On Modesty And Marriage
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
With the Name Allah (In the Name of God), the Gracious, the Compassionate.
(Editor's note: Following are excerpts from a Miami radio broadcast entitled the "Robert Hall Report," aired live on Saturday, Oct. 20, 1979. On the three-hour program over radio station WMBM, Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad responded to questions from host Robert Hall and numerous callers. Continued from Nov. 16.)
QUESTION: What is your opinion — what do you think of marriage in the American society? Do you think that later on we will have more than one wife to one man or what? What is your opinion on that?
WDM: My opinion is that we are going to continue to move towards monogamous or one wife marriage. Solomon, so the scripture says, had many wives. David and others had many wives.
When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) began to teach the Quran — the universal revelation in Arabia — polygamy was there, and there was no limit on the number of wives that a man could have. Prophet Muhammad allowed polygamy to check polygamy. He reduced the number of wives a man could have to four and God guided him to make the conditions so tough for the individual that most Muslims accept one wife and have only one wife.
I've been to countries all over the Muslim world and practically everywhere I go, the men have only one wife. Only in very rare exceptions will you find a man having more than one wife. Arabs, from their own society, tell me that 40 years ago there were more Arabs having more than one wife, and a hundred years before that there were still more. So it's gradually hanging towards one wife.
In the United States, the law is one wife and we follow that. Although polygamy is allowed, a brother can have more than one wife under the law of Al-Islam, but under real strict conditions.
To just say that you can have more than one wife and not teach the people what those strict conditions are is wrong. They are: if the wife is incapacitated; if the wife cannot have a child and you expected that she could have a child; if the wife is mentally sick and you want to keep her in the house — you can care for her there, you don't have to institutionalize the wife.
There are certain strict conditions that we have to follow in taking on more than one wife. The main thing for us to realize is that no man can take on a second wife without the permission of the first wife, and he can't take a third without the permission of the first and the second. He can't take a fourth without the permission of all of them. This is hard to get, especially in this society.
So we ask all of our members to obey the law of the land and have only one wife.
QUESTION: What is the role of the woman in Islam, and why do they wear the long dresses?
WDM: The sisters wear long dresses for the same reason they cover their breasts, for the same reason they wear the long sleeves down to the hand — because in this freakish world where sex is corrupt and men make women a plaything, a sexual play-toy, the women are to carry themselves in such a way as not to excite the lust of the men.
QUESTION: I noticed that Muslim women in the previous teachings were covered beautifully. However, in visiting different cities here in the United States I find that the dress standard seems to be relaxed somewhat. Has this been part of the new teachings or is this something that's being expressed by sisters themselves?
WDM: I think the reason the sisters dressed so nicely in those days before I became leader was because they had a good example. Sister Clara Muhammad was always seen in the best Muslim dress, and I thank Allah, Almighty God, that my wife sets the same example; she dresses in the best Muslim dress.
In Chicago we have no problem with sisters dressing unbecomingly. The sisters dress in the best way. We have membership there that I am proud of, but we don't, as they say, strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. We don't do that anymore. We don't throw people out for coming in with a dress that's not quite to the ankle or for wearing °ants. We don't throw them out in the streets and say, "You sinner, you, get out of here. You've got on pants, you sinner you; you've got on a dress that's showing the calf of your leg, you sinner, you. Get out of here — take 90 days, take six months from our community."
We don't send them out and let the one who is robbing the people and who's creating hatred in the people and feeding hostilities and negative thoughts in people stay around to corrupt the community.
In the Quran it says that the sisters should throw their shawls over their breasts when they go into the streets. Now there are a lot of things to be taken under consideration — the style of dress that was worn at that time. If a sister wears a dress that is of a different style, and her dress serves the purpose of that shawl, if it hides the figure of the shape of her breasts, the contours of her breasts, then why should she throw something else over that?
We need leadership in religion. We need people who have intelligence enough to understand what God is asking and able to apply that to their time and their situation. Now I agree with you, a sister should be covered, and no one is telling the sisters that they can go uncovered, but no one is going to throw them out of the religion if they go uncovered.
If they make a disgraceful spectacle of themselves, that's different.