I am not debating the reason why polygamy is allowed, because I am a devout Muslim and I understand it had served the Muslim society in the past, for instance in the times of war to accommodate the orphans and widows. And I understand there are major conditions that are set to ensure that it’s practiced to promote social justice and improve the society. But I am questioning the reasons why it’s practiced today in my country in this century.

If you fear that you will not act justly towards the orphans, marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four; but if you fear you will not be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own; so it is likelier you will not be partial. {Surah 4 (an-Nisa), verse 3}

That is the Quranic verse relating to polygamy which tells us polygamy is allowed to support widows and orphans, however, for a man to marry more than one wife, he must be just toward his wives. By being just, a man must equally provide for his wives both emotionally and financially.

The continuation verse indicates that it’s impossible to be impartial to all wives, which further implies that polygamy is not ideal for Muslims.

You will not be able to be equitable between your wives, be you ever so eager; (Surah 4 (an-Nisa'), verse 129}

Muslim countries differ in the ways polygamy is practiced, for example in Malaysia it is very rare to see polygamous marriages because they observe the rules of polygamy and majority of men there are mindful of the strict guidelines of polygamy.

The fact remains that polygamy is not compulsory on any Muslim, it’s merely allowed with certain conditions, and it is supposed to be the exception not the rule but Somalis practice polygamy in ways that are against the Islamic religion. If it’s really not a MUST then why do Somali men practice polygamy? Is it to gain more rewards and to serve orphans and widows?

I have seen over the years that most Somali men don’t consider remarrying a widow with orphans who are in need of a father or financial support, neither a divorcee with children. Their preferred style is to marry a virgin; because in Somali culture virgins are favored to complement manhood; and then they leave her with the children and marry another until they complete the four wives.

Somalis value spiritual guidance and it seems as though they actually believe it’s religiously correct to practice polygamy in this manner, therefore religious scholars have a duty to educate the people and to clarify the conditions that are set for polygamy in order to facilitate the reduction of its practice.

To explore another angle, I found out several reasons why women get involved in polygamous marriage and in most cases men hide the fact that they are married, and they tend to marry a woman from a different state to ensure their current wife doesn’t find out, but in some cases some women marry a married man expecting him to leave his current family or agree to end up in a polygamous marriage out of desperation.

So it is not for the benefit of widows and orphans, and then remains the argument of Somalis wanting more children to increase the clan. If the aim of polygamy is to have more children, I wonder, what would the increased number serve if the father cannot recognize them if he met them on the streets?

The old generation practiced polygamy and most Somalis have 30 uncles and aunts, and the headcount was essential to have an advantage in clan wars. But Somalis have become more modernized and the competition over which clan has more sons reduced over the years. People have moved to cities and the routine is to raise and educate children, but the concern is, Somali families can barely afford to raise and educate 5 kids and having 20 of them just makes it difficult to fulfill their basic needs. Somalia is relatively peaceful now and there are no officially declared wars that take men's lives alone, so this removes out the major reason of practicing polygamy.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital empowerment and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future 2013 Assignments: Op-Eds.

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I loved how much detail you included in your writing, I wish I could have continued reading because I thing you were doping something quite phenomenal. Dismantling the misconceptions in a way deconstructing polygamy. I loved it.

Life is just for living

This is a great Op Ed, Deqa. You have lots of background facts - I especially like that you cite the Quran. Polygamy has deep societal roots and will be difficult to change. You focus on some specific behaviors where mean and woman can change behaviors within the overall culture. Susan

Dear Deqa,

Thanks for highlighting this important issue of polygamy. In the Arabs Peninsula before prophet Mohammed Era polygamy was practiced and the number of wives was unidentified and some men used to have over 10 women in addition to the slaves. It would be very hard at that time to ban polygamy but working towards ending it by putting limits to the number of wives and specifying the emotional equity status which is not attainable (as stated in the Quran verses). Till now there is a despite on the limited number of wives which Sunna thinks its 4 while part of Shiaa sects thinks its 9 (2+3+4) and modern interpretations of Tahir Alhadad and Mahmoud Taha see only one wife for a husband. I wonder why men doesn't stick to practicing slavery although it was legitimized by Shariaa as well as polygamy. They know polygamy is not a right given to men but a social culture and they stick to it as if it is a sign of the true believer

Yosra Akasha, Sudan

Dear Deqa,

Thank you so much for this op ed which has helped me understood the concept of polygamy in Somalia and why it was used in the past. Thank you also for this beautiful and strong call to stop the use of polygamy now because it does not make sense anymore in the society we currently live in. The quoting of the Koran was strong and really support your argument for ending this practice. The social reasons you name, such as economic realities of families, are also strong compelling evidence to end polygamy. Great job! Thanks you,

Delphine Criscenzo

Dear Deqa,

Thank you for this piece and for helping me better understand the origins of polygamy in Somalia - and how important it is to correct the misperceptions that allow this practice to continue. Your writing is clear and concise. Well done, Deqa! Thanks for bringing your voice to this important topic.

Warm regards, Deb

Deb Busser ENERGY SPRING Leadership Office: 978.649.1788 * Mobile: 978.790.3909 http://www.linkedin.com/in/debbusser

Dear Deqa,

I really learned a lot from this piece. I have read several articles about why polygamy is harmful for women, but I've never read about the reasons for the origin of polygamy and why men still want to practice it. You also presented some interesting social factors for why polygamy does not make sense today, like the reduction in clan wars.

I especially liked your even-handed and understanding approach. You present different perspectives and do not launch attacks at anyone; instead you name some very logical and compelling reasons to end polygamy and specific changes that can be made. I appreciate that you're willing to look at the reasons behind those who disagree with your opinion, and it only makes your argument even more convincing.

Thank you for writing this!


Thank you for your piece. This is the 1st time I have gained a greater understanding on why the practice of polygamy exists.

"I have seen over the years that most Somali men don’t consider remarrying a widow with orphans who are in need of a father or financial support, neither a divorcee with children. Their preferred style is to marry a virgin; because in Somali culture virgins are favored to complement manhood; and then they leave her with the children and marry another until they complete the four wives." This is such an important note - our society is ever progressing. It is important to understand the context of which a law or cultural norm was created. I appreciate you analyzing this through an historical lens and providing the reader this knowledge.



Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager World Pulse

Polygamy is harmful for women in patriarchal order however polygamy could be thought differently perhaps if women could have also several men in matriarchal society where the descendants would follow the female and not the male so the children would not have to be recognized by the male as female recognition is what counts ...

Nosotros los más pequeños, debemos convertirnos en un nudo de resistencia en contra de la mentira y guardar la verdad, mantenerla y difundirla. (subcomandante Insurgente Marcos)