Tuesday, May 1, 2001
To My Dearest Sisters... From a Co-Wife
by Siddiqua Haswarey
If you are considering polygyny then you'd be better off knowing what you're going into. Even a brief idea of the advantages and disadvantages will suffice InshaAllah. To proceed with knowledge is most certainly better than to plunge in headlong. It doesn't make a difference whether you are the husband or one of the wives. Most people expect trouble from the wives but that is not true necessarily. Women are not always the ones who cause trouble - men can too. The man has to be a good, strong Muslim, because along with eemaan comes justice. Like another sister put it "It takes a team effort to make polygyny work and that would include the man (head of the household) to be just and fair in all his dealings and his wives to be unselfish and unclinging." There is much more to polygyny than just another wife.
Below I present you with a letter written by a sister named Amatullah to her fellow sisters. She is a co-wife and has been for quite some time now. InshaAllah, I won't comment too much on it but instead I will let you be the judge. This is my little effort in helping you make an educated choice. This is by no means an effort to sabotage anyone's future plans of wishing to be a co-wife or take a co-wife. I myself am very much in support of it. Indeed, since it has been ordained by Allah, the Almighty, then truly there is much good in it, more than we are or ever will ever be aware of.
Dearest Sisters in Islam:
Just like the sister said that we won't know what will make us jealous, I never know what will tickle my funny bone! The line about learning how to drive from one's co-wife got me going in a million directions at once!
First and foremost, I think that it is most likely that my co-wife & I WILL drive each other ... CRAZY that is!
I was chatting the other night with a sister who told me that now I could sit back, kick my feet up and let my 'maid' do all the work. I guess I'll have to revise Nahid's job description and add 'Driving Instructor' ...or maybe just 'Chauffeur' to make it easy on all of us!
Actually, to think about putting my co-wife to work in my home is to think about putting myself out to pasture. I'm not ready (or willing) to simply graze and chew my cud! Even my husband first tried to present taking a co-wife in that fashion to me (she can help around the house because your vision is so poor). I told him in no uncertain terms that I would be the only woman washing my dirty drawers and scrubbing my filthy floors (rhymes at this hour?)
I look forward to having Nahid join me as a friend, a partner (sometimes in crime!) and perhaps even a sister in more than the Islamic sense of the word. But I don't think I could live with myself if I were to treat her to a modern form of slavery. However, knowing my husband's propensity for choosing ... shall we say bold women, she'd probably have ME doing HER floors before I could stick a broom in her hand.
Anyhow... the topic was about advising one's husband to take a second wife. Something I am ohh, so intimately familiar with! In retrospect, it is amazing that I can now speak from such 'deep wells of experience' (you can stop shaking with laughter now, I know she's not even here yet but cut me some slack, would you'?) When I first joined this hallowed list, I was just a dreamer ... dreaming of doing the right thing, dreaming I'd be strong and brave enough to handle it, dreaming of all the wonderfulness that I thought would fall into my lap when my husband '"I-do'd" another woman.
Well, he "I do'd" her all right and now "I do" struggle more than I imagined. The reality, for me, has been like a splash of ice water in my face as I snuggled beneath the warm blankets of "this is all just talk and he'll never really take me up on it and find someone else" in my bed of "I'm convincing myself that I'm ready for polygyny but I know I still have a long time to wait." Well, I made my bed and now I'm lying restless and suffering from insomnia in it!
Don't get me wrong. I'm still very pleased Islamically about this turn of events in my life. And since Islam IS my life, that makes it pretty darn good. However, Shaytaan has his sway over me in ways that are also part of my life ... and I feel like I'm fighting for every breath I take sometimes.
Sister, there is never any turning your back on what Allah's Qadar is for you. We know that. But I advise you to be honest to a fault when it comes to addressing your husband over this issue. If you face the reality BEFORE it happens, you won't have such a rough and tumble awakening ... or fall out of the bed like I did both literally and figuratively!
