Thursday, March 24, 2011

Polygyny: Living Arrangements and Co-Wives' Relationship

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

As many of you have read, my co-wife lives just down the road from our apartment; perhaps no more than a 5 or 10 minute walk. This makes life much more pleasant for us all, because hubby can visit and go back and forth very easily without losing time on the transportation to and from our apartments.

On that subject, hubby asked me last week about our future plans for land and whether, given the choice, I would rather have the houses close together or spaced far apart or even on adjoining parcels of land. I immediately wanted to say spaced far apart, but held my tongue to think it through properly first. I have several reasons for not wanting us to be beside each other's homes. One is confidentiality. If hubby stops by to see me during the day, or vice versa, we don't need to know about it. I also don't want to have to find ways to regulate the frequency of visits if it is more than I'm comfortable with. I'm very happy in my solitude and in my own home, mashaa'Allah. Another aspect is that I don't want the uninvited intrusion of Zainab's young children in my peaceful life. We will each be in different stages of family life. In addition, I do not want to leave myself open to any situation where I will be considered a resident babysitter. I have no ill will in saying this, but I want to safeguard against things that I know will cause bad feelings and that shaytaan could play on.

In any case, I had to find a way of explaining to hubby in a way he could totally understand. I sat in the van telling him to hang on while I tried to find the right analogy and example. Then, mashaa'Allah, I found an analogy that explained the situation perfectly. I had to think of a friend of hubby's that is more an acquaintance that he likes but who is not a dear and close friend. Once I thought of someone, who I've termed as Brother X here, I could give the example. Here it is.

"If I told you that you had to live with Brother X and all his children for the rest of your life, and you had a choice between having him in the house right next to you or on a plot of land a bit further away, which would you choose?"

He immediately got it. If it was a dear and close friend, he'd want them to be right near him, but for someone who he must live with but isn't that type of friend, he would want space. Polygyny is a life choice that affects everyone because it is marriage, and marriage is intended to be for a lifetime.

It is very important to ensure that everyone has their own space. How much space they need will depend on the relationship between the co-wives. Close friends may want to be very near each other as their friendship is far more important to them than their relationship as co-wives. Sisters in Islam may want more space so that they don't feel that they are having someone imposed on them and their lives who isn't a natural choice as a friend. Others who don't have a good relationship with their co-wife, may benefit the most by being far enough away that they don't have to cross paths but near enough that they don't suffer time or visitation loss because of it.

For me, Arabic, Quran, homeschooling, mothering, wifing, and supporting others in tawheed, taqwa, and tawakkal are primary goals for my future. Inshaa'Allah, I will have the space to focus on what is important to me and my co-wife will have the space to raise her family and follow her own goals.


  1. I love your points Mai. I am going to be living with my co wife, at least for a while. I understand our situation and I agree. I did, however, point out to my husband that if it gets to be too much for both her and I, I think its best to separate us. He agreed. I am actually very close friends with this sister and look forward to her coming here. I think it will be a huge benefit to our young family, and Allah knows best. I do always have the option of living apart, which I will never give up if need be.

    1. Sis how did that go? Im in that situation n its living hell

    2. I'm answering for Daisy, as I don't know if she will get this message. It is almost three years since she posted it. Qadr Allah, she never had to live with her co-wife. In fact, it didn't work out in the end and she, last time I heard, was enjoying life with her husband and their baby boy maashaa Allah. I believe it is essential for wives to have their own living quarters in most situations, so I pray that Allah relieves you of this test and puts ease in your situation. No question sister, it is only Allah that can change a situation, so set your intentions and actions right and call upon Him.

      Barak Allahu feek!

  2. Salam walaykum Mai,
    I love how you handled this - spot on! Even with as close as I am with cowife I definitely enjoy my space. I'm not willing to settle for less than separate houses because of the same reasons you just stated. Sometimes cowives are absolutely stellar when they live together, may Allah make Daisy and her family an example of that Ameen. But I've found, in general, that it's hard for ANY two adult women to live together, regardless of the relationship. (Think "in laws") And especially when they're from different cultures. May Allah grant you the best situation for your family and your deen Ameen.

