Friday, March 4, 2011

Polgyny: How Honest Should You Be?

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah waBarakatuh.

A sister sent this question to our Madinah Naseeha e-mail address and both my husband and I have decided to answer the question jointly and post it on both of our blogs. The question is, if a husband makes clear that he is seeking another wife and plans to practise polygyny, how honest should the wife be if she isn't happy about that? Should she stop being honest to keep the peace?

Honesty is extremely important, and the difference between people understanding you and your actions correctly or not, lies in how honest you have been with them about who you are and how you feel. That said, it is important not to harp on an issue

There is a big difference between accepting the prospect/reality of polygyny in your life and liking it. There is also a big difference between disliking it, feeling hurt by it, and fearing it and going against Allah's commands and your duties as a wife to become a source of rejection and fitna in it. This is another test, sent by Allah, to be dealt with in the best of manners.

Here is a possible response to a husband's question: "I don't like the prospect of polygyny in my life. If you'd like to know the reasons, I will explain more. However, I am a servant of Allah and plan to act with emaan and taqwa throughout this test and seek Allah's help and guidance." This opens the door for him to choose whether he wants to discuss it further and really hear your concerns or not and makes clear that your intentions are good, but you aren't at peace with the prospect of him taking another wife.

Another possible answer is: "I can't talk about it." This gives a clear message to the husband that you are not in a stage of her life where polygyny is easy for you to accept. Your feminine nature is in opposition to your spiritual nature. This is something that is not wrong, but part of the female psyche. We cannot fault a woman for not doing backflips at the prospect of having to share her husband, time, etc. If he is a thinking man, he will realize that taking another wife it is not the wisest thing to do at that time. Although it may be permissible, it is not wise at all.

If approaching him and asking him questions won't cause discord, ask him why he wants to practice polygyny. However please note, you must be prepared for the answers. It is important for both husbands and wives not to ask questions that they may not like the answer to, or cannot handle the truth about.

If he says that he wants to practice polygyny because it is Sunnah, kindly ask why he has chosen this Sunnah over the other Sunnahs. You may remind him that the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, practiced monogamy for most of his married life, and didn't practice it until after Khadijah (radhi Allahu anhaa) died. That is also a strong Sunnah. All of his marriages set a precedent for the Ummah, were divinely inspired, or were benefiting and strengthening the Ummah through key affiliations. You may ask how your husband's prospective marriage will benefit the "little ummah," your marriage.

Lastly, the most important thing is to make sure that the dialogue is peaceful and that family life stays harmonious. If any of the above advice would cause any type of problem, throw it away - don't take it. However, if you believe it will benefit, please by all means, use it.


  1. Slmz- left a comment on 26 Feb post-- could you please move it here to this post?

  2. MashaAllah-very good to hear you all so positive in regards to your co.wives! Here in my country-polygamy is very rare-and those that are in it have endless problems! And most of the time the man does 2nd nikah secretly without even his own family knowng- and I have never seen co.wives here having a friendly/sisterly relationship!and the men who do it here,do it after they have used the 1st wife till she is old and has lots of children to care for and her appearance is not like when she was younger--and then he secretly starts dating a young girl half his age; lies to his wife about his whereabouts-and in the end to make the relationship halaal-he arranges to hav a secret nikah at some secret location without any of his family present!! So what I have read above is unbelievable!!and I want to say MashaAllah to all of you!!!

  3. I found this to be beneficial. While reading this I thought of a question. What if the wife is at the point she can't really talk about this or doesn't want to, but the husband doesn't care about her feelings, and says he'll do what he wants? Should the wife continue to be honest if the husband says he'll leave her if she doesn't go along with his plans? How would you deal with a controlling husband? With regards to my questions it's like oppression (to me). Do you have any advice about that?

  4. Umm Assad, as salaamu alaykum.

    By saying she cannot talk about it because it is too much for her, her husband can understand that it is a problem. However, he may be proceeding because it is necessary for him. It is difficult to consider this oppression without knowing the reality of each person and their relationship.

    If I were in that situation, I would bide my time and stay quiet. I would make dua' for guidance, for strength and wisdom to pass the tests Allah is sending. I would make serious dua' for my husband to be drawn closer to Allah, to love what He loves and hate what He hates. If I am oppressed, my dua' will be heard, and if I am not oppressed my dua' will be heard - because it is sincere and for the good.

    Threats are often a sign that shaytaan has a firm grip on the person, so I'd seek refuge with Allah from shaytaan. I would also keep to myself as much as possible until I see how things unfold.

    Not speaking, by the way, isn't being dishonest. It's simply being careful. Most of the time our best course is to shut up, observe, think, and pray. Then we don't say things we later regret and we have more time to formulate clear ideas without disturbing the harmony. Usually, by making ourselves silent observers we glean a great deal of information that can give us concise, effective arguments and, at times, totally change our point of view.

    Verily Allah is with the patient...that's a promise!

  5. Jazakallahu Kharian for your time and words of wisdom I really do appreciate it. Alhumdulilah I am benefiting. Patience can be difficult, but it is so rewarding.

  6. @ Umm Assad: Forgive me for answering a question directed towards Mai. Please suggest this book to your friend and her husband:

    Marital Discord (Al-Nushooz): Its Definition, Cases, Causes, Means of Protection from It, and Its Remedy from the Quran and Sunnah

    This book is very beneficial. As for the statement "he'll leave her if she doesn't go along with his plans." This clearly shows he is out of control, and needs help. It sounds like a threat to justify his desires. He wants peace of mind so he can say, "You agreed with me taking another wife."

