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Polygamy is not a practice that is limited only to the religion of Islam; rather, it is something well-known in the history of the people of Scripture, Jews and Christians. Only recently have their religious men disapproved of them and declared them wrong. However, if one looks at the early history of religions, one finds that it is at least an accepted practice, if not a recommended one.

Polygamy in Judaism

Polygamy existed among the Israelites long before the time of Moses, who continued this institution without imposing a limit on the number of marriages a Hebrew could enter into. The Jewish Encyclopedia states:
While there is no evidence of polyadric conditions in primitive Jewish society, polygamy appears to have been a widespread institution – from earliest times to comparatively modern times. [1]

Another common practice has been to take concubines. [2] In later times, the Talmud of Jerusalem, restrictions were placed on the number of wives a man can properly maintain. Some rabbis stipulated that a man may not take more than four wives. Polygamy was finally banned by the rabbis in Judaism, not by God. Rabbi Gershom ben Judah is believed to have banned polygamy in the 11th century for Eastern European Jews (Ashkanazi) for the next thousand years (ended in 1987). The Mediterranean (Sephardic) Jews maintained polygamy. [3] Accordingly, according to Will Durant: „The rich Jews in Islamic countries practiced polygamy, whereas it rarely occurred among Jews in Christian countries.“ [4] According to Joseph Ginat, Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Haifa, it is a common and even growing practice among Israel’s 180,000 Bedouins. Even among the Mediterranean Jews who live in Yemen, it often happens that the rabbis allow the Jews to marry up to five women. [5] In modern Israel, the rabbi gives the husband the right to marry a second wife without having the first divorced if she can no longer have children or has an intellectual disorder. „[6]

Polygamy in Christianity

Jesus, who overlooked polygamy elsewhere, is not relevant as an example of marriage custom because he did not get married in his mission on earth. According to Father Eugene Hillman: „Nowhere in the New Testament is there any particular indication that marriage should be monogamous or that polygamy should be banned.“ [7] The Church in Rome banished polygamy in order to adapt Roman culture, which only a wife declared legal, but allowed concubines and prostitution.

The Roman conqueror, Valentinian I, allowed Christians to take two women in the fourth century. In the eighth century Charlemagne, who had power over the church and the state, himself lived polygamous: he had six or, according to some sources, nine women. [9] According to Joseph Ginat, the author of polygamous families in current society, the Catholic Church disapproved of these practices, but occasionally allowed a second marriage for political leaders. [10]

St. Augustine does not appear to have seen any substantial immorality or sin, and stated that polygamy is not a crime where it is a legal entity in a country. [11] He wrote in The Good of Marriage (Chapter 15, Paragraph 17) that polygamy …
… was allowed with the forefathers: I would not rush to say whether it is still allowed now. Because nowadays there is not the same need to have many children, as was the case back then, where it was even allowed to marry additional women if the woman had children so that a large offspring could be produced, which is certainly now is not allowed. ”

He tended to condemn the partiarches, but did not infer from their practices the further acceptability of polygamy. Elsewhere he wrote: „In our day and in accordance with Roman custom, it is actually no longer allowed to take another woman, so you have more than one living wife.“ [12]

During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther said: „For my part, I confirm that if a man wishes to marry two or more women, I cannot forbid him because it does not contradict the scriptures.“ He advised Philip of Hesse that he should keep his second marriage secret in order to avoid a public scandal. [13] One of the greatest poets of the English language and the famous English Puritan John Milton (1608-1674) wrote: „I did not say: ‚the marriage of a man with a woman‘ out of fear, so that tacitly the holy patriarchs and the pillars of our faith, To burden Abraham and others who have had more than one wife with an ordinary sin; and for fear that I would be forced to take them and all of their offspring, yes the entire sons of Israel, to have to exclude from the sanctuary of God as illegitimate. Because in Deuteronomy (23: 3) it says: ‚There should be no crossbreed in the church of the Lord; even his offspring to the tenth link should not come into the Lord’s congregation.´ ”[14] On February 14, 1650, the Nuremberg parliament decided that because so many men had died in the Thirty Years‘ War, every man was now allowed to marry up to ten women. [15]

African churches have long recognized polygamy. In 1988, the Lambeth Conference stated: „It has long been recognized in African communion that polygamy in parts of Africa and traditional marriage actually have both devoted and righteous features.“ [16] Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s Christian president, whose Victory attributed to the „hand of God“ by the Presbyterian Church lives polygamous. [17] South Africa also no longer legalized polygamy after apartheid under the law of the former white Christians. [18]

In its early history, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy in the United States. Splinter groups left the church to continue after they banished it. Polygamy persists among these groups in Utah, neighboring countries, and some colonies; as well as among some individuals who do not belong to any church organization.

Polygamy is illegal in the United States, but it is unofficial and an estimated 30,000 to 80,000 people are polygamous in the West. Typically, these families are Mormon fundamentalists or Christian groups who maintain polygamy as a time-honored and biblical way of life. [19]

Before anyone points a finger at Islam and Muslims when talking about polygamy, it is necessary to have enough knowledge of this topic and its past. One should not condemn practices that have proven appropriate throughout history with our limited views of the present. One should rather strive to research the subject thoroughly and, more importantly, seek divine guidance.

Footnotes:
[1] “Polygamy”, Executive Committee of the Editorial Board and Julius H. Greenstone. . The Jewish Encyclopedia. (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=425&letter=P).
[2] “Pilegesh”, Emil G. Hirsch, Schulim Ochser und the Executive Committee of the Editorial Board. The Jewish Encyclopedia. (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=313&letter=P).
[3] “Takkanah.” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9071020)
Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Globally, Polygamy Is Commonplace,” The Salt Lake Tribune 20 Sep. 1998.
[4] Will Durant, “The Age of Faith: A History of Medieval Civilization -Christian, Islamic, and Judaic – from Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300” (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950) 380.
[5] Christopher Smith, “Polygamy’s Practice Stirs Debate in Israel,” Salt Lake Tribune 7.Dec.2001.
[6] Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Globally, Polygamy Is Commonplace,” The Salt Lake Tribune 20 Sep. 1998.
[7] Polygamy Reconsidered, S. 140.
[8] Ibid., S. 17.
[9] Matilda Joslyn Gage, “Woman, Church And State,” S. 398.
[10] Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Globally, Polygamy Is Commonplace,” The Salt Lake Tribune 20 Sep. 1998.
[11] St. Augustine, lib. ii. cont. Faust, ch. xlvii.
[12] Deferrari, vol. 27: “Saint Augustine – Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects” (1955), S. 31, 34, 36, 18.
[13] Matilda Joslyn Gage, “Woman, Church And State,” S. 398-399.
[14] Matilda Joslyn Gage, “Woman, Church And State,” S. 400.
[15] O. Jensen, A Genealogical Handbook of German Research (Rev. Ed., 1980) S. 59.
[16] Robin Gill, “Churchgoing and Christian Ethics” (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999) 249,
[17] Sam Gonza, “Churches Celebrate Kenya’s New President,” Christianity Today 20.Feb. 2003.
Marc Lacey, “Polygamy in Kenya an issue after wives of president revealed,” New York Times 19.Dec. 2003.
[18] Aurelia Dyanti, “Two wives better than one for some South Africa men,” The Star 16.July, 2003.
[19] Cheryl Wetzstein, “Traditionalists Fear Same-Sex Unions Legitimize Polygamy,” The Washington Times 13.Dec. 2000.

 


Source: https://www.islamland.com/deu/articles/polygamie-im-judentum-und-im-christentum