Black, White and Shades of Grey : My Very Amateurish Reflection On Dichotomous Thinking

I have been reading on Psychology these days and I came across the concept of dichotomous thinking. It made me pause on my reading and reflect on it. There were occasions when I was ‘accused’ of dichotomous thinking, myself. But there were also times when I was accused of being too philosophical, too ‘loose’, too ‘relaxed, too ‘abstract’.

When I was not yet a PSY MO, I did not give a fig what other people thought of my style of thinking. I do what I do and I think what I think. I am not going to lie and said “I don’t care what other people think of me when I do or say something controversial”. Of course I care….but not so much until I would change what I say or what I do to please them. I do care…but only up to a certain point, and no further. (I guess, I have been at the stage of Kohlberg’s Post-Conventional since I was 18 years old. And to be honest, I have always been proud about my (style of) logical thinking and my ability to defend my stand. When I believe I can justify it, I will just do it. Drive my parents nuts at times…but they have become habituated to it.)

But now, knowing what I know as a PSY MO, having someone accused me of black-and-white thinking is really annoying and never failed to erect my defensiveness (At least, I am self-aware, hahah). This is because I now know that labeling  someone with dichotomous thinking has some sort of diagnostic implication in certain situation, especially when it is coupled with some other traits and behaviours. And thus, it makes me think even deeper on the whole Dichotomous/black-and-white thinking concept.

I am going to freely admit, that the more deeply I think of dichotomous thinking, the more confused I become.

And I am still weighing my stand and my judgment and my own thought on this. You see, I choose psychiatry EXACTLY because there are more room for my own flare of interpretation and style. (I have always been irrevocably in love with freedom, I am afraid) Otherwise, I would have chosen to work in other field of medicine. Even psychiatrists disagree with each other in certain things. I like the idea that –within limit and reason – we can disagree. That I can say you may not be right, even if you are a specialist. (I don’t mean to sound arrogant but this is what I honestly feel. I don’t subscribe to the motto that “boss is always right” and I never will. ‘Always right’ is too dichotomous, anyway kan? No one is that ‘maksum’). I would like to be able to say to ANYONE that my view on this issue is more accurate even though yours may not be wrong either. Of course I don’t go around defying my boss’s opinion all the time if I was not asked (I still have some form of social etiquette left, for which my mom thank The Almighty)…but if I were asked, I would tell them what I really think with as much respect as I could. In Australia, even a medical student is asked of her opinion about many issues especially on the grey areas of psychiatry, it was so liberating!

You see, I think deep inside those who work in psychiatry price their ability to reason and make a logical argument. Isn’t it funny? Not many people can claim that their mind is their passion! Passion is usually associated with matters of the heart rather than the mind. But really, the passion in psychiatry is the mind! We are interested in how people think and for communication purpose we give labels to those thinking styles. (I guess, some other people might argue that we are dichotomous in our own way.)

Below is my possibly faulty, amateurish view on this whole dichotomous thinking thingy. I thought that I might as well jot down err, type out what I  think about it now, so that if  I ever feel differently later (upon gaining further knowledge and experience), I might one day read this again and laugh at my old self. (You see, for all that some people seem to think that I can be quite rigid, I do keep an open mind that one day my opinion might change.) 

That’s something  I always love to do . I still revisit and reread some of my old posts when I was a 4th year/ 5th year medical student; the early days of my blogging years. Sometimes I cringed and thought ‘what was I thinking to be writing such an asinine nonsensical thing years ago?’. But there are also times when I feel like ‘Oh, I made so much sense even back then’. Hahaha (yup, my vanity at play again). But all in all, I like keeping a record of my thought process whenever I stumbled on a new idea/concept/worldview. It reminded me of the progress I have made and how my thinking is always dynamically evolving, and hopefully more refined over the years. It will be interesting to see whether or not I still believe the same thing later on.

***

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Black, white, shades of grey…

Someone who displays black-and-white reasoning is said to be displaying dichotomous thinking. It is considered immature, teenager-ish and sometimes, a trait of Borderline Personality Disorder.

The most common example of dichotomous thinking can be seen among politicians and their extreme supporters. They say only the best of things about their own party while every evil thing imaginable in THIS universe (and beyond) is bestowed on the other party. Sometimes dichotomous thinking manifests itself in a manner of self-serving biased statements, but not always.

In dichotomous black-and-white thinking, someone is either right or wrong. You only either really hate someone or really love someone. Life is either totally intolerable or marvellously beautiful. Housemen are all lazy and specialists are all self-sacrificing angels. Specialists are all bullies and housemen are all innocent victims. (sorry, I cannot help myself from giving the housemen-specialist examples. Everybody knows this is my favourite pet subject. Haha)

Let’s face it! We all – at some time or other – fell into the trap of dichotomous thinking, especially in certain issues we feel strongly about.

