Over the years, polygyny has played a role in my life in many ways. When I was a single Muslimah, I had several proposals for polygyny and have witnessed polygyny attempts... and failures. One might think that with my attitude towards it, I might have been a willing candidate for polygyny.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I always looked at it with the questions:
- What is the benefit for him?
- What is the benefit for me?
- What is the benefit for his family?
- What are the losses for him?
- What are the losses for me?
- What are the losses for his family?
- Does his wife want it? Does she accept and agree to it?
- How does he plan to practice it?
- Can he afford it?
- Do we have similar goals?
- Is he forward thinking regarding safeguarding our future and our goals collectively as a family?
- Does he have genuine reasons for wanting to marry me?
- What is his religious understanding and practice?
Believe me, there are plenty of other questions I could ask but I never even got past the first six or seven. Usually, I didn't even get past the first two! Needless to say, I didn't accept those polygynous proposals. In fact, in each case the first thing I asked the brother was, "What about your wife?" I will not be the one to hurt his wife, take time and resources away from his children, and ruin the simplicity of being one happy family unit. I'm not the party crasher. I'm not the one to squeeze a sixth person in a five-passenger car and cause discomfort for everyone on the journey.
I'm sure this sounds funny when I am in polygyny and have welcomed, or at worst case, accepted it into my life as a blessing and a test from Allah. However, there is a big difference between being a first wife where polygyny is imposed on you, and to be unmarried and make a conscious decision to enter into polygyny. The former entails having Allah send life changes and tests to you and facing them. The latter entails looking at a prospective situation, its pros and cons, and choosing it.
So, I wondered to myself, under what circumstances would I enter into polygyny? Before everything else, I would need to be in a situation where I needed to married...and where polygyny could work well or better than monogamy. Perhaps if I were widowed, needing support and stability for my children or to keep us in a certain place (like here in Madinah) it would become an option. Obviously there would need to be a great benefit to our Islam, with sound understanding and in depth knowledge. At my stage of life and deen, the only way to respect and obey a man is for him to have serious focus, obedience to, and worship of Allah.
So, if all this is in place, what's left? His wife. She must know me, understand me, love me, and actually want me in her life and family. She must be so satisfied with me that she would trust me to raise her children if something should happen to her. How's that for a tall order, LOL?
Now before anyone jumps up and argues, I know that the existing wife doesn't have to agree to polygyny. I know that she doesn't have to like me or be friends. I know that she doesn't even have to get to know me. This isn't about any Islamic requirements; this is about me and my heart and what I can live with. I cannot live with the guilt and fitna of marrying someone at the expense of others. I don't want to be another woman's heart wrenching test or unpleasant, lifetime burden. That makes for a wounded family. I will not expose my children to that and I will not accept that distraction from my deen and worship bi ithn Illah, taala.
I know what the implications of polygyny are. Basically, the first wife has to include and be affected for the rest of her life, by another woman who she never chose to share with, or even be friends with in many cases. The existence of that person in her family means that nothing is the same. Her marriage and marital intimacy is altered forever. There is no freedom to go on vacations without paying the price of time and money for someone else. Everything is on a schedule, restricted by time division and having to always be considerate of someone else. Everything is more complicated, more tiring, and sadly, less pleasant. It is a enormous and painful test for most women.
Marriage is supposed to be forever and it is meant to be one big family, on the same page, striving for the same goals, functioning in their respective roles, happy together and loving each other... for the sake of Allah. Sound too good, too ideal? Well, it isn't really; it will always have it's tests and trials. However, I've seen too much and been through too much to willingly settle for anything less that that.
May Allah bless us all abundantly, shower His soothing mercy on us, and make our good intentions a reality - Aameen.