52) Why does the Qur’an, which allows polygamy for men, disallow
polyandry for women?
It is true that polyandry existed in many primitive communities.
In Tibet, Ceylon, Siberia and other lands polyandry prevailed in one
form or the other. In the case of India, it has been given to understand
that this custom existed right from the Medieval Age. There are no
indications, however, that polyandry existed during the Vedic age. The
fact that there exists no reference, whatsoever, to polyandry even
when there are references to polygamy in the Aithreya Brahmana
and the Thirirthrya samhithi makes it clear that that custom never
existed during the Vedic age. However, from the story of Panchaali
mentioned in the Mahabharath it may be understood that the custom
of polyandry had arrived here by the age of the great epics. Indeed,
polyandry had prevailed until very recent times in Kerala. It was customary
amongst the blacksmiths and carpenters for a number of brothers
to have one wife. There were places where this was prevalent
among the Ezhavas and the Nairs. The marriages that existed amongst
the Nairs of Malabar and Travancore are famous. Beautiful women
had four or five husbands.
Why does Islam disallow polyandry? It is simply because human
nature does not approve of polyandry. The plain fact, therefore,
is that polyandry will exist only as an obstacle in the path of creating a
morally sound society.
Polyandry is not a right like polygamy. While through polygamy
the woman is protected and certain other social problems are curbed,
no rights of the man or the woman are fulfilled nor is any other problem
solved through the practice of polyandry. polyandry is never the
solution to any problem. On the other hand it is merely a problem
which, in itself, creates many more problems. Its result is the disruption
of family life and the destruction of social security. Not one amongst
the fundamental purposes that is meant to be served through married
life is fulfilled through polyandry. The practical outcome of polyandry
is that the position of woman is degraded and is ultimately reduced to
that of a slave.
The problems created by Polyandry are legion:
One: It becomes necessary to exercise a time-sharing procedure
between different husbands. An incident from the life of Draupadi
who had adopted polyandry in the Mahabharath is proof for this. It is
said that Panchali had allotted two and a half months to each of the
five Pandavas. The mutual agreement that existed between them was
that each would not trespass into the retiring room while the other was
present therein. However, Arjuna once broke this agreement by trespassing
into the retiring room while Yudhistra was with Panchali. The
story goes that as a repentance for this act, Arjuna had to go into exile
in the jungle for twelve years. The impracticability of devicing time
sharing schemes as regards sexual relations is very evident from this
story. Indeed, it becomes the cause of infighting and turbulence amongst
Two: Problems which arise in the matter of paternity. If a woman
with more than one husband becomes pregnant it becomes impossible
to determine as to which of the husbands is responsible for the pregnancy.
Furthermore, this will adversely affect the quality of care and
treatment that the woman is to receive during the period of pregnancy.
The pregnant woman will thus be entitled only to a situation
wherein insecurity and worry will be her lot. As it is not known as to
who the father of the unborn child is, none will come forward to offer
care and protection with sincerity. Love is an emotion that is necessarily
a spontaneous outpouring direct from one’s heart. It is never a
feeling that can be created artificially. Care for the pregnant woman
proceeds – indeed, must proceed – from that feeling of love. Otherwise
it becomes lifeless, mechanical and in such situations there can
be little difference in the care received from the husband and the
midwife. But that is never the desire of the pregnant woman. She is
more in need of the loving care of the one responsible for her pregnancy.
Since that person cannot be identified she misses out on that
love and affection. Indeed, for this reason alone polyandry stands as
an affront, and as a stark injustice, to womanhood.
Three: The problem of the children’s security. It is not possible
to ascertain the father of the children born in a polyandrous marriage.
This becomes the reason for the children not receiving the love that is
due unto them from the father. The protection of the children thus
becomes the responsibility of the mother. This creates further difficulties
for them. It is, however, possible to identify the real father by way
of blood tests and of ‘DNA fingerprints’. Nevertheless, it is a gross
injustice that a child, to receive the love and care of its father, has to
wait until the laboratory test results are produced. Further, the degree
of warmth and emotional attachment that may exist in a fatherly relation
that has been proved by way of medical tests can be imagined
only too well. In short, therefore, the custom of polyandry is opposed
to the very nature of the emotional ties that are meant to exist in a
natural father-son relationship. Four: The problem of inheritance. This is a problem that results
from the inability to identify the father. To which husband’s wealth will
a child born in a polyandrous marriage be entitled? It is not possible to
assume that the wealth be divided equally amongst the children. For
there is every chance that one husband is rich while the other is poor.
