Polygamy in Islam - Why Women Can’t Marry Four Men

Polygamy in Islam – Why Women Can’t Marry Four Men?

Learn all about polygamy in Islam and why women can't marry four men the same as men can

It’s well known that polygamy in Islam is one of the most controversial issues that spark from time to time in Islamic societies because most people don’t know what is meant by polygamy from an Islamic perspective.

Let’s illustrate the definition of polygamy and define the meaning of Polygamy from an Islamic perspective.

What Is Polygamy in Islam?

Polygamy in Islam is the practice of marrying multiple spouses.

What Is the Difference between Polygyny and Polyandry?

 The main difference between polygyny and polyandry is as follows:

Polygyny: Any Muslim man is allowed to marry more than one wife with certain conditions met. Traditional Sunni Islamic marital jurisprudence allows polygyny. It’s the only accepted form of polygamy.

Polyandry: Any Muslim woman can marry more than one husband at the same time. It’s NOT accepted in Islam.

So what are the reasons that make someone think about taking this strategic decision and using this rule that allows polygamy? 

What Are the Reasons for Polygamy in Islam?

The reasons for polygamy differ from one case to another one, maybe these reasons are emotional, social, or financial, no matter what the reason is, there is a condition, which is treating wives with justice, and taking the decision based on Taqwa or God Consciousness. 

We can summarize the reasons as follows:

  1. There are some men who may have strong physical desires, for whom one wife is not enough. If the door is closed to such a man and he is told, you are not allowed more than one wife, this will cause great hardship to him, and his desire may find outlets in forbidden ways.
  1. Considering unmarried women and widows in societies: A woman may be one of the man’s relatives and have no one to look after her, and she is unmarried or a widow whose husband has died, and the man may think that the best thing to do for her is to include her in his household as a wife along with his first wife so that he will both keep her chaste and spend on her. This is better for her than leaving her alone and being content only to spend on her.

Indeed, 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. 

Why does Islam limit polygamy, which is up to four wives and no more?

According to Islamic legislation, Muslim men can marry four women. Islam is the final Divine Revelation, which is applicable at every time and place till Judgment Day. Fourteen hundred years ago men in the community of the beginning of revelation could have any number of wives as they please, so it was more of a limitation than a privilege. Also, Islam gave parameters for the responsibilities, duties, and rights of each spouse. This resulted in a very civilized relationship between husband and wife in Islam.

A man with more than one wife must treat them equally in all aspects of life e.g. the time he stays and the money he spends. The Quran in one verse states that men will not be able to be completely fair and advise one wife to avoid unjustness.

“وَإِنۡ خِفۡتُمۡ أَلَّا تُقۡسِطُواْ فِي ٱلۡيَتَٰمَىٰ فَٱنكِحُواْ مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ ٱلنِّسَآءِ مَثۡنَىٰ وَثُلَٰثَ وَرُبَٰعَۖ فَإِنۡ خِفۡتُمۡ أَلَّا تَعۡدِلُواْ فَوَٰحِدَةً أَوۡ مَا مَلَكَتۡ أَيۡمَٰنُكُمۡۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدۡنَىٰٓ أَلَّا تَعُولُوا ْ
“And if you (pl) fear you cannot be just towards the orphans, then marry the women you like—two or three or four—but if you fear you will not be equitable, then(only) one1 or(consider) those whom you rightfully possess.”

[Quran 4:3]

Presently, it is not a common practice in Islamic communities for a lot of reasons; e.g. fear of being unjust, realizing the wisdom behind this restriction, and the desire of men nowadays to provide proper care for their wives and children.

Benefits and Advantages of polygamy in Islam

From an Islamic point of view, there are two main benefits and advantages of polygamy:

  1. Plural marriage helps to increase the numbers of the ummah (nation, Muslim community). It is known that the numbers can only be increased through marriage, and the number of offspring gained through plural marriage will be greater than that achieved through marriage to one wife.
  2. There are other shar’i interests that call for plural marriages, such as strengthening the bonds between families or strengthening the bonds between a leader and some of his people or group, and he may think that one of the ways of achieving this aim is to become related to them through marriage, even if that is through plural marriage.

