Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Muhammad and Natural Law: Simultaneous and Serial Polygamy

ADULTERY, DIVORCE, POLYGAMY, concubinage, pedophilia, incest, AND rape are all offenses against the dignity of marriage and the natural institution of the family, and the right and orderly use of the sexual faculties, and are by common consent violations of natural law. Although some of these areas involve prudential determinations of natural law and even to some extent may be defined by human law or custom (e.g., with respect to incest, within what level of consanguinity or affinity such incestuous prohibitions extend by natural law), some of the boundaries are decidedly less vague and more precise (e.g., whether a woman may be violated against her will, whether concubinage is consonant with fidelity in marriage, whether sexual relations of an adult male with prepubescent girls is morally lawful) and provide with more definite conclusions. Certainly, reason can make the case that marriage ought to be monogamous and relatively permanent, that concubinage is a morally abhorrent institution, that sex with prepubescent females, incestuous relations, and rape are morally vicious. In the areas of marriage, family, and the exercise of sexual faculties, reason's verdict would seem to be overwhelmingly against Muhammad. Muhammad's actions violated against the natural law in some fundamental principles and in its more distant determinations. All put together, the violations of Muhammad to natural law principles of marriage and human sexuality place it beyond reasonable doubt that Muhammad's life was hardly virtuous. Indeed, we must concur with St. Thomas Aquinas's judgment in his Summa Contra Gentiles: Muhammad did not restrain his sexual urges, but rather he "gave free rein to carnal pleasure," voluptati carnali habenas relaxans.*

Muhammud's Name in Arabic Script

We may first look at the area of Muhammad's marriages and his polygamy. We may start be observing that in his life, Muhammad shows a marked shift between his life in Mecca, when he had no political power, and his life in Medina once he gain political power. Just like there was an Alexander drunk and an Alexander sober, so there is one Muhammad ante Hegiram and another Muhammad post Hegiram. In Mecca, Muhammad lived an unobtrusive, monogamous married life with his first wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid** until her death shortly before Muhammad's famous Hegira (Hijra or هِجْرَة) from Mecca to Medina (also known as Yathrib). Khadijah was an elder widow of rather affluent means, and Muhammad worked for her for a time until she proposed marriage to him, which he accepted. Trustworthily, Sahih Muslim (31:5975) states upon the report of Muhammad's later wife Aisha that Muhammad "did not marry any other woman till her [Khadijah's] death." Indeed, other that his son Ibrahim borne by Muhammad's concubine and possible wife (sources are unclear) Maria al-Qibtiyya and who died young, Khadijah was the mother of all of Muhammad's children, his two sons 'Abdullah (also known as at-Tahir or at-Tayyib) and al-Qasim (Abu'l-Qasim), both of whom also died young, and his daughters, Zaynab, Ruqayah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatima (the latter being the only child to survive Muhammad). Life, 82-83.*** There is no evidence of any improprieties in Muhammad's behavior while married to Khadijah, and his marital and sexual behavior would seem to have been commendable, indeed unimpeachable, up until Khadijah's death.

The same cannot be said regarding Muhammad's Medinan phase. Without doubt, Muhammad, once released from his marital relationship with Khadijah and once having his hands on political power, wealth, and the spoils of war, not only taught but practiced a rather extreme form of polygamy. He made polygamy forever part of the alleged revelations of Allah. In Surah 4:3 (a Medinan Surah), Muhammad limited simultaneously polygamy to four women:
وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَى فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُمْ مِنَ النِسَاء مَثْنَى وَثُلاَثَ وَرُبَاعَ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَعُولُوا

And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan ­girls, then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (the captives and the slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice.
Two things may be noted regarding Muhammad's teaching in the Qur'an. First, it is a form of polygamy that is strictly polygynous, since only men could have multiple women spouses. Typical with most of Muhammad's view, women were not accorded equal treatment with men. The second thing that ought to be noted is that the four-woman limitation applied to Muslims generally; it did not apply to Muhammad, who excluded himself from the Qur'anic revelation by another convenient Qur'anic revelation.

