Columns's Our Families

January 2002

Looking at Polygyny from a Broader Perspective

by Siddiqua Haswarey

A Malian man with his wives
A Malian man with his wives.

"O Mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwaa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." {Surat Al-Hujurat: Verse 19}

"And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans-girls then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (the slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice." {Surat An-Nisaa: Verse 3}

Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet -sallallahu alaihi wa sallam- said, "All of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards. The ruler is a guardian and the man is a guardian of his family; the lady is a guardian and is responsible for her husband's house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards." {Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 7.128}

The Responsibility of Leadership

Men have a right to polygyny and the Qur'an provides us with enough evidence so as to prove that fact. But it is not as simple as it may seem. A role of leadership means added responsibility even for the ruler of a state, a responsibility that is not supposed to be taken lightly. I have read a couple of articles now on polygyny, most addressing the issue of the women's non-acceptance of a polygynic scenario, which is all fine but what I haven't read is material that talks about the grave responsibility that men take upon themselves in choosing to marry more than one wife. After all, men are the maintainers of women. It is said in the Qur'an, "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other and because they support them from their means." {Surat An-Nisaa: Verse 34}

Often the reality of polygyny can be a completely different story from an idealistic picture of what we would want polygyny to look like. That being said, the men seem to be making more of the situation than the Muslimahs, and when I say this I don't mean to insult anyone. I am sure a lot of sisters are happily married to wonderful Muslim men even in a plural marriage. Masha'Allah! Tabaarak Allah! I have personally always been a big advocate of polygyny, over these past three years to a point where I thought this was something I had to do for the love of Allah and the Sunnah of Rasullallah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). Down the line, I came to a point in my life when I realized that I was not looking at the scenario objectively. Not meaning to say, I wouldn't choose polygyny for myself today, or that I suddenly have developed an aversion to it. What I am trying to say is that I didn't take heed of both the pros and cons of polygyny and weigh them enough to make an informed decision at the time. There's so much more to it for both the man and the woman/women involved to think about and ponder over. This time I wish to address the issue of polygyny or even marriage for that matter, from a more objective point of view.

Allah has told us in the Qur'an, "O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will; and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual acts; and live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good." {Surat An-Nisaa: Verse 19}

On one end, the men seem to want and get a lot out of the whole polygynic scenario because they naturally have the upper hand, being leaders of the family. This may result in them taking undue advantage of devout women. On the other end, the women are left with a bad after-taste, feeling unjustly manipulated or misused, and not given their due rights. Rasullallah -sallallahu alaihi wa sallam- had seven wives at one time and he dealt with the situation as justly as he was capable of, the point here being that he sincerely tried to be as just as possible. I understand that no marriage, whether monogamous or polygynic, will be picture perfect. A marriage has its ups and downs, its challenges until the couple comes to the point where they are truly interdependent. What we need to understand is that the man shouldn't have to ask his wife to work to support herself just because she is married with him in a plural marriage or that she should forgo any other of her basic rights, because it is her right that the husband provide for her as he provides for himself and that he fulfills his other obligations. This is a right with which Allah has blessed women in Islam, unless it is mutually agreed upon prior to the marriage that she forgo any of her basic rights. It is mentioned in the Qur'an, "You will never be able to be perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire, so do not incline too much to one of them (by giving her more of your time and provision) so as to leave the other hanging (i.e., neither divorced nor married). And if you do justice, and do all that is right and fear Allah by keeping away from all that is wrong, then Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." {Surat An-Nisaa: Verse 129}

Marriage Should Enhance Our Lives

Looking at marriage as a whole, I strongly feel that when one gets into a marriage of any kind it shouldn't have to consume all of his mental, physical and emotional resources. In fact, it should enhance them because marriage is a foundation for a healthy society. If we are just sitting in our homes wasting away our brain cells on all the fickle issues of a marriage, polygynic or otherwise, we will be losing out too much when it comes to contributing to this Ummah and when I say contributing I mean in the smallest to the greatest of ways, including raising children to be great Muslims. Many people presume this to be of the simplest of tasks, but those kids will grow up to be our future leaders.

In any marriage, monogamous or plural, moving through life with a companion, one should grows and mellow to become a better Muslim or Muslimah, stronger in deen (Insha'Allah) and wiser with time and experience.

The men come into the picture where they are the leaders and maintainers of the entire family. They have the position of exercising justice and nurturing a family that will grow and blossom in an Islamic environment to be a truly Muslim family. Who more than a leader is capable of that? In the process, the man also brings up children that are raised to see the true blessings that come from marriage - polygynic or otherwise, children who in turn grow up to be a blessing to this Ummah, InshaAllah.

Allah has told us in the Qur'an, "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witness to Allah; even though it is against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you should avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well Acquainted with what you do." {Surat An-Nisaa: Verse 135}

When a brother wants to marry more Muslimahs he needs to check if everything is fine within his personal situation to be able to go ahead with a decision such as this and whether he would be able to handle the emotional, financial and physical aspects of a plural marriage. Because this is a huge decision and responsibility that he, of his free will or desire, will choose to take upon himself. Of course, I don't mean to say that the efforts that are required to strengthen the bonds of a marital relationship be ignored. What I am trying to say is that we have to set straight our priorities in life. Put side-blinders on if required and focus our minds on what exactly we want out of this life, who - in the end - we wish to really please in this life and after, and then, find the best way to get to our goals. Most of us spend a lifetime being overwhelmingly preoccupied with our own concerns, leaving us with hardly any time or energy to think about the state of this Ummah, the whys or the hows and most importantly what we can do to improve the state of this Ummah. In a marriage as a couple, both husband and wife (or wives) as a team must work together to be of the highest benefit to this Ummah, because through their union they become a strong and productive unit of the Islamic Society.

Taking on our responsibilities more seriously, will pave our paths to Jannah, making us more productive, progressive and among the best of Muslims both in this dunya and the Aakhirah, InshaAllahu Ta'ala. Again, we have to remind ourselves constantly, the ultimate goal here is Jannah, no matter how many wives a Muslim man desires to take on, as long as he knows exactly how to deal with the situation and as long as he can trust himself to be just in the face of all possibilities. If a Muslim truly desires Jannah and the pleasure of Allah -Subhanahu wa Ta'ala- he will do anything and everything in his way to deserve that special position awaiting him in the Hereafter. InshaAllah!

O Allah! Make all of our deeds righteous and make them purely for Your Sake, and do not let there be any share for anyone or anything else in them. O Allah! Turner of Hearts! Keep our hearts steadfast on Your religion. Aameen. Allahumma Aameen.

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

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