    I've learned over the years that I don't need to control any woman. When I give respect and show love, there is nothing (halal, of course)she won't do for me.

    We men are lacking on the love and respect end of the spectrum. Many times, Islam is used as a means to get a forced compliance.

    When Islam was first revealed, Tauhid and the rewards of jennah were first taught. Similarly, if we take this approach with our families, the same love, acceptance, and compliance the sahabah showed towards Allah and His Prophet will be showed to the husband.

    Brothers, please wake up...we are missing out. The Prophet (s.a.w) said: "The whole world is a provision, and the best object of benefit of the world is the pious woman."

    Imagine! Nothing in this world is as valuable as a pious woman! Force doesn't bring about piety...true Islam does!

  7. Umm Assad,

    This quote comes often to my mind regarding the wisdom we need to have in dealing with our husbands and their faults. It is from the Ideal Muslimah.

    "One example of this is what was said
    by the faqih al-Hanbali ibn al-Jawzi in his book Ahkam al-Nisa' (p. 331): In the second century AH there was a righteous man called Shu`ayb ibn Harb, who used to fast and spend his nights in prayer. He wanted to marry a woman, and told her humbly, "I am a bad-tempered man." She replied, tactfully and cleverly, "The one who makes you lose your temper is worse than you." He realized that there stood before him a woman who was intelligent, wise and mature. He immediately said to her, "You will be my wife."

    This woman had a clear understanding of how to be a good wife, which confirmed to the man who
    had come to seek her hand that she was a woman who would understand the psychology and
    nature of her husband and would know what would please him and what would make him angry; she would be able to win his heart and earn his admiration and respect, and would close the door
    to every possible source of conflict that could disrupt their married life.

    Many of us have been married long enough to know well how to deal with our husbands. We need to use that wisdom much more during times of duress, and it pays off richly.

  8. Salams Mai, and 1family2wives thank for all the advice, and your concern. I'm reading the Ideal Muslimah book today, Inshallah. The other one I'll have to check it out as well. I definitely agree when certain men are feeling out of control he will sometimes use Islam to force, or control his wife into "obeying". I know that is not Islam, and just a man dealing with his own issues, shortcomings, and insecurities. Gaining a woman's love and respect, I'm sure goes a much longer way, than trying to control her. Control only leads to feelings of resentment and anger.

  9. As-salaam alaikum sister, i was just wondering, as Zainab is sharing the responsibilty of taking care of her husband's childen, will she also share in their education - homeschool them? Also, whenever she has her own children, will they too be homeschooled?

    As homeschooling is an option we have chosen for our children (this was very much his descision), my husband insha'Allah plans to tell any potential wife that she would be expected to home school the children they may have insha'Allah. We feel that this is something that ought to be clearly stated before a contract is made, infact the type of lifestyle that he expects to live with a potential wife should be clearly discussed prior to the contract.
    Even though it will not be his first marriage i think it should be treated as a "marriage", evaluate the potential spouse, discuss expectations and potential arrangements before a marriage is agreed upon. I know that things may not go exactly as planned after nikah, but plans should be made. It is not enough that a woman is in need of support and is willing to be a consecitive wife.

    (i'm sorry if you've addressed this all before, but Subhan'Allah i find your words reassuring and so i need reminders)

  10. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Umm Shuhadaa.

    In our case, Zainab is not sharing the home schooling for my husband's children. She is not able to because she doesn't speak English. They have online school and lessons, which can be done there or here on a computer. However,until Zainab understands how it all works and can, at minimum, keep track of what they are doing etc. then it's not happening.

    We are strong proponents of homeschooling, so our husband says that her children will also be homeschooled, probably in Arabic language as she will be doing it, inshaa'Allah. I know the children will be bi-lingual, with Zainab speaking to them in Arabic and our husband speaking to them in English. It is possible that their education will be rather more customized, as they may have lessons in Arabic and, of course, also English.

    In your situation, yes it is important that you let any prospective wife know what will be expected of her in regards to homeschooling, lifestyle, and future plans. It was not an option for my husband due to language barriers and the fact that he could only see her once and then there was no more chance to explain or go into such details.

    One of the biggest mistakes men make is to not maintain the same, or higher, criteria for a second wife that they had for the first wife.
    Most certainly, your husband should go through the process just as if it were his first marriage...but with the added wisdom that comes with experience.

    It is surely not wise to simply take a woman who is in need of support and willing, because that doesn't speak of her level of emaan, taqwa, Islamic education and implementation, compatibility, or willingness to comply and fit in with the lifestyle the man wants.

    In honesty, Umm Shuhadaa, I believe it is much harder to find a second wife that a first. In the first marriage, the only person involved if things aren't smooth sailing is the husband. When you take a second wife, the whole family is involved.

    In addition, the post I did about realistic expectations is extremely important. If a man is honest with a prospective wife about the realities and what she can expect, and after all that the prospect can give valid and informed reasons for being a consecutive wife, then there is a good chance of success, inshaa'Allah. Yes, you read correctly. I believe that AFTER being informed of the realities, a woman should be able to justify her reasons for entering into polygyny. :D