Big Faith

The show is called Big Love but polygyny really takes Big Faith

The Granddaddy of all Bad Reasons

trophy.jpgThe granddaddy of all bad reasons for a man to think about polygyny is: Midlife Crisis.

Many men go through a period in middle age where they feel compelled to cling desperately to (or recreate) things they feel represent their spent youth. This compulsion can manifest itself in any number of different ways, including the proverbial red sports car, a wacky haircut (if there’s any hair left!), wearing clothes from the Gap, taking up snowboarding, or booking that trip to Italy that was a teenage dream. But the important thing is that many men reach a point where they believe their good years are ending and, they attempts to keep them rolling by external means.

When a guy tries to keep them rolling by getting a younger wife, it can be a disaster for all concerned.

Although some women take this quite well, other women are devastated by such a turn of events. Can you imagine having been a loyal wife for twenty or thirty years, raising children with your man, supporting him in his early career when there wasn’t enough money, defining your life by the rhythms of your relationship with him, only to be repaid by him turning to a younger woman because she has no stretch marks or crows feet – does not bear the beautiful marks of a long life lived together? This is another instance where a little empathy would go a long way on the part of the husband. But unfortunately, a man in the throes of a pathological midlife crisis is not thinking or feeling clearly. He is obsessed – wrapped up in maintaining his own pleasure.

Some second wives in this position are likewise unhealthy. Such a marriage feeds their ego, and they enjoy their position as the husband’s trophy. So between the lack of empathy on the husband’s part, the depression and rage the first wife may feel, and the superior attitude of the second wife, these situations often turn into one big mess. In addition, the second marriage often fails as the husband realizes that what he really wanted wasn’t the responsibility and permanence of another wife. The excitement of someone new and young can wear off after awhile.  If the man is lucky, his first wife will be waiting for his return to sanity.  If he’s not, he might lose them both.

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March 18, 2007 Posted by | faith, Islam, marriage, muslim men, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion | Leave a comment

Reasons: Good and Bad

soap-box.jpgThere are many reasons a person or a couple might consider polygyny. Some of them make sense, some of them are laudable, some of them are just fodder for fantasies and some of them are pathetic.

Some men consider polygyny because they may have moved to another country and gotten married there, but their their families ‘back home ‘ have a girl they want him to marry. Perhaps she’s the one he was promised to when he was young, perhaps it would make a good family alliance, perhaps one of his cousins graduated with great grades and the family thinks she deserves an opportunity at a Western education. Whatever the reason, some families do push a second wife on their ex-patriot sons. This can make things somewhat easier for the first wife to take – at least her husband didn’t go gallivanting around and fall for some other woman. But much then depends on the personalities of everyone involved and how well they mesh once they are all together. Sometimes this sets up a real “superiority complex” on the part of the first wife. “I’m the one he chose, you’re just the one who was forced on him.” Conversely, it can also make things more difficult for the first wife, because the second wife will probably be younger, she knows his culture, his language, how to cook the food of his homeland, etc. So the stage is set immediately for jealousy to fly both ways. If the first wife doesn’t speak his language and the second wife doesn’t speak his adopted language, things can be even tougher, because not only will communication be difficult between the wives, but there is nothing more apt to arouse the monster of suspicion like not being able to understand what your husband might be saying to your other wife. It is a truly complex situation. A husband in this case needs to be adept at making both is wives feel special and valued for their differences and not give any impression of valuing what one has to offer over the other. In a situation like this, more than some other situations, the man has a big role to play in helping his wives hit it off and in keeping things on an even keel by helping each one present her most humble and spiritual side to the other.

Usually, though, polygyny is not thrust upon people by others. Men sometimes contemplate polygyny because they fantasize about more sex, sex with a different partner, or even the status polygyny might grant them among their friends and acquaintances. You gotta know that when one man marries a second wife it’s like fathering quintuplets or something: some of his friends will slap him on the back with the ol’ wink, others will stand in chin-gaping awe of him, still others will regard him as a good businessman, because if he can manage all that family drama, he can manage anything. These are among the reasons that make polygyny a great fantasy, but if any man actually takes the step of marrying a second wife for any of these reasons, he should be summarily shot. Both because he is selfish and because he is obviously too stupid to be allowed to procreate any more than he already might have. Not only are all those reasons very dunya-oriented and shallow, they are also short-lived – each and every one of them. The winks die away after about a week, the sex becomes routine with wife #2, just as it did with wife #1 (if you can’t keep sex lively and fun and intimate with one person, chances are you’re not gonna improve that with more sex!), and other men’s awe of you will turn to acidic gossip the first time your family runs into trouble. So if you’re thinking of marrying a second wife for the extra fun you can have, go take a cold shower.

