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Allow me to relive your thirst and hunger during this extremely hot Ramadan by arousing your curiosity with two extremely strange statements. In the same manner as school examinations in the past, try to match the statement to the person who issued it.

The first statement reads “Our country is facing a demographic crisis, along with the spread of illegitimate births. The solution to this is to legalize polygamous marriage.” The second statement reads “I support the proposed amendment to outlaw polygamy. There are many disadvantages to polygamy.”

One of the above statements belongs to Vice-President of the Russian State Duma [Parliament] Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whilst the other belongs to Sheikh Ahmed al-Sayeh, a Professor of Religion at Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

Logically speaking, the statement about legalizing polygamy must belong to the Al-Azhar Sheikh, and the statement about outlawing polygamy – which is widespread in the Muslim regions of the Russian Federation such as Chechnya and Ingushetia – must belong to the Vice-President of the Russian State Duma. However the reverse is true, and so the statement about legalizing polygamy belongs to the Russian politician, and the statement about outlawing polygamy belongs to the Muslim scholar, this is what makes it so strange! For the Russians, like the rest of the West, may accept –if grudgingly- polygamous relationships, but it is impossible for them to accept the idea of polygamous marriages.

If the statement from the Russian politician was strange, what is even stranger is than in 2002 Zhirinovsky submitted a draft bill to parliament calling for polygamy to be legalized allowing any man to marry up to four women so long as he treats them all equally and each wife gives their consent. I do not know why this Russian man proposed this bill, especially since he is not a Muslim or a Chechen, nor does he represent a Muslim majority district like Tartarstan, so the question is; what has happened to the Russians?

No sooner had the international media registered there surprise at this proposal then the Russian parliament had pushed through reforms outlawing gambling throughout Russia [except for in two specified districts]. The legalization of polygamy in Russia was put forward as a solution to the demographic problems seen in the country, such as the high ratio of women to men, and the growing number of illegitimate births in Russian society. This strengthens the argument that Islam is a realistic and practical solution to all of mankind’s problems.

This solution [polygamy] which even some non-Muslims accept is being refused by some Muslims, and even by some of our religious scholars. What is strange is that Sheikh Ahmed al-Sayeh is aware that he lives an Arab society where the general public, as well as businessmen, politicians, and even artists, are forced to marry either in secret or public in order to prescribe what is halal [religiously permissible]. If the Sheikh cuts off this halal option, the inevitable result is for haram [religious impermissible]. From here, adultery, sexually transmitted diseases, and illegitimate births will increase, and we would be trying to solve problems that Russia is already experiencing, and which it is looking for an “Islamic” solution to solve.

What is strange in Sheikh al-Sayeh’s statement is that he also said that “it is not acceptable for a married man to marry a young girl who has never been married before [i.e. a virgin] and until the marriage has been consummated the wife is not to be considered a full wife.” I am not a specialist in Islamic jurisprudence, and there is no jurisprudential controversy in what was said above. However I am surprised that an al-Azhar Sheikh could say this, as Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] married Aisha when he was 40 years old and she was a young virgin adolescent girl. This is something that was not practiced by those that followed Muhammad [pbuh] and different Muslim sects throughout history, from the Maluku Islands in Indonesia in the East, to Tetouan in Morocco in the West. It is unfortunate that some of us are now calling the provisions of Islamic law into question, at the same that others have found an answer in them.

Dr. Hamad Al-Majid

Dr. Hamad Al-Majid

Dr. Hamad Al-Majid is a journalist and former member of the official Saudi National Organization for Human Rights. Dr. Al-Majid is a graduate of Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh and holds an MA from the University of California and a doctorate from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom.

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