Saturday, January 29, 2011

Polygyny - Realistic Expectations?

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Often the subject comes up about why single, childless women marry into polygyny. I often wonder if men seriously consider how important it is to portray the reality to the prospective wife. We hear so many stories of someone marrying a married man and then complaining or disliking certain aspects that were obviously going to exist from the beginning.

Why is it important for the prospective wife to know about the current wife and her views on polygyny? Because if the current wife doesn't accept polygyny, she needs to know. She needs to know from the outset that there is an issue of weak emaan, which WILL be a source of fitna and problems. It may just be contained by the husband, meaning that he doesn't allow her to slander, backbite, harass, or interfere in the second wife's life. However, it will take it's toll on the husband because he will have to handle all the stress and conflict in his home. If it isn't containable, then the next wife needs to be prepared for an onslaught of fitna. Not fun, not easy, and not necessary.

Whenever I considered polygynous proposals, one question I always asked early on was how the existing wife felt about it all. If I were to even consider it for second, I'd have to know she was all right with it. If I were to continue down that path, I'd have to meet with her prior to even praying istikhara so I had a clear idea what I was getting into and so did she. I am definitely a proponent for meeting each other beforehand. As a first wife, much of the discomfort and unease about polygyny comes from the unknown. Seeing the reality of your prospective co-wife can put many hearts at ease, because if she is truly good, you will not fear her and you will have an optimism from the beginning, based on reality, that you can make it all work. On the flip side, if she really doesn't seem genuine or a good fit, then at least there is a chance for both to realize that and perhaps warn the husband before it is too late. Worst case scenario if you have reservations about her, at least you can set up ground rules, take precautions, and be on your guard from her fitna.

The biggest factor in women's expectations of polygyny is the men. Men need to be REAL. It really doesn't help in the long run to sugar coat things. Tell the prospective bride how it will really be. Tell her, "You are going to sleep alone every other night. You are going to eat alone a lot of the time. You will have to find beneficial things to occupy your time and draw closer to Allah. My children take priority...because they don't have to share me.You will not have more time, more preference, or more money that the other wife. Do not imagine that I am only having marital relations with you or only find you attractive. I am still her husband. Just as you and I are an "us," so are her and I...and we've been an "us" for some years!   You will have to respect her just as she will have to respect you. Never speak badly of her, because she is my wife.

My husband told me that one highly recommended prospect for marriage was almost about to go through with it and suddenly one day said she'd just realized she would sleep alone every other night! What was she thinking all along? This, and so many other events that take place after the nikah, lead me to think that prospective additional wives, especially the single ones, are simply not looking at the big picture realistically.
I think that being honest with them and giving them a realistic idea of what their life will be like, will help them make an informed decision and also prevent a lot of marriages that are destined to fitna and failure.

I wonder if men spend so much time trying to promote the positives of polygyny, because they want it so badly, that they pass by the aspects that aren't every woman's dream. It appears that they often only promote the positives to themselves as well and are ill-prepared for the realities that polygyny holds for them, too. It is omissions like those that come back and bite everyone in the bottom!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Off to a Good Start in Polygyny

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

I can only speak from my perspective, but here are some of the things that are making our transition into polygyny a happy and beautiful thing:

fairness, equality, and taqwa.

My husband is determined to get a "A" on his polygyny report card this time, mashaa'Allah. May Allah guide him to that reality - ameen. So, how does that work practically? Check out our days...

The time division is set up so that everyone gets to see him and spend time with him every day, bi ithn Illah. Whether working or not, from 4:00 p.m. -6.30 p.m., or from Asr to Maghrib, he visits the home that he will not spending the night. For us, he comes and sits with us, has some tea perhaps and snack, plays with the little ones and catches up on whatever is going on. He is affectionate, playful, and spends time sitting with me talking in English, LOL. I might mention what I'm planning for dinner or he might mention something for us to do together the following night. In this way, we have something to look forward to on our next night together. Then from 6:30 p.m. he goes to the other home.

I usually take these opportunities to get an early night's sleep. These are the nights I might put henna on my hair, do a little self-maintenance, and come up with all kinds of ideas for new posts for this blog, lol. The following day, he will usually pop in to see us during his day and later on, at 6:30 p.m. he is here for the night.

