I had an emergency this past week and CW took my kids to the park so they could get out of the house and I could have some down-time, masha’Allah. God bless her! Don’t ever say there aren’t upsides to polygyny. What a blessing to be able to count on your CW like that, and to be able to provide similar support to her!
American women suffer from post-partum depression more frequently than their sisters in other parts of the world. The reasons are complex, of course, but one is that we’ve lost the built-in support system that was extended family. Most young mothers are isolated to one degree or another, and don’t have access to female relatives or the women’s wisdom and caring that they could provide for one another. Polygyny is one way to construct an extended family whose members can care for each other and extend that vital support – both in times of need and just on a regular, day-to-day basis.
Sometimes in a polygynous marriage one wife will thrive on creating fitnah. Either she’ll treat her co-wife badly, or she’ll act superior to her, or she’ll treat her children badly, or she’ll spread rumours about her, or worst of all she’ll carry tales to their husband about her co-wife that are either untrue or are true but are twisted to sound bad when the other wife did not mean it that way. A woman who feels particularly scorned by her husband marrying a second wife (or a second wife who gets it in her head that she’s the husband’s true love and makes it her goal to get rid of the first wife) might exhibit more than one of these behaviors.
These things are particularly hard to deal with because they involve not only hurtful actions, but also injustice. One of the worst things in life is to be falsely accused of something or have others believe bad things about you that aren’t true. So a woman who is suffering these things is dealing not only with the nastiness of her cw, which is lonely and painful enough, but she’s also having to deal with others looking down on her or her husband being angry with her through no fault of her own.
I’ll give you my ideas on how to deal with some of these situations.
Whenever you are falsely accused of something or someone is spreading tales of you either to your husband or to the community, always remember how Aisha (radhi Allahu anha) dealt with the slander against her. She felt it just as acutely as we feel it today when we are gossipped about. She wept for two nights and three days, distraught because of the slander. She said she wept until she thought her liver would burst from weeping. And when the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallem) talked to her about it she answered wisely that if she should proclaim her innocence she wouldn’t be believed because people had been tarnished by the rumours. If she confessed even though she was innocent the people would believe her. So, she said, I compare my situation only with that of “Joseph’s father” (she forgot Yaqub’s name in the heat of the moment, alaihom asSalaam), who said ‘So (for me) patience is most fitting against that which you assert and it is Allah (Alone) whose help can be sought.’
Another thing to remember when you are falsely accused is the story of Abu Bakr, when he was sitting one day with Rasoolullah. A man came in and began to falsely accuse him of this and that. As the man was talking, the Prophet was smiling. He kept going, and going, and finally Abu Bakr could not stand it anymore. He implored the Prophet, saying, “You know this man is lying….” and offering the truth in his own defense. The Prophet frowned at that point, and got up and left them. Later Abu Bakr asked him why he had smiled the whole time the man was reciting his litany of lies about Abu Bakr, but frowned when Abu Bakr offered the truth in response. The Prophet replied that while the man was accusing Abu Bakr the angels were present, defending him. But once he indignantly began to defend himself, shaitan entered the room, and so the Prophet frowned and left because he could not stay in the same room with the shaitan.
So the first line of defense against a scheming co-wife is to trust in Allah and not give in to the temptation to argue and defend onesself.
Indeed, the best defense is to continue to do what you know is right. Always, always, always treat your co-wife with respect and kindness. Do not be provoked into speaking badly about her, to your husband or to others (This is really difficult sometimes. Choose one trusted person who you know will always remind you of Allah, and share your feelings with her when you need to, but other than that never speak about your co-wife to anyone). This kind of restraint will show people that you are not the kind of person who would do the things you are being accused of. And even though people might eagerly listen when your co-wife is bashing you, they will also respect you more if you don’t reciprocate, and then you won’t have to defend yourself. They’ll just know your character.
More on some of the other situations in future posts….
[Buy this shirt at http://www.stophatin.com ] One of the biggest obstacles faced by polygynous Muslim families is other members of the community who really, truly believe that the family’s private business is their business. Mind you, gossiping is forbidden in Islam, but hey, that’s just the religious ruling. It doesn’t really apply when something as juicy as polygyny is up for discussion.
People dis the first wife if she’s OK with it and dis the husband if she isn’t. They dis the second wife no matter what, even if the first wife is OK with it, and speculate constantly about whether they should’ve done it and whether it will last, and if not, which wife will stay and which will divorce….. And while Americans usually only say these things behind the family’s back, Arabs will come right out and say it to your face. “How could you allow your husband to do this?” “How could you marry her husband?” “How could you do this to your children?” Oh, the criticisms go on and on.
