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Searching For a Fourth Wife

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Farid would take a fourth wife if he could afford one. This 29-year-old gravel supplier says he has already received a dozen calls from single women in his neighborhood who want to join his three current wives. He is something of a catch. His hillside house has no water or electricity, but his business hauling gravel provides a steady income. The fact that he has three wives and seven children, three of them sons, is a mark of his status in the community.

If marriage is the building block of society, then polygamy represents one of the profounder differences between Islam and the West. There are no comprehensive figures for the number of polygamous marriages in the Middle East. The practice is outlawed in Tunisia and Turkey, but may be as high as 25% in Afghanistan, according to UN estimates here. Whatever the figures, polygamy’s legal standing in Sharia law and idealized position in some communities have led to a very different view of society. A certain utilitarianism puts the demands of family and tribal loyalty – and the production of sons – far before the romantic love that’s central to the concept of marriage in the West.

Some history first: the Koran allows men to have up to a maximum of four wives. When this Koranic verse was revealed, many Muslim men divorced wives in excess of four in order to comply. The Prophet Muhammad had a total of eleven wives throughout his life, though no more than nine at any one time. One of the primary motives both then and now for multiple wives is the need for sons, who will inherit the family’s estate (women, when they marry, effectively join their husband’s family). A common justification among Middle Eastern men for taking a second wife is that their first has not produced a son. Another reason is that first marriages are often arranged by families between cousins, without consent from either man or woman. A second wife can often be a “love match.” On other occasions widows, of which there are many in Afghanistan, are re-married to surviving brothers to keep the children in the family.

In all of these circumstances women are clearly treated as commodities. with little say in whom they marry. There are further, psychological ramifications. In Iraq, I witnessed one family torn apart by a man’s decision to take a second wife. The man, called Ali, had begun work as a driver with a Western security firm and was earning a large salary ($2000 a month), giving him the financial means to take another wife. His original wife, however, refused to accept the legitimacy of the second, leading to a painful rivalry, which ultimately split the children, the sons favoring the father, the daughters the mother, and led to divorce. In other cases I’ve seen in Yemen, the husband has inevitably favored certain wives, leading to simmering rivalries played out among the children.

When I asked Farid if there was rivalry between the different wives and their children, he told me to look at them happily playing together. Farid insists his relationship with his three wives is happy. He says his wives form a tight family unit, sharing the housework. His first wife was happy for him to take a second wife, he claims. “She went to the family of the second woman and made the proposal on my behalf,” says Farid. Each time he gets a new wife, Farid adds a new room to the house, spending one night in turn with each wife.

But Farid did not allow me to interview his wives for this video, after deciding that their views, if publicly broadcast, would bring shame to the family. He only allowed me to film them on the condition that they wear burqas. (One wife was visiting family in the north during my visit).

“Neither I nor my wives come from a rich or well-educated family, so we value things different to the smart people in the city,” said Farid. “We want lots of sons, and for them to grow up clever and strong.”

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Comments (32)

Islam is the only solution for the future:

The future says, there will more women in the earth then men. As now, there are 52% women in the earth and 48%. So if every muslims after Prophet Mohamed p.b.u.h married only one woman today could be 70% women and 30% men or less.

If muslims do not follow Quran and Sunnah(peach, actions of Prophet Mohammed p.b.u.h) the mankind will be over and the world be destroyed, as the devilfollower destryed yet the world.

Ahmad

J Rhinehart:

S* says "My advice is do not criticize the law, criticize the people who take advantage of the law and make it look like a sleazy way to fulfill their desires."
----------------------------------------------
I agree.

Our society in the West practices serial monogamy, meaning it's illegal to have more than one wife at a time, but not illegal to have more than one wife.

Legalizing sex doesn't seem to work. Seems to me that spending more time teaching children about good relationships would do more to prevent bad marriages.

I agree with the author that the way Afghanistan treats women is like a commodity. There have to be some exceptions, just as there are men here who treat women like possessions.

You know, a recent article on bad marriages here in the US said marriage counselors are finding that too many couples marry because they think they have to be married; they say this country puts too much emphasis on being married, as though it's the only way to exist. But 20% of all people never marry. And 40% of all 1st marriages fail, 60% of all 2nd marriages fail, & 75% of all 3rd marriages fail. Sounds to me like only about half of the population is really suited to being married. I wonder if it's that way in Afghanistan, and what they do when a marriage doesn't work out.

