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Airing Dirty Polygamous Laundry

four.jpgThe Toronto Star has had a flurry of articles recently which have caught the attention of many Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Before continuing, the articles are as follows:

I must admit, it took me some time to fully digest these articles, and their possible ramifications. The articles are apparently written by a Muslim sisters and are quite troublesome to me, but not necessarily for the reasons you may think.

In the Secret World of Polygamy article, the author recounts the story of a Muslim woman with 4 children who suddenly found out that her husband had taken on a second wife while she was in Egypt. The article is quite critical of one particular Imam who performs the nikkah for some polygynous marriages, and tries very hard to insinuate that these marriages are against the law, despite quotes from authorities indicating otherwise since they are not officially filed in court.

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In the last article linked to above, it tells the story of a man who came home to find his wife with another man, and told that they had been married. He took his kids and went straight to the cops.

The environment that we live in is one that is marred by misrepresentation of Muslims, especially in national media. While many hope that we will have more Muslims involved in fields such as journalism to help combat this, it does not help when Muslims write about Muslim issues that can be construed to contributing to the problem instead of the solution.

I also feel, to some degree, that the articles are irresponsible journalism in some regards.

Taking the Secret World of Polygamy article for example, it is almost sensationalist in the way that one story is somehow used to define the norm. Usually there is an attempt to reach out to the ‘other side’ and at least get some form of a statement responding directly to the assertions made. In this article though, I do not see this step being taken. Moreover, it seems that the Muslim example is being singled out, even though the article mentions the Mormons in Canada who actually uphold polygamy as a tenet of faith and actually admits,

While the Muslim factor may be a minor one in the larger debate around polygamy, which for years has focused on Bountiful, B.C., there is consensus on both sides that the practice will soon be forced to face a constitutional challenge.

If this is the case, then why is the Muslim issue focused on exclusively? Where are the interviews with those in polygamous marriages from other faiths? Also, where are the articles showing the other side of polygamy where it is actually successful for some families? I was absolutely shocked to see this article in NPR showing just that, and ironically it was written by a non-Muslim.

The main issue I have with this article though, is that it is airing dirty laundry in the wrong place. The Ummah of Muslims is a family, and we do have our issues. A major newspaper like the Toronto Star though, is not the place to air them. While I agree – in general – that the author raised some important issues that need to be discussed, I disagree with the forum and manner in which they were raised.

Such a discussion needs to happen amongst the Muslim community and within the Muslim community. In fact, we have had our fair share of discussions on polygamy even here on MuslimMatters. There is a difference though, in raising this issue in a media where the majority of the audience is Muslim as opposed to a place where the majority is not. They are definitely serious issues, but what is the point in broadcasting this out to a mass audience that already has a million misconceptions about us to begin with?! Especially in a case like this where the article is fairly unobjective, and borderline sensationalist. In this type of media, there needs to be a focus more on the positive side of things – and don’t tell me thats unrealistic, the NPR can do it, so what about our own Muslim writers? With everything we are facing as a community, I do not understand how anyone can possibly think that this is the best issue to raise in that platform.

The last article linked to above in which the wife actually took on a second husband is really the one that made me feel objectivity in these articles was lacking. In this situation, the same Imam criticized before, had performed this marriage. I simply cannot believe that the Imam would just suddenly perform such a marriage without first verifying if the woman was divorced or not in the first place. There is no information given at all from the other side. It is one of those things that is too strange to believe on face. The bigger problem though, is that in something like the Toronto Star, the general audience will not clue in on that, they will simply see extremism abound and oppressing people all around.

The fact that the man’s first reaction when seeing another man in his house with his wife eating his food was to grab his kids and go to the cops sounds fishy to me. I think any normal person in that situation would definitely have gone to the cops… in the back of a squad car. The fact that this was his reaction seems to indicate that it was not a complete shock, but that in fact something had at least been brewing up to this point. However, none of this is presented in the article, and that is why I feel it is a misrepresentation and sensationalist.