Dichotomous thinking, like everything else, has its pros and cons. But perhaps, more cons than pros.

Actually, someone who consistently thinks in black and white is going to be self-destructive and chaotic in most aspect of their lives. ‘Unstable’ is the simple word to describe it. She idolizes her boyfriend as the most ‘loving and caring person on earth’ when he gives her flowers for no special reason, and then hates her boyfriend as the most ‘evil, inconsiderate slimy scum of the earth’ when he forgets her birthday (this is not just sulking. I mean ACTUALLY hates her boyfriend, and breaks up with him and go through a lot of emotional drama for every simple reason). It is argued that a stable mature person should be able to see the world as more complicated than simple black-and-white complete opposites. In this case, she should be able to embrace all the good and the bad aspects that make the whole of her boyfriend without going up the wall at every slightest thing.

But remember. It is CONSISTENT dichotomous thinking that is destructive. Whereas, I would argue that occasionally appropriate dichotomous thinking is beneficial and even healthy (see, I am displaying non-dichotomous thinking when I said that not all dichotomous thinking is bad every single time in every single situation. Got it?)

I believe, having a principle is part of dichotomous thinking in certain situation. I believe, that is what principles are for. Principles are most important to adhere to NOT only during the time when it is easy (when we are naturally inclined to it, anyway), but the best usage of principles is to help us guide ourselves when it is so very tempting and easier to deviate.

For example, if there was a person named A who has a staunchly-held principles about a certain matter and would not budge from it, she is going to be viewed by person B (who has different principles) as non-flexible and black-and-white and dichotomous. But bear in mind that just because Person B was right in saying that Person A is dichotomous in that particular issue, that does not make Person A wrong in her views. Being dichotomous is not synonymous to being wrong and vice versa.  Because there may be other instances in other issues when the situation is reversed; Person A might then be more carefree and Person B is more rigid. Would it then be okay for Person A to say to Person B “you are just as dichotomous as I am when it comes to THIS issue!”?

Then we all will start telling each other that they are ‘dichotomous this’ and ‘dichotomous that’ in different issues! If that happens, it would be so funny! We are all going to compete and fight to label our friends as dichotomous anytime we have an argument with them when they appear more rigid than us. So someone can simply win an argument by ending their point with “you are dichotomous!”. The term will lost its diagnostic usage.

For example: Have you heard about how controversial it was when Dr. Mashitah answered the question on ‘pelacuran kerana terpaksa’ a few years back? (Do not behave like some people who condemned without really reading on the issue. We should strive to get to the primary sources of the issue before we make our judgement. I suggest you guys read it and come up with your own conclusion.)

Person A: Zina is haram

Person B: Sekarang darurat. Saya ada anak 5 orang. Suami sudah mati. Saya tak ada keluarga lain yang boleh bantu. Dengan duit menjadi pelacur inilah saya menyara anak-anak saya.

Person A: Takkan tak ada kerja lain yang boleh buat? Banyak lagi kerja lain. Yang haram tetap haram.

Person B: Saya tak ada kelulusan apa-apa. Mana ada orang nak ambil kerja. Nak berniaga, tak ada modal lagi.

Person A: Zina itu haram. Baitulmal ada. Zakat ada. Minta sedekah pun lebih baik daripada jadi pelacur. Bertaubatlah.

Person B: Awak tak faham situasi darurat saya. Bukan semua benda hitam-dan-putih. Kenapa terlalu menghakimi sedangkan awak tak mengalami?

Difficult isn’t it? Is Person A dichotomous?  She keeps saying ‘zina is haram’ and repeated it in her every sentence without even attempting to appear empathetic and understanding to B’s plight.

Or is B too relaxed, too grey? After all, someone’s darurat is not the same as another person’s darurat, kan? Why is it so ‘darurat’ for her?

How about in the case of riba’? Even Islamic banking is not free from this riba’…they just give it different terms. (of course, this has its own debate which I am not going to get into. I freely admit that by making loans (from Islamic bank, too) to purchase my car and my house, I have been involved in riba’ myself. But I don’t try to justify my action by saying it is halal, and in anyway try to alter the black-and-white so that it then becomes grey just so I will be able to live with myself. It’s just that I recognize that riba’ as a system is so very widespread that it is just so difficult to 100 percent distance yourself from it without making your life difficult. But it still does not make it right. This is me declaring my UNRESOLVED COGNITIVE DISSONANCE. If you are interested to read on how Islamic Banks are being deceptive and disguising riba’ simply by adding the cosmetics of ‘akad’ and changing certain terms , read  this link to the article https://umarvadillo.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/muamalaat-the-alternative-to-the-riba-system-exists/)

Person A: Sekarang ni rumah dan kereta adalah keperluan. Terpaksa juga buat ‘loan’. Nak tak nak pun, kena juga terlibat dengan riba untuk beli rumah dan kereta.

