Columns's Our Families

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Responses to "To My Dearest Sisters... From a Co-Wife"

(to read the original column, click here)

Two Muslim women

Response from Rita: "It is difficult to imagine that any woman would find polygyny acceptable."

I read your article and the letter ...and I was astonished at your stand about this subject prior to reading the letter. But as a woman, of American Arabic Decent, and having been born in the states, and raised in Lebanon at a very young age I do have a clear understanding of our cultures, and my religion (Islam).

I must though acknowledge, that I felt with the sister, and I understood the humor she uses in her writing, however it was not a humor of ha.ha...haa...but rather it was a painful experience through the journey of the minds and the possibilities of what if, and if she encourages her husband to pursue the other sister, and what would life be like.

It is difficult for me to imagine or comprehend that any women would find it acceptable. I would not accept it. I understand the intention and religious meaning of the idea of having to bring another wife into the picture, but it is extermely difficult for me to imagine or encourage my man to say it is alright to have another woman in my home. We are living in era in which the world has changed. We should educate our children, husbands, wives about our religion, not encourage such a thing. I make no appology for my language in this statment, but it is almost now a days it looks like having to bring a (whore) to share the bedroom in which my husband and I would be sharing. I love my sisters, and I will stand by my sisters whether that sister be Muslim, Christian, Morman, or otherwise. I will as a sister encourage my sister to not accept less, to not degrade her character, and her desire to live life, ;but rather as a true sister I will take the stand to help her find a man, in which she can build her own walls, build her own happiness, and be her own maid in her own castle.

How wrong, that our culture feels that it is alright. It is not. You were wrong to say that you think the idea is great, but than you are the author, and authors are known for wanting to encourage a conversation, whether it maybe pro or con, and you have successfully done so. I do not in any shape or form want to come across as wanting to insult you in anyway, but it is very hard for me to beleive that another sister would say it is alright,,,because it is not.

I must say I enjoyed reading the prayer in the letter, and having to recite some of the arabic words , it made feel that I am still an Arabic Lady, beleiving that there is a God, and he is for everyone. I want to be the wall in which my sister can lean on, the wall in which my sister can cry on, but I also want to be the wall in which I can show my sister to build her own dream castle, with flowers, and a garden in which no one can share into but herself, husband, and children, because that is the true meaning of life.

Finally, I would like to say I have been divorced for 12 years and having raised a great daughter on my own, and having been through many rocky roads in my life, from abuse, to having suffered a heart condition at the age of 39, diabetes at the age of 19, I cannot describe to you what happiness is. But I can in one word tell you that my daughter is my sister and friend, and happiness in life.

God bless all of my sisters rich or poor...muslim or non muslim for we are all one just wanting to be happy.

Rita D.

Siddiqua's Answer:

Rita, Assalaamu-Alaikum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuhu.

I have to thank you for your response. Feedback is always crucial for future writings, because it is so helpful to decide what we need to be addressing more when we write. There were certain points I want to address.

I understand your viewpoint and what you are trying to say. But the problem is just that - it is "your" view point. Just like the way I aired my viewpoints through the article I wrote regarding polygyny. My intention in writing that particular article was to give Muslims and Muslimahs alike a brief insight in what actually goes on in the mind of a co-wife. My purpose was to educate people as to what really goes into making a peaceful polygynic family. Polygyny is not just about the act of being married to more than one woman, it is much more, in word and deed.

But the fact remains that polygyny has been ordained by Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala). In fact it is a Sunnah and a recommended act, just like many others acts of the Sunnah are. MashaAllah. And this holds irrespective of what I say or what anyone else says. Men do not even have the obligation to inform their wife that they wish to marry another woman. It is in the shari'ah. If any woman wishes to stipulate before marriage that she does not wish to have a co-wife, she can. And the man is obligated to fulfill his word in deed once he marries her in accepting her stipulation on paper. In this case, she can only stipulate that she be divorced in case he wishes to take another wife. And her stipulation will be fulfilled. It is as simple as that. If she chooses otherwise, she is very welcome to do so. Al-Hamdulilaah! No matter what society calls her.

