I chuckled alone last weekend at grandma’s house reading about the lorry driver who applied to Syariah court to take his fourth (and hopefully the last) wife. The presiding judge found himself in an unusual – or rather shocking – position when the three other wives actually consented to their husband’s wish. The news brings us to this posting. Be that as it may, I need to remind myself that I am not a pious individual neither am I a Qur’an expert to dwell in this subject; whatever is written in the following paragraphs derives from my reading and personal understanding in so far as polygamy is concerned. I stand to be corrected at any point in this issue by anyone who has deeper knowledge and bona fide intention at heart.
Surah An-Nisa‘ 4:3 states that “if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, three or four; but if you fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one…that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice“. [Translation by Yusuf Ali].
The Surah opens a floodgate of arguments between men and women since time in memorial. Despite the glaring condition precedence to do justly among the wives, many decide to plunge into polygamy for reasons known only to them. No, I am not talking about the consented polygamy by a man who is basking in money, so to speak; I am talking about us mere mortals whose ability to do justly is greatly challenged in every step of the way.
Like what my friend Reza argues, “the Surah gives a blanket approval for man to marry another BUT with a strong pre-contidion”. Now, while many polygamous men claim that they are as impartial as a judge between the wives, plenty of injustices occur on the same platform. Records at Syariah courts prove that influx of complaints have been filed in polygamous marriages.
I am unable to defy the will of God in allowing a man to marry up to four wives. But the voice in my head tries in vain to define what constitutes “justly” in its literal sense. Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali shines a light on my bleak path when he says, “Those who wish to take a second wife are not considered eligible unless they can show that they can afford to keep and be equally fair to both wives. Furthermore, marriage in Islam is never allowed without the consent of both parties, and any woman who does not wish to enter into a polygamous marriage has the right to refuse.” [Source: A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an at page 57].
With the exception of the lorry driver’s wives, I am sure, the majority of women would rather see their husbands being struck by a lightening than take another wife. I heard tales of polygamous husband who sleeps in a hotel when faced with two fuming mad wives. Another polygamous husband wishes Aidilfitri never appears on the calendar so that he won’t risk his neck deciding which house he should be in comes Pagi Raya. A client of mine (who is, of course, polygamous) swears that one day he will die while commuting from Ampang to Petaling Jaya in a futile bid to please both of his wives. Polygamy turns man into a consummate liar in order not to hurt his wives’ feelings.
While you pray polygamy would be as easy as depicted in P. Ramlee’s movie, the reality smacks the face of him who dares to take another wife. What we forget during this academic debate on polygamy is that we, women, end up getting crashed and burnt. But since it is in the nature of men to thrive upon challenge, I hereby rest my case.
I end this post with Surah An-Nisa‘ 129, the translation of which reads as, “you are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire“. With that I now open the floor for debate. 🙂
Goodnight Sleepless wherever you are.