Person B: Well, mungkin aku ni seorang pelacur. Tapi aku tak pernah terlibat dengan riba. Riba kan haram. Tak tahu ke dalam Al-Quran Allah iystiharkan perang terhadap sesiapa sahaja yang mengamalkan riba’.

Person A: Weh, we live in the system! Tak boleh nak buat apa. Darurat kot!

Person B: Apa yang daruratnya? Boleh naik bas, kan! Boleh jalan kaki, kan? Rumah tak payah beli; sewa sajalah. Unless you are telling me that not having a transport is a life-or-death matter?

Person A: Kau ni hitam/putih sangatlah.  Situasi sekarang ni sangat kompleks. Memanglah riba tu haram, tapi kau kena faham juga situasi semasa dan faktor2 lain yang terlibat dalam masalah ni. Aku kena pi kerja. Public transport tak reliable. Kalau aku asyik lewat pi kerja, aku kena buang kerja. Habis, anak-anak aku siapa nak bagi makan?

Person B: Riba tetap haram.

I never knew anyone who is a prostitute. I would love to just talk to them and pick their minds if I have the chance. But I DO KNOW of a Muslim convert who is so very much against riba (he is in the legal profession) who used to travel with public transport until his company provided him with a car, and he only rents his house until even now (even though with his monthly pay check  he could have made loans to purchase a car and a house). He kept his money in a bank too, but he requested for the account with low or no interest. When there is an increment in his savings due to interest, he would painstakingly analyze his bank account statement and took the portion of the interest money away from his original savings.  I was told of his words by someone who knew him closely “Sebab saya tak ada transport, akhirnya company bagi kereta kat saya untuk guna. I didn’t need to make loans to use a car, after all. I think, Allah will help those who try his best to adhere to His law in unimaginable ways. Maybe because I am a convert, I feel about this strongly. Those who are born Muslims take for granted the very essence of what made this religion beautiful.”

For him, riba’ is not a grey area. Even facing with much difficulties, he will adjust his circumstances and his desires and his wants to meet the law (the black and white). He won’t try to manipulate the law to suit his own desires and simply say “Don’t be dichotomous!”

So tell me, is this exceptional Muslim convert is being dichotomous or merely principled? In every given situation, who is the best judge to say that either being more black-and-white or being more grey is the best or the right thing to be for that particular issue, at that particular time?

Who can give that judgment? Religious Imams? Political leaders? Judges?

Psychiatrist?

We are all liable to make mistakes in making judgments such as this.

***

As a PSY MO, I would NOT label someone as having black and white thinking when the issue is involving principles or religious beliefs or universal truths or facts. That’s what principles are for! Not to be adhered to only when it is easy to do so, but to cling on to when it is most difficult and tempting.

I would only say someone is dichotomous when the issue is involving:

1)Preferences.

“My way is better than your way.”

(however bear in mind that, if the person can say WHY his way is ACTUALLY better, and his reason is convincing and sound, then it is NOT fair to call the person dichotomous too! And also if that person is naturally autocratic, then maybe this is not about him being dichotomous but simply his leadership style.)

2)Personality Characteristics

“Extrovert is always better than introvert” (in what aspect?)

“Funny people is always more entertaining than smart people” (says who? I happen to be more entertained by smart people than funny people most of the time)

(But if he says “extrovert is better than introvert in THIS particular aspect” and what he said is proven by research and general self-evident  observation, then we should also NOT call the person dichotomous.)

3)Excessive Overgeneralization/Minimization/Maximization Statements

“I love you so much because you are ALWAYS kind and considerate to EVERYONE”

(‘always and everyone’ consists of a very large amount of people to be kind to. In fact, it means the whole human population of the world! Are you sure someone that exemplary really exists?)

“I will hate you forever. You NEVER do a single good thing to me in our 12 years together!”

(Whoa! 12 years together and NOT A SINGLE GOOD THING has been done? He married you…he gives you a ring/gold and jewelries…that’s two good things already at the start of the marriage. God only knows how many good things he has given you for 12 years, lady! Be fair!)

– Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish whether this is dichotomous thinking or overgeneralization or minimization or maximization. Or maybe just histrionic drama-queen tendencies.

See, how difficult this black-and-white, dichotomous thinking is! The more I think about it, the more confused I become.

Just hearing someone saying a black-and-white statement (and it is only YOUR opinion that what she says is black and white, others might actually think it is grey) is not enough evidence to say that she has a black-and-white thinking.

