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Polygamy by Brother Yaseen
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In this article, I would like to look into some Quranic verses related to marriage and polygamy independently from traditional belief and male dominated connotations that infiltrated so-called Muslim world for centuries. Famous English translations of the Quran have also been very disappointing with regard to interpretations given to crucial verses in the Quran especially the ones that refer to women rights and orphans in society.

My principles of analysis of these verses are: linguistic, consistency throughout the Quran in the usage of specific words and expressions, logic and common sense, the topic covered and the audience addressed. We must always seek the best meaning from God's word and avoid as much as possible "adding" our own interpretations to verses for words and meanings that are not there. One must admit that every "reading" of the Quran is unique and it is impossible and impractical for a reader of the Quran to remove totally their personal understanding and interpretation. I would explore verses 3 and 4 from Chapter 4 in the Quran: an-Nisa' (The women) in greater details as this is the most widely used verse in justifying the polygamy practice.

When I considered looking at verse 4:3 in a different way, I was merely challenging my own faith. I had no idea that the new meaning that I explored would fit like a glove. I invite all brothers and sisters to do the same. God explains the Book.

Marriage rules in the Quran:

All the Quran is consistent, logical and there are no contradictions in it:

Verse (4:82) Why do they not ponder over the Quran? If it were from other than GOD, they would have found in it numerous contradictions.

From the Quran, we can establish that there are only two simple rules in marriage that make it impossible to have polygamy unless we accept there are contradictions in the Quran.

Rule #1 Verse 24:32: Marrying off the unmarried

"Marry off those who are single among you and those of your male and female servants who are righteous. If they are poor, God will enrich them of his grace, for God is bounteous and all-knowing."

The Quran is a textually consistent and logical Book. Let us review the verse above from the "logical" angle: "Marry off those who are single among you…" In this verse, we are commanded by God to marry off the singles within the society (males and females widows or singles). Marrying off the un-married means exactly what it says.

Who do we marry off the unmarried to? If we marry them off to other "married" people, then we are marrying off the "unmarried" and the "married" as well, so this causes a contradiction. Therefore, we can only marry off the "unmarried" to other "unmarried" men or women. Once any of these men or women has become married, they can't be included by this verse anymore. So logically to reach a polygamous situation, a man must marry women by two, by three and by four at the same time. This does not seem to be possible or acceptable.

Rule #2: In a society, God is commanding us to only marry off the unmarried.

Rule #3: Verse (4:20) Taking one wife in place of another:

If you wish to marry another wife, in place of your present wife, and you had given any of them a great deal, you shall not take back anything you had given her. Would you take it fraudulently, maliciously, and sinfully?

Taking one wife instead of another means there is a pre-requisite of divorce before another marriage takes place. This establishes rule number 2:

Rule #4: A divorce must take place before a man marries another wife.

This rule makes it even harder to have polygamy through the Quran.

In fact, those two are the clauses of binding marriage contract (solemn covenant) "mithaaqan ghaleethan" referred to in verse 4:21.

"And how could you take it when you have gone in unto each other, and they have taken from you a firm (binding) contract? "

It is important to note that the same expression "mithaaqan ghaleethan" is also used in the Quran to describe what God took from the prophets: A solemn covenant "mithaaqan ghaleethan".

Verse 33:7 (Yusuf Ali's translation) And remember, we took from the Prophets their Covenant. As (We did) from thee: From Noah, Abraham, Moses, And Jesus son of Mary: We took from them a solemn covenant.

When a married "Muslim" marries a second wife, he would have broken the Quranic Rule#1 because he is already married and he also would have broken Rule#2 because he did not take a wife instead of another (divorce then marriage).

Chapter 4 and "Polygamy Verses":

Let us look into the first six verses of Chapter 4 especially verse 4:3 and verse 4:4 in greater details and establish: Who are the parties in marriage? What are the conditions? And are any of the rules established so far broken?

