The Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – are rooted in the concept of monotheism and patriarchal structures, which have greatly influenced their teachings on marriage and relationships. Monogamy is the dominant form of marriage in these religions, where a man is allowed to have only one wife, and a woman is allowed to have only one husband. The Abrahamic scriptures, including the Quran, Bible, and Miqra, emphasise the importance of monogamy and heteronormativity, leaving no room for non-monogamous and polyamorous relationships.
In Judaism, the idea of monogamy is evident in the story of Adam and Eve, where God creates one man and one woman to be together for life. The Ten Commandments also prohibit adultery, which is interpreted as engaging in sexual relations with someone who is not one’s spouse. Furthermore, the concept of marriage in Judaism is seen as a covenant between a man and a woman, with the husband taking responsibility for his wife’s well-being and providing for her.
Similarly, in Christianity, marriage is seen as a sacrament between one man and one woman. The Bible teaches that marriage is intended for procreation and as a lifelong commitment between two individuals. The concept of adultery is also present in Christianity, with Jesus condemning those who commit adultery and calling for marital fidelity. The Church has historically viewed non-monogamous relationships as sinful and immoral, and in some cases, punishable by ex-communication.
Islam also stresses the importance of monogamy in marriage, with the Quran allowing men to marry up to four wives, provided they can treat each one equally. However, the majority of Islamic scholars argue that the Quranic permission to marry more than one woman should not be interpreted as a license for polygamy. They maintain that monogamy is the ideal form of marriage and that any deviation from this norm is discouraged.
The absence of polyamory and non-monogamy in the Abrahamic scriptures can be attributed to the mono-normative beliefs that were prevalent at the time of their writing. The patriarchal structures of these societies meant that men had greater control over women, and marriages were often used as a way of securing alliances and consolidating power. The concept of non-monogamy and polyamory did not fit within this societal structure and thus were not addressed in the scriptures.
However, this mono-normativity has created tension in modern times, as society has become more accepting of non-monogamous and polyamorous relationships. LGBTQ+ individuals, in particular, have challenged the traditional notions of marriage and relationships, arguing for the right to form non-monogamous and polyamorous relationships.
Quranic Perspective on Marital Relationships
According to the Holy Quran, marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. It is considered to be a means of achieving peace and tranquillity in one’s life. The Quran emphasises the importance of monogamous marriage and discourages any kind of extramarital affairs.
Chapter 4, Verse 3 of the Quran states, “And if you fear that you will not be just to the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].” This verse allows men to have up to four wives, but only under the condition that they can treat all their wives equally.
Despite the allowance of polygyny in Islam, the Quran emphasises the importance of treating all spouses equally. In Chapter 4, Verse 129, the Quran states, “You will never be able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: But turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air). If you come to a friendly understanding, and practice self-restraint, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”
The Quran also acknowledges the possibility of divorce in case of irreconcilable differences between partners. Chapter 2, Verse 229 states, “A divorce is only permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold together on equitable terms or separate with kindness. It is not lawful for you, (men), to take back any of your gifts (from your wives), except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah. If ye (judges) do indeed fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah, there is no blame on either of them if she gives something for her freedom. These are the limits ordained by Allah; so do not transgress them. If any do transgress the limits ordained by Allah, such persons wrong (themselves as well as others).”
Furthermore, extramarital relationships, including polyamory, are not recognised in Islam. Adultery is considered a grave sin, and it is prohibited in the Quran. Chapter 17, Verse 32 states, “And come not near to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils).” The Quran emphasises the importance of fidelity in a marriage and the sanctity of the bond between spouses.
In summary, the Quran upholds the norm of monogamous marriage and frowns upon non-monogamous relationships. While the practice of polygyny is recognised, it is subjected to specific cultural and societal norms and is considered an exception. The Quran also recognises the possibility of divorce and discourages any kind of extramarital affairs. Adultery is considered a grave sin and is strictly prohibited in the Quran.
Biblical Conceptions of Marriage
The Bible is one of the most widely-read religious texts in the world, and its teachings on marriage have a profound impact on the religious and cultural practices of societies around the globe. The Bible recognises the practice of polygamy, where a man can have multiple wives, particularly in the Old Testament. However, by the time the New Testament was written, the practice of monogamous marriage had become more prominent.
The Bible emphasises monogamy as the ideal state of marriage, where a man and woman become one. In the book of Genesis, it is written that “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This biblical verse highlights the importance of monogamous marriage as a means of creating a strong, intimate bond between two people.
Moreover, heteronormativity is central to the biblical conception of marriage. It views sexuality and relationship as a binary: a man should be with a woman, and vice versa. In this sense, non-monogamous relationships are neither accepted nor recognised in the Bible. Any sexual relationship outside of marriage is seen as a sin, and the concept of marriage is primarily intended for procreation and the formation of strong families.
The biblical approach to marriage sees family values as the foundation of human society. Through marriage, the Bible encourages the formation of strong families and encourages having children. The biblical concept of marriage emphasises marital obedience, where wives should submit themselves to their husbands, and the husband should love their wives as they love themselves. The book of Ephesians states, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:22-25). These verses emphasise the importance of marital obedience and love as the foundation of a successful marriage.