Describing someone as dichotomous should be supported with other characteristics of her personality, for the purpose of making a diagnosis!  Otherwise a dichotomous thinking may be confused with autocratic traits, principles ardently held, biasness, maximization/ minimization/ overgeneralized statements. In general, we can distinguish all these from each other. But at times, it can be difficult to say with much accuracy whether that person REALLY is dichotomous or simply having other forms of automatic negative thoughts.

You see, I actually think that labelling someone as having a black-and-white thinking without any clinical or diagnostic purpose is a futile and time-wasting effort. Why bother?

Or perhaps, you are trying to have the last word in an argument and thus saying someone has a dichotomous thinking is much easier than having to come up with a counter-argument when you have run out of points. (Hahaha. I do that myself, at times. We tend to divert the topic. Instead of saying what we think is wrong in his argument, we simply give his character and his way of thinking a certain label. It is easier than having to come up with our own argument to counter his. I call that cheating!)

Everybody, at one time or another, does this to some other person. I am guilty of it, myself. But being in psychiatry taught me that I should be careful of what label I use. Unless I want to diagnose you as a patient, I am not going to tell you what label I put your category of thinking is. (But I cannot promise not to label you in my mind. This is something already second nature to us in psychiatry. But I promise to always bear in mind that whatever label I give you in my mind will be changeable upon future evidence.)

***

Black, white, shades of grey…they are only continuum of (non)colours.

Like Person A and person B, we can be white, black and grey in different issues and in different circumstances and in different times. So, if you don’t agree with someone, do not label her thinking; just refute her argument with your own argument.

I was told to be tolerance of ambiguity if I want to be a psychiatrist.

I was told to embrace ambiguity. But the most ambiguous thing to me is the concept of ambiguity itself. It could be that your ambiguity might be my clarity and my clarity might be your ambiguity.

At the end of the day, who is the judge of all these?

So, after having thought about it long and good, I decided to say:

1)I am not going to label anybody’s thinking unless he/she is a patient that I need to diagnose. It is quite easy to unfairly label someone’s thinking inaccurately, just because we do not have the same principles that he/she does. So I will minimize my tendency to give labels, to reduce my probability of unfairly and wrongly labelling someone. (this is me displaying my non-dichotomous thinking, see?)

2) There are many grey areas. But there are also many black-and-white areas. However, your black might be my grey. My grey might be your white. If we are to have an argument, let’s respect each other by arguing on each other’s points rather than ending an argument by giving labels to your opponent’s thinking. It is boring to win so unfairly easily just by giving a general statement such as ‘you are dichotomous!’. Actually…it’s cheating!

3) Since we have established that we all have our own dichotomous and non-dichotomous moments at different times with different issues, let’s just agree to ‘live and let live’. We all should be able to say what we think and defend why we think the way we do, without fearing other people would label us with this and that (unless you are a patient and I need to look at that aspect of things because it is my job).

4)At the end of the day, do what you think is right. Because there will always be someone else somewhere who still think that what you think is right is actually a grey area. As long as you can be at peace with yourself, the rest fall into insignificance.  I won’t say stop caring what the society thinks. We live in the society and there should be some level of deference to social etiquettes. But ONLY up to a point. Beyond a certain point, you yourself know when is the right time to make a stand no matter what, and if that time comes, do not fail to make a stand just because you are afraid of what the society might think and label you. Just remember that Society had wrongly labelled our prophets too in those days…so, what’s the big deal if they wrongly label you who is not even a prophet pun kan? It is only a big deal if you fail to be true and fail to be at peace with yourself just to appease the society. Don’t make that mistake.

Finally, my dears!

CARPE DIEM!

LIVE AND LET LIVE!

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Polygamy: A Discussion, My Perspective

Being a PSY MO is a privilege. Strangers you have never met before sit in front of you, tell you their personal life stories and bare their emotion to you in a manner that humbles you to the core.

I, for one, can never be that emotionally naked with anyone. I am that much of a coward (I freely admit).

I have met many type of women, but for the main purpose of this discussion I will discuss women with regards to their marital (micro)status:

1)Betrayed first wives

-How could my husband do this behind my back? He cheated on me

-Selepas berpuluh tahun berkorban…lepas dah senang, boleh dia pergi cari yang lain. Susah bersama-sama. Bila dah senang, orang lain yang dapat habuan.

 

2)Second wives who are unjustly treated

– Tapi dia janji nak ceraikan isteri pertama dia. Sekarang dah tiga tahun, dan saya masih isteri kedua.