Now he is laying the ground rules, mashaa'Allah. These things have naturally been in place for me, but he is making sure they are established for Zainab as well, so we are all on the same page.

Here are some points that are relevant.

  • Because he spent a lot of time away from us during the set-up phase of his new marriage, when he has some extra time in the day he spends it here to make up for the time gone, mashaa'Allah.
  • Something delayed him at Zainab's and he didn't leave her until 6:40 p.m. three nights ago. The following day when I mentioned he needed to go as it was already 6:30 p.m., he said that he owed us ten minutes and didn't leave until 6:40 p.m, mashaa'Allah.
  • When he was asked to drop Zainab at a friend's home, which would have meant he would have to leave us later in the night to pick her up again, he refused saying it wasn't fair, mashaa'Allah. We are not to ask for things that will take away from the other family's time with him.
  • He has said that there are no casual phone calls to chat to him on the other wife's time. He is ensuring that our time and privacy with him are respected. For anything important, we can always send a text. A phone call is only warranted if it's an emergency.
  • He plans nice things for our nights, and he's making sure I really enjoy my nights with him, mashaa'Allah.
  • He is focusing on the children's needs, and making an effort to address them and provide fun, healthy, and beneficial activities for them, mashaa'Allah. 
  • Just as the step-children stay with me for the whole day when he was with us the night before, so do they stay at Zainab's during the day when it was her night. 
  • He is assessing everyone in the family to ensure we are all on a path for learning and improvement, mashaa'Allah, and setting a study plan for each of us.
  • Knowing that he has a certain amount of money he has to spend on me, to be balanced with what he spends on Zainab, he makes a point to buy things that will be of benefit and suit my needs and priorities. This is not an easy thing, because I dislike materialism and having anything I don't need or use. Just this week, when I dropped my phone and it fell apart, he bought me a phone that matches his, with Quran, an Arabic/English dictionary, and Arabic texting capabilities, mashaa'Allah.
He is taking seriously the fairness and equality aspect so he doesn't meet Allah with one side dragging. It is living proof that if one follows the bounds set by Allah regarding polygyny, it can work for everyone.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Irresistible!

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Whenever people ask me what I like best about Islam, I say that it is the most incredible incentive scheme I have ever seen. I studied psychology in college and wanted to laugh out loud when I learned about applied behavioral analysis and token economy. They are, without a doubt, showcased to perfection in Islam. Man may have come up with a label for these psychological approaches, but they are Divine Strategies of Our Creator.

I know, I know...I've put out plenty of other posts about reaping rewards from our actions and outlook: Reach Out Today, Make that Call, Have Mercy, Laughter and Tears, Trudging or Skipping, etc. I just cannot get over how much Allah, through His incredible messages, draws me like a magnet to what pleases Him!

I'm not quoting hadith and Quran for the benefits mentioned below; you can find them easily yourself and I don't want this to be a book. I am just giving an example of a few of the incentives from Allah...literally a drop in the ocean of all He offers us for doing simple things.

Good Deeds:
  • Do one good deed and Allah will record it as ten or more (up to as many more good deeds as He wills).
  • Just think of doing a good deed, without even doing it and you get the reward for doing it. 
  • Do a bad deed and Allah records it as just one. 
  • The good deeds erase the bad deeds.

Quran Recitation and Prayer:
  • Don't despair if you don't know enough Quran to recite half of it in a night, recite Surat Al Zalzalah and it is equal to a quarter of the Quran, so in two rakaat, one half bi idhn Illah ta'ala. 
  • Surat Al Ikhlaas, one of the shortest and easiest suwar to learn, is equal to 1/3 of the Quran. 
  • You cannot stand for the whole night in prayer? Wake up for tahajjud sometime in the last 1/3 of the night and recite the last 10 ayaat of Surat al Imran and you will have the reward of standing the whole night in prayer.
Looking for a good "deal"? Check out the Rewards for Dhikr chart !

Subhaan Allah, just say His name and see what you get!
From Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, the Prophet (saw) said:

"No people mention Allah but the angels surround them, mercy covers them, tranquility descends on them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with Him." (Muslim, at-Tirmidhi)
Subhaan Allah, Allah makes His servants desperate to do good! Isn't it all simply irresistible?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Is he really trying to hurt you?

