Friday, June 24, 2011

Polygamy : A Right or Privilege?

"No woman should be forced to endure in a polygamous marriage against her will, but should be given the legal option of obtaining divorce and compensation. Monogamy should not be regarded as being exclusive for non-Muslims, nor polygamy as being exclusive for Muslims, but should depend on the choices made by individual couples."
Food for Thought :

Stages of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) Married Life. 

First, let’s remember that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) led a life supported only by the bare minimum of necessities. His wives were not idly wasting away the hours in a luxurious harem but led a life of labor and sacrifice, while he was mostly busy away from home overseeing his numerous duties as a Prophet. So, obviously, lust was not a factor, as he wasn’t even at home most of the time. Further, most of his marriages occurred at an age when lust is not a major factor in any man’s life:

1. He remained single until age 25.
2. From age 25 to 50 he was faithful to only one wife, Khadijah, who bore all his children except one. She was 15 years older than him, with children from two previous marriages. She was his greatest ally when he received the Call at age 40 until she died when he was 50 years old. He remained in love with her until he died and often talked of his life with her with great nostalgia.
3. Between ages 50 and 52 he remained unmarried and mourning his late beloved wife. He lived alone with his daughters.
4. Between ages 53 and 60 he married all his other wives for many noble reasons detailed below. It’s unimaginable for a man to suddenly turn lustful at this age, especially as he was constantly traveling, with bloodthirsty enemies on his heels.
5. At age 60, Allah revealed to him verse preventing him from marrying any more until he died, which was at age 63. The Qur’an says what means:

*{It is not lawful for you (to marry other) women after this, nor to change them for other wives.}* (Al-Ahzab 33:52)

Good Reading : 
A large-scale study currently underway across Malaysia uncovers proof that polygamy harms everyone involved: from emotionally scarred children, to wives who think they’d be better off as single-parent households, and even husbands who admit “I wouldn’t recommend it for my son; it’s quite stressful.” This issue in Malaysia has been going on for many years. Let's see what has been voiced out. 

Datuk Dr Raj Karim, regional director of International Planned Parenthood Federation ESEAOR:
BEING able to marry more than one is a privilege which should be respected, not abused. Men should really think of the consequences of such a move which is a trust put upon them to do good. There is a responsibility attached to it .

For example, it is permissible if the wife is ill or childless but these days, men marry out of desire or lust. I don't think that should prevail. Authorities should not make it any easier for men with such intention.

That kind of "tourism" should not be encouraged. In fact, such men should go through the hardship of knowing about care and responsibility.

Men will have to think of the effects of polygamy on their family and children in the long run, when everything falls into place and when they realise that everyone needs to be looked after. Even men who are in polygamous marriages have admitted it's not easy.

Neglect (of one family or the other) will lead to social problems. IPPF is planning an advocacy kit for adolescent boys for the World Health Organisation and one of the things that case studies have uncovered is that a lot of social problems stem from the fact that some boys do not have a role model (traditionally played by the father).

There is no substitute (for the absentee father) and fathers need to understand this.

Norazizah Borhan, vice-president, International Federation of Women Entrepreneurs, and chairman of Perdasama:
If polygamy is practised as it should be, then I have no problems with it. But unfortunately, men do not respect the Islamic laws on polygamy and this is why I am against it.

Askiah Adam, newspaper columnist:
No child of a polygamous marriage is about to thank him for anything other than the misery of coping with guilt. Who do you go on loving: a father who has wronged his wife but not the law or a mother who is emotionally ravaged by the man she once loved and trusted? In the end, that child is forced to judge against the part-time father. 

Farhariza Ajir, SIS:
As a 23-year-old Malay woman, I am deeply shocked and saddened by the whole thing. I am sad that Muslims in this country are now (if not before) a laughing stock of the world. While others are concerned with crucial issues such as poverty, human rights, education, hunger, war against terrorism, etc, what we portray here is a Muslim community obsessed with sex and having multiple families. It is pathetic that many of these polygamous men see it as testimony of their manhood, flaunting their prowess to their equally pitiable friends. 

The distressing part of polygamy made-in-Malaysia is that these men are the ones who, after imposing their second (and subsequent) marriages on their first wives, have the audacity to ask these unfortunate women and children to redha. Where is the justice of it all? Why are they greedy and why are the men not redha that they have to be content with being faithful and loving to only one wife, only one family?
 Yes, I am sad. Sad that we are victims of men who are only out to serve their own twisted purposes as opposed to focusing their energies on the betterment of the ummah.

Zaitun Kassim, lawyer and activist:
Many other countries, including those in the Middle East, are protecting women more and more by making it difficult, and in some cases, prohibiting men from entering into polygamous marriages.

For example, several countries in the Middle East allow for marriage contracts to carry a condition where women have the right to sue for divorce if their husbands marry another wife. More and more, women in these countries are recognising their rights and exercising them.

Yet in this country women are made to feel guilty if they oppose polygamy and are told they are against Islam if they speak up against polygamy.

Professor Dr Faridah Habib Shah, Science and Technology Commission of NCWO, official and director of Biotechnology Division, Malacca:
Why should men be allowed to "threaten" women or emotionally blackmail them as they now have an easy way out? It's not nice that the first wife remains insecure knowing that her husband can easily marry a second wife without her consent or knowledge. This is not solving the problem and we are only encouraging men to behave irresponsibly.

