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3 Marriage Models We Need to Rethink




We’ve all read those articles, “50 Ways to Make Your Husband/Wife Happy”, “7 Ways to a Great Marriage”, “11 Ways to Survive Marriage and Not Get Bored to Death”.  We’ve had our elders hand us pearls of wisdom (and unsolicited advice), had our peers tell us how being married really is (“for realz, bro”), and we’ve been to seminars that teach us the fiqh of love while others teach us the fiqh of staying together for the sake of the kids.

So instead of reinventing the marriage wheel, I’m going to point out some the weaknesses of the “marriage models” we all hold dear. Be prepared to get a little uncomfortable; maybe you’ve been struggling all this time to implement them and what I’m going to tell you will invalidate your efforts.  Nothing can invalidate your efforts; whatever effort you put in has, inshā’Allāh, brought you and your spouse some benefit.  Consider my insights instead as a way to keep your marital compass meticulously aligned.  Also of note, these models apply to healthy/normal marriages that are not abusive, physically or emotionally. If you feel you are in an abusive situation, it is important to immediately seek professional help and intervention.

Here comes the list.


Marriage Model Number 1

“I’ll meet your needs and you meet mine” (i.e. the Islamic golden hit, “Rights and Responsibilities of Husbands and Wives” halaqa/seminar/khutbah).


This model has its value for sure.  From it we get a shari’ understanding of marriage: who provides what to whom, what behavior encroaches on our spouse’s “rights”, what behavior is considered sinful, what we can expect from them, etc.  All important information, no doubt.  After all, the sharī‘ah should be the foundation of our marriages.

Beyond that, this model wants us to understand that our partner is different from us and we have to learn to love them through their “love language” i.e. “meet their needs” with an understanding of what those needs actually are.  We usually really get focused on gender here; men want sex, women want emotional connection, right? (I’m joking; both men and women want both of these things).  This model tells us that we need to meet our spouse’s needs to keep them happy/fulfilled/satisfied (and married to us LOL).

But there are pitfalls.  Firstly, centering our marriage on meeting each other’s needs often makes us two very needy people.  That’s not very attractive.  Often times we end up getting whiny, passive-aggressive, angry, crabby, etc. that our “needs” are not being met; and all we can do is hope to punish this person with our relationship belly-aching until they finally hear loud and clear, “Hey, you’re doing a lousy job meeting my needs!”

When was the last time you felt attracted to someone who did that to you?  When was the last time someone nagged you or yelled at you and you felt like you wanted to connect with them intimately (emotionally or sexually)?  Probably never.  Yet without realizing it this is how we are “working” to get the results we want in our marriages.

Another pitfall in this model is score-keeping.  We withhold love/sex/affection/help because we feel like the “score” is out of balance.  To complicate matters further, each spouse has their own personal scoreboard of the marriage that’s completely left to their own biased umpire-ship.  Spouses withhold giving (or they do it without a lot of annoyed sighing) when they believe or perceive their spouse is doing too much taking without putting the same effort back in. Here’s an example:


Husband thinking: Didn’t I take her out to dinner, and now she’s going to say she’s too tired? (husband +1, wife -1)

Wife thinking: The evening was lousy because he put it together last-minute even though I reminded him for a week to make a reservation at a nice place. (wife +1, husband -1)


Another mistake we make in the religious crowd with this model is we boil down our marriage to a cookie-cutter-one-size-fits-all theoretical needs-meeting fiqh dilemma.  “Ya shaykh, whose takes precedence in making her happy, my mom or my wife?”  How many times have we heard this question, and we all know the answer.  Many years ago my husband asked Shaykh Yaser Birjas, “Shaykh, if I have to choose to make one happy, who do I choose, my mom or my wife?”  The shaykh gave a very wise answer: you have to make both happy (you won’t believe how far that advice has gotten my husband today).

In other words, we can’t get hung up on a hard and fast fiqhi answer, because it often ends up with someone being the “winner” and someone else being the “loser.”  Like the shaykh said, we need to create more win-win situations.  Our marriages cannot be sliced and diced to fit compartmentally into a fatwa.  We may be doing the “right” thing, but our spouse may be building up resentment that will harm us both later on.  We need to be a little more creative and practical.

To sum up, the major issue with this model is that ultimately needs-meeting keeps us “other” focused rather than self-focused; our behavior “waits” on our spouse’s and we try to conjure it out of them in all the wrong ways.  If we want to try to change our marriages for the better, we must start by changing ourselves, because changing yourself is the easiest, fastest, and most dependable method of change there is.

If our marriage isn’t too great, we had something to do with it.  We all co-created our marriages and there are definitely things we all can do to become better spouses.  As Muslims we should view our “half” of the marriage as ultimately a commitment to Allah, not to an individual.  We fulfill a promise we made before Allah to be a husband/wife and if that promise is too heavy, we should get help. One day we will be accountable for only ourselves before Allah for our marriage, so the only one we should think about “keeping score” with is Allah.  We don’t want to “lose points” with our Lord just because our spouse is.  Being an adult means we act as we do on our own principles and taqwa, not as a reaction to someone else’s behavior.  Believe it or not when we act out of principle, our spouse will begrudgingly respect us, and may even make their own changes for the better.


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Olivia has been married for over a decade, homeschools, and writes. She graduated from Arees Institute with a Bachelor's in Islamic Sciences and is a Certified Screamfree leader ( Originally from Chicago, she's been Muslim for 14 years.



  1. Avatar

    Abu Shanab

    October 6, 2014 at 3:16 AM

    Jazakallah khair for sharing your insights and opinions with us.

    You mentioned “having a safe word” in the intimacy department

    But I cant think of what to introduce that would require a “safe word”

    Could you guide us to some other articles that can teach us.

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      October 7, 2014 at 1:34 AM

      It was a pun. I just meant that people should tolerate some discomfort being authentic but should know limits with their spouse as well.

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      The Salafi Feminist

      October 8, 2014 at 10:29 PM

      Use your imagination. Or Google.

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    October 6, 2014 at 3:19 AM


    Thanks for this article. I see that the author of this article is “Olivia”. But there is no 2nd name or real identity. That is not being very authentic…hiding behind a potentially false name like that. I mentioned this because the author advocated being authentic


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      Siraaj Muhammad

      October 6, 2014 at 4:33 PM

      She’s authentically my wife and her name is indeed Olivia.

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        October 7, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        I am sorry for my comment. I regretted it as soon as I posted it. It was a knee jerk comment. I dont know why I turn into a “critique monster” when I am on Muslim matters. its only on MM.

        I apologize to sister Olivia. And to her husband if he was offended.

        Please forgive me if any offense was taken.

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        Ahmad B.

        October 7, 2014 at 5:35 PM

        Please forgive me if this is in the wrong section. But I had a question that I hope people who are in marriages with a convert can explain to me (either man or woman can answer).

        I am middle eastern and married to a white convert. This last Eid we went out to an Eid party where men and women are seated separately.

        As soon as I came home, my wife started crying. It seems that she felt judged, criticized, gossiped about by women in that gathering.

        Even before we went, I could tell she was hesitant. Mashallah my wife is social and and has friends (convert and non convert) from her own ethnicity, so I know she is not super shy. But she seems unwilling to spend time with Middle Eastern women because she says they look down on her and keep correcting her in her Islam in a very public and forceful way.

        I have heard white converts (men and women) having a tough time before. But I want to know what I can do to remedy this situation.

        Is this just something all women go through? (Forgive me, but I have heard women are hasrsher towards each other than men)

        Should I just let her be when she says she doesnt want to hang out with Middle Eastern women.

        Any advice or similar experiences out there?

        Much Appreciated

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        October 10, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        Best thing I’ve found is that if she knows Islam well, the sciences and what have you, she can separate between what is culture, what is required, and will know the difference and feel confident when others confront her.

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      Al Maghribi Girl

      October 7, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      Yeah sister, next time please add the last four digits of your SSN

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      October 7, 2014 at 4:45 PM

      Really, what does the author’s name have to do with anything? Hoping this is a joke.

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    October 6, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    Thank you for sharing the marriage models that don’t work. I just have a comment about Model # 2 in which you encourage digging up things from the past. This is dangerous territory. A wife or husband is not obliged (rather must prevent) from revealing what happened in the past that Allaah has concealed. Rather s/he must conceal him/herself, because the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “Avoid this filth that Allaah has forbidden. Whoever does any such thing, then let him conceal it with the concealment of Allaah.” (Narrated by al-Bayhaqi; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 663).

    And Muslim (2590) narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah does not conceal a person in this world but Allaah will conceal him on the Day of Resurrection.”

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      Lets build on efforts instead of nitpicking

      October 6, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      As Salamu Alaikum Br. Asrauf,

      I don’t think the author meant bringing up stuff ‘from the past’ (before marriage) as much as bringing up stuff that is currently affecting a marriage and making it into a cozy blanket that is boring…rather than exciting…ie, ‘ting.’

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      October 7, 2014 at 1:35 AM

      No, I did not encourage digging up things from the past. I mean talking about yourself as a person in the present.

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    Polygamy meeting a woman's sexual needs?

    October 6, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    Sister Olivia, can you elaborate a bit more about the sexual needs that polygamy (as endorsed by Islam and practiced within the bounds of Islamic law) can fulfill in a woman?

    I must admit I am a bit mystified in this area, noting that ‘threesomes’ aren’t allowed (apologies, I know that was disgusting and will make most deeply uncomfortable, but I didn’t know how else to get across the point other than stating it straight out)

    …and we as Muslims are not allowed to discuss what goes on inside ‘the bedroom’ with anyone else? Ie, the wives of a polygamous marriage are not to discuss with each other their own personal sexual experiences with the husband?

    The only thing I can think of is that, if chores, etc are shared, the wife may get ‘time off’ that allows her to recharge sexually (as well as emotionally, physically, etc).

    Of course, I could completely be lacking in imagination!

    Jazaki Allahu Khayran!

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      October 7, 2014 at 12:56 AM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      It may be very uncomfortable to hear, but emotions like jealousy are not always harmful, depressing, or painful in polygamy when the positive emotions in the marriages outweigh them. Women may not like me to say it, but friction and jealousy, or having the opportunity to “miss” your spouse, can actually add spice to bedroom lives, and that includes in polygamy. I don’t think polygamy is a solution for people who have dull bedroom lives, but I’m trying to enable people to understand that polygamy for women is not all pain, martyrdom or living in constant jealousy that harms and destroys a relationship. While this *does* happen, and I’m in no way trying to downplay it, we think it is the *reality* of polygamy in and of itself and in truth, it’s not. This was not the case in the family life of Rasoolullah (S). We read about the “jealous games” of his wives and even the “teams” they had. Do we think this was depressing and destructive, or a sort of fun and excitement, a jealousy in healthy proportions tempered by love and friendship? In the end his wives loved one another dearly and were friends; they tried to outdo each other, they smeared food in each other’s faces, they played jokes on each other. This is far from the depressing and strained relationships we often seen in polygamy now.

      And yes, if cowives do work together on the same team, they can enable each other to get date nights or help with the kids. But this will only happen if a brother approaches polygamy in a way that includes his wife and isn’t all just about serving his sexual needs; he would have to be thinking as a family.

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        F. Abdurrahman

        October 7, 2014 at 7:05 AM

        so you contradict yourself – first you say that marriage is to protect chastity and imply that a man should take a second wife to keep himself from zina – ie to meet his lust needs – and then you say it isn’t all about that. And please don’t quote certain Ulema who are so midirecting that they tell men whose eyes wander to go find a second wife…the Prophet peace be upon him said that if a man sees a woman he finds attractive, he should go home to his own wife for she has the same thing that that other woman has. He peace be upon him did not say: he should go pursue that other woman as a second wife. ! don’t quote Ulema out there who give immaturity a stamp of approval – there are enough Ulema out there who – when a man comes to htem with a low libido – advise that man to watch porn. Yes, this actually happens. Talk about total stupidity. We need to rethink sexuality in our faith practice. if you want to spice up your marriage life, try Tantra.

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        October 8, 2014 at 7:27 AM

        Good insight sister and I mean no disrespect with the following comment on polygamy:

        If Allah had intended men to have more than one wife……………then He would have given Adam(pbuh) more than one.

        I fully understand the directive of Muhammad(pbuh) and his time in having more than one wife. And yes, Abraham(pbuh) and other of the Prophets had more than one wife.

        But……..some things were abrogated during and shortly thereafter the time of His ummah.

        This may be one that was missed and could have actually occurred.

        Even saying so, it stands today as part of Islam and none has the right to abrogate it unless the society one lives in forbids more than one wife.

        I appreciate your perspective.


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        October 11, 2014 at 7:46 AM

        The one thing that bothers me about polygamy is the reaction of the children, since polygamy is not widely accepted in our society.I think it would be very difficult for the children. As for ting you can imagine anything you want with the hassle of a co-wife.

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    October 6, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    as-salam alaikum. I like the first part of the article, and the honesty and style of writing throughout. But I have to wonder about perspective. I think that because it’s written by a woman, there is an attempt to make marriage exciting (ting) and keep it the central focus of life, when in fact it is only thus for a wife, and not for a man. Women are naturally more focused on their relationships – and marriage above all – as the central meaning of their lives. Men on the other hand are more focused on a mission, a purpose, that is outside of marriage, and for which a good marriage is simply the foundation, support, and source of energy-renewal. So this desire to make marriage exciting is a very female one.
    Instead of trying to spice up marriage to make it like a soap-opera or drama or musalsila with ups and downs and the frisson of jealousy and all, using polygamy of all things, just find a greater purpose to live for – how about trying to become a true Lover of God? that journey will give you the excitement you need and maybe even mean you will become amongst the Sabiqeen. trying to over-focus on making marriage a sparkling exciting drama is a bit like wanting to make meals exotic. In our faith, we don’t want to make these things become the focus – marriage, like eating – is the fulfilment of a need and the means to set one up to pursue the great and exciting battles that lie in our way: fighting one’s lower self to become a better servant of God, realizing one’s true potential as a worshipper of the Divine, being truly sincere – really, if we put our energies into this relationship with God, we’d have little time to get bored and start looking for ways to make the sideshows more interesting. There is so little time, and so much distance to cover, to reach our home with the Divine! Do we want to be in the company of the Prophet peace be upon him in the Afterlife? how about that for some “ting” ? the uncertainty of that…that is what kept the fires of love burning for the Salaf as-Salah.If we keep sayign we want to bring back the goodness that was once in this Ummah, let’s make our efforts directed there constantly. This article is a great marriage advice article for a secular context – but I respectfully say that for a spiritual community, we have only to look at the Companions and how little of this they practiced. they did not sit and ask each other: tell me something about yourself you have never told me/are afraid to tell me. They were too occupied with the Big Questions: will I enter Jannah? How do I be more pleasing to my Lord? How do I become closer to my Beloved Rasool Allah peace be upon him. I just can’t imagine them doing any of the things you have talked about (including polygamy for the sake of adding some excitement to their lives)…

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      October 6, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      Sister, just out of curiosity, are you married, and if so, does your husband only talk to you about the deen and never ask you about yourself and vice versa? Also, can you please point out scholars of our faith who say this should be the only focus of marriage? Please kindly provide some good authoritative references, jazaks =)

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        F. Abdurrahman

        October 7, 2014 at 7:01 AM

        why does this reader have to provide authentic references when Olivia did not do so? Olivia just spoke about it all from her personal take on things, which is fine. but why should others not also offer their “two cents” to quote Olivia. And if you ask me – and I am married – yes, my husband asks me about deen and about myself in the context of deen. when he asks me how I’m feeling, if I’m tired – that is in the context of deen because if I”m tired it means I can’t offer as much of my time and energy to reading Quran and so on. I don’t see why you are making a dichotomy out of “deen” and “other than deen” – this is a profoundly secular way of seeing things.

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      October 7, 2014 at 1:11 AM

      Jzk for your response. I assume that whoever is reading this understands that while marriage is half our deen, it does not exist to the exclusion of our deen. Our Prophet S encouraged us to do everything with ihsaan, and while a person may only be spending, let’s say 30 percent of their time on their marriage, I am trying to enable that 30 percent to be done well by sharing this information. If you read the last part of my article, you will note that I mentioned that it is healthy for couples to support one another in pursuing their own endeavors outside of marriage as well. No where in this article did I advocate that marriage is more important than Allah or ibadah.

      However, marriage is the foundation of the next generation and for raising Muslim children, so we need to have healthy marriages to have healthy families. If you look around at the state of many marriages today and all struggles people have, making dua is no doubt essential, but so is putting in some practical work and developing emotional intelligence and relationship intelligence. Look at the cases of affairs and abuse that plague even “religious” Muslims, and you will see that we are in dire need of some practical advice.

      I don’t think the companions only spoke about jannah and worship of Allah with their spouses. Many of the companions were divorced; they had personalities and character flaws. We don’t get many glimpses into their personal lives, but if they were all just cookie cutter muslims working on jannah, we’d see far less examples of the arguments they had or personal problems with their spouses. There are numerous examples of this.

      Im not advising anyone pick up polygamy to add any ting, but the fact is that many men will go looking for it that way, and of those men (and women) don’t know how to make that a win-win situation. What advise would you give a woman who has to live in that situation in an emotionally healthy and normal way? Just focus on jannah? That’s very easy to say to someone who isn’t living that life on a daily basis. Marriage is meant to be a means to live in *this* dunya as well as a means to work on getting to jannah, its meant to be a halal means of playfulness and satisfaction, and a means of peace and tranquility in *this* life. Most men pursue polygamy to add sexual excitement to their lives, not to earn jannah. Polygamy is not an act of worship, it is a lifestyle choice, so ask any scholar if that’s halal and it is. I’m merely pointing out that there is perhaps a better way for women to look at this situation and for men to think about it before they go into it.

      In the end sister, no one here is saying that people should focus on marriage to the exclusion of their deen. That’s an assumption you have made on your own.

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        F. Abdurrahman

        October 7, 2014 at 7:22 AM

        “I don’t think the companions only spoke about jannah and worship of Allah with their spouses. Many of the companions were divorced; they had personalities and character flaws”

        the first sentence is your conjecture. do you have proof that they talked about other stuff? The second sentence does not constitute proof of the first. Being divorced or having personalities and character flaws does not imply that one focuses on other than deen.
        Also, you are right to put “religious” in quotation marks when you talk about those who have affairs. I wonder what kind of “religious” they are ….? what does it mean to be “religious” and what does it mean to be spiritually focused and mutaqqi? and of the Sabiqeen who will be the first to enter Jannah?

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        Aliyah J.

        October 9, 2014 at 1:37 AM

        I want some of this “Ting”….where can I get it?

        Can I find it on amazon….does it come in different flavors?

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        October 17, 2014 at 1:37 PM

        yes marriages have struggles today but the solution is not “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and create your own version of sexual gratification, but halalified. Let’s first start to talk about how our context and environment are damaging us and how we can take a strong stand – where are the muslims like Kilbourne – on the frontline against this fisq? no, we never seem to stand up for the benefit of all!

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      M. Mahmud

      October 7, 2014 at 1:49 AM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      My thoughts on this.

      I’m not married, but I hope to be one day, and like what Leila seems to speak of, I fantasize about having my sweetheart be my supporter(and I hers) in our efforts to enter Jannah. Talk about adventure and excitement!!! What is more exciting and more adventurous, more important than to be saved from the fire of hell and entered into Jannah? What brings more life to the heart, more fear more hope, than making ones goal the next life? This keeps the hearts alive and I think the combination of fear and hope will be best for keeping the hearts of the husband and wife attached to each other. The best way to stay together is to be on a path-call it an adventure if you like-where one feels the constant need to turn to ones companion.

      In this way the people whose intention is the end are favored over those whose intention is nothing but this life. As people explain, you seek happiness in this life and you will inevitably be disappointed. Nothing lasts even in this life. It’s a right on Allah that whatever he raises in this life he also brings down. So the spark at the beginning of the marriage will die now. What lasts is the couple who are married for Allah’s sake. They have a constant drive.

      I also agree with the author if this article. I for a second when reading this considered the thought(hey if we are religious no bad things will happen.) But that’s a delusion. How many of the best men and women on earth divorced each other? It’s not like the same challenges that face nonbelievers won’t also face Muslims. We are all human and marriage is a human institution and requires certain solutions. The book of Allah and the Sunnah have guidance for our marriages. Furthermore, we live in times where we can advise one another to the advantages and pitfalls of certain things(hence this article.)

      Marriage is one of the special affairs of human beings that is integral to both this life and the next.

      So a good balance is necessary. Let us recognize the good and bad of marriage models and also recognize that nothing good in a marriage will truly last unless the couples intention is the akhirah. This Ummah is between two extremes-neglecting the dunya and neglecting the akhirah.