Bism Illah wa as salaam alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Time and again sisters raise the issue of the hurt involved in polygyny. They often consider their husbands to be oblivious or insensitive to their pain. However, I ask you to think about the man you are married to. Does he purposely try to hurt you? Does he revel in your pain and misery? Does he smile with glee when you show confused hurt and heartbreak? If you can answer no to those questions, then don't imagine it is any different for polygyny.

For those of you with children, when you had your first child and formed that incredible bond of love with them, could you ever conceive of hurting them? So, what happened when you decided to have a second child? Did that mean you no longer loved the first, or loved them less? Yes, having the second child will take time away from the first, but did you have the second child to hurt the first child and cause them misery? Surely, no. Allah guided you to make a decision to have more children. Allah blessed you with more children.

Just so, Allah guides a husband to have another wife. Just so, Allah writes who that other wife will be. Just so, Allah writes what lessons and benefit he, and you, will derive from that other wife.  It isn't done to hurt you; it is done as part of the Master Plan. Allah has sent this to him, just as much as He has sent it to you. Your husband is trying to find a way to follow what he is guided to, and also prevent your pain and reassure you of his love. It's not easy...  for anyone.

I could write more, but I want to get this post out. I wrote this in a comment on a different post (thanks, Umm Salwaa), but it deserves it's own space. It's not about what others do to you, it's about how you react. Allah sent it all and it's all to bring us to a better place in relation to Him. This is not exclusive to the wives! The husbands are taking on a lot, and it is not easy for them to cause pain and heartache to the woman they naturally want to protect from hurt and harm. Do you really think they would do it, and put you through it, if it wasn't clear to them from Allah?

Don't question the nature of creation, just take whatever comes and own it. Accept it as especially yours, from ALLAH not your husband, sent as a test and a blessing.

Disclaimer: This post is about the good, practicing, Allah-fearing husbands,  not the players who wouldn't know taqwa if it was the only word in the dictionary.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why I'm Grateful to my Co-Wife

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Let me first say that I haven't met my co-wife yet. When that happens, inshaa'Allah I will  post about it. However, I want to address why I'm grateful to her. Her specifically? No. To any co-wife my husband chooses, as long as she is pleasing to Allah.

There many things a husband and wife learn about each other in a marriage. Some of those things, once learned, change how we view our spouse. Some may cause us to avoid certain situations or scenarios. Some may even give us an aversion to something.  Although they can be forgiven, mistakes, weaknesses, or serious actions disliked by Allah cannot be erased. A glass, once broken, cannot be put back together perfectly.

Over the years, some glasses have been broken in our relationship. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is normal in any relationship. It may depend on personalities and the nature of the issues involved as to whether it has much affect on a marriage or not.  Is it a bad thing for glass to be broken? No, it is Allah's Qadr and comes to bring something to light that needs to be taken into account, or to change something in the relationship. Sometimes Allah reveals things to us, for our particular situation, so we are forewarned and can act accordingly. Knowing certain things about my husband enables me to approach him in ways specific to his situation and steer clear of certain situations that I know will be a fitnah.

My co-wife doesn't have any of that history. She may, inshaa'Allah, never know the things I know about our husband. She may, inshaa'Allah, never have the experiences I've had. No glasses are broken yet. Of course, some glasses will break...that is the nature of relationships. However, they may not be the same glasses that broke with me. With a fresh outlook, she will not have the inclination to avoid certain things or any aversions. She will give her all, innocently, without bad memories or previous knowledge to cause her to hold back. She will fill in the gaps, those I simply cannot fill. She will,  inshaa'Allah, welcome the side of my husband I don't welcome.  She will give him the things that are missing from me.

Now, I have a favorite supermarket (Wholefoods) and I prefer to shop there most of the time, but there are always some things I need that I cannot get from there. So I also go to Trader Joes to get the balance of the things I need. That's how I see all of this. Having a co-wife is pure benefit for me...because while he is happy with her and appreciative of what she gives him, he is also happy with me. Any resentment or disappointment he may have harbored for me because of me not fulfilling his every want, or not providing an environment for him to freely express certain sides of his personality, will be gone because he has those needs fulfilled now.