Which children will be entitled to the wealth of which father in all such
situations? Should all children be provided with their inheritance if any
one husband meets with his death? Or is it that only his children are to
receive the wealth of inheritance? Many such problems abound in the
case of polyandry.
Five: The problem of protection due in old age. Who will protect
the woman who has more than one husband? Who will support
her in her old age? Even if the responsibility for her protection is shared
by each husband, in such a system it can prove to be nothing more
than a mechanical function. For it is not the protection that is bestowed
through the agency of a truly loving disposition. It is also possible
that there may arise differences between the husbands on the
matter of her protection with the end result that the woman eventually
goes discarded. Indeed, Polyandry may be deemed fitting only by those
who are bound to ever transgress upon the system sanctioned by the
Lord of the universe for the protection and welfare of the woman.
Six: The friction between the men. There is every possibility
that there will arise disputes amongst the husbands over the subject of
the wife. Such disputations can occur in the name of sexual relations,
the child born or in the name of the child’s fathership. All these disputes
may serve ultimately to disrupt the harmony of family life and
the woman’s peace of mind.
It may thus be seen that Islam which is the religion of nature
has prohibited polyandry as it is against all norms of a natural way of
life. Why has Islam, which allows for polygamy, disallowed polyandry?
This is the question that has been raised. While polygamy is the
solution to many problems, polyandry is nothing more than a problem
in itself. It is never a solution for anything. The question may arise:
what is the solution for women when they are faced with situations
similar to the compelling situations that push men towards adopting
the option of Polygamy? Examine the said situations.
One: Physiological problems. It can be fairly stated that there
are few instances when the sexual satisfaction of the woman calls for
the need of more than one man. A single healthy male is himself more
than sufficient for the sexual needs of the woman. The woman is
never forced to consider any natural disposition in the man when she
is in need of sexual gratification which is very unlike the case of the
man who is forced to restrain his sexual appetite during the periods of
the woman’s menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the like. It is for the
same reason that there never is a need for more than one man as far as
the sexual satisfaction of the woman is concerned.
Sexual impotency of the man and barrenness, however, are major
impediments. Absence of sperms, lack of mobility of sperms, the fall
in sperm count and the failure of the testes all form the reasons for
male infertility. However, these need not be reasons for permanent
barrenness in the man. For these can be remedied by effective treatment.
Even if the man is sexually impotent the woman can take recourse
to a divorce from him. Islam never compels a woman to lead
her life with a sexually impotent man. In all such circumstances, therefore,
divorce is the fitting solution, never polyandry.
Two: Social problems. Could not polyandry be permitted in cases
where the population of men far exceeds that of women? This question
may arise. The straightforward answer to this is that such a situation
does not present itself under ordinary conditions. Indeed, it is
hardly possible that the number of males born through natural pregnancies
will increase. Furthermore, it is not possible that women are
killed in more numbers in wars and that a situation comes by where
more females are born in comparison to males. Then the problem of
males being more in number than the females is a non-existent one. It
is, therefore, useless to propose polyandry as a solution for a problem
that cannot exist in the first place.
The fact that recent population surveys in India have shown
that the number of males is actually more than the females may be
used against this argument. But what is the reason for this being so?
Female infanticide. This is the end result of the cruel practice of killing
the unborn child in the womb after having determined its sex to be
female. The consequence of the barbaric practice of female infanticide.
This the Qur’an has condemned in the strongest terms
(16:59,6:137,17:31,81:9). Thus, there can never occur male or female
infanticide in an Islamic society. And in a society where child delivery
takes its natural course, it is the female population, which will be greater.
For such, indeed, is the scheme of nature.
Now even if the female population in a country is lower than
that of the male, the men who live in that country could always find
suitable wives by moving out to the neighboring lands. Indeed, as compared
to women, it is the men who are more capable of travel to other
lands and in finding mates therein. It is in the least practical to ask
excess women in a country to find husbands for themselves from
neighboring lands. But that, however, is not the case with men. It will
not be similarly difficult for them to seek out mates from other places
if there is, indeed, a shortage of women in the land where they themselves
reside. Although such a state of affairs is not normally possible,
the point here is that even if such is the case a solution is also readily
available. This would then imply that it is simply because polyandry is
never an inevitability that Islam never permitted it in the first place.