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Through a unique series of local interviews with both men and women involved in polygamy, both maritally and professionally, the author invites the reader into the homes and personal lives of the people directly affected. The result is a moving, candid examination of the frame of mind, impulses, incentives, reasons and circumstances that drive individuals towards polygamy, as well as the social, legal, economic and emotional consequences that inevitably follow.

The book also examines the historical origins of Islamic polygamy in Mecca and Medina, as well as the legal situation in Saudi Arabia today. Maha A. Download the Article. Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. They pervert ideals of chastity and justice, and are representative of a much broader effort to control and repress women. The legitimization of Misyar marriages in Saudi Arabia constitutes fabrication of religious teachings to satisfy political and state needs.

The country should instead focus on fairer options, such as developing human intellect to become more innovative in entrepreneurship, and allowing local women to work and replace the massive amount of foreign workers. Women should be allowed to work, but are instead subject to male laws and control that exclude them from the public sphere. The resulting gender hierarchy can be perceived as a route to shirk polytheism, since both men and women are in the same level and have the same capacity, and only God is above them.

The impact of polygamy, as well as its justifications, is drastically opposed to the moral teachings of Islam. It is stated that most children suffer economically unless the polygamous family is wealthy, and regardless most children also suffer emotionally. Violence usually spreads within the family, often leading to physical fights.

Maha A. Z. Yamani Polygamy and Law in Contemporary Saudi Arabia

Resulting feelings of hatred and loneliness cause many of them to neglect their studies and work in order to be independent from the family. My grandmother is a victim of such bitter truth. A case was opened after she was hospitalized, which ultimately led to her divorce. Jealousy and unfair treatment are inherent in polygamous marriages due to our imperfect nature, fostering an environment of bitterness and depression that is passed on to the children.

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This can exacerbate the development of a non-participatory society, which is not encouraged in Islam. Islam encourages eternal marriages that continue with love and mercy, elements built on peace rather than violence. Hence, the implications of polygamy prove that it is not desirable, especially in regard to Islamic values.


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But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. In order to understand how the current practices of polygamy in Saudi Arabia refute Islamic beliefs, one must understand the interpretation of the famous polygamy verse Surah 4 Al-Nisa, Ayah 3 —the root of all justifications for polygamy. The revelation was situated against a context of many previous revelations restricting past unlimited polygamy, incestuous marriages, and slavery of women.

It was meant to comparatively empower them, by giving them the right to inherit and own property, and become equal partners of a marriage rather than subjects of a marriage contract. The general trend was that women were not viewed as full human beings in the society, and, in order to have some of their legal rights, they needed a male guardian that could support them. Polygamy was used as a symbol that society is based on the family, not the tribe.


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  • Ultimately, the verse must be interpreted with regard to its broader meaning—it cannot be taken at face value, but is rather as a product of its unique historical and political context. The verse at heart means justice and increased rights for women; this is the message that should be garnered from it.

    Applying it indiscriminately to satisfy political, economic, and cultural needs and desires, is wrong and a form of manipulation.

    Women in Saudi Arabia: A long road to equality

    He can only be just in a financial manner, proving that monogamy is the ideal form of marriage in Islam, while polygamy was reserved for very special and specific circumstances. Early and modern exegesis on this verse by Ibn Katheer and Sayyid Qutb arrive at very similar understanding polygamy as the current state of Saudi Arabia. Ibn Katheer claims that other than marrying orphans this verse allows a man to marry as many women as they like. On the other hand, Qutb claims that polygamy is allowed in Islam as a solution to societal problems; similar to the justifications used by Saudi Arabia.

    They do not offer a new perspective on solving such societal problems, even though the problem of spinsterhood is in reality a male problem in Saudi Arabia. People can claim that polygamy can only be practiced with the condition of just treatment of the multiple spouses, but since justice can never be achieved, there should be a law that bans polygamy. However, nations would naturally be very resistant to such a measure. Perhaps as a start to reformation women scholars can challenge the interpretation of the polygamy verse and provide a new interpretation that restricts it or even bans it, since Islamic Jurisprudence fiqh is a social construct.

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    It instead show that polygamy is an exceptional responsibility, which can occur under very limited circumstances since no human can be just. Reinterpretations should focus on this human aspect, analyzing Islamic, constitutional, and human rights through the lens of the current context. In ending this paper, two areas call for extensive research. As a result, Muslim interpreters can find an alternative interpretation that deals with polygamy in ethical and modern literature.

    The second area involves examining the nature of this interpretation process and its influence on social justice and legal determinations.

    Polygamy and Law in Contemporary Saudi Arabia | Research Explorer | The University of Manchester

    The results of this research will encourage reformation, especially when the hidden justifications and assumptions behind polygamy in Saudi Arabia, which influence Islamic doctrines are revealed. Bayrut: Dar al-Saqi, , Walt, Benjamin J. July 13, Accessed May 25, Yamani, Maha A.

    Reading, UK: Ithaca Press, Aftab-ud Din Ahmad, Maulana. Accessed April 15, El-Hadad, Ahmad K. Accessed April 16, Shamoun, Sam. Acessed April 16, Johnson, Heather. New York: Routledge, Rukhaya M. October 21, Accessed April 17,


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