Because of my co-wife, my husband is happier. Because of her, my family has more structure in our daily schedule and his allocation of time. Because of her, my husband is nicer, more loving, and more appreciative of me. Because of her, he is more generous with us. He has a chance to miss the children and I. He has a chance to look forward to those things he loves in our home...and to see me in a whole new light. Because of her, the weight of raising two step-children is going to be lightened inshaa'Allah. And because of her, we will have more time to focus on what's important and making the most of our time, when my husband is home and when he is away.

In honesty, it isn't important for us to be great is just important that our husband reap the benefits that Allah has placed in her for him.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Beginning of our Time Division

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

We have been waiting for everything to be in place so that the wedding parties (one for women and one for men) could take place and hubby and co-wife could move into their apartment and start their life together.

Finally, Sunday night was the start of our new life in polygyny. Well, sort of. It was the wedding party for the women, so hubby was running around getting things bought and delivered for the event. He was very tired, was up most of the night, and had to take us to school at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. Needless to say, he spent his first day with his new bride and, after catching up on some sleep, called in the evening to check on us.
The second day, we were all off from school and that spells "opportunity" to me!  I asked hubby, through Skype, if we could take a walk to the mall in the morning. We got the go ahead, so off we went. These are the things that just don't happen when he is home. We don't get to walk places, explore, do things in our own time. The children ran along, happy to expend energy and all of us enjoying the beautiful weather. We had a nice mooch around the mall and I found beautiful cotton sundresses for SAR25, which is about $9 (UK pounds 4.50) and we enjoyed some fresh air and exercise. We came home, had some homemade pizza and french fries for lunch and hubby came over to drop off some fruit and check in on us. A short while later, while all the children were doing their homeschooling, I heard a pitter patter. Rain! We rushed to get dressed and go out in it. It didn't last long though, and we didn't get to walk around in it, Qadr Allah, but seizing the moment was exhilarating in itself . We ate organic garlic and pesto angel hair spaghetti (that hubby doesn't much like) for dinner with a nice salad.

By the third day, today, hubby had to drop us off to school and pick us up. He hung around for a while, playing with the girls. He is having the men's walima party tonight. What am I planning? A dinner of Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, vegetables, and stuffing...with gravy! If you're wondering if I forgot the meat, I didn't. I don't eat it, so I'm making a dinner that wouldn't work well with hubby but works well for us.

So here I am, the third day after hubby finally moved into his new home with his new wife. This is, supposedly, a very difficult time. Sisters think that these nights without him, knowing he is with another woman, must be very hard or, at least, something to "get through." Really though, they were just the same as any other night. I was happy to get to bed, happy to wake up, happy to fast on Monday, happy to go to school, happy to eat dinner, and happy to communicate with my friends and family. In fact, nothing happened to me to make me unhappy, with the exception of some of the frustrating and testing aspects of parenting, especially step-parenting. However, that has nothing to do with the time division, so it doesn't count.

I feel ecstatic about rediscovering our own stride with this time division. We can start walking again, we can have the spontaneity that isn't usual when hubby is home, and we can enjoy things that we particularly like. We also have the benefits of the activities and things that we do especially with him. Tomorrow, he will drop us off at Masjid An-Nabawi so we can make ziyaarah (visit the Prophet's grave and give salaams to him (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam), Abu Bakr and Omar (radhi Allahu anhumaa) and pray in the Rowda, inshaa'Allah. After dhuhr prayer, he's taking us to the park, and on Friday we all go to the jumu'ah prayer and have lunch together. We can enjoy freedom with him and freedom from him.

So, what is the point? My world isn't any worse. My world isn't the same. Everything in my world is fine, happy, and actually better, wa al hamdu l'Illah!

Friday, January 14, 2011

When Things go "Wrong" in Polygyny

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

I have mentioned before that we had a polygynous experience two years ago that did not work out. It was a real mess and shaytaan was pretty much dancing a jig every day. Qadr Allah, maa shaa fa'al! It was a time when I was truly tested and I came to some serious truths that made everything that came afterwards seem insignificant.

