Multiple wives club: Fantasy vs responsibility
The Malaysian Insider
December 07, 2012
“I first learned the concepts of non-violence in my marriage.”— Mahatma Gandhi
“Love is blind, but marriage restores its sight.” — Georg C. Lichtenberg
“My advice to you is to get married. If you find a good wife, you`ll be happy; if not, you`ll become a philosopher.” — Socrates
“Second marriage: the triumph of hope over experience.” — Samuel Johnson
One way of looking at the institution of marriage is through the historical eyes of creation (man), but another way of looking at it is through the words of the Creator.
One of the most often asked question by non-Muslims and inquiring (but uninformed) Muslims concerns having more than one wife (polygamy). This is sometimes the enticement for some to convert (others say revert) to Islam, and for others to become an even more “practising” Muslim. Hmmm.
The interest in the “multiple wives club”, from such people, is less from an inquiring theological connection or history seeking mind, but seems more from the immediate gratification associated with the libido and fantasy desires. This is further perpetuated by the stereo-typing info-tainment media and Hollywood.
Is this an observation or a judgment?
(Query: It would be interesting to know which Muslim country (possibly an incorrect statement) has the most polygamists: Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Indonesia? Malaysia? Nigeria? Put differently, is this an Arab and/or Asian/African phenomenon? Furthermore, is it more common amongst the wealthier/literate or poorer/illiterate Muslims?)
It is somewhat surprising the anti-shariah movement has not yet pounced on the conversions, as part of their arguments, for “shariah creep” or backdoor conversions.
The concept of polygamy is found in other religions and traditions including Mormonism. However, it is mostly identified with Islam in the minds of, say, Westerners. But, identified without truly understanding the wisdom and the clear pre-conditions for “approval” from the Creator concerning polygamy.
Revelation, responsibility and reality
First, a little a background is necessary to better appreciate the multiple wives scenario within Islam. The Quran and Islamic (shariah) law, unlike many traditions and cultures of the time, sought to control and regulate the number of wives rather than give man the free “licence of lust” without the corresponding responsibility.
In order for us to understand the Quranic texts, we have to see the ruling about polygamy in context. In seventh-century Arabia and in distant lands, a man could have as many wives as he chose and to prescribe to only four was an unhappy limitation.
For a Muslim, there is no ambiguity in Surah Nisa 4:3, as it`s very simple and clear message from the Creator:
If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. Surah Nisa 4:3 Yosuf Ali
It should be noted, the Quran permits but does not command a man to have four wives.
Furthermore, another Ayah, Al Baqarah 2:228, states:
And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allaah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.
There are two words that stand out here: equality (in treatment) and responsibility (maintenance).
Finally, the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said: “Among the Muslims the most perfect, as regards his faith, is the one whose character is excellent, and the best among you are those who treat their wives well.” Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 628.
Equal treatment possible?
As stated above, the Quran stipulates that a man is responsible for the maintenance of his wife or wives. If a man has more than one wife, he has to provide separate living accommodation for each of his wives.
Therefore, multiple marriages are a heavy responsibility, financially and otherwise, on the man. It is not a superficial pleasure trip laden with all kinds of sexual exploits involving a man and his wives altogether.
(Where does the “controversial” Obedient Wives Club (OWC), an “…international Islamic faith-based organisation which claims to promote harmonious families by teaching wives how to be submissive to their husbands…”, fit in within the Creator`s conditional permissibility of allowing multiple wives? Furthermore, its provocative book, “Islamic Sex, Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World”, “… which encouraged wives to act like `first-class whores` in order to keep husbands from straying…” caused much chatter, possibly for the worse for women?)
In Islam, such activity is not permissible. A man must divide his time equally among his wives. He may, for example, spend one night with each wife on a rotating schedule. If a man cannot maintain justice in the equal treatment of his wives, the Quran then stipulates that he is to have no more than one wife.
(Thus, a mortal Muslim man cannot have a favourite wife as that would violate the rule of equality.)
Muslims regard this Quranic permission as strengthening and raising the status of women and the family. It ensures the welfare of single woman and widows in a society whose male population was diminished by, say, warfare, and to curb unrestricted polygamy.