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      October 7, 2014 at 5:26 PM

      You are right….There was this study done that showed mens core values are ambition, goals etc but over time men become more focused on family and spirituality. For the women, she starts off being focused on her family and her relationship and then over time, she begins to focus more on her own personal growth etc

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    October 6, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    it is also a mistake to call polygamy a Sunnah. It was not practiced by the Prophet peace be upon him in a manner that could result in it being a Sunnah – it was practiced by him peace be upon him in a form that we cannot practice it – ie. he peace be upon him married more than four. Just like we cannot say that marrying a woman as young as Sitna Aisha (radi Allahu anha) was is a Sunnah. These are things that were special for the Prophet peace be upon him. Had he, peace be upon him, married four women or 2 or three in the period when he was married to Sitna Khadeeja – ie not becuase he, peace and blessings upon him – was ordered to do so by God – then we might be able to see it that way. Otherwise what we have in polygamy is a practice that was common for many millenia in human history, that Islam came and did not abolish but set strict limits upon. Islam did not legislate nor encourage it, nor did it originate in our Sharia, anymore than eating or sleeping – these things exist in human experience & Islam tells us how to do them in a way that is spiritual. Many scholars have also explained that it can actually be un-Islamic to practice it against the custom of the wife’s family and culture. What I see in your approach is that it is a sort of western approach that wants to find sexual excitement in something that was meant to be practiced – if it is going to be practiced – for a sincerely spiritual and Godly purpose – not to add excitment to one’s sex life. And God knows best. The way it is described makes one think more of polyamory. Women of the Companions experienced uncertainty not knowing if their spouses would be amongst God’s most beloved servants, and this made them feel a challenge and a desire to wake up in the night and pray for them and make homes where getting to Jannah was the goal. It is as if we are sure we’ll get there, and our husbands too, so that now we can just have a good time in teh waiting period before arriving. This is odd. The female Companions should have been more “secure” than anyone in thinking they’d arrive in Jannah but they were the ones who lived most in this “ting” of tension between hope and fear. Believe me, if you are truly engaged with your spiritual journey, you want everything else to be as placid as can be and as little demanding of your emtional stores as possible, so you can put all your ability to respond to “ting” into your life with God. You need all the energy and attention you can muster to make that life with God as good as you can…and it is not a boring one, and it does have many ups and downs, and it is the source of all excitement if you let it be.

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      October 6, 2014 at 5:48 PM

      “it is also a mistake to call polygamy a Sunnah. It was not practiced by the Prophet peace be upon him in a manner that could result in it being a Sunnah – it was practiced by him peace be upon him in a form that we cannot practice it – ie. he peace be upon him married more than four.”

      So are not allowed to marry? Cuz he practiced marriage in a way no one ever did.

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        F. Abdurrahman

        October 7, 2014 at 7:26 AM

        The comment is talking about the FORM, not the daily practice. you are referring to daily practice in your last sentence. Leila is talking about format. Like fasting. We can’t fast in the form that the Prophet peace be upon him did: fasting days in a row with no iftar. But we CAN fast. Likewise, we can take the form of marriage that he, peace be upon him, took: eg. to Lady Khadijah peace be upon her. But of course, we may not be able to reach that level of ihssan in personal daily conduct and true love…These however are two different points and you have chosen to ignore the nuance. This should not be a debate but a sincere pursuit of knowledge. I feel you are getting defensive of your wife and the idea of polygamy and you don’t want to listen to the nuanced discussion that your wife’s article has opened.

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      October 7, 2014 at 1:32 AM

      Sister, polygamy is not an act of worship, it is a kind of marriage, and the main purpose of marriage is to protect one’s chastity. The vast majority of MUSLIM men who practice polygamy do so for sexual excitement or because they want sexual variety. It very rarely is done for “spiritual” reasons. No scholar will tell you that polygamy is only allowed for spiritual reasons. I am only pointing out that it needn’t all be misery for a woman if her husband is willing to include her in his decisions and take her emotions into consideration and is willing to think of as family unit. I’m trying to point a way that makes polygamy healthy for couples and livable. Poly is not all about martyrdom and community service marriage.

      Wouldn’t it be amazing if a man expanded his family and two wives could work together to educate Muslim children and they prayed together as a family? Wouldn’t it be great if those people could make amongst those whom Allah loves because they loved one another for the sake of Allah? Maybe they could all get up and pray together at night because, hey, one woman will have the night away from her husband so she can go throw water on both of the other two while theyre asleep, like dump a whooooooooole bunch of water on them. If Allah loves a spouse who sprinkles water on her husband or vice versa to wake them up for Qiyam al Layl imagine drenching your cowife and husband.. Cold water would be some good “ting” :P

      What I’m trying to say is everything I’m saying can exist within the framework of a righteous home where people work together for the sake of Allah. In your mind the two are mutually exclusive.

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        October 8, 2014 at 12:58 AM

        This sounds like an idealized viewpoint of what a polygamist relationship would be like. So a woman would have so little boundaries that she would actually go into the private bedroom of her co wife and husband in the middle of the night to wake them up for qiyam? I mean they are a married couple and deserve some privacy.

        I like reading about different viewpoints but it seems sad that someone is so bored with their marriage/life that they need to create some friction in order to find some excitement instead of being happy that they have a great marriage. At least if the intention is altrustic, you have hope in having reward from Allah(swt) instead doing it to spice up your life. It’s just opening up a door that might lead to regret and heartache. And then what happens when more time passes and polygamy becomes boring and too comfortable? If one cannot find other ways to create excitement in their life besides “creating uncertainty” then they are doomed to always be searching for the next thing.

        And for some things that polygamy might solve, it can create many others. Yes, it is possible that a woman might get more time for herself but it is also possible she will have more frustration being like a single mom sometimes, dealing with kids at night, etc.

        I don’t look at women who pursue/love polygamy as necessarily being more confident or having higher self esteem than other women who don’t. I just think they have different viewpoints than the mainstream society and maybe see it is a fetish or are interested in alternative lifestyles just like other people in society.

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        October 8, 2014 at 1:24 AM

        The water thing was a joke. Though the Propeht’s wives did used to play jokes on each other.

        Maybe the better thing to do would be to acknowledge the some women are okay with polygamy and leave it at that Nisi, rather than assume they are into fetishes or other things. It’s not right to make those kinds of assumptions abt another Muslim.

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        JoAnna Boudreaux

        October 11, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        If a man takes a second wife to satisfy sexual desire, he will not be satisfied with a 2nd, nor a 3rd or a 4th. This is an immature solution to an immature man. If a man gets bored with the body of one woman he will eventually get bored with the second, third etc… Also, this also signifies that he is a selfish lover, with a male-centric view of sex. It’s all about him. I wouldn’t want him as a husband. I enjoyed your article except for the part about polygamy.

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        October 12, 2014 at 2:09 AM

        I’m not assuming just saying that people are interested in polygamy for many different reasons and it’s not always because they are more pious/altruistic or have higher self esteem than others.

        Its whatever floats your boat and I don’t have a problem with that. I just wonder what makes you qualified to give this type of advice on polygamy since you didn’t elaborate in the article. Usually someone who gives advice specifies their expertise such as they’ve been married for 10 years (for example) so what they say had some credibility because they have lived that situation. Without that, the polygamy advice falls flat and comes across as naive and idealistic imo.

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      M. Mahmud

      October 7, 2014 at 1:54 AM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      “These are things that were special for the Prophet peace be upon him”

      This is not the case. Polygny is legal in this deen and many of the Sahaba RA practiced it. So is marriage at a young age. Both are legal. Islam is a blessing for humanity in that in can encompass a wide variety of cultures and creates ease and prevents difficulty by Allah’s permission. Some cultures have marriage at a young age e.g. Africa/India. In some places, polygamy is practices by mushrikeen. Our deen allows ease for them. It’s not a simple “good” or “bad.” It’s an option with various advantages and disadvantages for various people.

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      Abu AbdirRahman

      October 9, 2014 at 3:00 AM

      It is not a sunnah? depends b/c as we know, sunnah has many definitions. Sunnah includes actions, saying, and approvals. It is sunnah in that the Prophet (saw) did have multiple wives. (not necessarily meanining it is sunnah and that one gets reward for getting married to more than 1 wife)…Just like saying it is the sunnah of Allah to make all his messengers men. SUNNAH MEANING ACTION.

      Having multiple wives is something most men dream about (mainly for sexual reasons)….and Allah promises men Hur al ain in jannah for a reason…men would want these beautiful creations of Allah in Jannah.

      We were told to enjoy our spouses and to even play with them…what do you mean western approach? We are westerners and we do have a different culture than our eastern brethren.

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        Truth Champion

        October 9, 2014 at 3:06 AM

        ‘وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته

        It depends what you mean by sunnah. Sunnah can generally used in three meanings:

        1. What is other than Quran from words, or actions or approvals of Allahs Messenger, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.
        2. Which is synonym of mustahab, mandub (recommended).
        3. Which is opposite of bid’ah, i.e. something from religion, something mashru’

        As for the positions of hanbalis and shafi’is, then they say that it is mustahab not to marry more than one and hukm of marrying more than one, then it must be mubah, jaiz, i.e. allowed, not mustahab. So it cannot be considered sunnah in the second meaning.’

        courtesy of brother al-azkabani from IA Forums

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    October 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    problem is: muslims of middle america are trying to make living this faith as “normal” and invovled with dunya-oriented building. we should take a lesson out of the pages of our brothers and sisters who have gone that route – the Christians. they are tired of their very satisfying and interesting and accomplished marriages, child-rearing, and all that, and they want a faith that is actually about changing the world. and we are so inward-focused now, that we reject the idea of going out and taking risks that have meaning. Just have a read of this example of what they long for, and what we should long for:

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      October 7, 2014 at 1:36 AM

      I stated in the article that the shariah should be the foundation of the marriage.

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        Abu AbdirRahman

        October 9, 2014 at 3:07 AM

        Even if shariah isn’t the foundation, people can have happy and healthy marriages. many non muslims have happier and healthier marriages than muslims.

        Yes, as muslims we should look for deen, but doesn’t mean we ignore other factors like social status and beauty.

        Just b/c two people are piois and marry for the deen, doesn’t mean they will have successful marriages. Even Abu Bakr (ra) got divorced and I don’t think it had anything to do with a lack of deen b/c all the sahaba were of the best of people to walk on this earth.

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    October 6, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    Slightly toungue in cheek and zany. Nice!

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    A Different Prospective

    October 6, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    I agree with Leila and Adnan to some degree but I think you guys are loosing focus on what the article is talking about. It starts off with tips and ways to make your marriage strong. Which is very important in a relationship because if the marriage is not healthy then your EMAN starts to deteriorate as well and your so lost in those constant struggle and dealing with your emotions of a bad marriage. And lets not forget the children that come out of those bad marriages. Its just a chain reaction. The author gives tips on how to make a marriage strong and bring a “ting” back to your marriage. It could be through different things or it could be through polygamy. Now if you are married in general your goal should be to please Allah (swt) and why can’t that happen through a polygamist marriage? I can imagine women who are in polygamy doing something great for the deen that can be more then the article that Br. Adnan posted. Why does it have to be that marriages keeps us more tied down and more emotionally drained. No, with the right intention with the right amount of “ting” I think polygamy can be the next big thing. We need to be focused on the end goal which is pleasing Allah. No matter what relationship we are in we are allowed to have that “ting” in this life so that we can accomplish greater things as a family unit. Polygamy is not for everyone but for those who are in it may ALLah bless their efforts and guide them and make them exemplary examples for the Ummah. Ameen.

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      October 7, 2014 at 1:38 AM

      Spoken like a real “pro”, A Different Prospective ;)

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    F. Abdurrahman

    October 7, 2014 at 6:43 AM

    I find it problematic that rather than dispel the incorrect idea that one should pursue polygamy for sexual or emotional fulfilment of the self, this article actually reinforces it. You can’t say on the one hand that it is a Sunnah, and then allow for it to be done with a niyah other than that which would have been in the Sunnah. The only reason a person should go for polygamy is to support a woman – not to fulfil his own desires. Indeed, fulfilment of a person’s desires could come about as a side-effect – as something that comes wiht it. but it is not the main reason – just like good health comes from fasting – many studies prove that – but that is NOT why we do it and that should NOT have any part in our niyah. If you are going to talk about it as a Sunnah, you should be clear that for both men and women it should be a service project – not an ego project. THAT is how the Prophet peace be upon him did it.
    To say that keeping one’s chastity is the only reason for marriage is also flawed. a lot of us would not have had to get married in that case…a lot of women that is.
    I find it extremely sad that you would say that marriage is not a spiritual thing or for a spiritual purpose. In Islam, even eating is for a spiritual purpose, and is PART of the deen – the way we approach it must be with taqwa, remembrance of Allah, and the niyah to become stronger to worship Him. how could you start to talk of marriage as being a dunya matter?
    also, a lot of couples who have levels of conflict in their marriage – low levels but it’s there – have this “ting.” My spouse and I had that for years. It kept us mentally focused always on the marriage and each other, because it was a high-maintenance relationship. THanks be to God, this is now not the case. We are much calmer – and we are actually able to focus more on other goals like serving Allah in daawah, like seeking closeness to Allah. If we want to talk about the thrill of jealousy, how about being jealous of those who are closer to Allah, which is what the Saliheen the world over are focused on and get their drive from. As for making marriage better, I’m sorry I just don’t see how polygamy is being offered as a technique. if you are offering your perspective as a way for women who find themselvse in that situation to cope with it and see it better, great. But if you are suggesting that out of three things you have to offer as marriage advice for a better relationship, polygamy is one, that’s really losing sight of many other things one could have offered such as making one’s marriage a platform for serving others, making one’s home a place of daawah, making one’s self more like the model of Lady Khadijah and Prophet Muhammad peace be upon them – and you DO know about how they lived – how much their lives were about serving others and sacrifice and not constantly focusing on each other – but using their strength and the calm of their marriage to reach out to others. Frankly, if you have a calm and stable marriage, take your energies out to be a mentor to a person who is having a stormy marriage. THAT is what you might do to not be bored. Believe me, you’ll get a lot of satisfaction by giving sadaqa off your extra peace rather than going to look for things that can spice up your peace.

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      October 7, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      1. Your comment about how it is wrong for a person to engage in a polygamous relationship to satisfy their needs is incorrect. I have spoken with many Ulema about this, and they have said that sometimes it becomes Wajib on a person to get married (and sometimes married a second time) so they don’t fall into haram. Yes, it would be a very good intention to help others, but to marry to satisfy one’s desires so that they can keep away from the haram is also a noble intention.

      I would really recommend you that you read:
      Islamic Guide to Sexual Relations (Muhammad Ibn Adam Al-Kawthari)

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      October 7, 2014 at 10:21 AM

      2. What I believe the author is saying is that chastity is one of the main reasons why people get married, and not the only reason (I could be wrong). I also believe that this is why majority of people get married. We have that guilt factor within us whenever we do something that is against Islam. Therefore, marriage is a way to alleviate us from feeling guilty. By nature we are sexual beings. That is why there are so many Ahadith about fulfillfing one’s desires.

      For example:

      “O group of young men, anyone [of you] who can afford it should many, for it lowers the eyes and guards the private parts. Anyone who is unable to marry should fast, for it restrains the appetite.”


      “When a woman attracts anyone of you and she captivates his heart, then he should go to his wife and have sex with her, for it would repel that what he feels [i.e. sexual desire]. (Sahih Muslim)”

      Again, there is nothing wrong about getting married in order to protect one’s chastity.

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        October 7, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        yes, look at the second Hadith. The Prophet peace be upon him did not say go marry another woman or that one who captivated you – go add her to your family…

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      October 7, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      3. I do agree with you that marriage is also a spiritual thing. However, I do appreciate the author’s willingness to talk about the ting factor. The sad fact of the reality is that many Muslims are looking for that ting. A lot of Muslim spouses are not sexually satisfied. This causes them to go look for it elsewhere, whether it be the internet or another person. What I take away from what the author is saying, is that Muslims need to start to be more open with their spouses about these things. We are not verbally saying it, but we are thinking about it. The Desi mentality is that it is wrong to talk about sex and how to improve our sexual lives. However, we are doing an injustice to ourselves and our spouses by not finding out what is permissible and not permissible. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve our sexual relations with our spouses. I think that the author is just trying to help us understand this.

      It kept saying that my comment seemed to “spammy.” That is why I submitted three different posts.

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      Em Hamzah

      October 7, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      I agree. I feel sorry for sisters who are in a polygamoys marriage who always are like, “my co-wife is awesome! She is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can drop the kids off and go shopping!!”

      I always respond with a dua that Allah bless their family. To me, it seems like their coping mechanism or a wall so that no one will say “Aren’t you sad your husband married another one?”

      I will be real
      Because, to me a regular muslim lady- the benefits of polygamy for me seem a bit like being happy that both your legs are broken so you can “enjoy a break from the kids, get that handicapped parking space”

      Of course, we should ALWAYS be happy with whatever Allah decrees, it just bothers me when people try to tell me not to feel or that I am not allowed. And the benefits of polygamy are sooooooooo worth it for me. Men are allowed to get married up to 4. It is not my responsibility if my husband wants to get married again to:
      -pay the bills
      -like it
      -love it
      -love co-wife
      -be best friends
      -not have feelings
      -have a say in it

      His marriage, his responsibility.

      Regardless of the reason or whatever. I think it is unfair to ask women to step on their emotions and play the martyr and be expected to encourage the husband to marry more-that only lasts so long anyways. We are women! We have enough to handle usually.

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        October 7, 2014 at 3:46 PM

        if both men and women have equal need for sexual satisfaction, and you are suggesting polygamy as a means of gaining sexual satisfaction – then it should be for women too. we don’t have a problem anymore about testing for who the father is. and many women work today so they could support their husbands. what is the actual MAQSAD and what is a side-benefit, and what is a custom, and what is polygamy in all of this? because it’s starting to sound like polyamory but for men only.

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        October 7, 2014 at 11:20 PM

        I don’t expect most women to like polygamy at all, but I don’t think you should judge other women who may be in it, for whatever reason. It may be the case that two women married to one man are happier emotionally and sexually in their respective marriages than many monogamous couples. Do you feel the same sorrow for mothers who are able to leave their kids with their mothers or mother in laws who they may live with, even if they have chosen to live with their mom/MIL?

        I don’t think any woman should play the martyr either. Most of my words on polygamy, which I think you dismissed in this comment, has to do about how a brother should not go behind his wife’s back and a woman should feel consensual, comfortable and confident. I also spoke about how polygamy should not be an endeavor that leaves a woman feel wounded, unwanted, or betrayed.

        But if people are happy in it, don’t judge just because you can’t wrap your mind around it. Different strokes for different folks, my friend. Some women aren’t sad, which I know makes many women uncomfortable to hear.

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        M. Mahmud

        October 8, 2014 at 2:00 AM

        Assalamalaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        Adnan, it is nothing but zina for a woman to have more than one husband. This is absolutely haram.

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        October 9, 2014 at 4:09 AM

        Sorry but does it not seem slightly condescending to feel sorry for people just because you don’t understand how they can be happy in a certain situation does it not?

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        Em Hamzah

        October 9, 2014 at 6:51 PM

        I don’t understand how women can be happy in a battle. I am cheering my sisters on all the time who are in these marriages. The reward (on judgement day)of the battles is the fruit of being in such a situation not actually being in it. Though, this requires battle prep-patience, no backbiting and lots of dua. Anyways, no condescending comments, just facts. I don’t believe in fairytales. And marriage completely aside, no real happiness until jannah. May Allah grant us all jannah. I think marriage models usually are personal reflections pushed on the public readers- to add to the main article at hand.

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      Abu AbdirRahman

      October 9, 2014 at 3:15 AM

      SUNNAH in terms of actions….. Doesn’t neccessarily have to mean sunnah in terms of usul al fiqh and fiqh.

      So yes we can say it was a sunnah.

      The sahaba practiced it before the Prophet (saw) did…They had multiple wives while the Prophet (saw) was only married to Khadija. They got married cuz they wanted to and not only because they were doing “community service” by marrying widows.

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    October 7, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    I do not think you got a single post saying thank you without added criticisms. So I will be the first. Jazakum Allah khair, it was a very interesting read. I may disagree with your take on things, but I do appreciate you sharing it. It is definitely food for thought and with divorce rates so high, we could always use a little more research in this topic and a few new ideas. Who knows maybe your article could save a couple’s marriage. :)

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    October 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    I’m following this discussion with interest…both Sister Olivia and those who agree with her, as well as Leila and those who agree with her are both right…

    I think the issue is how to deal with the mundane…’the boring…’

    Sr. Leila is right…ultimately, we need to get away from focusing so much on the Dunya and start focusing on the Akhira. The problem is, most of us are so far away from that stage at this point…improving ourselves to always focus on Allah and the akhira is a work in progress.

    In the meantime, following the advice of Sister Olivia is good way to deal with ‘boredom’ in a halal manner (although I don’t necessarily agree with the polygamy part).

    Taking the food analogy: some of us may get bored of eating the same food every single day. Thus, we may spend time on the internet looking up new recipes, buying new foods, and experimenting, to create ‘tantalizing’ new dishes to please our families and ourselves.

    Ultimately, one can well argue that this is a waste of time…we should not spend so much time obsessing with food, which is very much a matter of the Dunya – the food we always eat is a blessing from Allah and we should focus on worship instead. The companions certainly did not focus on making elaborate, delicious cuisine – there are far more hadiths about the Prophet (s) and how he and his wives (particularly Aisha) enjoyed a fulfilling sexual life than hadiths about the Prophet (s) enjoying decadent food. Yet, one cannot argue that cooking delicious cuisine is haram either, or even somehow ‘against Islam.’

    Again, most of us are not at that stage of closeness with Allah that He has become our soul focus. (Insha Allah, one day we will be!) We need to advise people based on where they are at spiritually: telling someone who doesn’t pray regularly the virtues of Tahajjud is not going to work. Just so, telling someone who, currently, is a ‘regular Muslim’ (identifies with the Deen, but does not practice consistently) who is bored with their marriage – that what they need to do is to dramatically shift their focus to Allah and Allah alone…may not work either…

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      October 7, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      To Spirituality,

      I believe what you mentioned about dealing with the boredom in a halal manner was what sister Olivia was trying to get at. However, we all like to act like religious police and cannot think outside the box.