Dr Norani Othman, senior research fellow, IKMAS (Institute of Malaysian & International Studies), UKM, member of SIS:
AS USUAL many Muslim men, including those in state religious authorities, have an extremely myopic, unrealistic, unjust and fantasy view of polygamy (a marriage in which a man is allowed more than one wife).

The Quranic injunctions allowing men to take more than one wife explicitly place great and humanly impossible conditions (see al-Nisa, 4:3 and 4:29). Yet Muslim theologians and religious authorities deem it fit to allow polygamy, virtually at will, leaving it merely to the conscience of men to be altruistic (in his motive/reason for polygamy), and to be fair and just to all his wives.

Since the Quranic injunctions allowing polygamy are so strict and humanly impossible to achieve, one may even propose that polygamy be banned EXCEPT under extreme conditions such as the need to take war widows as a second, third or fourth wife in order to take care of orphaned children.

This, in fact, was the asbab al-nuzul or context of the revelation of the Quranic verses endorsing polygamy. If the reason to take another wife is due to passion or lust, then "Muslim men have just to learn to hold their passion or lust at bay"!

Why can't our state religious (or Islamic) authorities take the view that polygamy is a contingent, occasional and CIRCUMSTANTIALLY WARRANTED RESPONSIBILITY rather than an inalienable right of a Muslim male and that monogamy is the expressed Quranic ideal?

The justifications given are absurd and mind boggling. In fact they are not based on Islamic ethic or the Quran. If any state religious authorities intend to allow polygamy, then one of the conditions is for the first wife to be duly informed and that she also accepts the "new circumstances" of her marriage contract. The foreknowledge and permission of the first or existing wife or wives may also ensure that the husband remains true to his stated motive for undertaking polygamy and that he maintains equal responsibility and care for all his wives and children.

Azalina Othman Said, Puteri Umno chief:
THE issue is not whether a woman agrees that her husband take another wife or not. Instead, it is men being poorly educated about polygamy. Polygamy is allowed in Islam provided a man is able to be fair to all parties. Consent from the first wife is merely a procedure. It is not the law.

Men who are keen on taking more than one wife should be educated (through courses) about the responsibilities of being polygamous so that they understand what it entails.

If young couples who wish to marry must attend marriage courses to prepare them for married life, so should married men who wish to take another wife.

Zaitoon Othman, president, Muslim Lawyers Association Malaysia:
This contradicts laws in most states where married men must get approval from the Syariah courts before taking another wife.

As it is, we try to unify laws in the country since civil and Syariah courts have varying ways in handling certain cases. Instead of avoiding conflict of jurisdiction in Islamic law, we are now encouraging it.

The first wife's consent or the court's approval may be procedural (as the man does not need anyone's permission to get married) but it certainly acts as a deterrent so that people don't abuse the privilege (of being able to have up to four wives at any one time).

Sadly, many forget that marrying more than one comes with huge responsibilities.

Can you imagine the rude shock a wife and children will have if they discover that the husband/father had secretly gone off to marry another woman? There will surely be familial upheaval as each member will be affected.

Haslinda Hamzah, 38, freelance language instructor:
THE consent of the first wife is necessary. And a man must not abuse his wife's rights by depriving her of financial support, which is bound to happen should he take another wife without her knowing. 

Farah DiBa Khan, consultant dietician:
I CAN'T say I'm all for it. Men should discuss the issue with their wives first, but more often than not, they don't.

Most men marry for the wrong reason - having grown tired of their first wife being one. An oft-quoted excuse is that the second wife is a better companion.

Now, if the first wife is unable to conceive, and the couple is desperately trying to have a child, there are reasonable grounds for the husband to take on a second wife - provided that his first wife gives her permission.

It is stated in the Quran that the husband must treat his wives equally. Think about it: is he really going to do that? It is easier said than done. 

Faridah Abd Wahab, 26, assistant manager in a firm:
I BELIEVE one should have a concrete reason for polygamy. Nowadays men cite financial capacity to validate their intention for polygamy but if one were to follow the Rasulullah's way, the fair treatment of wives requires more than attention to material comfort.

The Prophet (pbuh) was very fair to all his wives and this included every aspect of the relationship, be it emotional or physical. I doubt most men are able to treat their wives as fairly as he did. He is bound to favour one over the other.

When you share a life with someone it is only fair that major decisions are discussed together.

To disregard the first wife by omitting the need to have her permission is simply disrespectful to the sacred institution of marriage. Furthermore, being the "second Thailand" does not ensure things would go smoothly. 
In fact, it can create confusion and further problems.

Norani Nordin, 26, lecturer:
IT IS not hard to see how men can abuse this new policy. However, I am not 100 per cent against it. I think men will go the distance if they want to marry more than one but for this policy to work properly, there should be a stringent and efficient system to monitor the practice of polygamy.

Personally, I believe this policy has negative implications on marriage and the family institution. It can create disharmony in the family members.

Latifah Yusof, student:
IF the man doesn't inform his wife about the second wife, and leads a double-life, so to speak - he's living a lie. And it's not right if the children from both marriages live without knowing of the others' existence.

Nellie Abdullah, administrative secretary in a telecommunications firm:
IT'S only fair that the wife is informed about it. Perhaps then the couple can work on the shortcomings or the issues that the husband is not satisfied with.

And permission is necessary - after all, marriage is a partnership. It's really unfair that men are free to marry as they wish, but women have no say.

Polygamy seems to be used for the wrong reasons. For example, when a man gets tired of his wife, or he doesn't find her attractive anymore, he'll just marry another.

Compiled By The Life and Times Team, New Straits Times, Features Section - January 9 2003

References :


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