Is Polygamy Allowed?
The ayat used to justify polygamy (4:3) has NOTHING to do with multiple marriages.
It is in regards to the prophet being the carer of the orphans and the guardian of their property, and how he should deal with them when it comes to giving a fair share to all parties involved.
To better understand let's look at the Quran in content and how it establishes the importance of orphans before mentioning marriage.
4:2-3 And give (to) the orphans their wealth, <---ORPHANS
and (do) not exchange the bad with the good, and (do) not consume their wealth with your wealth. Indeed, it is a sin great.
AND IF YOU FEAR THAT NOT YOU WILL BE
ABLE TO DO WITH THE ORPHANS <--(ORPHANS PROPERTY)
"then marry (off)" what seems suitable to you from the women twos, or threes, and fours. But if you fear that not you can do justice then one or what possesses your right hand. That (is) more appropriate that you (may) not oppress.
It can clearly be seen that these ayahs are explaining the importance of an orphan's property.
The mistranslation is where the Quran mentions marrying.
The word ‘fankihu’ means "marry off" and it is not a command to go and marry the women for yourselves.
It's telling those in charge of the orphans (in this scenario the prophet) to marry the orphans off to others.
Further evidence the same word ‘wankihuu’ which means ‘and marry off’ appears in 24:32.
the word fankihuu (thus marry them off) in 4:3 and wankihuu (and marry them off) in 24:32 tell us to marry off the orphans who come of age, those who are single, male or female servants even if they are poor. So there is no polygamy in 4:3 or 24:32.
Traditional translations always have this as "then marry what seems suitable to you" to suggest it means marry them yourself but it definitely doesn't mean that.
Marry them off and not marry them yourself, BIG difference.
To put it in context.....
The Quran is telling the prophet (who is the carer of the orphans and their property) to marry them off. It's telling the prophet to marry off the orphans as much as he can but if he feels he can't split up their property justly then marry them off only one at a time or from what your right hand possesses.
It doesn't say marry two, three or four
but it mentions them in plurality "twoS" "threeS" "and fourS".
mathnā is not two but twos
thulātha is not three but threes
rubāʿa is not 4 but fours.
To get a better understanding, the exact spelling of the word for twos "Mathnā" word is also used in 34:46
34:46 Say: I advise you to do one thing: that you stand to God, in twos (mathnā) and individually, then reflect. There is no madness in your friend, he is only a warner to you in the face of a severe retribution.
In the above ayat, it means pairS, as in groups of twos and not just a pair of two.
Also, the words 2s,3s,4s collectively appear all together in 35:1.
35:1 Praise be to God, Initiator of the heavens and the earth; maker of the angels as messengers with wings of twoS, and threeS, and fourS. He increases in the creation as He wishes. God is able to do all things
Without getting into the allegorical understanding, in the above ayat, it mentions three wings (thulātha). If we were to take this to mean 3 wings and not threes, not a single flying creature on earth has an odd number of wings because aerodynamics requires symmetrical wings on neither side.
There are however 3 pairs of winged insects, for example, a type of dragonfly called the Darter (or the Six-Winged Darter)
To be fair with the orphans and their property Allah is telling the prophet to marry off the orphans and their siblings in twos threes and fours.
This way there could be no complaint that the prophet kept onto their property because he marries them all off at the same time.
Also sometimes one orphan may have greater inheritance being held with the Prophet, for them Allah says then marry them off fawāḥidatan "one" or by themselves (or one by one).
To deter from misunderstanding the Quran, Allah has also told us in the same Surah that justice between wives is not in our power.
4.129 And you have it not in your power to do justice between wives, <------
even though you may wish (it), but be not disinclined (from one) with total disinclination, so that you leave her as it were in suspense; and if you effect a reconciliation and guard (against evil), then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
There may be some who will argue that the prophet had multiple wives.
Correct he did BUT he also had different laws to us in regards to wives (as stated in 33.50 ....ONLY FOR YOU, EXCLUDING THE BELIEVERS. Certainly, We know what We have made obligatory upon them concerning their wives and whom they rightfully possess, that not should be on you any discomfort.....)
The reason the prophet had this unique exemption is that he also was the only person to have a restriction in place.
The prophet was not allowed to remarry after a divorce. Here is the restriction
33.52 It is not allowed to you to take women afterwards, nor that you should change them for other wives, though their beauty be pleasing to you, except what your right hand possesses and Allah is Watchful over all things.
There is no definitive ayat in the Quran that forbids Polygamy but mistranslating 4:3 to justify polygamy is utterly wrong.