Assalāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāhi Wabarakath,
Polygyny [A form of Polygamy where a Man has more than one Wife] has indeed been a most controversial topic. In our times it isn't as desired. Even in traditional societies most Men opt to take only one Wife although it maybe legal to take more than one.
n Islam Polygyny is allowed. It says in the Qurán:
And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (the captives and the slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice. [Surat An-Nisa : 3]
The discussion on Polygyny is vast and includes both pros and cons. However, this is not what I mean to actually discuss.
I was just looking at my own views about polygyny and how they had changed over the years and they prompted this post. I went to a British School and I studied with a wide range of people from all around the World. I'm really grateful for the upbringing and experiences I had. However, I recall my views on Polygyny then. I too, affected more by Western influence then my own religion considered Polygyny to be taboo & and a thing of the past. I frowned upon Polygynous marriages and felt exceptionally sorry for Women who were involved in them.
When I started 'practicing' Islam in the truest sense of the word and not just someone who fulfilled the condition of praying five times a day and not committing big sins - my views on polygyny changed drastically.
I accepted it as a part of Islam, a command in the Qurán and a Sunnah of the Prophet Sallalahu alayhi wasallam. I no longer was shocked or surprised when I heard someone was involved in a Polygynous marriage. I don't know when the change started, but I think Allah Azza wa Jal softens your hearts and gives you understanding of the religion when you strive to come closer to him. Also, I became more and more exposed to Women who were in Polygynous marriage. And no, these weren't old Women or grandmothers but young Women in their twenties. In fact, two of my friends are involved in polygynous marriages and it was their own decision to come into such a marriage.
Obviously, a Polygynous marriage is not what every Woman can handle. You need to have a lot of taqwa and Imaan to go through it.
Secondly, not all Men should actually go ahead and marry another Woman if it's going to break his household to the extreme. I heard of a Woman who committed suicide when she heard her husband married another Woman.
There is a lot of Western critique of Polygyny which is practiced in Muslim Countries and this critique extends to the Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu alayhi wasallam for taking more than wife. It should be noted here though, that most of the Wives of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam were either old, widows or divorced and were in fact given his protection when they entered into the marriage and this argues their claim that the Prophet Muhammad SAWs married Women because of his own personal desires.
I find this critique of Islam by the West to be hypocritical. Considering how dating and having illicit relationships with different partners is the norm there. In fact, compared to that the Islamic system of such a thing is better. It protects the Women involved, gives them their rights and they can't be just 'thrown' away or changed.
I was doing some research on Polygyny and I was surprised to find that it is not only Islam who permits polygyny. In fact, Polygynous marriages have been quite common in different parts of the World in the past. Including China and is also permitted in some parts of Christianity. Here is a wikipedia article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygyny
Saying all of that, I still wouldn't involve myself in a Polygynous relationship. I still believe in a One Man & Woman marriage, however I wholeheartedly defend the Islamic concept of Polygyny against critique because above everything else, it was practiced by the Prophet Salallahu alayhi wasallam.
What some people fail to realise is, [Including Muslims] that there is a difference between not liking something for yourself and not liking the concept itself. Polygyny is a part of Islam & therefore needs to be defended, however, there is choice in the matter involved so you can choose to not be involved in a polygynous relationship.
Ridiculing the concept of Polygyny is where the trouble arises as it is ridiculing the Qurán & Sunnah.