Polygyny and Me

My Opinion of Polygyny

Posted on: August 22, 2008

MY OPINION OF POLYGYNY

May 2006- Oman Observer

Kawthar Hameed Abdullah Al-Balushi

The word “polygamy” means having more than one spouse. Having more than wife is called “polygyny”, Islam allows polygyny with conditions that restrict the number. In this article I will talk about polygyny and my opinion of it.

I will first state that I am an American Muslim convert. I was married to an Omani for over 17 years. Unfortunately, that marriage ended in divorce. I am now married to another man as a second wife.

I must say, that when I first converted to Islam in 1984, I was one of these women that spoke out against plural marriage. I could never imagine or understand how anyone could ever agree to such a situation. It just wasn’t normal, it just wasn’t right. When I got married in 1985 I made sure it was in my marriage contract that my husband could never take another wife. Later I found out this clause is not acceptable and the contract could be considered void.

As I have developed as a Muslim and grown in understanding of my faith, I feel I have gained a more realistic outlook on many rulings and fatwas I thought were hard in Islam when I was new to the faith. Now as I look at polygyny, I see it as a gift from Allah, in all his wisdom, he has allowed for a man to take more than one wife. I feel that this can be a blessing for both the man and the woman.

In my opinion, I will state, I feel that it is important for a woman to be married in this society. I feel that there are many situations that should be done by a man. Such as: maintenance work, dealing with workers, paying bills and other basic things which are done differently in this country compared to western cultures. I feel these situations that need a man are difficult for a woman to do by herself. She will get gawked at and harassed if she is doing these duties alone.

WHAT CAN POLYGYNY GIVE?

As I have stated, I feel polygyny can be a gift for both the man and the woman. For instance, say a woman who is divorced or widowed finds herself alone with children, a polygynist situation may be ideal for her. In most cases, single men do not want a ready-made family, the woman herself may not want anymore children, and also finding a divorced or widower isn’t easy. However, it may be possible to find a man that is willing to take her as a second wife, accept her children as his own and maybe love those children as he loves his own. It would give the woman and children a sense of stability, a sense of family, a sense of belonging; they would feel loved and respected by her new husband and she wouldn’t feel as if she were alone in this world and in this life. It would also give the woman a best friend, someone she could rely on when she is down or when she doesn’t know where to turn.

A woman can find in a polygynist marriage a real companion. Yes, she may not have him all the time. However, if the man is able to arrange himself in the correct way, she will find a man that will love and respect her. She will grow to know and understand that he loves her, even when he is away with one of his other wives.

Just because a man takes another wife, in my opinion, it has nothing to do with the love he feels for his other wife. He still loves her in most cases, but maybe he found someone that can complete him in another way. Some first wives may say, “This woman was after my husband.” In most cases, this will be an incorrect statement. Sometimes love happens at the work place. Sometimes there is a man with a good heart and he sees a single woman struggling with her children and he wants to be there for her, but in the halal way; in many cases, going against their families to do so. In this regard, I would have to say these men are the best of the best.

There will be a lot of doubts, anger, tears and jealousy at the beginning of the marriage. This is something natural and something that all concerned should expect. It takes a strong man to ride these problems out. However, I firmly believe, those having strength in Allah will be able to ride these problems out and in some cases the co-wives becoming the best of friends. This of course would be the ideal situation, when the wives can live in peace, in friendship, and not put stress on their husband.

It would be difficult for any woman coming from a marriage that she was the one and only and going into a marriage where she would have to share a husband. Subhan’allah, many women have learned to deal with it by the grace of Allah. As for me, I could have never imagined myself in such a situation ten years ago, but now as I have grown both in faith and maturity, I found it is easy for me and I have no problem dealing with this situation. Yes, I do have issues with jealousy; but what woman doesn’t? However, I have learned to control those issues and keep them to myself.

Many women that I know in plural marriages have told me that they feel they have made right decision for themselves and their children. Yes, there were doubts on the part of the women, but in most cases not on the part of the husband. He knew he loved his wives, whether they were the first, second and in one case, the third wife. However, all agreed when their husbands asked them to marry them, and for the most part, most of them are happy and wouldn’t change their decision- because they love their husbands. They all say their husband makes them very happy and he is doing his best to make things fair for both parties which the wives respect. Yes, of course, as with any marriage there are good days and bad. However, these women also say the good days with their husbands are much more than the bad. One thing they say is that they know in their hearts that all their husbands are good men, good friends, and good fathers to all their children; even to those that aren’t theirs and these men do their best to make everyone around them happy. They thank Allah everyday for bringing these men into their lives.

Now, when you mention a situation like this to someone from the West, they do not understand how one could allow such a situation. They will think it’s strange, immoral and just downright bizarre. However, if we really look into the western world, we will find polygyny exists, but in the a manner which we can say is haram or forbidden and mostly in secret. When we look at the West, we can actually discover that there are three kinds of polygyny practiced in the western world:

1. A married man, having and supporting mistresses here and there
2. An unmarried man, having a number of girlfriends
3. Ongoing polygyny, meaning one gets married and then divorced, married again, divorced and so one any number of times.