Chapter 4: The women (an-Nisa')

Translation: Yusuf Ali [an-Nisa' 4:1] O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence God, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for God ever watches over you. [an-Nisa' 4:2] To orphans restore their property (When they reach their age), nor substitute (your) worthless things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by mixing it up) with your won. For this is indeed a great sin. [an-Nisa' 4:3] 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. [an-Nisa' 4:4] And give the women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, Take it and enjoy it with right good cheer. [an-Nisa' 4:5] To those weak of understanding Make not over your property, which God hath made a means of support for you, but feed and clothe them therewith, and speak to them words of kindness and justice. [an-Nisa' 4:6] Make trial of orphans until they reach the age of marriage; if then ye find sound judgment in them, release their property to them; but consume it not wastefully, nor in haste against their growing up. If the guardian is well-off, Let him claim no remuneration, but if he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable. When ye release their property to them, take witnesses in their presence: But all-sufficient is God in taking account.

Who is the audience?

Clearly the first verse answers this question: O Mankind! "Ya ayyuhannasu", the audience is mankind/people in society.

What is the topic? The subject in question is one of compassion, kindness, and responsibility towards a weak and disadvantaged group in society: the rights of orphans -verses 2 to 6-. In the first verse, we are asked to be conscious of our Lord and Sustainer who created us from one living entity or one single soul. From this "entity" was created its "mate" or its "pair" (zawjaha). From this pair originated and spread many countless men and women; the introduction is very fitting to what follows in the next few verses.

How does the subject develop (verse 4:2)? Orphans' possessions, rights and interests are really the crucial point. One must give/render unto/hand over to the orphans their possessions. They are requested not to substitute the bad for the good and not to consume the possessions of the orphans into theirs' as it is a great crime.

The primary context is doing justice to the orphans and managing and protecting their financial affairs as can be found in several other verses:

4:10 (A Ali translation) Those who devour the possessions of the orphans unjustly devour only fire, and will surely burn in Hell.

6:152 (M Asad translation) And do not touch the substance of an orphan -save to improve it- before he comes of age…

17:34 (M Asad translation) And do not touch the substance of an orphan save to improve it before he comes of age…

18:82 (M Asad translation) "And as for that wall, it belonged to two orphan boys [living] in the town, and beneath it was [buried] a treasure belonging to them [by right]. Now their father had been a righteous man, and so thy Sustainer willed it that when they come of age they should bring forth their treasure by thy Sustainer's grace"…

Now is 4:3 really about polygamy? It is important to point out here that there are several verbs in Arabic related to marrying from the root: "Na Ka Ha":

Nakaha : to marry
Ankaha : to marry off
Istankaha : to ask/seek for marriage.

The verbs Nakaha and Ankaha have the same imperative form Ankuhu - This is the plural form-. The first form of the verb Nakaha (to marry) can be found in many verses: 2:221, 2:230, 4:22, 24:3, 33:49, 33:53, 60:10. The second form of the verb (to marry off) can be found in 24:32 and 28:27. Ahmed Ali translation reads (verse 24:32):

"Marry off those who are single among you and those of your male and female servants who are righteous. If they are poor, God will enrich them of his grace, for God is bounteous and all-knowing."