Thus, given such a scenario during the challenging time period, the woman would have option be a “co-wife” or be a “no wife”.
There are some, Muslims and non-Muslims, who say Islam is a male-dominant religion or female-repressive religion, and, often use the example of four wives to highlight their point. The Obedient Wives Club may perpetuate and accentuate the perception.
Let`s put aside that the multiple wives option has been mistreated by some like in accounting terms LIFO (last in, first out) and FIFO (first in, first out), where the magical number of (up to) four is maintained. Obviously, that violates both the spirit and rule of mercy from the Creator.
Let`s also put aside that a distinction must be made between Islam (the religion) and Muslims (influenced by culture), as the truth is with the former and the “wives` tale” rests with the latter.
Thus, for a Muslim to be part of the “multiple wives club”, the thresholds, as set down by the Creator, are very high, and they also act as an equalizer for women.
So, the next time [a male] comments, with a cheeky grin, “…you Muslims are so lucky to be able to have up to four wives …” the reply may start with the historical reference, then move on the clear-cut ordained responsibilities and pre-conditions, and conclude by saying marriage, in Islam, is not a “sexual exchange”.
Romantic dinner for five -- polygamy on the rise in Malaysia
Agence France Presse
February 11, 2010
In this Aug. 15, 2009 photo, polygamist Mohammad Inaamulillah Bin Ashaari, center, is shown with his four wives, from left, Rohaiza Esa, Ummu Habibah Raihaw , Nurul Azwa Mohd Ani,and Ummu Ammarah Asmis at the “Ikhwan Polygamy Club Family Day” in Rawang, north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Polygamy is legal for Muslims in Malaysia, though not widespread. The Ashaari clan believes it should be. Last month, the sprawling family launched a Polygamy Club that seeks to promote plural marriages for what it says are noble aims, such as helping single mothers, prostitutes and older women find husbands.
Rohaya Mohamad, a 44-year-old Malaysian doctor, chats happily about her plans for the evening, a romantic dinner for five with her husband -- and his three other wives.
Rohaya and her family, which has produced 17 children aged between seven and 21, are among growing numbers of Malaysians entering into polygamous marriages, a phenomenon that observers say is linked to rising “Islamisation”.
Critics say that the practice, legal for Muslims who make up 60 percent of the multi-ethnic population, is out of step with modern times and that it degrades the lives of women and children.
But Rohaya and her fellow wives say the arrangement works just fine for them, allowing them to easily juggle childcare, domestic duties and careers in their busy households.
The undisputed head of the family, 43-year-old husband Mohamad Ikram Ashaari, shuttles between the women`s separate homes, spending a night with each in rotation before they join up on the weekends for family time.
He has taken a new wife every five years, starting with Juhaidah Yusof, a softly spoken 41-year-old who takes care of all the youngsters, and concluding with pretty 30-year-old Rubaizah Rejab, an Arabic language teacher.
His second wife, divorce lawyer Kartini Maarof, introduced him to number-three Rohaya -- who had sought the lawyer`s services while divorcing her first husband, with whom she had seven children.
“She could see how busy I was so she offered me her husband. Initially I said no as I didn`t want to hurt her... and my dad was really against it because polygamy has never been seen in a positive light,” she says.
The family, part of the controversial Ikhwan Polygamy Club which says its mission is to improve the reputation of multiple marriage, believes it is a cure for social ills like adultery and pornography.
“Men by nature are polygamous, they have girlfriends and mistresses, they visit prostitutes -- it is normal,” says Rohaya. “God has made men like that.”
“But in Islam there is a way out which means you must be responsible for the women you want to be involved with.”
They shrug off criticism that the club has its roots in Al-Arqam, a group banned by the Malaysian government which called it an illegal Islamic sect.
There has been particular controversy over plans to spread the club abroad, with branches in Indonesia to add to its network of 1,000 members across Southeast Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.
Mohamad Ikram is a director with Global Ikhwan, a company whose diverse activities include restaurants and noodle manufacturing and which also manages the club.
“We want to say that polygamy works if you follow the rules of God. We don`t expect people to follow but we want to change the mindset,” says Rohaya.
