Transition from Polygamy to Monogamy, Equality between Sexes, Harassment of Wife, Divorce, Marriage between Two People of Different religions.


During the pre-Islamic period polygamy was widespread in Arabia. There was no limit to the number of wives of a man. Especially, the wealthy and the kings enjoyed this liberty to the utmost. The Qur'an was averse to polygamy which created untold of marital problems. The first thing that Qur'an did was to reduce the number down to four.

« If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice» (Surah 4/3)

Unless one is sure that he will deal justly with them, one should not marry more than one woman. The number four was not an injunction, but permission under certain conditions, amongst others in case of wars or sickness. Woman was not a gift freely given to man in utter disregard to the equality between sexes. The situation was to be judged by public authority. In Arabia, the population of men had dwindled due to losses in war and the situation of women had become difficult. Prophet, in the marriages he contracted with a view to contributing to the spread of religion, took widows as wives, providing to their needs.

God's Messenger had remained monogamous for twenty-five years with his first wife Khadijah. Only after her death, did he indulge in polygamy, and that having the objective to spread Islam and provide for the needy. Even though one was had more than one wife, the marital tie was a token of kinship and friendship. « O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee….;»(Surah 33/50)

'Your right hand possess' mentioned above means the slave girls and concubines with whom a master was permitted to have sexual relations. This was a custom which the Qur'an connived at. The reason was that they also had the need to copulate. Deprivation of this right would be cruel. If a concubine bore a child, she would be officially recognized as 'child's mother' and could not longer be sold, and if her master died, she would win her liberty. Thus concubine also was considered as a wife. « If any of you have not the means wherewith to wed free believing women, they may wed believing girls from among those whom your right hands possess» (Surah4/25)

(See: Ateş Süleyman, Yüce Kur'an'ın çağdaş Tefsiri, vol 2, p202)

The injunction “but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one,” was announced for the first time in the Qur'an. The husband should treat all his wives equally and treat with fairness: included in this, were affection, sex, clothing apparel, nourishment and good behavior. Thus the maximum number of women one could marry came to be limited to four. This was not a commandment, but an exceptional permission one could benefit of in case of an emergency, like war or sickness. Woman was not a gift offered to man for his pleasure; it was a social exigency. This situation was to be decided upon by the public authority. In Arabia the number of men had considerably decreased due to losses in war, and polygamy had become inescapable. The wives should accept this state normal and not be jealous of each other. The difficulties involved could not be denied of course. « Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body…» (Surah 33/4)

« Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: But turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air). If ye come to a friendly understanding, and practise self- restraint, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.» (Surah 4/129)

It follows that the best and the right thing to do is monogamy. This would do away with marital disputes in the community and secure peace. Nevertheless, after Muhammad, the old custom had been revived because of the egotism and lasciviousness of man.


Woman's Creation

« O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person (being, essence), created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women …» (Surah 4/1)

The expression 'who created you from a single person, (whole, being, essence)' meant that a single whole was divided into two with the creation of woman; two distinct creatures forming a unity had come to the world. This meant that both had equal rights as human beings. The result of their union was the propagation of generations to come.

« Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge.» (Surah 36/36)

Creation in pairs had found its explication in the Nobel Prize Winner Theory of Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman, according to which every entity comes into being with its opposite pair; like positive and negative poles of electricity, or North and South poles of a magnet. Every particle in the universe has its opposite particle. Where there is a proton there also is an anti-proton. The atom is formed with its positively charged nucleus and the negatively charged electrons revolving around it. The sun and our world are governed by the same law. They continue their rotation thanks to gravity and the anti-rotational gyroscopic movement.

Consequently, woman is not created from the rib of Adam and has nothing missing. Man and woman are but two creatures who become a whole by coming together, i.e. they complement each other.

Equality between man and woman.

« The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. »(Surah 9/71)

Man and woman enjoying equal rights will aid each other and share the responsibilities of their common life. . « They are your garments and ye are their garments…» (Surah 2/187)

Their complementarities are beautifully expressed in this metaphor.