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      October 7, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      so wait, you are saying that bedroom boredom results from lack of sexual variety for the male member of the couple, and lack of “ting” for the female. And from this assumption, you go on to say that the solution is not to become better lovers, but for the man to find a new warm female body to have access to, and for the woman, to add some low-level jealousy to her set of feelings regarding her spouse.
      I thought you said both men and women have emotional AND sexual needs – your hypothesis doesn’t reflect that.
      Also, for those arguing about the legit nature of getting hitched to #2 for reasons of lust and sexual appetite, can you provide one example of this from the Sunnah – just ONE example where this was given as a solution to lack of sexual excitement in a marriage?

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        October 8, 2014 at 5:05 PM

        Not me :D!

        As mentioned, I do not not necessarily agree with the polygamy part (I explain in much more detail in a post below).

        But to be fair to Sister Olivia, she gave 3 different pieces of advice on marriage, of which 1/2 relates to polygamy…I think the other 2 1/2 pieces of advice could be useful in improving a marriage, including remove boredom from…keeping in mind that Sister Leila is also right, that ultimately, we need to look deeper.

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      October 7, 2014 at 4:15 PM

      what Hadiths talk about enjoying fulfilling sex life? not doubting there are but could you please supply them?

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        October 7, 2014 at 4:16 PM

        that question was for “Spirituality” who said: “there are far more hadiths about the Prophet (s) and how he and his wives (particularly Aisha) enjoyed a fulfilling sexual life than hadiths about the Prophet (s) enjoying decadent food.”

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        October 8, 2014 at 5:08 PM

        As Salamu Alaikum, Adnan,

        Here is a site about Islam and sexuality, which mentions some hadiths about how the Prophet (s) approached sex…there are others, but this is at least a start…

        The site is called ‘How to make love to your wife in Islam.’


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    October 7, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    look for variety not in another woman but in your own repertoire and way of conceptualizing intimacy. It CAN be spiritual. you CAN get better at it. It’s a skill, not a fruit and veggie – where variety is necessary…what men need to understand is that it is not variety of partner but improvement of process that they should be seeking. “By deepening the intimacy and heightening the erotic, we are capable of having sex that is far more than a physical joining of the genitals. We can have sex that takes us far above the physical rutting of animals, way up into the realm of the angels.
    […]you have to realise that it doesn’t just ‘happen’ (although plenty of people have experienced a glimpse of this possibility), just as blissful transcendent spiritual experiences rarely occur spontaneously. You have to cultivate deep sex.” – Jacqueline Hellyer

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    October 7, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    just want to make it clear: I am not against polygamy – that is for consenting adults to consider. Some people might find it works for them; Shakespeare said: nothing’s right or wrong, it’s only thinking makes it so. If you think/feel/consider polygamy to be normal, attractive, good for you, it can be. If you feel it is something strange and uncomfortable, then that is okay too. I think Islam gives us this – it does not encourage or discourage it. It recognizes its value when it is part of people’s custom (urf) – ie. where people think/feel it is normal. Where people feel uncomfortable about it, Islam respects that too and asks men to not introduce it into their married lives when the woman will feel sad/stressed/negative about it. That’s it that’s all. So for those who are monogomous, for those who don’t find polygamy part of their custom – either they can “rethink” and try to gain a new appreciation for it, or they really need to discovery the mutlitide of other ways to healthily and monogomaously and spiritually solve their marital/life/sexual issues. There are MANY ways.

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      M. Mahmud

      October 8, 2014 at 1:59 AM

      “Shakespeare said: nothing’s right or wrong, it’s only thinking makes it so.”

      That’s not true. Allah and His Messenger made clear right from wrong like night is clear from day.

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        October 9, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        try to understand what was being said. no one is saying that we don’t respect and follow what Allah and His Messenger told us was right and wrong, and obey. But when it comes to polygyny, it is a matter of how one “thinks” of it – ie. whether one should go for it/intro it to one’s spouse all depends on how that first wife thinks of it: in other words, her 3urf (custom – what she is used to – what she finds ‘normal’). Sr. Olivia is trying to get us to consider this practice by “rethinking” about it – even when it is not our custom – to consider introducing it into our way of life here and now, as a possible solution for boredom – which again, based on one’s thinking – may or may not be a “problem” in a marriage. some people like boredom in one area cuz it lets them take risks in a new area of life as I think some readers have already touched on. It’s all about how u think of things…and I’ll add: that includes sex. the biggest sexual organ, folks, is the brain. google that and you’ll find a lot of help.

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    October 7, 2014 at 11:54 PM

    Everyone is really firing off on all cylinders on what I said about polygamy, so rather than go comment by comment it is easier inshallah if I just take a minute to answer/clarify in one response:

    Firstly, I am not advocating that people pursue polygamy for a sexual escapade, men or couples. I actually mention that I think this often spells disaster, because it leaves the first wife feeling betrayed and anguished. It is a very selfish way to get some “ting” on the part of a husband. If one will note I advocated authenticity and ting within monogamy as the default, but the reality is that some men have polygamy on their mind and are adamant about it, so I put this in there for them so they can, I hope, inshallah, take a better approach that does NOT destroy their first marriage. Unfortunately in our Muslim cultures we are taught that no woman can ever accept it or be happy with it, so really there’s no point in including her in the process and its better to just surprise her with it. I disagree with this, and I think given that some women can accept it or even find her own “ting” in that situation, or other benefits, I implore whoever is serious about it to take heed and make sure a wife is consenting, comfortable and confident with herself when doing it. It doesn’t matter what the man’s reason is, sexual or noble, that is essential to preserving the health of the marriage.

    Secondly, I want to point that polygamy as we *think* we know it, is hinged on two extremes: nobility/martyrdom/community service marriage (which we back-pat and “oo” and “ah” and are impressed with) or sneaky, halal “affair” husbands who are bored and tired with #1 and don’t want to put in the work to fix their first marriage and would rather find a new thing. I am not advocating either of these models, I think they are both unrealistic and/or unhealthy. It is not wise to pursue poly for solely religious reasons, because eventually your heart and your loins will remind you that marriage is not merely a spiritual endeavor, and likewise pursuing it for your loins alone is not wise because eventually it will erode the spiritual health of the marriage by causing injustice, allowing shaytan to attack on many fronts, and the general responsibilities and patience required of husbands and wives will break if not well fortified with the remembrance of Allah.

    I had hoped that rather seem like I am endorsing either one of these, I am pointing out a balanced path, but because this article is more focused on practical advice, perhaps it seemed like I was advocating pursuing it for sexual reasons. I am not.

    However, I think we are very uncomfortable with the idea of polygamy being livable, doable, and not either done by a noble, selfless couple we can applaud or a lousy, horndog man we can love to hate. I am pointing out that polygamy is meant to be a very human, normal experience in which everyone can benefit and that it is not a painful, jealous, soul-crushing experience for women if it is done right and well, like we see in the example of Rasoolullah. Read the stories of his wives and you will see human women with human emotions living normally and happily. Yes, he married widows and divorcees, but behind close doors they were husbands and wives and those titles of widow or divorcee didn’t matter; they had human hearts just like the rest of us. I think we need a better model that centers on both deen and dunya and acknowledges the emotions and intimate health of everyone involved, not just men, but that also requires people to hear that we have some misconceptions about polygamous women and their emotions and intimate well-being. We make a lot of assumptions based on how we would feel based on what we think it is like. It is not about simply learning to “cope”, though it can be if it is not done right. People are often surprised by how poly can make you love a spouse more deeply or make someone a better lover, and it is not all just about women competing. It is much deeper than that, but most of us aren’t ready to hear it, and really that’s not our fault; poly is done badly by most Muslims and disliked here in the west. Most of us cannot even fathom how polygamy and true love can work, we have been told for so long it is a “solution” to singlehood of women or sexual desires of men.

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      October 8, 2014 at 4:53 PM

      As Salamu Alaikum, Sr. Olivia,

      While I agree in principal that perhaps polygamous marriages could potentially be truly happy and sexually fulfilling for wives, I guess I just have not yet seen any examples of this regard: certainly all the polygamous marriages I have known of have been disasters. Thus, what I read is a theory – which not only sounds a bit strange, but for which I have not seen evidence (of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist…)

      But I can’t accept seerah as the evidence, because I interpret the seerah very differently than you have…I don’t think the wives of the Prophet (s) were necessarily happy with their situation. Rather, I think they put up with it, and for the most part, got along, because what other choice did they have other than not be married to the Prophet (s), the best of mankind? And for the most part, they were extremely pious women who knew how to behave.

      Although sometimes it got to be a bit much and human emotions and human behavior got through…And these behaviors (plotting against each other, angrily knocking over the bowl of another wife’s cooking, calling each other names such as ‘Jewess’ and insulting age and health status, trying to get Fatima (RA) to proposition the Prophet (s) to pay more attention to some wives versus others, etc) do not suggest a healthy ‘low level ting’ to me…rather, they suggest women who bravely tried to control their roiling emotions such as jealousy, but, understandably, at times failed, with painful consequences.

      Thus, the way I interpret the seerah, they would rather be in a polygamous marriage with the Prophet (s) than not be married to him at all, but, perhaps they would really have liked him for themselves alone.

      I think this is especially the case for Aisha…yes, she had friends amongst the wives, and ‘they formed teams’ etc – but a careful reading notes that she formed her friendships with the wives who were least likely to compete with her for the Prophet’s (s) love and affection…

      She seemed close to Sauda (RA), who was much older, I believe heavy set and not very beautiful. And also to Hafsa (RA), who although her age, was very argumentative.

      On the other hand, she had the most difficulty with Zainab (RA), and, even posthumously, Khadija (RA), both of whom the Prophet (s) loved most other than Aisha (RA).

      So, reading the Seerah, I do not get a rosy picture of polygamy at all…rather I get re-enforcement that its a very difficult situation for the women involved…

      …unless if one wife agrees to be ‘the less attractive, less loved one…’

      So, we go back to either the jerk male model of polygamy or the community service model of polygamy…and, the Prophet (s) seerah shows us the community service model of polygamy…

      • Avatar


        October 8, 2014 at 5:50 PM

        As a reward for the choice the Umm ul Momineen made, Allah SWT sent down an ayah forbidding him from marrying any more wives or replacing his existing wives with others. I think that ayah is in Surah Ahzab, cannot remember exactly.

      • Avatar


        October 8, 2014 at 7:44 PM

        Brilliant comment by “Spirituality”…
        I was going to make the same points, but no need as she covered everything I would have
        said. & “Moonsighter” also points out that the situation had gotten so bad at one point
        God actually sent down an ayah telling the wives that they could choose to hold themselves
        to a higher standard as the mothers of the believers or they could choose divorce & dunya.

        I would be surprised if even 1% of women in the world would choose polygamy if they had choice. 99% would institute clauses in nikah nama/aqd that prohibits it for the husband with sanction of divorce and full mahr payment. Have been studies done where polygamy is still more common…Saudi, UAE, Afghanistan, Yemen and results are not good: Vast overwhelming majority of the women report severe depression, anxiety, bitterness,etc. For vast majority, the “ting” is ting of depression, jealousy, constant anxiety, hatered, bitterness or even questioning God’s justice.

        In fairness to Sr. Olivia, she HAS pointed out numeorus times at this point, that she is not advocating it for all people everywhere and are many negative paradigms. The question I’d ask though is if it is something that should be suggested to a general audience of Muslims if we are
        in an environment/age when MOST Muslim men are doing it wrong, are doing it for lust, many women have no say in it and laws/social pressure create an environment of discrimination for
        Muslim women? Perhaps this is an advice that should be saved for particular Muslim men/couples on a need to know basis…not a general audience.

        Finally, I do have one question though: What Muslim community is this meant for?
        If it is meant for Western Muslims, I have serious reservations. It is illegal here. That creates a whole set of other problems. 2nd wife would not have her marriage recognized by the state and
        basically forfeit all her protections/rights and simply have to trust a Muslim man to do right…nowhere to turn to if he doesn’t choose to and need enforcement.

        Further, in the current climate of Islamophobia where it is trumpeted 24/7 that we Muslims
        have contempt for the West and will not obey it’s laws as good citizens, this is the LAST thing we
        need. Personally, would have ZERO sympathy for a Muslim man in the west who is arrested or
        attacked by media for doing this….throw the book at him…don’t care. As a community we are in a
        very precarious situation with things that are much bigger priorities. Polygamy is not a required mandate of Islam nor does breaking this law overturn any injustice inherent in the law…it is NOT permissible to break the law in this instance.

      • Avatar

        The Salafi Feminist

        October 8, 2014 at 10:37 PM

        If we wish to ‘interpret the seerah,’ we must be able to actually KNOW the seerah. There are numerous, numerous stories of how the wives of RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) loved each other deeply – even Zainab bint Jahsh and A’ishah (radhiAllahu anhumaa) who were rivals, spoke highly of each other and cared for each other deeply.
        Umm Habibah (radhiAllahu ‘anha) in fact wanted her own sister to be married to RasulAllah! And asked him to marry her, until he told her that it is haraam for a man to be married to two sisters at one time.

        Simply because you may not understand that polygamy can be (and is) a positive experience for some women (I would say, many women – you simply don’t know about them), doesn’t mean that it isn’t. In different parts of the world, whether it be Arabia or Africa or Europe, there are women who freely choose polygamy for themselves and love it for themselves. The fact that other women have not chosen it for themselves, does not negate the reality of those who do.

        And yes, I am a polygamous wife who loves my co-wife deeply and would never have my life or my marriage any other way, wa’l hamdulillah.

      • Avatar


        October 11, 2014 at 7:58 AM

        My thoughts exactly Spiritually! We are blessed to have so much information from the Seerah. I cannot imagine our children feeling comfortable with this type of household environment. You can get plenty of ting from your imagination..without the hassle.

  16. Avatar


    October 8, 2014 at 6:33 AM

    A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.

  17. Avatar


    October 8, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    Thank you Olivia for explaining more about the custom of polygamy. It is a custom that has been practiced in many human societies far before the revelation of Quran. It is not therefore an “Islamic” practice or “Islamic” imperative. Like slavery, it existed at the time of the revelation, but in a form that was overboard and excessive – a man could have unlimited number of wives. In fact, there were all kinds of relationships between men and women – including many types of adulterous relationships that were considered the norm. In all of this, the Prophet peace be upon him never engaged in any of those types of relations and when he peace be upon him did marry, it was not something he peace be upon him initiated, but something offered to him which he accepted, and it was a monogamous marriage that stayed that way. He peace be upon him never showed any indication of considering marrying another wife during his marriage to Lady Khadija (alayha assalam). When the Revelation came, it prohibited the majority of the types of men-women relations that were going on, though its prohibition of adultery and fornication. What remained was polygamy, and what Islam did with it was to strictly limit it. Polygamy was practiced for the establishment of family ties in a society in which this was the social order. If we look even at the marriage of Khalifa Umar to the daughter of Sidna Ali (radi Allahu anhum) we find that he clearly stated it was because he wanted to have another link to the Family of Rasool Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wasalam). In some parts of West Africa today, polygamy is practiced because the first marriage is entirely arranged and often the two partners are not well-matched, so the man seeks another wife. These are some of the reasons that polygamy is a social custom in history and in some parts of the world. Islam did not introduce it, anymore than we could say that Islam introduced slavery (not comparing the two in any other way other than to say that both were existing social practices that were relevant for their time but may not be relevant for every time and place). Islam, rather, regulated an existing practice. Therefore when people talk about wanting to revive polygamy or adopt polygamy in a situation in which it is not the social custom – like in North America, or in parts of North Africa, where it is really not part of the culture – then what you are talking about is adopting a custom from another culture/time period: one that is acceptable in Islam if done in an Islamic way, but is not an intrinsically Islamic practice. AS the author herself said: polygamy is not an act of worship – therefore it is clear that it is not a Sunnah (for a Sunnah is an act of worship) – it is just a type of marriage (a social custom that may or may not work and does not have an intrinsic link to Islam such that defending it is necessary). I don’t need to defend polygamy as part of Islam anymore than I need to defend slavery as part of Islam – because they are NOT parts of Islam. They have existed in human experience and still exist and may exist again in greater incidences, but they are not “Islamic” practices. Islam makes them human and decent and makes it possible to practice them without causing the harm that can be caused if they are practiced without conscience and in an unbridled fashion. Lastly, the issue that needs to be highlighted is that it’s not “a man’s right” to have more than one wife. It did not come as a “right” granted to men. It actually came as a limitation, and continues to fall under the fiqh regulations regarding “urf” or “custom” – under which rules in some situations it is not allowed to be practiced by the man (as another commentator has mentioned). A Muslim woman for whom polygamy is not part of her customs should not be living in fear that her husband will one day come to them expressing his desire for another wife and she will have to somehow find a way to make it make sense. it is enough, according to the fuqaha, that is it not part of her norms that he not even consider this matter.

    • Avatar


      October 11, 2014 at 4:38 PM

      Well, said. I also take issue when a man says it his is “right.” A right means you are guaranteed it by default and in the absence of it you are oppressed. The default is monogamy and it is the woman who has a right to remain unoppressed in her marriage by polygamy, thus the Quran warns against injustice and says if you fear it, only one. It is not man’s “right.”

  18. Avatar


    October 8, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    *through its prohibition of adultery and fornication.

  19. Avatar


    October 8, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    modern Christian thinkers and advisors on marriage are head-and-shoulders above where their Muslim counterparts are. instead of always comparing ourselves to cosmo magazine and secular society, we should compare ourselves to thinking, spiritual folk and see how they are confronting the challenges of marriage in this time in which we live: as well as: and finally: Blaine J. Fowers’s book called “Beyond the Myth of Marital Happiness” = all of these three sources reflect on the idea that the kind of “farah” or temporal happiness that is being sought by so many (Muslims) in their marriages is not what we should be looking for – but rather, true lasting happiness that is reached through moral refinement, and seeking opportunities, including learning to be content/patient with “boredom” and accepting of challenges, to improve our character and our relationship with God above all else. Why is it we have to look to other than Muslim to hear echoes of the Prophet peace be upon him; and when we listen or read the advice of actual Muslims, what we get is secularist ideals with a thin veneer of “muslimness” painted over them? where is the spiritual, moral, driving force that should be present in our discourse?

  20. Avatar


    October 8, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    There are a few things that I don’t exactly agree with, but I do appreciate your willingness to write on a different perspective when it comes to marriage. It was a very interesting read, especially the ting factor. Being around a lot of scholars, as well as working at psychology center, I have heard a lot of marriage complaints. One of the biggest complaints from men is not getting their needs met, in particular when it comes to sex. Women also complain that their needs are not also being fulfilled sexually. I do believe that this needs to be talked about more, obviously in an appropriate manner.

    • Avatar


      October 8, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      There is an obvious ting factor that we cannot shy away from, especially when it comes to sexual relations. The fact of the matter is that we live in a Western society where sexual content is displayed everywhere. Now of course we need to lower our gazes, however, there are times where our gazes do slip. We see some things that we shouldn’t, and we start fantasizing about what we would like. A big problem is that it is taboo in Desi society to talk about sex. We start to get uncomfortable and shy away from this topic. We all are thinking about it, but don’t verbalize it. Couples need to verbalize to each other what they would like from each other.

    • Avatar


      October 8, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      I have heard of many married people watching porn or engaging in extra marital affairs because they are not getting their sexual needs met. A lot of times, one of the spouses will refuse to try different sexual positions to spice up their bedroom life. This makes it very boring for the other spouse, and they are not able to enjoy as much. They then look for that ting factor from somewhere else. I am not saying that this is correct, but it is a reality of what just happens. Therefore, couples need to be willing to help their spouses out. Try new things, have fun with each other. As long as they are not doing anything wrong, enjoy. A lack of satisfaction in the bedroom can lead to many problems. This will lead to infidelity or masturbation.

    • Avatar


      October 8, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      I urge people to read this book called Islamic Guide to Sexual Relations by Mufti Muhammad Ibn Adam Al-Kawthari.
      Also please forgive me if I was very blunt with comment, and if it wasn’t as appropriately worded as it should be.

      To the author: Thank you for starting this discussion. I personally am thinking of specializing in Family Therapy, but was also thinking about Sex Therapy due to a lot of people complaining about this ting factor. However, I need to consult with some Ulema before doing so.

      *** Again it kept saying my post was too spammy. That is why I had to break it up into so many posts.

      • Avatar


        October 9, 2014 at 9:00 AM

        If you stop seeing sex as a way to get your needs fulfilled and rather start to see it as a union of energy-sharing and love exchanging and caring for one another and witnessing the miracle of two humans coming together in a way only God could have offered us, then you will have an entirely different experience for which porn or an affair would never be a viable alternative. the fact that people turn to porn as an outlet if things are not working in the marriage shows that their very view of sex the whole time was just as sex is presented in porn – something to consume, not something to participate in and *give* to the other and create a new energy that is a mix of the two people’s energies. I really think what is unIslamic in the extreme is the ignorant and despiritualized attitude we condone when it comes to intimacy and human lovemaking. And I believe it is a real departure from what was meant for us as Muslims.

  21. Avatar


    October 8, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum, Adnan,

    Here is a site about Islam and sexuality, which mentions some hadiths about how the Prophet (s) approached sex…there are others, but this is at least a start…

    The site is called ‘How to make love to your wife in Islam.’


  22. Avatar


    October 8, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    This was a fatwa from Darul Uloom Deoband on polygamy some years ago.

    Question: 38097 India

    I am married since last 9 years and have 2 children. During my college days I had one way love on a Muslim girl but she did not accept it then. But today after so many years she is not getting married due to some problem with her hair, she has lost 2-3 inches hairs from front and due to which she is not getting married and now we are again in contact and again I gave her my proposal for marriage and she accepted it and now we are planning to get married, she has no problem of me married, also she knows that I have 2 children and then also she is ready. So please advice me whether it will be good for me to marry second time?

