Questioning Polygamy


Salam, A friend of mine told me that there is a hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari (7/157) stating that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told someone who wanted `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) to marry his daughter that if `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) wanted to get another wife, he would have to leave Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with her). That was because she was very dear to the Prophet and he didn't want her to get hurt. What are the implications of this hadith? Can this be used as evidence to tell someone not to get a second wife since it would be too hurtful for the first one? Is this hadith discouraging polygamy?

Name of Counsellor: Amani Aboul Fadl Farag


Thank you for contacting us.

In fact, the text of the hadith is wrongly reported in your question. The right text as narrated by Al-Miswar ibn Makhrama is this:

`Ali demanded the hand of the daughter of Abu Jahl. Fatimah heard of this and went to Allah's Messenger saying, "Your people think that you do not become angry for the sake of your daughters as `Ali now is going to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl."

On that, the Messenger got up and after his recitation of Tashahud (witnessing the oneness of the Creator and the prophethood of His Final Messenger) I heard him saying, " I married one of my daughters (Zainab) to Abu Al-`Aas ibn Ar-Rabi` before Islam and he proved truthful in whatever he said to me. No doubt Fatimah is part of me; I hate to see her troubled. By Allah, the daughter of Allah's Messenger and the daughter of Allah's enemy cannot be the wives of one man."

So, Ali gave up that engagement. (Al-Bukhari 1538)

This hadith talks about the incident that `Ali wanted to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl, the bitterest enemy of Allah and His Messenger. He kept pagan to the last moment of his miserable life. He humiliated the Prophet and his Companions and tortured them; he also attempted the life of the Prophet many times.

Abu Jahl was finally killed by the believers in the Battle of Badr long before `Ali proposed to marry his daughter. This is why the Prophet could never have approved him concerning this marriage, not for the reasons you mentioned in the wrong text that you stated.

Thus, it becomes evident that the Prophet's justification of his disapproval of that marriage was not because he discouraged polygamy as a principle, as he himself was married to nine noble ladies, but because of the shameful family history of the bride, which would definitely trouble his beloved daughter.

This hadith demonstrates a very important fact that is a matter of confusion, if not controversy, to many Muslims, which is that polygamy is neither discouraged (as some people think) nor considered obligatory (as others try to prove) but it is a matter of personal choice—on the part of the man to decide, and on the part of the woman and her guardians to accept.

I hope this clarifies the matter. Thank you again for contacting us and we look forward to receiving more of your inquiries.

Please stay in touch.



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