Asking the question what is polygamy, its answer follows as thus; Polygamy can be referred to as multiple spouses. The most common form of polygamy is polygyny. Polygyny is the situation where a man has the possibility of having many wives. Another form of polygamy is polyandry, a situation where a woman has the possibility of having many husbands. Polyandry is less common worldwide but can be easily observed in some societies like Tibet. In preindustrial traditional societies, polygyny was not just accepted but was much preferred than polyandry. Even though this polygyny was highly practiced by the lower classes and commoners it was highly observed in societies where the route to winning political power and wealth was obtained through the attraction of followers or having so many sons. These sons where required in a high number so as to carry out hunting for the family head as well as defend the family’s land. So men by the preindustrial traditional societies found it a necessity marring many wives who together with their children could produce textile in large quantities for trading. They could also grow food in large quantities for elaborate feasts and put the poorer members of the community in their debt.
In other cases, it is eventually observed that wealthy men did accumulate many wives so as to produce more sons. Commonly observed were situations where kings and other royalty did have many wives, as they all considered this as a way of making alliances with other states as well as noble families. This was also a way of ensuring that they would have many heirs. In the highlands of Madagascar, the king of Merina had up to twelve wives, offering to each a palace in a different part of his country. The king did stayed with anyone of his wives which was nearest when he travelled through his kingdom. By so doing he escaped the problems that could arise if all the wives lived in the same palace.
It eventually requires a certain amount of wealth to take care as well as support more than one wife. Whereas it was observed in the preindustrial traditional societies that having many wives did increase a man’s wealth together with political wealth rather than drain his wealth. For women, polygyny is not so often associated with high statue for women, whereby it is highly observed in many societies that young women are forced to marry older men. In societies where women do most of the work, it is observed that most women often welcome the idea of co-wife. In Botswana, women have a saying “the woman’s work is never complete”, such women so often request their husbands to get more wives so as to assist them in their activities.
Polygyny does not have so much to do with sex as it is more of hoarding the productive together with the reproductive labour of women. Polygyny has often been observed as a way of increasing the authority of older men over younger ones.
Looking at polygamy in Islam in terms of birth rate, men and women are nearly equal in number. Subsequently due to some variety of reason, there is a significant decrease in the number of men in the society thereby leaving an excess of women. This raises the question on how to deal with this situation at hand. Since this imbalance is inevitable, how can a healthy relationship between the sexes be established. The choice hereby does not lie between monogamy neither polygamy but rather it lies between the lawful polygamy in Islam or the non-illicit polygamy practiced by non-Islamic peoples. As a matter of social organisation concerning polygamy, follows one of the commandments given in the Quran permitting a man to marry up to four wives: if any one fears treating orphans fairly, they should get married to their mother, be one, two, three or four depending on their means. But if they should fear not to treat them fairly, then they should get married to one.
The above verse was brought about after the battle of Uhud in which a total of seventy Muslims where killed. At once seventy homes at medina where deprived of male members, thus arose the question on how all these orphans and widows left behind where to be catered for. This was finally resolved by the revelation of the above verse asking the men left behind and who could support the charge to go forward and get married to these widows. This was done to take care of them and their children thereby leaving all the orphans under their guardianship.
One of the key points to be noted in polygamy in Islam is the fact that the decision to marry more one wife does not solely lie on a single individual. There is always a condition to fulfil first, being the fact that no matter what the society, the number of women should outnumber the number of men. Suppose the whole Earth was full with 1 billion people with 500million being men and 500million being women then polygamy in Islam concerning such cases does not exist. Therefore in such a situation or society it is not possible for a man to possess more than one wife. Meaning a second, third and fourth would be obtained by force, whereas in Islam a forceful marriage is not lawful. In Islam the willingness of the bridegroom to be is a compulsory condition to fulfil before marriage.
The presence of a greater number of women in the society is not the only prerequisite for polygamy in Islam. Being an addition is the fact that the woman who is the object of the man’s choice should have accepted and is willing to enter the married state. For a marriage to be lawful when it comes to polygamy in Islam, the willingness of the women is compulsory. Thus it is unlawful to have a women forced into marriage.