And at the root of them all, for the women anyway, is fear. Fear that if one woman “allows” her husband to marry a second wife, then perhaps their own husbands will start to get ideas, and then their own status as only wives could be in jeopardy.
If these women would open their minds a bit to the advantages of polygyny, they wouldn’t have to live in such fear of it. Reading the seerah and stories of the companions is a good way to examine polygynous lives without having to actually involve yourself in other people’s business. When you read about the Prophet’s companions (sal Allahu alaihi wa sellam) you see how normal polygyny was for them. It becomes more normal for you, too, then. It does not have to be some big, scary monster lurking around the next corner to steal your husband away. It can be seen as a second option for marriage, period. Something that Allah allows because there can be good in it, just as there is in monogamy. I know several women in plural marriages who are perfectly content and wouldn’t choose to go back to monogamy even if it were all their decision.
But even those women say that what problems they do encounter often have more to do with other people’s reaction to their situation than the situation itself.
If you’re a brother who is considering polygyny, first of all I hope you’re keeping your wife in the loop! But another thing to think about is how difficult it is for you to do things you don’t want to do. Are you a person who quietly forces himself to fulfill his responsibilities and gets on with life? Or do you have trouble making yourself take out the trash or pay the bills on time?
Do you put off everything from salat to oil changes? How often do you do something just because you know you should, when there is no outside pressure for you to do it? Do you usually go with your latest emotion or are you able to stick to a commitment even when your emotions are in a completely different place?
The reason I ask is because as a husband of more than one wife you WILL like one of them better than the other. This is natural. The Prophet – salAllahu alaihi wa sellem – said that Allah does not take you to task for what is in your heart, but He will hold you accountable for how fair you are with time and resources. Which wife you like best may even vary from one day to the next, but at any given time you will be happier or more satisfied with one of your wives than you are with the other. You will also find yourself fighting with one wife when it is her night. It will take great self-discipline and taqwa to be fair in such situations. You have to go to the wife you’re angry with when it’s her night, no matter how much you may want to go to the currently-anger-free wife. And vice-versa, of course.
So if you’re not a person who is naturally just and self-disciplined, who easily puts doing what’s right above what he wants to do, then you should think hard and make lots of itsikhara about the decision before you enter polygyny. Because it is a great test in this area.
I recently heard of a woman whose husband informed her one day that he had been secretly married to another woman for the past five years. He insisted that as a man, polygyny was his right and he was under no obligation to tell his first wife about the second.
There are so many things wrong with this logic that one scarcely knows where to begin.
Polygyny is not a right like, say, shelter. Simply by virtue of being married a woman has a right to shelter and her husband must provide it for her. It is an absolute right – with an attending obligation on the part of the husband. Polygyny is not that kind of right. It is more like the right of a woman to keep all her earnings for herself – something she has the right to do but that isn’t always the right thing to do. There are conditions to polygyny, and very often it is not the wisest or the most practical style of marriage for a given family at a given time. In addition, the first wife is not obliged by shariah to remain with her husband if he should take another wife (especially in Maliki fiqh, where a woman is permitted to write into her marriage contract a clause that stipulates divorce should he take a second wife.)
A husband who is considering keeping a second marriage a secret from his first wife would also do well to remember that in Islam there are two tiers of expectations for behavior. The absolute bottom line is Shariah – Islamic law. If someone owes you money and is not paying it back you have the right by shariah to take him to court and have him forced to pay, even if that causes him great hardship. But by ______, (Suphan Allah, I can’t remember the Arabic name for it! If anyone knows it, please remind me! Jazzakom Allahu Khairun.) it would be much more praiseworthy (gentlemanly, kind, chivalrous..) to forgive the loan, especially if you have enough and have no real need of the sum you are owed. This is the truly Islamic behavior. According to the letter of the law you have a right to demand that you be paid, but the more appropriate thing for a Muslim to do would be to forgive the loan. Likewise, even if someone believed that by shariah he was not obliged to tell his wife about her co-wife, the truly Islamic thing to do would be to tell her.
As far as I am aware, however, a man may not, by shariah, hide a second marriage. (Mind you, I’m not saying a man must get his wife’s permission to marry a second wife. That is not the case. He doesn’t have to have her permission but I do believe he does have to inform her. If anyone knows of an actual ruling on this subject, please pass it on.) Secret marriages themselves are forbidden – the person’s community must be made aware of any marriage. How much more, then, his current wife? To be married in secret leaves unfulfilled one of the conditions of marriage – that it be recognized and acknowledged. In addition, while I have never seen the hukum shariah on this topic, I have seen in Malik’s Muwatta that when Umar (radhi Allah anhu) heard of a man with a secret marriage in another place, he replied that if the man had been present he would have had him flogged.
