About a week ago I went to a lecture by Margot Badran, a prominent Islamic scholar who teaches at Georgetown. The lecture was about the future of Islamic feminism, and she brought up a really interesting point. She pointed out that before, scholars would try and tackle polygamy in the Qur’an using linguistic tools to prove that the Qur’an was saying polygamy is not allowed. Now there has been a shift, with many scholars instead arguing that yes, the Qur’an does permit polygamy – but does that mean we should practice it?
Fazlur Rahman points out that slavery is also permitted in the Qur’an, yet most Muslims today do not accept slavery and wouldn’t dream of allowing it again. He says we should be applying this same logic to polygamy: yes, it existed then, and yes, the Qur’an permitted it (after severely limiting it), but it is an outdated practice that needs to be abolished, like slavery.
Now I know many Muslims will make the argument that in certain situations polygamy benefits society: but is that the case for the majority of Muslims today? No. And what about the countless women who get abused through this system? Some men have good intentions when they take another wife – for example, if the woman is destitute. But many have bad intentions. Should we allow a system like this to continue if so many women are getting negatively affected, even if it does benefit some?
So far Tunisia is the only country to ban polygamy. Whenever the prospect of banning it is brought up in Islamic countries/communities, there is always an outcry – usually from the men. The argument is that you can’t ban something that God has allowed. But then what about slavery?
What do you think of this argument? Is it convincing?
And what do you think about Tunisia banning it?