A Conference of German Women Calling For Polygamy?

The book "Women in Islam versus Women in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition" by Dr. Sherif Abdel Azeem is one of the major new propaganda pieces in Islamic dawah which is available on dozens of Muslim websites. It states in chapter 15, collecting arguments for polygamy:

Footnote 63 though does not give a reference to this supposed conference document, but instead to

This is actually a rather well spread rumor in the Islamic world, but repetition does not constitute truth. This "German conference" is mentioned in several other Islamic books too. A number of them are listed in chapter 12 on polygamy in Hamdun Dagher's book "The Position of Women in Islam" (read the whole chapter, very enlightening). None of them seems to give any real reference though that could be checked in the real world. This is as good as proof that this is a hoax. If any of you can find a reference to this conference document, please let me know. I will follow up on it.

This issue was also discussed on the "History of Islam" mailing list, where the following facts were presented:

Sender: History of Islam 
From: "Dr. Christoph Heger" <heger@tuev-rheinland.de>
Subject:      Rumors of polygamy in Germany

Dear Daud, dear all,

Some weeks ago, Daud R. Matthews <D03T005%SAKSU00.BITNET@VTBIT.CC.VT.EDU>, 
as I understood now living in Saudi Arabia, asked me in his kind mail of 
1996/12/09 to this list:

   "Dr Chris, I notice you are in Germany, perhaps I can ask you for
    some help with references. I understand after WWII German women
    petitioned the German Government for males to be able to marry 
    more than one wife. The US was involved and pointed out this was
    unnecessary, as there were a lot of US males available (or words 
    to that effect). Can you help with the actual references please?"

I never had heard such rumors before and gave this preliminary answer:

  "I never have heard anything like that, though I have some historical 
   education. It seems unbelievable to me. Furthermore, the question 
   contains some assertions which are easily to recognize as wrong:

  (1) In the first years after WWII there was no German Government 
  to receive petitions from German women. When German authorities 
  gradually were restaured, some years later, such a demand, 
  if existent, definitely would have been out of question. The 
  constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, which in those
  days was drafted, reaffirmed the institution of matrimony (one 
  husband and one wife). The contempt of polygamy was (and is) 
  rather stable within the German people.

  (2) The answer which the US are said to have given ('lot of US 
  males available') certainly is a later invention. Immediately after 
  the war the allied troops were forbidden to 'fraternize' with the 
  German enemy population, US husbands were not available. (That does, 
  of course, not mean that allied troops, not only Russians, were 
  prevented effectively from mass raping.)

  To sum up: No, I cannot help with references. I would, however, 
  be interested to get references myself where this gossip is 

In the meantime another participant in this list, Jochen Katz, USA, 
pointed to the representation of this item in his web-site (URL:
http://www.math.gatech.edu/~jkatz/Islam/Hoaxes/polyd.html). There 
I found several quotes, which I should repeat here for your convenience.

The first quote ("Conference of German Women Calling For Polygamy?") 
is from the URL http://www.uidaho.edu/~yusuf921/poly_kitab.html, 
which has the following front page:

Friday khutbah (sermen) by Dr. Sherif Abdel Azeem, February 10, 1995

        2. EVE'S FAULT?
        3. EVE'S LEGACY
        8. ADULTERY
        9. VOWS
        10. WIFE'S PROPERTY?
        11. DIVORCE
        12. MOTHERS
        14. PLIGHT OF WIDOWS
        15. POLYGAMY
        16. THE VEIL
        17. EPILOGUE
        and Notes"

In chapter 15 Dr. SHERIF ABDEL AZEEM has the news that:

"It is interesting to note that in an international youth conference
held in Munich in 1948 the problem of the highly unbalanced sex
ratio in Germany was discussed. When it became clear that no
solution could be agreed upon, some participants suggested polygamy.
The initial reaction of the gathering was a mixture of shock and
disgust. However, after a careful study of the proposal, the
participants agreed that it was the only possible solution.
Consequently, polygamy was included among the conference final
recommendations. [63]"

Footnote 63 does not give though a reference to this supposed
conference document, but to ELSAYYED SABIQ, "Fiqh al Sunnah", 
(Cairo: Darul Fatah lile'lam Al-Arabi, 11th edition, 1994), page 191.

This source Dr. SHERIF ABDEL AZEEM refers to is no authority. In the
new edition of the "Mu'gam al-mu'ullifin al-arab" of KAHHALA the
name AS-SAYYID SABIQ seems not to be mentioned. It is known,
however, that AS-SAYYID SABIQ was odious especially to the Shiite
Muslims, who called him "as-Sayyid Sariq" (Mr. Thief). Whether the
story of the alleged demand for legislation of polygamy in Germany
actually is mentioned in his "Fiqh as-Sunna", is not known to me. 
It would be no surprise. SHERIF ABDEL AZEEM's manner of quotation
doesn't make it easy to check that, since he cites only the page - 
a page in a work the first edition of which comprised 14 volumes. 
Maybe I will manage to find the pertinent passage later on.