On the other hand, there are some situations where woman’s sexual appetite is virtually nonexistent for one reason or another, and her husband’s is “very healthy”. In a case like this, after careful consideration and mutual consent, polygyny might provide an answer. It might even increase the intimacy between the first couple because there is less pressure on the relationship revolving around sex. In fact, if you’re a woman whose husband has a more voracious appetite than you do, you might want to suggest polygyny to him.

A good reason to think about entering polygyny is if there is a sister in your community who is truly in need of a husband. These kinds of situations are not as rare as you’d think, because as cliche as it sounds, a good Muslim man is sometimes hard to find. The pool is contaminated with lots of racists (or “ethnists”), who only want to marry within their own ethnicity and who think that converts aren’t “really” Muslims; slackers, who only pray at Friday Jumuah; fanatics, who think Islam grows on beards, Saudi scholars or whoever looks the most conservative is always right, and exhaling is bida’; snobs, who write matrimonial ads that read, “seeking slender, light-skinned, PhD virgin who knows how to make chutney and can do the splits”; and rovers, who suffer from temporary religious amnesia and go around dating non-Muslim girls. With the pool this crowded with undesirables, a guy who has already proven himself as a good husband can become the most attractive fish in the pond. A couple might look at it this way: if a sister marries into their already stable Muslim family, they could actually be saving her from a terrible experience with some schmuck. This is especially true of young mothers who have already been divorced. A young Muslimah who has been through something like that can still be a lovely, kind, spiritual, fun person, but having been divorced and already blessed with a child or children she faces an even steeper cliff than a first-time wife when it comes to finding a suitable husband. This is not how it should be, but in many places it is indeed the reality. So an established couple might contemplate polygyny if another sister is having a hard time finding a husband.

One of the worst reasons, by far, to entertain the idea of polygyny, is if you are a man who has let his spiritual guard down and begun thinking with the wrong head. By this I mean a guy who finds himself attracted to a woman at work or school or the DMV, and instead of lowering his gaze he feasts it upon her and then follows his shehawaat (passions) into a relationship with her. Then he rationalizes to himself, “Well, I’m allowed to marry more than one, so it’s not haram. I’ll just ask her to marry me and all will be well with the universe!” Not cool.

First of all, no amount of rationalization will erase the fact that he has already committed haram. He has flirted, giggled, talked and wooed his way into an emotional affair, and besides those things being haram in and of themselves, he has betrayed his wife. He has allowed his desire for dunya to outrank his duty to his Lord and his wife. By this very act he has proven that he probably does not have the spiritual fortitude to be the head of a polygynous household. That takes patience, wisdom, self discipline, self sacrifice, and compassion. To fall for someone else outside of marriage means that a person is lacking in all those qualities. So if you’re thinking that inviting that cute co-worker to lunch is not haram because you might ask her to marry you, you need to find another job. And prepare to find yourself divorced sometime as well, because if you’re always this cavalier about your wife’s feelings, you deserve to be dumped.

There’s one really big, bad reason that some men “marry on” their wives, but it’s so obnoxious it deserves its own separate post, so I’ll save it for next time. But remember: polygyny can be a blessing and a trial. Which side of those scales tips the other has a lot to do with the reasons a family entered it in the first place, so if you’re thinking about it, make sure you examine your niyat and your reasons really carefully. Be honest (brothers) and be open (sisters). More later on that subject as well…..

March 8, 2007 Posted by | blessings, faith, Islam, marriage, muslim men, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion | 2 Comments

Anglican church drama

monopoly.jpgI heard a woman interviewed yesterday about the upheaval currently being experienced by the Anglican church (Episcopalians in USA) regarding the ordination of women and homosexuality. She was from somewhere in the South…one of the Carolinas, I believe, and she said, “I just think about when we have to deal with the Bishops in Africa who have more than one wife! We’ll look back on this and say, ‘Man, that was NOTHING!'”

Hmmmm. It always puzzles me why Westerners are so intimidated by polygyny. It’s not as if they’re monogamous themselves! Between premarital sex, adulterous liaisons, blatant homosexuality and frequent divorces (“serial polygyny”), they are definitely living on the wrong side of many commandments and Judeo/Christian/Islamic teachings – and polygyny is not against any teachings of any of the Abrahamic faiths. It was a well-established and accepted practice in the Old Testament (with no limits, incidentally), was not spoken against by Prophet Jesus (upon him be peace) or anyone else in the New Testament, and was regulated by the final revelation, the Qur’an.

