Polygamy in Yemen [Archives:1998/22/Culture]

June 1 1998

Polygamy is allowed by Islam, up to four wives at a time. However, this does not necessarily mean that all Muslim men collect a harem. Many men are content with one wife only, but others are never satisfied. To know more about reasons behind polygamy, Ms. Hanan Obad conducted the following interviews with a number of men married to more than one wife, with half brothers and sisters, and psychology specialists to find out about the psyche of such men.
Ahmed A. is a 40-year old Yemeni, who is married to more than one woman. He recently got married to a new wife because his first wife “has grown older,” even though she is actually 5 years younger than him. “I want my wife not to be more than 18 years old,” he says.
Q: Do you have any children?
A: Yes, I have young children and they sell qat to make a living.
Q: How old are your eldest and youngest sons?
A: The eldest one is 20 years old, married with 3 children. The youngest is 12 years old.
Q: What do you say to people who want to marry more than one wife?
A: Marriage is a grace. As long as they can afford the living expenses of more than one household, they should not waste this grace.
M. M. A is married to two wives:
Q: Has your marriage to two women created any problems?
A: My first wife is sterile, so I just married another woman to bring me children. At first, I faced some trouble in finding a house for the second wife and in treating them equally. But, despite of all the difficulties, I feel more satisfied now.
Q: Some people think that the husband is the one who makes trouble because of his desire to marry a new wife. What do you think?
A: It is not true. I give both my wives equal love and affection. But, you know that it is very hard to make them satisfied.
Q: Do you think that the men should bare in mind their children’s reactions when they decide to marry again?
A: I did not have such an experience because my wife is sterile. But, I call upon all husbands to consider their children’s feelings before deciding to marry again. Those who do not do so, think that their children will adapt themselves to the new situation.
Mr. Mohammed Ali Al-Ashwal, M.A in psychiatry:
Q: How are the children affected by their fathers’ second marriage?
A: As a result of divorce and all such problems, the children might suffer from psychological disorders including contractions of muscles, dullness and early dotage.
Q: What about the behavior of such children?
A: They will acquire independent personalities and they will impose themselves within the society. They might succeed in their lives or they might suffer some psychological disorders.
Ms. Nabeela Yahya Al-Hakim, a social worker at Arwa school:
Q: What do you think of the men who marrying more than one wife?
A: Generally speaking, marrying more than one wife comes as a result of the woman’s carelessness towards her husband or as a result of her illness. But in our society if the man can afford it, he just marries a new wife.
Q: Do you think that a wife’s ignorance is a good reason behind her husband’s marriage?
A: No, it is not. Some ignorant women take good care of their husbands. So ignorance is not a reason at all.
Q: Do you think that not treating the children equally will stir up discord among them?
A: Certainly! A man who marries two wives must not only treat his wives equally, but he must also treat his children equally.
Q: Do you believe that some women prefer not to marry at all than to marry a married man?
A: It depends. Some women believe that by their marrying a married men they will bring ruin to their families.
Amatulmalik Al-Ghurbani is a secondary-school girl, whose father divorced her mother and married another woman:
Q: What did you think of your father when he married another woman?
A: My father has the right to marry another woman as long as he takes care of us. The mistake is when the man does not treat his wives equally, when he doesn’t take care of his children.
A woman whose husband married another wife:
Q: Why do you think your husband married another woman?
A: I bore only one son and daughters. My husband wanted more sons and so he married another woman. His becoming a rich man is also another reason for that.
Q: Are you going to ask for divorce?
A: How can I ask for divorce since I have little children who still depend totally upon their father.
Q: Why do women endure for their children’s sake instead of thinking of divorce?
A: There are some women who cannot adapt themselves to the new situation. As for me, when I think of divorce I remember my children. Even if I did not have children, I will not ask for divorce because I cannot leave the man with whom I began my life’s journey.
Q: Do you expect a man who marries more than one wife to treat his wives equally?
A: I don’t think so. And I think that it is better for a man to be satisfied with one wife. Otherwise, he will bring himself endless trouble.
Q: If you are not married yet, would you agree to marry an already married man?
A: Yes, I would. But I will ask for my own separate house.
Q: How do the children react towards their father’s second marriage?
A: They get angry and so they do not obey him, especially at the beginning.