Let me give you an example. When I imagined a co-wife ... I always thought about an older woman who'd be my friend more than my husband's other wife (not a grandma, mind you, just someone my age ... Eeks! Someone my age! Aack!! I'm OLD! Running for the mirror to double check the latest henna application and it's coverage of ye ole' gray matter). Anyway, back to my story (isn't it true that a sign of age is veering off on tangents? This is getting worse by the second!)
What I didn't imagine for myself was the fact that I'd be spending half the rest of my life ... alone. Just that single thought sprang into my mind the instant that my husband told me he'd taken young Nahid as his wife. It burst into my being like a flare shot from a sinking ship ... "I'll be alone for 1/2 the rest ... of ... my ... life" I wondered sadly to myself why I had never considered such a serious thing before going off and getting myself into this situation. Then, the little niggly doubts set in (you know, the ones that currently have me going to Weight Watchers and running me all over the treadmill at least four times a week!).
Alhamdulillaah, I am thankful to Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) that He protected me from those thoughts while I was acclimating myself on my own to open my heart to polygyny. I know that if I had had that simple and yet profound thought of being alone at any stage of my considerations, I would not have been strong enough to support my husband (heck, I was ENCOURAGING the man!) with polygyny.
You've read my posts. You've seen how strongly I argue for and even love the concept of co-wivery (is that a word? Is now!). I meant every single letter that dropped from my fingers onto those pre-Nahid pages. And yet, now I equally mean every single letter that is dropping from my fingers onto these pages. Sister, it is hard. If you love your husband, if he is your best friend (gee, my husband is my only friend sometimes --- except you gals, of course!), then be honest with yourself before you are honest with him.
Consider your life; open yourself to the ups and the downs, the joys and the sorrows, the triumphs and the failures. Envision your steps alone and with a mate who is sharing his mind and his heart with two women. Strengthen yourself with the muscle power that only comes from continually dedicating your every move to Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala). Sweeten your thoughts by picturing your hands reaching out to take the most delectable fruit from Allah's trees in Paradise, knowing that you've EARNED the right to taste them. Fortify your soul with the nutrient rich words of the Holy Qur'aan, as it is the sustenance you need to bear up and walk with dignity the Path your Merciful Creator has Chosen for you.
The life of a co-wife isn't all shopping sprees and late night girl fests while your hubby sleeps the sleep of the exhausted dead in the other room (or house). It is struggle, patience, harsh words when we don't mean them, kind words not said when we do ... it is sharing her joys and fighting your desire to see her mistakes magnified. It is loving yourself as a woman, as a wife, as a believer who rests on the hope that Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) will NEVER allow her to spend half of her life alone. NEVER. As our beloved Rasullallah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said to Abu Bakr in the cave during the hijrah, "What do you think of two when the third is always Allah?" Your Constant Guardian! Your Protector! Your Guide! Your Cherisher! Your Sustainer! Your BEST FRIEND!!!
You have to work through these feelings as they come. For me, they didn't come until it was too late and for that, I repeatedly thank Allah (Tabaarak wa Ta'ala). Though I confess to allowing the thought of striking out on my own or finding a mischievous way to get Nahid to 'un-marry' our husband, I have been able to semi-gracefully refrain from acting out. I thought maybe if I sent her a tape of his snoring ... or got a shot of him doing this irritating thing that he does with his toes, or maybe just did a scan of our house like before & after, the before being the ten hours it takes me to clean up behind just my husband (no kids, now, just one big man) and the after is the five seconds later when it looks like the before! Do you think that would scare any self-respecting woman to back out while she still has time? Nah? Didn't think so. I myself would swim through a pile of dirty laundry a mile high just to be next to my hubby, so I wouldn't blame Nahid for toughing it through some of my harebrained tactics!
How do my posts always keep coming back to me? Ahem. Self-important, did I hear someone whisper? Self-centered, is more like it! I just find it easier to give advice (regardless of whether it's good or bad ... mostly the latter, I'm sure) when I speak from my own thoughts and life.
You either have to be very strong and Islamic minded to make a success out of polygyny or you have to not like your husband very much and look forward to his days away from you!
