Short Answer: As Muslims, we need to remember one thing. We have to believe that whatever our Prophet (peace be upon him) did was based upon Divine guidance. After becoming Allah’s messenger, whatever he said or did was the truth. This includes those decrees and verdicts that we can find difficult to understand or accept. Sometimes, our lack of knowledge can cause us to question the fairness of certain verdicts. In such a scenario, we should seek answers to our questions with sincerity. We must be careful that these answers are from the correct sources of Islamic knowledge.
Asalaamu alaykum, and thank you for sending in your question to our website.
Indeed, polygamy is a hot and debatable topic today. As cultures converge, science & technology make advances, and gender roles overlap, society rapidly evolves. In lieu of these, the discussion on polygamy can get a little volatile.
First, our belief as Muslims
Sister, I would like to start with some important advice. As Muslims, we need to remember one thing. We have to believe that whatever our Prophet (peace be upon him) did was based upon Divine guidance. After becoming Allah’s messenger, whatever he said or did was the truth. This includes those decrees and verdicts that we can find difficult to understand or accept.
Sometimes, our lack of knowledge can cause us to question the fairness of certain verdicts. In such a scenario, we should seek answers to our questions with sincerity. We must be careful that these answers are from the correct sources of Islamic knowledge.
Special conditions for the Prophet’s family
Polygamy is a social practice that predates Islam. Historically, men have had multiple simultaneous wives, especially at older ages. Even in some non-Muslim cultures, it was a social norm for powerful men to keep mistresses.
At your age, it is admittedly difficult for a girl to accept how and why polygamy can be fair towards women. Nevertheless, with time, one begins to understand the great wisdom behind Islamic edicts. This includes the allowance of limited polygamy for men (maximum four wives), with strict conditions.
Sister, Prophet Muhammad has been designated as the numero-uno role model for Muslims. However, there are certain exceptions that Allah has made towards him and his family. For example, he was allowed to have more than four wives at one time. He was also ordered by Allah to marry the divorcee of his adopted son, despite his reluctance.
Whatever the Prophet forbade or commanded, was not based upon his personal desires or preferences. Rather, it was only for the betterment of the Muslims, for all time.
Possible explanations for the Prophet’s decision
It is true that the Prophet stopped Ali from bringing a co-wife for Fatimah. However, we should not assume that this was just due to his love for her. Polygamy was allowed for all other Muslim marriages. There can be several reasons why the Prophet prevented it for his daughter’s marriage to Ali.
– He knew well the personalities and natures of both Fatimah and Ali. He had practically raised both of them, as an older parent and a guardian, respectively. Fatimah was still a very young girl. He foresaw, based on wisdom, that a co-wife would put her faith to severe trial. This trial would outweigh the benefit of the second marriage. So he clearly stated so.
– Marriages served special purposes and involved social repercussions for the Prophet and his family members. Ali was part of the Prophet’s close family (his biological nephew). Ali wanted to marry the daughter of one of the Prophet’s greatest deceased enemies (Abu Jahl). Marrying her would mean being related to her extended family, and having children from her. This could cause more harm to Fatimah and Ali, than good.
– Fatimah had once witnessed a traumatizing incident during her childhood involving Abu Jahl. She saw him dump animal filth on her father’s back as he prostrated near the Kabah. She was still very young as Ali’s wife. It is possible that the hurtful incident was still very fresh in her memory. Having the daughter of the man whom her father had prayed against, as a co-wife, could traumatize her.
Conclusion: see the bigger picture
Sister, please remember the hadith in which the Prophet made a staunch point by mentioning Fatimah. He emphasized that had she committed theft, capital punishment would be carried out on her. And that he would command this himself, as the Prophet of Allah.
This clearly indicates that the Prophet ordained justice over his kinship and love for anyone. As Prophet of Allah, he was not protecting his daughter from co-wife jealousy. Rather, he was preventing fitnah (tribulation and dissension) from happening to his family, including to Ali.
And Allah knows best. I hope that this answers your question.
Salam. Please stay in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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