The second quote in the web-site of Katz' is out of chapter 12 on
polygamy in HAMDUN DAGHER's book "The Position of Women in Islam". 
It showed me that the story about legalizing polygamy in post-war
Germany apparently was a rather wide spread rumor in the Islamic
world. The "German conference" - though totally unknown in Munich -
seems to be mentioned in several other Islamic books, too. A number
of them are listed in this chapter 12. None of them seems to give 
any real reference though that could be checked in the real world. 

"AL-SABUNI tells us for example: 'Christian Germany, whose religion 
forbids polygamy, has chosen and she found no better choice than that 
which Islam had already chosen. So Germany permitted polygamy so as 
to protect the woman from taking prostitution as a profession; which 
results in onerous damages, the leading one of which is the large number 
of bastards.'[7] It is, of course, unnecessary to add that the Germans 
have not heard of such a decision. Thus, it appears that Islamic 
apologists are allowed to circulate lies to further their own cause.

He also quotes (without giving any reference) what a German female 
university professor said: The solution for the problem of the German 
woman lies in permitting polygamy. I prefer to be one among ten wives 
of a successful man than to be the only wife of an insignificant, 
unsuccessful man. This is not my opinion alone, but the opinion of 
all the women of Germany.[8]

Mr SABUNI claims that the German youth Conference (held in Munich, 
Germany in 1948) recommended polygamy as a solution for the problem 
of the increase of women and the lack of men after the Second World 

Footnote 7 of HAMDUN DAGHER is:

"MUHAMMAD 'ALI AL-SABUNI, Tafsir ayat al-Qur'an, 1: 429. This is 
the first detailed argument Muslims use to account for and justify 
polygamy. See also SAYYID QUTB, Fi zilal al-Qur'an (Beirut, 1967), 
2:243; MAHMUD SHALTUT, al-Islam eeaqida wa shari'a, p.181ff."

Footnote 8 of HAMDUN DAGHER is:

"MUHAMMAD 'ALI AL-SABUNI, Tafsir ayat al-Qur'an, 1:429-430. 'ABD 
AL-WADUD SHALABI, Hiwar sarih baina 'Abd al-Masih wa 'Abdillah 
(Jidda, 1993), p.240. We found no trustworthy source supporting 
this claim, but it is obviously a lie to say that Germany permitted 
polygamy! Those who are wont to fabricate lies do not stop in their 
ridiculous arguments at the boundary of 'the state', but some go 
beyond that, claiming that some heretic sects such as Mormonism and 
Anabaptism allowed polygamy, as though this polygamy has become a 
part of the church doctrine ('ABD AL-WADUD SHALABI, p.236)."

And footnote of HAMDUN DAGHER 9 is:

"AL-SABUNI, 1:430."

It would be interesting to check if those authors cited in the
footnotes - which contrary to AS-SAYYID SABIQ at least partially 
are authorities - actually have the story about polygamy in Germany.

To some extent this question is answered by a Letter to the Editors
of Germany's leading newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ),
which I found by chance in my little archive and which was published
on March 23, 1996 unter the title: "Calumnies from highest
authorities of Islam". Especially in its second and third to last
paragraphs it is pertinent. The sender, TAMER BACINOGLU, a learned
Muslim theologian of Turkish nationality and scholar at the
university of Tuebingen, Germany, wrote (translated into English):

"With reference to the article by WOLFGANG GUENTER LERCH
'Gefaehrlicher als SALMAN RUSHDIEs Dolchstiche' ('More Dangerous
Than SALMAN RUSHDIE's Stabs In The Back'), FAZ of 21 February: The
rabble-rousing attacks which an Arab living in Switzerland has made
on the Tuebingen Orientalists MANFRED ULLMANN and JOSEF VAN ESS,
whose studies neither touch on Current Affairs nor attack Islam,
show that the 'liberal' daily newspaper al Hayat which is published
in London and is the most influential international publication of
the Saudi press empire, has trained its sights on the whole of the
world of oriental studies in the West. In fact, in its edition of 
12 February 1996 this newspaper introduced BERNARD LEWIS, an
orientalist of international renown like his Tuebingen colleagues,
as an enemy of Islam, simply because, according to the paper, he
does not discuss the Palestinian question in a comprehensive and
'objective' way.

Again it was the 'liberal' newspaper al-Hayat which in a commentary
allowed MUHAMMAD RASCHAD QABBANI, the deputy mufti of Lebanon, to
present compelling reasons for the killing of apostates (11 August
1995). As is seen in the Egyptian Koran specialist NASR ABU ZAID,
the majority of Islamic scholars and intellectuals interpret every
scientific, that is neutral, discussion of religious matters as a
threat whose originators are to be either outlawed through being
declared apostates, or intimidated through being labelled enemies 
of Islam.

