Little Mosque On The Prairie

The Mother-in-law

Polygamy and Gay Marriages

Little Mosque was a pleasant surprise this week. Not because it has stopped being a piece of propaganda, in the tradition of Father Knows Best said one critic, but because in this episode about polygamy (Yasir's overbearing mother comes to town, wanting Yasir to take a second wife) and gay marriages, the jokes did not come at the expense of another religion.

Father Knows Best was about Western family values, the Little Mosque on the Prairie is about Islamic values. Marcus Welby’s (John Young) family values did not include polygamy.

On principal, I am not against polygamy. On principal I am for equal rights. On principal, I am critical of religions that do not treat both sexes equally. On principal, I am against Canada allowing polygamy unless it also allows polyandry, the practice of a woman having more than one husband, and makes it a fundamental right for both sexes.

Kate Heartfield, writing in the Ottawa Citizen in 2005, made an argument in favour of polygamy in an article titled Polygamy Ban Offends Women. My response (partial).

Re: Polygamy Ban Offends Women, February 2005

Ms. Heartfield should not be so easily offended for she is doing a real disservice to her gender by claiming that a ban on polygamy is offensive to her sex. Islam, has no prohibition against a man having multiple wives. However, a Muslim woman is only entitled to one spouse at a time. Allowing polygamy means sanctioning  polyandry and while polyandry may be in a woman's interest, polygamy is not.

The removal of any restrictions on polygamy is bound to be detrimental for many women who belong to a religion or sect that has a double standard that favours men when it comes to multiple marriage partners. Ms. Heartfield maintains that just because polygamy is more common then polyandry that should not be a reason to outlaw polygamy. “Only a few woman”, to use her words "would be affected.”

Where does she live? There is no mainstream religion in Canada that tolerates polyandry, therefore a change in the law would make no difference for any woman that belonged to any of the mainstream religions, but it would make a great deal of difference to any man who belonged to a religion that allows the male faithful to have multiple wives.

Making polygamy legal would instantly create second class citizens, when it came  to marriage, of women who belong to a religion that condoned polygamy and condemned polyandry and there are not just a few.

Bernard Payeur

The Koran recommends that a believer only marry as many wives as he can afford, to a maximum of four females (slave-girls not included).

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.

The Prophet, who officially was married to fourteen women and girls, not counting concubines such as the beautiful Jewish princess Rayhanah, got an exception from Allah, as he always did in such matters.

33:50 O Prophet, we made lawful, for you, your wives, whose dowry you have paid, what your right hand owns (slave-girls) out of the spoils of war that Allah gave you, the daughters of your paternal uncles, the daughters of your paternal aunts, the daughters of your maternal uncles, the daughters of your maternal aunts who emigrated with you, and any believing woman who gives herself freely to the Prophet, if the Prophet desires to marry her, granted exclusively to you, but not the believers. We know what We have prescribed for them regarding their wives and what their right hands own, so that you may not be at fault. Allah is All-Forgiving, Merciful.

The Prophet is also the only person mentioned in the Koran as being authorised by God to enjoy the company of a woman who gave “herself freely". An argument could be made that God's Messenger still had to marry her before being intimate, but this would apply to all believers as long at they stayed within the four wives limit. But, as Allah makes clear, this is a right "granted exclusively to you, but not the believers."

In the next verse in this series about what is lawful for the Prophet in situations where intimacy may ensue, Allah decrees what His Messenger can do with the females in his entourage that others can't. Revelation 33:51 may only apply to the Prophet's wives, sex-slaves and concubines, and may not necessarily imply that Allah considered having spent quality time with His Messenger was reward enough if said messenger decided to send a woman who had given "herself freely", on her way without further consideration.

33:51 You may defer any of them you wish, and take in any of them that you wish or any that you may have cut off. So you are not liable to reproach. For thus it is more likely that they will be delighted and will not grieve, but be content with what you have given each one of them. Allah knows what is within your hearts; and Allah is All-Knowing, Clement.

You have to wonder why a god in a book meant to be a moral guide for humankind until He decides to bring an end to His Creation, spends so much time on improving the sex life of one middle-aged man who would shortly be leaving this world for a world where unbridled, limitless sex with multiple partners was everyman's reward for believing in God? If that sex life was to be held up as an example to the faithful then perhaps it would have its place in such as book, but as an exception to Allah’s rules for the ordinary believer, I am not so sure.

The Prophet's child-bride Aisha wondered about Allah's readiness to indulge His Messenger in everything sexual. In a Bukhari hadith she offers, after revelation 33:51 was communicated, a rather wry comment about Allah hastily fulfilling her husband’s wishes when it came to the ladies.

Narrated Aisha:

I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah's Apostle and I used to say, "Can a lady give herself (to a man)?" But when Allah revealed: "You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily).' (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires."

Bukhari 60.675

For some Muslims, the hardest test of their faith in the Koran as the word of God is the exceptions Allah makes when it comes to sex and His Messenger, including making an exception for His Prophet when he spots his adopted son's wife half-naked and just has to have her.

33:37 And [remember] when you said to him whom Allah favoured and you favoured: (this is addressed to Zayd regarding his wife Zaynab) “Hold on to your wife and fear Allah”, while you concealed within yourself what Allah would reveal and feared other men, whereas Allah had a better right to be feared by you. Then, when Zayd had satisfied his desire for her, We gave her to you in marriage; so that the believers should not be at fault, regarding the wives of their adopted sons, once they have satisfied their desire for them. For Allah’s Command must be accomplished.

To make it possible for the Prophet to marry his adopted son's former wife (Zayd wisely quickly divorced Zaynab once God's Messenger's desire for her became known), Allah had to reduce the status of adopted sons. Orphaned Muslim boys continue to pay for this demotion to this day.   

Since all verses of the Koran are meant to be prayers, you may understand why some converts to Islam would rather not repeat, as prayers, verses about Allah indulging his Messenger's sexual proclivity.

This week’s episode also included a story about a gay couple wishing to get married in the Anglican church that also serves as a mosque, causing much angst among some members of Mercy's Muslim community (with good reason). The CBC took the easy way out in resolving the gay marriage issue for Muslims by having the couple deciding to change venue, but for the CBC that is progress.

Bernard Payeur, March 4, 2007

Extra - November 16, 2014

Allah, in indulging His Messenger's need to shelter so many maidens and matrons under his roof, many left husbandless in the first Arab Civil War (the first and most talked about battle in the Koran), created another problem –  a wife management problem.

Some were of the type that required a god's intervention such as when His Messenger's child-bride Aisha was accused of having spent the night in the company of a young man. It was touch and go for a while, but Allah eventually cleared her of any wrongdoing; her innocence He loudly proclaimed in His Koran along with a dire warning for those who still had doubts, as is His Way.

Warnings are very much central to His intervention in a minor dispute over honey which will have you wondering why a god would even bother.


* For what Allah had to say about the depute over honey and Aisha's alleged infidelity and which still severely impacts women to this day read The Perfect Wife.