Analysis of verse 4:3

4:3 "Wa-in khiftum alla tuqsitoo fee alyatama": If you can't do justice to the orphans. This part of the verse is crucial and has been consistently ignored by all interpreters. "Doing the orphans justice" (male and female orphans) is about caring for them, maintaining them and looking after their inheritance. 4:3 " fainkihoo": " This has always been taken to mean "Marry" in the imperative form but I will show that this meaning is invalid. The meaning must be " Marry off". 4:3…" ma taba lakum": This is taken as: "who has become good to you" or "who are lawful to you" or "of your choice". I shall prove that these interpretations are against the Quran and create contradiction. The women in question are fully qualified from the Quran and do not need an additional attribute. The Quran is its own dictionary. Please note that the verb "taba" is in the past tense as is in 4:4 (fa-in tibna lakum AAan shay-in minhu nafsan) though there is a subtle difference. In 4:4, these women are giving a part of what they are entitled to "sadduqqatihina" of their own accord -God willing, I shall tackle the word "sadduqqatihina" when analysing 4:4 to show that it is not dowers-. In 4:3, they are also giving something but not physical: They are giving their consent to a proposal or the idea of marriage. I rendered " ma taba lakum" to " who have agreed with you". It could also be rendered as "who happily have consented with you" (about being married off). 4:3…" mina alnnisa-i": " from the women", the only women mentioned in this verse, the verse before (4:2) and the subsequent three verses (4:3-6) are women belonging to the category of orphans. This is a unique group of women, therefore most common translations of the phrase " ma taba lakum" was wrong because they did not pick up an important link between verse 4:3 and 4:4 as well as other verses. 4:3…"Mathna wa thulatha wa rubaa"  (also used in 35:1) means: by two, by three and by four (In other words in groups of two, three or four, this meaning therefore has been ignored because it does not fit easily with what traditional interpretations want to find), It is sure this does not mean two three and four because two, three and four in Arabic are: ithnaan, thalatha and arbaa' and not mathna, thulatha and rubaa. One must accept that nobody marries two three or four wives at the same time! But that's exactly what it means if we take "ankuhu" as Marry instead of Marry off. Please also note here there is no mention of "lawful to you" (Muhamed Asad) or marry the mothers of the orphans (Rashad Khalifa).

4:3…" fa-in khiftum alla taAAdiloo" If you fear you can't be fair (in the marrying off by two, by three and by four). 4:3… "fawahidatan": then only one, this refers to: "If you fear you can't be fair"
4:3…."aw ma malakat aymanukum": lit: or what your right hands possessed,

"ma malakat aymanukum" (MMA): can be found in the Quran to refer to different groups of people and women in different situations. The context is very important; this is not referring to slaves or captives.

Several articles have been written regarding the expression: "ma malakat aymanukum" and I have been looking into this term throughout the Quran. It is a "logical" term that defines a group of people to contrast or complement another group (or groups) of people mentioned in the same verse (or consecutive verses).

Examples of "ma malakat aymanukum" (what your right hands possessed):

I have used the following abbreviations: "ma malakat aymanukum"(plurial form)=MMA "ma malakat yameenuk" (singular form)=MMY

Verse 33:52 MMY=the women the prophet was already married to in contrast to women he is not married to. Verse 4:25 MMA=believing (female) slaves in contrast to free believing women. Verse 4:24 MMA=believing women married to unbelievers (who they fled from -verse 60:10-) in contrast to believing women married to believing men.

My understanding of this term from other verses such as 70:30 and 23:6, it is referring to wives/husbands married before "Islam"/revelation in contrast to spouses in marriages after the revelation (azwaaj (spouses) literally meaning pairs!).

The expression "what your right hands possessed" is referring to a category of women who are on one hand similar to orphaned women in terms of needing care and protection, but at the same time, there is a contrast because they have not go an entitlement to an "inheritance" as orphans would.

If the expression "ma taba lakum" is taken to mean: "who has become good to you" or "who are lawful to you" or "of your choice", there would not be any need to add another category: "what your right hands possessed" as women who has become good to you, lawful to you or of your choice should also encompass what is perceived to mean "slaves" or "captives". Therefore the clause "or what your right hands possessed" would become unnecessary. The meaning that would suit "what your right hands possessed" is "those who you have a pledge (or duty) to care for".

"thalika adna alla taAAooloo": this is better than getting into hardship (this refers back to the first clause: "if you fear you can not do justice to the orphans….". The verb "3aala" in the form "taAAoolloo" means getting into hardship or financial difficulty.

Therefore: The marrying off by one (instead of by more than one at one time) is to be fair to all the orphaned women. The principle of marrying off is for the carer to avoid financial hardship and for doing justice to the orphans (not spoil their inheritance).