Muhammad apparently excluded himself from the four-wife-only Qur'anic revelation. He operated under a unique dispensation (found in the Qur'an 33:50):
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَحْلَلْنَا لَكَ أَزْوَاجَكَ اللاَّتِي آتَيْتَ أُجُورَهُنَّ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكَ مِمَّا أَفَاءَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ وَبَنَاتِ عَمِّكَ وَبَنَاتِ عَمَّاتِكَ وَبَنَاتِ خَالِكَ وَبَنَاتِ خَالاَتِكَ اللاَّتِي هَاجَرْنَ مَعَكَ وَامْرَأَة ً مُؤْمِنَة ً إِنْ وَهَبَتْ نَفْسَهَا لِلنَّبِيِّ إِنْ أَرَادَ النَّبِيُّ أَنْ يَسْتَنكِحَهَا خَالِصَة ً لَكَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ قَدْ عَلِمْنَا مَا فَرَضْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ فِي أَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ لِكَيْلاَ يَكُونَ عَلَيْكَ حَرَج ٌ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورا ً رَحِيما

O Prophet! Verily, We have made lawful to you your wives, to whom you have paid their Mahr [bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage], and those (captives or slaves) whom your right hand possesses - whom Allāh has given to you, and the daughters of your 'Amm [paternal uncles] and the daughters of your 'Ammah [paternal aunts] and the daughters of your Khāl [maternal uncles] and the daughters of your Khālah [maternal aunts] who migrated [from Mecca] with you, and a believing woman if she offers herself to the Prophet, and the Prophet wishes to marry her; a privilege for you only, not for the (rest of) the believers. Indeed We know what We have enjoined upon them about their wives and those (captives or slaves) whom their right hands possess, - in order that there should be no difficulty on you. And Allāh is Ever Oft­Forgiving, Most Merciful.
It is both unseemly and unfitting that the Muhammad should exclude himself from the already loose strictures that bound the rest of his Muslim followers and which limited their polygynous practices to four wives (with easy divorce) and as many captives and concubines as desired. Essentially, he allowed himself no bounds in his appetite for women. So unseemly and unfitting that one can literally still taste the dripping sarcasm behind Aisha's comment related in Sahih Muslim 8:3453 to the Qur'anic revelation in 33:51 which essentially allowed Muhammad free reign to any believer who offered herself to him:
Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: I felt jealous of the women who offered themselves to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Then when Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, revealed this:" You may defer any one of them you wish, and take to yourself any you wish; and if you desire any you have set aside (no sin is chargeable to you)" (33:51), I (Aisha.) said: It seems to me that your Lord hastens to satisfy your desire.
Not only did Muhammad allow himself (by special, if suspicious, dispensation from Allah) nine (perhaps even ten, eleven, or twelve) simultaneous wives, he also permitted rather easy divorce (as well as other forms of sexual congress), so that Muhammad stands condemned of both serial and simultaneous polygamy in addition to a broader polygyny and sexual libertinism.

The lists of Muhammad's wives vary, and a complete resolution of the problem probably impossible. For our purposes, we shall simply cite two of many opinions on the matter. First, we shall turn to Clinton Bennett's In Search of Muhammad,† a tendentious text which bends over backwards to minimize Muhammad's larger enormities, and which relies upon a reconstruction and synthesis based on a number of sources.

Namedate married
date marriage ended
cause of marriage ending
Khadijah595619deathMuhammad's monogamous marriage.
Sauda 620n/an/a
Muhammad wanted to divorce her when she was old and fat and unattractive, but she ceded her sexual rights to the younger bride, Aisha, thereby preserving her good graces.
Aisha620n/an/aThis is a controversial marriage because Muhammad betrothed Aisha at age 6 or 8, consummated a few years later. She was a favorite of Muhammad.
Hafsa625n/an/aMuhammad married Hafsa when she was 18 years of age.
Zainab625625-30death of wife

Zainab626n/an/aSecond wife of that name. Another controversial marriage because she was married to Muhammad's adopted son, Said, but Muhammad had an intense longing (lust) for her, and had already his allotment of four wives. Revelations which abolished adoption Qur'an 33:4-5, and which allowed Muhammad to marry her following Zainab's divorce from Said, Qur'an 33:37, and allowed more than four wives for Muhammad, Qur'an 33:50, seem altogether too convenient.
Juwairiya626/27n/an/aCaptive of war of great beauty
Umm Habiba627/28
Safiyah628n/an/a17-year-old widow of defeated Jewish chief known for her beauty.
629/30n/an/aMarried following the death of her first husband.