Allah knows best what the intention or purpose is behind these articles. Since there have been a number of them recently, I hope that there are some more coming which might insha’Allah start to show the other side.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at ibnabeeomar.com.

47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Avatar

    anon

    June 4, 2008 at 7:18 AM

    I’m not getting your objections to these articles. From what i’ve read Safa R had a blog for quite some time detailing this and all this has basically been common knowledge for quite some time now. So if all this info has been public for years why is it suddenly an issue to be published now? Oh, yeah because now nonmuslims can read about all the sordid little details and generate too many misconceptions. How sad. Your pathetic logic is the same logic that the Catholic church used to allow the molestation of children to go on for years. If people actually hired competent imams maybe this wouldn’t have become such a problem that resulted in the lives of 7 innocent children being destroyed. He sounds like a Class A moron (who happens to have no religious training of any kind might I add and is apparently completely unqualified for his job.)

    “The last article linked to above in which the wife actually took on a second husband is really the one that made me feel objectivity in these articles was lacking. In this situation, the same Imam criticized before, had performed this marriage”

    I don’t get it. Your writing seems to indicate that you don’t even realize that “the same imam critized before” is the same imam because Safa’s husband married Fouad’s wife. So obviously its going to be the same imam. Because its the same story, just told from 2 different perspectives.

    On a side note… polygamy = religiously sanctioned cheating for individuals who have problems keeping it in their pants. Although I will concede that 1000 years ago this was most likely not the case. Although it might have been for some, who knows

    • Avatar

      muslimchica

      April 17, 2011 at 4:14 PM

      I like your comment!

  2. Avatar

    Ahmed Brown

    June 4, 2008 at 9:57 AM

    Well, what can one expect? Since much of the news today focuses on and sensationalizes the bad in society (i.e. crime, sex, drugs, etc.), we can foresee that most of the news on polygamy will tend to be on a negative slant. This is especially so with the recent controversy over the Mormon sect in Texas. Present and future articles/newscasts will likely aim on finding the instances of polygamy that are ugly, rather than the success stories as mentioned in the NPR article (which was amazing, by the way!).

    Although some of the above articles were initially distressing (i.e. the first and the fourth), it indicates work remains to be done to help these brothers/sisters in their described situations. Of course, we already knew that, but perhaps this will spur us onwards towards alleviating some of the suffering occurring in or around our own communities. The problem is not with a polygynous marriage, but with the constituents of it. The husband can expect trouble if they marry again without telling the first wife (found in the first article, but I don’t know what sharia’a says regarding the legality of this). So this is a typical mistake, and not-at-all surprising. Again, there are success stories (read NPR article), but we’re unlikely to hear them in the news today.

    Food for thought from the BBC: “The men who sleep with prostitutes” There’s a gem of a comment from someone named ‘Abi’ if you scroll below the article.

  3. Avatar

    Hassan

    June 4, 2008 at 10:48 AM

    Well in case of polygamy, muslims have two fronts to fight. Non-Muslims, and muslim feminazis women. It is sad, but there are very very few muslim women left (specially in west) that would defend polygamy rather than attacking it.

    • Avatar

      muslimchica

      April 17, 2011 at 4:15 PM

      thats not true at all. Most Muslim woman defend it if its done correctly. Defending and wanting to do it are two different things

  4. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 4, 2008 at 11:00 AM

    anon – my beef is not that this is being made public, but what is the point of drawing attention to this story, as a muslim journalist, in a non-muslim paper? as i mentioned in the article, i don’t have an issue with what she brought up, but i don’t think a big paper like the toronto star is the place for it.

    also im not sure how the catholic church analogy applies here. i’m not advocating the stifling of discourse, just questioning the best place for it.

    also as i indicated, i dont think the full story has been told in regards to the imam and the information he acted upon, especially in the article where the woman took on the second husband – which is a major dent in the credibility of these articles.

    also i believe you misread, the first and last article i linked to are different stories – not the same one.

    ahmed brown – i agree completely, it just hurts a little more when the negative one is coming from one of your own

  5. Avatar

    Mezba

    June 4, 2008 at 11:24 AM

    She is a journalist and a journalist reports facts. It’s a fact that there is an imam in Scarborough performing these type of marriages, and then telling the men to keep it a secret. In Islam there are no secret marriages. If this Imam is performing un-Islamic activities, your ire should be directed at the imam, not at the journalist.