In many cases, these orphans are related to you. It is still common in many countries that close relations take over the care of orphans when the provider of these orphans dies.

90:11-16 (Ahmed Ali translation): 11. But he could not scale the steep ascent. 12. How will you comprehend what the steep ascent is? 13. To free a neck (from the burden of debt or slavery), 14. Or to feed in times of famine 15. The orphan near in relationship 16. Or the poor in distress;

As I said above the audience from verse 4:2 includes men and women carers. It is demeaning to assume that there is an imperative order to men (from God) to get married to orphans in their care, this goes totally against the guidance of God when dealing with vulnerable people in society. God will never ask any men to "marry" a number of orphans as this depends on their consent (or rejection). God will only ask us to do what is good for our own souls and guidance and be equitable to all disadvantaged people including orphans. One further point; in the verse prior to this one we are asked render them their possessions and not to consume it, are the male carers not doing exactly the opposite by marrying them? And what sort of God fearing people are we if the only way to be just and equitable to orphans is to marry them when God tells us in many verses to be generous and charitable to weak and disadvantaged groups in society? The primary context of the verse is fairness and justice in managing the financial affairs of orphans.

"yataama" : are both male and female orphans, however marrying off in this verse specifies only female orphans to enable them to have a good respectable start in their independent lives.. Therefore, the verse could read like this:

And if you fear you can't do justice to the orphans, then marry off the women (orphans) who have consented to by two, by three and by four. But if you fear that you will be unfair then (marry off) by one or what your right hand possessed as this is better than getting into hardship.

Because this verse has never been understood properly before, I shall break it down to its main clauses to understand it better:

And if you fear you can't do justice to the orphans, then: "Marry off the women (orphans) who have consented to you by two, by three and by four!" But if you fear that you will be unfair then: "(Marry off) by one or what your right hand possessed!" This is better than getting into hardship.

Now let us assume that the verse is about "Marrying" not "Marrying off" and see if it could also make perfect sense.

And if you fear you can't do justice to the orphans, then:

"Marry the women (orphans) who have consented with you by two, by three and by four!" But if you fear that you will be unfair then: "(Marry) by one or what your right hand possessed!" This is better than getting into hardship.

It only makes perfect sense if you ignore the first clause (And if you fear you can't do justice to the orphans, then). The first clause seems to be totally out of place, that's why I put it separate.

Contradiction in the Quran! Now let us accept the meaning "marry" and break the clauses of verse 4:3 the proper way:

And if you fear you can't do justice to the orphans, then: "Marry off the women (orphans) who have consented with you by two, by three and by four!" But if you fear that you will be unfair then: "By one or what your right hand possessed!" This is better than getting into hardship.

Because the first and last clause are linked (ignoring the middle clauses) what we are exactly saying is (taking the "marry" option):

And if you fear you can't do justice to the orphans, then: "Marry the women (orphans) who have consented with you"…... This is better than getting into hardship.

Does marrying the orphans in your care resolve your financial problems and do justice to the orphans?

For most people, this would have been enough evidence to reject "Marry" option in verse 4:3 because this creates contradiction in God's word.

It is interesting to note that we are told in verse 4:127 that we will find the mention of orphaned women (or female orphans) "yatama alnnisa-i". Therefore the women referred to in verses 4:3-4 are the orphaned women.

4:127.Wayastaftoonaka fee alnnisa-i quli Allahu yufteekum feehinna wama yutla AAalaykum fee alkitabi fee yatama alnnisa-i allatee la tu/toonahunna ma kutiba lahunna watarghaboona an tankihoohunna waalmustadAAafeena mina alwildani waan taqoomoo lilyatama bialqisti wama tafAAaloo min khayrin fa-inna Allaha kana bihi AAaleeman

"And they ask you judgement about women. Say: God will instruct you about them and you will also read in the book concerning the orphaned women to which you intend to deny what has been ordained to them and wish to marry them off, as well as to regard the vulnerable children, that you should be just in the matter of orphans. God knows whatever good you do."