The problem may be more complicated than Bennett suggests in his Appendix.

As Montgomery Watt views it (from his analysis of Qur'an 33:50 quoted above), there may be various levels of marriage or relationships with women in which Muhammad engaged. Watt distinguishes between: (i) wives to whom he paid ujur (أُجُورَ) [dowry or hire] (ii) those "whom your right hand possesses--whom Allah has given to you," (iii) the daughters of paternal and maternal uncles and aunts, (iv) those who emigrated with Muhammad, (v) believing women who gave themselves to the prophet, provided the prophet wanted to marry them, and (vi) a privilege special for Muhammad apart from the other believers, the khalisatan la-ka min dun al-mu'minin ( خَالِصَة ً لَكَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ).

The first two groups are wives in the strict sense and concubines. Of these, Watt notes that Muhammad is regarded generally have had fourteen of these, of whom nine survived Muhammad. There is some dispute as to the identity of the fourteen, however. Watt includes the concubines Maria the Copt and Rihana the Jewess in this number, and seems generally to agree with Bennett as to the others. As to the other categories, Watt observes:

About a score of other women are mentioned as having been at least thought of as wives for Muhammad. There is much obscurity and dubiety about some of them; many tribes were doubtless eager to claim a matrimonial relationship with Muhammad, and to make the most of vague reminiscences. . . . The one thing that seems certain about this supplementary list is that none of the women in it formed a lasting union with Muhammad.

Watt, 397.†† Watt identifies sixteen as part of this "score of other women." He also identifies seven more women "between whom and Muhammad there was some talk of marriage without the plans ever being carried out." Watt, 399.

*St. Thomas, SCG, lib. 1 cap. 6 n. 7.
**I have struggled with the issue of transliteration of the Arabic. There are numerous systems for transliterating Arabic into Roman text. Many of the characters are not readily available or require changing fonts. I have decided, therefore, for the most part to ignore them.
***"Life" is a reference to A. Guillaume,
The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1967).
†See Clinton Bennett,
In Search of Muhammad(London: Wellington, 1998), Appendix 2, 249 ff. The list does not include other women and concubines or slaves, such as Mary the Copt and Rihana the Jewess, with whom we know Muhammad had sexual relations. Sometimes Mary is regarded as Muhammad's twelfth wife. Some Muslims authorities put Muhammad's wives as twenty-one, and suggest that Muhammad practiced a form of temporary marriage (نكاح المتعة‎, or nikah al-mut'ah) or marriage for a "fixed term," a deplorable practice, which is nothing less than a form of divinely sanctioned prostitution, which they further base upon Qur'an 4:24, and is particularly practiced among the Shi'a muslims.
††W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Medina (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956), Excursus L, pp. 393-99.


  1. By mentioning polygamy as an "offense", I hope you mention the polygamy of ALL the Hebrew Patriarchs! God had no problem dealing with them! We shall not mention King David or his son King Solomon. Or how King David's other son, bedded all of David's wifes to make him look bad! I think King David put Muhammed to shame. Funny, Jesus Christ is of the lineage of a polygamy!

    Are you going to condemn that as well while you're at it?

  2. "Now marriage has for its principal end the begetting and rearing of children, and this end is competent to man according to his generic nature, wherefore it is common to other animals (Ethic. viii, 12), and thus it is that the "offspring" is assigned as a marriage good. But for its secondary end, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. viii, 12), it has, among men alone, the community of works that are a necessity of life, as stated above (Question 41, Article 1). And in reference to this they owe one another "fidelity" which is one of the goods of marriage. Furthermore it has another end, as regards marriage between believers, namely the signification of Christ and the Church: and thus the "sacrament" is said to be a marriage good. Wherefore the first end corresponds to the marriage of man inasmuch as he is an animal: the second, inasmuch as he is a man; the third, inasmuch as he is a believer. Accordingly plurality of wives neither wholly destroys nor in any way hinders the first end of marriage, since one man is sufficient to get children of several wives, and to rear the children born of them. But though it does not wholly destroy the second end, it hinders it considerably for there cannot easily be peace in a family where several wives are joined to one husband, since one husband cannot suffice to satisfy the requisitions of several wives, and again because the sharing of several in one occupation is a cause of strife: thus "potters quarrel with one another" [Aristotle, Rhet. ii, 4, and in like manner the several wives of one husband. The third end, it removes altogether, because as Christ is one, so also is the Church one. It is therefore evident from what has been said that plurality of wives is in a way against the law of nature, and in a way not against it."
    St. Thomas, S.T., Supplementum Tertiae Partis.

