Whether you believe polygamy is good or bad, it represents the edge of a Muslimah’s life. Women who do not agree with polygamy fear it and women who practice it are oppressed outside their marriages by the media, society and, in Western countries, by institutions. Let’s remember that the Islamic practice has a context and a reason to be. The verse that allows it says:
If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry 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 bondwoman that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. (4:3)
Some women believe that verse 4:129 abrogates the previous one by saying:
You shall never be able to maintain real equality between wives, even though you are eager to. So, do not lean totally (towards one) and leave the other as suspended. If you act righteously and fear Allah, then, Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful (4:129).
Nonetheless, regardless what women’s opinion is on the matter, polygamy has been abused by many men. Polygamy was not meant to break up marriages and cause frictions within households. It was meant to unite, organize and harmonize while serving a social purpose. Therefore, equality among the wives and love among them is important. Many men wish to practice polygamy but it has become increasingly expensive. While a great deal of women would never even consider practicing polygamy. Much of this has to do with the fact that polygamy is seen differently than marriage and has acquired negative sexual connotations. Polygamy is not only a way to guarantee the rights of the women that may be involved with a man, but it was meant to protect women that had no relatives to look after them and their children. Thus, polygamy was not meant to be primarily for men’s sexual enjoyment. In addition, a man who aimed to marry more than once had to make sure that his wives would accept and like each other. Many Muslim apologists say that men do not have to ask for women’s permission, but as a household matter, wives should be involved in each inch of the process. Besides, smart polygamist knows that a happy household is a peaceful household, where women agree with their condition of multiple wives and are able to look after each other. Men who destroy their families by pushing away their previous wives and alienating their children, are not following Islamic principles. If polygamy is to exist it has to respect the importance of the family and women’s dignity. Therefore, women who may be involved in this have to be willing to go through the process of bringing someone else into the household. There are some realistic men that know the difficulty of this task. Having multiple women is not easy, it is costly and it may provide few rewards. Thus, they choose to have one wife only and to comply with the fairness that Allah requested from them. Some others believe that as long as they provide economically they have the right to enjoy sexual pleasure. However, having in mind only sexual pleasure within marriage, and within a polygamist marriage, is a deviation of the original purpose of the practice. Although many women feel that they would never be able to reconcile polygamy with their way of life, there are many types of families; and for some women works better to be in a polygamist marriage. Some of them feel that they have more time to focus on their career, while others truly love their co-wives. Polygamy is not necessarily as dirty-looking as the media says it is; however, unfortunately, many men make it really bad. Women in Islam are constantly approached by the media and society in terms of polygamy. Everybody wants to know how do we feel about it? and opinions are very diverse. Nonetheless, we face big issues right now. Some men think is their God-given right to practice polygamy with no obligation towards the women they marry. As a Saudi slogan reads “Prophet of Four,” a campaign that aims to encourage men to take 4 wives and women to accept polygamy, some men feel like Gods who are to be worshiped by four women. Nevertheless, through this attitude women are not only alienated, but Islam becomes ‘promiscous.’ Men who think that they are entitled to illimited sexual satisfaction on top of everything, and think that they can control women’s sexuality, are men who are spreading the wrong image of Islam and are abusing its practices. No wonder that polygamy has such a bad stigma. While the excuse of ‘my wife doesn’t have as much sexual desire as me’ comes along, what happens to women who have big sexual desire and are not satisfied by their husbands? Satisfaction within a marriage may be a reason for divorce, even when some people does not admit it. So nowadays, the number of women who would consider joining a polygamist marriage has decreased, but that has a lot to do with the way in which it is practiced and the abuses committed by some polygamist men. However, it is still important to approach the issue because we find so many women that after few years of marriage face the news of ‘honey, I love you but I want to marry a second wife.’ Many of these women have no idea of how that works and fell on the innocent assumption of ‘that will never happen to me.’ Thus, the advice is to be critical of Islamic practices and to be informed. Islam guarantees rights for women and if you are smart you will know that you can include your own personal conditions on your marriage contract to guarantee your rights and freedoms in case something like polygamy knocks on your door. Also, it is important to keep some financial independence just in case… just in case, who knows? maybe, if the question comes to you, you would like to be part of a polygamist marriage, or maybe not… or maybe you would like to focus on other things, such as family, career, and even a second marriage! The important part is to know where do you stand on the issues, and how to protect your self. It is important to remember that if you don’t take care of your self no one will take care of you… and even when Allah is with you,
Allah doesn’t help those that don’t help themselves.