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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Another calumny that is persistently levelled at the Prophet is that in his later life he became licentious. That is an enormity that has only to be contemplated to be immediately rejected as utterly incompatible with his life and character. None of the great religious systems has polygamy been forbidden. The Jewish prophets, including the great lawgiver Moses, had a plurality of wives. No one has ever alleged that because of this they could be accounted as leading virtuous lives. Polygamy is not compulsory in Islam. It is permissible under very strict limitations, the principal one being the maintenance of complete equality between wives, as is said: "And if you apprehend that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one" (4:3).

Polygamy was a custom general throughout the East, so long as the days of Abraham, and which, it is certain, from innumerable passages in Scripture, some of which we shall quote, could not in those purer ages of mankind, have been regarded as sinful. Polygamy was permitted among the ancient Greeks, as in the case of the detachment of young men from the army, mentioned by Plutarch. It was also defended by Euripides and Plato. The ancient Romans were more severe in their morals, and never practiced it, although it was not forbidden among them; and Marc Antony is mentioned as the first who took the liberty of having two wives. From that time it became pretty frequent in the empire till the reigns of Theodosius, Honorius and Arcadius, who first prohibited it by an express law in 393 A.D. After this the emperor Valentinian permitted, by an edict, all the subjects of the empire, if they pleased, to marry several wives; nor does it appear from the ecclesiastical history of those times, that the bishops made any objection to its introduction. Valentinianus Constantius, son of
Plurality of wives
Constantine the Great, had countless wives. Clotaire, King of France, and Heribartus and Hypericus his sons, had a plurality also. Add to these, Pepin and Charlemagne, of whom St. Urspergensus witnesses that they had several wives, Lothaire and his sons, as likewise Arnolphus VII., Emperor of Germany (888 A.D.), and a descendant of Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa and Philip Theodatus the King of France. Among the first race of the Kings of the Franks, Gontran, Caribert, Sigebert and Chilpheric had several wives, at one time. Gontran had within his palace Veneranda and Mercatrude and Ostregilde, acknowledged as his legitimate wives; Caribert had Merflida, Marconesa and Theodogilda. Father Daniel confesses the polygamy of the French Kings. He denies not the three wives of Dagobert I, expressly asserting that Theodobert espoused Dentary, although she had a husband, and himself, another wife, named Visigelde. He adds, that in this he imitated his uncle Clotaire, who espoused the widow of Creodomir, although he had already three wives. After the emergence of the Protestant school of thought, Philip of Hesse and Frederick William II of Prussia, were permitted by the Protestant Church to contract bigamous marriages. In 1650, the Frankish Kreistag at Nuremberg passed a resolution, allowing everybody to marry two wives. The Anabaptists openly preached that a true Christian must have several wives; and the Morgans regard polygamy as a divine institution.

The Arab social fabric was passing through a serious crisis at the advent of Islam. Inter-tribal wars had destroyed a large part of the male population of Arabia. The very large number of women left destitute and likely to resort to prostitution had to be provided for. In the battle of Uhud, about 70 Muslims fell martyrs, rendering half the Muslim women in Medina widows. The surviving males were directed to marry the widows to alleviate their sufferings. Under these circumstances, the Prophet resorted to polygamy. He restrained polygamy by limiting the maximum number of contemporaneous marriages, and by making absolute equity towards all obligatory on the man. It is worthy of note that the clause in the Koran, which contains the permission of contract four contemporaneous marriages, is immediately followed by a sentence, which cuts down the significance of the preceding passage to its normal and legitimate dimensions. The passage runs thus, "You may marry two, three, or four wives, but not more." The subsequent lines declare, "but if you should apprehend that you may not be able to deal justly between your wives, then marry only one" (4:4) Thus, taking into consideration, Islam permitted a limited polygamy, but the aggressive critics try to make out that polygamy is an institution ordained by the Prophet. If we may have a look at the following episodes of the Old Testament, we will find a lavish approval of polygamy:- "There in Jerusalem, David married more wives and had more sons and daughters." (I

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