Has Man Supremacy over Woman

« Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other,… »(Surah 4/34)

This verse has been interpreted as allowing man to have ascendancy over woman. It is further pointed out that some men are made to excel others. It is evident that there are women far superior to men in terms of knowledge, intelligence and capacity to work. The vice versa also is a fact. « Everyone acts according to his own disposition: But your Lord knows best who it is that is best guided on the Way."» (Surah 17/84)

A patriarchal system has been he cause to formulate this in the following verse: « …..And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them» (Surah 2/228)

The question is the protection and maintenance of women by men, otherwise there is no indication that men shall rule over women. The Qur'an has obliterated all differences between sexes, races, classes, etc. It is principal precept is man's belief in the unity of God and his piety which includes maintaining other people, prayer five times a day, alms giving, forgiving, asking from God, patience, fasting, to be benefactor, to keep one's promise, justice, honesty, and wisdom.« Those who believe and (constantly) guard against evil; »(Surah 10/63)


The Qur'an enjoins that every action be taken after due discussion of the issue by the members of a community or household.

« Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance;» (Surah 42/38)

It is the aim of the Qur'an to see the family, the nucleus of a community, to be firmly established. All the members of a family have their own responsibilities and rights. There is no prescription to the effect that the household management is the responsibility of a single individual. So that this responsibility is to be shared equally by man and woman; the rest of the family members having also a share in this. Mutual love and respect among the family members will secure a secure foothold for the community at large. The principles of a democratic society find thus a strong foothold. The principle reason for the underdevelopment of certain Islamic states has been the misapplication of the principles of the Qur'an. « It is part of the Mercy of Allah that thou dost deal gently with them Wert thou severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about thee: so pass over (Their faults), and ask for ((Allah)'s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when thou hast Taken a decision put thy trust in Allah. For Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him). »(Surah 3/159)

Treatment of Women

« …As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): …» (Surah 4/34)

Women who are disloyal and behave badly shall be treated as follows according to the Qur'an: 1) Admonishment; 2) Not to have sexual relations; 3) If both these precautions avail not then removal them to a place away from where they are (or beat them). The Qur'an aims at holding the family united.

The Arabic word 'fadribuhune' has been interpreted in divergent ways. It is an imperative case of the root 'darb'. The word has been used in the following verses in the Qur'an and has some twenty meanings. To illustrate by a parable (Surah 14/24), (Surah 75-76), (Surah 30/28); to go abroad, to stray (Surah 4/94; Surah 5/106); To strike a path (Surah 20/77); To transgress (Surah 43/5); To be covered, branded with humiliation (Surah 2/61; 18/11); To smite (Surah 8/50); to strike by hand ( 37/93), To smite (8/12), to beat with a stick ( Surah 2/60, Surah 7/160), (Surah 26/63); )Surah (38/44).

The said word should be interpreted as 'removal'. Had it been interpreted as 'beating', an innocent woman who would have given her husband for one reason or another cause to suspect a disloyalty on her part would have been unjustly beaten by her husband. Flogging of an adulteress is prescribed in Surah 24/2. (Prof.Dr. Yaşar Nuri Öztürk, pp 341-348)


Prophet who had been commissioned to transmit to the mankind the revelations he received from God, approached his wives gently without any exception; and despite the wrangles that now and then occurred between them caused him to worry, he never failed to behave kindly to them.

« O Prophet! Say to thy Consorts: "If it be that ye desire the life of this World, and its glitter,- then come! I will provide for your enjoyment and set you free in a handsome manner. »

« But if ye seek Allah and His Messenger, and the Home of the Hereafter, verily Allah has prepared for the well-doers amongst you a great reward. O Consorts of the Prophet! If any of you were guilty of evident unseemly conduct, the Punishment would be doubled to her, and that is easy for Allah».

« But any of you that is devout in the service of Allah and His Messenger, and works righteousness,- to her shall We grant her reward twice: and We have prepared for her a generous Sustenance. »

« O Consorts of the Prophet! Ye are not like any of the (other) women: if ye do fear ((Allah)), be not too complacent of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire: but speak ye a speech (that is) just.»