Dearest sister, there is simply no comparison between the path that you will walk and the path that another will. Some of us run, some skip, some trip but when you feel that your feet are dangling off the edge, call out and insha'Allah, we will be there to pick you up, dust you off and with Allah's Leave, and push you in the right direction.
This is the life of a Muslimah, whether she is married, single, a co-wife or a widow. We are all women in Allah's service, His very vice-regents on earth. The day WILL come when we stand before Him (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) hoping with a hope so deep it is cold in our souls and dreading with a dread so intense it will bow our shoulders. Have we earned the Pleasure of our Lord? The day WILL come when our books will be shut and we will be shut, too ... shut of this world and its foolish charms, shut of our chance to repent, love and shower mercy on every other human being that Allah (Tabaarak wa Ta'ala) in His Infinite Care created and placed here to cross our paths, shut of any chance to stand tall, proud and dignified when we say to ourselves and secretly thank our Beneficent One that we chose to love Him more than our own desires, more than the beating of our own hearts. The Day WILL come and those who have earned their just reward will be dealt it ... swiftly, surely, permanently.
It is not worth it to me to fuss with my soul over why my husband doesn't hold my hand anymore when Nahid is around. It is a waste of my time to regret the changes in my life that Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) put there Himself. It is a shame that I do not want to bear or burden my soul with that I would focus more on what I have lost than what I am gaining. Why would we want a simple, easy life when the believers REJOICE and are STEADFAST with the Decree of their Lord? Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) knows our pains. Allah (Tabaarak wa Ta'ala) knows our sufferings. Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) knows our fears. Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) knows our doubts and the very day that our suffering will end and our trials of this world, those blessings in disguise, will melt from us as gently as a drop of dew slips sparkling off an early morning rose petal, leaving it refreshed, cooled, soothed.
Dear sister, tell your husband you will struggle. Tell your husband you will fight the good fight. Tell your husband you want to earn the privilege of sharing eternity with him. Tell your husband that obedience to him is obedience to Allah (Tabaarak wa Ta'ala). Tell your husband that you love what Allah loves and you hate what Allah hates. Tell your husband that you have considered your life and the blessings that have been bestowed upon you and that you are ready to face the next set. Tell your husband that you rejoice at being a believer who finds comfort in the words of Allah "With every hardship, there is ease. With every hardship, there is ease". Ask your husband to pray for you ... and then you pray for yourself, dear sister. You pray for your husband. You pray for this new wife. And Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) Will ... Allah (Tabaarak wa Ta'ala) Will ... He WILL answer your prayers.
O! Sister of my very heart. He indeed will.
Speak with truth and dignity and enjoin the good on yourself and those around you. We are passing through this life as strangers (some more strange than others ... like in my case, for example) who are tired, beaten, weary, just waiting to make it around the next corner, over the next hill, across the next river because that ... is ... where ... our ... HOME is. And insha'Allah, I will see you there with the keys to the very gates of Paradise in your hands, bondswomen of Allah. Insha'Allah, we will be among those who recline and enjoy and live the life that we sacrificed for His Sake while we were here.
I occupy my thoughts with all of you and I busy my tongue before our Lord on your behalf as my sisters of faith, my sisters of hope, my sisters of passionate love for each other all because we attest to the plain.... simple.... fact: Laa `ilaaha `illa-Laah!!! There is no God but Allah.
Ya Rabb, let our lives and our deaths our worship and our sacrifice be for You. Ya Rabb, do not burden us with more than we can carry. Ya Rabb, accept our actions and our intentions to worship You Alone in Your Might and Glory. Ya Rabb, forgive us. Forgive us. Forgive us. May the very treasures of Paradise be laid at your feet on the Day of Reckoning. Aameen. Allahumma Aameen.
Allahumma ya'asir wa laa ta'asir. (O Allah! Make it easy and
Subhanaka `allahumma wa bihamdika, wa `ash-hadu `an laa `illaaha `illaa `anta, `astaghfiruka wa `atoobu `ilayka. (Glorified are You O' Allah and I am in Your praise, I testify that there is no deity except You, I ask Your forgiveness and repent unto You).
Siddiqua Hassan Haswarey