The women say that in such a big household, friction is inevitable but they have learned to resolve their problems.
“It`s a big family so it`s normal that sometimes we argue, sometimes we get on, sometimes we get jealous,” says Kartini.
The four wives seem to have an easy rapport with each other and their offspring, who troop in from school dressed in traditional flowing outfits before touching their foreheads to the hand of a visitor in a polite greeting.
But sociologist Norani Othman from pressure group Sisters in Islam says that these educated women and thriving children are not the typical polygamous family.
She says the practice`s original purpose has been warped, and that the strict conditions to ensure women are fairly treated are routinely ignored.
“The Koran speaks of polygamy under certain circumstances -- for example, a war where you have lots of war widows and orphans. Historically a kind of emergency or welfare measure,” she says.
These days, men can rarely afford to properly care for multiple wives and hordes of children, particularly in Malaysia`s urban areas where the practice is becoming increasingly popular.
Her research has found that first wives, who often refuse to sanction the new marriage, are cut off financially and emotionally -- plunging them into poverty and depression.
Noraini says that up to five percent of marriages in Malaysia are polygamous, a figure that has risen as rules limiting multiple marriage have been watered down over the years.
“Over the past 15 years you can see a gradual increase... coinciding with the rise of Islamic revivalism, of Islamic fundamentalism,” she said, adding it was likely there had been a further steep rise in the past few years.
“The impact of conservative Islam is that it gives an impression to ordinary faithful Muslims to just practice polygamy without seriously thinking of its repercussions.”
But Mohamad Ikram and his family insist that polygamy can work well if those involved adhere to the rules laid out in the Muslim holy book, the Koran.
“I consider myself lucky that I have four wives, it reduces the temptation to commit sin,” he says.
“Even though it`s already enough, there`s always the desire to have more -- one isn`t satisfied with just four,” he adds with a smile.
© Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010.
Malaysian women launch `The Obedient Wife Club`
June 03, 2011
A member of Malaysia`s “Ikhwan” Polygamy Club, Mohd Nizamuddin Ashaari (C), 48, poses with his four wives during a gathering to commemorate Prophet Muhammad`s birthday, in Rawang outside Kuala Lumpur February 27, 2010. The wives from left are, Laila Ahmad, 45, who is the second wife, Sukainah Hamzah, 47, is the first wife, Nizamuddin, Nur Sakinah Rahmanuddin, 45, is the fourth wife, and Umaimah Majid, 42, who is the third wife. They have 24 children in total, from three to 24 years old, who live in a five-room bungalow outside the capital of Kuala Lumpur. REUTERS.
A group of Malaysian Muslim women say they will fight divorce, domestic violence and other problems -- by appealing to wives to be more obedient, one of the organisers said Friday.
Maznah Taufik said “The Obedient Wife Club” being launched Saturday is aimed at drawing women who will be taught how to please their husbands better to prevent them from straying or misbehaving.
“We just want to ask all the wives to be obedient wives so that there will be fewer problems in our society,” such as infidelity, divorce and domestic violence, she told AFP.
“Obedient wife means they are trying to entertain their husbands, not only taking care of their food and clothes,” Maznah said. “They have to obey their husbands. That`s the way Islam also asks.”
Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country, with some 60 percent of the population practicing the religion, alongside large ethnic Chinese and Indian communities who are mostly Buddhist, Hindu and Christian.
According to local media, the country`s divorce rate doubled from 2002 to 2009, with rates higher among Muslims than non-Muslims.
Maznah said it was also the men`s responsibility to teach their wives to be obedient.
“Some wives, they just want to get married for leisure but they don`t know the responsibility,” she said.
“To entertain their husbands is compulsory. If she doesn`t do this, the husband will look for another woman... and the house will break down.”
Saturday`s launch near the capital Kuala Lumpur will include speeches and a show to demonstrate to women how to be good wives, Maznah said, adding that a similar club was set up in Jordan last month.
Maznah is already involved in another controversial venture -- the Ikhwan Polygamy Club, which was launched in 2009 to promote polygamy. Muslim men in Malaysia can take up to four wives.
She is herself in a polygamous marriage, as the second of her husband`s two wives.
