The Advocator Of Women’s Rights


The Star on 15 February 2009  featured the writings of  Shahanaaz Habib, one of my favourite journalists. She wrote of a recent Musawah which was held last Friday. Musawah, organized by the Sisters In Islam is a global movement that wants to bring reforms to the Islamic family law and practices.

Time and again, I have always seen myself as being a practical Muslim in a lot of ways. I have blogged about this time and again too. Reading from the outcome of the session, it truly articulated the thoughts of many Muslimah out there, oppressed or otherwise.

Resonating from a polygamy discussion I had with a friend not too long ago, Z who is in her early forties, successful, beautiful and single (but not available) has this fear that once she marries her boyfriend, things will change and she cannot bring herself to think that there are 3 more “corums” to be filled if the husband so wishes.

I also wonder why men generally will only take the first portion of a Quran verse that allows the men to take four wives if only he can afford to do justice to all BUT to one woman? They tend to have selective memory that the verse also ended with a warning that if they decided that they cannot do justice, then marry only one.

When I used to live in Kota Kinabalu, I used to receive a few friends who live in Brunei. Brunei, being a Muslim country and one of the richest in this part of the world, would also see a few of its men having more than one wives. Pengiran K has 4 wives who live in four similar big bungalows, each with equally similar number of luxury cars, similar furniture and even similar number of household maids and drivers. The only glaring dissimilarity was the number of children each wife bore for him. Holidays are planned a bit differently where Wife Number 1 will get to go first, followed by Number 2, 3 and lastly 4.

Over coffee one afternoon, I asked Pengiran K how did he managed to be sane and at the same time keeping his household intact with all these four wives? His answer was this: apparently 2 days in a week he would go back to his fifth house sans any of the wives to recuperate and plan for his businesses. He also said that if a man simply cannot do justice even to one wife, dont even think about having to have his balance of corum filled, because it will not work. There are children to be raised, fed, educated. Wives to be satisfied…household to be looked after, etc etc. Things are not exactly cheap, he said.

Hmm…ok, wise words. But, how many man out there who truly understands the reason why the Faith allows this polygamy on the first place?

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3 Replies to “The Advocator Of Women’s Rights”

  1. Glad to see a blog post that’s positive about the Musawah Global Meeting for a change 🙂

    As a muslim male, I recognize the fact that polygamy is an allowance given, not a male’s right. And that allowance, too, comes with conditions. In fact, the Quran does state that polygamy may potentially economically damaging.

    The myth of a “males’s right” has, unfortunately, been propagated (IMHO) by the religious establishment itself, for whatever reason.

    On the example you quote, of Pengiran K – while he may have been fair to all 4 on a material level, only God (and Pengiran K) can know if he’s managed to be fair emotionally to all 4. It’s the emotional fairness, I think, that’s much more difficult.

    Nice post, and nice blog!

  2. As a Muslim male, my understanding is that the purpose behind the allowance for polygamy was to protect and provide for women – particularly in circumstances where wars and natural calamities decimated the male population and left a shortage of men to provide and care for women. Circumstances have changed over the centuries: women in many countries are no longer dependent on men for their economic existence. Disease and wars no longer take lives the way they used to. So, in my opinion, I don’t really see any use for polygamy where the social and economic circumstances can’t justify it as a means of protecting and providing for women.

    When there may be a valid reason to take more than one wife then, as walski69 points out, polygamy is an ALLOWANCE and not a RIGHT. It comes with certain conditions and obligations attached to it. IMHO, any man that cannot meet the conditions and live up to the obligations has no business seeking this allowance. Being able to treat wives equally – emotionally and otherwise – is one thing. But, in my own experience, it has taken me until my middle age just to find the ONE woman that I am compatible with and who truly completes me. And I am not going to screw that up for anything, Insha Allah…! I will be content with what God has provided for me, and will humbly ask the Creator for success in ONE marriage with this ONE and ONLY partner…

  3. Walski69: Thank you for your comment. Alas! A positive one too by looking at poligamy from a differerent perspective of a male. I do believe that in Malaysia, or almost anywhere else in the world, the is a real need to shift the mindset, or a religious reform to reflect the dynamics of the Faith itself. As we know, Islam’s teachings, itself has evolved to reflect the change of time. We now cannot measure the distance by “a camel’s walk in a day”. Even our fasting month is determined by both hisab and falaq methods, just to ensure that it has check and balance.

    I agree with you, only God and Pengiran K know how fair is he emotionally between his four wives. And, perhaps this was what needs to be the main thing that needs to be managed, more than material things.

    George: I am glad you see this as it is 😉 Kinda difficult if it were otherwise!

    Other men may want to point out though, that one more factor why men opt to have their other corums filled is due to sexual appetite. My arguement is this – men have always been seen and acknowledged for that fact, and, condoned by the society as generally we live in a patriachial one. Women do have that urges but have learnt to suppress that aspect in their lives.

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