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.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Polygamy: A Discussion, My Perspective

  1. Syaz

    As salam Dr.
    Baru je tadi I placed my comment on the “TOK essay” post, put I can’t resist to say a few words here too😉
    Intelligently said, well done for you Dr.
    Being a women myself, I could never talk or write regarding these polygamy matters without being overwhelmed by my own emotion, but your (I would say) rationally evaluated and analysed point of view deserve to own my respect.
    Keep on writing good things Dr. May you be blessed🙂

    Like

    1. First and foremost is facts.
      If you know the rules and correct practice of polygamy inside and out, it is easy to spot faulty arguments and bigoted practice.

      Muslim women need to know their limits and rights. As Muslims, the basic principle is to NEVER argue on the syariat itself. Instead we have to argue on how correctly it is implemented and practiced by Muslims.
      At the end of the day it is our religious and moral obligation to be fair to BOTH genders, regardless of our natural inclination.

      Like

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