Western cultures take the view that monogamy protects the rights of women. The truth of the matter is that monogamy actually protects men. It allows them to fool around, having haram relationships or affairs without any kind of accountability. The woman in the end is the one who will suffer. She will be alone with unwanted pregnancies and a man that leaves her when he finds out that she is expecting. Islam on the other hand, protects the woman from this kind of ordeal and gives rights to the woman. She has the right to support and she has the society’s respect.

Polygyny of the haram is being practiced in America, Europe and other parts of the world: The practice of having a mistress or mistresses. The fact is these men have no legal obligations or responsibilities towards their mistress’ or their children. However on the other hand, Muslim husbands have complete legal obligation and responsibilities to take care of and provide for all of his wives and their children. He must provide for all of their needs. This is not required for the men that are having mistresses. He needs not to provide anything for her.

In Islam, there is no doubt that a second wife, who is legally and Islamically married and treated kindly, is better off than a mistress who has no legal rights. In addition, a child born into a polygynist marriage, who has all the rights and privileges of a son or daughter, is much better of than the unwanted or wanted child, born outside of the bonds of marriage.

Sadly, I have heard other Muslim women comment that they would prefer that their husband have an affair than have him marry a second wife! What kind of Muslim woman would prefer that her husband do the haram? What kind of moral status have we become as muslims to even think of such a thing? I would prefer my husband do the halal and not the haram.

I have also run into Muslim men that are against polygyny. They say it’s too difficult, and it is not for these days. They state that these rules applied only for the time of the prophet; that one wife is enough and that no man in their right mind would think of another. I must say I want to remind these men, the Islamic rules of yesteryear are the same rules that should be applied today, especially those dealing with morality, marriage and divorce. Some of these men would just prefer to have an affair then give “their woman” the rightful Islamic rights as his wife.

Polygyny solves the problem of adultery among men. It also minimizes divorce as men are given the option to marry other women of their choice without having to divorce their present wife. It puts a stop to the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases. It also eliminates infidelity, therefore, greatly dropping the amount of children born out of the bonds of marriage. Children that have been born out of the bonds of marriage are usually not accepted by society in the same way that their mothers are being looked down upon by the society.

In ending, I want to share a story about four co-wives I once knew. When I first came to Oman I met four charming women that were married to the same man. The women were so close to each other; they went everywhere and did everything together. They all lived in the same house. They helped with the household and took care of each others children. I had never seen anything like it. They told me once, “We all love our husband, but we need each other more than we need him.” One day while traveling to Dubai one of the co-wives was in a horrible traffic accident and died. I went to see the other co-wives and they were torn apart about the death of their co-wife and sister. They didn’t know what they were going to do without her. They loved her so much and so deeply. This is what being a real co-wife should be like. Not jealousy or plotting against your co—wife. It should be true sisterhood.

I conclude, by again saying that I feel that polygyny is both a gift for both men and women for the reason that in polygyny the women and children have rights as offspring and wives of the man. Also it can bring the women together as one family and bring together true sisterhood, if the circumstances allow. It can give a divorced or widowed woman a home and family. What ever the disadvantages of polygyny the advantages are much greater.

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6 Responses to "My Opinion of Polygyny"

Very interesting post and an equally interesting insight to the world of polygamy. Very extraordinary.

However, I am curious about your relationship with your husband’s first wife. Are you acquainted with her? I take it from your article that you do not live in the same house as her. What is her relationship to your children and your relationship to her’s?

I apologize if my questions offend, however I’m just curious.

Thank you for providing this insight to your world.

Actually my relationship with my co-wife is fine…. she is a nice lady… and my step kids are wonderful kids..

As Salaamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatulahi Wa Barakatu
Masha Allah great post .

Salam, What a beautiful post. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head and then some. Being a recent divorcee, I can totally relate to all that you’ve said and my perspective is wider now because Im sitting on the middle of the fence looking at the picture from a different angle. I too fought the idea of polygyny while I was married, and now see the wisdom in it and the need for women to have a husband (hopefully a good one) in their lives. I would like to ask about your childrens initial reaction to your marriage. Did they fight it at first or were ok?
MashAllah, absolutely beautiful.

My children and my co-wife’s children never have fought about the marriage at all… they have all been accepting of each other… they fight over stupid things… like where to sit in the car.

It can be a great thing… Word of warning~ never allow a perspective husband to keep it secret from his first wife… If he says i will tell her after the wedding…. i think its okay, but get it in writing. Dont let him keep you in hiding. I made that mistake and it was the worst 2 or 3 years of my life. Now that everything is out in the open, it is really wonderful and the marriage is getting better.

I really enjoyed this post and I can see where you’re coming from. 🙂
Nice blog!

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