    • Avatar

      muslimchica

      April 17, 2011 at 4:16 PM

      good point!

  6. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 4, 2008 at 11:27 AM

    mezba – that’s the point here though, its not just facts, it is sensationalism, and it doesn’t seem like the other side of the story is even presented, so how can it be “facts”? im not disputing the actual stories she recounted, but they are just 2 incidents out of at least hundreds. when did a sample of less than 0.5% become factual?

    as i mentioned, the second article shows something fishy. i dont think an imam would just perform such a marriage w/o a divorce taking place. despite whatever disagreements people may have with an imam, we do owe some benefit of the doubt, but the reporter has not done that (or not investigated that side of it).

  7. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    June 4, 2008 at 12:03 PM

    To the ignorant comments:

    Reporting facts isn’t going to solve problems–it’s going to make them worse!!!
    If she really wanted to create a change she would do something about it rather than be a spectator and tell others.

    This is the problem Muslims have–they feel reporting a problem makes them guilt-free. You are, if anything, more guilty now. And Allah hates it for Muslims to talk about the private marital matters with others!

    If your so passionate about these issues–why don’t you go and do something about them? But you won’t because your a bunch of arrogant progressive sissies!!!

    • Avatar

      muslimchica

      April 17, 2011 at 4:17 PM

      umm this was so wrong

      ITs not a private issue . Its a community issue if its that bad of a problem. Community has to reach it. Keeping it private in big issues is why so many women are oppressed

  8. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    June 4, 2008 at 12:04 PM

    Excellent points, Umar… I was thinking the same things myself!
    Also please note, the Imam (Aly Hindy) has been attacked by the media before – they’re clearly loving using him as a target! So I definitely wouldn’t believe anything they said about him, without hearing his side of the story first.

  9. Avatar

    Mezba

    June 4, 2008 at 12:19 PM

    To the author – The “other” side? the Star did interview the imam, and he made it clear (this article and elsewhere before) what his views were. I don’t have an issue with polygamy, I have an issue with imams telling men to marry women in secret and hide it from their first wives.

    The second wife does not have any rights under Canadian law, therefore she is not equal to first wife, therefore how can you as an Imam justify such an union, especially when there is no need (i.e. first wife is not a vegetable or unhealthy or whatever). And why would an imam ask someone to keep a MARRIAGE secret – in Islam there are no secret marriages.

    And to Dawud, one way to make a change is to spread awareness.

  10. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 4, 2008 at 12:26 PM

    mezba – big difference between asking him about polygamy in general, and then using an isolated incident in opposition to it. why not ask him about the specific situation and the conclusions of the article?

  11. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    June 4, 2008 at 12:41 PM

    Y’know, I think the issue of “secret” polygnous marriages and their legality (whether equality refers to legality in terms of the government, or Islamic law regardless of the law of the land, and what the law of the land has to do with it in the first place) needs to be addressed by the shuyookh – unless it already has been, in which case we need to look it up.

  12. Avatar

    BintAbdillah

    June 4, 2008 at 1:22 PM

    I don’t know if any of you saw the program “legal brief” but the Imam was on there talking about this article, He really didn’t get the chance to get his point across b/c he was continually being interrupted by the other guest, who was a Muslim herself. On the show you also get the chance to call in and I did call in and I know for a fact they ask you what you will be speaking about before you call in and keep it related to the topic so I was surprised when they let a lot of people go off topic about “what happened when I person leaves Islam” or Do you support Gay Marriage like you support polygamy.”