In 2010, a study by a Muslim activist group found men in polygamous relationships find it difficult to meet the needs of all their wives and children, and that the result is often unhappy and cash-strapped families.
© Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011 All reproduction and presentation rights reserved.
Dreams of the Obedient Wives Club
The Jakarta Post
June 22, 2011
A member of Malaysia`s “Ikhwan” Polygamy Club, Mohd Miqdad Ashaari, 30, shows a picture of his father Ashaari Muhammad with his three wives while he was sick in bed, during a gathering to commemorate Prophet Muhammad`s birthday, in Rawang outside Kuala Lumpur February 27, 2010. Miqdad himself has three wives with six children. REUTERS
After causing a stir in neighboring Malaysia, the much-maligned Obedient Wives Club (OWC) has arrived in town on a mission to proudly flaunt its moniker.
One of the club`s leaders, Siti Fauzah, said during an interview at the club`s headquarters in Sentul City, Bogor, that the members` mission was simply to be obedient to their husbands as part of their devotion to the Almighty.
“We would not need to be obedient to our husbands if it were not for Allah,” Siti said. She said that total obedience to one`s husband was one of the four conditions of a Muslim woman to reach happiness in the afterlife.
The other criteria are praying, fasting and covering one`s body, she said.
She said that the OWC had 300 members who are also members of Global Ikhwan Indonesia, a local branch of Global Ikhwan, which previously had its headquarters in Malaysia.
Global Ikhwan describes itself as an Islamic organization that “approaches people through business”.
Last year, Global Ikhwan Indonesia caused a stir when it launched a polygamy club.
Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has called the polygamy club “misguided”.
Global Ikhwan Indonesia runs several businesses -- minimarkets, production houses, mineral water factories, travel agencies and hotels -- all of which are managed by its members.
“The company is like a big family,” Siti Fauzah said.
In the neighborhood, Global Ikhwan Indonesia set up a minimarket, a dental clinic, a film production house, a restaurant, a mineral water production center and a school.
Global Ikhwan has relocated from Malaysia to Haramain in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. This year the organization has opened offices in Jordan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The OWC has become a target for criticism after advocating its members to be like “first class prostitutes” in bed with their husbands.
Siti said that teaching women to “serve their husbands like prostitutes” could in fact prevent husbands from looking outside of their marriage for ways to fulfill their desires. “We hope we can curb prostitution in this way,” she added.
Siti said a similar club for husbands would be unnecessary because “husbands know their obligations and what to do”.
Indonesian OWC chairwoman Gina Puspita told the Post that Global Ikhwan “educated” its male members, husbands of OWC members, to be faithful Muslims. “Only faithful male Muslims can teach their wives to be faithful,” she said.
Ruhaini Dzuhayatin, an expert on Islamic law from Yogyakarta State Islamic University (UIN) said that the club might have based its thinking on a misguided interpretation of the hadits (words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad).
“Hadits reflect the spirit of the age in which they were formulated. Interpretation of it should always be contextualized,” she said.
Ruhaini suggested that people should be careful when interpreting hadits because most of them were “very misogynistic”.
“Islam promotes gender equality and surely prohibits women from “unusual behavior; well, you know where,” Ruhaini said.
Ruhaini also alleged that Global Ikhwan was the incarnation of Al Arqam, also known as Darul Arqam, which was banned in Malaysia in the 1990s for being “anti-government”.
The organization, founded by the late Abuya Syeikh Imam Ashaari Muhammad At-tamimi, was part of a transnational group, which was well-known for being highly ideological, conservative and anti-Western politics and culture, she added.
Ruhaini said that the public should not give them more attention as it could increase its popularity. “More reaction from the public is just advertising for the club and also for Global Ikhwan,” she said.
© 2011 The Jakarta Post
Persian Press: Majles Official Calls Polygamy `Pride of Islam,` Hits Opponents
Sunday, September 14, 2008
In this Sept 2, 2009 photo, polygamist Mohammad Ikramullah Ashaari is shown holding a picture of his four wives at Sepang, south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Polygamy is legal for Muslims in Malaysia, though not widespread. The Ashaari clan believes it should be. Last month, the sprawling family launched a Polygamy Club that seeks to promote plural marriages for what it says are noble aims, such as helping single mothers, prostitutes and older women find husbands.