    Answer: 38097 Apr 10,2012

    (Fatwa: 776/655/B=1433)

    According to Shariah, it is lawful to keep two wives at the same time but it is not generally acceptable in Indian custom. Here in India it is like to invite hundreds of problems to keep two wives. Moreover, the husband generally cannot maintain justice and equality between two wives. Hence it is better to have only one wife as the Quran said:

    فان لمَ تَعْدِلُواْ فَوَاحِدَةً

    You should discard the idea of second marriage; otherwise you would feel sorry later.

    Allah (Subhana Wa Ta’ala) knows Best

    Darul Ifta,
    Darul Uloom Deoband

    It is also the position of the Shafii and Hanbali schools of Islamic thought that it is best and also sunnah to restrict oneself to only one wife.

    The reasoning their scholars provided for that is that injustice between two wives is haram, therefore it is better to avoid the risk of committing injustice in polygamy by avoiding polygamy altogether, even if one believes that he can be equitable between two women.

    Here are some of the quotes from classical works of these scholars.

    Ash-Shaafi’i is of the view that it is desirable to confine oneself to marrying only one although it is permissible for him to marry more than one. This is to avoid being unfair by being more inclined to some of them than others, or being unable to financially support them. [al-Hawi al-Kabir 11/417]

    Ash-Shirbeeni from the Shaafi’i School of jurisprudence, said in Mughni al-Muhtaj 4/207: “It is a Sunnah not to marry more than one wife if there is no apparent need.” [End of quote]

    Moreover, Al-Maawardi, from the Shaafi’i School of jurisprudence, said: “Allaah has permitted a man to marry up to four wives, saying: {…two or three or four…}, but Allaah advised that it is desirable for man to marry only one wife, saying: {…But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one} [al-Hawi al-Kabir 11/417]

    Ibn Qudaamah may Allaah have mercy upon him from the Hanbali School of jurisprudence, said in Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer: [B]“It is more appropriate to marry only one wife. The author of Al-Muharrar [i.e. Abul Barakaat Al-Majd ibn Taymiyyah] said this, based on the saying of Allaah (which means) {…But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one}.” [End of quote from Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer authored by Shams-ud-deen Ibn Qudaamah]

    Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen may Allaah have mercy upon him said: “It is safer to restrict oneself to only one wife. However, if one sees that one wife is not enough for him and he cannot maintain his chastity by having only one wife, then we enjoin him to marry a second, a third, or a fourth, until he feels comfortable, lowers his gaze, and enjoys peace of mind.” [Excerpt from Ash-Sharh Al-Mumti’]

    Imam Ahmed ibn Naqib al Masri said ‘’It is fitter to confine oneself to just one’’ [Umdatu Salik]

    Imam Ghazali said in his kitab al nikah: “It does not call for two wives, [since] plurality may render life miserable and disrupt the affairs of the home.”

    Also 99.99% of polygamous marriages which I have known have been a brutal catastrophe, especially in the West. Men abuse this a lot, thus tarnishing this institution. Many wives and children, especially the first wife are abused in polygamous marriages and many are even abandoned for a second wife.

    This is the case with both practising Muslims -Salafis, who often dump their wives on welfare benefits- and non-practising Muslims-many of whom even have illegitimate relationships with women before marrying them.

    • Avatar

      The Salafi Feminist

      October 8, 2014 at 10:32 PM

      The sad fact is that we all know about the horror stories but know nothing about the MANY positive cases that have and do take place, may Allah protect them all.

      • Avatar

        Truth Champion

        October 10, 2014 at 5:39 AM

        I think moonsighter meant to say that the vast majority of polygamous marriages are shameful failures, hence our prominent ulemas dissuade us from the practice. The risk is always there. Prevention is better than treatment as the old adage goes.

  23. Avatar

    The Salafi Feminist

    October 8, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    Re: GC66

    Polygamy was not abrogated. It is halaal as long as all the required conditions were met. For the love of God, please learn something about the true naasikh and mansookh before trying to talk about abrogation!

    • Avatar


      October 10, 2014 at 7:15 AM

      Sister……read my comment again carefully.

      It says that some things were abrogated during his time and polygamy MAY have been one that slipped through the cracks,

      There are some scholars who believe that it may have been abrogated shortly after Muhammad(pbuh) departed this earth.
      There is no direct and clear evidence of this and thus no reason to ban it today.

      What is good for one culture and seems right to that culture is the opposite for another.

      What culture is right and what is wrong? Depends upon where you live.

      It is interesting that you choose “feminist” in your title but you are in a polygamous relationship.

      I am in a western country(obviously) and this is forbidden here by common law but it still does not stop some men from engaging in polygamy.


  24. Avatar

    Abu AbdirRahman

    October 9, 2014 at 3:33 AM

    I know of many cases in which multiple wives worked out fine, especially when the woman can’t have children.

    Many of the mashayakh we respect and benefit from here in the west have multiple wives. maybe they can shed some light on why they are married to multiple wives and are they just doing it for “community service” cuz they are so pious. pun intended.

    we r all human.

    • Avatar

      Truth Champion

      October 9, 2014 at 3:40 AM

      Maualan Ashraf Ali Thanvi had two wives. However anyone who has read his works on marriage will know that he vehemently discouraged polygyny.

  25. Avatar


    October 9, 2014 at 4:20 AM

    Woah. How did an article about improving your marriage turn into a fierce debate about the legitimacy of polygamy? The part about polygamy in the actual article is pretty minimal. In any event, why are people picking on sister Olivia because she said SOMETIMES polygamy can be good for everyone in a marriage? I personally cant envisage being on a polygamous marraige BUT i accept there are some (even if only 1%) who are happy with being in one. I refuse to be so condescending as to feel sorry for them if theyre happy.

    Absolutely nobody can say it is haram to marry more than one wife. We all know its halal so the issue is really about your opinion whether you think its a sunnah or not and whether you think it should still be practiced or not. If people have a different opinion to you, do like Elsa from Frozen and let it go. You are not going to suddenly change people’s mind about this.

    And here I am joining in the debate about polygamy. Awkward.

    • Avatar

      Truth Champion

      October 9, 2014 at 4:30 AM

      Marrying more than one is haram for those who cannot be equitable with more than one wife. That leaves room for debate on which category do nearly all men fit in? Just or unjust?

      • Avatar

        M. Mahmud

        October 9, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        ^ A man is commanded to be just between his wives. But even he can’t be perfect. That does not make marrying multiple wives haram for him.

        I agree with Muna. To each his own. It’s clearly halal and some will marry more than one and others will not.

        The article doesn’t seem to be about that.

      • Avatar

        Truth Champion

        October 11, 2014 at 3:02 AM

        @ M. Mahmud

        You seem to be giving 2nd marriage precedence before the requirement of justice. Allah has forbidden a man from marrying more than one if he even ‘fears’ not being just to the wives. The word used is ‘fear’. If he even fears injustice to more than one wife, its haram to do 2nd marriage.

      • Avatar

        M. Mahmud

        October 15, 2014 at 12:45 AM

        I am not denying the requirement of justice. You seem to be forgetting this ayah-

        وَلَن تَسْتَطِيعُوا أَن تَعْدِلُوا بَيْنَ النِّسَاءِ وَلَوْ حَرَصْتُمْ ۖ فَلَا تَمِيلُوا كُلَّ الْمَيْلِ فَتَذَرُوهَا كَالْمُعَلَّقَةِ ۚ وَإِن تُصْلِحُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا
        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.

        Yes Allah said to be just. Yet he also said we won’t be able to be fully just. Still, polygyny is halal. A Muslim man knows he won’t be able to be completely just between wives because he believes in the ayah above. Yet polygyny is still halal-he must try his best.

        Did you think of the above ayah before responding to me?

      • Avatar

        Truth Champion

        October 16, 2014 at 12:32 AM

        @M. Mahmud

        That is a strawman because that ayah you quoted is talking about emotional justice, whereas I am talking about material justice. I meant that justice in the material sense is required before venturing into a second marriage, which means that the 2nd marriage remains haram for the one who even ‘fears’ he will not be just materially :)

  26. Avatar

    Abu Milk Sheikh

    October 9, 2014 at 8:52 AM

    1) The argument that polygyny is against the law in the West is a red herring. A nikah is not recognised by the state. To the state, it is the same as the man having a wife and a mistress(es) – which is currently only illegal in 29 of 50 States in America and not illegal at all in Europe, as examples. As for legal recourse, Muslim communities in the West have access to judgement by the Shari’ah internally and in any case are answerable before Allah for ruling by other than what Allah revealed.

    2) The resulting discussion in the comments is an argument for the superiority of letting fiqh guide our actions. The spirit of the law is achieved through implementing its letter.

    First, these attempts at analysis of Seerah are unqualified and operate on the assumption that the jurists somehow didn’t understand the Seerah when developing rulings, and that we need to go back into the Seerah to do our own Ijtihad.

    Second, everyone is using their own subjective readings into the lives of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, his family and companions رضي الله عنهم أجمعين, speculating about their motivations and the Divine reasoning behind their behavior and Allah’s Shariah.

    Third, people speak about these blessed figures casually in manner not befitting their virtue and status. Some of the comments are downright disrespectful. What for? To prove that ‘my conjecture on the Seerah is more correct than yours’?

    Fourth, one can claim when speculating on Seerah that one isn’t’ deriving rulings’ or saying ‘this is halal & this is haram’, but whether or not you use the specific words is irrelevant – the reality is that one is deriving/issuing rulings. If one is unqualified to do so, one is speaking about Allah without knowledge and this is a major sin according to Al-A’raaf 7:33 (Ibn Qayyim comments on this verse and says that speaking about Allah without knowledge is worse than shirk.)

    Allah knows best.

    • Avatar


      October 10, 2014 at 9:15 AM

      “The argument that polygyny is against the law in the West is a red herring. A nikah is not recognised by the state. To the state, it is the same as the man having a wife and a mistress(es) – which is currently only illegal in 29 of 50 States in America and not illegal at all in Europe, as examples.”

      This is a straw man argument.
      No one is claiming nikah is or is not recognized by the state. The question is whether or not because nikah is not recognized, if a 2nd, 3rd of 4th wife has recourse to action since the state only registers one marriage. It is therefore related to the question of legal recourse, which is relevant and not a red herring.

      “As for legal recourse, Muslim communities in the West have access to judgement by the Shari’ah internally”

      Really?…and if the man still refuses to comply who are they going to call? Batman? Remember we’re working outside the law here.

      ” in any case are answerable before Allah for ruling by other than what Allah revealed.”

      Yes…in the akhirah. And what is your solution for the destitute women in this life? I’m sure the tax payers
      of Europe and America are curious. This type of nonsense among certain “Salafis” on the East Coast has led
      to the embarrassment of fatherless children, welfare lines, welfare scams and made of a mockery of Islamic
      law. Great solutions and assurances! I’m sure the majority of Muslim women can’t wait to sign up for this!

      • Avatar

        Abu Milk Sheikh

        October 12, 2014 at 2:12 AM

        Its’ better if you don’t use a mocking tone in this issue because we are speaking about Allah’s Deen.

        You mentioned two issues – “it’s illegal and Muslims should obey the law of the land” and “the marriage is not recognized so there’s no legal recourse.”

        The former is fallacious. Muslims in polygynous marriages in the West haven’t broken the law (except in 21 states in the U.S.) unless they register more than one marriage. They obviously don’t do so, because they are law-abiding citizens!

        Rather, their arrangement is perfectly legal because most Muslims in the West live in states that have no legal issue with a married man having mistresses. There is arguably no moral issue with polygyny either because these societies have polyamory, swinging, hooking up and various other forms of degenerate sexual deviance that is becoming increasingly prevalent and socially acceptable. From a secular perspective, anyone of them who claims that polygyny is unacceptable, legally or morally, is a hypocrite. Alhamdulillah who guided us to a Deen that doesn’t have any inconsistencies or injustice.

        I submit that you don’t understand the concept of Muslims “obeying the law of the land.”

        It’s ‘ajeeb that it’s acceptable, even promoted, for married men/women to be philandering adulterers/adulteresses but the minute you start talking about marrying more than one woman and entering into a binding social/legal contract with them, everyone sensibilities are offended. Worse than that are the spurious objections of Believers in the Deen of Allah and followers of the Sunnah of His Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم.

        As for the latter, the Muslim woman is fully aware of what she is getting into. She is not compelled to accept such an arrangement. The marriage contract can have clauses to safeguard her interests. None of the parties involved are compelled to enter into this arrangement – the first wife herself has every right shar’an to divorce if she doesn’t accept her husband taking another wife- it doesn’t even have to be stipulated in her marriage contract. The ‘urf acts as an unwritten clause and is just as binding as if written!

        In addition to this, ultimately the only valid legal recourse is what is permissible in the Shari’ah and the only rights we have in such situations are what the Shari’ah gives us – even if/when we resort to a Western Court of Law for resolution. The verses about judging/ruling by other than what Allah revealed apply here. It’s an issue of ‘Aqeedah and one could possibly nullify one’s Islam if one insists on the laws of Kufr over the laws of Islam. “I want half of everything” can be kufr.

        Finally, with all that said according to the Shafi’is and Hanbalis the ruling is that monogamy (i.e. restricting oneself to one wife) is mustahabb and polygyny is mubah (i.e. it’s ruling will vary depending on the niyyah and situation.) I don’t know what the Hanafis and Malikis say. The matter is for the Ulema to deal with on a case-by-case basis. This ruling saves everyone a lot of wasted time and effort.

        Allah knows best.

      • Avatar


        October 13, 2014 at 4:07 PM

        “I submit that you don’t understand the concept of Muslims “obeying the law of the land.”

        I submit that you are separating two related issues:

        Without a legally recognized marriage, ie. registered…2nd, 3rd and 4th wife cannot
        procure ENFORCEMENT of any judgement, whether by court of the land or
        by Shariah shadow court. In essence, they would be left NO recourse if man
        chooses not to comply with shariah or the law of the land. It is EXACTLY like
        having a mistress, gf, etc. thus negates the benefits of marriage….exactly why
        homosexuals are fighting for those things. You are basically telling women to
        just trust Muslim men to live up to the law…and looking at how most Muslim men
        are already treating this issue is a BAD idea.

    • Avatar


      October 13, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      Abu Milk Sheikh what do you mean by this? Please clarify what you mean here and if possible then by reference to a scholar or person of knowledge. Jazakallah.

      ”the first wife herself has every right shar’an to divorce if she doesn’t accept her husband taking another wife- it doesn’t even have to be stipulated in her marriage contract. The ‘urf acts as an unwritten clause and is just as binding as if written!”

    • Avatar


      October 14, 2014 at 1:39 AM

      Abu Milk Sheikh please clarify what you mean here with reference to the ulema if possible.

      ”the first wife herself has every right shar’an to divorce if she doesn’t accept her husband taking another wife- it doesn’t even have to be stipulated in her marriage contract. The ‘urf acts as an unwritten clause and is just as binding as if written!”

  27. Avatar


    October 9, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    While it may be true that we cannot pin down what the intention of a person in taking part in polygamy should be, we must acknowledge that each period of time and social context has unique factors that would come into play when it comes to polygamy. (While monogamy and the reasons a man marries the first time may be quite constant over the ages.) At the time of the Companions, peace be upon them, women were considered to need the social and economic support of men – it was not common and perhaps not considered positive for a single woman to live alone and pursue the pursuits of society alone. This came into play when we consider the institution of polygamy and the role it played, as well as the possible motivations for it. Today, being a single woman is not the same as it would have been then. Thus today, men looking to marry again are not seeing a second wife foremost as someone they will support financially, give a social place and family safety to, etc – but rather they are seeing her as a source of sex. You cannot deny that our current environment is affecting the way we see and do things; but at least acknowledge that you should not *project* this way of seeing things back onto the Companions may God be most Pleased with them!

  28. Avatar


    October 9, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    Another big difference is that in the past, in Muslim culture, it was not seen as a woman’s responsibilty to provide sexual satisfaction. The man was considered less of a man if he could not bring forth from a woman sexual pleasure for both him and her. (read Nefzaoui’s manual and you will find this attitude). Today, with porn and its popularization of oral sex practiced by woman for man, as well as cosmo and other magazines handing out tons of “advice” for woman on how to please her man, we have a reversal of the situation. Now Muslim men have absorbed this view and are exacerbating the problem by placing the full responsibilty for their sexual happiness on their wife, and even to the degree that they can look to another woman to sleep with, citing their “need” that is not being “fulfilled” by their first marriage. a man in the past would have been ashamed to admit he was such a lousy lover that he couldn’t bring forth pleasure – for him and her – in their intimate relation.

  29. Avatar


    October 9, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Even in Quran, women are described as “tilth” that the man should cultivate – if a man is not man enough to bring forth goodness from his field…it’s his own lack of skill (and note that the fruit of that field is not babies – because in Islam the purpose of lovemaking is not just to have babies, but to share pleasure in love). don’t go jumping to the next field or you will quickly realize that “grass is greener” indeed – and that the problem lies in you. I would ask those who counsel muslims to realize that Imam al Ghazali mentioned that over appetite in sex is a disease. And if a man just wants the novelty of newness, and cannot find pleasure in deepening what he has, it is a problem inside him.

  30. Avatar


    October 9, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    sexuality is fine just as likign food is fine but gluttony is not okay, just as lust is not okay. each one must hold himself to account, and here is more on that from Imam al Ghazali:
    It’s all about the taqwa people, not just what is “halal” – Please see this short vid on why the Prophet salAllahualayhi wasalam did not marry from the Ansaar: it’s not enough to say: “it’s halal” to make it the right thing to do. Sharia is not enough to live by –you are supposed to have taqwa and follow all the rest of the deen too which emphasises over and over that you have to have rifk – kindness and goodness – ihsaan in what you do and NOT HURT ANYONE especially someone like your own wife.

  31. Avatar


    October 9, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    would like to share this with you all:
    and the whole site is a great one for discovering what intimacy COULD be, and also healing from the affects of porn and other sexual excessiveness.

  32. Avatar

    Elizabeth Lymer

    October 9, 2014 at 6:17 PM

    Jazakillahkhayr for this article, Olivia. I found it very thought provoking masha’Allah and your invitations to laugh out loud with you were warm — and welcome — invitations to go beyond my comfort zone and think over the perspectives you shared.

  33. Avatar


    October 9, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    salam everyone,
    once I was in a class and a scholar was explaining about homosexuality and talking about how it is the result of people getting into a state of wanting something different and novel all the time, and not being able to be contented (satisfied) with what they have, instead being in the habit of always looking for a new thrill, until they got led to haram upon haram. And the scholar offered the example of certain Asian countries where they became so much into looking for interesting foods and always wanting the exotic until it led them to eat monkey brains and snakes. This instatiable appetite for what is “new” can be a problem and should not be facilitated but should be seen for what it is: a tendency that could lead to greater dissatisfaction than ever.

  34. WAJiD


    October 10, 2014 at 2:30 AM

    Salaam alaikum,

    I don’t know how I missed this, but it is one of the best marriage articles I have read in a long time.

    Should be shared more widely.

  35. Avatar


    October 10, 2014 at 7:33 AM

    thank you for this interesting discussion Olivia. A challenge that most couples are not taking up – and that relates to making our intimate lives happier and more fulfilling – is one that the Prophet SAW gave to men: to make sure men gain control of their bodies’ physical repsonse to make it in time with a woman’s – which is usually slower. the ideal is for the man to either satsify her before himself, or for them to reach climax at the same time. “Once the husband has attained his fulfillment, let him tarry until his wife also attains hers. Difference in the nature of [their] reaching a climax causes discord whenever the husband ejaculates first. Congruence in attaining a climax is more gratifying to her be­cause the man is not preoccupied with his own pleasure, but rather with hers; for it is likely that the woman might be shy.” (Imam al Ghazali) Most men, muslim included, ignore this and don’t even try for it. but it IS advice from the Prophet SAW himself – numerous hadith mention it and how to get a woman going so she can be synchronized with the man. It’s not easy for a man to have control over his climaxing – most men “just do it.” And there is no proper sex ed to teach them otherwise!
    for a couple to be in harmony and firing at the same speed, they need to put in effort. this is an act of worship becuase you are following the advice of the Prophet SAW. “Now, it is fairly easy for a woman to satisfy a man and make herself available to him, even if she is not really in the mood. It is far harder for a man to satisfy a woman if he is not in the mood, and this is where an important aspect of male responsibility needs to be brought to every Muslim man’s attention, and stressed strongly.” (Ruqayya Waris Maqsood).

  36. Avatar


    October 10, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    LOL, I love this comments section. The overwhelming majority of the article is about monogamy and mentions something about polygamy, but the overwhelming majority of the discussion is about polygamy and the usual responses provided by Muslim leaders to duck and dodge questions about the practice.

    For those stating the Prophet (SAW) married multiple wives because he was required to, or because there was revelation telling him to, are you saying that he married Sawdah (a woman his age) after Khadijah because he wanted to, but then only married Aisha after her because of the revelation (yes, there was revelation), and that he didn’t love her? He openly stated this woman, whom he was required to marry, was his most beloved. And she loved him back – fiercely.

    What revelation required him to marry Umm Salamah? What “pressing need” – that she was a widow and needed financial support? She was already proposed to by multiple men, including Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. She turned them down, and even hesitated on marrying the Prophet (SAW) and did not at that time understand how she would fall in love with the Prophet (SAW) after loving Abu Salamah so dearly. Yet he proposed with no revelation driving it, she married him of her own volition, and loved him truly in her heart even more than Abu Salamah, and he loved her back, as well as ‘Aisha and the others.

