Polygamy and Women’s Rights in Islam

Polygamy in Islam

In Islam, a man is allowed to have up to four wives. This is justified by the reason that if there are widows, orphans, or other vulnerable women in society who require assistance, a wealthy Muslim man who can provide justice to each wife can marry up to four to help those in need. It is important to note that the practice of polygyny in Islam is conditional upon treating all wives with fairness, equality, and justice, In Islam, polygyny (having more than one wife) is allowed under certain conditions, but it is not allowed to be done solely for fulfilling one’s desires or without the ability to treat all wives equally. 

📖Quran 4:3
And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].

  • This verse from the Quran is addressing the issue of taking care of orphan girls, and it suggests a solution for those who fear that they may not be able to treat them justly. The verse permits men to marry women, up to a maximum of four, as long as they can treat them all equally and justly. However, if they fear that they cannot be just to multiple wives, they should only marry one or choose to be with those whom they already have a lawful relationship with, such as their female slaves or servants. The verse emphasizes the importance of justice and fairness in all relationships, including marriage, and encourages people to choose the option that ensures they will not incline towards injustice.


This guidance does not promote the taking of slaves. Rather, it acknowledges the reality that there were individuals who were already in a state of servitude and provides guidance on how to treat them justly. It is important to note that Islam encourages the freeing of slaves and emphasizes the humane treatment of all individuals, regardless of their social status. While slavery is now widely recognized as an immoral and illegal practice, if such a situation were to arise in the future, Islam would still provide guidance on how to treat individuals in a just and humane manner.

📖Quran 4:129
And you will never be able to be equal [in feeling] between wives, even if you should strive [to do so]. So do not incline completely [toward one] and leave another hanging. And if you amend [your affairs] and fear Allah – then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.

  • The text describes the meaning and context of Quran chapter 4, verse 129, which addresses men who have more than one wife in Islam. It highlights that the verse acknowledges that treating all wives equally in terms of feelings is impossible, despite a man’s best efforts. The verse advises men to avoid showing complete favoritism toward one wife and neglecting the other, instead encouraging them to strive to be fair and just in their treatment of all wives. The importance of fearing Allah and seeking His forgiveness and mercy in all matters, including marital affairs, is emphasized. The permission for polygyny is given by Allah as an option for those who can fulfill its conditions, including the ability to provide for and treat all wives fairly. Ultimately, the text explains that individuals can choose what is best for their personal circumstances while following the guidelines set forth by Allah.

Hadith on Helping the Poor and Widows

📖Sahih al-Bukhari 5353
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah’s Cause, or like him who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day.

📖Sahih al-Bukhari 5353
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah’s Cause, or like him who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day.

  • Helping widows and the poor can take many forms, such as providing financial assistance, donating goods, offering emotional support, or even marriage. While marriage can be a means of support for widows, it is important to note that it is a personal choice and decision that should not be made solely for the purpose of providing support. It is also important to respect the widow’s wishes and decisions regarding whether or not she wants to remarry.

📖Sahih Muslim 1419 a
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A woman without a husband (or divorced or a widow) must not be married until she is consulted.

Why Women are Often Not Allowed to Practice Polygamy

One of the reasons why polygamy is not allowed for women is the concern that it could lead to uncertainty regarding the paternity of the children born to the woman. In a polygamous relationship where a woman has multiple husbands, it may be difficult to determine who the biological father of the child is, which could lead to legal and social complications.