“Those who say that marriage must be polygamous are all wrong. We have to read the (Quranic) verse in full,” Egypt’s top cleric said Friday during a weekly television program and on Twitter.
He said that monogamy is the rule and polygamy is an exception stating that if a man wishes to marry more than once, he "must obey conditions of fairness - and if there is not fairness it is forbidden to have multiple wives.”
According to him, the practice came from “a lack of understanding of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet” and it is “often an injustice to women and children.”
In Islam, a man is allowed to have four wives but he cannot marry on a whim. A man is allowed to marry again when his wife cannot give birth or has become physically or mentally different. In the first case, the man has to seek permission from his wife to marry again.
Many Muslim countries have either banned this practice or put restrictions according to the Quran, such as Turkey, which banned polygamy in 1926. In Morocco, a man has to have a clause in his marriage contract to disallow another marriage. If he desires to do so, he has to notify a designated court of his intentions of marriage and proof of his financial capabilities to have more than one wife. After that, the court will hear the first wife and then take a decision.
In Bangladesh and Pakistan, a man can marry only according to the clauses put down in the Quran.
“Women represent half of society. If we don’t care for them it’s like walking on one foot only,” said al-Tayeb.
After he faced criticisms for the comments, the cleric said Saturday that he is not asking for a ban on polygamy, but merely urging people to understand what is written in Quran before practicing it.