    These were not arranged marriages done for functional purposes alone. They didn’t just “put up with it” because he was the Prophet (SAW), and what choice did they have (a very nonsensical and dangerous line of thinking). These were real marriages. The Prophet (SAW) wasn’t the only one who married in multiples. Many of the Companions did so as well, and scholars of our faith, both in the past as well as the present. Prophet Ibrahim himself had two wives, and if you didn’t notice, the actions of the second wife and, as well as Ibrahim with her son figure prominently into the Hajj that just passed.

    There is a fine line between not liking something for yourself, which is allowed, and saying it’s not part of the faith, or make up reasons for why its practice is abrogated and outlawed. During the time of the Prophet (SAW) himself, he asked ‘Ali not to take another wife while married to Fatimah as she wouldn’t handle that well. It’s important to point out that even in that context, where apparently there was a shortage of men vs women because of war (Muslim countries aren’t at war now?), that preference to not like it could exist and someone could marry with that in mind. The point is, not liking polygamy, even in that context where it was prevalent, is not unknown and is perfectly normal. It’s in fact expected. And that’s ok.

    But to say it’s not allowed, abrogated, or done for functional / sacrificial reasons alone, either historically or from a fiqh point of view? That’s wildly inaccurate.

    • Avatar

      Truth Champion

      October 10, 2014 at 5:52 PM

      I actually really like this comment. Its very accurate. I for one find the whole ‘widows/divorcees’ card in polygamy very annoying. I have noticed that when a sister says she wants to put a monogamy clause into the contract (as per Hanbali law), a lot of people criticise her for being ‘selfish’ and not wanting for her sister what she wants for herself. Everyone will tell her about all the potential poor sisters she is stopping her husband from helping. Like give me a break. The vast majority of 2nd marriages are not done to help anyone, rather they are done for desire, which is of course itself acceptable. I think it is incredibly shameful how people play the widows/divorcees card into guilt trapping the sisters for not wanting to share their husbands while at the same time when they are married and start looking for a second wife, they look for a beautiful young virgin usually.

      If anyone takes a precursory glance into Islamic history, especially medieval, they will notice that all those men who married twice or thrice married for mere desire. And women were also not far behind fulfilling their own ‘desires’ of wanting monogamy. For example in the medieval town of Kairouan the vast majority of women stipulated monogamy clauses into their marriage contracts, and almost a third of these women who made the monogamy stipulations were previously married and not virgin.

      So for them, it was really only a matter of who got their rights first, the men or the women. People in general did not have the community sacrificial mentality that is expected by some today.

      Men took what they wanted and women took what they wanted.

      On a related note, for those who have read the works of he scholars of the past, you will notice that a number of scholars described the first marriage as sunnah and a religious act, however according to them the 2nd, 3rd and 4th marriages were merely worldly acts and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th wives were considered ‘worldly accumulation’.

      And this is of course, unrelated to the whole topic of scholars discouraging polygyny on the basis of injustice by men to their wives being the general principle.

    • Avatar


      October 10, 2014 at 6:59 PM

      Eloquently put!

      As if polygamy is only there to relieve an impoversshed “muslimah in distress” through the means of a “charity marriage”. I mean what does that make her? Can there not be a ‘polymorphous’ set of reasons to enter into a marriage contract?

      I think people are reading the article like it is some kind of legal document rather than the smooth blend of social commentary, opinion and humour tinged from an Islamic purpose which it is meant to be. I guess this reflects our difficulty in understanding how to read different modes of text.

      • Avatar


        October 11, 2014 at 4:49 PM

        Yes, serious reading comprehension issues in our ummah, LOL :P

    • Avatar


      October 10, 2014 at 9:17 PM

      “These were not arranged marriages done for functional purposes alone. They didn’t just “put up with it” because he was the Prophet (SAW), and what choice did they have (a very nonsensical and dangerous line of thinking). These were real marriages. The Prophet (SAW) wasn’t the only one who married in multiples. Many of the Companions did so as well, and scholars of our faith, both in the past as well as the present. Prophet Ibrahim himself had two wives, and if you didn’t notice, the actions of the second wife and, as well as Ibrahim with her son figure prominently into the Hajj that just passed.”

      Br. Siraj,

      I don’t think any of the commentators who make THIS point about polygamy were suggesting the marriages weren’t
      “real” or that the wives didn’t love the prophet or the sahaba. Is an over-simplification of the argument. The argument
      they are making is that despite the love, etc. these marriages did come with the baggage of very real tensions caused by jealousy, anxiety, competition and the like which are common to polygamous marriages, and that is undeniable. Absolutely cannot present this seerah in an
      idealized manner. If we’re gonna talk about the food fight, then absolutely also better talk about the real fight that only
      ended with revelation giving all of the wives what amounts to an ultimatum. Ibrahim(AS) example is actually another
      great example brother; according to the Jewish/Christian tradition 1st wife actually demanded the 2nd wife be abandoned or sent away…so the recognition of these realities are present in traditions related to but outside of our own as well.

      I agree with the rest of your comment. I don’t think anyone should conjecture about why people choose polygamy if it is a free choice, and don’t think anyone should conjecture that all of these marriages in seerah were done out of a sense of sacred duty towards widows, divorcees or orphans. Maybe some were, ,many weren’t. Also think that polygamy is a reality, sanctioned by Qur’an and cannot just be abrogated, wished away or banned. People who choose it should not be denigrated either.

      I would only add the addendum though that no woman can be forced into accepting it for herself. The onus should be on men to go find women who are willing, including wife #1. Women have every right to insert clauses banning it in
      their own marriages. Further, I absolutely hold onto to the idea that it is illegal in the West and not allowed. I will not accept anecdotal evidences of good cases. The fact is shariah cannot be applied piecemeal, especially in the case of
      legal-civil injunctions and given that the structures of law recognizing polygamy are NOT present in Western countries, it put’s women at risk. They have no avenue for legal redress and way, way, way, way too many Muslim men have abused this for Muslim women to just trust some brother to do right…and in current times when we are under the microscope I certainly don’t think it’s great PR either. Might as well hand it to Spencer, Maher and the rest with nice packaging and a big bow….and if someone chooses to flaunt the law and do it any way, I don’t even want to hear the word “Islamophobia” or for said man to made some cause celebre among Muslims.

      • Avatar


        October 11, 2014 at 4:52 PM

        Yes, you are right that polygamy has its competition and jealous moments. What I’m saying is, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This goes to a deeper discussion of having an “avoidant” approach to “negative” emotion versus say, having a “growing” approach to “uncomfortable” emotions. Here would be a discussion on how our society views things like love, jealousy, and insecurity. How we feel about things like personal growth. Buuuuuut that’s probably a tangent…

      • Avatar


        October 11, 2014 at 4:54 PM

        On legality, come to California, where Muslims are not the first nor the last stripe of “poly” people. What is illegal is having a marriage contract done in a Muslim country or having another one done here.

      • Avatar


        October 11, 2014 at 7:58 PM

        Sr. Olivia,

        As per “growing” or “negative” approaches, I think tons of empirical evidence falls
        on the side of these marriages being negative among Muslims. Again, I’m not
        going to denigrate the people who choose it freely, but I fully recognize and am aware
        that it will not work for most people and have negative consequences for most
        of them, especially the women. I also think every woman has a right to refuse, even
        the 1st wife, by inserting this into her marriage contract and if women in any Muslim
        society had free choice I guarantee you 99% would choose to do that. If men want
        this, let the onus be on them to find it. I think the Quran itself recognizes this
        and very, very strongly endorses monagamy….Heck, even math recognizes this
        and sex ratio of the world is 51/49, so polygamy cannot be a norm unless you want
        huge populations of Muslim men with no halaal access to women. See India and
        female infanticide for the results of that…

        Regarding legality/illegality…you left out the most relevant part of my point: I am
        not only talking about establishing multiple relationships with nikah w/o state
        involvement…but that because the state WILL NOT RECOGNIZE any marriage
        beyond the 1st a woman will not have LEGAL RECOURSE if the man does
        not fulfill marriage obligations financially or in case of divorce. The argument is two fold…so
        don’t need to come to California to see anything…Bigamy is very much illegal here
        in the technical sense….the law just can’t do anything about it unless it’s registered
        as you point out, so they expect people to follow the law in good faith…

      • Avatar


        October 13, 2014 at 5:05 AM

        Polygamy isn’t illegal, bigamy is illegal, Utah was the last state that recently struck down its cohabitation prohibition due to the Sister Wives case. Second wife has to weigh pros and cons of relationship, she’s a consenting adult at the end of the day, and can decide for herself what risks she’s willing to take.

      • Avatar


        October 13, 2014 at 4:14 PM

        Let’s not get caught up in semantics.
        …and I’m glad that we can agree it’s a risk considering
        the state will not consider 2nd-3rd married and no shariah court
        has the power to enforce anything here.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      October 11, 2014 at 4:30 AM

      JazakAllahu Khairin

      *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

    • Avatar

      Marina Mirza

      October 11, 2014 at 2:08 PM

      great points. no one is saying one must marry a woman to support her only – but you missed a very salient point. The CONTEXT at that time affected what polygamy meant. A wife – what did she represent, what did a marriage ENTAIL in those societies? support was part of the package – financial, familial, even spiritual. A woman was considered the amana of the husband – a sacred trust and he was head of the household and responsible for her wellbeing including spriitual. This was so much a part of their culture at the time that they did not even have to articulate it in an overt intention. Today, what does a woman mean to most men? sex. a way to satiate desire – this is what I’m hearing from so many of the commentators here. It is THIS which we have to examine then. Is this valid? or is it a form of gluttony that strips marriage of its higher purpose and makes it far from the way the Sahabas practiced it – so that instead of being an imitation of their practice, it is an imitation of the modern practices such as adultery and pornography – just different in name but not in spirit. Spirit counts in this religion, people. it counts for a lot!

      • Avatar

        Abu Milk Sheikh

        October 12, 2014 at 2:40 AM

        A wife was the amana of the husband back then but isn’t now?

        Entering into nikah with more than one woman- prescribed by Allah from above the seven Heavens and practiced by the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم- is an imitation of adultery and pornography?

        The verse on polygyny says “marry of those women THAT PLEASE YOU, two three or four…” This is not to deny that polygyny can and does have a higher purpose, but that the ayah explicitly mentions the disposition of the man towards them – which can include sexual desire, chivalry or other feelings. So the ayah is approving of marrying for sexual desire – and this is one of the instances where the ruling on polygyny can possibly change from mubah to WAJIB.

    • Avatar

      Marina Mirza

      October 11, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      why are you so opposed to the idea that Rasul Allah peace be upon him had altruistic intentions and spiritual intentions in ALL that he peace be upon him did. I don’t really know what you are trying to say/prove in what you say regarding the marriage of the Prophet peace be upon him to Lady Um Salamah radi Allaahu anhaa. ? you ought to know that the Prophet peace be upon him, indeed yes he loved people, but he loved Allah more to the degree that he was waiting for his time to go from this world – however he always appreciated and loved the human beings in a way that made them all feel good. His Khalil – as he peace be upon him said, when given the choice between staying in this life and going, was Allah. You cannot begin to imagine this – none of us can – but I think it puts all his actions, especially his marriages, in a new light. He peace be upon him was not acting as other men acted – on the same basis or with the same intentions. He was not marrying women for his nafs. You need to really consider this. He peace be upon him was a man with a mission and a man who already had a Beloved with Whom no one could compete. Please keep this in mind whenever you discuss the Prophet peace be upon him and realize that he had the noblest and most non-personal intentions of any human who has ever lived.

      • Avatar


        October 11, 2014 at 4:58 PM

        No one is saying the Prophet (S) didnt have altruistic motives. No one is advocating that it be done to satisfy sexual desire. But if a man wanted to marry another woman let’s say, out of love, he could do so even if she was a hot virgin. Let’s always hope love in and of itself has altruistic motives ;)

      • Avatar

        Truth Champion

        October 12, 2014 at 12:12 AM


        Yes he can remarry even for mere desire. :D

        As a sidenote, as a brother (and maybe even as a (future) father), I would seriously disallow that for my daughters and sisters. I personally don’t know any man who would allow his daughter or sister to become a second wife. In fact I was reading a news article about polyygyny in Afghanistan and a man with two wives was asked if he would accept his daughter’s marriage to a married man…and he said no. :(

        All men understand each other :)

        Scholars of the past write, as I previously mentioned, that the first marriage is sunnah and a religious act whereas the 2nd, 3rd and 4th marriages are all (halal) worldly acts and that the 2nd and subsequent wives are merely objects of worldly accummulation whereas the first wife is for the deen by default as a general principle. The only way for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th wife to be for the deen is if the husband had SOLELY altruistic intentions for more than one marriage, otherwise they are accumulation of dunya as a general principle.

        Few men would allow their daughters and sisters be part of a man’s halal yet lustful (or lovey dovey) worldly collection.

      • Avatar


        October 13, 2014 at 5:20 AM

        Sister, the point is he didn’t marry them because it was a nice thing to do for the community. If that’s all that was needed, he could have set up a waqf for widows and divorcees and been done with it, there’s no need to marry them.

        To say that the Prophet (saw) didn’t have physical desire towards any of his wives makes no sense, as there is nothing inherently wrong with it provided it’s channeled into marriage.

        For anyone saying it was “just for community” or that the context was different, please bear in mind they were in a society where promiscuity was free and open. A woman could sleep with multiple men, gather them all, and then say so-and-so was the father among the bunch. If you make such an assertion, bring evidence that the Prophet (saws) said such, otherwise you’re simply back reading your own fears of criticism from a western audience that looks down on such practices.

      • Avatar


        October 13, 2014 at 5:31 AM

        Truth Champion, what’s the evidence provided they are considered worldly accumulation? Would you say Aisha (ra) was worldly accumulation for the Prophet (saw) since she followed Saudah? How about the rest of his wives? How about all the other sahabiyaat in polygyny?

    • Avatar

      Iman A.

      October 15, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      your way of writing about the marriage of the Prophet (SAW) to Ummina Umm Salamah (RA) is misleading. Just because there was no revelation that is in Quran related to it, does not mean it was not done with every intention to support those of his Ummah who were heartbroken. She loved her husband very much and had lost him – and only a proposal from the Prophet SAW would be something she would not/could not reject precisely BECAUSE it was seen by her (and by society) as more than just an offer of marriage (somehting she no longer felt she wanted) but an offer to BE with and be resurrected as the wife of the Messenger of God SAW. It was for this same reason that Ummina Sawdah wanted to stay married to the Prophet SAW even though she no longer wanted to have intimate relations – she still asked to stay married. It was an honor.

      • Avatar

        Iman A.

        October 15, 2014 at 3:57 PM

        here is a source:
        I also think you completely overlooked the delicate lessons and beautiful subtleties of God’s workings, that this beautiful marriage proposal story showed us: a)the loyalty that Ummina Umm Salamah had to her first husband – that only respect and awe for the Prophet SAW could be greater than; b) how the dua in which we meet a museeba (catastrophe) by asking Allah to replace us with what is lost by what is better – even when it felt to Ummina Umm Salamah that nothing could be better than her beloved Abu Salamah – CAN actually come true (because the Prophet SAW was better of course)! c) how a marriage is not about age d) how Ummina Umm Salamah was obedient to her husband even after his death, which led to her being married to the Best of all manking (Abu Salamah asked her to make dua to get what would be better than him upon her losing him in one narration); e) how Allah maintained the honor of Abu Salamah by not making it appear that Sadaatina Abu Bakr and Umar were “better” than him (since the dua is about giving Ummina Salamah what was better than what she lost – and Allah did not want to make the destiny show before Ummina Salamah’s eyes that her own husband was less than the great image she had of him – but of course, knowing he was less than the Prophet SAW is a given and takes nothing away from his honor – quite the contrary)f) how the Prophet SAW honored his Companions who passed away and those who received heavy blows g) how Ummina Salamah was a great choice as she would be an asset to the Message and its transmission. She was also the mother figure to Lady Fatima. You can see that she had a great God-given role to play that went far beyond the cursory description you have offered. I even heard a scholar say that she was basically the Journalist of her time – if not for her, we would not even have the text of Sidna Jaafar’s speech to the Najashi – no one else was aware as she was of the great significance of that, and she was awake and aware and memorized it word for word. thus she was definitely a contributor to the Dawah.

  37. Amad S

    Amad S

    October 11, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    good ole polygamy — great way to jumpstart any comment section…
    My next article will “letter to ISIS and polygamy”… :)

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      October 11, 2014 at 4:56 PM

      Yea, I gotta admit it, I like to start a ruckus.

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    October 11, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Guys, guys. No one is saying do poly for porno-type reasons or sexual escapades. Man. What i DID say (reading comprehension, everyone) is that if a guy is thinking about doing it for sexual reasons bc he’s looking for a ting, he had better make sure he has the right expectations of that lifestyle (no idealization0 and that his wife is on board otherwise everything is going to collapse.

    That being said but I’m sorry, polygamy isn’t all Hell and highwater. It’s not a medieval torture device. Jealousy and competition aren’t boogeymen, they’re two aspects of like a hundred human emotions and if you think they’re inherently bad, realize you’re own views about an emotion like jealousy are colored by your society, family, culture and probably choice of television and/or reading material as if your definition of love and marital happiness. And if you think being truly in love and romantic and all that and poly are mutually exclusive, you’re wrong again. Hasn’t anyone on here ever read The Wheel of Time? Rand al thor, Aviendha, Elayne, Min? Anyone??? LOL.

    Poly isn’t Islamic, its a lifestyle choice and it has been “Islamified” for us by the deen. But it can exist in all cultures for all sorts of different reasons, and unless those reasons go against the shariah for some reason, there’s nothing wrong with that. Interestingly, the vast majority of women I know in poly are middle class, educated converts, and they aren’t clueless women who were duped into it. Many of them want a close friendship with their cowives too, which goes against the eastern cultural norm of being “hands off”. I have a lot of different theories in my mind about this that I won’t go into here.

    I do think most stories we hear about are bad, and the men who go around marrying multiple wives when they’re on welfare already is shameful as are men who don’t focus on their current marriage and want revolving door wives for their sexual satisfaction. I wonder why we don’t hear the happy stories, maybe people feel shy to talk about it, maybe there’s too much hate for the idea of happy poly; it doesn’t sit well with us trying to pander to political correctness, it is a shameful thing in many cultures, and of course people have their own personal negative feelings and will project that onto even happy stories “Oh, I wonder what was actually wrong with her/them,” “I don’t care what they say, they can’t really be happy” or “I bet they’re just putting a good face on a bad situation.” My point is, even if people heard the good stories, would they believe them? If the example of the Rasoolullah is the only good one we want to believe, then that’s an issue because he was supposed to be an role model to the rest of humanity.

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      October 11, 2014 at 5:22 PM

      actually if a man is going to do it for ANY reason he had better check with wifey lol but lets be real most guys can’t have a decent conversation about poly with their wives.

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        Marina Mirza

        October 14, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        and I think we even need to go back one step further and ask: has something that was not that prominent as a focus in past centuries (sex) become far more accentuated and raised beyond the level of let’s say eating/sleeping (other basic human desires/needs) to the level of something that is incessantly on our minds and that we pay too much homage to – as if we want to prove to the world we are on the same raunchy bandwagon as them all. (‘hey, yah, I’m Muslim, but underneath this thowb I can still lust after “hot young virgins” (you lost me with that wording – I strongly believe muslims should not adopt the discredited language of a people who are totally excessive in their sexual behavior – we should be dignified in how we talk about other human beings) and talk dirty like the dirtiest of ’em – my religion lets me” – what’s behind this falling all over ourselves to prove that it’s okay to marry just for lust? is that really what we have to offer to people when we talk about relationships and marriage in Islam? and honestly, who wants that? yes, if you say that some convert women go for polygamy indeed it may be a result of them being more used to sharing their husband and sexual relations going on outside of monogamy.

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        Marina Mirza

        October 14, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        *more used to that, I say, because convert women are native to a society that does not look down on alternatives to monogamy, and they maybe the idea of sharing their husband may easily be relatable for them to other sexual arrangements of which they are familiar such as polyamory, swinging, and relatinships they have seen in the fantasy book series that Olivia referred to. Even the fact that they nickname it “poly” – which is the same nickname Non Muslims have for polyamory.

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      Marina Mirza

      October 14, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      the idea of marriage is not constant, it changes over time & based on the context/society. See “The History of Marriage” by Stephanie Coontz: Stephanie shows that back in the day, sexual desire for the future bride/groom did not play into a marriage proposal/decision at all.

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        Marina Mirza

        October 14, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        Polygamy likely carried an entirely different set of meanings at the time of the Sahabas than it did for later Muslim generations and than it did for other cultures with different social arrangements and attitudes towards women, and than it does for us. Polygamy, like everything else in the life of Rasool Allah peace be upon him, carried a much purer and higher and nobler meaning than it would have for anyone EVER – just like all his actions which were all for GOD ALONE. (and btw we can even see what the attitude of the Prophet peace be upon him was to the fulfilment of sexual desire: it is a sadaqa. why? not in and of itself – not because it is SO all-important – but because IF it is fulfilled in a haram way, it would be a sin. You can even see that it is being presented in positive insofar as it is NOT a negative, and not insofar as it is a goal in and of itself.REF:

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      Marina Mirza

      October 14, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      What I’m seeing from Olivia’s and other comments is that today polygamy can become a carrier for certain cultural ideas that we find appealing such as polyamory, relationships like those in fantasy novels like Wheel of Time; and in general, a real interest and heightened level of focus on sex and sexual gratification. Polygamy is just a vessel then – it does not carry its own particular intentions or values – but a culture will invest in it a set of hopes and desires and expectations and will repaint it to accommodate whatever it wants to accommodate. in this case, we need to be clear that what we seem to want to accommodate is today’s issues with being sexually placated/excited/entertained.