When the problems escalated, friends would tell me that I needed to safeguard my rights and be ready with a contingency plan. In other words, if things continued to deteriorate, that I should walk away from the marriage. To this advice I responded, "Getting my rights isn't important, Jennah is. This might be my entrance ticket in more ways that one. If I bear the situation with patience, Allah will reward me for my conduct, elevate my rank in Jennah, expiate my sins, and set things right in the dunya as well. If I was being treated unjustly and wrongly accused of bad intentions, then my sins would be given to my abuser or accuser. If I was truly oppressed, then my dua' has a straight  express lane to Allah."

I must expound on the part about not placing great importance on my rights. Just last week, my husband was telling me about a talk he had with a student from the Islamic University of Madinah. The student had been asking a religious scholar where does he draw the line about getting his rights. In a nutshell, the scholar told him, if you don't take your rights from the people in this life, they will be presented before you on the Day of Resurrection. You will have the option of either stopping to demand your rights from them, or skipping that step and going directly into Jennah. It's up to you, whether you want to stop first or not. Subhaan Allah, can you imagine bothering for one minute about those things when the gates to Jennah are right in front of you? Who cares about those rights? Allah is The Fair, The Just, The Balancer, The One to take Retribution. Those people will still have to answer for what they did. But the one who bypasses them for the greater goal just gets higher and higher ranks for his sacrifice.

There are no coincidences. Hearing this was amazing for me, because that was exactly what I had come to 2 years ago! I didn't care about demanding my rights, I just wanted that entrance...smooth and easy, bi ithn Illah, into any cost.

As for the possibility of being oppressed, the dua' I made to Allah, in the early hours of the morning in tears and desperation, was this:

"Oh Allah! If I am oppressed, please draw my husband to You. Please make him love what You love and hate what You hate. Please make clear to him the best course of action for both marriages.

Oh, Allah! Please draw my co-wife to You. Please make her love what You love and hate what You hate. Please make clear to her the best course of action for her marriage.

Oh Allah! Please protect our children from the hurt and harm that the fitnah of this situation may cause them. Please make me an anchor for them, and guide me to act for their safety and well-being.

Ya Rabbi,  please set right all my affairs and give me clarity on the best way to conduct myself! "

The dua' I said the most was the one for my husband. I realized that the better my husband is and the closer he is to Allah, the better he will be to us all. Islam turns a tyrant into a khalifah, therefore if my husband was being tested or misguided then it could surely bring him to right guidance. I knew that the only hope for my children to have a father who is a good role model, was to beg Allah to bring him out of the fitan (plural of fitnah) of the situation and increase him in emaan, taqwa, and understanding.

I share this with you all so those of you who struggle may have some inspiration. More than that, I share it so you can better understand why I welcome polygyny - the good and the bad of it - because it has brought me so far and been of such a huge benefit - even failed polygyny!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We really should...

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

I read a post, "Eating His Cake and Having Hers?" on another blog recently, which has triggered this post. It was an article about polygyny written by a man, explaining the various reasons men seek polygyny. It was an attempt to open up channels of communication on this ever touchy subject, and I pray Allah rewards him for that - ameen. However, some sisters commented with nothing but derogatory statements, which put a damper on anyone who might have wanted to expand on the positive side. In effect, they said that men should lower their gaze, men are self-serving, and men should have more control over their desires rather than jump on the polygyny bandwagon.

Okay, I agree! Men should lower their gaze, the should be considerate and sacrifice for others, and they should have more control over their desires. They should also pray just like Rasool Allah, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and behave just like him, and do everything for the most righteous reasons with great taqwa and emaan. I say "should" because everyone has to have an ideal of how they "should" be. The ideal for us all is the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Of course, men are often complaining that women are deficient in emaan and 'ilm. Women don't control their tongues well, don't understand men's needs, and are too demanding. They want women with excellent adaab, emaan, taqwa, and Islamic knowledge. The women should also spend more romantic time with them, look fantastic, and be lively and entertaining after a day of tending to children, cleaning the house, and cooking. Men want to hear pleasant conversation, not the trials of the day and discipline issues of the children.  The women should be like the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, with the added exemplary qualities of Khadijah or Aisha (radhi Allahu anhunaa).

