As a muslim, we all have heard that a man is allowed to have four wives. Want to see the verse of Quran? Here let me quote the most common version of this verse...
4:03 - Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.
But as always, we muslims read only what we want to read. Now read the whole verse.
4:03 - If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.
When you are told something regarding Islam or Quran, do not just blindly accept them. I urge you to pick up Quran and read for yourself this verse. Just as it was like in my previous post of Travel Prayers.
A muslim man is not allowed to have 4 wives as he chooses and pleases! The main purpose of polygamy in Islam according to this verse is the welfare and protection of orphans! to provide a family for them. Not merrymaking!
And even in Quran (4:129) it is being emphasized that monogamy is the best because you can not deal with multiple wives justly.
Update 11th Sept, 2008
Recently, I have had the opportunity to discuss this verse and its possible interpretations. There is an opinion that the verse 4:03 discusses 'orphan girls' and not 'widows' as seems to be the case when verse 4:127 is taken into consideration.
When one goes on further in Sura Nisa and reads the verses, it becomes apparent that orphans as vulnerable, weak and requirement of a protective figure is being discussed. This can only happen if widow is married to and not the female orphans. This can be judged from following verse in which the orphans are advised to be married off in case they reach age of puberty. This cannot be possible if Verse 4:03 meant marrying orphan girls.
4:06 - Make trial of orphans until they reach the age of marriage; if then ye find sound judgment in them, release their property to them; but consume it not wastefully, nor in haste against their growing up. If the guardian is well-off, Let him claim no remuneration, but if he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable. When ye release their property to them, take witnesses in their presence: But all-sufficient is Allah in taking account.
All in all, Quran advises you to be monogamous (4:129) as God tells us that a man can't be that equitable with multiple wives. Muslim society is encouraged to arrange marriage of single people (24:32) and those who cannot afford marriage - they are advised to stay chaste (24:33). A person has to abstain from sex and he is allowed to do so only with his wife OR if he has a slave/ captive - not both (23:05-06).
Polygamy is allowed in Islam but it is restrictive in nature. The ONLY verse dealing with polygamy is in Sura Nisa (4:3) and that is context of orphans - and one thing is for sure that you cannot marry an other woman just because it pleases you or she is pretty! Even Prophet Muhammad was told not to do so! (33:52).
This Book (Quran) has clear and detailed verses (6:114) and there no doubt in it (2:2). We are advised not to attribute lies to Allah (6:22), not to setup our religious scholars and leaders as our lords (9:32) and not to seek any other source besides this Quran (77:50) otherwise the Prophet will complain on judgment day that we abandoned Quran (25:30).Prophet's Marriages
The logical question you would ask me is what do I have to say regarding Prophet Muhammad multiple marriages. Things are a bit different for Prophet and ordinary believers.
33:50 - O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their
dowers; ... and a believing woman if she give herself unto the Prophet and the Prophet desire to ask her in marriage - a privilege for thee only, not for the (rest of) believers
Marriage was a special case for Prophet. Certain privileges were given to Prophet and not to believers. Perhaps, the quoted marriage cases fall in that category.
Prophethood is not an easy job. Prophet was made to do things which he did not want.
33:37 - ... and you concealed in your soul what Allah would bring to light, and you feared men, and Allah had a greater right that you should fear Him. But when Zaid had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons,...
1 - Child Marriage in Islam
2 - Divorce in Islam - The Quranic Perspective