The truth about polygamy and why do men lie

07 Jan 2023 06:12pm
After months of speculation local film director Syamsul  finally admitted that he has gotten married to actress Ira Kazar, 27, in Thailand.
After months of speculation local film director Syamsul finally admitted that he has gotten married to actress Ira Kazar, 27, in Thailand.

Mention the topic of polygamy around a group of women and you’re bound to get emotional and dramatic reactions.

Especially if these women are wives. To discuss about polygamous marriages in Malaysia is probably akin to poking a bees nest. You’re bound to get stung somehow.

Now at the end of my thirties, I am beginning to see it happen more often, and more to close friends. I myself have been around such marriages and based on personal experiences, it's not an arrangement I can derive positive views from. I have yet to witness a successful polygamous marriage.

The topic of polygamy always seems to be a favourite also for men - although often it is bragged about and becomes a status symbol of wealth and inflated egos. Some times I am privy to these conversations, where they often joke about how just because they are the main breadwinners of the family, their wives should just accept if they wanted to take a second wife.

All these bravado statements often are just a show among friends, as more often than not they cower in the presence of their first wives - which is telling as cases of men resorting to marrying secretly in neighbouring countries to escape the long process of court proceedings seem to be on the rise.

It was recently reported that the main factor most husbands choose to marry abroad (southern Thailand being the most popular destination) is their reluctance in facing the first wife.

Federal Territories syarie lawyers council exco Roshdan Sujak Rafie said some simply did not want to inform their families of the existence of their second wife because they fear that the marriage will not be approved and agreed upon.

He added that the the process of second marriages in Malaysia usually takes a long time.

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"Furthermore, if it is done according to the correct procedure, the first wife will be called and asked for 'permission' to allow the husband to marry again."

I have little admiration for men who quietly and secretly marry another woman like in Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s humorous film Madu Tiga. Actions such as these will also have repercussions, if not in this life then probably in the next.

Most husbands apparently do not care to go through the correct lawful procedures as they feel entitled as heads of the family unit.

I myself have been asked this question many times in a group setting of where men are present "would you allow your husband to marry another?”

I understand the arrangement, the ruling in the religion and why it is allowed. I have poured over scholarly articles and texts and even talked to women who have had such arrangements themselves. Still if it were to happen to me, I can safely without any doubt tell you that it would break my heart.

I do wonder however if the men who subscribe to these ideas really understand the laws and reasons behind it or if they are simply giving in to lust. My take on the matter? I am willing to say 90 per cent of the men in these marriages have no understanding whatsoever on the religious rules and what the rights of the first wife are.

Emotional feelings aside, let’s dissect the topic intellectually.

Under Malaysia's two-tier court system, Islamic courts deal with family law, including polygamy, and morality cases such as consuming alcohol and gambling. In Selangor, a syariah law judge will consider the circumstances in allowing a husband to take another wife. Polygamous marriages are allowed if the first wife is not healthy, or cannot produce children.

They are also allowed if the husband's sex drive is higher than his wife's. The court needs to be satisfied that the man is financially able to support two families.

The first wife is called to court and asked whether she is agreeable to the second marriage, and if she is not due to whatever reasons the second marriage cannot happen unless she is persuaded. The husband can however appeal the courts decision.

The laws look solid and set to protect the right of the first wife, however the loophole here is if the husband does not get permission from the court, he can easily circumvent the decision by marrying in a neighbouring country and when he returns, he can simply register the marriage and made to pay a paltry fine. As evidenced by the recent case of local film director Syamsul Yusof.

Yesterday, after months of speculation of his relationship with a woman other than his wife, Syamsul finally admitted that he has gotten married to actress Ira Kazar, 27, in Thailand.

The Mat Kilau director said Ira's father, actor Kazar Saisi, was present as the bride's guardian at the wedding.

The 38-year-old shared his new marital status via a video on Instagram on Friday (Jan 6).

Syamsul admitted that he is, legally, still the husband of Puteri Sarah Liyana, whom he married on March 8, 2014. They share two children – six-year-old Syaikhul Islam, and Sumayyah, four.

Puteri Sarah Liyana is currently initiating legal proceedings.

Often times, when polygamy becomes the subject of discussion, it is criticised. Polygamy is not an obligated rule, it is permissible. In usual circumstances the unsurpassed and most productive of all marriages are monogamous, and most Muslims practice monogamy.

Contemporary islamic scholars do not recommend or encourage polygamy, but still it is available to be utilized as a solution if people are faced with extraordinary cases or circumstances.

For some people, or in some circumstances, polygamy might serve as a remedy. For example, in some countries, the stigma of a widow or a divorced woman may be a deterring factor in remarrying.

But why would a woman agree to be a second wife? And why does a first wife agree to it?

In a survey conducted by a woman's NGO pre pandemic, 70 per cent of Muslim women agreed that Muslim men have a right to polygamous marriages as long as they can treat all wives fairly, while only 30 per cent would allow their own husband to marry another woman.

Based on my conversations with second wives, there are a number of motivations for marrying someone's husband.

The first reason being that men who have been married or are still married are usually at the time in their lives, where they are stable in their career and are matured compared to young single men.

" I just want to be taken care of, provided for and protected and most men my age are not able to provide that for me." she said

Other reasons include wanting a comfortable life, upgrades in their status, and not wanting to have a husband around 24 / 7.

Often a first wife agrees to the arrangement because she can no longer be bothered with the husband, she has fallen out of love with the husband but wishes to not separate because of inheritance and for her children health reasons, or is being forced by the husband to just agree.

Yes, polygamy is complicated.

One can aspire to provide as fairly as possible in terms of nafkah - loosely translated as maintenance or provision of means to all his wives, but can one be emotionally fair?

Many husbands fail to understand that the verse which touches on polygamy in the Quran states 'to do justice it is best that you only marry one'. Many do not delve deeper into the verse and seem to only want to acknowledge the first half where it states that Muslim men are allowed to marry up to four wives.

In short marriage in Islam is actually sacred, but it is an individual values which will make it work.

Values such as love, affection, loyalty, trust and communication and a conviction to God that must be observed by both men and women.

It is with these values that will often determine if you're able to respect your partner enough to not go behind their backs and to always lead with the truth.

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