« And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you, ye members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless. »

« And recite what is rehearsed to you in your homes, of the Signs of Allah and His» (Surah 33/28-34)

« O Prophet! Why holdest thou to be forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to thee? Thou seekest to please thy consorts. But Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Allah has already ordained for you, (O men), the dissolution of your oaths (in some cases): and Allah is your Protector, and He is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom. When the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his consorts, and she then divulged it (to another), and Allah made it known to him, he confirmed part thereof and repudiated a part. Then when he told her thereof, she said, "Who told thee this? "He said, "He told me Who knows and is well-acquainted (with all things)." If ye two turn in repentance to Him, your hearts are indeed so inclined; But if ye back up each other against him, truly Allah is his Protector, and Gabriel, and (every) righteous one among those who believe,- and furthermore, the angels - will back (him) up. It may be, if he divorced you (all), that Allah will give him in exchange consorts better than you,- who submit (their wills), who believe, who are devout, who turn to Allah in repentance, who worship (in humility), who travel (for Faith) and fast,- previously married or virgins. »(Surah 69/1-5)

The Prophet has never even given a flick to any of his wives let alone beat her.

The slander to which A'isha, Prophet's wife had been a victim, should be clarified. During the return from a campaign in which Muhammad's wife also had been present she had to go to a place far from the camp pitched for the call of nature. Upon her return from there, she noticed she had mislaid her necklace. This induced her to go and look for it. In the meantime, the procession of soldiers who were not conscious of her whereabouts had set out. A'isha thought that as soon as they would take cognizance of her absence they would return to pick her up and began waiting. Safran, a rear guard found her and took her on his camel to join the procession. The evilmongers interpreted this as perfidy. Nevertheless, the Prophet, who had been excessively worried, had not raised her hand to her but had gone to stay at the house of Abu Bakr, her father, for a while. Upon receiving a revelation to the effect A'isha was considered to have been chaste. (Surah 24/11-21). (See. Öztürk, Asrı Saadetin Büyük Kadınları)


Divorce by arbitration

« If ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: For Allah hath full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things.» (Surah 4/35)

Discord between man and wife is considered to be a reason for divorce. If despite all efforts the incompatibility continues between the couple, the marital tie breaks. The procedure to follow in divorce has not been clarified in the Qur'an. A wife twice divorced may re-marry her former husband. If the couple are reluctant to tie up their marital union the divorce is finalized. The rules governing this have been differently legislated depending on the time and place in question. The Qur'an foresees that the divorce takes place in the presence of arbiters.

Marriages between couples of different religious denominations.

« This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).» (Surah 5/5)

An illustrative application of this verse may be observed in the Prophet's marrying Safiyyah, a Jewish girl from Hayber.

Marriage of a Man with a woman of a different religion

Although a man can take to wife a woman from among other monotheistic religions, there is no reference in the Qur'an to a woman's marrying a man from another religion. The scholars of the period stated that given the fact that the Jews called Ezra, and the Christians called Jesus, Son of God, they have been taxed with paganism. Therefore these people cannot marry the believers in one God. Moreover, as the child to be brought to the world will belong to the father, he will be trained in a heretic creed and corrupted consequently. It follows therefore the marrying of Muslim women to non-Moslem men has been banned.

Although the Qur'an explicitly states that man can marry a non-Moslem woman, it has no indication for the marriage of a woman to a non-Moslem man. Yet, the verse attracts attention to future misunderstandings. There are truthful believers in all religions.

Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (For the right): They rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration.

Under the circumstances an honest believing man and an honest believing woman may well marry.

The Qur'an uses the word 'Islam' for all the religions revealed started from Abraham to Muhammad. Therefore, all human beings believing in one God and take refuge with Him is 'muslim' in this sense.

« Say: "We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam).» ( Surah 3/84)

Under the circumstances, the decree according to which a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Moslem man, should be revised under contemporary conditions.