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        Marina Mirza

        October 14, 2014 at 1:17 PM

        BUT, while may want to argue that polygamy can be a successful manner in which to channel the sexual fires that our current context constantly stokes in us, we still have to ask: is this “culture” around us one that we accept? is it what we want to “work with”? just like we have to ask: is hijab just a form, and whatever substance there may be given the context, it is acceptable? Ie is hijab still hijab if women wear it to attract men? or has it lost its meaning? likewise, is polygamy still “Islamically acceptable” if it is being used as a channel to express what society is teaching us about sexuality – that we need variety, that we should concentrate on sexual gratification to the degree that one woman is not enough for us, that having multiple partners can be fun, that it’s okay to scope out women besides one’s wife – if so, it is a thin veil for a truly unIslamic type of behavior… if actions are but by intention, then what is our intention – for God or our passions/hawa nafs?? what is pleasing to God? does this action bring me closer to Him or farther? and is it worth the risk of coming to God with a face that is not able to look straight forward at Him (the punishment of a man who does not treat his wives equally).

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        Marina Mirza

        October 14, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…(it is intention that makes a deed what it is in God’s sight. and if our intentions are the same as Joe Blo, then our actions are just the same as his). A rose by any other name…

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    October 11, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    You mention “…hang out with different people. This keeps our marriage fresh. ” What if the different people are of the opposite gender ? or mixed groups of mahrams / non-mahrams. ? Does such form of hangouts lead to more harmony or doubt? Should their be some ground rules about who they can hang out with after marriage. My fiance has a lot of guy /girl-friends from high school. They are ‘just’ friends apparently. Also sometimes hangs out in mixed groups. And while I trust them, I just find this quite abnormal, and quite unislamic. Any advise on what type of conversation could take place to hang out and “keep things fresh” but halal.

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    October 14, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Nice efforts made to discuss the topic, but I always find it remarkable that the women endorsing polygamy are never in a polygamous marriage themselves. Is there an article on Muslim Matters about polygamy written by someone who is actually in a polygamous marriage?

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      Abu Milk Sheikh

      October 19, 2014 at 3:20 AM

      “Is there an article on Muslim Matters about polygamy written by someone who is actually in a polygamous marriage?”

      Yes. This one.

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        October 20, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        Really? That makes it a remarkable perspective, then.

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    Marina Mirza

    October 14, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    @Siraaj: you said earlier: “Please kindly provide some good authoritative references, jazaks =)” and I say the same to you. Provide some proof/references for your implying that Rasool Allah peace be upon him married his wives including Um Salamah for other than reasons to provide, support, honor, and bless them. Imam Anwar al Awlaki even says it was out of the feeling of being a Spiritual Elder that the Prophet peace be upon him married these women and out of a caretaker role, and says this with SPECIFIC reference to Um Salamah may Allah be Pleased with her. It is true that no one can fully grasp what the relations and attitudes between genders were at that time, but you absolutely must recognize when you cross a line in inferring to the Prophet peace be upon him a motive that you are projecting. btw this is what you said: “To say that the Prophet (saw) didn’t have physical desire towards any of his wives makes no sense, as there is nothing inherently wrong with it provided it’s channeled into marriage.” NO ONE SAID that Rasool Allah peace be upon him had no physical desire for his wives may God be well pleased with them – but it would have been AFTER marriage and this is key – absolutely key. And to also imply that it’s an either or situation: either marriage is the equivalent of a waqf or it is a way to express one’s sexual desire is totally wrong. We are talking about the Messenger of God peace be upon him – one who did not even have a need, let alone a desire, to do something as human as eating. He was fed by God. … please don’t project your human weaknesses and tendencies upon him peace be upon him. His marriages to his wives were not just the equivalent of a waqf, of course. Rather, they were a chance to honor these women, to allow a greater number of the Female Sahabas to benefit and grow from his personal love and care and become carriers of the traditions of his private home life which they all passed down to the next generations.

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      Siraaj Muhammad

      October 14, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      I assume that when the Aisha says the Prophet (SAW) was the walking Qur’an, and that when he marries a woman, he does so exemplifying love and mercy. The physical relationship is part of that love and mercy. There is no implication in my statement or others this is in the form of objectification, purely carnal, and nothing more. While he (SAW) fulfilled the other roles you mentioned, he also fulfilled the physical side of this. We are not simply spiritual beings at our highest level, nor are we simply physical beings at our lowest – we are best when we give ihsan to both, and THAT is what he exemplified.

      The problem we have today is that when individuals go for polygamy, it is automatically assumed they are operating at the lowest level – they are not the Prophet (SAW), therefore they should not or de facto cannot do it. The individual is guilty until proven innocent rather than the reverse. There are no conditions placed on individual either for monogamy or polygamy except what is contractually obligated. It boggles my mind that when scholars write a man should marry to fulfill his need and protect himself from temptation, no one bats an eye at the implication that a woman is nothing more than a vessel to protect oneself from falling into zina, nothing more. And then later it is assumed, well, what they meant was, this is one function, but what they are not negating the other aspects of marriage that come with the union.

      In no way is it implied that he (SAW) was simply driven by desire. At the same time, to say he was not attracted to his wives is an insult to the Mothers of the Believers themselves. Many of them were young and attractive, and Aisha (ra) was noted as jealous over a number of them, not just because they existed, and not just because of their deeds, but because of their looks. She was most jealous of Khadijah because of how much the Prophet (SAW) talked about her, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t jealous over the appearance of others, nor that the Prophet (SAW) did not want to marry a woman both because of her religiosity as well as her appearance.

      That is the default, and what is recommended by scholars as well. to say this was simply a caretaker, it was just spiritual, etc needs evidence. There is absolutely none. The default in marriage in all cases, the Prophets, the Companions, the scholars of the past is always one of mutual love, attractiveness, and religious character. When there are exceptions, they are noted. in the oft derided hadeeth on the recommendation of marrying a virgin from the Prophet (SAW), the Companion in question cites a different need for his family which was approved. In the case of Ibrahim, his wife Sarah gives him Hajar because of her inability to bear children (at that time). These occur, but when they occur, the reason for the occurrence is clearly noted.

      The Prophet (SAW) himself has told us to look at women for marriage as much as we need until we are convinced we wish to marry them. When a woman approached the Prophet (SAW) for marriage, he looked at her first, and when he decided he was not interested, HE LOOKED DOWN – he didn’t even ask her anything. he could have just married her for caretaker spiritual reasons, yet he did not (another companion asked to marry her and he was broke, and hte Prophet (SAW) found a way to make the marriage work through making the mahr the little Qur’an he had memorized).

      So now, I say to you and all others who have turned polygamy into a purely community service project, bring the evidence that this is what was intended and not back read potential benefits as operating reasons for why it occurred – prove it.

  42. Avatar

    Marina Mirza

    October 14, 2014 at 4:18 PM

  43. Avatar

    Marina Mirza

    October 14, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    @Siraaj: sorry, I disagree with you on this statement: “The default in marriage in all cases, the Prophets, the Companions, the scholars of the past is always one of mutual love, attractiveness, and religious character.” The Prophet peace be upon him clearly said to marry a woman for her religious practice (not character, but practice: ie, “deen”) or that one would regret it. And I just feel sad for you that you think that when the Prophet peace be upon him looked at that woman, he looked to see if she was attractive. We have shuyookh today, of much lesser spiritual enlightenment than the Prophet peace be upon him, who in looking at someone, can see into their intentions and heart and soul; and we have a LOT of proof in the Hadith that the Prophet peace be upon him when he looked at people looked with the light of God (more than one Hadith refer to this: When God loves you, He will be the Sight with which you see). Definitely the Prophet peace be upon him was able to see in this manner. Since the wording in the Hadith is open to interpretation, I have every right to interpret it that way based on what I do know of the Prophet peace be upon him and how he was much beyond our realm of dealings. And just because Lady Aisha was more at our level in her youth and got jealous for all the wrong reasons, doesn’t mean that she was at all an accurate interpreter of the actions and decisions of the Prophet peace be upon him – in fact many a time she was wrong in her assumption and he proved that to her – eg. when she wanted to refer to looks/age regarding herself vs. Lady Khadijah and the Prophet peace be upon him very clearly showed her: it’s not about age and looks. It’s about something much deeper.
    you have no proof of what you are saying; and given the fact that the Prophet was sent as nothing EXCEPT a Mercy to all the worlds, so this proves that all his actions were nothing but a mercy, and not about personal interest.

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      October 16, 2014 at 5:23 AM

      Sister, scholars can’t read intentions. The Prophet (saw) advised us to look at a woman as much as we need to to convince ourselves to we want to marry them, and he practiced what he preached.

      While I agree with you that the Prophet (saw) advised choosing someone for their religious practice as the highest priority, it was not said in a manner that implied you disregard attractiveness, it’s why he advised looking. What is meant and explained by scholars is that if a woman has no religious character but is attractive, or has wwealth or status, that’s a bad decision. But a person who you feel attraction to and they have religion, then yes, marry them.

      Also, please have a care for how you speak about the sahabiyaat, and the implications of your statements. You think she was rejected for defective character (problem #1), but it was OK to foist this person with defective character (a female companion) on someone else who was interested and not say to the man what the problem was (if there was one)?

      Finally, having a personal interest in something doesn’t mean you therefore have no mercy. The two are not mutually exclusive. I would imagine that many women would find it a blessing and mercy the a Prophet of Allah (swt) would love them and was attracted to them as well.

      • Avatar

        Marina Mirza

        October 16, 2014 at 8:15 AM

        wow! I NEVER said she had defective character. excuse me! don’t put words in my mouth. If you look at what was said above by IMan – actually quoted by her in the article about Umm al Mumineen Umm Salamah- it can be seen that the Messenger of God peace be upon him married for many reasons – not least of which because he wanted women who would be role models and transmitters of the faith, as well as be able to handle the life of being part of the mission – not an easy life. And so what I would imply is that the Prophet peace be upon him looked into this woman’s inner soul and saw that she was not a person for whom such a life would be easy/who had the capacity to manage it. I did not ever ever ever say she had a defect of character. every man who has an unusual life (eg. a shaykh, a daeee, a solider who is away most of the year, etc) would need to assess if the wife he is choosing has the wherewithal to live the kind of life he plans to lead. Waht I am saying is that the Prophet peace be upon him could do this assessment in one second if he peace be upon him could know that Fudaala wanted to kill him, wihtout Fudaala saying anything, and could heal him by a touch upon his heart, then he peace be upon him could definitely see more than we can see.

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        Iman A.

        October 16, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        I call a straw man. the original argument was not around being attracted vs. being merciful. Go back and read what is being said by multiple Muslims on this site.

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    October 15, 2014 at 3:03 AM

    Allah (SWT) says in al-Quran al-Kareem:

    “And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice” [al-Nisa’ 4:3]

    What is meant by the justice that is required (in ayah above) is that he should treat his wives equally in terms of spending, clothing, spending the night with them and other material things that are under his control. With regard to justice or fairness in terms of feelings and love, he is not held accountable for that, and that is not required of him because he has no control over that. This is proven when the Prophet (ﷺ) was asked, “Who is the most beloved person to you?” He said, ” `Aisha.’ …” [Sahih al-Bukhari 3662, Book 62, Hadith 14].

    This is what people get confused about when they read the ayat in the Quran:
    “You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire” [al-Nisa’ 4:129]

    First ayat is talking about material things and time (over which we have control). Second is talking about feelings and love (over which we have no control).

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      Abu Milk sheikh

      October 21, 2014 at 1:48 AM

      Dealing with the wives “justly,” as stipulated in the ayah, refers to the husband not oppressing any of his wives. It does not refer to across-the-board “equality.”

      Equality is only in dividing his time among them, i.e. each wife should get the same number of nights.

      In the Maliki madhab, wives are provided for according to their socioeconomic status, limited by the husband’s financial capability. A noblewoman is not provided for the same as a commoner. [Ref. Ath-Thamr Ad-Dani Sharh Risala Ibn Abi Zayd Al-Qayrawani]

      In ruling in the Hanafi madhab is the same as that of the Malikis. [Ref. Ibn Abideen’s Ar-Radd Al-Muhtar]

      In the Shafi’i madhab it is similar. A noblewoman is entitled to a servant, paid for by the husband, if she is accustomed to one, whereas a commoner is not. [Ref. An-Nawawi’s Minhaj At-Talibin]

      In the Hanbali madhab the husband it is not obligatory to spend on the wives equally, due to the difficulty that entails, as long as all the wives have what they need. [Ref. Ibn Qudamah’s Al-Mughni, Ibn Al-Qayyim’s Zaad Al-Ma’ad]

      Allah سبحانه و تعالى knows best.

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        October 22, 2014 at 1:46 AM

        Jazak’Allah khair for the clarification. Agreed.

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        Truth Champion

        October 22, 2014 at 6:00 PM

        Jazak’ allah khairan.

        Yet many people are unable to fulfil even the wife’s existing rights which you have mentioned above and cannot stay away from oppressing her!

        Scholars consider adl -justice- very difficult for men to maintain, hence many ulema encourage abstinence from second marriage and consider limitation to a single wife as the preferable lifestyle.

        As you said Hanbalis and shafies say that monogamy is generally mustahab [recommended]. They say its mustahab because adl in polygamy is generally difficult (a lot of Deobandi scholars like Mufti Shafi Usmani say this too, and hence discourage polygamy, but I am not sure of the actual Hanafi position).

        The only exception they make is for those whose chastity cannot be maintained with one woman.

        However note here that there is a difference between polygamy done for sexual ”desires” (in which case monogamy is still deemed preferable) and an actual sexual ”need” (which is when fear of zina predominates).

  45. Avatar


    October 15, 2014 at 6:59 AM

    quoting Siraaj: “The problem we have today is that when individuals go for polygamy, it is automatically assumed they are operating at the lowest level –” `
    but this idea came from Olivia; quoting Olivia: “Im not advising anyone pick up polygamy to add any ting, but the fact is that many men will go looking for it that way, “ and “The vast majority of MUSLIM men who practice polygamy do so for sexual excitement or because they want sexual variety. It very rarely is done for “spiritual” reasons.“

    Olivia’s comments are what gave readers the idea that men are operating at the lowest level. I agree that she should not have said ths. She provided no proof to back up her statements.

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      October 16, 2014 at 5:28 AM

      There’s a slight difference between what I said and what she said. I’m saying that for men who go for it, all are painted with the same brush, which shouldn’t be the case.

      What she’s saying is there are many who do it for these reasons. My comment is simply stating all people should be assumed innocent unless proven guilty. Her statement is many have been found guilty, though that doesn’t mean everyone is doing it with these reasons in mind.

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    October 15, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    hi, this has been an interesting read including the thoughts in the comments. I’m just wondering: isn’t your religion about being content with what you have in life, and not being greedy for more? and also, wanted to recomment to you all this book: “There’s a Spiritual Solution for Every Problem” by Wayne Dyer. I know that in every community there are issues, but not in every community is there the green light to induldge our passions. I have to say that while a lot of Muslims around me make a fuss about how wearing hijab protects a woman’s honor and makes men not look at her with lust, desire, passion, i’m seeing here that it’s not quite the case. men are allowed to “check her out” just as much as any regular guys do with women, and so what was all that about the hijab making a man look at a women for her inner beauty, not for her outer? i gues it was just nice words.

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    Marina Mirza

    October 16, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    It is you, Siraaj, who should be more careful in speaking about the Prophet of God. You speak at times in such a way as if you talk about a regular man. The way we do things may be halal to look at a woman and assess her attractiveness when meeting her for marriage. but it’s a big big big jump to assume that the Prophet of God, peace be upon him, different from us in the most essential of ways: ie. that he was more concerned about teh UNSEEN – ie. people’s hearts and the wellbeing of the deen – than the seen; and more concerned about his Ummah than even his own self and his own salvation let alone his own dunya-existence – did things on the same level we do them. you are not making this distinction. we need to have reverence for the Prophet peace be upon him and realize he was far far beyond the concerns and likes/dislikes we have. subhanAllah. He peace be upon him offered us many things that were advice for us and made things easy on us. but don’t asume that he peace be upon him operated on the same level. I mean, I know REGULAR men, just men of piety, who actually marry ONLY FOR THE WOMAN’s faith and are very happy and blessed. they really don’t care about her level of attractiveness or they really go for her soul-attractiveness. you then realize that if THEY are like that, then of course Rasul Allah peace be upon him was even more noble and lofty in how he peace be upon him saw the world and saw women.

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      Abu Milk sheikh

      October 22, 2014 at 3:02 AM

      Narrated Sahl bin Sa`d:

      A woman came to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! I have come to you to present myself to you (for marriage).”


      When the lady saw that he did not say anything, she sat down. A man from his companions got up and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! If you are not in need of her, then marry her to me.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Have you got anything to offer.” The man said, ‘No, by Allah, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)!” The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to him), “Go to your family and try to find something.” So the man went and returned, saying, “No, by Allah, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! I have not found anything.” The Prophet said, “Go again and look for something, even if it were an iron ring.” He went and returned, saying, “No, by Allah, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! I could not find even an iron ring, but this is my Izar (waist sheet).’ He had no Rida (upper garment). He added, “I give half of it to her.” Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said “What will she do with your Izar? If you wear it, she will have nothing over herself thereof (will be naked); and if she wears it, then you will have nothing over yourself thereof ‘ So the man sat for a long period and then got up (to leave). When Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saw him leaving, he ordered that he e called back. When he came, the Prophet (ﷺ) asked (him), “How much of the Qur’an do you know (by heart)?” The man replied, I know such Sura and such Sura and such Sura,” naming the suras. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Can you recite it by heart?” He said, ‘Yes.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Go I let you marry her for what you know of the Qur’an (as her Mahr).

      [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Kitab Al-Nikah]

  48. Avatar

    Marina Mirza

    October 16, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    on looking: here is the Hadith: Once a Companion told the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, that he was going to get married.The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, asked if he had seen her. When the man answered in negative, he, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Go and look at her for it is more likely to engender love between the two of you.” (Reported by Ahmad and others and it is Sahih).
    The Prophet peace be upon him is encouraging the Sahaba and if you want to say all men after him, to look at the one he is about to marry – NOT TO ASSESS HER and reject her if she is not attractive – but to “engender love between the two” – ie. to start off the marriage with already there being some feelings of love brewing. it is clear that it was not as a means of deciding whether to go ahead and marry her or – finding her unattractive – to then reneg. So looking in the actual Hadiths we have was not a means of deciding to marry or not, but rather a means to encourage the love to start flowing in a personal way that goes beyond the appreciation of piety and deen – which are the actual criteria for saying yes or no to a prospect.

  49. Avatar

    Marina Mirza

    October 16, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    I know a lot of people might freak out if they have to be told that indeed, the Prophet peace be upon him was saying: the only criteria you should be looking at is deen (in a woman) and deen and character (in a man) – people don’t like this idea and we see that Siraaj says that some scholars give the Hadith an interpretation that means you can marry with her money, lineage, and beauty in mind as long as she has deen. Well, not all scholars give it this interpretation. And if you actually went and read the reference I put up earlier to Stephanie Coontz’s book, you would be able to step outside your own worldview – in which physical attractiveness is clearly very important and paints how you see and read things – and see that it was of NO IMPORTANCE in past times when choosing a mate. only recently has it even become an issue. in the past, it was ABSOLUTELY normal to completely consider physical attractiveness as just a bonus – because there were so many other important matters that had to be there for a marriage to work: good character, stability, financial wherewithal to suport, etc. It’s like the rest of us and buying a car – most people except the very wealthy don’t really consider the beauty of the car – it’s a bonus if it’s nice looking but the major concerns are durability, economy, safety, etc….and marriage was seen as a project between two partners and you really have to make sure you choose someone who is safe and durable and in it for the long run….now we have a different attitude towards marriage and it is that marriages are disposable and they don’t define our destiny – we can walk away – so when you have this attitude, temporary phsycial beauty becomes higher on the list – and remember, it is only temporary if you are in it for the long run. As the english saying goes: pretty is as pretty does: it is her actions that make her beautiufl. and a smart man would get that.

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    Marina Mirza

    October 16, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    There are two versions of the Hadith you mention about the woman who proposed to the Prophet peace be upon him: one narrated by Sahl and one by Anas. And neither of them, in their actual wording, even mention the Prophet peace be upon him looking at the woman. here are my references and you can read the actual Hadiths here: AND
    I still would state that even if the Prophet peace be upon him DID look, you must have room in your mind to realize that “looking” for him was different than “looking” is for an average man of today. Not only was the Prophet peace be upon him granted a much deeper sight and insight, but even the time was different: at that time, something called “firasa” was a common ability held by the Arab (and even in some Chinese too) – the ability to read the face and read in the face thing like personal qualities and tendencies and background. There is a narration of Khalifa Umar RA seeing a man and upon looking at his face, saying: this is a man who either practices magic or used to practice it. The man used to practice magic but became Muslim. That wasn’t a way to judge the man or make him feel bad. It was just a talent for reading a face that many Arab had. None of this would mean that the woman was not a good woman – certainly those who could marry Sahabas were not all at the level of marrying the Rasul peace be upon him. She would still have been a good woman but it takes a very very special one to be married to the Prophet SAW. All I am saying is that when you read a Hadith, do not project our own personal selves or our tendencies or our limited capacities onto it. We live not only in a different time, but we are very different than the Prophet SAW and should always assume a much higher and greater capacity in all of his actions, and a much deeper and broader meaning than our own actions.
    Not only this, but would it make sense that the Prophet peace be upon him tells us to marry the woman with the deen and yet in this scenario the way you paint it, he peace be upon him judges her solely on her looks? not even a combination of looks and deen?
    finally, you can see how shaped we are by our culture that the issue of beauty keeps comin up when actually the Hadith mentions 4 reasons a woman is married; already the other two: lineage and wealth – are no longer really reasons today – this just illustrates how different our society is from theirs and how we don’t have the same assumptions.