    The main thing that had be call in was this one particular guest kept saying she spoke for all the Muslim women and that the ones who enter upon a polygamous marriage are oppressed or brain-washed they don’t know any better.

  13. Avatar

    anon

    June 4, 2008 at 1:53 PM

    Would there be such a hoopla if we realized polygamy is actually bad for men? It makes it extremely difficult for men who are of lower income to get married. I don’t know the classical Islamic teaching on this but has anyone ever thought that Allah limited polygamy to 4 wives because so many men were not getting married due to the wealthy taking all the women.

    Women are not oppressed in polygamy, they usually chose it and can leave it they don’t like it. In general women are highly tolerant of sharing desirable men. Its actually men who are on the losing end, and its really sad that no one addresses the issue of how it is very hard for non-college educated men to get married. I think you men who are so keen to support it are very short sighted and some what selfish, if you really reflected on the state of so many unmarried men in the Muslim world.

  14. Avatar

    Amy

    June 4, 2008 at 2:19 PM

    I’m a prime candidate for suspicion of brain-washing as my own opinion on polygyny drastically changed over the past 2-3 years. I think it is an institution worth defending, personally, when it can be justly applied. Although when it is injustly applied (keeping it secret, or not being fair to the wives), it is the injustice which should be condemned, not the polygyny.

    The stories go the same way… the man is the evil one, the first wife is the victim, and the second wife is brainwashed. But I think Muslims should be less concerned about what non-Muslims think, and more concerned about promoting justice in their own communities. Because if we don’t try to ensure that the rights of our own sisters (and brothers) are upheld, then we are as bad and worse than what anyone could write in a newspaper.

    • Avatar

      muslimchica

      April 17, 2011 at 4:19 PM

      EXTREMELY GOOD POINT!

  15. Avatar

    Imad

    June 4, 2008 at 3:21 PM

    I agree with the notion that American Muslim men’s interest in polygynous marriages is somewhat misguided. Many men in traditional Muslim lands marry more than one wife because such an arrangement is rather normative; it has historical basis that extends beyond Islam, although the Shari’ah mandated only four spouses at the most, as we all know. So in other words, such an arrangement is part of the culture and doesn’t incite the same passions as it does here. Moreover, depending on how much a region is (adversely) influenced by capitalist culture, polygynous marriages are rather palatable because they don’t conflict with the normative lifestyle. Families are more traditional; marriage transcends the quixotic Western notion of ‘two eternal soul mates’ and includes much more family and communal interdependency and interaction. Put differently, a polygynous marriage agreement in such a society would ‘fit right in’, there would be nothing unfeasible about it from a strict ‘sensible’ point of view.

    In America, however, such an arrangement is nearly untenable for all strata of society. Whether one is middle class or at the end of either pole, everyone is aware of how central one’s work is to life. For many, life revolves around work and you only get real time with your wife and kids at the end of the working day. If you commute a long distance, then just finding a decent amount of time to spend with one spouse is extremely difficult, let alone two or three spouses. So just from observation, it makes absolutely no sense for me for a Western Muslim to consider more than one spouse because I really don’t think he can make it work. Unless he lives in a community with the mechanisms to mimic a more traditional lifestyle, I don’t think such an arrangement is even remotely possible. So why the sudden infatuation with polygyny? I think these men are just aroused by the prospect of multiple spouses. I don’t think popular preoccupation with polygyny has anything to do with utilitarian concerns at all; it’s actually lecherous and it suggests we are influenced by our surrounding promiscuous environment more than we would like to think.

    Now my main target here was the mostly 18-30 years olds who are excited and cover up their lustful inclinations with the empty rhetoric of ‘reviving the sunnah of polygyny’. I realize there are many men with multiple spouses in America who may live comfortably and peacefully. If that’s the case, mashaAllah. I just hope Muslim men stop getting so excited by the prospect of multiple spouses and start to think practically about this issue.