From the “Viewpoint” column, commentary by Ali Motahhari, member of the Cultural Committee of the Majles: “Commotion by the Westoxicated”
The commotion which has been raised over the government`s Family Support bill is a reminder of the similar commotion which broke out in 1345 (1966) over the alteration of certain articles of Civil Code in the newspapers and magazines.
Then, Martyr Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari was forced to enter the battleground and he defended Islamic tenants regarding the rights of women in the best way possible, and the result of that debate is today available in the form of the book “Order of Women`s Rights in Islam.”
At that time the critics imagined that since the Western world is more advanced in industry and technique, so too their family system is also better, and therefore they criticized some of the family laws of Islam like marriage portion, right of divorce of the man and polygamy harshly; but of course faced with the reasoning and logic of Martyr Motahhari they had not much to say, and even when the chief critic and principal claimant passed away after some time of debate and polemical discussion with Master Motahhari, he was freed from the hard task of debating and answering the latter forever.
Sadly, today the same plague and disaster has befallen the Family Support bill and the Westoxicated elements, because polygamy has been named in this bill, raised a commotion; and the eighth Majles that has called itself principle-ist first retreated but again recuperated, and now it is still not known whether it is steadfast and resolute in the defense of Islamic family tenants or not.
The fact of whether the government should have added certain articles and provisos to the bill compiled by the Judiciary, or whether the action was contrary to law, is another issue and is not the topic of this article. The important issue is that after 30 years of Islamic Revolution, Westoxication is still present in the deep layers of the thoughts and beliefs of many of us.
The issue that has raised the most controversy and commotion is the question of polygamy, which is an absolute and inalienable tenant and the pride of Islam.
In every society, the number of women prepared and available for marriage is usually more than the eligible men; this is due to more casualties of men and the stronger resistance of women against illnesses and other reasons.
To cancel this proviso from the family system is tantamount to prescribing corruption and prostitution. Eradication of this tenant means that a number of women in every society will remain without a husband, and it is obvious that these ladies would not sit calm and do nothing; rather they would use their appeals and destroy many families.
The Western world that is opposed this ruling has replaced it with nothing except vice and prostitution. It is interesting to know that after the Second World War, due to the significant reduction in the number of men in society, the German government legalized polygamy, because there was no other solution for it.
In actual fact and contrary to the popular belief, polygamy is among the rights of women and not men. By canceling this ruling, we would deprive a number of women from the right of marriage.
Of course it is evident that monogamy is the best form of marriage, and polygamy is only necessary for solving a social dilemma under certain circumstances, and the conditions and prerequisites that Islam has stipulated for polygamy, like practicing justice, show that renewed wedlock is not the work of every man.
Only a religious judge could ascertain the eligibility and qualification of volunteer men and issue them the needed permit for the second marriage, thus closing the door to abuses of this tenant.
Article 23 of amended government bill has done exactly this and has in fact restricted the practice of polygamy and not expanded and eased it. Whereas the opponents have falsely advertised that the government is after facilitating and expanding polygamy.
At any rate the crucial issue about this ruling is the manner of practicing it; otherwise by itself the tenant is the pride of Islam and the world today has not succeeded to bring a better alternative for this social dilemma and replace it with a better law and they will certainly confess to the correctness of this ruling in the future.
Governments can never take the place of husbands for widows and unmarried women, because the latter are human beings and not machines and their needs are not limited to material necessities, but instead they have many emotional and psychological needs as well and they need a spouse and intimate friend.
Of course this ruling can be implemented and exercised only by men who have wives that enjoy a very high level of Islamic gnosis and understanding and appreciate fully the rationale of this tenant, and therefore willingly make sacrifices for solving a social dilemma. Let us hope that the eighth Majles would deal with this bill far and free from Westoxication.
(Description of Source: Hamshahri (Fellow Citizen) in Persian -- Owned by Tehran Municipality, its politics have changed with the mayoralty. Originally reformist, it became conservative after local elections in 2003. One of the best selling dailies with a circulation of about 350,000.)
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