Observer:

S
You say:"( Muslim)men don't have to go around cheating on their gfs/wives like they do in the West."
Wrong! You must have never been in Beirut , especially during the summer. There you will discover the fidelity of Muslim Arabs. Saudi and other Gulf States men will be flooding the casinos, night clubs and brothels while their harem along with their servants are rotting in their hotel rooms

S*:

The essence of polygamy is having multiple partners at any given time, legally.

The West discourages 'legal' polygamy.

But, if we really think about it, the West strongly follows the tradition of multiple partners only it is not legally proclaimed. It is not uncommon for an individual in America/Europe to be 'seeing' two or more women/men at the same time. If you want evidence you can just pick up any hollywood movie at your local video store and chances are 8/10 would be talking about how a bf/gf was cheating on their respective mates and involved in sexual/romantic relations with another.

My question is - how is that right or any better than polygamy that so to say Islam allows? If anything the Koran limited the 100's of wives Arab's kept in the olden historic times. Not only that but, polygamy is further discouraged by Islam by the constraint of "equal treatment of each wife" - further the 'legal' aspect in Islam brings about trust in the society. Men don't have to go around cheating on their gfs/wives like they do in the West.

That said, there are also situations where you might need to re-marry. Currently, women outnumber men in many countries of the world. Most of these countries are not as advanced as the US, and these women need the protection/shelter/financial support of a man and not just a romantic relationship to embark their whole life upon. Sometimes women are left widowed and due to lack of education or certain circumstances they are unable to provide for themselves. Eastern societies culturally banish these women from the society, in most Hindu laws in the past these women were not even allowed to re-marry and were left isolated. Under such circumstances if a man comes forward and provides shelter, to me that is really for a noble cause.

There is more of a positive aspect in this law than a negative one. Polygamy in Islam is like divorce, something that is legally allowed but, discouraged on my many levels. One can argue that divorce should be illegal because it affects children and families. But, on the other hand you sometimes have impossible situations where divorce is the only thing that makes sense.

My advice is do not criticize the law, criticize the people who take advantage of the law and make it look like a sleazy way to fulfill their desires.

Ben Abdallah PeaceVille:

hello everyone
regardless of whether or not marrying four women at the same time is right. i just cant help but think why everyone has so much hate towards each other. please try to be forgivable and stop judging others so much and start judging yourself and your country. worrying about other people's problems is what led the world the this state of chaos, it is why the gas prices are so high and it is also why the richest culture and history of the world was destroyed (Iraq) because really the united states of america which is the "greatest'" country in the world has so many problems, probably more than a lot of countries.
stop letting yourself be manipulated by the american media and THINK for your self. If it gets confusing read the bible, the torah and the koran and i promise you will find the answers.
thank you
peace

Ibrahim Mahfouz:

Sari;
You admonish Usama for blaming polygamy on colonialism then turn around and use his other convoluted arguments to justify polygamy.
You say: “The reason(for polygamy) was he (Mohammad) was trying to build bridges among communities and convince more tribes to adopt Islam. The way you established relations between tribes during that time was through marriages. Other wives, he took as a result of war... to protect these women. He did not have sexual relations with all of his wives. Some just lived under his protection.”

Below is what I wrote to Usama and will apply to you also.
"Let us see if the evidence support both of your claims.
1. After Hafsa’s husband died of wounds received at Uhud, Hafsa’s father thought of her marrying ‘Othman, but ‘Othman declined because he knew Mohammed wanted to marry her. Sunan Nasa’i vol.1 #32 p.117. Thus Mohammed did not marry her just to provide for her. Rather he married someone who otherwise would have been married to someone else.
2 Zainab bint Jahsh was married to Mohammed’s adopted son, until Mohammed spoke the Sura that she was to divorce his son and marry Mohammed.( Quran33:37).
3. Juwairiya was captured in a raid on the Banu Mustaliq tribe. She had been married to Musafi’ bin Safwan, who was killed in battle. Bukhari vol.3 book 46 ch.13 no.717 p.431-432
4.Safiya bint Huyai was a captive that Mohammed married after slaughtering her father, brother, husband and the men at Khaibar, according to Bukhari vol.2 book 14 ch.5 no.68 p.35
5. Rayhana was a Jewish captive from the Quraiza tribe. Tabari vol.39 p.164-165.
6.Umm Sharik "When the Prophet went to her he found her to be an old woman, so he divorced her." al-Tabari vol.9 p.139."

