Saturdays usually signal the end of a hectic week. A soothing sensation after doing time for the last six days begins to engulf me. After my talk, a sister comes and hugs, nothing unusual; but a continuous stream of tears, from her eyes was. Her visage with droplets smearing it appeared a bit white. My little talk about H.Aaishah RA and other Ummahatul Momineen had touched her, she said. When probed about the weepy act; her reply not just stunned but kept haunting me for the next few weeks.
Today is my husband’s waleema, sister.
Her tone was calm. No further explanation was needed. I understood.
I too am a wife. I too am a woman. Did I feel shocked, stunned, amazed, astounded, or bewildered?
All into one, perhaps. I was speechless and it reminded me of that Eugene Ionesco quote –Words fail you, after a time.
Yes, words failed me.
Polygamy is a seriously delicate issue. The Creator the all knowing has allowed it but with some ceilings in place. There are riders and most often than not, generally they are overlooked. However there is little or no talk about these riders, these ceilings. Off late I have been seeing lots of, ‘campaigns’ on the social media by our ‘brothers’ advocating polygamy vociferously.
Polygamy if practised in its true spirit and with justice can solve some social problems. But doing justice among wives is extremely difficult, or rather near impossible, our Creator proclaims. (See the related verse here)
What I find amazing is the men advocating polygamy single-mindedly to the exclusion of other more important issues, particularly those related to women, such as widow remarriage, giving a woman her rightful share in the property, and facilitating her right to khulaa, and other such things.
You advocate polygamy. Fine. But shouldn’t you try to first create a balanced society where women are given their due share their due rights? [ I also think, this word, given, is a culprit in itself, and is a pointer towards the prevalent malaise. What do you mean by given? Our right is our right and we should be rightfully claiming and proclaiming it.
Why are not women free to proclaim and practise the rights given to them by Quran and Sunnah? Why should it be made to sound so patronizing?
A society where women take to their rights in a natural way; where they are not made to feel embarrassed about proclaiming what is legally theirs; would be a dream come true.] The society with such a fine balance might also make polygamy easier and appear more acceptable. Not that I am advocating it, each to his/ her own. My main grouse is when and just when, are we going to address the real issues of women?
If such vociferous campaigns [talks, workshops, video-lectures, social media posts] can be held for polygamy then why not for widow re-marriages, for giving women rights to property, and the right to ask for Khulaa ? But so far I have not seen any. We know well Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H’s saying pertaining to never delaying three things, and one of them is Widow Re-marriage.
But does anyone care?
We all have known a few cases of unhappy marriages breathing down the neck of hundreds of our sisters but their fear to ask for khulaa, keeps them suffocated. There is a big social stigma attached to it. ; do we talk about this? Also how many daughters/sisters, do we happen to know, who are not given their due share in property by their fathers and brothers? ( Almost every home has it, you said?)
But what we surely get to see is the stress on a man’s right to exercise polygamy for the following reasons as given by our brothers: its sunnah( I often wonder how many other sunnahs do men practice before coming to this? ); secondly men are created strong, they ‘need’ it. Third is interesting, it’s difficult to lower gaze in today’s times, hence…[ Now really!], fourthly a man is polygamous by nature, etc, etc!.
Eeman = Encouraging your husband to remarry?!
The thing that infuriates me most in this regard is a brother’s argument that if a woman has faith/eeman, she should ENCOURAGE her husband to remarry. Yes, you have read it right. No need trying to roll back your eyes and re-read the words. So this is how my brothers judge me. I am faithful, if I encourage my hubby dear to marry another woman. If I care for my sisters truly, then I would be doing this. They say.
Respected brothers, wish to give you a piece of my mind.
My faith doesn’t depend on my encouraging my husband for another marriage. My faith is a matter between me and My Creator. (By the way, in general, we the wives encourage our husbands for waking up for fajar salah , for reading Quran with meaning, for visiting an orphanage on a regular basis or take up some good social cause with only a little success here and there, but our sweet hubbies might feel encouraged for tying the knot one more time! Knotty issue, you said! ) I don’t understand this.
Why ask women for an impossible or say very very difficult thing? When Allah has not burdened His creations beyond their capacity, then no one else should. Why put the onus on the poor wife, when the hubby dear is free to marry once more as and when he pleases? A man can remarry, if he wants, (with riders in place) but to ask a wife to encourage her man for the same and judge her faith/eeman on the basis of it?