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      Marina Mirza

      October 16, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      just to show how different the mentality was in marrying, and especially how unique the attitude of the Messenger of God peace be upon him was than what we might assume – please read these references: (read page 242 to see how it came to be that the Messenger peace be upon him married Lady Hafsa. Right there you can catch a glimpse of how he peace be upon him was!)
      and here are two more articles to give an idea of what the marriages of the Prophet peace be upon him were founded upon: &
      If you don’t have a sense of what the philosophy or hikmah was surrounding these marriages, you will get lost in the idea that they were for personal interest. Rasul Allah was only sent to this world to be a Mercy and not to fulfil the ordinary life goals of an average man nor did he peace be upon him have needs that he needed a human to fulfil for him. His marriages, like his living and his dying, were solely for Allah and in terms of why and how they were contracted – they were opportunities FOR THE WOMEN he married – to receive the gift of his love, to learn the Sunnah of home life, and to be examples to us women, and to be Mothers of the Believers. …just like his friendships with the Sahabas were not like your and my friendships. Yours and mine are mutually beneficial, but to say that he got benefit from his friendships would be wrong. The Prophet peace be upon him only needed God – no one else. He peace be upon him was not looking for anything of this world –he was like a traveller just passing through. The fact that the Prophet peace be upon him had friendships and other relationships was all to give the other person the chance to learn, the chance to be connected to him, the chance to serve the deen.

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    Marina Mirza

    October 16, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    just to show how different the mentality was in marrying, and especially how unique the attitude of the Messenger of God peace be upon him was than what we might assume – please read these references:

    ***read page 242 to see how it came to be that the Messenger peace be upon him married Lady Hafsa. Right there you can catch a glimpse of how he peace be upon him was!
    and here are two more articles to give an idea of what it was really like – the marriages of the Prophet peace be upon him – what they were founded upon:
    If you don’t have a sense of what the philosophy or hikmah was surrounding these marriages, you will get lost in the idea that they were for personal interest. Rasul Allah was only sent to this world to be a Mercy and not to fulfil the ordinary life goals of an average man nor did he peace be upon him have needs that he needed a human to fulfil for him – he gave to us – his marriages were FOR THE WOMEN he married – to give them love and joy and a close-up view of the Sunnah…just like his friendships with the Sahabas were not like your and my friendships – mutually beneficial – no – his friendships were all to give the other person the chance to learn, the chance to be connected to him, the chance to serve the deen….peace be upon him!

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    October 16, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    a continuous focus on outward appearance will lead to all kinds of problems. If the main criteria for a man marrying a wife, after deen, is her looks, what will he do when she gets older and many other younger woman outdo her in looks? will the marriage be legally annulled because she hasn’t lived up to what she first offered? this kind of thing is unsustainable and it is what leads to disconent, affairs, porn, going for a 2nd wife for the wrong reasons, etc. Attraction develops with interaction. this is why free interaction b/w men and women in Islam is not allowed. because it will lead to love. This is what people mean when they talk about falling in love after marriage. there is bonding that occurs, and it produces in the brain feelings of attraction. read the science of it here:
    and this is why the Prophet peace be upon him insisted that there be foreplay (bonding activity) along with intercourse. not just for the woman, but for the man too – it cements his desire for his wife. we need to make this loud and clear otherwise we are putting a stamp of approval on men’s shopping around and consumption of women’s physicality – as if they are objects, and we are making women feel they must compete and focus solely on being attractive to men. This is so far from where our minds and efforts were meant to be in this noble way of life.

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    October 17, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    “Advertising constantly … exhorts us to be in a never-ending state of excitement, never to tolerate boredom or disappointment, to focus on ourselves, never to delay gratification, to believe that passionate sex is more important than anything else in life, and always to trade in old things for new.” – Jean Kilbourne

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    October 26, 2014 at 12:20 AM

    Subhan Allah! I don’t think I’ve read so many comments on one post ever! Sister Olivia, masha Allah the article was great and I love the way you try to talk about not focusing on stereotypical marriage models, even those that have arisen to remedy marital problems.

    Its amazing how everyone is so disturbed by the polygamy issue. Even though there was only a small mention of it. I’m sure you must have spent more time replying to peoples comments than writing the article.

    Jazak Allah khair for your efforts.

    P.S. I like the “seventh year itch”, was just telling my husband of the term…. we’re in our seventh year. Maybe thats why this year is more interesting than others.We like to have a good laugh over our issues once were past them.I think every marriage gets stronger once you solve an issue and move on. How could a relationship be strengthened without being tested? I guess that would be the “ting” that makes the comfort really cozy! It has to be a bit cold to enjoy a blanket…

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    October 27, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    with all due respect, the fact that the polygamy issue got so much attention is because a lot of people know of men who have abused this concept in ugly ways and have ruined their first marriages, traumatised their wives and children, and in general, made a mess of things. for no damn good reason. It’s a crying shame and I know of more than 3 converts to whom tis has happened and now they are really struggling with their deen. If a man had any sense in his head he would not go and bring upon himself and his wife and kids this kiind of a challenge. there is so much else he could do to better the world and his life, yet he goes and puts his time and energy into this kind of a blackhole.and the vast majority of women don’t know that this is not sanctioned in the deen -this kind of selfish decision that does not take into account the health (spiritual and metnal) of the first wife and counts solely on what is “permissable” according to the books. Muslims need to get real.

    • Avatar

      Truth Champion

      October 27, 2014 at 4:16 PM

      Numerous Islamic scholars, especially those in the Indian subcontinent, have highly discouraged marrying more than a single wife. A notable scholar of India in the 20th century, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, who despite being married to two women himself, said that the general ruling for men of the Indian subcontinent was that second marriage is considered to be as impermissible due to the immense familial and societal harms of polygamy in general (Source: Youtube video; ‘Polygamy in the West: A compliment or impediment’ [07:52]) – because if there is more harm than benefit in something then according to Shaykh Faraz Rabbani it would not be permissible.

      And Mufti Shafi Usmani, father of Mufti Taqi Usmani, also heavily discourages polygamy in his Maariful Quran.

      Maulana Hakeem Akhtar Saheb says that the Indo-Pak men in general are unable to maintain equality between the wives, therefore he discourages it (Source: Tarbiyat e Ashiqan e Khuda Part 2, Page 424).

      Imam Shafi’i also gave a unique translation of the third ayah in Surah Nisa, where he translated the last part as saying ”do not marry more than one woman so you do not become stressed financially”.

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    October 28, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    I’m not saying there aren’t couples who would be okay with polygamy. but this is key: COUPLES. not “situations” or “husbands” but couples – both husabnd and wife, need to decide, and the most important factor is the wife’s ability and capacity to handle such a thing -not just her initial yes to it (I think we all have moments where we feel on a high and want to be noble and wives want to make their husbands happy – but the husband should know his wife well neough to know: can she really handle something like this? is it really going to be in her best interest, long-term?)

  57. Avatar


    October 28, 2014 at 9:17 PM
    “we will be judged on how we dealt with our partners”

  58. Avatar

    Truth Champion

    October 29, 2014 at 6:24 PM

    Maulana Hakeem Akhtar DB’s work in Urdu, Tarbiyat e Aashiqan e Khuda, can be accessed here.

    After page 424, he discusses polygamy. He says that men are generally unable to maintain equality between the wives therefore they need to remain with only one wife, as per Allah’s commands.

    He says that men of today are unable to be equitable and do not have the imaan of the sahabah to do justice between the wives.

    He also refers to Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi who he quoted as using his own polygamous lifestyle to discourage others from doing polygamy.

  59. Avatar


    December 3, 2014 at 12:37 PM

  60. Avatar

    Zahra Sadat Mirmohammad

    February 28, 2015 at 7:51 PM

    Why does a woman have to obey her husband? Why does she need permission to leave the house and to work outside the home? Why does she have to submit herself sexually to him? Isn’t that marital rape? I’m so scared of getting married; it seems terrible and restricted freedom for a woman.

    • Avatar

      Zahra Sadat Mirmohammad

      March 29, 2015 at 3:21 PM

      I realize that I am wrong about marriage. Husbands are the head-of-the-family and should be obeyed within family limits, but this obedience should be to a righteous man, as a true Muslim man will have the best of intentions for his family, and he will not engage in excessive jealousy over his wife.

  61. Avatar

    Anum Shahid

    July 23, 2015 at 10:53 AM

    Find the best way of doing Muslim Wedding in the Light of Quran and Sunnah. Allah has surely made marriage a blessing and a part of the worship. So we should perform it in a proper way. Must see my article for details.
    The Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) said, “When a man gets married, he gets one half of the religion. Thus, he should fear Allah in the other half.” (Reported by Al Baihaqi)
    To Register on our International Muslim Matrimonial Site Visit

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Challenges of Identity & Conviction: The Need to Construct an Islamic Worldview





islamic online high school

He squirmed in his seat as his Middle East history professor–yet again–made a subtle jab about Islam, this time about the jizyah.  This professor claimed to be pro-Arab and pro-Islam and was part of a university department that touted itself for presenting history and narratives that are typically left out of the West’s Eurocentric social studies sequence. Still, she would subjectively only present an Orientalist interpretation of Islam. Ahmad* sighed. He felt bad just thinking about what all his classmates at this esteemed university thought about Islam and Muslims. He was also worried about fellow Muslims in his class who had not grown up in a practicing household-what if they believed her? He hated how she was using her position as the “sage” in the room to present her bias as absolute truth. As for himself, he knew deep down in his bones that what his professor was alleging just could not be true. His fitrah was protesting her coy smile as she knowingly agitated the few Muslims in her class of one-hundred-fifty.  Yet, Ahmad had never studied such topics growing up and felt all his years of secondary education left him ill-equipped as a freshman in college.  He tried to search for answers to her false accusations after class and approached her later during office hours, but she just laughed him off as a backward, orthodox Muslim who had obviously been brainwashed into believing the “fairy tale version” of Islam. 


Asiyah* graduated as class valedictorian of her Islamic school. She loved Biology and Physics and planned to major in Engineering at a top-notch program. While both family, friends, and peers were proud of her (some maybe even wishing they were in her shoes), they had no idea of the bitter inner struggle that was eating away at her, tearing her up from the inside out. Her crisis of faith shook her to the core and her parents were at their wits’ end. While she prayed all her prayers and even properly donned her hijab, deep down she felt……..sort of….……atheist.  Physics was her life–her complete being. She loved how the numbers just added up and everything could be empirically proven. But this led to her greatest anguish: how could certain miraculous events during the time of the Blessed Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) have occurred? How could she believe in events that were physically and scientifically impossible?  She felt like an empty body performing the rituals of Islam.

*names changed


An Unwelcome Surprise

Islam is a way of life. Its principles operate in every avenue of one’s life. However, English, History, Science and Mathematics are often taught as if they are beyond the scope of Islam. It is commonly assumed that moral teaching happens, or should happen, only in the Islamic Studies class. Yet, if we compare what is being taught in the Islamic Studies class with what is being taught consciously or unconsciously in other classes, an unwelcome surprise awaits us. Examining typical reading material in English classes, for example, reveals that too much of the material is actually going against Islamic norms and principles. Some of the most prominent problems with traditional English literature (which directly clash with Islamic moral and ethical principles) include: the mockery of God and religion, the promotion of rebellion against parents and traditional family values, the normalization of immoral conduct such as lying and rude behavior, and the condoning of inappropriate cross-gender interactions. Additionally, positive references about Islamic culture are either nonexistent or rare. Toxic themes of secularism, atheism, materialism, liberalism, and agnosticism are constantly bombarding our young Muslim students, thus shaping the way in which they view and interact with the world.

Corrective Lens: The Worldview of Islam

We need our children to develop an Islamic worldview, one that provides a framework for Muslims to understand their world from the perspective of the Qur’an.  It is impossible for the Islamic Studies classes alone to successfully teach Islamic behavior and nurture moral commitment unless the other classes also reflect the Islamic worldview- an outlook that emphasizes the idea that all our actions should be focused on pleasing Allah and doing good for ourselves and others. Therefore, the majority of what is taught in all academic disciplines should be based on Islamic values, aiming to improve the life of the student by promoting sublime ethical conduct. The unfortunate reality is quite the opposite: a typical child in a school in the West spends a minimum of 576 periods (16 periods of core classes/week * 4 weeks/month * 9 months) of classroom instruction annually on academic subjects that are devoid of Islam and contain minimal teaching of morality that aligns with Islamic principles. How much Islam a child learns depends on whether their parents choose Sunday school, Islamic schools, and/or other forms of supplementation to provide religious knowledge. However, rarely does that supplemental instruction undo the thousands of hours of the atheistic worldview that children soak in by the time they finish high school through the study of secular subjects. By not having an Islamic worldview and not having Muslims’ heritage and contributions to humanity infused into the teaching of academic subjects, we witness the problems experienced by the likes of Ahmad* and Asiyah*–problems that plague modern Muslim youth.

Identifying the Unlikely Suspect

This realization is perhaps the missing piece in the puzzle when it comes to our bewilderment: how are large swaths of youth from some of the kindest, sweetest, practicing Muslim families going astray and getting confused? When we shepherd our flock and find one or more of our “sheep” lost and off the beaten path, we think of the likely suspects, which include negative influences from peers, family, movies, social media, etc. We may even blame the lack of inspiring role models. We are less likely to suspect that the very literature that our children are consuming day in and day out through our well-intentioned efforts to make them “educated” and “sophisticated” could cause them to question Islam or fall into moral abyss.

Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of the people of his house and he is responsible. A woman is the shepherd of the house of her husband and she is responsible. Each of you is a shepherd and each is responsible for his flock.”

Islamic Infusion in Academic Study as a Solution

There have been efforts across the globe to infuse Islam into academic study of worldly subjects. Universities such as the International Islamic University of Malaysia(IIUM), which has a dedicated “Centre for Islamisation (CENTRIS),” is an example. At the secondary school level, most brick and mortar Islamic schools do offer Arabic, Qur’an, and Islamic studies; however, few Muslim teachers are trained in how to teach core academic subjects using principles of Islamic pedagogy.

How exactly can educators infuse an Islamic perspective into their teaching? And how can Muslim children have access to high quality education from the worldview of Islam, taught by talented and dynamic educators?

Infusing Islam & Muslim Heritage in Core Academic Subjects, According to the Experts:

  • Dr. Nadeem Memon, professor of Islamic pedagogy, states that for a pedagogy to be Islamic, it should not contradict the aims, objectives and ethics contained in revelation (Qur’an) and should closely reflect an Islamic ethos that is based on revelation, the sunnah of the Prophet(pbuh), and the intellectual and spiritual heritage of his followers. It should also effectively develop the student’s intelligence (`aql), faith (iman), morality and character (khuluq), knowledge and practice of personal religious obligations (fard ain) and knowledge, skills and physical abilities warranted by worldly responsibilities and duties (Ajem, Ramzy and Nadeem Memon, “Prophetic Pedagogy: Teaching ‘Islamically’ in our Classrooms”)
  • Dr. Susan Douglass, expert in Social Studies, promotes a panoramic study of the world by global eras–emphasizing the interdependence of nations–rather than an isolationist civilizations approach (which in Western societies focuses only on Western civilization). Such study includes Islamic history and Muslims’ contributions to humanity throughout the ages.
  • Dr. Freda Shamma, pioneer in promoting culturally inclusive and ethical literature, emphasizes that English classes should carefully select literature aligned with Islamic moral values and include works by both Western authors and those from other cultures, i.e. literature that 1-features Muslim main characters and 2- is authored by Muslims.
  • Dr. Nur Jannah Hassan at CENTRIS, stresses that Science classes should be designed to awaken the student’s mind, to inspire a complete awe of and servitude towards the Creator and Sustainer, to instill the purpose of creation, vicegerency and stewardship of the earth and its inhabitants, to enable students to decipher God’s Signs in nature and in the self, to infuse responsibility in sustaining balance and accountability, and should include Muslims’ legacy in the field.
  • Dr. Reema alNizami, specialist in Math Education, advocates that Math classes should instill creative thinking, systematic problem solving and an appreciation of balance; include a survey of Muslims’ contributions to the field; and utilize word problems that encourage charitable and ethical financial practices.

Technology Enables Access to Islamically Infused Schooling for grades 6-12

Technology has now enabled this Islamic infusion for middle schools and secondary schools to become a reality on a global scale, alhamdulillah. Legacy International Online High School, a college preparatory, online Islamic school serving grades 6-12, whose mission is “Cultivating Compassionate Global Leaders”, offers all academic subjects from the Islamic worldview. Pioneered by leading Muslim educators from around the globe with background in Islamic pedagogy and digital learning, Legacy is the first of its kind online platform that is accessible to:

  • homeschooling families seeking full-time, rigorous, Islamically infused classes
  • Public school families looking for a part-time Islamic studies or Arabic sequence
  • Islamic schools, evening programs, and Sunday schools that are short-staffed and would like to outsource certain courses from the Islamic worldview
  • Schools and entities needing training/workshops to empower Muslim educators on how to teach from the Islamic worldview

Alhamdulillah, Legacy IOHS is an accessible resource for families with children in grades 6-8 who are seeking curriculum and instruction that is Islamically infused.

Strengthening Faith & Identity in College and Beyond

For those seeking supplementary resources to address the most prevalent hot topic issues plaguing young Muslims of our times, Yaqeen Institute, whose initial publications were more targeted towards a university audience, is now working to make its research more accessible to the general public through both its Conviction Circles initiative and its short videos featuring infographics.

Another online platform, California Islamic University, offers a comprehensive course sequence which allows college students to graduate with a second degree in Islamic studies while simultaneously completing their undergraduate studies at any accredited community college or university in the United States. Qalam and AlMaghrib Institute also offer online coursework in Islamic studies.

What We Hope to Avoid

While volunteering at his son Sulayman’s* public school with ten student participants, Ibrahim* was saddened when he met a young boy named Chris*. When Chris met Ibrahim, he piped up and eagerly told Ibrahim, “my grandparents are Muslim!” Through the course of the conversation, Ibrahim realized that he knew Chris’ grandparents, a very sweet elderly couple (and currently very practicing) who had not made the Islamic worldview a priority early on in their children’s lives. A mere two generations later, Islam is completely eliminated from their family.  *names changed

Our Resolve

Legacy IOHS recommends the following to Muslim families/educators and Islamic schools:

  1. Instill in our children a strong grasp of the foundational sciences of Islam, while preparing them with the necessary contemporary knowledge and skills
  2. Teach our children in their formative years to view the world (including their “secular” academic study) through the lens of Islam
  3. Follow this up with relevant motivational programs that assist them in understanding challenging issues of today and coach them on how to respond to the issues in their teenage years.

We pray that with the above, we will have fulfilled our duty in shepherding our flock in a comprehensive way, with utmost care. It is Allah’s help we seek in these challenging times:

رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ

‘Our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate after You have guided us. Grant us Your mercy: You are the Ever Giving. [Qur’an 3:8]

 رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا

‘Our Lord, give us joy in our spouses and offspring. Make us good examples to those who are aware of You’. [Qur’an 25:74]

يَا مُقَلِّبَ القُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِيْ عَلَى دِيْنِكْ

“O turner of the hearts, keep my heart firm on your religion.”

Freda Shamma has a M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Ed.D. from the University of Cincinnati in the area of Curriculum Development. A veteran educator, she has worked with educators from the United States, South Africa and all over the Muslim world to develop integrated curricula based on an Islamic worldview that meets the needs of modern Muslim youth. She serves as Curriculum Advisor for Legacy International Online High School.

An avid student of the Islamic sciences, Zaheer Arastu earned his M.Ed from The George Washington University and completed his training in Educational Leadership from the University of Oklahoma. his experience in Islamic education spans over 15 years serving as both teacher, administrator, and dean of innovation and technology. He currently serves as the Head of School for Legacy International Online High School.

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Grit and Resilience: The Self-Help vs. Islamic Perspective

Omar Usman




I don’t really care about grit.

Persevering and persisting through difficulties to achieve a higher goal is awesome. High-five. We should all develop that. No one disagrees that resilience is an essential characteristic to have.

Somehow, this simple concept has ballooned into what feels like a self-help cottage industry of sorts. It has a Ted talk with tens of millions of views, podcasts, keynote speeches, a New York Times best-selling book, and finding ways to teach this in schools and workplaces.

What I do care about is critically analyzing if it is all that it’s cracked up to be (spoiler alert: I don’t think so), why the self-help industry aggressively promotes it, and how we understand it from an Islamic perspective. For me, this is about much more than just grit – it’s about understanding character development from a (mostly Americanized) secular perspective vis-a-vis the Islamic one.

The appeal of grit in a self-help context is that it provides a magic bullet that intuitively feels correct. It provides optimism. If I can master this one thing, it will unlock what I need to be successful. When I keep running into a roadblock, I can scapegoat my reason for failure – a lack of grit.

Grit encompasses several inspirational cliches – be satisfied with being unsatisfied, or love the chase as much as the capture, or that grit is falling in love and staying in love. It is to believe anyone can succeed if they work long and hard enough. In short, it is the one-word encapsulation of the ideal of the American Dream.

Self-help literature has an underlying theme of controlling what is within your control and letting go of the rest. Islamically, in general, we agree with this sentiment. We focus our actions where we are personally accountable and put our trust in Allah for what we cannot control.

