Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb (File photo: Reuters)
Egypt's Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, issued a statement on Saturday clarifying that Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb did not call for polygamy to be be banned while addressing the issue of multiple wives during his weekly Friday television show on state TV.
“The issue of polygamy leads to injustice to women and children in many cases,” said El-Tayyeb, adding that this is a result of incorrect understanding of the verses of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet on this issue.
He added that “polygamy is conditioned by [the ability to maintaining equitability], and if equitability is not possible, then polygamy is forbidden.”
Polygmy is a restricted right; and we can look at it as a sort of licence and as a licence it requires a reason, the grand imam explained.
In Egypt, Muslim men are legally allowed to marry up to four women at the same time.
However, a 1985 law has set restrictions on the ability of Muslim men to marry more than one woman by mandating that husbands inform wives of any new marriages and granting wives the right to divorce in these cases
Al-Azhar’s media department also posted a 2016 video where he denied that he was calling for legislations “which ban polygamy, or any legislation which tears down the Quran or the Prophet’s teachings.”
During his Friday talk, El-Tayyeb also addressed other women’s issues.
“Women represent half of society. If we don’t pay attention to them , it would be like walking on one foot,” he said.
The National Council for Women hailed the grand imam’s statements and his reasoning on the matter.
“We extend our appreciation to the grand imam for his assertions, which came to enlighten minds and reveal the truth, while constantly affirming that Islam honours women by bringing justice and rights that did not exist before,” said Maya Morsy, the president of the council.