Why Islam permits exactly four wives

Why Islam permits exactly four wives

Raymond Ibrahim (on JW)


During a recent Arabic program devoted to how religions view marriage, Islamic clerics endeavored to answer the host’s question, “Why does Islam permit exactly four wives, as opposed to only one or more than four?

One of these clerics responded by saying that, before Islam, there was no limit to how many wives an Arab man could have. But when Koran 4:3 appeared, telling Muslim men to “Marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four,” a man came to Islam’s prophet Muhammad saying, I have 19 wives, what do I do now? Muhammad told him, keep four and divorce the rest.

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The cleric then said that in another hadith, Muhammad said a woman should be married for one of four reasons: 1) her beauty, 2) her lineage, 3) her wealth, and 4) her piety.

However, argued the cleric, it is impossible to find all four traits in one woman. That is why a Muslim man, who deserves the best that womanhood can offer, is permitted to have four wives—ideally, one that represents each of the four aforementioned traits sought after in women.