Anon:

Only a woman who marries for money and prestige could be happy to be one of many wives, waiting her turn to be with her husband. There is no guarantee that she will be loved equally and she has to learn to deny or drown her own sexual needs and jealousies.

It is known that Mohammad loved his child bride, Aisha best. Even Mohammad could not love his wives equally.

What a life if one has to wait one's turn to be with the man one loves! What a terrible loss when waking up every morning with the same man one is married to is an unimaginable luxury. If a woman has no income of her own and is not allowed to work, it is easy to see how they would put up with such sacrifices, namely waiting their turn patiently to spend time with their husband.

Sher Ahmed Khan:

Im surprised to say that the population that has been devoted/donated/sacrificed to live with the masonic west that rests under the banner of british companies trys to read into the order of islam and koran. koran is a book that is never to be understood by a denier. koran is a book that believes in all the books that speak good.
Legelly living with hundred women is not disallowed in Islam when you will read clearly it is a challenge by god 'can one live with four? But how many can satisfy and keep four different heads together.The law is simple that multiple wifes is not a necessity but think of strong gravel worker who will wear away a lady in half a decade and should have right to another.The secret is to keep them happy.
Osama Bin Laden Etc are examples of Western Nations moving into grassroot levels of other society to pinch a penny out and look what they brought home? Basically they did not need to communicate beyond the civilian order of first grade officers all the while Islamic countries were tied and had to live under Zionists and Secular dictations..

Ibrahim Mahfouz:

To Usama:
You rationalize why Mohammad married 5 more women than what he proscribed as maximum for his
followers. You say some of the women "were widows and some to cement alliances".

Let us see if the evidence support that claim.
1. After Hafsa’s husband died of wounds received at Uhud, Hafsa’s father thought of her marrying ‘Othman, but ‘Othman declined because he knew Mohammed wanted to marry her. Sunan Nasa’i vol.1 #32 p.117. Thus Mohammed did not marry her just to provide for her. Rather he married someone who otherwise would have been married to someone else.

2 Zainab bint Jahsh was married to Mohammed’s adopted son, until Mohammed spoke the Sura that she was to divorce his son and marry Mohammed.( Quran33:37).

3. Juwairiya was captured in a raid on the Banu Mustaliq tribe. She had been married to Musafi’ bin Safwan, who was killed in battle. Bukhari vol.3 book 46 ch.13 no.717 p.431-432

4.Safiya bint Huyai was a captive that Mohammed married after slaughtering her father, brother, husband and the men at Khaibar, according to Bukhari vol.2 book 14 ch.5 no.68 p.35

5. Rayhana was a Jewish captive from the Quraiza tribe. Tabari vol.39 p.164-165.

6.Umm Sharik "When the Prophet went to her he found her to be an old woman, so he divorced her." al-Tabari vol.9 p.139


Mathematically declined:

Moral and theological issues aside, isn't there a problem with the arithmetic of polygamy?

Since the sex ratio of humans at birth is pretty close to one baby boy for each baby girl, widely practiced polygamy seems to leave a lot of guys who aren't getting much ligitimate lovin' or having offspring.

And, I'd guess, not feeling too happy about the situation.

John in Fort Myers, FL:

I would be happy to have contributed either or both of my ex-wives to Farid.

I cannot understand why any man would choose polygamy. One woman in his life should be more than enough misery for any man. Of course in those Muslim countries which allow polygamy, women's attitudes are different than today's "liberated" western woman's view of the world although no doubt eastern women's views are changing. Soon what's Farid's will be their's and Farid can go about taking out the garbage , walking the camels and goats , and supporting all his wives in the style to which they will become accustomed.

Perhaps more polygamy could cure more Muslims of bloodthirsty tendencies, although four wives would have certainly driven me to suicide bombing. With four wives , all except the filthy rich would have to be so busy working to keep his wives in enough "stuff" that there wouldn't be time for terrorism.

More I think about it, western countries need to get a big charity going to fund every Muslim man's weddings to as many willing women as can be found.

With four wives nagging at every Muslim man day and night (just imagine four like Hillary Clinton's whose ad is adjacent to this column ) they will be so tired and downtrodden that the threat of Islamic terrosim will soon be eliminated

geek49203:

Didn't Jesus once observer that "A man cannot serve 2 masters"?

Wisdom from a guy who never married... (ducking)

Jassi:

Yes, Muslims need four wives because they kill each other so much that women are left alone.

