I used to be able to count on one hand the number of women I personally know whose Saudi husbands married a second wife. Those days are gone. Sadly now that number exceeds all the fingers on both hands and all of my toes as well. As many of you know, Saudi Arabia is governed by Sharia Law which comes from the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Islam allows men to be married to up to four different women at the same time.
Muslim scholars and Muslim men seem to be proud of the fact that the Quran is the only holy book that actually states “Marry only one (wife).” I hear them boast about this all the time! Why then are so many Muslim men taking on more than wife? I find this amusing, since polygyny is permitted in Islam but not encouraged. I just hate it when I hear men here saying that it is their God-given right. Pfffft!
The original idea for this arrangement is centuries old and was borne out of the necessity of the times. Men would go off to war, get killed, and there was an abundance of widows and orphans left behind that needed to be protected and provided for. It was affirmed to be man's “social responsibility,” which begs the question: Why exactly does a man have to marry a second woman to fulfill his social responsibility? Especially when the Quran clearly says "Marry only one"??? Aren’t there other socially acceptable ways to provide for needy people other than marriage? How about charity? Why do men have to introduce sex into the equation in order to fulfill their social responsibility?
Many Muslim men like to make the claim that there are SO many more women in the world than men, and while that may have been the case centuries ago, statistically speaking, this is no longer a valid argument. In today’s world, all recent statistics clearly show that men now outnumber women in births (107 to 100) and in the world population (101 to 100).
Yes, there are some countries in the world where women outnumber men, but in the total overall, there are more men. And Saudi Arabia – where men can marry up to four women - is one of the majority countries that actually has more men than women - so this contention just doesn't hold water any more.
Another reason given for why polygyny is allowed in Islam is to allow a man whose wife cannot bear children to marry another woman who can have babies so he can produce heirs. The problem with this assertion is that frequently the man is the one with fertility problems - so this excuse for multiple wives should at least have a provision that the man should be checked first to make sure he is not the one with sterility problems - don't cha think?
I’ve even heard proponents of the multiple wives policy come up with the reasoning that there are so many gay men in the world - so obviously gay men don't count as eligible men in the marriage pool. Hello? They always seem to overlook the fact that there are also plenty of lesbians in the world too who don’t want to marry men either. Moot point.
And probably the most "honest" excuse I have heard for why polygyny is allowed in Islam is because men just naturally have a stronger sex drive and want to have sex with a variety of women. So polygyny allows men to do this under the sanctity of marriage to prevent either of the participants from committing a grave sin, according to religion. However, this argument totally discounts the female’s sex drive and presumes incorrectly that only men have strong sexual urges.
So in Islam, a woman who becomes a second wife (or third or fourth) is considered by many as doing an "honorable" thing. But somehow I really don’t think there are too many first wives out there who would actually agree with that statement.
My thoughts on this are that there are three possible situations where a woman might become a second wife:
1 – She is a desperate divorcee or widow and wants the security for herself and her children.
2 – She becomes a second wife unwittingly because the man wasn’t honest with her.
3 – She actively pursues a married man because she sees that he is wealthy and she doesn’t care that she is destroying a marriage and a family in the process.
I personally know of women here in Saudi Arabia fitting all of these scenarios. To be continued…