a form of niqab when they visited urban areas, “as a sign of civilization”.

Hijab has been referred to as the veil that covers the head and is usually worn by Muslim women. It is taken as a symbol of modesty and privacy. The Quran never explicitly used the term hijab in reference to body veiling, instead used the words khimār and jilbab. The word hijab means “a screen or curtain” and is used in the Quran to show the meaning of a screen, partition, or curtain. None of these words are used in the Quran in reference to what the Muslims refer to today as a dress code for the Muslim woman.

Some meanings for the word include screen, covering, curtain, drapes, or partition. Hijab in the Quran has nothing to do with the Muslim women dress code.

Jews practiced the tradition of wearing a veil (by women) and cover (by men), as apparent from Talmud quotes (Talmud equals the hadiths and sunnah, but neither of which are the words of God Himself). The Christians adopted this further. The people belonging to the above-mentioned religions cover their heads in the synagogues, weddings, and religious festivities.

Christian nuns are seen in full veil all the time. In pre-Islamic times in Arab, everyone used to wear a veil only out of tradition. In Saudi Arabia up to this day, men cover their heads with veils. In North African Sahara, the Tuareg Tribe has men wearing veils instead of women. In pre-Islamic times people used to cover themselves more fully in order to protect themselves from the harsh weather conditions, especially in the Arab states with scorching heat.

Covering the heads was neither a religious nor a social obligation. But today it has assumed a potent religious ammunition, particularly with the weaponization of religion.

There is nothing bad in the adornment of hijab by choice by women to protect them from the lustful attention of the menfolk and also to project their Islamism, but when its use is being forced as we have in some Talibanic societies under the guise of Hadithi injunctions, then it becomes a questionable exercise open to interrogation. This brings into fore the various interpretations of the provisions of the Quran and the fatwa of the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence on the matter. To be continued.

Barka Juma’at and happy weekend,

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Friday Sermon: Why Does Islam Allow Polygamy?

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By Babatunde Jose

Time and time again the question of polygamy in Islam is raised as a grave issue and a big hurdle to any serious discussions about Islam. The general idea is to ask: How can Islam claim that there is gender equality when it allows men to marry up to four wives? If men can have multiple wives, why are women also not allowed to marry more than one husband?

The idea that Islam allows polygamy so that men could pursue lust and as an excuse to fulfill sensual desires is a far cry from what Islam actually wishes to achieve. Yet this is what some men do when they descend into polygamy.

Marriage is a sacred institution in Islam with very important objectives. In most cases, the objective is achieved through monogamy. However, in certain situations, a man is allowed to marry more than one wife, with the condition that he treats his wives with justice, equality and fairness.

In Islam polygamy is allowed though it is not mandatory and as such, it is the exception and not the rule. It could arise as a remedial measure for certain situations that may arise from time to time.

The primary occasion then for the provision of polygamy is in war-time situations, when the number of men in the society is reduced due to war casualties. Consequently, there is an increase in the number of widows and orphans. For such situations, Islam gives the provision of polygamy so that the widows and orphans could continue to have the possibility of a family life after the passing of the husband/father. Hence the following Ayat was revealed after the ‘battle of Uhud’ during which many men were lost leaving large number of widows and orphans:

“And if you fear that you will not be fair in dealing with the orphans, then marry of women as may be agreeable to you, two, or three, or four; and if you fear you will not deal justly, then marry only one or what your right hands possess. That is the nearest way for you to avoid injustice.” (Quran 4:4)

It is evident from a study of the Holy Quran that a special situation of a post-war period is being discussed. A similar situation prevailed in Germany after the Second World War… There were a large number of virgins, dejected spinsters, and young widows for whom it was impossible to get married.

Though Islam tolerates polygamy; it has placed various conditions for it that, in practice, are very difficult to observe. These are as follows:

1. Possession of sufficient financial resources to provide all expenses of each family

2. Physical prowess for completely satisfying the sexual desires of each wife

3. Observance of complete justice and equality among each family in every way without any favoritism

It is clear that completely adhering to justice and fairness is quite challenging and few men can be sure about their ability to shoulder such heavy responsibilities.

Whilst traditional Islamic scholarship upholds the notion that Islamic law permits polygyny and furthermore enforces the divine command to “marry only one” where the man fears being unable to fulfil the rights of two in a fair manner, a substantial segment of the Islamic scholarship elaborates further on the ruling.

Their opinion was derived from performing ijtihad or independent legal reasoning which determined their belief that it is to be deemed preferable (even for the male individual who is capable of delivering justice to the multiple families) to refrain from joining more than one wife in the marital bond.

This opinion has been codified into the official positions of the Hanbali and Shaafi’i schools of jurisprudence which assert that it is held recommended for a Muslim male to have only one wife, even if he may act equitably with more than one woman. See Ash-Shirbeeni and Al-Maawardi from the Shaafi’i School of jurisprudence.

