The Eternal Issue of Polygamy

{ Wednesday, December 28, 2011 }
I wonder, as a Muslim woman, can you ever be entirely sure that your husband is not going to take a second wife? You may think so, when you look into those familiar eyes, but who knows what life is going to bring? Maybe you'll go through a rough patch where your love for each other is not as it used to be, and maybe there are thoughts that'll come up that never occurred before. 

Since the issue of polygamy never used to be a part of my culture or worries, I'm having a lot of problems digesting it. I know for sure that I don't want to share my husband. The thought alone makes my blood boil. 
I know that I can make my husband promise, and put a condition in my marriage contract that gives me the right to divorce him if he should take another wife, but it doesn't satisfy me. It's like putting him in a cage and slapping him on the cheek, such things can have the opposite effect. The truth is, you can't force a man into anything, he's still going to do what he wants in the end. Women may think they can change men, and make them do what they want, but it's an illusion. He'll only resent you for trying. 

In my opinion, Islam still prefers monogamy. There should be harmony, mercy and kindness between a husband and wife, and we all know how detrimental polygamy is to all good things between a husband and wife. There are also two controversial verses, one stating that a man has to deal equally with all his wives, and the other that men cannot treat their wives equally even should they wish it. I'm not going to draw any conclusions from that though, since I'm not a scholar, and the fact remains that the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions practiced polygamy. I do know about the hadith that says that a man who treats his wives unequally is like a man who'll rise on the Day of Judgement with one leg shorter than the other one. I'd think those things would scare quite of few men away from polygamy (the fact that you can't treat your wives equally and the fact that those who don't treat their wives equally will be disadvantaged on yawm al qiyama) but who am I?

I want to be realistic in this. I'm not going to make my husband promise anymore to not take a second wife, I want to make him promise to tell me if he is considering it, and his reasons for it. I do think that's not too much to ask. I think it's better to make it debatable than to threaten him constantly. If he wants to do it, he's going to do it anyway. The only difference will be that he discusses it with you beforehand or not. 


MarieHarmony said...

I agree with you. It's what I said to my husband. unfortunately it can happen, we never know, and I never wanted to put him in a situation where he had no real choice.
But I have to say it is something I have a hard time with.

Now my husband's dad had two wives. His first wife gave birth to a boy and then he died and she could not have any other child. He then married my husband's mum and had 6 children. My husband memory of his dad's first wife is only love. He always talk about her with respect and kindness, and always said the two women got on well together and accepted the situation as to be the best one for all.

Just a thought. I hope all is well with you in Egypt. much love.

Almost a Muslimah said...

does a husband need permission of the first wife to take another wife?

what I feel a bit iffy about is when a husband takes another wife when the first wife turns out to be sterile or simply cannot have any more children as Marie described. I do understand that most people want to have their own children but there are other options such as adoption for example, which I think is a very noble thing to do.
It's a very difficult situation to go through for a couple and it is egoistic of me to say that but I wouldn't want my husband to take another wife in case I couldn't have children.

diaryofamuslimfeminist said...

You can let your potential husband know that you want to be in a monogamous marriage. That is not putting conditions on him, it is letting him know what you want and need. You don't have to be a victim of his desires; you have a right to yours.

-Fahad Naeem- said...

Don't say that Qur'an has any controversial verse. We might not like things but we should not try to change them if they're orders for us.
Stay happy sister.

Safiyah said...

@Marie: Thanks for your comment :) I think that maybe women who grew up with the idea of polygamy might think differently about the idea. If my husband would take a second wife after I lost a child and can't have anymore, I'd see it as betrayal and a stab in my back. But I guess different cultures, different ideas ;)

@Almost: No, a husband does not need permission, although it's advised that he discusses it with his first wife beforehand. I agree on what you said about adoption. I see it as a very good solution to the problem of infertility without anyone getting hurt. But the thought of having their own children is very important to Arabs, I think. If the man turns out to be sterile, the woman might go for divorce too. I think maybe that to us the idea of partnership is the most important, and to them the idea of family, although I don't want to generalise here.

@Diary: I agree with you :) I'm not saying a woman shouldn't tell her husband she doesn't want it, I'm just sometimes a bit skeptical at a man's ability to keep a promise. I think the worse thing that can happen is that he does it behind your back and you're taken completely by surprise. Of course a good husband wouldn't do this, but you just never can be 100% sure.

@Fahad: The Quran has controversial verses, just look at the verses about wine! But they are controversial because God might have allowed something in the beginning, and then came back at it later. It's well-known that the Quran contains these verses, like alcohol was first allowed, then disapproved of and then forbidden. It's my opinion that Islam prefers monogamy and that the conditions on polygamy are stricter than a lot of men think. Polygamy is certainly not "ordered" for us, it was always nothing more than an option.

diaryofamuslimfeminist said...

Men (and women) can do a lot of things to their partners behind their back. The best you can do is be totally honest about what you want and hope that the other person does the same. If they don't, at least you know that you did all you could to make it work. ~Zuhura

Candice said...

My husband has been made to promise not to take another wife. If he breaks his promise, that is it for us and I will not stick around to see if I can make it work with a co-wife. He knows this and has agreed so hopefully that's a promise he will keep. If not, it will really be too bad for all of us.

Becky said...

I have to say I'm with Zuhura and Candice on this, when I was with a Muslim, he knew that I'd make monogamy a part of the marriage contract, simply because, like Candice said, should he one day choose to be with a new wife, that would be it. For me it's not just a "I would prefer to be in a monogamous marriage", it's a "I will NOT be in a polygamous marriage, under any circumstances".

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