  3. Thats totally spot on, i think too close can cause problems-though it works for some.
    My apartment was also about 5 minutes away-not too close that if you peek out the window you could see the next one but close enough for our husband to go to the other quick if need be.
    However thats changing and now if anything my apartment will be in a totally different area that will be kept secret InshaAllah

  4. There is a Malay proverb that says..translated literally...How heavy ones look at it, the heavier it is on the one bearing it. Berat mata memandang,berat lagi bahu memikul....I did not have co wife, but husband was a divorcee, with 5 kids, it was an experience indeed....and I have 5 of my own....the children do get along though...Alhamdulillah.

  5. As salaamu alaykum Daisy, Umm Hamzah, and Sweetlikechocolate!

    I think we have all three examples with you, mashaa'Allah. Living closely as great friends (Daisy), living close but with a bit of space (Umm Hamzah), and living far enough away for safety from fitnah (Sweet). Mashaa'Allah, they are all good because they preserve what is good in the relationship and protect us from what is bad, inshaa'Allah. May Allah bless us all in our relationships with our co-wives and keep us focused on pleasing Him alone - ameen.

  6. As salaamu alaykum Black Jubah!

    Welcome and jazaaki Allahu khayran for commenting. That is a very true saying...because truly it is all about the attitude one has. You really have your hands full, mashaa'Allah! When Allah sends his Blessings upon His faithful servants, he makes the most improbable things easy. Subhaan Allah! I think that it helps greatly when everyone is on the same page, because then the children aren't torn between different worlds. May Allah bless your family immensely with success in this life and in the aakhirah - ameen!

  7. Hi Mai, You make some very interesting points. I am currently in a situation where I have been told by my muslim husband that he as another wife. It has been a week and I am trying to wrap my mind around this cultural life style. I have several thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages but I am looking for some advice. If you have some insight to share with me I would enjoy communicating with you. Through your communication you appear to be sensible, realistic and you come across as very personable.

  8. Hi Anissa.

    Hmmm. I guess that was a little bit of a surprise for you! I apologize for my delayed response, but I haven't had Internet for the past 10 days. If I can be of help, offer some advice, or get you through this in some positive way, then, "Here I am." You can post under the various posts on Polygyny if you want to discuss within a topic or viewpoint. If there is something more personal, you can get me on

    This is a challenge, but as with all challenges it needs to be tackled with thought, strategy, determination, and a good back-up plan.

    I look forward to hearing from you again.

  9. Salaams to all. I have a request for advice. I married 6 months ago and my husband was already married to masha'Allah a wonderful sister. She and I were very close for a very long time (10+ years) to the point where she actually asked me to care for one of her children while he finished a school year as they were relocating outside the country. We talked while I considered accepting the proposal of marriage ... she was honest and said she didn't think she could handle it but we communicated until the marriage actually took place. Our situation is complicated as we are all in different cities currently ... insha'Allah in a few months this won't be the case. So I can't just go over and bring her a gift and listen to her heartache ... which as my dear friend and sister in Islam is what I would want to do.
    How does one smooth things over with a co-wife? I miss my friend and sister in Islam and I want things to be peaceful for all involved.
    Jazaka Allah khairun for your advice!

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Anonymous.

      Before I respond, let me apologize for the extraordinary delay. I've been overwhelmed with school, homeschooling, my home and family and if I leave comments for a day or two, they can get forgotten. Forgive me, please.

      It is truly an awkward situation, as your co-wife and sister in Islam is hurt and struggling with a situation she clearly stated she couldn't easily handle. As you have such a strong history together, and you say she is a wonderful sister mashaa'Allah, then I suggest you give it time and give her space. You may be missing her, wanting to reach out and make things better but if you push her when she is not ready, you may simply push her away.

      It is not as simple as saying that if her emaan is strong enough she will get over it. It is a matter of her coming to terms with the whole situation, as it is from many aspects one of loss and perhaps even betrayal from her side. I suggest you send her a message (which you have probably done by now) reaching out and simply telling her how you would like to help her. If she responds, go from there; if not, just let it go until another time or way presents itself.

      Sister, dua' is our most powerful ally. Use it well, wisely, and plentifully and wait for Allah's most Perfect Plan to unfold.

      Wa iyaaki, wa as salaamu alaykum.