“One wife is enough”: Al Azhar Grand Imam calls for reform of polygamy

Tuesday 12 March 201910:23 am
إقرأ باللغة العربية
The head of Al Azhar, the center of Sunni Islamic learning, has called for the swift reform of the practice of polygamy in Muslim societies, describing it as an institution that oppresses women, in comments that are likely to anger ultraconservatives in Egypt. "Those who say that marriage must be polygamous are all wrong and I say this on my own responsibility,” said Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb. “The Koran states that one wife is enough.” "Women represent half of society,” he added in his program, The Sheikh of Al-Azhar, which is broadcast on Egyptian satellite television every Friday. “If we don't care for them it's like walking on one foot only.” In recent years, the issue of polygamy has emerged as a hot button topic, with pages on social networking sites that are run by women advocating for the acceptance of polygamy to eliminate spinsterhood in Egypt, as well as numerous fatwas or religious edicts supporting the practice being issued by Salafi religious scholars.

Injustice to women and to children

In the latest episode of his program, al-Tayeb said that polygamy is often unjust to women and children and is a distortion of the correct understanding of the Koran and Sunnah (the Prophet’s practices), and called on Muslims to re-read the Koranic verse in which the issue of polygamy is brought up in full. ”Are Muslims free to marry again and take a third and fourth wife or is this freedom limited by restrictions and conditions?” he asked rhetorically. He added that polygamy is a right for  husbands but is “a limited right,” adding: “It can be said that it is permissible but needs a reason… if this reason does not exist then this is no longer justifiable.” “Polygamy is allowed on condition of fairness and if there is no fairness then it is forbidden to remarry,” he said.

Will Al-Tayeb will lead the new wave of reform?

The Grand Sheikh issued a decree in early October 2017 to form a committee to prepare a bill to amend some provisions of the Egyptian laws relating to personal status, in order to protect the rights of the Egyptian family. The committee had its first meeting under al-Tayeb’s chairmanship at the end of October of the same year, after he outlined the work of the committee, the most important of which being legislation to remedy the ills resulting from polygamy and the rights and responsibilities of both parties after a divorce.
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