The society that opposes polygyny is the very same society that calls hijaabi women "oppressed" or "uneducated". Does it make anymore of a difference if they decide to call us by some additional names too!?

Each and every muslim has to realise their duty towards Allah, irrespective of how they feel or how society feels. Am I exempted from the five obligatory prayers just because I don't feel like praying? Will that be an excuse for me on the day of Qiyamah? It can never be! Likewise, it works for polygyny as well. Just because someone does not think it is right, that does not change the fact that it is very much allowed and accepted. Besides, would I stop wearing my hijaab just because I was poked fun at and mocked in the streets here where I live? No! I won't. And the same goes for polygyny and any other act that is Islamic in every way, irrespective of how much we like or do not like it.

Has Allah (Tabaarak wa Ta'ala) made a mistake when He permitted polygyny!? Astagfirullah! He (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) is far from imperfections. Tabaarak Allah. To believe that He is perfect is a fundamental tenet of Islam. Or did Allah only permit this for a particular set of people? If yes, which set would that be? Ya Ukhtee Rita! If you personally feel you shouldn't accept polygyny for whatever reasons, how ever significant or trivial, that is just fine with me. In fact, I'll support you through and through until the end. But, there is a big difference... in fact a very big difference between choosing something for yourself and choosing something for everyone else. Is this freedom of choice? Do I not have the freedom to choose what I see fit for myself? Do other sisters not have the freedom to choose what they see fit for themselves? What harm do we cause when we choose polygyny upon ouselves or encourage it, it being a part of Islam, not as a personal fancy?

Rasullallah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) had many wives. Was he wrong in marrying so many women? The most obvious reasoning given by those very same people in response to this question is that he married so many women because it was necessary for political reasons, to expand his tribe and connections. But, I don't think that answers why he married Lady Ayesha (raa). She was very young at the time of her marriage and the Prophet (saws) was very close to Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq (raa). He did not have any need to strenghten an already strong bond with his dear friend. The same goes for the daughter of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab - Hafsah bint Umar. He and Rasullallah (saws) were very close friends. Why then did Rasullallah (saws) decide to marry Hafsah?

Rita, you referred to women who marry into polygyny as "whores". SubhanAllah! Ukhtee! I have only one question for you. That would only mean, by your thinking, that all of the prophet's (saws) wives were whores. Is that what you are trying to imply? Was even Hajira (as) our mother and the mother of Ismail (as) a whore too??? May Allah forgive my use of words. Astagfirullah.

I don't mean to attack you personally. I really don't need to. But, Ukhtee! What has been ordained has been ordained. Our duty when we were created and as Muslims is to first accept with full conviction and submission the words of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) in full trust. That is what "Islam" means, in its true essense - submission to Allah. We have no choice in the matter. If you personally do not accept something like polygyny, that is a whole different story. I have a lot of friends and family who don't accept it for themselves. But, they know where they need to draw the line. When we educate our children and women about Islam, polygyny is a part of it. Maybe small, but it is a real part of Islam. Irrespective of personal likes and dislikes.

If you go about teaching Islam and true submission to Allah, and then you call a woman who enters polygyny a "whore", I see big double standards there. Ibrahim (alaihis salaam) had two wives. In fact, Hajira (raa) was a servant whom he (as) married. Many of the Sahaabah had more than one wife. And honestly, if I were to believe in what you said to me... I would never believe in Islam, I would never accept Islam. If I were already Muslim, I'd probably renounce my faith. Because I see contradictions and double standards in all that you say. I would only understand that Islam is so full of flaws that it can never be the one true religion. I'd rather be an atheist. Because I would think that Allah and the Prophet made so many mistakes.

