Islam

Disliking what God has allowed

It’s been over a month since my wife and daughter left for a small stay at my in-law’s place. Initially I had hoped that this bachelorhood 2.0 would be filled with nostalgia and joy, I will be all on my own, doing things which I greatly miss, watching my shows without disturbance, having a good night sleep without break, enjoying food which I love to eat, reading books which were long due, etc. But all that fun and excitement lasted for a week and soon I understood that my entire 3 months of alone time will be filled with loneliness and depression. It’s amazing how you progress in your life, how relationships which didn’t exist before become so addictive that it’s hard–read impossible–to live without them.

Whenever I feel low or alone and my wife isn’t available on phone I like to put on some podcast and go on a long drive. I was listening to this podcast where a guy who works in Silicon Valley was talking about his two wives. The podcast theme is Islam, so it was connected with religion. The show ended on this note that one shouldn’t bring the topic of the second wife–even jokingly–in front of their wives as the wife may end up hating something which Allah allows. I thought this was interesting and that lead to this blog.

I must say that the show was very good, the guy who was involved in the polygamy was very frank and He actually did his second marriage based on his first wife’s recommendation. Who recommended her best friend who had recently divorced and was with kids. The marriage, I understand, helped her out financially by providing a stable family for herself and her kids. Both wives are good friends and all three of them with the kids are happily married. It was a proper case of someone using polygamy to do some good and were not just doing it as a reaction to their hormones.

I did observe that the guy, his wives, and even the host all thought that it was something Islamic. To such an extent that they think that it’s WRONG to think of polygamy as bad, simply because Islam allows it. This thought that Islam supports polygamy comes from the understanding of a verse in Surah Nisa

And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. (4:3)

There are two things here

  1. Islam is not starting the practice of Polygamy, it’s addressing to a society which already practices it.
  2. The main goal is not polygamy but to solve the problem of Orphans because of the post-war situation in a small city.

Based on the above understanding one can say that since Islam isn’t starting the practice of Polygamy and since it’s dealing with an exceptional case it won’t be wrong to say that in a society where polygamy is not the norm and where such exceptional cases aren’t present Polygamy will be wrong even Islamically. There is enough rational within Qur’an to support “disliking” what God has “allowed” because the way it’s allowed. One may disagree with this rationale of course, but it won’t be fair to outright reject this opinion by calling it unIslamic as it’s based on the same verse of Qur’an.

Another interesting point to ponder is that when we study Qur’an we can see that the default position of God is not to forbid everything and then give a list of things which are allowed. If that was the case, then Yes, it would be fair to say that one shouldn’t dislike anything from the allowed list, as since it’s a list, we already have less choice, why make life harder. But, when we read Qur’an, we see that it’s the other way round where everything by default is allowed and a small list of things are forbidden. As per the verse of Surah A’raf where the forbidden things are listed

Say, “My Lord has only forbidden immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed – and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know.” (7:33)

Contrarily, we don’t have a similar verse of allowed things, but what is said is that all good things are allowed and the popular Hadith of the Prophet (pbuh)

Allah is Beautiful, He loves beauty (Source)

From the above understanding, since God has allowed all good things, it’s but natural that someone may not like something because of personal preference. We know that Prophet didn’t like eating certain meat even though God “allowed” eating it.

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) asked about it. Some of the women said: “It is a lizard.” The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) didn’t eat it. I (Khalid) asked: “Is it forbidden, Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “No, but it is not found in the land of my people, so I find it distasteful.” Khalid said: I then pulled it and ate it while The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was seeing. (Source)
One may argue that there are certain things which are mentioned in Qur’an and disliking that would be wrong. This idea, though may sound reasonable, is an alien concept which hasn’t emerged from within Qur’an. Nowhere in Qur’an do we see any need or insistence that one should like or follow what God has allowed. The rules which become part of God’s Shari’a are very straightforward, and there is no confusion in understanding that they are rules of God. But, Qur’an is not just a Manual of rules, apart from that Qura’n deals with various other topics which are connected to the 7th century Arabia like slavery, patriarchal society, polygamy etc. As Muslims, we have to read Qur’an in this bigger context.
If we manage to read Qur’an this way than it won’t be hard to understand the main idea behind keeping the discussion of Polygamy in Qur’an. The main focus is on helping Orphans and hence empathy. When one seeks to do good for society they should be as practical as possible. There will be things which won’t be absolute good, but they are free to use them if it results in the overall good of the society. This is exactly what Qur’an did by leveraging Polygamy to solve the problems of Orphans and achieving the overall good of society.  Some examples of the application of this idea in our times would be to disagree with a particular political party but work with them to bring a greater good. To disagree with the concept of homosexuality but support their rights for the support of bigger principle, the principle of Justice for all. To put your savings in the saving account and use the bank interest to give more charity etc.
In my opinion, an incorrect application of this is to think that one shouldn’t dislike Polygamy as it’s allowed in Qur’an, or a bit more extreme version of it that one should DO Polygamy as God recommends it (by allowing it in Qur’an). This would be, if anything, a superficial understanding of Qur’an, and almost missing the bigger point, entirely.

 

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