  3. In the fourth book of his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, St. Thomas addresses the issue of polygamy and concubinage. Polygamy, St. Thomas concludes, is opposed to one of the secondary precepts of natural law. The secondary precepts apply generally but not always, and dispensations are available from the lawgiver. In the matter of marriage, of which God is the legislator, only God has the authority to give a dispensation for the licit practice of polygamy. Grudgingly, he allowed the patriarchs this dispensation, but the dispensation is fully abrogated by Christ who brought marriage to the "beginning." Thus, in its pure sense, polygamy is against the natural law, and the patriarchs acted under a divine dispensation of a secondary precept.

    Concubinage is of an entire order altogether. Concubinage is opposed to one of the primary precepts of natural law. Primary precepts are not subject to dispensation. For this reason, St. Thomas concludes that concubinage as such was never permitted by dispensation. However, in the next question Thomas modifies this statement about primary precepts.

    For this reason, the secondary precepts of natural law oblige frequently but not always, whereas the primary precepts always oblige. Nevertheless, the primary precepts are like the laws of physical nature which can be suspended only by a supernatural intervention, that is to say by a miracle. Accordingly, St. Thomas takes the position that a dispensation from the primary precepts of natural law is possible, though rare, and it is analogous to a miracle in the physical order. Examples of such a dispensation is the one given to Abraham from the law against killing an innocent person. Another instance is the dispensation given to Hosea from the law against having a concubine.

    (See III Sent., d. 37, a. 4. among other sources)

  4. But Polygamy IS a Law of Nature! Put there by the Creator. ALL the domestic animals that man has, the Creator has invented for man, are herd animals. Man is a herd animal. All these herd animals practice polygamy. (The domestic cat is the only animal not a herd animal.) It is a Law of Nature. So it can't be against the Natural Law.

    Monogamy may be a Divine Precept, but not the Natural Law. Or are you one that divorces the Natural Law from the Laws of Nature? What does the Catholic Church promote? The Natural Law or the Laws of Nature? Or aren't they combined? Or as I think the Catholic church is hostile and even against the "Laws of Nature"? You haven't even covered this rhetorical false/true dichotomy yet. I would think this most important. What does the Catholic Church have? The natural law or the Laws of nature and does the Natural law of the Catholic Church nullify and counterdict the Logos Laws of Nature?

  5. The natural law for men is not as simple as simply taking the law of nature applicable to brute animals and extending it to the animal called man. Man is different from the beasts not in degree but in kind; accordingly, the law that governs his behavior, including his sexual and social behavior, is different in kind, and not only degree, from animals. Man is monogamous both by nature and by divine law. The divine law has, in addition, made marriage sacramental. But from the beginning, marriage was between one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve. This was Christ's great re-formation: he brought marriage back to its original natural plan before corrupted by sin and the hardness of heart of men.

  6. W Lindsay WheelerMay 23, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    Does not the Roman Latin of "Natural law" Lex naturalis" mean also the Laws of Nature? In the Latin/Roman meaning of Classical Antiquity, do not the Romans mean "Laws of Nature" in THEIR term lex naturalis?

    So if now, in the modern Church, how, when and where and why, has now the term "natural law" been divorced, or is it divorced from the Laws of Nature?

    This is a conundrum NOT addressed by you, or by anybody else that I can find. The Catholic academia does not seem to even know that there is a problem. I mean you are writing a blog on the Natural Law---it would seem that this should be a priority. Because the blanket condemnation of polygamy offhand does not register with the laws of nature!

    Instead of corrupted by sin and the hardness of heart of men, in order to grow a population, is it not necessary to have polygamy. The Bible ordains polygamy, NO prophet ever condemned it! That somewhere necessity might require it!

    Divine Law of Revelation may demand monogamy, but the Natural Law nowwhere does!

