As an American woman embracing Islam, there are often hurdles and challenges to be met. One of the most difficult aspects of Islam for me to accept was the permissibility of polygyny. The very thought of it seemed so bizarre and I chose to ignore it rather than accept it or to ever take part in it.
I embraced Islam about seven years ago. This was also the beginning of a long struggle in search of the perfect husband and father-figure for my children and me. I was provided a guardian (Wali) by my community in order to handle this matter in the correct manner as to avoid mixing unnecessarily with other men, as well as to protect my best interests.
It was a difficult process as most of the brothers that showed interest in marrying me were looking for a second wife. It seemed that there were no single brothers looking for a wife who already had children.
Almost a year of searching (I was feeling very desperate!), my guardian (Wali) was approached by another brother. Ofcourse he too was searching for a second wife after moving to this country because of political and economical reasons. My guardian (Wali) informed me that he seemed very sincere. He needed another wife as he planned on being in the U.S. for several years and wanted to avoid living in haraam (i.e. impermissable relationships, actions, thoughts). The brother came here wiith the hope of providing better circumstances for his family overseas. To my dismay he had several children, didn't speak English, and did not have any formal education as he started working from the time he was thirteen years old! He was even older than I preferred. However, I was informed that he is a good provider and a hard, skilled worker.
I still refused to meet him because I did not want to be apart of a plural marriage. How could I share a man with another woman? How could I compete with the bond that they must share having had several children together? Where would I fit in and how could I compete with all that it entails? Besides, he wasn't even educated! I couldn't imagine how he could possibly support the large family he already had as well as another family! Not to mention he was not a legal resident and I feared he was looking for a green card. It did not matter that I was desperate, I still would not agree to such circumstances. I would just continue to wait for the right person to come along.
Praise be to Allah! A couple of weeks later, another brother was interested in meeting with me! He was only a couple of years older than I, never married, and had no children. Not only that, he was educated (working on his Ph.D.), fluent in English and a legal resident! I was so excited to meet him I could hardly wait! He sounded like the ideal husband!
Right away, we met with each other and talked (with my Wali present of course). We both felt that we were perfect for each other. We were eventually married and we both felt very blessed. All of my prayers were being answered and my search had finally come to an end. I was so relieved and excited to begin a new life with my new husband. We packed all my belongings and moved to the state he resided in. I felt that my life could not be more perfect than it was now!
Well, sisters, I couldn't be more wrong. After the move, my life started to fall apart really fast. Almost immediately, I could see signs of conflict between us. I couldn't believe it! My world came crashing down on me! I could actually see it happening right in front of my face, but I could not stop it from happening. Two people never clashed as much as we did! How could this be happening to me? We disagreed about everything! We simply were not compatible. However, I was determined not to lose this marriage! I never wanted anything more badly than I wanted this marriage! I couldn't understand why this was happening when our marriage was based on Islam. We continued talking but neither one of us could understand what the other was saying. Eventually we were like enemies and it was getting really ugly. I began despising the way he talked, walked, laughed, etc (I am sure he felt the same way.) At this point we both felt that divorce was the only answer. I felt like a total failure and I was so ashamed! I could never return home and be the talk of the community! My Eemaan (faith) had dropped very low. I only wanted to disappear.
I contacted my Wali's wife and she gave me the number of a very nice sister in another state. I called her (Maa shaa' Allah) and she agreed to help me relocate to where she lived (this state was even further away!). Consider me crazy but I decided to go for it! I felt that I had nothing else to lose. I loaded all of my belongings in the back of a U-Haul trailer and we left for our new home. I was really scared. The drive was about 17 hours long and I had never driven for more than three hours by myself. I would just have to think of it as an adventure and say Bismillah!
The next day, I arrived at my final destination. I found the home of this very sweet Muslim sister (Maa shaa' Allah). Previously, I had spoken to her briefly on the phone and never actually met her in person. I was pleasantly surprised to see a sister in Niqaab come out and greet me so warmly. I was so exhausted from driving (especially on the freeways in this large city). My Niqaabi sister was so enthusiastic; I soon forgot my troubles. She drove me all over the city in search of an apartment. Alhamdulillah by the end of the day Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa) provided me with an apartment in a really nice community with several other Muslim families. The apartment manager skipped the credit check, as that would have taken more time! Everything happened so smoothly with such ease, that I knew that this was what Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa) wanted for me. I felt I had made the right choice by moving there.