So, we discussed the importance and effect of polygamy on Islamic society, and the husbands who are willing to apply polygamy must stick to the following conditions. 

What Are the Disadvantages of Polygamy in Islam?

Without applying the two conditions of polygamy; i.e. justice and ability, many husbands will turn the advantages of polygamy into a bundle of disadvantages, because the concept of polygamy in Islam is based on solving society’s problems.

So when Islamic legislation handled polygamy issues, Islamic legislation permitted only polygyny without permitting polyandry, so the following question will appear.

What Are the Conditions to Marry a Second Wife in Islam? 

There are many conditions for polygamy in Islam:

  1. Justice or fairness 

If a man is afraid that he will not be able to treat his wives justly if he marries more than one, then it is forbidden for him to marry more than one.

  1. The ability to spend on one’s wives

Read also:

Why Muslim women cannot marry four men?

Most importantly, it is a matter of Pride, Piety, maintaining a clear pure lineage of children, keeping proper kinship, and having natural healthy family life for the upbringing of new generations.

Societies all over the world strive under the weight of moral corruption and can hardly survive the consequences of their unnatural choices. 

Look at this final point:

Why can’t women MEDICALLY marry four men?

 Islam honors women and has the perfect legislation to protect them.  This is why Islam defends and most importantly preserves women’s honor. It is a matter of Pride, Piety. Not only this but also maintaining clear pure lineage of children, keeping proper kinship and, having natural healthy family life for the upbringing of new generations.

We have to admit that vice and sin are present everywhere and at every time. There is infidelity and sick psychotics that commit bad deeds in the name of personal freedom.  

As our time is dominated by the overwhelming influence of science, here are some scientific facts that show the consequences of promiscuity:

  • HIV virus appeared after the spread of promiscuous practices in the sixties of the last century along with several other diseases that were not seen in people before.
  • Venereal diseases are multiplying in incidence numbers and speed of spread.
  • Genital malignancies especially cancer cervix is directly related to women having multiple sexual partners.
  • New types of malignancies that were not seen or rarely seen before; are now diagnosed daily e.g. Laryngeal cancers, Rectal cancers, etc.

Prophet Muhammad PBUH clarifies the outcome of immorality appearance in societies saying:

لَمْ تَظْهَرِ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي قَوْمٍ قَطُّ حَتَّى يُعْلِنُوا بِهَا إِلاَّ فَشَا فِيهِمُ الطَّاعُونُ وَالأَوْجَاعُ الَّتِي لَمْ تَكُنْ مَضَتْ فِي أَسْلاَفِهِمُ الَّذِينَ مَضَوْا
Immorality never appears among a people to such an extent that they commit it openly, but plagues and diseases that were never known among the predecessors will spread among them.”

(Reference :Sunan Ibn Majah 4019)

Despite the presence of the ultimate truth; “The Last Book of Devine Guidance” sent by God to mankind that is the “Quran”, most people refuse to accept the truth or to believe. As Allah the Almighty says:

“وَلَقَدۡ صَرَّفۡنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِي هَٰذَا ٱلۡقُرۡءَانِ مِن كُلِّ مَثَلٖ فَأَبَىٰٓ أَكۡثَرُ ٱلنَّاسِ إِلَّا كُفُورٗا(89)” سورة الاسراء
” And most surely, We have diversified for mankind in this Recital (c) every kind of parable, but most of mankind refused anything but constant denial”

Surah Al-Isra – 89


To conclude, clean, pure and pious living cannot be realized by human endeavor alone, since humans do not have the ultimate knowledge that ensures their own welfare.  The need for divine guidance and wisdom to achieve this goal is fulfilled by Allah through his Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which is following the path of the Islamic religion. Curious to know more about Islam? Start a one-on-one conversation with our team now so that you get the accurate answers you need!

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About Abeer Eltahan

Abeer El Tahhan is a pediatrician and a Quran and Arabic tutor. Abeer is deeply involved in Islamic studies and dawah activities. She is fluent in Arabic and English.