Egypt’s top cleric, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, describes polygamy as an “injustice for women and children.”
Sunni Islam’s highest authority, who made his comments on his weekly television program and on Twitter on Friday, said the practice comes from “a lack of understanding of the Koran.”
He said “those who say that marriage must be polygamous are all wrong. The Koran states that for a Muslim man to have multiple wives, he “must obey conditions of fairness — and if there is not fairness it is forbidden to have multiple wives.”
After his comments drew debate, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif Media Center clarified his views that he not calling for a ban on polygamy.
“The center stresses that the grand imam did not mention the prohibition or prohibition of polygamy,” according to a statement.
On the program he said: “Is the Muslim really free to marry a second and third and fourth on his first wife? Or is this freedom bound by restrictions and conditions? In the sense that pluralism is a ‘restricted right’ or we can say that it is a license, and the license needs a reason.
“For example, one who shortens the prayer has his license conditional on traveling. If the reason is invalid, the license is invalid. If a person marries a second person, then if he continues to change, and if he does not change, then he is released. Rather, once the fear of injustice, injustice or harm is denied, polygamy is prohibited.”
On Twitter, he said “Women represent half of society. If we don’t care for them it’s like walking on one foot only.”
Egypt’s National Council for Women applauded his comments.
“The Muslim religion honors women — it brought justice and numerous rights which didn’t exist before,” said Maya Morsi, the council’s president.
The husband must gain the consent of his current wife or wives if he hopes to marry more, according to Egyptian law. Otherwise, she has the right to ask for a divorce within one year of learning of the second marriage’s existence.
During his show, he said good married life is not money or ignorance, but rather religion. Those who lie or betray or oppress are not religious even if they spend the whole day in the mosque, he said.
In February, Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s Catholics, and the sheikh signed a historic declaration calling for peace among nations, religions and races at a gathering of religious leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other faiths in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.