  16. Avatar

    Siraaj Muhammad

    June 4, 2008 at 5:03 PM

    The discussion of polygyny is always an interesting one ;) The facts in the article are not entirely clear, so I’d be careful of calling something islamic or unislamic. It states in the article that the husband and wife had filed for separation much earlier, and the man who was home with his “wife” may not have been at home with his “wife”, but his “ex-wife”. There are some people from the east who, even after divorcing their wives, don’t want their wives remarrying (some women actually live like this because their ex-husbands continue to support them and their kids afterwards).

    Polygyny with no license and documentation with the state isn’t illegal from a state perspective – the reason its sticky is because if they make polygyny without a contract illegal, then they have to make adultery illegal as well. An islamic marriage contract doesn’t require paperwork.

    Re: Men have one thing on their mind – so what’s the point? Is this some new revelation that we missed out on? Men marrying and having more than one wife? The Prophet did it, the Companions did it, many great scholars did it, and so on for the past 1400 years. Why should our generation stop? Because it’s politically incorrect in 21st century America?

    Thanks, but no thanks, most of us don’t care to have our religious beliefs dictated to us by half-watered down christian, half secular sexcapading (both in and out of marriage) westerners. I’m not a politician, and I’m not into pandering.

    Siraaj

  17. Avatar

    anon

    June 4, 2008 at 5:26 PM

    “Also i believe you misread, the first and last article i linked to are different stories – not the same one.”

    LOL. For the second time, they are the same story. Just told from 2 different perspectives as I said before. ONe is told from the perspective of Safa, who’s husband married another woman secretly.
    The second story is told from the perspective of Fouad Boutaya, who’s wife married Safa’s husband

    Which is why the same imam is obviously mentioned in both articles. Because the stories involve the exact same people

  18. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 4, 2008 at 5:35 PM

    anon – ok i just realized you’re right about that, my bad :)

    however, i believe the main contentions that i actually brought up still hold true (although the comments seem to be delving into a debate over polygamy itself ;) )

  19. Avatar

    anon

    June 4, 2008 at 5:44 PM

    No prob :)

    I personally have no intention of of debating polygamy. I stated my opinion on it and that’s it. The title of your post says something about airing dirty laundry, which you seem to have a problem with. But you also state that you don’t want to stifle discourse. But how can you have discourse if no “dirty laundry” as you call it is aired. I’m sure most people, nonmuslim or muslim have already made up their mind about polygamy (myself included) so I hardly think 2 stories will change all that and make it even worse than it already is.

    What I think should be brought in to question is the willingness of a religious cleric to pretty much sanction deceit between a husband and wife. I thought they were supposed to be into promoting honesty, good marital relations, and all that good stuff. (And how can you become an imam with no theological training btw? )

    And one more question? If wives are supposed to be treated equally with regards to finances, time, etc (love is a whole nother story), than how can you have a properly implemented version of it in Canada or the US where it is illegal. Its obvious from the get go that the “illegal” wife will most definitely be at a disadvantage in terms of monetary and health issues. So doesn’t that automatically nullify the whole principle?

  20. Avatar

    Imad

    June 4, 2008 at 5:46 PM

    “however, i believe the main contentions that i actually brought up still hold true”

    you’re presupposing that the author thinks the same way you or i do about ‘airing our dirty laundry’. what is the author really doesn’t care about her approach to these issues? What if she couldn’t care less about Muslim affairs and feels strongly that such a story should be disclosed? What if her editor demanded she write a provocative piece about Muslims in Canada and she complied? there are so many possibilities, I don’t think its sophisticated thinking on our part if we believe every single Muslim in the world shares a similar worldview.

  21. Avatar

    Imad

    June 4, 2008 at 5:57 PM

    Anon=

    “On a side note… polygamy = religiously sanctioned cheating for individuals who have problems keeping it in their pants.”

    I’ll give you that some may debase themselves and abuse the permissibility to sleep with others, but what would you say about thousands of other people in less individualistic societies where they marry multiple times for reasons other than sex? Either they are all lustful or you have some sort of ability to peer into the affairs of all men and find out that they, indeed, ‘can’t keep it in’. sort of simplistic, don’t you think?

