Monogamy is the ideal in marriage, as reflected in God’s creation of life in pairs of male and female, according to the account given in various Qur’anic verses. The vast majority of Muslims today are monogamous. While it is permitted for Muslim men to marry more than one wife, it is with the condition that he treat his wives equally, a standard that even the Qur’an warns is difficult to achieve, clearly implying a preference for monogamy.

The Qur’an modified but allowed the continuation of the existing practice of polygamy 1400 years ago in the context of war, when caring for orphans was a major concern. Polygamy was not peculiar to the Arabian Peninsula; it was widespread in many cultures, including that of ancient Israel as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible, where many of the Patriarchs are described as having multiple wives and Israelite kings had harems numbering in the hundreds. Today polygamy is mainly practiced in the Gulf States and Africa where it is more culturally acceptable than in other Muslim societies.

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