Misinterpretation of 4:3

And if you fear that you may not be just to the orphans, then
you may marry whom you please of the women, two, three, or four.
4:3

The words in 4:3 have been subject to various misinterpretation.
According to the first misinterpretation, it is claimed that the words "whom you please of the women" refer to the mothers of the orphans. As a result, it is claimed that men who are supporting orphans can marry their mothers.
The second misinterpretation claims that the words "whom you please of the women" refer to the female orphans themselves. As a result, it is claimed that men who are supporting orphaned girls may marry them, 2, 3 and 4.
It can be shown in the light of the Quran that both of these interpretations are incorrect.

PART 1
The first misinterpretation suggests that men who are supporting orphans can marry their mothers up to 4 wives.
Traditional interpreters state that an orphan is a child who has lost his/her father but whose mother could still be alive. The Quranic evidence confirms that this is an incorrect definition of an orphan.
The Quranic definition of an orphan is a minor who has lost both parents. A minor whose mother is alive is not classed as an orphan. The confirmation of the correct meaning is found in 4:6:

You shall test the orphans when they reach the age of marriage, then if you sense in them sound judgment, you shall hand over to them their money. Do not consume it wastefully or quickly before they have grown up. Those who are rich shall not charge any wage, and whoever is poor can charge equitably.When you hand over to them their money, have witnesses in their presence. God suffices as a Reckoner. 4:6

The words in 4:6 address the guardians who are entrusted with the duty of looking after the money of orphans until such a day when they are mature enough for their money to be handed over to them. For a child to be in need of a guardian means that he has lost both parents. The following analysis confirms that a child who has a living mother is not classed as an orphan in the Book of God:

1- If a child's mother is still alive, she would be the most trustworthy person to look after all his interests, including his money. Therefore, there would be no need for a guardian to look after the money of the child.

2- Some may suggest that the instructions of handing the orphans their money at maturity applies also to their mother if she is looking after their money. However, the words in 4:6 cannot be addressed to a mother who is looking after the money of her own child, for if that was the case, God would not need to issue the warning:
"Do not consume it (the orphan's money) wastefully". A mother is not likely to squander the money of her own child wastefully.

3- Equally, if a child has a living mother, and she happens to be looking after his money, God would not say the words:
"Those who are rich shall not charge any wage, and whoever is poor can charge equitably."
Mothers do not charge a fee for looking after the money of their own children.

To conclude this section, children who have a living mother would not need a guardian. Thus the orphans spoken of in 4:6 (who have a guardian) cannot have living mothers. Orphans are children who have lost both parents. It follows that the interpretation of marrying the mothers of the orphans is an option that can never exist, simply because orphans do not have mothers.

PART 2
The claim that men who are supporting orphaned girls can marry the orphaned girls themselves is also incorrect:

1
- God was quite deliberate to use two categories of people in 4:3, those are "the orphans" and the "women". If both words referred to the orphans, God would have used the word "orphans" twice.
The words would have been something like:
And if you fear that you may not be just to the orphans, then you may marry whom you please of the orphaned girls, two, three, or four.
God was very deliberate to use two different words. Clearly the two words do not speak of the same category of people.

2
- The words in 4:3 say, "marry whom you please of the women". Since God did not specify which "women" to marry, no interpreter has the right to confine the meaning to any one category of women, such as the orphaned girls. The use of the word "women" without specifying any one category means that men who fear being unfair to the orphans whom they support may marry any of the women who are lawful to marry, and who are not on the list of prohibited women to marry in 4:23.

3
- The word "women" in 4:3 cannot refer to the orphaned girls. As mentioned in Part 1, the Quranic definition of an orphan is a minor who has lost both parents. Orphans do not remain orphans all their lives, they are orphans only when they are minors and are in need of a guardian to look after their interests. Once they reach maturity and the age of marriage, and they are given their money (4:6), they are no longer classed as orphans.
In verse 4:6, God makes it clear that marriage to minors is unlawful. They have to reach the age of marriage. Therefore, the "women" in 4:3 whom God makes lawful to marry cannot be the orphaned girls (who are not yet lawful to marry).
Once the orphaned girls reach the age of maturity, the age of marriage, and are given their money, they do not need a guardian anymore. They are no longer orphans. Only then would they be lawful to marry (see 4:127).
God specifically used the words "orphans" in 4:3. This makes it obvious that God is speaking about minors who are in need of looking after, rather than in need of husbands!

To conclude this section, the words in 4:3 do not say:
'If you feel unjust to the orphans, then marry them'!
The reason God allowed polygamy is not for orphaned girls to find husbands, nor for the satisfaction of men's sexual drive, which is one absurd claim by some interpreters, but it is for the best interest of the orphaned boys and girls and for them to be well looked after.

Supporting orphans is a condition for polygamy. Polygamy is allowed in such a case for the best interest of the orphans. This is made clear in the first sentence in 4:3.
Let us assume a man is supporting 10 or 12 orphans, he may not find sufficient time to provide them with the adequate care they deserve, especially if he has children of his own as well.
In such a case, God allows the man to take a second wife or more (depending on how many orphans he is supporting) to help him raise and look after the orphans. A second wife would help the man raise the orphans and would be like a mother figure to the orphans.
What this also means is that men who are not supporting orphans do not have the right to have more than one wife.
The full details of polygamy can be found on this page: Polygamy in the Quran