Asking a wife to egg on her husband to remarry! Is it not akin to asking Israel to help Palestine? The result of such an attempt may be on the lines of US bringing democracy to Iraq or Afghanistan. And you know well how democracy, American style, is always under the threat of a new ISIS. Jokes apart these guys should stop playing this game.
They should also stop judging our faith on the basis of our not just supporting but encouraging, you know what; yes, Polygamy. A woman’s weaknesses are well known; to burden her beyond her natural ability and expecting her to do things way beyond her capacity is Zulm. Allah knows it. When Allah has not burdened us beyond our capacity, no one else should.
While polygamy is permitted, marrying and remaining married to one is also among the nobler options. A brother informed me that it is an option for the weak. Allah forbid Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H, for the major part of his life remained married to one. Prophet saws’ marriage to H.Khadijah RA happened when he was 25, and it lasted till she passed away in the tenth year of the Prophet-hood; making it a companionship of almost 25 years.
His two illustrious sons in law, H.Uthman bin Affan RA and H.Ali RA followed in his footsteps. The latter among them was also specifically asked to refrain from remarrying, not once but twice. This may be an exception; nevertheless the sentiment behind it can be understood and lessons learnt. There is a detailed hadeeth regarding it.
Of course Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H. and his two companions and sons in law remarried but only after the demise of the first one [ the daughters of Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H.] and thus proved that marrying and remaining married to one is also one of the noble options given to men. Had their wives lived longer than them, would they have remarried?
What happens really when a Muslim man remarries, today? Has it become a tool to harass the helpless wife?
What happens really when a Muslim man remarries, today? In majority of the cases, the second wife is usually found to be a rich wealthy woman. A rich woman, a widow, a working divorcee with a fat pay cheque, is, ‘chosen’ for the next round. My observation tells me this, yours can be different. Rarely ever have I seen a brother who claims to be not weak but strong, taking a poor woman, or a widow with kids, or an impoverished or divorced woman, as the second wife.[Exceptions are found here too.]
Don’t you feel a stronger brother [as they assert to be] would opt for a widow, a divorcee and then rightly claim to be Strong; real strong? Our Prophet P.B.U.H took widows and divorcees in distress mostly, when he remarried, except H.Aaishah RA. But why do majority of women taken as second wives today, have to be rich and prosperous? My ignorant self keeps wondering. The general trend is for the Richie Rich brigade. They are trending on the second marriage scene.
What is disconcerting is that there is a big social stigma attached to the widow remarriage and the matters of Khulaa. Why don’t my brothers work to remove it? This stigma crushes the very spirit of these unfortunate women. The number of women living empty lives due to their inability to exercise their legitimate right to remarry or ask for Khulaa [divorce] is huge. How many women have I seen…
I have lost the count who put up with such a miserable fate. Young widows are expected to remain single or rarely encouraged to remarry, while a widower (brother) gets hooked in no time. Why should it be so? Women due to their natural sense of modesty are unable to speak up for themselves. Their silence about or refusal to remarry mostly emanates from this false sense of modesty. On the other hand, we have tens of examples before us where we see our Sahabiyaat RA[pious women from the time of Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H.] remarrying not just once but many times over, after they got widowed or divorced.
Some of my brothers say monogamy is a cultural thing. May I humbly ask them, if a 65 years old woman, [or younger or older than this], who is a mother, a sister, decides to remarry, will it be or won’t it be frowned upon, terming it against our culture? I am witness to such a case where a 55 year old widow, after being cold shouldered by her three sons for years, decided to remarry and the rest as they say became history. She was disparaged, condemned and most unfortunately her character assassination got in full swing. Oh, she is a woman like that! They said.
Do you have to be a woman to realize the poisonous sting in these words? Here my brothers should sensitize people about the thing that; we all need partners, women included. But no, vociferous campaigns for this? No advocacy of women’s rights?
However these issues need more of our attention and vociferousness because without the active help from our brothers, we women may not and will not be able to get what is legally ours. But do I hear them saying, I can marry four, don’t know about you?
What about you? They ask innocently.
For a balanced society we need to have a balanced approach and practice. Addressing women’s issues would be the first step towards this. But is anyone listening?
Why this Deafening Silence?
By: Asma Anjum Khan