Postmodernism and the Muslim Today

In discussing the topic of postmodernism today with a colleague we arrived at a conclusion that the main opposition to polygyny in today’s postmodern world—including from Muslims—is rooted in the notion that (a) polygyny is a right that men exclusively enjoy and (b) that men may enjoy that right unabashedly (that is, having legitimate sexual relationships with another woman).

The reason we touched on polygyny, a marital practice very few Muslims enjoin, is because of its “controversial” status in the minds of those who claim Islam to be a misogynistic religion. A claim now held by many Muslims who’ve been infected with postmodern sensibilities and methods of interpretation.

Our challenge to this was thus: postmodernism would tell us in general, and women in particular, that it is preferable to either (a) commit acts of sexual immorality (fornication) or (b) remain alone and face the cold hard reality of modern life by oneself. To me, this is a ludicrous and inhumane proposition based on the false myth of “fairness”. What I intend by myth here is the notion that postmodernism claims it’s unfair for a man to have what a woman cannot enjoy. Additionally, there is the assumption that every woman should be or can be in an ideal situation for marriage. What postmodernists (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) fail to recognize is that life is foundationally not fair. Further, as of yet, no society, philosophy, or even religious tradition (including Islam!) has been able to arrange the pieces on the proverbial chess board to ensure that life treats everyone “fairly”. Our rebuttal was that it’s a fool’s errand to attempt to create a sexual utopia in which everyone can have a monogamous relationship. What Islam does propose, however, is that everyone can have dignity. A woman who is married to a man—in the eyes of God according to Islam—is not merely some sexual object to be exploited but rather a woman—a human being!—to be given rights and dignity. And while this admittedly may not be an optimal relationship (a claim, by the way, Islam never makes), it is though, a dignified one. And people, especially women, should not be asked to make a choice between loneliness and immorality and dignity.

The other specter in the room regarding polygyny is (a) the general attitude the West still has about sex: it is a dirty and taboo thing, the result of which is both the hyper-sexualization of society whilst at the same time creating a downturn in actual sexual enjoyment. In other words, sex is now everywhere, and nowhere (how utopian!). And (b) the even further objection to men enjoying sexual relations unabashedly. For brevity sake, I believe this is connected to the false notion that (a) this is a result of patriarchy and (b) all forms of patriarchy are inherently evil or bad.

To conclude, postmodernity has rewired the modern Muslims mind to see bad where there is good, detriment where there is actually benefit. It is my hope that the thought leaders, imams, scholars, and shuyukh of our time will wake up to this growing interpretive threat and begin the process of de-programming and healing our hearts and minds.

And to God belongs all praise.