by Rosie Alfatlawi
When a hashtag about polygamy trends in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, you might expect to see the traditionalists dominate the debate.
After all, marrying up to four wives is permitted under the kingdom’s strict, conservative interpretation of Islamic law.
However, among the more than 10,000 responses to the tag in its first 24 hours were many surprisingly progressive comments.
Some took the orthodox line, according to the much-cited verse of Surat an-Nisa’ in the Qur’an, which says: “marry women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one […]”.
However, many drew on personal experience to warn against marrying more than one.
Others indicated that, while permitted in Islam, it was a largely unnecessary practice.
One woman took a stand against polygamy, calling on others not to allow their husbands to get away with it.
Not everyone took the topic seriously, though.
(The husband is saying “I’m single”, and the wife is replying “And god willing I’ll be a widow”)
Polygyny (marrying more than one wife) is allowed in Saudi Arabia, and Al-Arabiya reported in October last year that more than half-a-million Saudi men had more than one spouse.
A hashtag earlier this month claimed that “polygamy is the solution to spinsterhood.” This was an attitude mirrored in a 2012 article, again in Al-Arabiya, which stated:
“In Saudi Arabia, polygamy appears to be a solution for women increasingly worried about spinsterhood which is seen as associated with a “shortage” of men.”
This is an argument that was described as patronizing by some.
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Polygyny has been outlawed or restricted in a number of Muslim states.
Turkey and Tunisia ban it outright, while elsewhere a man’s first wife must consent. Regardless of legislation, in many countries it continues to be practiced outside of the law.
In fact, there are many Muslims who interpret the Quranic text as allowing polygyny in such a restrictive set of conditions that it is not permitted in practice.
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