As a Freemason I get asked many questions regarding Freemasonry, and some prove very difficult to answer, and this one is no exception. The question is “can a Muslim man with 2-4 wives become a Freemason?” This is known as polygyny (where a man may marry more than one woman); this article excludes polyandry (where a woman can have more than one husband). It is always difficult to answer such questions and not offend anyone, so I will say straight at the start, if anyone who reads this is offended, they you have my heartfelt apology, this is not my intension.
It is amazing, whist researching a subject, the research reaches many connections. This article includes such connections, however, the conclusion is based on logical speculation as I simply don’t know.
Firstly, it is well known that in Islam it is perfectly acceptable for a Muslin man to marry four women, it is also perfectly acceptable for a Muslim to become a Freemason.
Secondly, in one of the Old Charges in Freemasonry, which is now incorporated in the Charge after Initiation (Emulation Ritual), it clearly states that each Freemason must pay “due obedience to the laws of any state which may for a time become your place of residence, or afford you its protection;” Polygyny (or bigamy as it is known in the west) is legal in 58 countries, according to Wikipedia, other web sites name less, but in any event, a Freemason may choose to live in any one of these countries. It is also true that some of those countries have regular District Grand Lodges affiliated to a regular Grand Lodge in a country where polygyny isn’t legal, including the UK and the USA.
Let us examine some distant history, especially around the biblical story of King Solomon, as the building of King Solomon’s Temple is prominent in Freemasonry’s rituals. Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba, who was his mother. Bathsheba was originally married to Uriah, a Hittite which is a tribe of Canaan. Bathsheba was evidently a very beautiful woman and King David saw her bathing (we won’t go into why) and invited her home to “lie with him,” after all, in his eyes she was a very beautiful woman. Not much virtue amongst kings in those days! However, after this episode Bathsheba was with child, so Uriah was sent closer to the war front by David and subsequently died in battle, so that left Bathsheba free to marry David, his eighth wife (eight wives of David are named in the Bible, but the scriptures tell us he had more and many concubines). Bathsheba’s baby died just seven days after the profit Nathan rebuked David, stating this was a punishment for consummation out of wedlock.
Bathsheba gave birth to four sons, the second being Solomon, the biblical stories state that he became the inheritor to David’s throne through Bathsheba’s manipulation.
Well, this article mustn’t turn into a Bible story as I am sure that as a layman I am not qualified to write as such, I am sure there are many readers who know far more then I. However, our story regarding “can a man with many wives became a Freemason” must continue with King Solomon, as it is the building of his temple that is the centre point of the third degree in Freemasonry.
The biblical stories I have read mention that King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (they must have been very “manly” in those days), but in the Masonic third degree the principle isn’t about King Solomon but, as stated above, King Solomon’s temple. Hiram, King of Tyre assisted Solomon as a favour asked by Solomon’s father, King David, and the main architect who designed and managed its build was actually a legendary character (not biblical) also called Hiram. In the Masonic third degree it is in this story that Hiram (the Master Mason) was one of three who held the “secrets” of the third degree in Masonry, in other words, knowledge and skill, which others would learn as their own skills improved (the other two were the two Kings). In our ritual Hiram is murdered by three zealous craftsmen who didn’t want to wait until they had learned enough to be certified to a higher level and gain those secrets. Relate this to medieval Britain where this story arose, where guilds or collectives kept their skills to themselves and only selected “members” (apprentices) could learn them and had to prove their competence before they could be raised to the higher level.
So Hiram “lost his life in consequence of his unshaken fidelity to the sacred trust imposed in him” and the lesson here is of integrity and honesty, it really has nothing to do with secrets, just an allegorical way of Masonic teaching.
So, what has this to do with Islam and if a Muslim with 2-4 wives is allowed to become a Freemason? Well, nothing really, it is just a way of saying that in Masonic history our rituals are based upon biblical stories of men who had many wives, and a lot more than four.
So, taking the ritual of the three degrees in Freemasonry, and the part in the first degree that mentions, as has been stated earlier, “due obedience to the laws of any state which may for a time become your place of residence, or afford you its protection” which does directly imply that it perhaps depends upon the location of the District Grand Lodge and whether that country allows polygyny. Let’s remind ourselves at this point that listed on the Internet, as stated above, are some 58 countries that allow polygyny, but as you might expect, all Christian countries do not, and the United Grand Lodge of England is situated in one such country and, as such, Freemasonry was “born” from Christian men.