  22. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 4, 2008 at 6:28 PM

    you’re presupposing that the author thinks the same way you or i do about ‘airing our dirty laundry’. what is the author really doesn’t care about her approach to these issues? What if she couldn’t care less about Muslim affairs and feels strongly that such a story should be disclosed? What if her editor demanded she write a provocative piece about Muslims in Canada and she complied? there are so many possibilities, I don’t think its sophisticated thinking on our part if we believe every single Muslim in the world shares a similar worldview.

    actually i dont think she thinks the same way i do, or she wouldnt have written it. i also dont think everyone shares this worldview, however, i expressed my opinion as such and would like to see how others feel? what do you think? is it advisable for a muslim to put such a story out in this type of a media? i’m not really that concerned with her motives in writing it, but i want to see how others feel about muslims writing these types of pieces for major media outlets.

  23. Avatar

    Siraaj Muhammad

    June 4, 2008 at 8:01 PM

    And one more question? If wives are supposed to be treated equally with regards to finances, time, etc (love is a whole nother story), than how can you have a properly implemented version of it in Canada or the US where it is illegal. Its obvious from the get go that the “illegal” wife will most definitely be at a disadvantage in terms of monetary and health issues. So doesn’t that automatically nullify the whole principle?

    A man has to be equal in what he provides to his wives, not what the state provides. If he’s prevented from providing a marriage contract and all that comes with, that’s the state’s issue, not his.

    Secondly, even if the assertion were true, and it did become unequal, a woman could opt to give up that right – it’s her choice. No one is forcing her at gunpoint to marry the already married man, and along with her wali (who is also looking for her best interest), she can make a decision as to whether or not she wishes to get into such a relationship. The first wife, of course, already has such rights, so there’s nothing for her to lose in that particular regard.

    Siraaj

  24. Avatar

    Rose

    June 4, 2008 at 8:28 PM

    anon: “On a side note… polygamy = religiously sanctioned cheating for individuals who have problems keeping it in their pants. Although I will concede that 1000 years ago this was most likely not the case. Although it might have been for some, who knows.”

    It could be. But you also must look at the societal implications of allowing polygamy. Please look at this link for some valid points for allowing a man to have multiple wives.

    In my humble opinion, I feel that Islam is mostly concerned with the society as a whole – the people. That isn’t to say that Allah is not concerned with the individual, but if you read through the Quran, there is emphasis put on Ummah, community, the ripple effect of committing sin because it affects so many souls (e.g. adultery leads to emotional distress and sometimes children out of wedlock, a woman revealing too much of herself can lead to temptation in men and thus can lead to negative consequences, allowing/condoning zina in a community leads to the degeneration of the community as a whole, etc.)

    That said, the terms that are outlined in the Quran and also in the Prophet’s (SAW) life emphasize and the basic necessities and rights of a husband and wife. It is an enormous responsibility, and it is not permissible for men to marry women just to satisfy their lusts (4:24). Also, Muhammad (SAW) was married to only one wife – Khadijah – during his prime years and it wasn’t until after she passed away that he took on multiple wives for numerous reasons. Marriage in Islam outlines the practical responsibilities – the absolute basic and foundational requirements for marriage, such as being fair to the spouse(s) in terms of finance, time, etc. Many women married men who already had a wife because she had no source of protection or livelihood. Now things have changed a little bit where women can support themselves in certain circumstances. Love is another story.

    When you are in love with someone or love someone, you may not want to share your husband with someone else. That’s fine. Simply state in the nikah contract that you do not want your husband to take on any wives while you are married to him. My view is that you can only be in love with one person at one time.

    It’s clear that the man who married a second wife without informing the first wife was doing her a disservice. Yes, it is permissible for a man to carry a second wife but what about respect? What about loving the person, even at its most simple, who cared for you? Sadly, most people do not combine Islamic law with common sense.