Verse 4:127 is again about marrying off the orphaned women and not marrying them. There are plenty of verses that deal with marriage, marrying an orphan is no different from marrying any other woman. Obviously what you give to the orphans is what is ordained/recorded for them through inheritance and not dowers (in verses 4:2-6 and 4:127). The vulnerable children are simply orphans (male and female) who have not reached maturity or a marriageable age yet in opposite to orphaned women (verses 4:3 and 4:127).

In the verse above 4:127, God tells us that we will find in the book the mention of the orphaned woman with regard marrying them off and with regard to their inheritance, this is only found in the initial verses of Chapter 4(4:3-4). The addressed (audience) and their role in verse 4:127 are consistent: Carers responsible for the orphans and their financial affairs rather than carers and potential husbands at the same time (with "marry" and "dowers" interpretation). In fact the only answer found in the Quran regarding the "ruling" about orphaned women that those believers have asked for is verse 4:4.

Verse 4:4, what do you give to the orphans? You give them "sadduqatihina" which as I said is not dowries or marriage portions, and you give it "nihlah" that is willingly without expecting a return for it. In marriage the groom seeks a wife, a bearer of children, a companion and a supporter in return.

There is no other single verse in the Quran that deals with marriage and uses any form of "sadduqatihina" to mean dowers. This word has been translated as "dowries", "due dowries", "free gift of their marriage portion"

I shall now give examples of what the groom is to provide in a normal marriage from the Quran:

4:24-25 (Ahmed Ali translation) 24- Also forbidden are married women unless they are captives (of war). Such is the decree of God. Lawful for you are women besides these if you seek them with your wealth for wedlock and not for debauchery. Then give those of these women you have enjoyed, the agreed dower (Ujurahuna). It will not be sinful if you agree to something (else) by mutual consent after having settled the dowry. God is certainly all-knowing and all-wise. 25- If one of you can not afford to marry a believing gentlewoman (let him marry) a maid who is a believer. God is aware of your faith: The one of you is of the other; so marry them with the consent of their people, and give them an appropriate dowry (Ujurahuna). They are women (seeking) wedlock, and lechery, nor secretly looking for paramours. But if they are married and guilty of adultery, inflict on them half the punishment (enjoined) for gentlewomen. This is for those who are afraid of doing wrong. In case they can wait, it is better for them. God is forgiving and kind.

5:5 (Ahmed Ali translation) On this day all things that are clean have been made lawful for you; and made lawful for you is the food of the people of the Book, as your food is made lawful for them. And lawful are the chaste Muslim women, and the women of the people of the Book who are chaste, (for marriage) and not fornication or liaison, if you give them their dowries (Ujurahuna). Useless shall be rendered the acts of those who turn back on their faith, and they will be among the losers in the life to come.

33:50 (Ahmed Ali translation) We have made lawful for you, O prophet wives to whom you have given their dower (Ujurahuna)……

60:10 (Ahmed Ali translation) …..There is no sin if you marry them provided you give their dowers to them (Ujurahuna).

"Ujurahuna" meaning "their dowers" is consistently and exclusively used in the Quran for what a man gives a woman as a marriage portion in a normal marriage. This textual consistency leave one in no doubt that "Sadduqatihina" in verse 4:4 does not carry the meaning "their dowers". It has been taken to mean that because of misunderstanding of verses 4:3 and 4:4.

Translation of verses 4:3 and 4:4

And if you fear you can't do justice to the orphans, then: "Marry off the women (orphans) who have consented with you by two, by three and by four!" But if you fear that you will be unfair then only by one or what your right hand possessed, as this is better than getting into hardship.

And Give the women their inheritance willingly, but if they; of their own accord, remit any part to you, Take it and enjoy it with right good cheer.

