Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Overheard... women's chatter

I was visiting a friend's this weekend, and there were several sisters there, some who I didn't know very well. Some acquaintance of the host and a few guests happened to be a woman in a polygynous marriage. She was content in it, as well, apparently saying that at her age she had no need or urge to see her husband all the time. (This sister was not present, though.)

This sparked a little discussion among the women there about polygyny. Perhaps people's opinions would surprise you. The women there, some were married, some never married, some divorced. Some converts, some born Muslims. While the converts were actually open to the idea, it was the born Muslim sisters who were totally opposed to the idea.

One said, "My mother never taught me to share anything. I can't share. Not even my husband."

Another sister insisted that if a man was a good husband he'd be able to do polygyny, but then the sister he was married to would want him all to herself. While if he wasn't a good man, seeing him less often might be desirable.

And another still plainly asserted that men are all childlike creatures who never really grow up and never mature the way they should. Polygyny therefore provided the benefits of marriage (like rent, and an end to celibacy) without the trouble of picking up after someone and doting on someone who would never understand how to reciprocate much more.

Interesting opinions, all around. Interesting that it's converts defending the institution of polygyny while those born into Islam have qualms accepting it. What was also interesting was the different opinions about traits a man should have, according to them, and complaints about how Muslimahs can't get married these days because the brothers aren't suitable to make good husbands. The only thing I'd like is for people to not have to defend their marriage choices against family and friends. Happiness comes from Allah, not from husbands or wives, or friends.

All marriages have trials, whether monogamous or polygamous, there is no escaping the tests of Allah, we are all tested. And what one person finds a hardship another might take in stride. So I think sisters should stop ridiculing the choices of others.

12 comments:

Yusuf Smith said...

As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

I think that many of the converts who vigorously defend polygyny do so because they feel they have to, and because some people present polygyny as some sort of pillar of Islam and guilt-trip women into accepting such marriages instead of insisting on having a husband to themselves, as 99.5% of the world's married women have. Women in general don't like it, whether they are born into Islam or not.

Mormons, Muslims and Abusive Polygamy (from my blog, last November, after the Warren Jeffs prosecution)

Anonymous said...

Assalamu Alaicum.

Please check the following link where you can find valuable wisdom about marriage.
#########################################

umarlee.com/2006/10/20/the-weak-white-muslim-brother-getting-hitched/
####################################

musleemah said...

I think you make a good point about reverts being more accepting of polygyny versus those Muslim women who were raised as Muslims. Its an observation that I have witnessed myself many years ago. One reason this could be is that those of us sister who are raised as Muslims enter marriage as virgins moreso than reverted counterparts. Thus intimacy is even more sacred as it has only occured with that one mate and that makes it that much harder to accept their mate sharing that special part of himself with another woman.

Happiness comes from Allah and all marriages have their test, but I really dont think its the sisters who don't want to be in polygyny doing the ridiculing. It's usually the sisters who mistakenly represent polygyny as mandatory to accept that are the hardliners.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam Yusuf

You make a good point, however, I don't think women in polygyny necessary defend it because they feel they must. For example, I was at a little social event some months back and someone (better that I don't know who) brought this subject up. The women were almost all reverts. Very few said "I'd never," most said "Only if if if if if" with a list of conditions, a handful said they'd tolerate it easily, although for most it was certainly a non-preferable arrangement.

Maybe women in general would prefer one husband to themselves, but there are many single women out there (I've discovered) who are willing to share, just so they don't have to be alone.

Amy said...

For "anonymous" my post was more about polygyny than race in marriage. I don't know enough white Muslim brothers to make any generalizations at all. (Like... one... and he's marrying my friend soon inshaaAllah.)

People really stress that converts should marry converts, and you seem to say even WHITE converts should marry WHITE converts. But there is an imbalance--far more white women converts than men, to start with. And with your explanation shows that white men would have the same problem with white women their age, who have been trained as you say to be more aggressive.

I had a strong opinion AGAINST marrying a white revert that I only recently decided to rethink, concluding I would consider it only if he had studied Islam thoroughly because speaking Arabic and knowing the deen were important things for me. Too important to marry someone less knowledgeable than me. (Plus, I've got enough drama with my parents to deal with in-laws having anti-islam issues.)

Anyway, the converts I was talking about who could accept polygyny were african-american and white.

Amy said...

Salaam Musleemah,

I've never met a sister who thought polygyny was mandatory. I did see something strange online once, a sister who wanted what she called a "sunnah" marriage with 4 women, each of a difference race, age, social status, background. That was weird... just weird... but abnormal in that sense I think.

I don't mind for women to not want to be in a polygynous marriage, but I think it's too much for them to condemn women who make that choice. Polygyny is not a monster, it's a marriage arrangement with the potential to be as happy and satisfying as a monogamous one. Women who are in it don't need to be mocked and scorned, and what I lament is that even in that conversation, such a woman was.

