Still on One Man, Four Wives – By Yushau A. Shuaib
It is interesting reading an article on polygamy, which many may prefer to shy away from its debate. The piece on the above by Dr. Bala Muhammad in the Weekly Trust June 23, 2007 was quite reawakening on how the sanctity of polygamy is abused in the Northern part of Nigeria. Dr. Muhammad is a renowned mass-communication scholar who has worked in BBC, Deuchewelle of Germany, the Guardian as member editorial board and presently the boss of Kano Directorate of Reorientation. The article was influenced by a research, which indicates higher rate of divorce amongst Hausa-Fulani a predominantly Muslim group. Some of the perpetrators have misinterpreted religious injunctions and prophetic wisdoms to abuse the sanctity of polygamy. Some even have the erroneous belief that to guard against poverty, one should consistently marry more wives. Haba!
I was indeed impressed by the facts presented by the writer that: polygamy in Islam is only possible if the husband will be able to treat his wives justly. Otherwise, the man is to marry only one wife. He quoted The holy Quran, Islamic scriptural book, Chapter on The Women (Q 4:3) that “And if you have reason to fear that you might not act equitably towards orphans, then marry from among (other) women such as are lawful to you – (even) two, or three, or four: but if you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then (only) one…”
He mentioned how polygamy is treated in some Muslim countries. In Tunisia and Morocco polygamy is prohibited in their legal codes. In Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Malaysia they make polygamy subject to court permission and only granted when certain conditions are fulfilled such as the husband’s financial capability to maintain a second wife. He didn’t mention the Nigerian factor where there could be addition and addition. And if one of the wives is deleted through divorce, more addition becomes a possibility.
It is not only Islam that recognizes polygamy, other cultures and religions also promote it. We should not forget the biblical King Solomon and David who were polygamous. Around the world too, there are local chiefs, traditional rulers and religious leaders, including Christians especially Aladuras that have more than one wife. Some highly celebrated Nigerians from the Southern Nigeria are also polygamous like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, billionaire-politician MKO Abiola, and born-again Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya.
In his piece Dr. Bala Muhammad, a widely traveled scholar mentioned some advocacies in the United States of America promoting polygamy where personalities like Henry Kraemer and Michael Schocket published an article in the media with a title “Let’s Make Polygamy Legal: The Right to Marry Should not be restricted by Quantity.”
Since the culture of POLYANDRY is not practiced in Nigeria, where a woman marries more than one husband, (which is common with some groups in India and South Africa,) what could have necessitated the desire for additional wives in our modern society?
There are seeming justifications for the practice from societal angle too. If female population, as demographers constantly remind us, is more than the male-folks, what could happen to extra virtuous ladies should everyman marries one single wife? What about a situation where the wife cannot medically conceive but the husband desires a child? How do we dignify and protect the chastity of widows from temptation that may lead to promiscuity? How do we also address the problems of women who after few issues, forget to maintain their attractiveness and give unnecessary excuses when their husbands are desirous of intimacy?
Can a single wife have capacity and strength to withstand a husband with excessive libido? How about wives whose pastime is to abuse their in-laws and engage in troublemaking in the neighborhoods? What about shyly but gaily dressed fiancées during courtship but who after marriage become shabbily clad and only dress-to-kill for outings?
While it is condemnable the rate by which poor and young people take more wives without adequate source of livelihood as Dr. Bala Muhammad observed in his piece, it is similarly regrettable if not abominable the way and manner the rich in the society abuse our children and wives in the name of polygamy. The rate of divorce amongst members of opulent class who have less regard in showering genuine affection to their wives after society wedding is also alarming.
We are living witnesses to the wealthy individuals in society whose interest in polygamy is to boost their egos like conquerors and sometimes do away with the old wives. They may marry young ladies enough to be their daughters and later divorce them like expired or used cans of juice after satisfying their lust. Moneybags also use polygamy as an oppressive weapon to intimidate young suitors by bypassing the ladies to speak to poor parents in the language of survival like King Mswati of Swaziland who has all the ladies in his domain for his pick. The lustful local rich men also compete amongst themselves in fishing for pretty ladies in their community for marriage as if their victims are prized trophy. That is apart from those that take delight in deflowering virgins for the fun of it through multiple marriages.
There is also marriage for show-off amongst the political elites who suddenly realize that they abode illiterate wives who could not fit into First Lady’s status and not suitable for presentation at social gatherings like Owambe parties. They forget that they denied and discouraged the unfortunate wives at home to further their education after the union. Nothing is more worrisome than the unbecoming antic of polygamous men, who force their wives to furtively imitate them, in chasing young and old mistresses and gigolos outside matrimony when their spouses are likely more attractive in character and characteristics.
Surprisingly some wives encourage their husbands to play away-matches with even women of easy virtues to guarantee sustaining their position as the first-and-only-madam at home. But in an effort to taste the forbidden fruit outside the matrimony, the husbands become victims of desperate single women who apply literal and diabolical charms and sometimes through avoidable pregnancies to ensnare the men to take them home as supplementary madams. Smart gold diggers know how to upgrade their status from Miss to Mrs.
As there exist rivalries within some polygamous families there also abound several exemplary polygamous homes where the wives and children relate mutually and peacefully to the joy of their breadwinners and the admiration of their community.
Towards a united and strong family, it is advisable that couples should sustain mutual respect and love built on trust and faithfulness. They should shun attraction to physical attributes that fall and go for partners of good temperament, which is enduring, and hardly fail. It should be pointed out that what may attract one to look outside the matrimony for amorous companionship can be prevented if the person provides those other sources of attraction for their spouses like those tantalizing lipsticks, gowns and perfumes and even couch them to swagger like supermodels.
What is my take in all these? As Muslims, some of our parents, like mine, colleagues and even old school mates never envisaged marrying more than one wife but are presently polygamous. They mostly claim that their decisions are destiny. So what could be the future of some of us still monogamous and cautious of playing away-matches in a society that still debates preference between more wives and more children? Please can you pray for us as I say AMEEN?
First published in Weekly Trust June 30, New Nigerian July 3, Vanguard July 6 and Daily Triumph July 11 2007