-Saya tahu saya isteri kedua. Tapi saya rasa macam perempuan simpanan saja. Hubungan kami terpaksa dirahsiakan sebab isteri pertama masih belum tahu. Don’t I have my own rights as a second wife to be recognised as such? Bukannya saya minta dia tinggalkan isteri pertama pun. Saya tak kisah jadi isteri kedua. Tapi sampai bila mahu rahsia? Dia langsung tidak adil dari segi nafkah dan giliran bermalam.

(Bila kita fikir pasal isteri kedua, perkataan yang kerapkali terlintas adalah ‘perampas’ or home-wrecker. But they have their own stories. Some of them did not know that the guy who had courted them was already married. By the time they found out, they were too blinded by love to ever go back.)

 

3)Wounded second wives who just found out that her husband had just married a third wife

-Saya isteri kedua dan saya bekerja. Isteri pertama tak kerja. Gaji suami saya lagi kecil dari gaji saya. Malah, gaji saya pun dia guna untuk perbelanjaan isteri pertama. Macam mana dia boleh kahwin yang ketiga pula? Saya berkorban dah banyak, tapi dia tidak adil pada saya.

 

(Of course it is ironic if a second wife gets angry when her husband has a third wife. After all, the second and the third wife have something in common in the sense that they both marry a married man. The second wife was the one who set the precedent of ‘madu’, so what rights does she have to act upset when her husband later marries another, some might ask. But in circumstances like the above, where the first wife is not working and the husband is actually dependent on the second wife’s income, it is totally understandable why a second wife gets upset when her husband marries a third.)

 

3)Single women who fall in love with married men

-So naive and trusting they are, that you feel like keeping them in their cocoon of innocence til kingdom come, and protect them from all corrupted powers by holding them in your warm sisterly embrace. But the same quality of wide-eyed naivete can also be cruelly termed as ‘stupidity’ and sometimes it is hard to keep yourself from wanting to drown them in cold iced water just so they could wake up from their slumber.

-This is an all too common stories, it is heartbreaking.

 

Sorry…did I say ‘stories’? I should have used the word ‘realities’.

Oh dear reader, I might use the word ‘stories’, but they are hardly fiction.

 

I am sure out there, third wives and fourth wives have their own perspectives of the trials and tribulations of married life. They are not just beautiful gold diggers and ‘pisau cukurs’ of the world, all the time. Life is tough for all of us, I am sure. Even for them, though I am yet to meet one in my clinic.

Being a PSY MO taught me to appreciate perspectives and angles. Being an avid reader drives me to get a story in its whole. I admit there are times when my impatience become quite obvious, when their stories do not seem possible, until another perspective from another person makes it plausible. The reader in me instinctively sought the ‘a-ha moment’ when I listen to my patients. The ‘a-ha moment’ makes everything click and the whole story complete. There are times when instead of listening patiently, I would say ‘But just now you said this…so how does that then become this? But why didn’t it end up like this since you had done that? Shouldn’t it be like this?”

I was relentless (especially when the follow-up clinic is not busy and I have the time).

So yeah, I do appreciate perspectives and angles. How they enrich a simple plot and a story line.

But being a PSY MO also taught me that it is LAZY indolence to simply end an argument with “semua orang ada pendapat dan perspektif masing-masing. We shouldn’t judge.”

I believe that in some things, there are universal truths and some basic principles that even your opinions and perspectives SHOULD NOT violate. Because then, you would end up being UNJUST.

So perspective and opinion aside, we all should STRIVE to arrive at that universal truth and reconcile and realigned our perspective to it. Universal truths such as divine guidance and justice and honour and kindness are above opinions, every single time.

 

Divine Guidance

I am not a feminist. As a Muslim, I don’t need to be.

Once when a polygamy issue was discussed among us, I’d freely announced my confident heartfelt conviction that “Men can marry more than one, up to four, provided he is a good Muslim man who is kind and just.” I didn’t think my view is all that controversial because it’s not like there is any other way to look at it, being a Muslim.

So some of my colleagues and friends tease me now and then for my un-feminist, unconventional view as a woman.

I shouldn’t feel I need to say anything. I thought it was supposed to be obvious. As Muslim women, we should already know that polygamy is already in the syariat. Who am I to have a different opinion than what God has outlined? You may argue the matter if you don’t share the Muslim faith…but for Muslims, there is no other choice. You don’t get to have an opinion on this. Sorry.

 

One day, when we talked about one particular polygamy case among ourselves, some of the guys had thrown in the opinion that “Suami dia tak salah kahwin dua. Dalam Islam, memang suami tak perlu pun beritahu isteri pertama kalau dia kahwin lain. Tu cuma undang-undang Malaysia. Agama tak cakap pun yang suami perlu minta izin isteri pertama.”

