Long before the start of Islam, the practice of polygamy was in effect without guidelines, restrictions, or constraints. Islam neither forbids the practice, nor makes it mandatory. In fact, while Islam forbids sexual relationships outside of marriage, marriage itself can be viewed as mandatory, preferred, lawful, disliked or even forbidden, all depending on the circumstances surrounding the individual.
Islam did not forbid the practice due to its realistic approach toward human need and circumstances that face mankind. An example for this can be seen from the German war. It has been reported “there were approximately 2 million more women than men in the British Zone.” Reports go on to state “…the war-induced squeeze faced by women in the “marriage market” was responsible for the dramatic rise in the out-of-wedlock birth ration. In the low sex ration environment after the war, mating opportunities for men were relatively abundant and those for women were relatively scarce.”
Proof of the importance of lineage and family structure in Islam can be seen by the restrictions and limits on the practice of polygamy by requiring qualifications, protections of rights, guaranteeing justice and limitations. The Prophet said: “When a man has two wives and he is inclined to one of them, he will come on the Day of Resurrection with a side hanging down.” And God said: But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one (4:3) Note: that “just” is referring to rights (time, financial, housing, etc.) and not feeling. It should be noted that some Muslims ignore the religious principles that guide the practice of polygamy. Their inappropriate practice must not overshadow the obvious benefits that polygamy could offer.
What About Muslims in America? Maintaining a wholistic approach to the Islamic Law has led me to have doubts regarding the lawfulness of the practice of polygamy in America for two reasons. First, the Islamic Law makes it mandatory for people to keep their promise and respect their word. When pledging allegiance in the case of citizenship you agree to uphold the constitution and laws of the land. Even in the case of obtaining a visa, it is agreed that you will obey the law. Practicing polygamy is an obvious violation. Secondly, Islam has made it mandatory for someone that practices polygamy to take care of the rights of all wives. How can these rights be fulfilled when the law does not recognize any but the first marriage? Therefore, it is my opinion that people with a desire to practice polygamy must live in a country that will lawfully recognize all parties involved.