The very next day, Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa) provided me with a job! I started right away. My employer was Muslim and didn't mind that I wore hijab. For once I felt happy and at peace with myself. I started to feel that maybe it wasn't meant for me to be married and that I was probably better off single. I started making many friends right away. I met so many nice isters and my Eemaan was becoming stronger once again.
After my 'Iddah (waiting period), a Muslim Sister approached me in my apartment complex. She wanted to know if I was interested in getting married again and insisted that she had the perfect brother for me. A little reluctant, I listened to what she had to say. She explained to me that he lived in my home state and that he was a hard worker and a good Muslim. He was very close friends with her husband so he wasn't a complete stranger. Then she came to the, "...he's looking for a second wife part." (Not that again!!!) I immediately told her I was not interested in a polygynous relationship. She understood how I felt and did not pressure me any further.
That very evening, I went to bed thinking how awful it would feel to be a woman and share your husband with another woman. I could never be a part of that! I felt that I was too jealous and selfish of a person. I felt so angry that men could do that to their wives. I couldn't even imagine how these women must feel.
The next morning I awoke thinking about the brother who wanted a second wife. Somehow, SubhaanaAllah, my heart felt lighter thinking about it. I actually began contemplating marriage as a second wife! (Imagine that!) I started thinking of all the positives that could result from this marriage. After all, he did have previous experience with women and children (a major problem in my previous marriage). Because of his experience and age (maturity) I felt that he might be better prepared to deal with my children and me.
That same morning I contacted the sister and asked her for more information about this brother and told her that I might be interested (And sisters, the entire time I was thinking that I must be out of my mind!) The sister explained to me that this very sincere brother was looking for a good, practicing Muslim wife. He wanted her to be a part of his family and eventually return home with him to his native country. She went on to tell me that he does not speak any English and is not formally educated. He had been a hard worker from the time he was 13 years old. (Wait a minute! This sounds too familiar!!! Could this possibly be the same brother I refused to meet over one and a half years ago?! That would be impossible considering, that this Sister is not familiar with any of my friends back home - over 4 states away!) After inquiring, she informed me of his name and where he worked. After our conversation ended, I immediately called a friend of mine whose husband knew the brother I previously refused to meet.
SubhaanaAllah! It was the very same brother! I was totally shocked! (Could this be a sign from Allah ('azza wa jall)?) I knew now that I had to meet him. I shared the news with my friend and she immediately arranged for her husband to talk to the brother and arrange a meeting. The brother drove to meet me (a 17 hour drive) a couple of days later. Upon meeting him, I knew right away that this brother was for me! We were both very pleased with each other. Two days later we were married at the masjid.
Alhamdulillah we have now been married going on 4 years now and I can honestly say that I have no regrets. Allah ('azza wa jall) has filled our hearts with love for each other that continuously grows. I previously believed that I would have to make too many sacrifices being part of a plural marriage. I now know that I have gained more than I have lost alhamdulillah! My life is now richer than it has ever been. I now have a wonderful, large family who love and care for my children and me. My children adore their stepfather and he adores them. My husband's other wife (maa shaa' Allah) is my sister and friend and I love her dearly. Her children are like my own; I love them and they love me as well. We all have the same goals and want what is best for all of us.
And yes, alhamdulillah my husband loves his other wife tremendously, and for that I love and respect him even more. I wouldn't want it any other way! He informs us that he loves both of us in the same way that a mother has room in her heart to love all of her children, yet differently (because we are both different), although at the same time equally (as can be expected). He only speaks kind words about each of us and at the same time is careful to try not to create jealousy or animosity between us. Of course I was jealous at first, (and so was she) as this is normal, however those feelings eventually turned into love and compassion for my sister.
Allah (ta'aalaa) has been so good to me alhamdulillah! My husband (maa shaa' Allah) supports all of us financially with Allah's help! Even without a college degree or a high paying corporal job. I have to admit that there were some difficulties at times when it comes to language barriers, but nothing we can't overcome with patience. My husband now speaks English well, and my knowledge of Arabic has greatly increased.
So Sisters, I just wanted to share my experience with you. Never say "never" because if it's Allah's will, you can't avoid it. You can run (like I did) but you can't hide from what Allah ('azza wa jall) has planned for you. The most important thing to do is to put your faith in Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa) and surrender to Him. He has the ability to change and soften our hearts in any matter. Allah ('azza wa jall) knows best and may He continue to guide us all on the right path. Aameen.