A matter of provision, not merely numbers
Posted Sunday, March 17 2013 at 02:00
Polygamous marriage. Muslims are allowed to marry up to four wives by their religion. However, this is not a blank cheque as many believe. One has to adhere to a number of conditions, which many tend to ignore.
Salim Kamuhira is a proud husband of two wives with whom he lives under one roof. But he says his cup of pride is not yet full. He explains that it will only be full when he marries the third and fourth wife. When I ask him why that many wives, he answers that he is a Muslim and that Islam “orders” him to marry up to four wives.
Kamuhira’s answer is not news. A number of Muslims who practice polygamy, when asked why they do so, often reply that their religion “orders” them to.
According to Sheikh Yahya Kakungulu, deputy director of Sharia at Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, the greenlight for muslims to practice polygamy is derived from the Quran, Chapter 4 verse 3, which reads: “…marry women of your choice, two or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one…”
An act of faith
In interpreting this verse, Kakungulu says it is important to note two aspects: firstly, that Islam does not order one to marry more than one wife, but rather gives permission. “Therefore, practicing polygamy is not an obligatory act, but rather an optional one. A muslim who has more than one wife should not mock or frown upon another who only has one wife,” says the scholar. He says it is wrong for Kamuhira and other Muslims to observe “plural” marriage as an order because it is not.
Secondly, Kakungulu notes that the permission to practice polygamy is conditional. He says one who wishes to practice polygamy should be in position to deal justly with the women he marries. “According to the verse, if a man is afraid that he will not be able to treat his wives justly, then it is forbidden for him to marry more than one wife,” says Kakungulu.
Provision is the big deal
Sheikh Hassan Kirya, the spokesperson for the Kibuli sect, clarifies that the justness or fairness that is mentioned in the verse is not in terms of love. Kirya says it is not possible to show equal love to two people, because the reasons why one loves another, vary. He explains that just like it is not possible for one to love both parents equally despite the fact that it is the two that gave birth to him/her, or just like it is not possible for a mother who gave birth to the children, to love them equally, likewise it not possible to show equal love to two or more wives, in a polygamous marriage.
Kirya states that the justness or fairness referred to is in terms of taking care of the wives – spending on them, spending time with them and other material things that are under a man’s control.
“If you buy a nice dress for one wife, the same should be done for the other wives (and the quality should be the same). If you buy a car for one, the same should be done for the others. If you build a house for one, the same should be done for the others. If you spend a week at one’s home, the same should be done at the other wife’s home,” elucidates the spokesperson.
Making it work
Kirya says one should not stay with both wives under the same roof like Kakungulu does. “One should build or rent for them separate houses. It improper to stay with more than one wife under one roof because that is recipe for conflicts in the house,” notes Kirya.
The scholar remarks that the bottom line is that a man who wishes to marry should have the financial means to sustain marriage, as stated in the Quran chapter 24 verse 33 which reads: “And let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah enriches them of His Bounty”
Abbas Ssenfuka, a husband of three concurs with Kirya. He says what has made it possible for him to succeed as a polygamous husband is because he has the financial clout to observe justness while relating with his wives. “Nevertheless, it is challenging,” says Ssenfuka.
Kakungulu urges Muslims who wish to marry more than one wife, to be in position to observe the requirements that come with it.