Also they need more offsprings to carry on jihad.

Mohammed saw this centuries ago and dreamt it up in Quran.

Sari:

Oh bloody hell, Usama, this is one thing you cannot blame on colonialism. It's always the fault of the west, isn't it.

The verse of the Koran about polygamy goes something like this....

If you can do justly to them, then 2,3, or 4. But if you fear you cannot do justly to them, then only 1. A few verses later... And truly, you will never be able to do justly to them. So then only 1. Why was polygamy permitted? It wasn't encouraged, it was just permitted. This was not just because women were being divorced. It was because polygamy was part-and-parcel of Arabian peninsula tribal culture at the time. No one would've adopted Islam had the practice been banned. Because Muhammad wanted to spread a faith, not launch a feminist movement in the Gulf. That being said, for the first time, women were given property rights, dowries to themselves alone, and the right to consent to their marriages.


Indeed, the prophet Muhammad married only 1 wife for 20 years. It was only after Khadija's death that he took multiple wives. The reason was he was trying to build bridges among communities and convince more tribes to adopt Islam. The way you established relations between tribes during that time was through marriages. Other wives, he took as a result of war... to protect these women. He did not have sexual relations with all of his wives. Some just lived under his protection.

With Aisyah, she was 9 years old. He took Aisyah as a wife because her father, Abu Bakar, was his friend. At the time, it was considered very bad to have female children so he was doing his friend a favor.

People need to understand how barbaric Saudi Arabian culture was at the time. Girl babies were typically left in the desert to die of exposure or to be eaten by animals. Women were property with no inheritance rights. Left to the mercies of fathers, husbands or sons. In the context of the time, this was progressive.

The problem is, this man, Farid, other men aren't thinking of context. They aren't thinking of the history and circumstances surrounding the permitting of polygamy and the tribal culture of the time. Today's men are horny. They don't want to control their passions but they don't want to commit adultery. They want their cake and they want to eat it too.

Mark In Irvine:

Polygamy in fundamentalist Morman communities is about child abuse and welfare abuse - exploitation of women and children for the selfish gratification of men.

Tammy, United States:

In the United States, several churches maintain lesser views of a woman's worth and abilities. Catholic, Missouri Synod Lutheran, Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, Southern Baptist - to name a few - do not grant women the same value and rights given to men. Most Americans do not consciously think of this as anything that impacts how women are seen around the world -- but it does. If women in the United States refused to belong to churches that don't grant them the same opportunities to put their skills to use as are available outside the church -- the churches would have to change, and with those changes would come a new understanding of the importance of women being accepted as equal in value. For now, the fact that these churches continue to have separate jurisdictions over women within their organizations gives tacit approval to religions and organizations in other countries continuing to devalue women.

Joe:

Just for the record,

How much does this society value women? Please. How can any modern person think this is OK?

center:


I hate it when judgements are offered as opinions. Polygamous relationships are labeled backward relationships. True, they are different from the kind of relationships in Omaha! These seemingly repulsive relationships solve problems there; they offer hope as well as repair lives. How absurd to call effective cultural tools (their culture) backward when they are the only known to be functional in dealing with critical social problems and situations.

east jerusalem on the scene:

Here in Israel, immigrant Jews (and native Jews) with a polygamous tradition (communities that had been cut off from the rest of the Jewish world when polygamy was banned 1,000 years ago) had to accept that they could no longer marry more than one wife. The "older" immigrating generation was not forced to divorce, they were "grandfathered" in, but no new polygamous marriages were permitted.
In an effort not to offend our Muslim cousins, Israel never banned polygamous marriages even among Israeli Arabs.
This has led to an incredible abuse of the welfare system here, since a single father with 30 children from 5 fives is considered the head of a single household, with the commensurately large Bituach Leumi benefits that go along with it. Which go into his bank account monthly, instead of the women's.
This situation was really at the root of the huge welfare cutbacks of several years back, which had to be across the board and affected Jewish Israeli children living in poverty very powerfully. Truly an unfortunate situation. To stop these outrageous payments to Israeli Arabs, everyone else had to suffer within the system. But how else could it be done without picking a fight with the whole Arab world and the liberal West?

sri-jaggu-gandhi:

Usama,
When a mussulman talks about to a kaffir about having strong "family" values, he never mentions that his family may consist of 4 wives. I suppose you will never appreciate the irony of a mussulman lecturing a kaffir about irony.