So, in effect, man's biggest crime in the eyes of woman is that they aren't the ideal man. And guess what? Woman's biggest crime in the eyes of man is that they aren't the ideal woman.

Well, take it to Allah and stop expecting the world from mere humans. Allah created "insaan" - mankind - with imperfections; that is part of the big design. This life is a test, and we are here to struggle against shaytaan and our own nafs as part of the Divine Decree.

Man errs, man repents, man learns.
Man errs, man repents, man gains emaan.
Man errs, man repents, man grows.
Man errs, man repents, man gains taqwa.

Here is a concept that we, as Muslims, really need to implement:

Successful people don't spend their time placing blame, they look for solutions to the problem...

...and all solutions come from Allah, not people.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Supermom Position

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

I accepted the Supermom career option around 8 years ago, wa al hamdul'Illah. I bake everything, from bread and muffins to bagels and biscotti. Our meals are a collection of international cuisines, it's as organic as I can get, and it's all from scratch. I sew up cotton/linen abaa'ahs and khimars for myself and skirts, prayer dresses, abayas, and little nightdresses for my children and their dollies. I run a high-end hair salon for my daughters, lol, who sport some of my original hair styles and creative ideas. I took elementary and early childhood education courses in college when my firstborn was one year old, just so I could raise and educate my children well. I love going camping, long hikes, tennis, boating, and the swings. I maintain my figure, get up at 4:30 a.m. for my tahajjud, bake fresh zaatar bread and muffins for breakfast, and keep on trucking until 10:00 p.m. or later. I make the family laugh, am full of ideas, enjoy being active, and pay attention to the details. I even attend Arabic, Quran, and Hadith classes in the mornings and actively strive to increase my knowledge. I am Supermom to many of my classmates as well, taking in homebaked goodies and dishing out advice about natural living. To all of that, I say, "mashaa'Allah," for Allah is the sole source of any and all good in me.

So, how do I do it? Well, I don't work. I left behind the workplace to be a wife and raise a good quality family. And, after saying all that, my bed isn't made and my bedroom is messy. I vacuum once a week and don't beat myself up if I was busy or tired and didn't iron the clothes until 15 minutes before we have to leave the house. In fact, there is a huge hole in my sheepskin slipper and I have no shame wearing them in front of guests. I even have a dust bunny collection on top of the fridge (hubby saw it because there is no way I can see that high up) that I'm going to tackle, but I'm not stressing about it...or even going to do it in the coming days.  Not only that, I have a list of things to do that could turn into parchment before it is completed.

Hmmm. Not quite so Supermom, huh? I could end up fired from this position if domestic perfection is the criteria for Supermom.

Well, I have come to the conclusion that what makes a mom super is doing all the things that are important and will make a positive difference to the lives she influences. Our children won't turn out to be well-balanced and rounded, educated and valuable members of society just because we made the beds every morning or vacuumed the house every day. It is the time we invest in them and in modeling the right behavior for them that gives them something to learn from. It is making those connections anywhere and everywhere so they realise all is from Allah, they must always answer to Him, and all fits into the Perfect Plan. Those are the "super" things that their moms do that lay the foundation for their children's greatness and success.

So, for all of you who think you don't qualify for the position, think again. Every mother who strives for the best regarding the well-being and ultimate success of her children is a Supermom in my book!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Letter to my Co-Wife, my Rose

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

This is the letter I wrote to my second co-wife. Qadr Allah, I never got to meet her as the situation didn't work out. I pray Allah gives her something far better - ameen!

However, this letter was something I sent to set the stage and let her know where I was coming from. I will say that this was for an American co-wife, someone who had researched me and asked common friends about me prior to marrying our husband. She was also similar in age, hence she held a special  attraction for me - a sister who would be a peer, a companion, and a support for many things. Obviously I have removed her name from it and replaced it with co-wife, where relevant. The letter was titled,

"Co-wife", my Rose...

As salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh my dear sister.
Welcome to our family! As two wives within one family, only Allah knows the depth of relationship we will have with each other. We may be the best of friends or we may simply love each other as sisters in Islam. Personally, I pray that we will be the best of friends! I am really looking forward to getting to know you, inshaa'Allah. However, before any of that, we are believers in Allah, His Messenger, and the Last Day. We are striving together for our family's ultimate success. Our race to Allah's Pleasure, is reason enough to love each other dearly.

