Islam is a way of life consonant with nature, providing human solutions to complex situations and avoiding extremes. This characteristic of Islam can be observed most clearly in its stand concerning the taking of more than one wife. Islam permits the Muslim to marry more than one woman in order to resolve some very pressing human problems, individual as well as social.
The eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti, member of the North American Fiqh Council, states:
First, understanding Islam is based on wahy (revelation) rather than reason. The principle of reason is used to further understand the wahy but not to judge or rule.
Second, the majority of Prophets were married to many wives, whereas they are considered the models for humanity for every sort of activity or style of life.
Third, in reality, you can hardly find one Muslim out of tens-of-thousands who is married to more than one wife. But, he cannot have affairs or dating with any woman. In non-Muslim societies, more than 65% of married men have affairs with more than 2, 3 or 4 women. There are more than 45% of women who have affairs the same way outside of marriage. All these practices are correct for the people of reason. They admit any zina (fornication/adultery) but they don’t admit any alternative for keeping people in cleanliness and pure solutions.
Fourth, if you want a woman to marry more than one man, this is not the only misconception we hear from people who allege they are people of reason and intellect. But I don’t need to make any comment other than saying this question is answered by what Allah, the Creator, has made of laws. He knows the best what is convenient and what is inconvenient for man or woman.”
For further elaboration on why Islam does not allow a woman to marry more than husband at one time, you are advised to read: Between Polygyny and Polyandry
Shedding more light on why Islam allows polygamy, the European Council for Fatwa and Research issued the following Fatwa:
“Prior to Islam, men used to marry as many women as they wished without any limits nor conditions. When Islam was revealed, it prescribed a limit to the number of women one may marry and also placed conditions for this to take place.
As for the limit, Islam prescribed that the maximum number of women a man can marry is four, as stated in the Qur’an: “Marry women of your choice, two or three or four…” (An-Nisa’: 3)
As for the condition, it is the confidence of the man that he can actually be totally just and fair between his wives, otherwise he is not allowed to re-marry. The Qur’an stated: “…but if you fear that you will not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one…” (An-Nisa’: 3) In addition, the other conditions of any marriage must also be present, such as the ability to provide for the family and the ability to satisfy the sexual needs of the woman.
The reason for the allowance for a man to marry more than one woman is because Islam is a realistic religion and one which is not based upon idealistic notions which would cause real problems of everyday life without solution or treatment. It is very probable that a man marrying a second wife could be solving a problem, in that his first wife is incapable of bearing children or has extended menstruation cycles which result in his sexual needs being unsatisfied. The first wife could be ill and thus, instead of divorcing her and leaving her alone, could marry a second wife and remain next to his first wife, and so on. This allowance also solves the problem of a widow who needs a husband to care for her but does not wish for an unmarried young man, similar to a divorced woman with children. Indeed this allowance may solve a social problem which arises from the high proportion of good women who want to marry in comparison to able men. This is a common problem which increases particularly in the aftermath of wars and the like. The fact, in this case, is that the extra women do one of three following options:
1) That they remain unmarried for the rest of their lives, and are thus deprived from being a wife and a mother, which is a great injustice.
2) That they fulfill their sexual needs regardless of decrees of religion and acceptable behavior, which will result in a tragic loss in this life and the hereafter.
3) That they agree to marry an already married man who is capable of meeting their living and sexual needs and who is confident in his ability to deal fairly and justly between his wives.
As for those who say that this allowance is often abused by some men, it is an unfortunate fact that many rights are abused or are used in inappropriate manners. This does not mean that we must cancel these rights. Indeed, there are many men who abuse their first and only wives, so does this lead us to cancel marriage in its entirety?
Freedoms are often abused. Should we cancel freedoms? We see that states and governments abuse elections; would it be right to cancel these processes? In fact we find that authority and government is frequently abused, so would it be acceptable to cancel authority and let society decline into a state of chaos? It would be better, instead of calling for the cancellation of these rights, to set up boundaries and regulations which would limit the possibility of such rights being abused.”