While the West is discussing the so-called 'Concept of the Enemy
Islam' and is striving to gradually eliminate that concept, an
Oriental living in Western Europe is shocked to observe how
Europeans and their countries are slandered and disparaged by the
highest religious authorities of more than one Islamic country. It
is no less a person than JAD AL-HAQ ALI SHAD AL-HAQ, vice-chancellor
of the al-Azhar University in Cairo and therefore a respected
authority in sunnite Islam, who in his Fatwa collection published 
in 1994 claims that in Christian Germany polygamy was legalised in
order to put an end to prostitution ('Buhuth wa Fatawa Islamiyya fi
Qadaya Mu'asira', volume 3, page 328, Cairo 1994).

Again in the monthly periodical of the supposedly moderate al-Azhar
University (Madschallat al-Azhar, page 669 foll., October 1995) one
author used the example of the 'Truemmerfrauen' in Germany (woman,
often widows, who to some extent earned there living after WWII 
by removing the ruins) to prove that the emancipation of women,
contrary to the Islamic practice, did not liberate women but forced
them to heavy labour.

In reality it is not the Islamic studies of Germany or of the West
which are a threat to Islam, but rather a lack of historic
discernment combined with arrogance, the products of which will 
at most provoke sentiments of amusement or pity."

Kind regards,
Christoph Heger

The original German letter to the editor above:

Leserbrief von Tamer Bacinoglu, Tübingen -
Mitarbeiter des Orientalischen Seminars der dortigen Universität -
veröffentlicht in der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung, FAZ Nr. 53 
vom 02.03.1996 auf Seite 30:

"Verleumderisches von höchsten Islam-Instanzen

Zum Artikel von Wolfgang Günter Lerch 'Gefährlicher als Salman 
Rushdies Dolchstiche' (F.A.Z. vom 21. Februar):

Die Hetzattacken eines in der Schweiz lebenden Arabers gegen 
die Tübinger Orientalisten Manfred Ullmann und Joef van Ess, 
die in ihren Studien weder die Tagespolitik berühren noch 
den Islam angreifen, zeigen, daß die in London erscheinende 
'liberale' Tageszeitung 'al-Hayat', das einflußreichste 
internationale Blatt des saudischen Presseimperiums, die 
gesamte westliche Orientalistik ins Visier genommen hat. 
Denn in der Ausgabe dieser Zeitung vom 12. Februar 1996 wurde 
bereits Bernard Lewis, ein ebenfalls international renommierter 
Orientalist wie seine Tübinger Kollegen, als ein Feind des 
Islams vorgestellt, nur weil er die palästinensische Frage in 
seinen Schriften nicht ausführlich und 'objektiv' behandle.

Es war wiederum die 'liberale' Zeitung al-Hayat, in der 
Muhammad Raschad Qabbani, der stellvertretende Mufti des 
Libanons, im Rahmen eines Tageskommentars dringende Gründe 
für die Tötung der Apostaten darlegen durfte (11. August 1995). 
Wie auch das Beispiel des ägyptischen Koranwissenschaftlers 
Nasr Abu Zaid zeigt, empfindet die Mehrheit der islamischen 
Gelehrten und intellektuellen jede wissenschaftliche, das heißt 
neutrale Behandlung des religiösen Stoffes als eine Bedrohung, 
deren Urheber entweder als Apostaten für vogelfrei erklärt oder 
als Feinde des Islams eingeschüchtert werden sollen. 

Während man im Westen über das sogenannte Feindbild Islam 
diskutiert und es abzubauen sucht, beobachtet ein Orientale, 
der in Westeuropa lebt, erschrocken, wie die Europäer und 
ihre Länder in manchem islamischen Land durch die höchsten 
religiösen Instanzen verleumdet und verunglimpft werden. Es 
ist kein Geringerer als Dschad al-Haq Ali Schad al-Haq, Rektor 
der al-Azhar-Universität in Kairo und somit eine angesehene 
Autorität im sunnitischen Islam, der in seiner 1994 erschienenen 
Fatwa-Sammlung behauptet, daß das christliche Deutschland die 
Polygamie legalisiert habe, um der Prostitution eine Ende zu 
setzen ('Buhuth wa Fatawa Islamiyya fi Qadaya Mu'asira', 
Band III, Seite 328, Kairo 1994)

Ebenfalls in der Monatszeitschrift der als gemäßigt geltenden 
al-Azhar ('Madschallat al-Azhar', Seite 669 folgende, Oktober 
1995) verwies ein Autor auf die 'Trümmerfrauen' in Deutschland 
als Beweis dafür, daß die Frauenemanzipation, im Gegensatz zur 
islamischen Praxis, die Frauen nicht befreit, sondern zur 
Schwerstarbeit gezwungen habe.

Es ist nämlich nicht die deutsche oder westliche Islamwissenschaft, 
die den Islam bedroht, sondern ein fehlendes historisch-kritisches 
Denken, gepaart mit Überheblichkeit, dessen Auswüchse nur Heiterkeit 
oder Mitleid erwecken können.

Tamer Bacinoglu, Tübingen"

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