Verses 4:5 and 4:6 The main thing to understand about those two verses is that they are referring to both male orphans and female orphans. If one is not sure, one is able to find clues in God's book: "Feeding, clothing and speaking to with kindness" is towards both sexes of orphans. The testing and the handing over of possessions (once orphans have matured) in front of witnesses is to both male orphans and female orphans. The rich carer should abstain and the poor one may spend/use as much as is fair.

Let us look at the overall picture of verses 4:3-6 in relation to the verses before 4:1-2 and the verses after 4:7 and onwards from the topic in question. I put emphasis on inheritance or dowers depending on the verse and the scenario:

Scenario1: Marrying off and "sadduqatihina"= orphaned women's inheritance 4:1 (humanity origins) 4:2 (inheritance) 4:3 (Marrying off) 4:4 (inheritance) 4:5 (inheritance) 4:6 (inheritance) 4:7 onwards (inheritance)

Scenario2: Marrying and "sadduqatihina"=dowers 4:1 (humanity origins) 4:2 (inheritance) 4:3 (Marrying) 4:4 (dowers) 4:5 (inheritance) 4:6 (inheritance) 4:7 onwards (inheritance)

The odd one out can easily be spotted.

When "sadduqatihina" is taken as inheritance (as it should), there is consistency of topics in verses 4:2-6 and the following verses (from 4:7). The audience and its role in verses 4:2-6 is also the same; that is: Carers responsible for the welfare and the financial affairs of the orphans. However when the meanings "marry" and "dowers" are taken, we find the audience switches from carers in 4:2 to husbands/grooms in 4:3-4, then it switches back again to carers in 4:5-6!

The inheritance verses: Verses 4:7-13 (Yusuf Ali's translation)

[an-Nisa' 4:7] From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large,-a determinate share. [an-Nisa' 4:8] But if at the time of division other relatives, or orphans or poor, are present, feed them out of the (property), and speak to them words of kindness and justice. [an-Nisa' 4:9] Let those (disposing of an estate) have the same fear in their minds as they would have for their own if they had left a helpless family behind: Let them fear God, and speak words of appropriate (comfort). [an-Nisa' 4:10] Those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, eat up a Fire into their own bodies: They will soon be enduring a Blazing Fire! [an-Nisa' 4:11] God (thus) directs you as regards your Children's (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half. For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance to each, if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased Left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth. (The distribution in all cases ('s) after the payment of legacies and debts. Ye know not whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. These are settled portions ordained by God; and God is All-knowing, Al-wise. [an-Nisa' 4:12] In what your wives leave, your share is a half, if they leave no child; but if they leave a child, ye get a fourth; after payment of legacies and debts. In what ye leave, their share is a fourth, if ye leave no child; but if ye leave a child, they get an eighth; after payment of legacies and debts. If the man or woman whose inheritance is in question, has left neither ascendants nor descendants, but has left a brother or a sister, each one of the two gets a sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third; after payment of legacies and debts; so that no loss is caused (to any one). Thus is it ordained by God; and God is All-knowing, Most Forbearing. [an-Nisa' 4:13] Those are limits set by God: those who obey God and His Apostle will be admitted to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath, to abide therein (for ever) and that will be the supreme achievement.

God is never Forgetful. In the above inheritance verses, there no mention that if a man has two wives/spouses or more, they share a quarter or any other portion. The portion of the daughters if there are two or more (and no sons) is two-thirds (4:11) -after legacies or debts-. When there is no ascendants or descendants, the brothers and sisters share in a third if they are more than two -after legacies or debts-. If there are no children, the spouses inherit the quarter of the husbands' inheritance-after legacies or debts- (4:12). Verse 4:12 only makes concise perfect sense when there is no polygamy, otherwise if a man has 4 wives, it is not clear if each wife gets a quarter or a sixteenth or any other portion -after legacies or debts- unless we rely on other sources for inheritance rules.

