Saturday, February 16, 2008

Muslims and polygamy

I frequently read a moderate Muslim blog called, Muslim Matters. Several people post to this blog and recently a Pakistani woman named Irum provided a facinating discussion on the issue of multiple wife’s in Islam. I thought it provided an insightful look into the world of Islam from a Muslim perspective. I've summarized Irum's arguments below. My comments below are in [brackets].

Irum wrote “It’s been years and years and I still haven’t found a single woman who wouldn’t object to her husband’s second marriage….” In fact, if she’s ever in a boring party all she has to do is bring up the subject and the women get into such a heated discussion that you’d think their husbands were about to get married in the next room!

Irum she said in Asian societies the second marriage is the worst thing that can happen to a women but “The Arabs have no issue with it because that is the way they’ve been raised to view it.” In Pakistani society, she said, the worst thing that can happen to a woman is divorce because then the woman “becomes free game.” She is better off with “a husband with two wives than no husband at all”

[I’m not sure what Irum means by “free game” but I’ve read numerous horror stories about how women in Pakistan are raped, beaten, blamed for their own rape and then killed in honor killings…by Muslims. It doesn’t sound like Irum ever asks herself what’s wrong with Pakistan’s brand of Islam]

Even after years of consideration, Irum said she still can’t understand why “the vast majority of Muslim wives cannot stand to even discuss the topic without losing their cool.” First, “if Allah has permitted it, how can one oppose it? Second, like keeping an animal tied up in the back yard, how can you keep your husband tied down to just one wife?"

[Hmmm, I’d like to hear Western women respond to that one]. Irum continues, saying, "the husband should follow the Qur’an by keeping equality between his wives, but that is his problem, not the problem of his wives."

Irum argues that one of the main reasons many would want a second wife is because he’s fallen out of love with the first one. So, she asks, “why should the first wife care what he does or doesn’t do when the major factor, love, has fallen out of her equation with him?”

Irum asks, “So why are Muslim women still hell bent to oppose a law pre-determined by Allah?” If her husband wants to marry someone else, is “he still emotionally the husband that she should be so innately possessive about?” Why be possessive about him if he no longer has regards for your feelings?

[I’m puzzled by Irum’s apparent coldness here. It’s like, OK, so your husband doesn’t love you anymore, why are you upset about the second wife then? Perhaps the women are upset about the package of the broken relationship/lack of love leading to the second marriage].

Irum cites another woman who suggests that if your husband is looking for a second wife, you should try to find out what you're doing wrong.

[I’m amazed that the woman Irum cited seems to automatically assume that if a husband is looking for a second wife, it must be the first wife’s fault. Could it possibly be that the husband is just a scumbag?]

Irum responds saying that many woman do try to “fix the leaks in the ship of her marriage” but don’t succeed. In that case, Irum says, she should just let him off the hook. She says, that’s a “very very good bargain” for the first wife because she will have no regrets about not trying to make the marriage work, her rights as a wife will still be taken care of, and her kids will still have a father.

[And she can live in a loveless marriage the rest of her life with no chance of ever having her husband all to herself again, having been replaced by a second, or third or fourth wife. I’m sure she’ll want to celebrate!]

Irum admits that the second marriage is not just a big deal, but always “a HUGE deal to women who take any such discourse as a personal attack on their relationship with their husbands. She says, “I just want to get to the bottom of why women oppose what Islam permits.”

[Unfortunately, I’m sure Irum would never for a moment entertain the possibility that Islam is wrong].

One of Irum's friends objected, “Why does it upset women? Ask yourself. Show me a single woman who would like to share their husband with anyone.”

In response, Irum expresses her agreement with a woman who says, ‘The Quran has clearly stated that a man can keep four wives simultaneously. Allah has given him the permission. So how can a woman say no to that…are you saying no to Allah…” She could divorce him but “Allah intensely dislikes” divorce and besides “Is she going to deprive them of a father and a normal family life at the hands of her obstinacy, jealousy and stubbornness?" [Notice that Irum and the woman which whom she is agreeing place the entire blame on the woman].

Someone else told Irum, “I refuse to agree with you. Maintaining equality between wives might be his problem, but in what context is it not our problem? Any woman will go through '—–' (excuse my French) when she hears that her husband is going to remarry……and by expecting a 'human being' not to feel, think and imagine the repercussions due to this, in my humble opinion, is being nothing short of hypocrisy."

[Sounds like there are Muslim women who would agree with my assessment above about Irum’s apparent coldness]

The woman went on to say that if her husband got a second wife, she would treat him as an acquaintance and nothing else.

Irum says that this response “best reflects the mindset of the majority” of Muslim women and indicates that such women are really attached to their husbands. Maybe even to the point of being jealous and possessive”, a trait she says is very common in women. [And not in men?]

Irum’s conclusion, “We are all commodities of Allah” and we should live by his rules. Irum agreed with another lady who said the whole problem “is with that little sound within ourselves, the sound that tells us ‘I am the greatest’… THE EGO….” Ego says, “Why should we share?” “Point being, get rid of that ego thing.”

[According to the Gospels, Jesus once said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female…Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh.” Although Jesus is specifically talking about divorce here, it seems to me that, Jesus is indicating that God’s intention for marriage from the beginning was one man and one women, not multiple wives. This seems to be how Paul understood Jesus because Paul’s teaching on marriage never hints at polygamy but always implies one man married to one woman].

1 comment:

Amad said...

Interesting reading your perpsectives on Muslim perspectives.

Irum got a lot of flak for that post. But it is important that we allow people to air their "controversial" beliefs, so even if it is not consistent with most Muslims' beliefs for that specific issue, it gives everyone an opportunity to "air it out". I think many who think like Irum may either be glad to see that someone else does as well, or give them food for thought as to why this position is hurtful to others. In other words, it will hopefully increase sensitivities.

-amad