 

Oh, God! Some guys totally lost the plot. They are selective in their facts and practise self-serving bias that is so blatantly unfair that it needs to be addressed. They were surprised when I said that the husband was very much at fault. “Haih…Dr. Afiza kan pro-poligami. Awat sekarang lain pula. Ke sebab dah ada boyfriend, dah ada feeling, tu pasal cakap macam lain pula.”

 

I just had to laugh. Jumping to conclusion is always a hilarious thing among psychiatry colleagues. I do it at times, myself. I give my ‘jumping to conclusion’ impressive fancy terms such as deductive reasoning (Sherlock Holmes, anyone?) and educated guessing. We like to feel that it was just our power of observation and our mastery at psychodynamic that brought on the insight that we had about other people. And in this case, they thought I had changed my stand on being pro-polygamy because “I have someone special and cannot bear sharing him one day”. That was an interesting inference but a false one, funny though it is.

 

They still didn’t get it. And I was too tired to explain to them thoroughly because the discussion was a small talk that was not supposed to be serious to them. Guys (and some girls) talk about polygamy merely to tease the women and make jokes at their expense without any real intellectual purpose. It was just small talk, after all. Why should we get so intense, right?  They hardly wanted to make it into a DEEP intellectual discussion or a SERIOUS dialogue that it deserves.

Talking about one of the tenets of munakahat deserves a sincere attempt at comprehensive understanding, but that’s just my personal opinion and not many people share my overly intense temperament. I was tempted to venture further, and argue more, make them understand…but I let it go. (I am not always serious, I think. I admit, small talk bores me and I avoid it most of the time. But I do enjoy light topics, in my own way. However, when a subject is interesting and important in which I happen to have an opinion, I don’t enjoy discussing it only lightly. I believe that an important matter should be discussed at length and deeply, as it deserves…. or NOT AT ALL)

 

You see, I didn’t want to be the one inserting an awkward moment by being too grim and severe and a know-it-all show off when it was supposed to be all light and laughter. I do know that I have the tendency towards intense manner of expression that other people find puzzling. (I am hyperthymic in personality, I have that much insight about myself.)

So I let it go, then. But that left me with so much burning longing to write. All that intensity needs to be channelled, don’t you think? Hahah.

****

 

I reaffirm my stand that polygamy is a beautiful thing when it is rightly practiced. Practice it right or don’t go there at all.

 

An Act of Betrayal

Once upon a time:

-Isteri kedua dikahwini TANPA ada perjumpaan sulit ‘dating’ sana sini. Tiada ‘explicit text messages’ that would hurt the first wife. Suami tidak mengabaikan rumah tangga untuk berjumpa ‘girlfriend’ di luar pengetahuan isteri pertama. Isteri kedua dikahwini for practical reasons – janda yang suaminya gugur di medan perang, andartu yang tiada pergantungan, mengukuhkan perhubungan politik dua hala dan sebagainya. Even when love came into the equation, there was no so-called dating and meeting in secrets, talking freely with non-mahrams unchaperoned. There was no deliberate deception and creative story-telling. There was no time STOLEN from his halal wife and children, so that the husband could then secretly see the girlfriend (and prospective second wife) behind his wife’s back. In the first place, that is haram, you know. Isteri mana yang tak akan rasa ‘betrayed’ bila dapat tahu semua out-station selama ini adalah penipuan? Yang semua lambat balik overtime selama ini adalah pembohongan! Yang tak cukup duit selama ini adalah bayaran kemaksiatan.

Lying in itself is a betrayal. And lying so that you can spend time and money with a non-halal woman is DOUBLE/TRIPLE the betrayal.

Suami yang menyatakan bahawa dia mahu mengambil girlfriendnya sebagai isteri kedua untuk mengikut sunnah adalah satu kebodohan yang tidak dapat dimaafkan. Lelaki itu seperti orang yang mahu mengamalkan sunnah untuk makan dengan tangan kanan tetapi menjamah khinzir.

You have tainted the beautiful practise of polygamy by mixing it with the maksiat of ‘mendekati zina’ before you finally decided to marry your girlfriend as a second wife. How dare you describe such a practice as sunnah? Attributing something haram to our prophet, as though our prophets all had girlfriends while they were married to their first wife. How bigoted your thinking has become!

And you dare think yourself holy when you take a second wife (who you met through non-halal means), just because in your self-serving bias, you consider it sunnah and your male rights. That is SO DELUSIONAL.

Yet, guys didn’t see this. Even so-called ‘alim’ ones have girlfriends outside their home and justify their taking of second wife as sunnah.

I was not of ‘sekolah agama’ student. Yet, I knew my limits and rights as a Muslim woman. I knew that polygamy is beautiful (and thus some people think I am a weak non-feminist, willing to be betrayed), but I also encourage women to NOT stay in a bad unjust marriage (and then the same people think I might be a feminist after all, but a weird one who condone polygamy).