The war
There is no mention of "war" that tradition wants to convince us of as a justification for "polygamy" in verse 4:3 (with "marrying" meaning). These verses are equally applicable at war and at peace. The more polygamous the society is the greater is the number of widows left behind and the greater is the burden on the society. However verses 4:3-4 are not about the widows of war, they are uniquely about orphaned women.

Other misunderstood verses Some readers and many translators give some Quranic verses an interpretation influenced by polygamous assumptions. Let us look into verse 4:129 and put it into the context of the verse before it and the verse after it. 128.Wa-ini imraatun khafat min baAAliha nushoozan aw iAAradan fala junaha AAalayhima an yusliha baynahuma sulhan waalssulhu khayrun waohdirati al-anfusu alshshuhha wa-in tuhsinoo watattaqoo fa-inna Allaha kana bima taAAmaloona khabeeran 129.Walan tastateeAAoo an taAAdiloo bayna alnnisa-i walaw harastum fala tameeloo kulla almayli fatatharooha kaalmuAAallaqati wa-in tuslihoo watattaqoo fa-inna Allaha kana ghafooran raheeman 130.Wa-in yatafarraqa yughni Allahu kullan min saAAatihi wakana Allahu wasiAAan hakeeman

Yusuf Ali Translation reads:

[an-Nisa' 4:128] If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men's souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practise self-restraint, God is well-acquainted with all that ye do. [an-Nisa' 4:129] 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, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. [an-Nisa' 4:130] But if they disagree (and must part), God will provide abundance for all from His all-reaching bounty: for God is He that careth for all and is Wise.

Verse (4:128) is about a woman fearing aversion and desertion from her husband. Verse (4:130) is about a husband and wife parting from each other.

Verse (4:129) is not about polygamy but is about divorce and women' rights. It is a statement of fact that in divorce, it is not possible for all divorcing men to be fair in settlements with all divorcing women, but even so women should not be left "hanging" without a settlement of some sort. In brief the women here are not one man's wives.

Prophets and their wives in the Quran: It is interesting to note that on the exception of prophet Muhammed, none of the other prophets mentioned in the Quran had more than one wife:

Adam (verse 2:35-Ahmed Ali translation): "And we said to Adam: "Both you and your spouse live in the Garden, eat freely to your fill wherever you like, but approach not this tree or you will become transgressors."

Abraham: Contrary to biblical tradition, prophet Abraham was mentioned as having one wife (verse 11:71-72) His wife who stood near, laughed as We gave her the good news of Isaac, and after Isaac of Jacob. She said: "Woe betide me! Will I give birth when I am old and this my husband aged? This is indeed surprising!" Please also check 51:29-30

Zachariah (3:40) "How can I have a son, O Lord," he said, "for I am old and my wife is barren?" "Thus," came the answer; "God does as He will." Also check 19:8 and 21: 90!

Lut (11:81) (The angels) said: "O Lot, we have verily been sent by your Lord.They will never be able to harm you. So, leave late at night with your family, and none of you should turn back to look; but your wife will suffer (the fate) they are going to suffer. Their hour of doom is in the morning: Is not the morning nigh?"

Moses (28:27-28) He said: "I would like to marry one of these two daughters of mine to you if you agree to work for me on hire for eight pilgrimages. And if you stay on for ten, it is up to you. I do not wish to impose any hardship on you. God willing you will find me a man of honour." (Moses) said: "This is (agreed) between you and me. Whichever term I fulfil, no injustice will be done to me. God is witness to our agreement."

Prophet Muhammed: It is worth noting that the marriages of prophet Muhammed (known through the Quran) were commanded by God:(33:37, 33:50) and that these commands were uniquely addressed to him: 33:50:"…This is a privilege only for you and not the other believers, We know what we have ordained for them about their wives and those whom their right hands may possess, so that you may be free of blame, for God is forgiving and kind."

These marriages had social, political and educational purposes, and there was an additional condition with them: he was not allowed to divorce his wives.

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