Islam and Polygamy
Guide to Understanding Islam

What does the
Religion of Peace
Teach About…


Does Islam really allow a man to take up to four wives?

Summary Answer
Yes, a Muslim man can marry as man as four women, and have sexual relations with an unspecified number of slaves as well.  Muhammad had eleven wives at one time.

The Qur’an:
Sura (4:3)“Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess.”

Sura (4:129) – “Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire” (but don’t let that stop you, husbands, because your needs come first anyway).

Sura (66:5)“Maybe, his Lord, if he divorce you, will give him in your place wives better than you, submissive, faithful, obedient, penitent, adorers, fasters, widows and virgins” A disobedient wife can be replaced.  A man can only have up to four wives, but he can rotate as many women as he pleases in and out of the lineup.

From the Hadith:

Bukhari (62:2) – Same as Sura (4:3).

Bukhari (5:268)“The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number.” I asked Anas, “Had the Prophet the strength for it?” Anas replied, “We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty men.” Muhammad had special rules that allowed him at least eleven wives.  (His successors had more than four wives at a time as well.)

Bukhari (62:6)“The Prophet used to go round (have sexual relations with) all his wives in one night, and he had nine wives.”

Bukhari (77:598)“Allah’s Apostle said, “No woman should ask for the divorce of her sister (Muslim) so as to take her place, but she should marry the man (without compelling him to divorce his other wife)” Polygamy is firmly established in the Islamic tradition.

Additional Notes:

One of the worst arguments in defense of polygamy within Islam is that it reduces prostitution by satisfying a man’s sexual desire in a way that one woman cannot.  That the same Qur’anic verse also gives a man license to capture women and use them as sex slaves is often overlooked by Islam’s apologists.  Neither is there any reason given for why Allah would procreate women and men at an equal rate if marriages were meant to have ratios as high as 4:1.

Muhammad had many wives (nine of whom outlived him) and the jealousies and bickering in this unhappy arrangement are chronicled not only in the Hadith, but in the Qur’an as well.  At one point his wives were so upset by Muhammad’s taking a slave girl to one of their own bedrooms that Allah had to step down and whisper part of Sura 33 in his ear, which includes a threat to divorce them all if they didn’t allow him complete sexual freedom.

There are worse things in the world than polygamy (which has been practiced by many cultures outside of Islam), but it is shocking to see a religion place such high value on a man’s base sexual desire that he is permitted to bring other women into the marriage bed just to satisfy his lust.  At the very least, it seems to devalue a woman’s worth according to simple mathematics.

And (lest there be any doubt) women are not allowed the same freedom to seek sexual satisfaction from alternate sources should their husband lose interest or capacity.

In Islam, a woman’s worth is the sum of her sexual value to her husband. Home Page


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