The biggest obstacle we will face, not only us but also our husband, is the fact that shaytaan's favorite playground is polygyny. He loves to cause marital discord and separation...and he will work triply hard (at minimum) to whisper to us, to plant and nurture fitan. I am sure that we will be an even bigger target because we are all committed to pleasing Allah and welcome polygyny as a mercy and a blessing. When Allah's servants want polygyny with sincere hearts, shaytaan makes it one of his pet projects to ruin it. Let us be aware, forewarned, on guard, and have a strategy to deal with that rotten devil, inshaa'Allah. Here are some very basic suggestions I have. I welcome any input from you on this, inshaa'Allah, as another perspective usually brings improvements.
If, at any time we are communicating, whether online, over the phone, or face to face, and shaytaan whispers some negative thing that enters our thoughts we can say, firmly and as violently as we like, "Audhu b'Illahi minash-shaytaan ir-rajeem!" It won't need any other explanation, because we will understand that we are simply protecting ourselves and our relationship. It can be done in the middle of a sentence, we deal with it immediately, rather than letting any seeds be planted or give that stinker the pleasure of getting to us for more than an instant. Of course, it can be any mention of Allah that will send him running, but the idea is the same.

If shaytaan sows a seed of fitnah while one is alone, polluting one's thoughts, seek refuge with vehemence. Do not let him have his way! If one is wondering about something and shaytaan starts using it to cause bad feeling and fitnah, don't keep it inside. Raise the matter as soon as possible, talk about it and get clarity so he can go "fly a kite." If he presents some doubtful issue or something that bothers us and needs resolution, we can work together to clear it up and kick him out. Let us be to each other those blessed and beneficial bricks in the wall of believers.

As your sister, I am not any form of competition. I am just another member of the team and I'm playing on the same side as you. There is no ranking system, no “first” and “second”, there is just the term “wives.” Something to always remember is that your husband loves you, that you are special and precious to him. You offer him something that no other woman can - your own, beautiful, unique self. I feel sure that I will love you for those same reasons!
There will never be any competition between a rose and a freesia, they both are beautiful and they both have a beautiful, unique scent. A rose cannot be a freesia, nor can a freesia be a they may as well be what Allah made them and appreciate and enjoy all the good each other has.

I am eagerly waiting for you to join us here in Madinah.
P.S. Guess what my favorite flower is? Not common...but ahhhh, such a beautiful fragrance!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Polygyny: The Grass is Green on both Sides of the Fence

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

One thing that seems to be a commonly quoted issue with polygyny is that one wife has it better than the other. It is often the view that the second wife comes along and gets the easy life, compared to the first wife. Often the first wife has been the one to help establish a home, been patient with financial matters, and helped to mold her husband into the man he is by the time the second wife comes along. The first wife can be left feeling that the second wife gets more money (because she married the husband when he was better off), an easier life, and is benefiting from all the improvements in the husband that came about as a result of those hard early years. However, there is so much more to it than that and as a first wife I can honestly say that the grass isn't greener on the other side, it's green on both sides.

I know I've written before about some of the benefits of polygyny, but here I want to do a real-life analysis of my thinking regarding the situation of a 40-something first wife (me), a 20-something co-wife, and what we represent to our 40 year old husband.