The problem with this theme, specifically with grit, is that it necessitates believing the circumstances around you cannot be changed. Therefore, you must simply accept things the way that they are. Teaching people that they can overcome any situation by merely working hard enough is not only unrealistic but utterly devoid of compassion.

“The notion that kids in poverty can overcome hunger, lack of medical care, homelessness, and trauma by buckling down and persisting was always stupid and heartless, exactly what you would expect to hear from Scrooge or the Koch brothers or Betsy DeVos.” -Diane Ravitch, Forget Grit, Focus on Inequality

Focusing on the individual characteristics of grit and perseverance shifts attention away from structural or systemic issues that impact someone’s ability to succeed. The personal characteristics can be changed while structural inequalities are seen as ‘fixed.’

Alfie Kohn, in an article critical of Grit by Angela Duckworth, notes that Duckworth and her mentor while studying grit operated under a belief that,

[U]nderachievement isn’t explained by structural factors — social, economic, or even educational. Rather, they insisted it should be attributed to the students themselves and their “failure to exercise self-discipline.” The entire conceptual edifice of grit is constructed on that individualistic premise, one that remains popular for ideological reasons even though it’s been repeatedly debunked by research.

Duckworth admitted as much in an interview with EdSurge.

There was a student who introduced himself having written a critical essay about the narrative of grit. His major point was that when we talk about grit as a kind of ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’ personal strength, it leaves in the shadows structural poverty and racism and other things that make it impossible, frankly, for some kids to do what we would expect them to do. When he sent me that essay, of course, I wanted to know more. I joined his [dissertation] committee because I don’t know much about sociology, and I don’t know much about this criticism.

I learned a lot from him over the years. I think the lesson for me is that when someone criticizes you, when someone criticized me, the natural thing is to be defensive and to reflexively make more clear your case and why you’re right, but I’ve always learned more from just listening. When I have the courage to just say, “Well, maybe there’s a point here that I hadn’t thought of,” and in this case the Grit narrative and what Grit has become is something that he really brought to me and my awareness in a way that I was oblivious to before.

It is mind-boggling that the person who popularized this research and wrote the book on the topic simply didn’t know that there was such a thing as structural inequality. It is quite disappointing that her response essentially amounted to “That’s interesting. I’d like to learn more.”

Duckworth provides a caveat – “My theory doesn’t address these outside ­forces, nor does it include luck. It’s about the psychology of achievement, but because psychology isn’t all that matters, it’s incomplete.” This is a cop-out we see consistently in the self-help industry and elsewhere. They won’t deny that those problems exist, they simply say that’s not the current focus.

It is intellectually dishonest to promote something as a key to success while outright ignoring the structures needed to enable success. That is not the only thing the theory of grit ignores. While marketing it as a necessary characteristic, it overlooks traits like honesty and kindness.

The grit narrative lionizes this superhero type of individual who breaks through all obstacles no matter how much the deck is stacked against them. It provides a sense of false hope. Instead of knowing when to cut your losses and see a failure for what it is, espousing a grit mentality will make a person stubbornly pursue a failing endeavor. It reminds me of those singers who comically fail the first round of auditions on American Idol, are rightly ridiculed by the judges, and then emotionally tell the whole world they’re going to come out on top (and then never do).

Overconfidence, obstinance, and naive optimism are the result of grit without context or boundaries. It fosters denial and a lack of self-awareness – the consequences of which are felt when horrible leaders keep rising to the top due, in part, to their grit and perseverance.

The entire idea of the psychology of achievement completely ignores the notion of morality and ethics. Grit in a vacuum may be amoral, but that is not how the real world works. This speaks powerfully to the need to understand the application of these types of concepts through a lens of faith.

The individual focus, however, is precisely what makes something like grit a prime candidate to become a popular self-help item. Schools and corporations alike will want to push it because it focuses on the individual instead of the reality of circumstances. There is a real amount of cognitive dissonance when a corporation can tell employees to focus on developing grit while not addressing toxic employment practices that increase turnover and destroy employees physically and emotionally (see: Dying for a Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer).

Circumstances matter more than ever. You’ve probably heard the story (of course, in a Ted Talk) about the famous marshmallow test at some point. This popularizes the self-help version of delayed gratification. A bunch of kids are given a marshmallow and told that if they can avoid eating it for 5 minutes, they’ll get a second one. The children are then shown hilariously trying to resist eating it. These kids were then studied as they grew older, and lo and behold, those who had the self-discipline to hold out for the 2nd marshmallow were far more successful in life than those who gave in.

A new study found that a child’s ability to hold out for the second marshmallow had nothing to do with the ability to delay gratification. As The Atlantic points out, it had much more to do with the child’s social and economic background. When a child comes from a well to do household, the promise of a second marshmallow will be fulfilled. Their parents always deliver. When someone grows up in poverty, they are more attuned to take the short term reward because the guarantee does not exist that the marshmallow would still be there later. The circumstances matter much more than the psychological studies can account for. It is far easier to display grit with an entrepreneurial venture, for example, when you have the safety net of wealthy and supportive parents.

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post that grit discourse is driven by middle and upper-class parents wanting their spoiled kids to appreciate the virtues of struggling against hardship. Unfortunately, this focus on character education means that poor students suffer because less money will then be spent on teaching disadvantaged students the skills they need to be successful. Sisyphus, she notes, had plenty of grit, but it didn’t get him very far.

Strauss asks us to imagine if a toxic dump was discovered near Beverly Hills, and our response was to teach kids how to lessen the effects of toxins instead of fixing the dump.

The grit discourse does not teach that poor children deserve poverty; it teaches that poverty itself is not so bad. In fact, hardship provides the very traits required to escape hardship. This logic is as seductive as it is circular. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is seen as a virtuous enterprise whether practiced by Horatio Alger’s urchins or Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs (bootstrapping is a common term in technology finance circles). And most importantly, it creates a purported path out of poverty that does not involve any sacrifice on the part of the privileged classes. -Valerie Strauss

This approach is a way to appear noble while perpetuating the status quo. It provides the illusion of upliftment while further entrenching the very systems that prevent it. We see this enacted most commonly with modern-day Silicon Valley style of philanthropy. Anand Giridharadas has an entire book dedicated to this ‘elite charade of changing the world’ entitled Winners Take All.

The media also does its fair share to push this narrative. Stories that should horrify us are passed along as inspirational stories of perseverance. It’s like celebrating a GoFundMe campaign that helps pay for surgery to save someone’s life instead of critically analyzing why healthcare is not seen as a human right in the first place.

Islamic Perspective

Islamically, we are taught to find ways to address the individual as well as the system. Characteristics like grit and delayed gratification are not bad. They’re misapplied when the bigger picture is not taken into account. In the Islamic system, for example, a person is encouraged not to beg. At the same time, there is an encouragement for those who can give to seek out those in need. A person in debt is strongly advised to pay off their debts as quickly as possible. At the same time, the lender is encouraged to be easygoing and to forgive the debt if possible.

This provides a more realistic framework for applying these concepts. A person facing difficulty should be encouraged to be resilient and find ways to bounce back. At the same time, support structures must be established to help that person.

Beyond the framework, there is a much larger issue. Grit is oriented around success. Success is unquestionably assumed to be a personal success oriented around academic achievement, career, wealth, and status. When that is the end goal, it makes it much easier to keep the focus on the individual.

The Islamic definition of success is much broader. There is the obvious idea of success in the Hereafter, but that is separate from this discussion. Even in a worldly sense, a successful person may be the one who sacrifices attending a good school, or perhaps even a dream job type of career opportunity, to spend more time with their family. The emphasis on individual success at all costs has contributed to the breakdown of essential family and community support systems.

A misapplied sense of grit furthers this when a person thinks they don’t need anyone else, and they just need to persevere. It is part of a larger body of messaging that promotes freedom and autonomy. We celebrate people who are strong and independent. Self-help tells us we can achieve anything with the right mindset.

But what happens when we fail? What happens when we find loneliness and not fulfillment, when we lack the bonds of familial solidarity, and when money does not make us whole? Then it all falls on us. It is precisely this feeling of constriction that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), give good news to those who are steadfast, those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord, and it is they who are rightly guided.” (2:155-157)

Resilience is a reflex. When a person faces hardship, they will fall back on the habits and values they have. It brings to mind the statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that patience is at the first strike. He taught us the mindset needed to have grit in the first place,

“Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him, and if he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him” (Muslim).

He also taught us the habits we need to ensure that we have the reflex of grit when the situation warrants it –

“Whoever would be pleased for Allah to answer him during times of hardship and difficulty, let him supplicate often during times of ease” (Tirmidhi).

The institution of the masjid as a community center provides a massive opportunity to build infrastructure to support people. Resilience, as Michael Ungar writes, is not a DIY endeavor. Communities must find ways to provide the resources a person needs to persevere. Ungar explains, “What kind of resources? The kind that get you through the inevitable crises that life throws our way. A bank of sick days. Some savings or an extended family who can take you in. Neighbours or a congregation willing to bring over a casserole, shovel your driveway or help care for your children while you are doing whatever you need to do to get through the moment. Communities with police, social workers, home-care workers, fire departments, ambulances, and food banks. Employment insurance, pension plans or financial advisers to help you through a layoff.”

Ungar summarizes the appropriate application of grit, “The science of resilience is clear: The social, political and natural environments in which we live are far more important to our health, fitness, finances and time management than our individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. When it comes to maintaining well-being and finding success, environments matter. In fact, they may matter just as much, and likely much more, than individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. A positive attitude may be required to take advantage of opportunities as you find them, but no amount of positive thinking on its own is going to help you survive a natural disaster, a bad workplace or childhood abuse. Change your world first by finding the relationships that nurture you, the opportunities to use your talents and the places where you experience community and governmental support and social justice. Once you have these, your world will help you succeed more than you could ever help yourself.”

The one major missing ingredient here is tawakkul (trust in Allah). One of the events in the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that epitomized grit, resilience, and perseverance was the Battle of Badr. At this occasion, the Companions said, “God is enough for us: He is the best protector.

“Those whose faith only increased when people said, ‘Fear your enemy: they have amassed a great army against you,’ and who replied, ‘God is enough for us: He is the best protector,’“ (3:173)

This is the same phrase that Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), while displaying the utmost level of resilience, said when he was thrown into the fire, and it was made cool.

There is a core belief in Islam about balancing between fear and hope. Scholars advise when a person feels despair, they should remind themselves of the traditions that reinforce hope in Allah’s forgiveness. When a person feels themselves sliding further and further into disobedience to Allah, then they should remind themselves of the traditions that warn against Allah’s punishment. The focus changes depending on the situation.

Grit itself is a praiseworthy characteristic

There is no doubt that it is a trait that makes people successful. The challenge comes in applying it and how we teach it. It needs a proper level of balance. Too much focus on grit as a singular predictor of success may lead to victim-blaming and false hope syndrome. Overlooking it on the other hand, enables a feeling of entitlement and a victim mentality.

One purpose of teaching grit was to help students from privileged backgrounds understand and appreciate the struggle needed to overcome difficulty. Misapplied, it can lead to overlooking systemic issues that prevent a person from succeeding even when they have grit.

Self-help literature often fails to make these types of distinctions. It fails to provide guidance for balancing adapting the advice based on circumstance. The criticisms here are not of the idea of grit, but rather the myopic way in which self-help literature promotes concepts like grit without real-world contextualization. We need to find a way to have the right proportionality of understanding individual effort, societal support, and our reliance on Allah.

Our ability to persevere, to be resilient, and to have grit, is linked directly to our relationship with Allah, and our true level of trust in Him.

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Who Can We Trust?

Danish Qasim




Spiritual abusers are con-artists, and if they were easy to spot then they would be far less successful. That is why you must exercise vigilance and your own judgment above that of public opinion. Never let the person’s position make you trust them more than you would without it.

Spiritual abusers work covertly, present themselves well, and use their service as a cover beneath which to operate. The way to avoid them is to recognize their tactics and avoid being caught by them.

Blurring Lines

Spiritual abuse often begins with hard-to-spot precursors, with manipulators exploiting grey areas and blurring boundaries to confuse targets. For example, when setting someone up for illicit relations or secret marriage, teachers may begin with inappropriate jokes that lower boundaries.

They may touch others in ways that confuse the person touched as to permissibility, for example, men touching women on their hijabs rather than direct skin. They may inappropriately touch someone in ways that leave him/her wondering whether or not it was intentional.

There may be frivolous texting while the premise of engagement is ‘work only’. Boundaries may be blurred by adding flirtatious content, sending articles praising polygamy, or mentioning dreams about getting married. The recipient may struggle to pinpoint what’s wrong with any of this, but the bottom line is that they don’t have to.

While these tactics may be hard to prove, you don’t need to prove that you don’t want to be communicated with in this way and that you will not tolerate it. You can withdraw from the situation on the basis of your own boundaries.

One of the key challenges in standing up to spiritual abuse is the lack of confidence in calling out bad behavior or the need for validation for wrongs. We may be afraid to a question a teacher who is more knowledgeable than us when he is doing clear haram. However, halal and haram are defined by Allah and no human has the right to amend them. If a religious leader claims exemption to the rules for themselves or their students, that’s a big, bright, red flag.

Beware of Bullying

When you witness or experience bullying, understand that a Muslim’s dignity is sacred and don’t accept justifications of ‘tarbiyah’ (spiritual edification/character reformation) or breaking someone’s nafs (ego). If you didn’t sign up for spiritual edification, don’t accept any volunteer spiritual guides.

If you did sign up, pay attention as to whether these harsh rebukes are having a positive or negative effect. If they are having a negative emotional, mental, or physical effect on you, then this is clearly not tarbiyah, which is meant to build you up.

When abuse in the name of tarbiyah happens, it is the shaykh himself or the shaykha herself who needs character reformation. When such behavior goes unchecked, students become outlets of unchecked anger and are left with trauma and PTSD. This type of bullying is very common in women’s groups.

Trust Built and Trust Destroyed

There are different levels of trust, and as it relates to religious leaders, one does not need to investigate individuals or build trust for a perfunctory relationship. You do not need a high degree of trust if you are just attending someone’s general lectures and not establishing any personal relationship.

If you want to study something with an Islamic teacher, do so as you would with a school-teacher, understanding that their position does not make that person either exceptionally safe nor exceptionally harmful. Treat religious figures as religious consultants who are there to answer questions based on their knowledge. Give every teacher a clean slate, don’t have baseless suspicions, but if behavior becomes manipulative, exploitative, cultish, or otherwise abusive, don’t justify it either.

Personal accountability is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith and we have to take responsibility for our own faith and actions. There is no need to be suspicious without reason, but nor is there a justification for blind trust in someone you don’t know, just because they lead prayers or have a degree of religious education.

It is natural to ask ourselves whether people can be trusted after experiencing or learning about spiritual abuse. The answer is yes – you can trust yourself. You can also trust others in ways that are appropriate for the relationship. If you know someone well and they have proven over a long period of time to be trustworthy, keep secrets, and do not use you or take advantage of you, then it makes sense to trust that person more than a stranger or someone who has outward uprightness that you do not know well. That level of trust is earned through long-time demonstration of its characteristics.

Seeing someone on stage for years or relying on testimony of people impressed by someone should not convince you to lower your guard. Even if you do believe someone is pious, you still never drop your better judgment, because even saints are fallible.

Don’t Fall for Reputation

Never take other respected leaders praising or working alongside an individual as proof of his or her trustworthiness. It is possible that the teachers you trust are unaware of any wrongdoing. It’s not a reasonable expectation, nor is it a responsibility for them to boycott or disassociate themselves from another religious figure even if they are aware of them being abusive.

Furthermore, skilled manipulators often gain favor from respected teachers both overseas and domestically to gain credibility.

If one shaykh praises another shaykh, but you witness abusive behavior, don’t doubt yourself based on this praise. The praise may have been true at one time or may have been true in the experience of the one giving the praise, but no one knows another person’s current spiritual state as spiritual states can change.

Even if the abusive individual was previously recognized to be a great wali (saint), understand that there are saints who have lost their sainthood as they do not have isma (divine protection from sin or leaving Islam) like the prophets (upon them be peace) do. What was true yesterday, may not be true today.

Often praises of integrity, courage, and inclusiveness are heaped on men who support influential female figures. However, men who are praised as ‘allies,’ and thanked for ‘using their privilege’ to support female scholarship and the participation of women in religious organizations and events are no more trustworthy than those who don’t.

Abusers are often very image-conscious and may be acting to improve their own image and brand strength. Influential male and female religious figures also help one another with mutual praising and social-proofing. That is how the misdoings of men who are supportive of women are ignored, as long as they support the right politicized causes such as inclusive spaces and diverse panels.

Don’t be tricked into trust through a person’s credentials. An ijazah (license) to be a shaykh of a tariqa is purportedly the highest credential. It’s a credential that allegedly has a chain that goes all the way back to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), but that does not impart any of the Prophet’s character or trustworthiness in and of itself. A shaykh has to continuously live up to the ijaza and position. The position does not justify behavior outside of the sharia or any form of abuse. Scholars are inheritors of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) only to the degree to which they embody his character.

When a teacher who hasn’t spent adequate time with righteous shayukh abuses, they are said to lack suhba (companionship of the pious), and that is why they are abusive.

The truth is many of the worst abusers in traditional circles are highly certified, have spent adequate time with shayukh, are valid representatives of them, and are able to abuse because the previously mentioned credentials lead to blind trust.

Don’t let certifications about spiritual abuse, ethical leadership, or the like mean anything to you. Skilled narcissists will be the first to get such certifications and take courses because they know this will make people trust them more. You will see courses on ‘healthy leadership’ and ‘spiritual abuse prevention’ being taught and designed by them. There is a false premise behind such certifications that if religious leaders knew how abuse occurs and the damage it causes victims they wouldn’t do it. The fact is they know how abuse works, know how damaging it is, and don’t care. In a way, it’s good to have lessons on spiritual abuse from purveyors of abuse, just as learning theft prevention from a thief might be the most beneficial.

Don’t judge by rhetoric

Don’t look at the rhetoric of groups or individuals to see how seriously they take abuse. Spiritual abuse occurs in all groups. It is common for members of one group to call out abuse that they see in another group while ignoring abuse occurring within their own group.

Sufis who will talk about the importance of sharia, label others as ‘goofy-Sufis,’ and insist that real Sufis follow sharia, will very often abuse in private and use the same justifications as the other Sufi groups they publicly deride.

Many imams and religious leaders will talk publicly about the importance of justice, having zero-tolerance for abuse, and the importance of building safe spaces, while they themselves are participating in the abuse.

Furthermore, female religious leaders will often cover up secret marriages, and other abuses for such men and help them to ostracize and destroy the credibility of their victims as long as their political views align. Muslim mental health providers often incorporate religious figures when they do programs, and in some cases they involve known abusers if it helps their cause.

In some cases, the organization does not know of any abuse. Abusive individuals use partnerships with Muslim mental health organizations to enhance their image as a “safe person.” This is especially dangerous due to the vulnerability of those struggling with mental illness and spiritual issues, who may then be exploited by the abuser. It is a community responsibility to ensure the safety of these vulnerable individuals and to ensure that they do have access to resources that can actually help them.

Don’t judge by fame

One false assumption is that the local-unknown teacher is sincere while the famous preacher is insincere and just wants to amass followers. This contrast is baseless although rhetorically catchy.

The fact is, many unknown teachers desire fame and work towards it more than those who are famous. Other times the unknown and famous teacher may have the same love of leadership, but one is more skilled than the other. They both may also be incredibly sincere.

Ultimately, we cannot judge what is in someone’s heart but must look at their actions, and if their actions are abusive, they are a danger to the community. Both famous and non-famous teachers are equally capable of spiritual abuse.

Look for a procedure

Before being involved in an organization, look for a code of conduct. There is no accountability without one in non-criminal matters. Never depend on people, look at the procedures and ensure that the procedure calls for transparency, such as the one we at In Shaykh’s Clothing published and made free for the public to use.

Procedure also applies to an organizations’ financials. Do not donate money to organizations based on personalities, instead demand financial transparency and accountability for the money spent. There is great incentive for spiritual abusers to win the trust of crowds when it means they can raise money without any financial accountability.

But what about Husne-Zann? Thinking well of others?

Allah tells us يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ

O You who believe, leave much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sinful” (Quran 49:12).

From this verse, we see that some – not all negative opinions are sinful. The prohibition is partitive, meaning some bad opinions are permissible.

If someone punches you, it is not hunse-zann to assume that person just happened to stretch with a closed fist and did not see your face was in the way. This kind of delusion will lead to you getting punched more. To be wary of their fist isn’t a sinful level of suspicion.

Part of why spiritual abuse is difficult to detect is that its purveyors have a reputation for outright uprightness. They are thought well of in the community, and in many cases they are its pillars and have decades of positive service to their defense. Assuming that someone cannot be abusive simply because they have been a teacher or leader for a long time is not husne-zann. When facts are brought to light- like a fist to the face – it is delusional to assume they didn’t mean it that way.

If someone does something that warrants suspicion, then put your guard up and don’t make excuses for those actions. Start with a general guard and be procedural about things which require a procedure.  For example, if you are going to loan someone money, don’t just take their word that they will pay you back but insist on a written record. If they say they are offended, just say “it’s my standard procedure to avoid any confusion later on.” A reasonable person won’t have an issue with that. If someone mentions on the phone they will pay you $100 for your work, write an email to confirm what was said on the phone so there’s a record for it.

Lastly, and most importantly, never leave your child alone with a teacher where you or others cannot see them. Many cases of child sexual assault can be prevented if we never allow children to study alone with adults. There should never be an exception to this, and parents much uphold this as a matter of policy. Precaution is not an accusation, and this is a professional and standard no one should reject.

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