    Again, the ignorance of the Laws of Nature is outstanding. One of the most major laws of the Laws of Nature is the Golden Mean! Is not Jesus Christ the Golden Mean? Being fully God and Fully man? Is not the Trinity the Golden mean? So if the principle of macrocosm/microcosm established in "As above, so below", Do NOT all things have the golden mean?

    Is NOT Man, half animal and half divine? I know the medieval Catholics rejected en toto, this aspect of man! Man is an animal! We take a crap like one don't we? It's amazing to hear Catholics think that we are not animal whatsoever! Human beings are in the Golden Mean. As Jesus is Fully God and Fully Man, Humans are half animal and half god. Animals are half man, and half plant. Plants are half animal and half fungi. Ever so down the Chain of Being---the Golden Mean exists!

    We are not different in "kind"; we are a Mixture! We are animals subject to the Laws of Nature instituted by the Logos! We are men subject to the Divine Law. This total negation of the animal side of man by Catholics is just plain gnosticism! It is pure scholasticism.

    You can not claim a blanket condemnation of polygamy! You can not throw polygamy with adultery, pedophilia, incest and rape, that is just plain absurd. Polygamy is at the subpar level. Monagamy is the perfect form, and polygamy is the step down from that, but it is NOT criminal, nor is it an offense to the Natural Law. It may be illegal in Christian countries---but it is a Law of Nature.

    I have argued on a Monarchist forum using Reason and the biblical record, that for Henry VIII, it may have been better to let him be polygamous for the sake of the royal throne! There is always an exception to the rule. That is also a Law of Nature! For the stability of his reign, for his continuation of his line, for his country--it was needful to have sired children. When his wife was childless, the religious authority should have granted him an exemption, and allowed him to father children.

    Look at the consequences of the failure of thinking and the harm it caused England and the Church with this predicament. Polygamy by the Royal House would have prevented all that! Here is reason, based on necessity, that proves that polygamy in that case would have needful and necessary! For Extenuating circumstances---polygamy may be needful!

  7. I would suggest that polygamy is condemned by Genesis 2:24: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife (singular): and they shall be one flesh." Jesus, in his prophetic office, condemned polygamy, referring to this very scripture. See Matth 19:3-9.

    The Catechism of the Catholich Church states (Section 2387): "[P]olygamy is not in accord with the moral law. '[Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive.'" (quoting Familiaris Consortio, No. 19)

    The Catechism concludes (Section 2400): "Adultery, divorce, polygamy, and free union are grave offenses against the dignity of marriage." This is not Christian marriage, but all marriage.

  8. In a perfect world.

    Do we live in a perfect world?

    Then you fall into legalism.

    The world is based on Wisdom. Plato is talking about Wisdom in the republic is not about following a set of rules. Wisdom, which is philosophy really, (true philosophy), is about catching the "Spirit of Truth". That one takes Divine Truth, Material Truth and then applies to the human sphere where things are NOT perfect.

    Yes, in a perfect world makes sense but when the royal wife is barren---what do you do? Condemn the Royal family with natural genocide?

    Wisdom is knowing how and when to apply law or to use the law and precedent to accomplish good, or to attain the good.

    I think you fall into legalism in the "strict" application. Polygamy as you noted earlier was a dispensation but in your last post you negated your earlier statement. Here in your last post you have condemned the Hebrew Patriarchs and King David, and it is God that said of David, that he was beloved.

    What you post is very sad commentary on the state of Intellectualism within Caholicism because in those broad statements they just condemned the patriarchs and saints of the Old Testament. They have contradicted themselves! They have gone against the historical record.

    We don't live in a perfect world, but if the religious leaders of Henry VIII had Wisdom instead of Legalism, maybe things would be different. Wisdom is about reading the situation and knowing what to apply when, and how much---or to let the Law sleep. Wisdom is a Spirit, the feeling or instinct of Truth.

    Adultery, divorce and free union are grave offenses, but polygamy is not. Extreme polygamy is a grave offense. Polygamy of lust is a grave offense. But Polygamy of necessity is not. The Necessity overrides the legal probity.

    So you're telling me, that the Christian Moral Law in some rare circumstances then leads to genocide?

    This here is a case where Good law leads to evil. And that is an oxymoron.