Anonymous said...

asslamu alaikum..

sis amy i like this very much mashaAllah : "All marriages have trials, whether monogamous or polygamous, there is no escaping the tests of Allah, we are all tested. And what one person finds a hardship another might take in stride. So I think sisters should stop ridiculing the choices of others."


bro Yusud i agree and it's true that women in general don't like polygyny...they differ on how much they can live with it though...i know in some societies it's very normal , in others women just can't bare it...it also differs from one woman to another...

i have read alot of discussions among sisters ( reverts and muslim-parents ones- i don't like to call them born muslims coz we all are born muslims, and i am arab by the way) and in these discussions i can see that those who accpet it are most of the time the second wives...i think it's very selfish of them if they build their happiness on others misery ( and i am talking only about those who don't care to know whether this marriage will be a sad shock and ruins the happiness of the first wife or not b4 they do it)i have seen alot of this and i just hate it so much...

i find it an opportunity here to tell women that it's not fair if the man tells you "my wife is all okay with it" to take that as a green light that no one can blame you if that destroys the other wife happiness...fear Allah sisters and talk to the first wife if you are really honest, if u really care not to ruin her marriage). and for the bros fear Allah too and know that tehbest amongs you are the best to their wives as the prophet (saws) said in a hadith.

and yes sis amy...i have seen alot of sisters (revers and arabs) who believe if a woman doesn't accept polygyny that she is "Refusing" Allah's shari'aa(law) and i know that's just wrong understanding of the issue in islam. there is a big difference btw refusing it as a law from Allah and refusing it on the personal level coz the woman knows she can't take it

in islam polygyny is "halal" just like eating fruits....although all fruits are halal some ppl can't stand certain kinds even though it's halal..so it's the same...a woman who says she can't do that is just doing her right..in islam a woman has the right to even make a condition that her husband wouldn't marry another ( that's in Fiqh for anyone who wants to check)

the prophet (saws)wives were okay with it although some used to express some jealousy from time to time and that's normal...one though found it too hard coz she is a very very jealous woman ...she even thought it would make it hard for her to be the wife of the prophet(saws) when he asked her for marriage after her husband died....that was Ummu salama (may Allah be pleased with her). the prophet (saws) didn't tell her she is crazy or that she refused Allah's law,he told her he would pray for her so Allah would "Remove" that jealousy...so it was okay for her to express how she wouldn't have normally been able to handle it.

may Allah help us be sincere muslims

wassalamu alaikum
rose

Amy said...

As-salaamu Alaikum Rose

That was really a wonderful post. I think your advice here is pretty deep:

i find it an opportunity here to tell women that it's not fair if the man tells you "my wife is all okay with it" to take that as a green light that no one can blame you if that destroys the other wife happiness...fear Allah sisters and talk to the first wife if you are really honest, if u really care not to ruin her marriage).

I just think it's good to remember second wives have feelings too, and polygyny should be discussed before the first marriage takes place. If they agree to avoid it, and the husband changes his mind, who do you blame? If they agree to do it and the wife changes her mind, and the husband does it anyway, who do you blame?

You really want to blame the second wife?

Whatever good, (O man!) happens to thee, is from Allah; but whatever evil happens to thee, is from thy (own) soul.

Anonymous said...

walaikum assalam sis..

jazakillahu khayran and i am sorry if my post implied something i never meant concerning your last comment

i agree sis..a wife should be honest and either she accepts or refuses and then we can't blame her...we should be just with all..

but i want to tell u sis that i have a close friend who was very clear with the other woman whom her husband wanted to take as second wife..she explained for the woman that this marriage is not gonna work why and everything

what happened is the man kept asking his wife to let him do that..until under very strong pressure(constantly for almost a year) she said ok i will "try". she was miserable and was very sad...and after a long story she couldn't take it any more...now who would u blame sis?

i know she is wrong to say that she will "try" coz that's not something to try i guess...but again i really can't sypathise with the second wife who got divorced after all coz the first one had the kids and all ( rememebr she accepted to go into a marriage which she knew it was unlikely that it would work)
i also blame the husband the most and i wish some readers will learn from this story.

wassalamu alaikum
rose

Amy said...

Assalamu Alaikum

There is a sister I know who attended a convention in Hartford, CT this past weekend, and listened to a lecture by Sheikh Mokhtar Maghroui. Then she posted her notes on a private forum so I can't link to it, but the essence of the lecture was that we as Muslims have essentially three enemies in the battle for our soul, and they are in this order: nafs, shaytaan, and dunya.

This life is temporary, and Allah never burdens a soul with more than it can bear.

Anonymous said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

//One reason this could be is that those of us sister who are raised as Muslims enter marriage as virgins moreso than reverted counterparts. Thus intimacy is even more sacred as it has only occured with that one mate and that makes it that much harder to accept their mate sharing that special part of himself with another woman.///

Um. Wow. This is so freaking insulting. But oh well. Just another snipe at convert women. I wonder when *this* disgusting attitude will go the way of other archaic beliefs?

-- UZ (who, for the record, knows quite a few converts who would refuse polygynous marriages.)

Ibn Abd-el-Shafy said...

May Allaah increase you and I and all Muslims in knowledge of His deen, and its correct application. Jazaakillaahu khairan for a very balanced post.