Polygamy and Muslim Women

Polygamy is one of the most debated topics between muslim men and women. In Islam, only men can be polygamous and marry up to four women at one time. Polygamy is mentioned in the holy Qura'n in surat Al Nisaa that states Quran (4:3) - "Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess."  As a result of religious scripture that allows polygamy and the culture that tolerates it muslim men have been mostly polygamous throughout Islam's history but how does that effect muslim women?

From my perspective as a muslim women born and raised polygamy leaves women in an unfavorable position. The most disadvantageous thing about Islamic polygamy is that a women has no control over the state of her marriage, she can be forced to enter a polygamous relationship without her consent or sometimes even without her knowledge. Shariah law does not recognize a women's right to oppose her husband's marriage to another women nor does it recognize divorce on the basis of polygamy. Needless to say that causes a great deal of injustice for the current wife. So, why do muslim men keep doing this even in todays society?

The simple answer is because they can. Shariah law makes it possible for muslim men to engage in polygamy without a proof of their ability to enter one but does not have a way of monitoring fairness and equity in these marriages. Muslim women have to share their husband's money, time, emotions and sex. Personally, I think sex is the most disgusting aspect of polygamy I just can't imagine waiting for my husband to come to my bed after being intimate with someone else. Apparently it is not enough that muslim men are allowed to enter polygamy without real restrictions with the only condition being hoping that they can be fair between their wives. Some Muslim scholars took it upon themselves to allow and promote other types of marriages such Misyar and Mutta. Misyar makes a women give up her rights that are usually included in a normal marriage contract such as maintenance, housing and equal division of nights in case of polygamy. While mutta marriage accepted by Shia muslims allows a man to be "married" to a women for a certain amount of time then divorce her. These types of "marriages" are used by a considerable amount of muslim men to engage in polygamy but hold the minimum amount of responsibility. The worst thing is that this is accepted under Shariah law and usually used to deceive first wives and leave them clueless about their husbands affairs. When will marriage contracts and women's right in marriage change to a more fair standing under Shariah courts? 

I'm afraid that this is not going to happen anytime soon. The majority of Muslim scholars until today still uphold the traditional view of marriage contract, so do muslim societies in general. Shariah law is suppose to adapt to different times and societies however that does not seem to hold when it comes to women's rights. A modern muslim women rights and responsibilities are the same as her muslim sister in the 14th century. There does not seem to be a unified front that stands up for muslim women nor is there an acceptance to change of shariah laws that deals with women.  Most muslim countries allow polygamy without needing permission or informing the wife at the same time makes it very difficult for women to gain divorce if the husband is polygamous and in some cases the wife ends up paying money to obtain divorce! 

I don't know how many times I've heard how a man being polygamous is better than him cheating, when polygamy is just legally cheating. Polygamy in Shariah allows men to be with more than one women without being labelled an adulterous and avoid punishment. On the other hand if you are a women you're not so lucky, you definitely cannot marry a second husband to avoid adultery even if your husband is abusive. Polygamy is a bad deal for women in general even if it benefits some.  

What should muslim women do?
Given the fact that odds are stacked against muslim women I tried to search for anything that could possibly help. A muslim women can add in the marriage contract the ability to get a divorce in case of polygamy and informing and taking permission from current wife. However this only stands if the shariah court in the country recognises it as some courts don't. In case such clause is not allowed or recognised the only thing a muslim women can do is put aside money for herself in case the marriage goes downhill. The better option would be if "we" muslim women would be more vocal about our rights and enforce shariah law to include laws that protects us as wives instead of making excuses for polygamy.  


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