-sri-jaggu-gandhi

Jane:

Perhaps, in the future, polygamy will be a thing of the past except in the most backward of villages.
After all, public opinion and the force of the USA government caused a sect in our own country to suddenly have a turn about on they own god-given right to polygamy and settle with the rest of the country on one man and one woman per marriage.
As more and more Middle East countries are dragged kicking and screaming into a more modern society by the young and the restless and the intelligent, things will surely change.

Angus Mckilt:

Didn't Muhammad have a wife that was ONLY 9 years old?

Mark In Irvine:

Haven't these nitwits in the ME learned that it is the HUSBAND'S contribution to the zygote that determines the gender of the child? Under the extant theory that the failure to produce a son is grounds for divorce, polygamy, etc., ad nauseum, a man's failure to produce a son should be grounds for the woman to divorce the man (while he remains obligated to spousal and child support).

Usama:

The Prophet Muhammad (saaw) had one wife for 20 years. After she died, he was already a leader of a community which included women who were being divorced because they accepted Islam, abandoned by their families, and forced to be refugees. He also married the daughters of his most trusted companions to solidify their bonds.

As well, at that time, there were no welfare systems or Big Brother govts to take care of single women, or women with children. And women were usually illiterate and had few skills. Marriage was the most important institution to secure a woman. And the same for many developing nations and oppressive nations. Governments are so corrupt and oppressive- while being supported by America- that marriage remains their last bastion.


Its ironic that NGOS encourage programs to loan money to women in order for them to sustain themselves in poor nations. However, these poor nations are often closely tied to America and EU nations who reenforce these regimes to get their own interests met. Thus, Western powers are effectively contributing to the oppressive and debilitating societies which Western NGOs are trying to repair.

Ibrahim Mahfuz:

Mr. Fairweather:
I am addicted to watching Egyptian movies, especially the classic ones; made in the 50s, 60’s and 70s. The vast majority treat social problems facing the Egyptian society. I have traced the root of almost every social problem there to the institution of polygamy and the Sharia laws regarding divorce. Outlaw polygamy and modernize the divorce laws and you eliminate 99% of the tragedies incurred to women and children.
Modernizing divorce laws should not involve more than giving the women the right to divorce, which they did not have in Egypt till very recently, and have it ruled in secular courts with secular laws and secular judges, and not in the Sharia courts.
Polygamists keep rationalizing their behavior by citing the Prophet as their model. Their prophet had nine (9) and not (4) wives at the same time, plus udetermined number of concubines. Yet when his son in law expressed the desire to add just one cowife to Fatima, the Prophet's daughtr, the Messenger of Allah was furious and threatned his son-in-law,Ali, with bodily harm along with other implicit punishments.

Rodolfo:

Eastern polygamy : four wives in parallel
Western polygamy : four wives in sequence

j_in_paris:

Actually *I* thought this was going to be about contrite Washington Post Outlook Editor Pomfret and Charlotte Allen of the "Women are Dumb" article fame! Flute! Doesn't anybody over there at the Washington Post think the "Women are Dumb" piece and this one came a little too close in succession? Are are they too busy dreaming about what each of those "dimwitted" (Allen's word) FOUR WIVES would do for them when they "relax" (her word again) and enjoy what Allen is so convinced women were made to do?
Sheesh...you guys must have active imaginations--or is it all that over-abundant energy going into turning 3D items over and around in your minds?

Jancis Andrews:

I loathe and fear the spread of polygamy, which is a source of prestige and sexuaal variety for the male, while denying women any sort of equality rights and also keeps them and their children poor. In polygamy, women are treated as nothing more than servants and sexual collectibles. I hope that western nations kick this ancient, cruel practice back into the garbage can of history where it belongs. This is the 21st century, not the 7th.

Collin:

Polygamy can be a very dangerous game to play. I think that it should only be allowed (legally?) if the wife proposes it. If I were advising a friend, Muslim or other religion that allows polygamous marriages, I would suggest that he forget about it and be happy with his one wife, unless she insists for some reason.

Potter:

I really thought this was going to be about Bill Henrickson.

center:


In the M.E,. a woman has to have a man (to be worthy of being counted). If she is married, she has to have a son to be counted too as secure in her status as a wife with a future in current relationship.
The name of the game is providing protection. Unless an alternative source of protection/provision is made available, paternalism (male) will continue to prevail.

gonville:

I thought for a minute this column was about repub politicions

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