A Contractual Affair
Believers do not usually marry for love. Men acquire wives through contractual arrangements with their fathers or male guardians and, during the Prophet’s time and the subsequent wars to expand Allah's Dominion, sex-slaves – what Allah refers to as “what your right hands possess” – as part of their share of the booty.
Allah, in the Koran, compared females to fields to be plowed at the discretion of the plowman (2:223). The marriage contract, in effect, formally recognizes this god-given right for husbands to rape their wives, for they cannot refuse their demand for intimacy.
In the marriage contract the bride guarantees unrestricted access to her "private parts". As the Prophet makes clear in the following hadith, there is no derogation from this written undertaking to allowing her husband to have his way with her whenever and wherever he pleases.
The Prophet said: "The stipulations most entitled to be abided by are those with which you are given the right to enjoy the (women's) private parts (i.e. the stipulations of the marriage contract)."
A marriage in the Islamic tradition is usually an arranged affair between members of the same clan, meaning you are all relatives, all offsprings of the same father a few generations removed; and, not unlike arranged marriages of the Middle and Dark Ages, the primary consideration is what benefits in wealth and influence will accrue to the contracting parties i.e. the families of the bride and groom.
While marriage within the clan is encouraged, there are limits as to which relative or family member you can marry; and for a reason that has nothing to do with the dangers of in-breeding* you should not marry a woman who was previously married to your father.
4:22 And do not marry women that your fathers had married, unless it has already happened. Surely it is indecent and hateful, and it is an evil course!
4:23 Unlawful to you are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your paternal and maternal aunts, your brother’s daughters and sister’s daughters, your foster-mothers who gave you suck, your foster-sisters, your wives’ mothers, your step-daughters who are in your custody, born to your wives whom you have lain with. But if you have not lain with them then, then you are not at fault. [It is also not lawful to marry] the wives of your sons who are of your loins, or to take in two sisters together, unless this has already happened. Allah is truly All-Forgiving and Merciful!
* The knowledge of the risk of reduced mental acuity and increased physical abnormalities due to inbreeding has not stop marriages between close relations in traditional Muslim societies such as Saudi Arabia.
In some parts of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the south… the rate of marriage among blood relatives ranges from 55 to 70 percent … according to the Saudi government, "Widespread inbreeding in Saudi Arabia has produced several genetic disorders Saudi public health officials said …"
New York Times, Saudi Arabia Awakes to the Perils of Inbreeding, May 1, 2003
It is legal for a man to marry the wife or wives of another man if they have taken them as captives “Or married women except those your right hands possess (slave-girls)”.
4:24 Or married women except those your right hands possess (captives of war or slave-girls). This is Allah’s decree for you. Beyond these it is lawful for you to seek, by means of your wealth, any women, to marry and not to debauch. Those of them you have enjoyed, you should give them their dowry as a matter of obligation; but you are not liable to reproach for whatever you mutually agree upon, apart from the obligatory payment (the dowry). Allah is indeed All-Knowing, Wise.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said: "A woman and her paternal aunt should not be married to the same man; and similarly, a woman and her maternal aunt should not be married to the same man."
If a man is unhappy with any of his matrimonial choices, getting out of a marriage agreement under Islamic law is probably easier than any other type of contractual arrangements.
A marriage contract, unlike other contractual arrangements, is a one-sided affair, which can be terminated at the discretion of the male signatory. The soon-to-be-divorced wife cannot object to the unilateral breaking of the marriage contract by her husband.
Polygamy! Is The Koran For or Against? In the following verse, already quoted, Allah appears to grant men the right to marry up to four wives if he can treat them all equally:
4:3 If you fear that you cannot deal justly with the orphans, then marry such of the women as appeal to you, two, three or four; but if you fear that you cannot be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own (captives of war or slave-girls). This is more likely to enable you to avoid unfairness.
Fakhry: "It should be noted that this verse was revealed following the battle of Uhud in which seventy Muslim fighters were killed, leaving many widows and other dependants without a provider for them. Hence, most commentators regard the permission as an exception and not a rule."
In a later verse Allah states that it is impossible for a man who has more than one wife to treat them equally.
4:129 You will never be able to treat wives equally, even if you are bent on doing that. So do not turn away altogether [from any of them] leaving her, like one in suspense; and if you do justice [to her] and guard against evil, He (Allah) is surely All-Forgiving, Merciful.
Muhammad 'Abduh, (1849:1905) “Egyptian jurist, religious scholar and liberal reformer, regarded as the founder of Islamic Modernism” (Wiki) argued that these two verses taken together means that the Koran is against polygamy. The Prophet would not allow his son-in-law Ali to take another wife after Fatima. This would also suggest that polygamy is not a hard and fast rule.
Narrated Al-Miswar bin Makhrama:
I heard Allah's Apostle who was on the pulpit, saying, "Banu Hisham bin Al-Mughira have requested me to allow them to marry their daughter to Ali bin Abu Talib, but I don't give permission, and will not give permission unless 'Ali bin Abi Talib divorces my daughter in order to marry their daughter, because Fatima is a part of my body, and I hate what she hates to see, and what hurts her, hurts me."