by Tariq Al-Maeena
If it is because of Islam, then perhaps you must understand that while our religion sanctions such unions, it does not treat the matter frivolously.
This question was posed to me recently by a long-time acquaintance. A married man with four children, and settling down in the middle passages of his life, he was considering his candidacy for a multiple partner lifestyle.
“Why would you want to do such a thing?” I asked. “It is Islamic, and there are more than enough unwed women of marriageable age, and therefore I feel it is the right thing to do. To provide them with a home and a respectable status,” was his matter of fact reply.
“Is that all?” I replied, wondering if carnal desires had not crossed his mind whilst his mind was debating the issue. Perhaps he was using me as a sounding board to validate his intentions, and his mind was made up, but I had some thoughts of my own.
“Listen to me carefully. If it is because of Islam, then perhaps you must understand that while our religion sanctions such unions, it does not treat the matter frivolously. You have to have legitimate reasons, and you must be equal in all matters with your wives. Allowances are made for matters of the heart, but in just about every other aspect my friend, you have to demonstrate total equality. And in today’s times, that is easier said than done.”
“If your reasons are because there are reportedly a rising number of unwed women, rest assured that there are an equally rising number of unmarried men of similar ages. Let us understand and treat the symptoms of this phenomenon in our society with a bit more depth than a simplistic approach of solving it by multiple marriages.”
I continued, “Part of the problem lies in the initial cost of today’s marriages. Expectations run high, and demands are often outrageous. With robust dowries to be paid, receptions and weddings to be held for all and sunder, expensive honeymoons demanded and taken, furnishings of dwellings to consider, it is no wonder that many bachelors look upon marriages today as wishful thinking.”
“If their salaries are adequate, and some financial support is provided by their families, that still is not enough in some cases to satisfy the whims of the prospective brides. Today’s singles have a much bigger appetite and want to start off at the same plateau of comfort that has taken some of us years to work hard for and reach.”
“And while I excuse some family assistance in getting their boys married, I believe for a marriage to develop successfully the bulk of the expenses have to be earned and shouldered by the prospective groom. That would help cut down some of the instant frivolity and quick divorces we are witnessing today among the youth. Let us work towards inexpensive marriages and if need be use the money saved toward helping the newly-weds on more substantial matters than SR50,000 wedding dresses and half a million riyals of merriment and wedding parties. That should quickly cut down on the numbers of the un-married, be they men or women.”
“Besides, my friend, what does your wife have to say about all of this? Or are you like many considering keeping a tight lid on this proposed union? In Islam, marriages have to be publicly stated and I believe your wife should be the first one consulted on this matter. After all, she has been your loyal partner through thick and thin, and you should value her feelings and judgment.”
“If you are considering a younger partner because your wife has grown older, then just take a look at yourself. You are no longer the stud you imagined yourself to be twenty years ago. And if it because today you can afford to open two houses, then think of the support and loyalty of your wife through the times it took you to get to this status. And you will reward her with this?”
“And have you thought about your children. Don’t for a moment think that they will take kindly to your actions. Gone are the days when multiple marriages resulted from a need to breed a large family and help out in the fields. If it is to sire more offspring, then perhaps you should devote more time to taking better care of your existing ones. Today’s children are far worldlier and are affected by what they consider desertion from their spoiled fathers.”
“No my friend, I don’t want to come on like a wet rage, but if you are asking me if it is okay, then I will advise you against it. If you want to bestow your generosity, then put good use to your money and help some needy couple get married in a practical way.”
“Other than that, work harder and with a bit more zest to rejuvenate the existing union that should take you blissfully to your final moments.”
Tariq Al-Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator and was educated at the University of Denver. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He tweets under @talmaeena.