The Media's Attack on Islam, Part I: Polygamy
Reviewing an Islamophobic Website
Disclaimer: By posting this work, I do not intend to impose religious or spiritual beliefs on others. I do not claim to be a scholar, nor do I have any formal Islamic education. All my work is done by my own research, and my references are posted at the end of every article.
The Media’s Attack On Islam Contents
Part I: Polygamy
Part II: Domestic Abuse
Part III: Sexual Violence
Part IV: Sexism
Part V: Religious Violence
What is Islam?
Let's start with a simple question. What is Islam? Islam is a religion. A religion mostly held by Eastern countries. Someone who follows Islam is known as a Muslim, as someone who follows Christianity is called a Christian.
Islam is a religion of discipline and spirituality. Not a day goes by that a Muslim does not devote himself to his religion, and he does not perform a single action without reminder of his religion.
The most common response to Islam in the Western world today is negative and derogatory. The biggest associations with Islam are mistreatment of women and violence against nonbelievers. Both are misinterpretations. I am here to speak on both of these.
The media has become a place riddled with opinions and false news. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what is fact and what is fiction, what is fact and what is opinion.
It was not until I found a particular website, which I will not name, with a subsection titled "Christianity vs. Islam" that I realized how extravagant the media's attack on Islam really is.
The website did not speak so much about the differences between the religions, but the places where Christianity excels and where Islam supposedly lacks. It spoke about both of the common misconception areas: the treatment of women and violence towards nonbelievers.
Let's dive in.
The Treatment of Women
Most Islamophobic views come from the idea that Islam oppresses women, whether it be that they are "forced" to wear hijab, or that they are supposedly seen as less than men in the religion. Islam has only ever had positive intentions with women, and intends to guard them at all costs.
The first argumentative statement is about polygamy in Islam (or more specifically, polygyny - marriage of multiple women to one man). It is important to note that Islam did not invent polygyny, nor did it invent societies that position men above women. In the pre-Islamic world, women were often viewed as objects and something that could be inherited, and polygamy was common. Islam came to place restrictions on polygamy, which had already existed, and to allow marriage of more than one woman to one man in necessary situations.
The Quran was written just over 1,400 years ago in a time of war, when men were sent out to fight and defend their families. It was a time where many men died on the battlefield, leaving women widowed and families fatherless. Islam allowed polygamy for the sake of fatherless families and husbandless women, giving them the support and stability that a man gave the family in that era.
However, in the case that a man marries a widowed woman, it is only permitted as long as the wives are treated equally by the husband.
Surah 4:3: And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls (widowed women), then marry those that please you of other women (that you can treat fairly), two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then marry only one.
A man can only marry up to four women, as permitted by the Quran, to prevent any inequalities between his wives. The husband must treat all wives with justice and equality, in both emotion and physical gifts. They must all be loved the same, without favoring one over the other, and they must be given the same amount of support. This means that he cannot have a main family with a wife that he loves, and a second family that he simply supports without much intervention.
Polygamy is not a rule, nor is it a recommendation. It is something which is allowed for special circumstances. The fourth successor of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, stated: “Marrying more than once is not a generality. It pertains to certain situations when it becomes necessary for both preserving the health of society and the rights of women to have this provision available.” In Islam, there are three degrees for permitted deeds: (1) obligatory, (2) recommended, and (3) allowed. Polygamy falls under the third category.
Another reason for polygamy during wartimes besides giving fatherless families stability and financial support is that if a woman was unprotected during an invasion, it was not uncommon for more harm to come to her than others. For example, in Ancient Scandinavia, Vikings would rape, enslave, or kill them for sport, as they were seen as property to be conquered once the husband was out of the way, almost as a final blow.
Muhammad and Polygamy
A controversial part of Muhammad’s life is that he actually had more than four wives. Only two of his wives were of the normal course, in which he married her for love, which was his marriage with Khadija and Aisha. All of his other marriages were contracted as a necessity and under various considerations. Often he got married to solidify relations between different tribes or to seal treaties.
The controversial issue is the idea that Muhammad was a lustful man, but this is untrue. If you look at his first marriage, his marriage to Khadija, they got married when he was 25 years old, and was with her until she died when he was 50. During his marriage, he did not pursue other marriages. She bore all of his children except for one, and she was 15 years older than him. They were in love, and even after her death, he spoke about her with great nostalgia. He married his other wives between ages 53 and 60, and then it was revealed to him by Allah that he could not marry anymore until he died, at age 63.
He was not a lustful man, but a man who wanted to spread the word of Islam, and make ties between groups, to make peace. He treated women with the greatest respect, and loved his wives very much. He married his second to last wives at an age where lust would not be a major factor, and instead, had the purest intentions.
The article also mentions another controversial part of Muhammad’s life, which is really nothing to fuss over once you have looked into how the situation really went, the marriage between Muhammad and Zainab. Zainab was first married to his adopted son, Zayd. The misconception is that Muhammad saw the beauty of Zayd’s wife and forced him to divorce her so that he himself could marry her, for her beauty. This is a dangerous misinterpretation.
Zayd felt uneasy in his marriage. He went to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about his worries, saying that he felt that he and his wife were not equal in their spirituality, that she was above him. He felt that it caused a lack of harmony in their marriage, and that he wanted to divorce her after their first year of marriage. The Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted him to stay with her, but he refused.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was sad about this decision, as was Zainab and her relatives. He had been talking with Aisha, his wife at the time, about how he was feeling, when Allah sent him a revelation. He married Zainab by the command of Allah after her waiting period had ended, to mend the saddened hearts of her and her family.
This story is clearly explained in the Quran as it really is.
Surah 33:36-38: (36) It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error. (37) And [remember, O Muhammad], when you said to the one on whom Allah bestowed favor and you bestowed favor, “Keep your wife and fear Allah,” while you concealed within yourself that which Allah is to disclose. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him. So when Zayd had no longer any need for her, We married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them. And ever is the command of Allah accomplished. (38) There is not upon the Prophet any discomfort concerning that which Allah has imposed upon him. [This is] the established way of Allah with those [prophets] who have passed on before. And ever is the command of Allah a destiny decreed.
To bring all these thoughts back together, polygamy is only allowed in Islam because women were often left husbandless by war, and there were not many men who survived that did not already have wives. In order to give support to fatherless families, Allah allowed polygamy, but only if the husband could maintain love and support for all his wives. He could not love and favor one over the other(s), and can only marry up to four.
Islam set restrictions on polygamy that other divine scriptures had not. Pre-Islam, there were no restrictions on polygamy. Islam only intended polygamy to be a safe haven for women and fatherless children. It was not an allowance to be abused or mistreated for lustful intentions.
As for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it was only revealed to him to marry more than four wives for the sake of bringing people together, and to help women that needed it. His intentions were not lustful, nor were they greedy.