In the current Book of Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) there are no entries referring to marriage, nor wives, the subject just isn’t addressed. I remind the reader that in the home of UGLE (England and Wales), polygyny is completely illegal and Freemasonry has no influence on personal life in this respect. However, UGLE has many District Grand Lodges and some are in Muslim countries, for example, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, all of which, I am led to believe, allow polygyny. Another country that allows polygyny is Lebanon, and here we find District Grand Lodges from Scotland and the USA (plus some Lodges directly governed by the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia); in each of the Grand Lodge countries polygyny is illegal.
Let’s now refer to the rules of joining Freemasonry. No Freemasons’ Lodge should ever refuse admittance to anyone who meets the criteria for membership with regard to belief in a Supreme Being, even if a particular candidate belongs to a monotheistic religion not, as yet, followed by any current members of that Lodge. However, it is always left up to individual Lodges who they allow to join them, as it is imperative that new members are a “good fit” with the other brethren in the Lodge so harmony in the Lodge is maintained. There is quite a process to go through, especially when a candidate is not known to any Lodge members. In such a case the District Grand Lodge would have conducted some vetting before selecting a suitable Lodge, and once that Lodge has been notified it will conduct further enquiries. One such enquiry is a visit to the candidate’s home to ensure that his wife, or in this case wives, are in full agreement that their husband may join, as a certain amount of commitment is required of him in which they cannot contribute. As the rules of Freemasonry are governed by each Grand Lodge’s Book of Constitution, and, for example, in the Book of Constitutions UGLE uses to govern Freemasonry in its jurisdiction (which includes countries where polygyny is legal) there is no mention of marriage, then the acceptance of a Muslim man with more than one wife would be left entirely up to the members of each particular Lodge. A secret ballot is conducted, usually using black and white balls (white for, black against) for the acceptance of any candidate for Freemasonry.
So where are we on our question? In the scenario painted above, if a rejection is likely then the application should never really reach the ballot stage, the application should have been politely rejected early in the process (no reason is necessary); should it reach the ballot stage then acceptance is more likely than rejection. One criteria that Freemasons judge applicants is on their moral behaviour, and to many religions polygyny (polyandry) is immoral and not permitted, but if the Lodge to which the application is made is in a Muslim country where polygyny is legal, then obviously polygyny is not considered immoral.
Our quest is not quite over yet, as I have left our investigation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) to last as it is quite interesting. From the web pages of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints it clearly states that they believe in the marriage of one man to one woman. They also refer to Bible stories, in particular Moses, who is said to have had two wives, evidently along with his wife Zipporah he married a Cushite women, and he was castigated by his brother and sister for doing so. King David, as we know, had 8 (or more) wives and his son King Solomon had 700. However in the Mormon faith, by “revelation,” God commanded Joseph Smith (the founder of the Mormons) to institute plural marriage among Church members in the early 1840’s, and this went on, according to their web site, for more than half a century, officially ending in 1890.
So what has this to do with Freemasonry? Well, it is stated that Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum and their father were all Freemasons and there is an important ceremony amongst Mormons called Endowment. These Mormon pages state that shortly after Joseph Smith became a Freemason he introduced the Temple Endowment ceremony. Several Mormon Freemasons believed that Freemasonry was a “stepping stone or preparation for something else,” referring to the Endowment. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at this time promoted plural marriage (polygyny). I appreciate that these are loose connections but, as many Mormons were then and are today Freemasons, it cannot be ruled out that some, in the mid to late 1800’s, may have had plural marriages.
So let’s conclude: “Can a Muslim man with 2-4 wives become a Freemason?” and recall:
- Freemasons are expected to pay “due obedience to the laws of any state which may for a time become your place of residence, or afford you its protection”
- Many Grand Lodges have District Grand Lodges in countries whose laws allow polygyny.
- To be a regular Freemason the applicant must believe in a Supreme Being and he can follow any monotheistic religion (which definitely includes Islam).
- There is nothing in UGLE’s Book of Constitution regarding marriage.
- Mormons believed in plural marriage from 1840 to 1890, and this was in the USA where polygyny is illegal and many Mormons at that time, including their founder, were Freemasons.
- Finally, it is entirely up to each individual Lodge as to whom they accept as a member, so long as he has met all of the conditions laid down for their guidance in the Book of Constitutions and their bylaws.
Our conclusion then; if the applicant to become a Freemason lives in a land where polygyny is lawful and has petitioned a Lodge of like minded Freemasons who are willing to accept him into their Masonic family, it can only be concluded that a Muslim man with 2-4 wives can join. I can find nothing in the Constitutions of today available to me to stand in his way, welcome Brother.
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, former Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand/Provincial/District Grand Lodge.
© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved