Polygamy: A form of mental strain on wives?

17 Dec 2023 09:00pm
Pix for illustration purpose only.
Pix for illustration purpose only.

KUALA LUMPUR - The topic of polygamy in Islam often sparks strong reactions, fueled by past incidents that misrepresent this complex practice.

The sentiment intensified, especially when husbands marry again while their wives were in postpartum recovery or still affected by pregnancy-induced conditions.

Such sentiments triggered active discussions on social media, often accompanied by emotionally charged comments.

Although these were personal opinions, their implications were significant, to the extent that some considered polygamy a form of mental abuse to wives.

To delve deeper into the subject, Sinar sought insights from an independent speaker, Dr Robiah K Hamzah.

She invited us to understand polygamous marriages permitted by Islam under strict conditions.

She clarified that polygamy is allowed if the wife is chronically ill, suffering from a contagious disease, insane, experiencing memory loss or unable to conceive.

"It is true that a wife has no right to prevent her husband without a clear reason if it truly follows Islamic law.

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"Moreover, it should not be considered as mistreatment or oppression to the wife.

"Sometimes, lack of understanding of the law makes people forget what is allowed by religion.

"Indeed, polygamy was also practiced by the Prophet Muhammad SAW with strict conditions and most individuals he married were widows due to their husbands' death in wars or to protect their faith," she said.

Avoiding unjust labels

Robiah emphasised that the presented facts were based on religious principles, not an attempt to defend men who wished to remarry.

"That's why, in general, we should not pass judgment when polygamy occurs.

"Labelling the husband as unjust, uncaring to his wife, or abusing his wife is a wrong perception.

"In reality, the strength in giving another woman the opportunity to marry is considered an act of worship for those who otherwise would remain unmarried and childless.

"Remember, Prophet Muhammad SAW wanted to see a flourishing community.

"If a husband can fulfill his responsibilities well, follow religious commands, and adopt an Islamic way of life, there is no need to feel offended or consider it a burden if the husband wishes to remarry," she said.

She urged understanding that polygamy should not be seen as a form of injustice because it comes with a significant responsibility to ALLAH SWT and humanity.

"Remember, destiny lies in the hands of God. Marriage would not happen if Allah did not say 'yes.'

"Do not label someone as 'immoral,' 'unaware of their age,' 'incapable,' or brand the first wife as incapable of being a good wife.

"Do not be a person with knowledge but blindly follows traditions to the extent of saying inappropriate things to husbands practicing polygamy," she advised.

She also pointed out that most cases of husbands remarrying while their wives were in postpartum recovery or pregnant may be due to strong sexual urges, but the wife cannot provide that service due to illness and other factors.

"Each person is different in this regard, and each couple needs to understand each other.

"I'm not saying that the man's action is right.

"On the contrary, we must consider that those who do it follow it based on religious reasons, biological needs, and not just mere desire.

"In this case, I neither support nor encourage polygamy but aim to correct the perception so that the religious law is not viewed as wrong.

"This is because marriage is a command from Allah and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad SAW.

"Before practicing polygamy, husbands need to know what needs to be done to make multiple marriages not considered negative," she said.

Understanding capability

On another note, Robiah explained that the ability to practice polygamy was not measured solely in material terms.

As a family motivational and counseling expert, she stressed that it also encompassed knowledge, time management, affection, justice, and more.

Regarding a wife's prohibition of her husband's polygamous marriage, the RKH Motivation & Services Operatons Director explained that the sin or not depended on the wife's consideration of the husband's responsibility to his family.

"If a husband allows his wife to struggle alone with the children, then talks about remarrying, that is a responsibility issue that the husband cannot fulfill.

"It must be remembered that it is the husband's duty to save the family from the hellfire, in addition to providing sustenance.

"If these two responsibilities cannot be fulfilled for the first family, how can he control the second family (second wife)?

"If that's the reason why the first wife opposes, it is justified to save the husband from the hellfire," she said.

To men considering polygamy, Robiah advised them to equip themselves with knowledge as mentioned in the Quran and hadith, in addition to assessing their goodness, weaknesses, justice, responsibilities, and personal capabilities.

"Do not let children and wives be under stress because it can affect their health. While the first wife wants to care for more children, the husband wants to be happy by remarrying.

"Whether the first or second wife, learn to compromise sincerely and honestly," she added.