Once again, Ukhtee! I stress on this... and my intent is not to mock you or insult you or to offend you. If you personally do not wish polygyny on yourself, that is completely fine with me. I am in full support of your choice and I respect your choice. But, if you are to call names or to openly denounce polygyny even though it is very much allowed in Islam, then, Ukhtee! I can't help but have to clear up some points here. You basically have taken the liberty to "politely" insult sincere muslims. MashaAllah. And I have an obligation to clear some misunderstandings, as your sister in true faith and belief. As Rasullallah (saws) said, "a Muslim is a mirror of another Muslim." You may have had a bad experience with a personal situation. Allahu knows best. But that still does not justify your position. I end here, InshaAllah. And I pray to Allah that He (Tabaarak wa Ta'ala) opens my heart and your heart and makes us firm and obedient Muslims. Aameen.

Second Response from Rita:

I am happy to know that you have received my letter, and for you to think that I would refer to the Prophet's wives as "whores" may God forgive me, for you have read into my letter too deep.

First of all as an Arab-American I probably have more respect for my faith than the average Muslim. Secondly I have no disrespect for anyone that covers their hair. My mother is very religious, my relatives are religious, and I am religious also. I may not cover my hair but it does not mean I have no faith.

If a woman moves toward the idea of a wanting to be in the same home as another woman that is her choice in life. I would never encourage it nor will I accept it that is my opinion. The only bad experience I have had with my faith is (not) being able to question, to argue a point in order for me to gain a better understanding. Not to change the world, or make people follow me, but rather for me to learn and to grow as a person. I too am confronted with the ignorance that your fellow sisters deal with daily. It is important for you to know that just because you follow a certain in path in life, it does not make you ignorant or inferior.

I have learned a few things from your letter that will aid me in my quest to find a better understanding of Islam. I do not agree with your beliefs nor will I accept them. However I respect the fact that they are your beliefs and that you're the one living by them not I. Ukhtee, the viewpoint that I expressed in my letter reflects my opinion of polygyny in the 21st century. Things have changed and so has society. I am not stating that you should live your life according to what society deems right or wrong, but there are certain things that are simply not acceptable.

Granted society is often wrong with regards to what is acceptable, morality being the judge. Polygyny is something that has no place in a 21st century culture. The ways of an old world are not always applicable to the new world. What was done thousands of years ago may not easily translate well into society. For instance I have friends who are not covered whose husbands have brought home other wives. The husbands never acknowledged the effects that the other wife would have or whether the second wife was even wanted. This is my question to you: if a woman was to have several husbands, would her lifestyle be ordained by Allah? Or would she too encounter the same ignorance that plagues anyone who lacks an understanding? Would she be held to a different set of rules? And who are we claim to know what Allah has ordained to be acceptable or unacceptable?

Siddiqua's Second Response:

Rita, Assalaamu-Alaikum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuhu

InshaAllah, I pray you are well, high in your eemaan and health and blessed with Allah's Love and Divine Mercy. InshaAllahu Ta'ala. Aameen.

No sister, I was merely giving you an example when I refered to hijab of a muslim woman. Only Allah knows who is a better Muslim. MashaAllah.

My sister, Islam is for all of time. It has no barrier of century or millenium. When Allah chose Rasullallah (saws) as the last prophet, He (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) was very well aware of the fact that for the rest of time this will be our religion, irrespective of which century or how much change comes about in our lifestyle. For Allah (Tabaarak wa Ta'ala) is All-Aware. Allah has no restraints of time or space and Islam has no restraints of time or space.

Ya Ukhtee! I assure you, Islam wasn't easy to follow during the time of the Prophet (saws) either. They had their own set of problems, in fact some even more worse than ours. We on the other hand have a lot at our disposal, so quick and easy, yet we don't see the difference. When I say Islam, I also mean polygyny. Because polygyny is a part of Islam.

You spoke of some injustice that was done to your friends regarding polygyny. Empowerment is in knowledge. Men are not required to ask their wives for permission to take another wife. But there are still some who do, out of love and respect for their wives. What you related to me was a personal situation, which had everything to do with ignorance of this beautiful deen and being unjust. I am not saying that they (the men) were any more right to have hurt their wives, but sometimes, the women make it difficult. There are times when the men try very hard to make their wives accepting of the situations, going to great lengths to do so, yet the women remain stubborn.

