Why are four marriages still allowed for men and not women? That is unfair. Please answer my question.
It should be clearly understood in the beginning that nowhere in the Qur’an does it refer to the practice of polygamy. Polygamy, as is quite well known, was a cultural norm of the Arab society. The Qur’an has not made any positive or negative comments on this norm of the Arab culture. In Surah Al-Nisa, from which polygamy is derived from the Qur’an, the Qur’an has directed the Muslims to take care of the orphans living around them. It puts responsibility of the financial and social guardianship of these orphans on the Muslims. In the context of this directive, it says that if a Muslim fears that he would not be able to deal with these orphans or to fulfill his responsibility toward them in an equitable manner, he may then marry their mother if he believe that this relationship will help him in fulfilling his responsibilities toward the orphans and the widows.
However, despite this grave issue of the orphans and widows, the Qur’an attached the strict condition of justice between the wives and in case of any doubt in this matter, it directed men to remain limited to only one wife. This explanation shows that firstly, the Qur’an has not directly discussed the issue of polygamy. It has only been, indirectly, mentioned in the particular context of fulfilling a big moral obligation toward the orphans and widows of the society. In other words, whatever the norms of the society, the Qur’an has not given any statement regarding the number of marriages. It has actually mentioned that if a second or a third or a fourth marriage can help a person in fulfilling his moral obligation toward the society, then there is no restriction on such a marriage imposed by the Shari`ah. Secondly, the condition of justice also actually limits the scope of the number of marriages that a person may enter into, because it is not possible for every person in a society to afford four wives at one time. Justice requires that if a person has four wives then they should all be treated equally as far as financial and other apparent matters are concerned. Finally, even in case of fulfilling socio-moral obligations, the Qur’an has restricted the number of marriages to four. No Muslim is allowed to marry more than four women even if there is an extremely pressing socio-moral obligation that he may be able to fulfill with another marriage.
Even in such pressing socio-moral situations, only Muslim men are allowed to marry more than once. Muslim women are not allowed to marry more than once under any situation. The reason for not allowing Muslim women a second marriage is that firstly, Islam has made man the head of the family, the one who is responsible for the livelihood of the family. Thus, a second marriage of a Muslim woman will create two heads of her “family”, which obviously shall be against the whole concept of an organized family set up that Islam wants to promote. Secondly, such an allowance will create doubts about the parenthood of the child, which may entail serious long-term consequences for the individual child, in particular and the whole society, in general.
It should be kept in mind that in the matter under consideration, it is not the equality between the sexes that is debated. The Qur’an acknowledges complete equality between men and women as human beings. Here it is a matter of social needs and socio-moral obligations, which the Qur’an has addressed, and in collective matters of the society, the principle of the Qur’an is not equality but justice. The Qur’an gives rights and responsibilities to men and women in this world based on their respective natural capacities and capabilities. Lastly, it may be of great interest to learn that the general idea of a family unit advocated by the Qur’an is monogamous. This is evident from the fact that God created only one woman as a wife for the first human being – Adam (pbuh). It is only in case of dire social needs that Qur’an compromises this ideal to achieve a higher goal.
I hope this explanation answers your question. You can always get back if you are still unclear. However, this is only my opinion in this regard and I admit any chance of mistake in forming this opinion. I would be open to other points of view if based on stronger reasons. May Allah guide us all towards the right path.
Note: This response was written by Mr. Amar Ellahi Lone