  • I married a man of similar age (well actually he is 5 years younger) because I wanted someone as active and energetic as I was. Co-wife has married a man 12 years her senior, so she has someone with maturity, education, and the potential for financial security. 
  • Hubby and I have been raising our family for the past 8.5 years, and our children have, for the most part, enjoyed the benefits and stability of having a full-time father. I have had 8 miscarriages (al hamdul'Illah) in the past 2.5 years, so I am not expecting any more children,  Qadr Allah, mashaa fa'al. more morning sickness, hormonal pregnancy mood swings, discomforts, afterbirth and newborn baby exhaustion....I guess I can cope with that, LOL. I am heading towards menopause within the coming ten years, when I will no longer have any "time off" for prayer or marital relations. Co-wife has a good 18 or more years of fertility, so she can offer hubby a fresh, young body and mind with many children - perhaps 12 or more, to be realistic. Children are such a joy that hubby will be strongly tied to his new family and perhaps more enamored with them, as the novelty of someone new and having sweet babies to hold again will be quite irresistible.
  • On the other hand, our youngest child is 4.5 years old, so we are starting to reap the benefits of our children being more independent. I have more time for personal interests, learning and development, and quality interaction with the children now that I am no longer preoccupied with breastfeeding, changing diapers, and potty training.  As the children grow older, we have increased freedom to enjoy vacations, outings, and activities...even some outings without them. For his new young family with Co-wife, he will  be kept on his toes and need plenty of energy. However, there will be far less freedom and one-on-one time, once the babies start coming.
  • In our home, there is less housework, as the children are assigned chores and many of the time-consuming daily tasks are delegated. It will be several years before any chores can be delegated in Co-wife's home, unless she delegates to hubby = ).
  • I know my husbands faults and weaknesses, have come to terms with them, and have found a way to handle them wa al hamdul'Illah. It's nice to have gotten through that tough stuff. Co-wife still has all that ahead of her. Co-wife has all the newness of marriage and getting to know her new husband, with language limitations early on (She only speaks Arabic, hubby's native tongue is English and his Arabic is limited.) 
  • She has to make a life for herself, structured around her time allocation. Our life is relatively unchanged, except we perhaps see him slightly less. Our household doesn't revolve around him being here, and there are too many of us to be lonely, lol. 
  • I may, bi ithn Illah,  grow old with my husband comfortably, sharing similar experiences and enjoying a similar level of maturity due to life experiences and age compatibility. Our home is a place for hubby to relax in relative peace. I enjoy the depth of a relationship that has been established for years and the closeness that going through so much in life and raising children brings. I am still a place for hubby to find his comfort, talk about things freely, eat familiar and favorite foods, and enjoy my humor and the familiarity we have. I am the one who shares the same dream with hubby of having land and living the Sunnah. We have spent years discussing, researching, and planning for it. Co-wife will offer hubby a home without children, just pure adult freedom, initially. Hubby will be able to start things as he wishes to continue. He may "train" Co-wife to do the things he particularly likes...especially those things I don't or won't do. Later on, it will be a home with babies, young children and different atmosphere to enjoy and appreciate.
  • As for practical matters, I will get more of my needs taken care of,  as I was the always the wife who didn't ask for things, didn't go shopping, didn't spend unless seriously warranted, and only bought from thrift shops.  Although I am fine as I am, the financial division and fairness will mean that more will be allocated for me inshaa'Allah. Hubby has to set up home with Co-wife. In addition, things like long overdue doctor's appointments will finally be made, inshaa'Allah. Co-wife will have appointments for pregnancies. Hubby will have to ensure fairness and good treatment of both wives. 
  •  Hubby's two children from a previous marriage,will now have two step-mothers and the responsibility of raising them can be shared.
  • Before retirement age hits, all our children should have finished school and whatever arrangements for higher education taken into account and planned for, inshaa'Allah. I will have more time for my studies, taking care of myself, and to sleep early and wake up fresh, inshaa'Allah. All of Co-wife's children will have a middle aged father, with a large age-gap. The youngest will just be entering higher education when hubby hits retirement age. The older ones may not be ready for higher education until hubby is between 60 and 75 years old. The risk of their father dying while they are still young is high, and Allah only Knows.
  • Co-wife is embarking on a family life, with pregnancies, child raising, schooling, with all the joys, blessings, hard work, and time that it entails. She will have Hubby's support through her different developmental stages and his maturity will be reassuring, inshaa'Allah. I am well down the road with the child raising, schooling, and blessings of marriage and family. I give Hubby support through his developmental stages ;P
As for Hubby, he will - bi ithn Illah - have two good wives, two good families, and many children to raise upon Islam. He will have to work doubly hard to keep it all together, but inshaa'Allah he will have the things he wants most in this dunya and be kept out of trouble so he can have good in his aakhirah - ameen.

So as you can see, the grass is beautifully green wa al hamdul'Illahi Rabbil al ameen!