A spinster is an unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage―and this discussion also applies to divorced women, widows and those who have realised (a little late) that building a family and having children is more important than pursuing a career. Should these women remain single in a society filled with temptations and dangers, and wait for a single man to come along or become co-wives?
As it becomes increasingly harder to find a good God-fearing single (unmarried) man, women seriously need to weigh up their options and ask themselves some important questions: Are there any honest and righteous married men who are capable and willing to support, love and maintain additional wives?
Question: Is plural marriage (polygyny) a practical solution to the prevalence of unmarried older women (spinsters) in society?
Answer by Shaykh Sālih Al-Fawzān: “Yes, from the means that provide a solution to the prevalence of spinsters in society is polygyny. So a woman who gets married to a man who takes care of her, maintains her, protects her, and she gives birth to righteous children from him, even if she is the fourth wife, is better than her remaining a widow [or a spinster] and therefore prevented from the benefits of marriage―and is exposed to temptation. This is from the greatest of the wisdoms for the legislation of polygyny in the Sharī’ah. And in this, there is a greater benefit for the woman than there is for the man. And the woman having to strive and encounter some difficulties in being a co-wife is balanced out with what she attains from the clear benefits of being married. The intelligent person weighs up the benefits and harms, the advantages and disadvantages, and then comes to a conclusion based upon that―and the benefits of being married outweigh the harms of polygyny if there are any to be found.”
(Ref: Liz-Zawjayn ٣٠٠ Su’āl was Jawāb, p. 30, published by Dār Ad-Diyā’)
Shaikh Al-Fawzān stated: “And in reality, in this, there is a greater benefit for women than there is for men. That is because the men have to take on the responsibility of maintenance and care over the women, whilst the women are looked after. So the woman is in an advantageous position because she is maintained, cared for, and is given a dwelling to live in as well as the fulfilment of intimate relations. So this is to her advantage and benefit also, so she does not remain single, deprived of a (loving, caring and responsible) husband.”
(Tas’hīl Al-Ilmām of Al-Fawzān, explanation of hadith no. 991)
Only men who are sure that they can treat all their wives fairly are allowed to marry more than one wife. That means, among other things, that they must be able to provide the same standard of housing, food and clothing for each wife, and treat each one with kindness and consideration as well as spending time with them equally. Allah (the Most High) said: “…marry those that please you of other women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then marry only one…” (An-Nisā 4:3)
Read about what to ask a prospective spouse: Meeting for Marriage: There is no Place for Trickery and Deception in a Meeting Between a Couple for Marriage―Fear Allah and be Honest.
And read further: Benefits of polygamy in Islam: The Prophet Solomon and his wives between Islam and the People of the Book.
A Case Study Of Regrets And Lost Opportunities
There is no doubt that women are living in difficult times and it is hard to navigate through all the conflicting ideas and choices that they are presented with. Too many women in society are exploited, lied to, deceived, cheated on, used and discarded. But a woman who discovers her purpose in life, even if it is a little late, has a lot to live for and a happy future as long as she discovers the calling of Islam and submission to the One true Lord who created her and showed her the path to success in this life and the next.
Just to highlight what many women are going through in these times, here are a few quotes from Mail Online headline, 5 May 2011, by journalist Mandy Appleyard. There are many women facing the same regrets, but it is never too late to change course.
“The Love I’ll Never Know.”
Like one in five women, MANDY APPLEYARD has missed out on motherhood. Here, with unsparing honesty, she lays bare her regrets ―
“I don’t need others to make cruel comments about my not having children, I have spent the past ten years conjuring up enough agony of my own on the subject.
I know, for example, that not being a mother means there is a part of me which remains unused, a love that will be forever unexpressed. I know that what any mother describes as the most profound love she has ever known is, to me, a locked door — there is so much love I will never be able to give, wisdom and understanding I cannot share, shelter and solace I cannot provide…
I never expected to find myself in agreement with Ann Widdecombe on anything, yet I realised when she said last week that her most profound regret is never having had children, that we have something very important in common.
Like her, I didn’t plan it this way; I made no choice to be childless. Like so many other women of my generation, born in the Sixties when the fashionable wisdom was that women should postpone marriage and motherhood to forge careers, I left it too late to have a family. I always assumed it would happen at some stage, but I never gave it the focus it needed…
And so, at the age of 33, I suddenly became single.
The years that followed were some of the most difficult of my life, as close friends married and started families. I watched their lives changing as they swelled with happy pregnancies and welcomed beautiful babies into the world.
I was deeply envious, and hated myself for feeling that way. As they entered a mature and exciting new chapter as parents, I seemed to be flailing around in dating hell, impatient with expectation but nowhere close to finding the man with whom I could settle down and start a family of my own…
It seems I am part of a growing phenomenon: one in five women in Britain is childless by the age of 45, with fertility rates at a 44-year low.
The proportion of women without children has almost doubled since the Nineties, and it’s the same story in most other developed nations, including America. Finances play a part in the falling birth rate: many couples now decide against a family, or have only one child, because of the costs involved…
Focusing on a career is the key reason most women don’t have children, but a sociological shift away from the traditional role of mother is another.
In the past, motherhood was inevitable: now it has become a lifestyle choice — and one increasing numbers of women decide against, particularly, statistics reveal, if they are educated. The higher a woman’s income, the less likely she is to have children.
People who don’t know me usually assume, because I have a career and no children, that I chose one over the other, and they therefore feel entitled to make harsh judgments on that basis…
I used to wonder what my children would have looked like, who they would have taken after. Would they have inherited my mother’s beautiful Irish eyes? My father’s dry wit? I dared to think I would have been a good mother, especially when I see the slipshod way many parents raise their children. I like to think I would have been fun but firm, dependable but adventurous, and I hope I would have raised happy children who would have made the world a better place.
I would have taught a son to bake cakes and encouraged him to express his feelings; I would have raised a daughter to be confident and assertive. Idealised notions, perhaps, but those were my dreams.
Dreams that I can’t help replaying in my mind…
In any case, I don’t believe that having children is an act of selflessness: quite the opposite. Some of the most myopic, self-concerned people I know are parents who cannot see beyond the narrow boundaries of their nuclear family, and who care nothing for those outside their self-begotten world.
My regrets will always linger. My life is a poorer place for not having children, and I am less of a woman for not being a mother. There is a vast realm of experience and growth I will never know…”