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Adda B Say So:The Resolution Of A Second Wife

By Fatima Zahra Umar

Polygamy is becoming more and more popular these days. Being a second wife is hard. As a second wife you are coming into ‘hostile’ encumbered territory populated with a lot of baggage (co wife or wives, kids, in laws). As a second wife, you are often the demonised ‘home wrecker’ or ‘husband snatcher’ or ‘evil stepmother’. Entering into polygamy has got to be one of the biggest risks any woman can take in her quest for marital happiness. It may well be a disaster or success depending on the type of husband one is blessed with. I am of the strong opinion that one can achieve marital harmony in polygamy as long as one is mindful and conscious of the rights of all parties involved. Mutual respect and Acceptance can go a long way in deflecting the issues that come with polygamy. Almost on a weekly basis I get requests to address polygamy and its issues, mostly because we are not doing things as we ought to. So here goes…

Polygamy is a permitted marriage in Islam. If you struggle with this fact, it is a problem with your own faith, not your husband’s action. Do not feel guilty. If you feel guilty you are suggesting that the Sunna is wrong – so be clear that this type of marriage can be and can flourish on condition that the man is FAIR and HONEST with both of his wives. This is very important (If your husband is badly behaved after the new marriage – that is a problem with him and not this Sunna).

Now let me share with you the guidelines of polygamy that capture the best and most practical way to face polygamy.

The Polygamy Guidelines as propounded by Dr Ragheb Elsergany:

– The husband should declare his marriage without fear to enable each wife to get used to the reality of the situation. Covering up merely prevents the wives from coming to terms with the reality of their new life.

Once the husband is married it is not right to have an ‘adjustment period’ for either wife. As soon as the husband is married, it is the right of his new wife to have her time. If the husband takes these rights away to give previous wives time to adjust – this is not fair (since it is all about a matter of faith). In supporting this “adjustment” idea, husband takes the rights of the other wife and they will both be answerable for this wrong-doing before Allah.

– The greatest gift one wife can give to the other is not material; rather, it is simply to give her, her rights and live her life as a free woman.

– The husband is a free man; he does not belong to one wife more than the other so the competition for time is pointless. Your husband does not necessarily love you more because he spends more time with you – it may be simply that you are more controlling and he is not strong enough to argue.

– Remember while you take someone’s right now – can you take the punishment for that husband in the next life? If you are taking time that is not rightfully yours – on the Last day you will have to account for this. So do not think you have succeeded if you do this. If you want more than your right – ask yourself “Is this worth taking the Fire on the Last Day?”

– Give your sister her time with her husband and try not to call or interrupt their time together but at the same time show some flexibility. If there are little habits that make their relationship special and they are things they have always done/ or are doing if they are newlyweds – don’t cut them off and you will feel by time how blessed your own relationship is.

– The division of time is related to nights not days. In the day the husband is free to do as he wills in regard to his personal and professional jobs. But this does not mean it is acceptable for him to spend days with a specific wife and not the other simply because he goes there at night.

– If you feel you are seeing your husband more than ‘expected,’ ask him how much time he is spending with the other wife and ensure he is being just. Love of another person is a test as with anything and when that love exceeds the rights of others – we fail.

– Your allegiance is to your husband not to each other. You should prioritize your own relationship with your husband. It should not be the case that if one wife is arguing with her husband the other should also argue. Of course if there is a problem that is shared with you then it is important to encourage a return to good relations not to encourage anger and a separation. It is clearly bad to cause separation between husband and wife in any way, shape or form.

– Respect the other wife as your sister in Islam, as a woman in her own right. Understand that she has as much right to be happy as you do. If your aim is to win your husband’s respect, live justice, do not abuse it. As long as Allah is pleased with you, that is all that counts.

– Agree to maintain some form of practical and personal boundaries. Consider the Sunna as the best example and be aware what you share in discussions and how you live practically. There is no Sunna in sharing the same house/room and this is bound to cause problems. There is no Sunna to discuss your private details with each other either.

– Do not ask your husband what he does with his other wife and do not ask your sister what she does with her husband. Allow them to keep their marriage private. The faithful, we are told, does not ask “Where did you come from and where are you going.” Focus on your own relationship not on the other wife’s. There is no need to lie to stop hurting the other person’s feelings; unnecessary lying only leads to mistrust and a lack of respect. It is simply best to keep silent and remind the wives that the other relationship is not their business.

– Be flexible about time but not if you feel your right is being taken. It is Ok to take your rights, do not feel guilty. But remember sometimes as human beings, a wife may need her husband to support her if she is having a difficult time. Be generous and Allah will reward you, as will the other wife.

– Do not bear the husband’s responsibility. The marriage was his choice and so it is his job to fulfill his social, financial and practical responsibility – not the job of the other wife/wives to stand in for him. It is injustice by the husband if he puts the responsibility of one wife on to the other.

– Encourage your husband to deal fairly with the other wife and she will similarly encourage him to deal fairly with you. If she is unjust to you – do not be unjust to her. Using haram to combat haram simply means you are both in the wrong side.

– There is no obligation for you and your husband’s other wife to be best friends but it helps if you can at least meet occasionally since this is also from the Sunna of the Prophet’s wives. This can ease any difficulties each wife may experience as a result of the husband’s other relationship.

– Do not listen to friends who have a problem with your type of marriage. They are simply reflecting their own insecurity. Avoid discussions about the other wife with such people because these discussions can cause problems for your relationship with the other wife and indeed your husband. A good friend will be helpful in keeping your marriage together and not encourage you against the rights of the other woman.

– Do not allow women to feel sorry for you if your husband re-marries. You are not a victim and it in no way means there was something wrong with the previous wife. This is just an excuse made by women who are unhappy with the fact that their husband has re-married.

May God save us from us! I hope this helps.

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