I didn’t attend sekolah agama. But even I knew of the very famous ayat “masuklah ke dalam Islam secara keseluruhan (kaffah)”. Jangan ambil separuh-separuh and make polygamy look ugly and distasteful to not just Muslim women, but non-Muslims as well. You want to practise polygamy, practise it right from A to Z.

Or NOT AT ALL.

 

Once upon a time:

-Memang dulu tidak perlu meminta izin isteri pertama untuk kahwin dua. Isteri pertama tidak perlu diberitahu. Sebab mereka memang akan tahu! It was not treated as a dirty secret, back then.

Pada zaman dulu, tidak perlu untuk ada specifier ‘meminta izin’. Menyatakan bahawa “suami perlu memberitahu isteri pertama tentang poligami” sama seperti menyatakan bahawa “kita hendaklah mandi menggunakan air”. It is understood. Because if you practice polygamy the way Islam means for you to practice it, there is NO WAY you can be fair and just without telling the first wife about it.

-Tidak perlu berahsia untuk berpoligami. Suami yang berpoligami pada zaman kegemilangan Islam adalah seorang yang warak. Mereka tidak berbohong. Mereka adil.

Mereka adil dalam nafkah dan giliran. Jadi pada malam yang mereka tiada di rumah isteri pertama, mereka akan menyatakan secara jelas kepada isteri pertama bahawa mereka berada di rumah isteri kedua mereka yang sah dan halal bagi mereka. My point is: there was no lying! Tidak berbohong. In that situation, the first wife won’t go for years not knowing, and the second wife won’t go for years (not even a day) without being being publicly acknowledged or introduced as a second wife.

So back then, the question of ‘izin isteri pertama’ did not rise. It was a non-issue because the Muslim men in the old days were honourable. They didn’t lie, they were not cowards who cheated behind their wives’ back, they knew they have to be just and they practised justice with no apology. They treated the matter as fact with no evasion or prevarication “Hari ni giliran isteri kedua and I am going. I will see you in two more nights.” They took Islam in its entirety, in all its truthfulness and justice.

No one is maligned and everyone gets their due rights.

 

Fastforward to 2014…

The guy marries his girlfriend (whom he has had years of non-halal relationship) in secret. He has a second wife but cannot go to her as often (because no first wives would ever believe the frequency of his so-called out-stations and overtimes).

The first wife is betrayed with lies. The second wife is betrayed by being treated like she is a dirty sordid, little mistress who must remain a secret, until God knows when!

What a bastard of a man! What a coward!

 

Jadi zaman sekarang, meminta izin atau memberitahu isteri pertama tentang kewujudan isteri kedua adalah satu keperluan supaya semua pihak yang terlibat maklum akan situasi yang sebenar dan tiada sesiapa yang haknya ditindas. Because men are so unreliable at understanding the fine points of good practice of polygamy, a specifier of ‘perlu memberitahu isteri pertama’ is created where it should have been understood. The existence of this rule in Malaysia goes to show how low the honour of men have sunk! It goes to show how little they can be trusted to deal with all their women justly.

Jadi lelaki yang menyatakan bahawa “Islam tidak menyuruh untuk memberitahu isteri pertama atau meminta izinnya untuk berkahwin lain” adalah lelaki yang singkat pemikirannya. Mereka fikir taraf dan ‘standard’ mereka sama seperti taraf dan standard para nabi dan sahabat yang tidak pernah cuba berahsia untuk ber’couple’ dengan teman wanita di luar rumah secara haram. Mereka lupa bahawa para nabi dan sahabat tidak pernah berbohong apabila bermalam di rumah isteri-isteri lain. Semua isteri-isteri para nabi dan sahabat tahu akan kewujudan isteri-isteri lain FROM THE VERY BEGINNING dan soal keizinan/pemberitahuan tidak pernah timbul pada masa itu.

 

Message To All Women.

Dear women, RAISE YOUR STANDARD.

 

Dear first wives,

Raise your standard in how you choose to be treated.  Can you still love a man so weak and easily tempted by lust for another woman that he would resort to dishonourable conduct behind your back?  Do you still respect a man who is such a coward that he would treat another woman (your fellow sister in religion) like she is a dirty secret? How can you love a man whose sense of responsibility is so lackadaisical that he would succumb to lust (disguised as love) by marrying another woman when he could not even afford it! Trust me, second and first wives that I have met in my clinic are hardly married to a wealthy man. In fact, they had to work, sometimes beg their relatives for money.

It made me wonder, why they stay in that marriage? I asked; they gave me their reasons. I respect those reasons, but I disagree inwardly.

