As I unwillingly enter this debate/discussion, I want it known that I don't wish to step on any toes or offend any feelings or prides. I've never been in the situation I'm about to discuss, nor do I ever hope to be. I can not imagine the emotional and psychological suffering it causes and I really don't want to come across as a "Know-Nothing-Know-It-All". If any of this upsets my readers or offends them, I apologise before hand. I am inexperienced in the field of life, love and have no experience in being a wife. Nor am I very smart (even though I have professed that I am in my other posts). Also, I haven't researched this issue thoroughly and I'm not citing intellectuals. These are my personal reflections on the matter. A lot of it came to me in the shower. Its great when inspiration hits like that. Sometimes I'm inspired while in the toilet. I don't share those inspirations with my readers.
I'm a woman. So the issue of polygamy creates an upsetting beat in my psyche. I'm not comfortable with the notion. Even as I near my use by date (after which I'll be shelved away as an "older spinster") I haven't entertained any perceived threats of polygamy in future marital bliss. I've always thought of polygamy as something that happens to other people, much like all other catastrophies in life. There's no reason it couldn't happen to me but there's a safe distance my mind maintains between myself and it (polygamy).
With this safe distance between us, I have the following thoughts on the matter.
Ali notes that men who choose to take a multiple wives use the religion argument to justify their choice. Women opposing this choice are then seen as getting in the way of all things God-licious. My view on the matter is this, how can you profess to know your faith and your God if you don't know yourself?
Yes, in Islam, a man can take up to four wives at any given point in time. That's what our faith establishes. I'm not getting into the reasoning, or conditions under which this is made permissible. As to the woman who consents to this religious reasoning, is she not being untrue to herself? Isn't her first duty to be true to herself and then pretend to love her faith and submit to Allah's will?
I understand that the two are not always mutually exclusive but God knows what's in your heart. If you're forcing yourself to concede to something as mind altering as polygamy, you're ultimately denying your own happiness. This affects the rest your physical and spiritual existence, a decision that could possibly see you become bitter, unhappy and wanting.
Are you really making the choice to stay with your multi-wife husband because you truly submit to the Will of Allah (swt) or are you doing it out of fear? Are you submitting because you believe it to be the right thing for you and a test of your faith?
If you're playing with the religion card, you might as well be true to yourself and be upfront about what you feel. Because ultimately, its not your religion that sits crying with a broken heart and throbbing head. I sound callous and for that I apologise. Its very hard writing this without coming across as the afore mentioned "Know-Nothing-Know-It-All".
This argument lends itself to my next point: Do you really know yourself and are you willing to stand up for that? Its difficult, I understand, to have a true appreciation of self when you're a mum and a wife and so many things, other than you. When you become a mother, you let go any pretence of having a life, opinions, dreams, aspirations or needs of yourself. I understand that as well.
So maybe the issue here isn't religion at all. Maybe the issue is knowing yourself and how to not lose touch with that. I know a lot of husbands don't want their wives to really have opinions that threaten their world view, I know a lot of wives are the same. I know parents think the same way about their children and so do best friends about each other.
Marriage is a risky business but not because of the threat of it breaking down. Its risky because every single day of your life presents a new challenge. The challenge of steering your life with someone else at the helm, or with the life of another human being. Challenges reign supreme and compromise is undermined. Its risky and oft times you just ignore your own needs to make the family unit work.
Its important in that circumstance to include people in your sphere who are going to push you to live for yourself (even if it is ten minutes at a time) and people you can share something other than the woes of family hood and wifeship with. People who know you and will help keep the flame of the original you burning.
For the woman faced with polygamy, the choices are limited. Said woman will not be bold enough to make a decision that sees her shunning God's rules. She will need a support network, not just to stop the tears but to help her find work, take care of her kids, give her legal, moral and financial support. I'm not suggesting that breaking away from the relationship is the cure. But I have noticed a trend in first wives to sit back and accept because really, there is no hope for them. Its a helluva task taking on the world and when you're a mother and have been a housewife for most of your married life, that can scare you into submission. Nothing to do with submission to your Lord.
My other issue is with the men. Der.
I've noted, and with some dismay that a lot of men who take a second wife tend to do it in privacy. If you're doing something permissible under Divine Law, then why do you feel the need to keep it from everyone else? A marriage is a public declaration. Why would you hide it? Are they afraid of public opinion or do they really not want their first wives to find out? And why don't they want their first wives to find out, for fear that they'll leave? I have so many questions.
I think I'll wrap this up now by saying, my last bone of contention is the issue of consent. You can tell me that Islam does not require a man to take permission from his first wife. I can accept that (not really but lets just go with this). Lets say you don't take permission, because really, if you had such a great relationship, would you really be looking around. Fair enough. Maybe your first wife is unstable, granted.
I'll even go so far as to say, don't take permission but for the love of all things decent at least tell your wife of x years what it is you have planned to do. Isn't that just good manners? You may not be required to ask permission but God didn't make the laws for a man who lived on an island cut off from the rest of the world. The rules and laws are there for human beings who coexist with other human beings and there is great onus on treating people right. God may not have told you to take permission but he sure didn't tell you to rip someone's heart out, pureé it and devastate their trust.
I think my main argument is to focus on the human side of the decision making process. If you can make your decisions with the recognition that concerned parties have hearts and minds, then maybe we won't have so much turmoil. It's a terribly naive view of the world but I'm not actually trying to solve the issue here.
Let's try and create for ourselves the kind of life we think we deserve. Inshallah, ameen.