KUALA LUMPUR: Four women panellists at a pro-polygamy forum last night insisted that polygamy benefits women more than it does men.
The four – all with careers and stable incomes – listed out the benefits of a polygamous marriage, including having more time for themselves, with one even saying it empowered women.
The four were Sharie lawyer Sharifah Mohd Jahaya, public speaker Nurul Adni Adnan, religious teacher Sumaiyah Sulaiman, and manager Haryani Ithen.
All four agreed that polygamy, for them, was “written by God” at the forum aptly called “Why did I marry another woman’s husband?”.
It was meant to launch their small two-month-old organisation – Association of Harmonious Families, or Pakar – but attracted public attention after their posters went viral.
The medium-sized room in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur where the forum was held was packed, and the crowd was very responsive.
Sharifah said being in a polygamous marriage gave her more “me time”, and added, “I’m working and I have kids. Sometimes, I’m too tired to carry out my wifely duties.”
Similarly, Haryani said as she was able to share her “God-given responsibility” to her husband equally with other women, she had time to develop her own interests and hobbies.
Sumaiyah said she had introduced her husband to his second bride, who happened to be her best friend from her university days in Jordan.
“It is a small sacrifice for a big reward in the afterlife,” she told the audience.
She and her co-wife “live happily under one roof”, Sumaiyah assured the forum participants.
Nurul said being able to let go of jealousy over her husband by sharing him to “fulfil God’s command”, was a form of “female empowerment”.
She said instead of depending on a man for fulfilment, women would learn to depend more on themselves and on God.
The panellists agreed that husbands had a heavy responsibility in ensuring fair treatment of their wives.
“Who says I’m brainwashed?” Sharifah testily asked FMT reporters during a question-and-answer session. “I chose this for myself, and he was not my only choice for a husband,” she said, adding she had had other suitors.
Haryani added: “I am indeed brainwashed – brainwashed by God.” This rejoinder garnered a round of applause from the audience.
When a member of the audience posed a question challenging the panellists’ interpretation of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, or sunnah, the situation became a little chaotic as some others in the audience started yelling and booing.
Meanwhile, the president of Pakar, Mohd Lutfi Yusof, said the benefits of polygamy could not be disputed. He seeks to educate the public about its real hukum, or commandment, in Islam and promote the benefits of polygamy.
Commenting on the views of the panellists, Latheefa Koya, Lawyers for Liberty executive director and a known champion of feminism, told FMT the words in the Quran were: “You can marry 4, 3, 2, or 1, and 1 is the ideal.”
Therefore, she said, the message was very clear. “To come around and say it is encouraged is a big misrepresentation.”
Latheefa argued against the belief that it was a religious duty for women.
Saying these were narratives encouraged by a patriarchal society, she added: “I feel pity for women who do it as a religious duty. I would say, the minute you start a polygamous marriage, you’re breaking up another marriage.
“And if you do that, there is no benefit, and you don’t get blessings or rahmat.”
Latheefa said entering into polygamy is a big responsibility and should not be taken lightly and that it is not something to be proud of.
“Don’t go around saying you’d go to heaven if you’re willing to share a husband with another person. For women to say that, that is the most disappointing thing,” she said, arguing that the women might have been conditioned to think that way.