The Quran and Polygamy
The Quran advocates the practice of polygamy. We can read this in surah titled “Women”: “And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, 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” (Surah 4:3).
This verse says that Muslims can marry up to four wives. And since the Quran permits a man to divorce his wife for any reason (e.g., Surah 2:226-232,241; 33:4,49; 58:2-4; 65:1-7), then this limitation of marrying four wives becomes meaningless. A man can have four legal wives at a time. In this sense a man can marry unlimited number of wives.
But, Muhammad himself was exempt from this limitation as seen in Surah 33:50 “You, [O Muhammad], may put aside whom you will of them or take to yourself whom you will. And any that you desire of those [wives] from whom you had [temporarily] separated – there is no blame upon you [in returning her]. That is more suitable that they should be content and not grieve and that they should be satisfied with what you have given them – all of them. And Allah knows what is in your hearts. And ever is Allah Knowing and Forbearing.”
The Bible and Polygamy
In contrast, the Bible never advocated polygamy. God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [not wives], and they will become one flesh [not fleshes]” (Genesis 2:24). These words express the deepest physical and spiritual unity of man and woman, and hold up monogamy before the world as the form of marriage ordained by the Creator.
While Polygamy was practiced in the Old Testament times, it was done without God’s sanction. God clearly taught that even the kings should not multiply wives (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). The Old Testament has always commanded monogamy (Psalms 128:3; Proverbs 5:18; 18:22; 19:14; 31:10-29; Ecclesiastes 9:9). And it affirmed that God “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16).
In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way“ (Matthew 19:3-8). And He gave permission to divorce on the sole grounds of sexual unfaithfulness: “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).
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