CAIRO - The largest mosque in the Australian state of Victoria has sparked a controversy by calling on Muslim women to encourage husbands to take polygamous wives instead of divorce.
"We are deeply concerned by the advice provided by Preston Mosque, Joumanah El Matrah, executive director of the Australian Muslim Women's Center for Human Rights, told the Herald Sun on Tuesday July 10.
It reflects a poor understanding of marital discord in Muslim families.
In a Facebook post, the mosque said that polygamy is better for Muslim women than divorce.
"It is very important for a wife to fulfil the rights of her husband. Why? Because Allah commanded her to, after marriage Jannah is through her husband, and also the husband is your partner. A partner is someone you share with not someone who does things for you," said the post.
"If a man is saying to his wife I will marry another woman, this is far better than saying you are divorced every time he is upset.
The advice said polygamy is an appropriate alternative to divorce, which destroys the whole family.
If a man divorces his wife three times he has destroyed his family. They can no longer return to each other. Islam only allows two divorces and returns.
"So if your husband is telling you that he wants to take another wife and you are not doing the right thing by him, then know that he is thinking straight and using a weapon that doesn't have severe consequences."
In Islam, marriage is a sacred bond that brings together a man and a woman by virtue of the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
Each partner in this sacred relationship must treat the other properly and with respect.
Divorce is not at all viewed favorably in Islam and is discouraged unless warranted by valid reasons.
But the mosque advice drew fire from Muslim leaders.
"Research from the Islamic world unequivocally demonstrates that polygamy contributes to marital discord, it does not resolve it, El Matrah said.
"We are further concerned that the mosque is encouraging of polygamous marriages when they have no legal standing in this country - as this is a key requirement of Islam. Muslim marriage is a partnership, it is not a woman serving a man."
Islam sees polygamy as a realistic answer to some social woes like adulterous affairs and lamentable living conditions of a widow or a divorced woman.
A Muslim man who seeks a second or a third wife should, however, make sure that he would treat them all on an equal footing.
The Noble Qur'an says that though polygamy is lawful it is very hard for a man to guarantee such fairness.
"The comments on the Facebook post are inappropriate and unacceptable," said Sherene Hassan, the secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria.
Following the criticism, the mosque removed the polygamy advice from its Facebook page.
"The fact that the post was removed . . . very shortly after it was posted is encouraging, said Hassan.
"However, this incident further substantiates the community's calls for greater conversations about these issues."
Islam is Australia's second largest religion after Christianity.Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.