If a man died [Arabs at the time of the appearance of Muhammad] and left behind ten wives, the sons of these women would rush at each other’s mothers, and as soon as one of them had thrown his mantle over the head of one of his stepmothers and claimed her as his lawful property, that unfortunate woman would become the captive and slave of her stepson and the latter could do with her as he pleased. He could kill her; or shut her up in a pit; or beat, curse, and torment her day after day until at last she perished. In all this he was, in accordance with the laws and customs of the Arabs, free to do as he pleased. The rancour and jealousy, the hatred and enmity that must have existed between the wives of a man and their respective children are perfectly clear and require no elaboration. Consider then what the life and condition of those wronged women must have been!
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha (Table talks in Akka, authenticated by ‘Abdu’l-Baha; ‘Some Answered Questions’ – 2014 revised translation by the Baha’i World Centre)