Ibn Qudaamah from the Hanbali School of jurisprudence, said: “It is more appropriate to marry only one wife, based on the saying of Allah: ”…But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one).”

Imam Ghazali, from the Shaafi’i School of jurisprudence, stated: “It does not call for two wives, [since] plurality may render life miserable and disrupt the affairs of the home.” (Kitab al Nikah, Ihya Uloom ud Din).

Ash-Shaafi’i is of the view that it is desirable to confine oneself to marrying only one although it is permissible for him to marry more than one. This is to avoid being unfair by being more inclined to some of them than others or being unable to financially support them.

The Quran makes it quite clear that if they doubt their ability to behave equally and justly with their wives, they should suffice themselves with one wife. This is without any ambiguity. Consequently, polygamy in Islam is a very onerous and high-liability undertaking, something that most men are not competent enough to accomplish.

From a historical perspective, the concept of polygamy is not a novel idea as history is replete with the practice in different societies of old, in particular Patriarchal Palestine where most of the old prophets of God practiced polygamy. Abraham had three wives (Genesis 16:1, 16:3, 25:1). Moses had two wives (Exodus 2:21, 18:1-6; Numbers 12:1). Jacob had four wives (Genesis 29:23, 29:28, 30:4, 30:9). David had at least 18 wives (1 Samuel 18:27, 25:39-44; 2 Samuel 3:3, 3:4-5, 5:13, 12:7-8, 12:24, 16:21-23). Solomon had 700 wives (1 Kings 11:3).

Marriage is a legal arrangement in Islam, not a sacrament in the Christian sense, and is secured with a contract.  Islamic marriage lays rights and corresponding responsibilities on each spouse.

The primary purpose of marriage in Islam is regulating sexuality within marriage as well as creating an atmosphere for the continuity and extension of the family.  This is in sharp contrast to growing trends in marriage in the West.  In recent decades, there are more alternatives to marriage than ever before.  Cohabitation – living together outside of marriage – has greatly increased among young, never-married adults, as well as the divorced.  More women are having children outside of marriage, ignoring the traditionally sanctioned sequence of marriage followed by childbearing.

The Quran, is the only known world scripture to explicitly limit polygamy and place strict restrictions upon its practice: “… marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then only one.” (Quran 4:3)

Most modern Muslims view the practice of polygyny as allowed, but unusual and not recommended. The practice of polygyny is often viewed in its historical context, as marriage was the only way for a woman to be provided for during the time of Muhammad. Many countries today either outlaw the practice of polygyny or place restrictions on it.

Several countries, such as Libya, allow polygyny with few or no restrictions. In Indonesia, a majority-Muslim secular nation, polygyny is rare. In 2018, it was practiced by approximately 1% of the population.

Polygamy has always been rare among South Asian Muslims. In medieval India and Punjab, most ordinary Muslim men only had one wife.

Most men in the Ottoman Empire were monogamous while only a small minority were polygamous. Turkey was the first Muslim-majority country to legally ban polygyny in 1926. This decision was not based on religious reasons, but rather was an entirely secular ban.

Tunisia was the next country to ban polygyny through legislation passed in 1956 and restated in 1964. Unlike Turkey, Tunisia banned polygyny on religious grounds, citing two main reasons. First, the Quran limited the practice of polygyny, thus it did not support the practice and clearly intended for the practice to be eliminated over time. Second, the Quran demands equal treatment of all wives in a polygynous marriage, which was deemed impossible, thus making the practice illegal. Finally, Israel banned polygyny as well by 1978.

Countries that restrict polygyny include the following: Egypt (1920), Sudan (1929), India (1939), Algeria, Jordan (1951), Syria (1953), Morocco (1958), Bangladesh, Iraq (1959), Iran (1967, 1975), Kuwait, and Lebanon.

Some countries, including India, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, and Kuwait, allow women to include a clause prohibiting polygyny in marriage contracts.

Other countries, such as Iran and Pakistan, require that a man get permission to take a second wife from his first wife, and then show the court proof of his first wife’s consent. Finally, countries such as Malaysia state that a man must get permission from both his wife and from the governmental religious authority in order to take a second.

Although many countries have laws restricting or banning polygyny, it is still practiced. It is difficult to enforce anti-polygyny laws and restrictions in countries with large rural populations. Furthermore, illegal polygyny often occurs in countries with poor social services as women rely on husbands to support them in these situations.

From the perspective of a woman, if the objectives of her marriage are not being fulfilled, Islam allows her recourse through divorce, and to find another husband. That is the path which will bring her far greater benefits as compared to having two or more husbands.

Barka Juma’at and happy weekend.

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