When people ask me what my stand on abortion or divorce is, I tell them that I think these questions require starting at the wrong end of the problem. The way to really address the high abortion rate or the high divorce rate is to begin at the other end, by instilling modesty and self respect in our young girls and emphasizing true manhood and responsibility to our young boys. We have gotten to a place in our society where these traits have not only receded, but they are not even any longer the ideal. Our young people are literally inundated with ads and media images that glorify and encouage wantonness, capreciousness, narcissism, and irresponsilibty. Men are portrayed as sexually and physically aggressive and hungry, while women are portrayed as either temptresses or passive objects. Almost no one in the media even thinks about the consequences of their actions, let alone takes responsibility for them. So if we’re going to address abortion or divorce or similar social problems, the place to begin is by reclaiming our real values and rising up to purge our society of the socially acceptable evils that are exploited and encouraged by the media.
This approach is the sunnah of Allah. In Makkah for 13 years Allah concentrated in inspiring and nurturing the iman of the fledgling Mulsim community. All the Makkan surahs emphasize spirituality, explain Allah’s nature and familiarize us with the realities of the next world. Then in Madinah, after the Muslims were solid in their deen and were in a position of power, then is when we see laws being sent down and socieity’s rules being dictated. The Qiblah, fasting, hijab – all of this was revealed in Madinah.
As humans, though, we often get the cart before the horse. The Christian Right and the Taliban are examples of this phenomenon. Rather than taking the time and effort to do things the spiritual way and begin with inspiring people’s iman so they will be self-motivated to follow Allah’s rules, these groups try to enforce piety from the outside; a doomed idea if ever there was one. They are attacking their societies’ problems from the wrong end.
Similarly, people who see women suffering in polygyny automatically jump to the conclusion that the polygyny itself is the problem. They want to begin by outlawing polygyny. But just like the problem with abortion is not caused by the doctors performing the operations, the problem with polygyny is not caused by the imam’s performing ceremonies. The problem is the people involved in the polygny.
OK, usually not the people.
Usually the brother.
I hate to come out with it like that, but most often when polygyny goes bad the brother is not maintaining his duties to all his wives equally. Either he’s neglecting the wife he doesn’t have children with, or he’s comparing his wives to each other, or he’s not supporting one or more of them financially, or he’s allowing one wife to be nasty to the other one…..but in most cases the problem is that the brother is not practicing his deen well enough to successfully shepherd a poly family. A lot of the jealousy and resentment that wives feel toward one another and a lot of the anger wives feel toward their husband could be avoided if the brother would conscienciously maintain all of their rights fairly.
The problem is that in a case where the brother married additional wives for less than altrusitic motives, he is obviously the type of person to give in to his desires. And a person who is a slave to his nafs is certainly not going to be able stand up under the burden of being the head of a polygynous family.
So when we see that many polygynous situations turn sour, we need to address the problem by starting with the men. We need to raise our sons to respect Allah and respect women, insha’Allah. Our brothers need to volunteer with MYNA or Boy Scouts or the masjid youth group, to serve as role models for the young men. We need to have marriage classes and marriage counseling available without stigma so our brothers can learn the ins and outs (no pun intended!) of what is expected of them as husbands and fathers. And our men need to begin to hold themselves accountable for their decisions and their actions.
Too many men have the idea that everything Allah requires of women is an iron-fisted law etched in stone, and evrything Allah requires of men is a vague suggestion that they might want to give some thought to someday. This attitude has got to stop.
Because only when it does will polygyny be successful. Only when it does will monogamy be successful! Allah made men leaders of the family, so come on, brothers! Lead your families correctly, do it for the sake of Allah, and make your wives proud!!! Or we’ll sic the Talibaat on you.