In addition to the legal rulings, there is the profound betrayal that is involved when a man keeps a second marriage secret. Trust me, brothers, the pain a woman experiences when her husband takes a second wife is a mere pinprick compared to the pain she feels upon realizing she’s been deceived in this way. And the same goes for the second wife. It is not lawful to mislead a woman into thinking she is marrying you as an only wife and then spring your pre-existing family on her. Either way, it is absolutely no different than cheating – no matter how you may wish to justify it. There is no pain like that that a woman feels upon realizing that the man she thought she knew is really a stranger who belongs as much to another stranger as he does to her. No real man would do such a thing.
So if you are of the opinion that you have a right to marry a second wife, then, by God, stand up for that right and be honest (read: grown up) about it! If you’re too weak to deal with your wife’s reaction you are MOST DEFINITELY too weak to deal with a polygynous situation. And if you marry a second wife and lie to either of the women about the circumstances and then your life falls apart, consider yourself properly compensated.
Muslims believe that there are different spiritual implications for the same act, depending on what one’s intentions are. This concept is based, among other references, on a hadith related by Umar Bin al-Khattab, who relates that: ‘I heard the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, saying, “verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended. So the one whose hijrah (emigration) was for Allaah and His Messenger, then his hijrah was for Allaah and His Messenger. And the one whose hijrah was for the world to gain from it, or a woman to marry her, then his hijrah was to what he made hijrah for.” Related by Bukhaaree and Muslim.
There is a teaching story that illustrates this concept beautifully and gives me inspiration whenever I’m upset by something relating to P (or even just when I have PMS, lol).
Once there was a Muslim man who lived in a village. One day he heard the horrible news that in the next village over the people were worshipping a rubber tree. Well, this ignited the man’s righteous indignation and he set off toward the village with his sword drawn to cut down the three and show the people that it was not worthy of worship.
On his way he met a stranger, who asked him what he was up to. He answered that he was on his way to prevent his neighbors from falling back into paganism by destroying a rubber tree they had commenced to worshipping. At that, the stranger attacked him! The man easily threw the stranger to the ground and had his sword drawn, ready to deal him the fatal blow, when the stranger came out with a proposition: “If you’ll let me go and return home I’ll pay you one gold coin every day for the rest of your life.”
W ell, this got the man to thinking…..he could do lots of good with all that money. So he agreed and let the stranger go, still not really believing him but thinking it was worth a try. He returned home and the next morning, Voila! There was a gold coin under his pillow when he woke.
Things went on this way for some time, with the man collecting his coin every morning, until one day he woke and his pillow hid nothing shiny. He looked everywhere, but no coin! He muttered to himself and cursed the stranger and eventually had himself worked up into such a rage that he decided to take his sword and go chop down that rubber tree after all. Hmph! So off he went.
On the way who should he meet? Of course, the stranger, who immediately attacked him a second time. This time the man struggled and fought but the stranger defeated him soundly anyway, and the man found himself on his back, looking up at the stranger’s sword.
“Do you know who I am?” asked the stranger.
“No,” admitted the man.
“I am Satan. You beat me easily the first time we met because you had set off to chop down the rubber tree for the sake of Allah. This time, I beat you because you set off to chop down the tree for the sake of your gold coin.”
I love this story because it demonstrates not only how purity of intention makes us stronger, but also how we can get sidetracked by Satan even when we originally set out to do good. Sometimes I think, “Man, I was trying so hard to be good! If I would not have run into such-and-so problem or distraction, I would have been fine!” I feel like it’s not fair that, left to my own devices, I would have gone ahead with my good plans or good intentions, but someone or something intervened and I wasn’t strong enough to stand up to the added pressure of whatever it was. But this is how life is.
This is a very common test of people in P. They set out with wonderful intentions of being fair and being kind and trying to please Allah, and circumstances along the way arise which make the task frustratingly difficult. When that happens, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of the drama and forget that Satan is the one who’s really winning when we fall prey to his traps.
So if your cw is whining to your dh about you behind your back or your wives aren’t being careful with money or your step-kids are driving you crazy, just remember that if you keep your intentions purely set on pleasing Allah, not only will you gain hassanet, insha’Allah, but you’ll be strengthened by your focus on Allah and resisting Satan’s traps will be easier!