You may ask me, why a man has to marry another woman, when he already has a wife. Ukhtee! That is the way men were created. It can be merely for love, it can also be for procreation. There does not have to be a reason when it has been permitted by Allah. If you have a right to exercise, then it is for you to fully enjoy it as well, making sure you are well aware of the boundaries and limiting yourself to those boundaries and not beyond.

Life is more than marriage, kids or a family. So much more that, this fact alone makes me an individual in myself. As a woman, I know where I stand in this deen in all respects, whether it be marriage, polygyny, children, my parents or just being a wife. I know what I live for and what I should die for. That is an empowerment in itself, making me in turn proud to be a Muslim Woman. I am an individual who has been granted rights and benefits by Allah. I have a respectable position in being a Muslimah. When I accept anything in Islam, including polygyny, it only empowers me as a slave of Allah, to love and yet know where my limits lie.

Ordainment is for Allah alone truly. But, whatever has been ordained is in His Book - the Qur'an. I know polygyny is ordained, because it is mentioned in the Qur'an. I know that a woman cannot have more than one husband, because that has been ordained in the Qur'an. That's it! There cannot be anything beyond that fact.

If I trust Allah, with all my heart and soul.... I shouldn't question for whys and hows.

Yes! There are plenty of explanations for why a woman cannot have more than one husband at a time. Lots of Muslims go around giving reasons etc.. Honestly, what I see and believe in - is the Word of Allah. He is all Wise and All- Merciful. When He (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) chose a certain set of rules, He did so because He alone is aware of the results and the consequences. I can try to conclude that this and that would have been the reasons for Him to prohibit a certain act like eating pork or fornication, but in the end it is He alone who is aware of all the facts and reasons, even reasons that are way beyond my comprehension and understanding. SubhanAllah! Only recently have we begun to see a surge in diseases caused because of eating pork or the complex uncurable diseases caused by fornication. But, Allah knew all along, and He warned His slaves, His obedient slaves and disobedient ones. The harvest is ours to reap in the end, here, in this dunya and in the aakhirah, after we die, the consequences for being disobedient to our Lord.

Ukhtee! Lifestyle is different from a commandment of Allah. Polygyny is not a lifestyle. It is an open encouraged permissibility by Allah. I may have misunderstood you or you may have confused the two. Certain rulings are relaxed, like if I choose to have furniture in my house or not.... or if I choose to live in a big house or small. That is all fine Islamically. That does not matter. Other rules are fixed and set like a woman marrying only one man at a time and the permissibility of a man marrying more than one (the limit being four at any given time). We know them from the Qur'an, from studying it and the Sunnah of Rasullallah (saws). From studying the life of Rasullallah (saws) we know what we can do and where our limits come in.

When you speak of polygyny not being acceptable in society, you speak from your own whims and desires. Again, you say it is your own choice, yet you see it fit to judge for society. On what basis, Ya Ukhtee? It does not add up. I completely agree with the fact that polygyny at times is manipulated to suit certain peoples fancies but only by themselves, not by Islam, nor by the institution of polygyny. And I, myself, am totally against that. Polygyny is a very serious responsibility and those responsibilities have to be given their due importance. We, as Muslims and Muslimahs, come in the picture by educating ourselves and others on the conditions and clauses involved, not by prohibitting it all together or saying it is unfit, only because we lack in our abilities to deal with it.

I'll give you an example to elaborate on what I say. Most marriages these days end up in divorces. Usually both sides are to blame, even though men will say women are to blame and the women will say the men are to blame. Would that mean marriage is not an institution fit for todays society, all because certain individuals don't know or haven't been successful in dealing with it? Who is to blame? The laws of Allah? Allah knew what was to come, and what is to come. He (subhanahu wa ta'ala) gave us the Qur'an and the teachings of Rasullallah (saws) as an example. Rasullallah (saws) throughout his (saws) life taught his companions whatever he (saws ) was commanded by Allah to teach them. All of that only made it easier for us, in terms of acquiring knowledge and understanding that knowledge. If we don't follow them, we will end up having problems. We have been warned and the rest is up to us.