 

Dear secret second wives (or third or fourth),

Raise your standard in how you choose your husband You are forgiven if you didn’t know that the man who has been courting you is already married. But if you did, how can you love a man who is so corrupted that he would lie to his wife and betray her like it was not a big deal, just to be with you? Don’t you feel that such a man is disgusting? (And what business do you have of going out with him, in the first place? Why do you nurture feelings that you should have nipped in the bud from the very outset?) How could you NOT WORRY for your future when you first considered accepting such a man as your husband? Would he treat you fairly and acknowledge you as his second wife…did you ask yourself that question? Would he introduce you to his family and friends once both of you are married…did you ask him that? He had already proven himself as a coward by lying to his wife. He had already proven himself weak and easily tempted by trying to court you into being his girlfriend before he finally married you at the Thailand border. Don’t you deserve a stronger man…did you ask that to yourself before you cross the border?

-Don’t you deserve a man who marries you for your sake and not because he had a problem with his first wife that is yet to be settled? Don’t you deserve a man who don’t go around carrying baggage of unfinished business when he starts a life with you?

Don’t do this to yourself. If he is yet to acknowledge you as his second wife to his family and friends, leave him. You deserve better. I am sure each and every one of us have their own reason for staying in an unhappy marriage, but the reason must be worth it. Worth the pain, the tears, the unacknowledged status.

It must worth the destroyed self-esteem. It must worth the pain of being treated like a dirty little secret.

 

Dear single woman who finds herself courted by a married man,

-Raise your standard in how you choose your husband. Don’t go out with non-mahram males (single or married) at quiet places, unchaperoned. If he is a married man, insist to meet the first wife and get formally introduced as prospective co-wife. Let him prove himself as a strong man with clear and pure intention. If he doesn’t have the spine to tell his first wife that he wants to take a second wife, what other responsibilities would he run away from when the going gets tough, God only knows. Do it honourably and do it right.

-If you are the sort of woman who do not see polygamy as something you can endure, then be forthright from the beginning. If he promises to divorce his first wife because he “doesn’t love her anymore and you are the true love he has been waiting for his entire life yadda yadda yadda” (please employ some common sense when you evaluate his romantic words; 90% of them might be a lot of cow dung), then get him to divorce his first wife BEFORE you actually tie the knot with him. Don’t believe him if he says that he will divorce his first wife after you are married. This is a negotiation, girl! In all negotiation, there is power play going on and you need all your bargaining chips. Once you married him, you have weaken your position because you would have lost that bargaining chip already. He will never divorce his first wife. I wouldn’t too, if I were him. Why would I want to do that when I can have my cake and eat it too?

-It is better to remain happy and single than trapped in a bad marriage to a weak and immoral man who can only give you crumbs of bread when you deserve the whole loaf.

 

Dear married brothers,

-Raise your own standard in who you are as a Muslim man. And that means acting honourably, justly, with no betrayal and lies.

-Do you believe that you are a good, strong and honourable Muslim man who wants to do what’s right and what’s just to every woman in his life?

-Are you willing to be fair to all your future wives? If you are, that’s half the battle done. Do you have the financial ability to care for all your wives and the children? If you do, you can consider marrying another and doing it right and proper from A-Z. Make polygamy beautiful again by embracing not just the sexual aspect of the marriage, but all the responsibilities that it entails. The responsibility is huge!

-There will always be naïve women who trusts so easily. Doesn’t mean it is okay to take advantage of them. Some people think that the women deserve to be hurt for being so stupid. But that’s not the point. Stupid people may get conned. But it doesn’t justify the action of the con-artists. There will always be naïve people out there; bad people take advantage of them, good people will protect them. So, be one of the good ones, not for anyone’s benefit, but because that is your self -standard and no less.

****

I guess, most people cannot discuss polygamy without getting emotional. The males wouldn’t dare to discuss it without disguising it as a joke, a light and laughing matter.

Whenever there is an attempt at discussion, it is muddled by self-serving bias in BOTH males and females. It would be funny if it was not so exasperating.

When I said I support polygamy, I was regarded with incredulity.

When I commented on the wrongs committed in polygamy, they confused me with a self-serving feminist and thought that I had changed my opinion on polygamy because I am now supposedly ‘in a relationship’.That was beyond hilarious.

I never change my stand on polygamy. I support it wholeheartedly when it is done right. That has always been my stand since I’d first learned it properly years ago and I never waver. But life is not black and white. I knew that.

The law is clear. But the circumstances sometimes are not. So most people manipulate the law to suit their circumstances. It can be really confusing. The trick is in discussing important issues such as this deeply and intellectually, not lightly nor emotionally.

Otherwise, don’t discuss it at all. Abandon the fruitless time-wasting debate that gets nowhere.

Instead, write it. And spread awareness.