In essence, the Bible recognises monogamous marriage as the ideal form of marriage and frowns upon non-monogamous relationships. Moreover, the book emphasises heteronormativity as central to the biblical conception of marriage. While the Bible recognises the practice of polygamy in the Old Testament, the New Testament emphasises the importance of monogamy and family values in creating strong, healthy families and societies. Any sexual relationship outside of marriage is viewed as a sin, and the concept of marriage is primarily intended for procreation and the formation of strong, traditional families.
Miqra and Polygyny
The Miqra, also known as the Tanakh, is the Hebrew term used for the Jewish scriptures, which includes the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. In the Tanakh, polygyny is recognized and accepted, where men are allowed to have multiple wives. However, the Tanakh does not recommend the practice of polygyny, but neither does it discourage it. Instead, it recognizes it as a part of ancient cultural practices.
The Tanakh recognises the practice of polygyny as a way of upward social mobility, where wealthy men could have multiple wives to ensure the continuation of their lineage. The practice of polygyny was also accepted in cases where a woman was barren, and the husband needed to produce offspring to continue his lineage. However, the Tanakh also acknowledges that these practices should be restricted and controlled within specific cultural and societal norms.
Despite the recognition and acceptance of polygyny, the Tanakh promotes the importance of equality and fairness within a marital relationship. It encourages husbands to treat their wives with love and respect and recognise them as equal partners in their marital relationships. The Tanakh also promotes the idea of “one flesh,” where a husband and wife are united as one entity and are to be faithful to one another.
However, the Tanakh does not address non-monogamous relationships. Instead, it emphasises monogamous marriage as the ideal form of marriage. The story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis is a reflection of the Tanakh’s emphasis on monogamous marriage. God created Adam and Eve and joined them together as one flesh. There was no mention of any other partners in this story.
Furthermore, the Tanakh recognises the importance of the marital relationship as the foundation of the family structure. The family is considered a fundamental unit of society, and the marital relationship is the cornerstone of this unit. The Tanakh promotes the importance of having children and raising them in a loving and nurturing environment. In this sense, the Tanakh promotes the idea of family values and the importance of the marital relationship in the context of a family.
Despite the recognition and acceptance of polygyny in the Tanakh, it is important to note that the practice of polygyny is not recommended in contemporary Judaism. The Jewish religion has moved away from the practice of polygyny, and monogamous relationships are now the norm in Jewish communities.
The Tanakh recognises and accepts the practice of polygyny within specific cultural and societal norms. However, it emphasises monogamous relationships as the ideal form of marriage and promotes the importance of equality and fairness within a marital relationship. The Tanakh recognises the importance of family values and the role of the marital relationship in the context of a family. While the practice of polygyny was common in ancient times, it is not recommended in contemporary Judaism, and monogamous relationships are now the norm.
No Need to Challenge Mono-Normativity in Religious Traditions
As we have seen in the previous sections, the Abrahamic texts promote mono-normativity, specifically in the form of monogamous relationships. However, it is important to note that these religious traditions have evolved over time and have undergone changes in response to cultural, social, and political shifts.
It is also crucial to acknowledge that these religious traditions have a significant impact on the lives of millions of people around the world. The Abrahamic faiths provide a framework for personal and communal identity, moral and ethical values, and spiritual and emotional well-being.
As such, it is not necessary to challenge mono-normativity in religious traditions. Rather, we must respect the cultural and religious norms of individuals and communities while recognising that there are other ways of experiencing love, relationships, and sexuality.
It is crucial to note that the absence of polyamory and non-monogamy in Abrahamic texts does not necessarily mean that individuals or communities who practice these relationship styles are immoral or deviant. Research has shown that consensually non-monogamous relationships can be healthy, fulfilling, and even provide a range of benefits to individuals and communities (Conley et al., 2013; Haupert et al., 2017).
Moreover, it is not just non-monogamous relationships that are challenging the mono-normativity upheld by Abrahamic texts. LGBTQ+ individuals and communities have also faced significant opposition from religious traditions, which have traditionally upheld a heteronormative perspective on gender and sexuality.
While the absence of polyamory and non-monogamy in Abrahamic texts may be seen as a limitation, it is ultimately up to individuals and communities to define their own values and beliefs around these matters. As society becomes more diverse and accepting of different relationship styles, we must continue to respect the autonomy and agency of individuals and communities to determine their own beliefs and practices.
In conclusion, the absence of polyamory and non-monogamy in Abrahamic texts is a reflection of the cultural and historical context in which these religious traditions were formed. While we must acknowledge and understand the limitations of these texts, it is not necessary to challenge mono-normativity in religious traditions. Rather, we must respect the autonomy and agency of individuals and communities to define their own values and beliefs around love, relationships, and sexuality. By fostering greater understanding and empathy between different religious and cultural traditions, we can create a more inclusive and accepting world for all.
- Al- Quran – https://quran.com/
- The Bible – https://www.biblegateway.com/
- Tanakh – https://www.sefaria.org/
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