Every land has laws. If you break the law, whether it is by breaking the speed limit or by robbing a bank, then the consequences are yours to live with, for the rest of your life. You can still choose to change your predicament by being aware of the law and by abiding by it. But, Ukhtee! Would that mean driving itself is bad, just because I don't know how to conduct myself on the streets? Or that we shouldn't have banks, because there are a set of people out there who see robbing a bank as the best and easiest way to make money fast? Would we have to judge banks to be closed down as well?

Ukhtee! You have a daughter and you know very well what goes into the upbringing of a child: the joy and happiness as well as the pain and hardship. Suppose I had a bad experience with two of my children. They turn out to totally disbedient as young people and do everything in their way to cause pain to me and my family. Does this mean I should go about discouraging people from having children?

Most of our failures today are because of our own ignorance of our deen. We have all the knowledge at our disposal, yet we don't seem to want to make the effort, simply because we don't see the importance. Rasullallah (saws) taught us everything, even how to choose a spouse, the qualities we should look for. Why? Because it was important. When the husband is just, and he puts in all his efforts to make sure he is fair to his wife or all his wives, he can enjoy a successful polygynic marriage. The fact is that justice comes from eemaan and taqwa. If I know that I have to fear Allah in regard to equal treatment of my children, I will make sure I do that, because I fear the punishment and wrath of Allah. On the other hand, if I am ignorant and I don't even care that I should be praying my daily obligatory prayers out of fear of the Hell-Fire or the punishment of Allah, then why should I care how my spouse feels or how my children feel? Because I have no fear, consequences don't matter to me. I will begin to live recklessly.

Aren't there plenty of sad lives out there broken even from monogamous marraiges? I have come across plenty of men or women who don't know what it means to have a family or to enter a marriage! Families and homes are broken because the man does not know his limits and boundaries with regard to his parents and his one wife. Why then blame polygyny?

To summarize my point: the system (namely polygyny) doesn't have any flaws because it comes from a Divine source that can never be attributed with imperfection. Instead it is the the operators (namely ourselves) who are full of flaws because we are human.

We dig our own graves through disobedience to Allah and ignorance of Islam.

Ukhtee! My letter to you has gone way beyond the length I expected it to be. I apologise for the length of my mail. I know it is sad how Muslims manipulate rules that are for their use, benefit and enjoyment. It is very sad. But there always will be rotten apples in the barrel no matter what we do or how hard we try. There always have been and will be for time to come, so we, as slaves of Allah can be tried and tested. We can avoid getting ourselves entangled in those situations by empowering ourselves and our children with knowledge of this beautiful deen, not our own personal whims and desires but - true and pure `ilm (knowledge), because that very same`ilm comes from a divine source as well.

We have all the tools and the instruction booklet. We'll have to open the booklet and study it and then, use the tools for our own benefit. InshaAllahu Ta'ala.

If someone intends ill, then Allah (Tabaarak wa Ta'ala) will most certainly expose his/her heart to humiliation, because when we truly believe in Him, in His words and His Justice, He (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) will protect us against all evil, be it from shaytaan or from other beings like ourselves.

Know Ya Ukhtee that I love you for the sake of Allah, and I am sorry that you have been tried so much in your life. May Allah ease your affairs for you, bless you with Jannah and fill your heart with His divine Nur. Aameen. Allahumma Aameen. Know Ya Ukhtee, that all the hurt or pain you have endured, Allah knows and is ever watchful and He will grant you the reward you deserve. InshaAllahu Ta'ala. Trials are from Allah, no matter how small or big, even if just the prick of thorn.... we are to endure them with patience for Allah's Sake, because they serve as a cleansing for our hearts from the sins that we have gathered on ourselves over the years. They serve the purpose of teaching us valuable lessons that we would never learn had we been content and pleased with ourselves. Allah has indeed been very compassionate and merciful to have made our hurt/pain/anxiety, a cleansing for our souls even though a lot of times, we can bring the hurt upon ourselves, through our own actions. SubhanAllah!

Subhanaka Allahumma wa bihamdika wa `ash-hadu an `laa `illaha `illa anta astagfiruka wa atoobu `ilayk.

Siddiqua Hassan Haswarey

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