Glancing over Islam, one would obviously notice the fact that Allah did instructed Muslims not to dare take unlawful what has been declared lawful. In Islam, polygyny is not actually an immoral relationship but it is a valid and accepted part of the marriage system of Islam. Allah has said: go on and marry the woman that pleases you, one, two, three or four. But if one feels not to later act justly, then it is forbidden to take on additional wives.
To be noted is the fact that in Islam, man is first told to marry two, three or four. But he is advised to marry just one wife if he cannot deal justly with more than one wife. Nevertheless, this does not stand for the fact that Islam does encourages all men to get marry to more than one wife but that taking such an option is eventually permissible without any doubt if and only if the man can fulfil its conditions. Therefore a man opting for polygamy must not only be willing, but should divide time and wealth in an equitable manner before he can be allowed to get more than a single wife. According to the Quranic command if a man is unable to take care of all his wives justly then he should not dare take for himself more than one wife.
Many Muslims today do find the subject of polygyny distasteful. This is principally due to the distortion of the roles of men and women in the western societies. Whereby women are seen in actual competition with men for the same jobs. In the western societies, the females have actually lost their position of protection and are forced to fight for equality. Just a few women in the western societies still consider respect to their husbands as a special ingredient for a smooth marriage.
Muslim polygamy in Malaysia
Islam stands as the basis of polygamy in Malaysia. Islam does permits a man to get for himself up to four wives. In fact polygamy is a phenomenon found in all Muslim populations around the world. Nevertheless, due to social, legal and economic obstacles, polygyny is very much often practised on just a small scale in the different Muslim societies.
Arrangements in a polygamous family
When it has to do with the requirements for a polygamous marriage, the law is very clear on such. The lots of demands addressed to the husband requesting for polygamy are meant to protect the already existing wives thereby making men to be conscious of their responsibilities. Whenever a man does applies for polygamy he must assure that he can treat all wives when it comes to all aspects of marital life in an equal and satisfactory manner. This requirement is based on the Qu’ranic injunction which says, if such a man is unable to fulfil the equal repartition of marital life then he should not go in for polygamy.
Motivations leading to a polygamous family formation
One of the reasons why some men would take on polygamous family formation is to enhance productivity. This is true for the larger the family, the larger the land which shall be cultivated thus higher outputs in terms of productivity. Another reason why some men would take on forming a polygamous family is to make hunting efficiently conducted as there shall be a larger number of hunters. Another reason for a polygamous family formation is to better enhance food formation and cattle rearing. There exist other motivations for the formation of a polygamous family being the display of status, symbolism of having lots of children and sometimes traditional influences. Finally it cannot be denied that some do engage in polygamy to enjoy the sexual advantages that it would provide them.
Problems encountered in a polygamous family
Polygamy being a marital state in which a man is married to more than one wife has brought about discrimination, oppression and abuse especially to women married as second wives. In a polygamous family there exist a strong context for love for the husband. Whereby one uses every kind of power to win his love and favour. The different wives by so doing often become enemies and act as in a way of pulling the marriage apart. Such instability at home often leads to the poor upbringing of the children in the society. There exist greed and envy of possession of another amongst the wives there by dismounting marital peace at home. The first wife often insist things be done by her own ways and as a result ignoring the ideas and propositions of the other wives thus bringing more trouble at home. Tribalism is manifested should in case all the wives are not from the same tribe. Women in a polygamous homes gossip and generally do not trust each other. Because of all these troubles, sometimes they quarrel and fight among themselves leading to a poor environment for the correct upbringing of children. In a polygamous family, due to one or two reasons a strong hatred might develop amongst each other thereby bringing an end to marital peace and happiness.
Tips on maintaining a polygamous relationship
There is no short cut for communication. Do not look for short cuts by asking friends and the internet what your partner wants. Just move to them and ask for self.
In order to maintain a polygamous relationship, there has to be transparency in all the activities between all the members of the relationship.
For a polygamous relationship to succeed there should be equality and constant dialogue amongst the members of the relationship so as avoid differences and maintain peace.