Actually, most Christians would be aghast to find out why they abhor polygyny so much. It is because it was against the practices of the pagan Romans, under whose authority Christianity began. Just as Christmas was adopted from pagan practices, so was “strict” monogamy.

Another reason Americans are repulsed by the very concept of polygyny is the way it is practiced by some cultish offshoots of the Mormon church. Caddish old dodgers forcing innocent young teens (and sometimes their sisters!) into wedlock against their will….unlimited numbers of wives…blatant social services fraud…all this makes for a frighteningly immoral representation of an institution that, in other areas of the world, is part of strong societal structures.

From a First Amendment point of view, one man providing (acknowledgedly) for two or three or four women falls completely under the first amendment, and is MUCH less harmful to society than, say, young men “sewing their wild oats” and having a bunch of baby mamas to whom they spread diseases and whom they don’t support.

The Bishops in Africa who are in polygynous marriages are not harming society or the church at all. If they provide for all their wives, raise their families, and fulfill their religious and cultural/societal duties, their style of marriage should not be a concern. Of course, Paul did say that a deacon should be the husband of only one wife…. But then Paul never met Jesus, and he was, after all, preaching to pagans!

March 1, 2007 Posted by | faith, Islam, marriage, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion | 2 Comments

What a blessing

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.

February 28, 2007 Posted by | blessings, faith, Islam, marriage, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion | Leave a comment

Critical co-wives

gossip.jpgSometimes 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….

 

 

February 22, 2007 Posted by | faith, Islam, marriage, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Polygyny is Everyone’s Business!

stop-hatin.jpg[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.

February 20, 2007 Posted by | faith, Islam, marriage, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion | Leave a comment

Some words for brothers

justice.jpgIf 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.

February 17, 2007 Posted by | faith, Islam, marriage, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion | 1 Comment

Secret Marriages

doghouse.jpgI 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.

February 15, 2007 Posted by | faith, Islam, marriage, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion | 10 Comments

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!

 

 

 

 

February 10, 2007 Posted by | faith, Islam, marriage, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion | Leave a comment

Feminism and Polygyny

Simmons College Feminist Union symbolMany feminists bash polygyny, seeing it is an oppressive institution that devalues women. If you change perspective just a bit, though, it will become apparent that it isactually quite liberating.

Think of a career woman who doesn’t really wish to be a homemaker – forever struggling to balance a home/husband/family that demand her full attention and a job/boss/career that also demand her full attention. Polygyny is the perfect answer in such a situation. Or a woman who doesn’t wish to have children could marry a man who already has children with his first wife and doesn’t want more.

In the Western system of pseudo-monogamy, men often keep a mistress or even a whole slough of illicit partners. These women’s rights are not protected in that their lover does not have to support them in any way, and can dump them whenever the mood strikes him with no legal consequences. On the other end of the spectrum, a man having an affair can leave all his money to his mistress, thus leaving his legal wife with no inheritance. Not to mention that pseudo-monogamy by definition involves lies and betrayal. The chances forinjustice and injury are mammoth in a system where the only rule is monogamy but a large percentage of the population ignores it.

Polygyny offers many liberating benefits that make it an equal choice along with monogamy. All wives must be supported equally, inheritance is specified, and the burden of secrets and betrayal is lifted (some men do marry behind their first wives’ backs, but this is ill-advised and it can be argued that such a secret marriage is not even valid. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming post, insha’Allah). In addition, a woman with a co-wife has a built-in extended family, which is a great blessing in these times where nuclear families are often on their own with the closest relatives living in far-flung places. Child-rearing can be shared which means that a career-minded woman may be better able to work because her co-wife is caring for her kids and if one co-wife wants to be a homemaker there is more of a chance that she’ll be able to realize that goal; indeed she can even contribute to the family financially by caring for her co-wife’s children.

Having a co-wife also allows a woman time to explore talents and interests she might not otherwise have time for. Perhaps she could take an art class or start writing, and there’s nothing better than checking out a good book from the library and thinking, “Oh, it’s not my night tonight! I can read all evening after the kids are in bed!” The bottom line is that polygyny offers women more choices in their lives – and isn’t “more choices” one of the main goals of the third wave of feminism?

Some of the benefits I’ve discussed are built in to polygyny, but others can only be experienced if women stop looking at polygyny as some sort of evil monster that might come get them someday and instead look at it as just another style of marriage that has its own advantages and disadvantages. And women who considerthemselves feminists should really look into the liberating aspects of polygyny.

January 28, 2007 Posted by | faith, Islam, marriage, Muslim women, polygyny, religion | Leave a comment