    I just hope Muslim men stop getting so excited by the prospect of multiple spouses and start to think practically about this issue.

    I agree.

  25. Avatar

    surma

    June 4, 2008 at 11:23 PM

    I don’t understand why the authors of Muslim Matter’s are advocating for Polygamy ? There are lot of other issues in this world and there are lot of other ways we can try to please GOD .Can’t they try to find those issues and talk about them instead of making excuses for some men who are not satisfied with one wife to get married . Well you found solution for men , what about women ? There are many women just like those so called men who are not satisfied with their husband ? What do u have for them ? Do u suggest them to get marry multiple times and divorce multiple times too ? We are too much busy with ritual .

  26. Avatar

    Hassan

    June 5, 2008 at 9:20 AM

    surma, are you Muslim?

  27. Avatar

    Faiez

    June 5, 2008 at 7:41 PM

    Some Muslims are just looking for a way to get popular in my opinion. Controversy tends to bring that attention to them. I think their parents might have not given them enough attention when they were young so they have to do these things in order to get that attention.

    Excellent article son of the father of omar.

  28. Avatar

    brother-bruce

    June 12, 2008 at 10:05 AM

    Imam Aly Hindy responds –

    Recently the Toronto Star ran a soap opera story regarding polygamy (GTA’s secret world of polygamy) where they displayed a complete lack of journalistic principles and standards. For example:

    1. At no time did they even attempt to contact Mr. Ismail (the ex-husband of Safaa Rigby), and have refused to return his phone-calls to The Star complaining about their mis-characterization and lies regarding him.

    2. In the follow-up article (Polygamy is a Crime, non?), they ran another soap opera tale regarding Mr. Boutaya coming home to find Mr. Ismail at his home and married to his wife. Had the Toronto Star performed the simple journalistic duty of fact-checking, they would have easily found that there were three restraining orders on Mr. Boutaya and that he was unable to even approach his ex-wife.

    3. When Imam Aly Hindy responded to the misquotes in The Star’s original article with an Op-Ed piece, The Toronto Star refused to print it. It’s public editor said “We cannot run it because it contradicts what we previously published” and it’s editorial page editor said “we’ve run a lot on the topic and are not in the market for more”.

    It is clear that the Toronto Star has an agenda to caricature the Muslim community and Imam Aly Hindy as backwards, as anti-women and even anarchist and wish to disregard any proof to the contrary. They have no problem running the multiple Op-Ed’s of Tarek Fatah, Alia Hogben, Farzana Hassan – but when someone with at least a semblance of representation in our community wants to clear up lies about our community such as equating us with the alleged child-abusers of Texas and B.C – they outright reject.

    Below is Imam Aly Hindy’s Op-Ed:

    Conflict of Perspectives
    In the past few weeks, there has been a whirlwind in the media regarding the issue of polygamy in the Muslim community. I would like to set the record straight on this matter.

    Firstly allow me to state that I, along with my community, believe in adhering to the rule of law of this great country. I say this to negate a quotation of mine that was misconstrued; my statement that religious laws trump Canadian law. I made this statement in response to a hypothetical question asking, what I would do had I been drafted to fight in Afghanistan.

    Part of what makes me proud to be a Canadian citizen – one who spent the majority of his life protecting Canadian nuclear facilities – is that I can never be forced to do something which contradicts my religious beliefs or conscience, such as fight in Afghanistan. If in any case the law attempts to compel me against my beliefs, then I have the freedom to invoke the Charter which will trump any law of that nature.

    Second, with regards to the act of polygamy, let us be clear; the majority of “polygamous” circumstances are transitional in nature. I put “polygamy” in quotation because those who enter into “polygamous” circumstances divorce one – or both – of their spouses within months of the “marriage”.

    The only reason these people enter into the situation to begin with is because of the lengthy process it takes to attain a divorce. Therefore, instead of entering into an adulterous affair – which most people in that situation opt to do – those individuals consider it more God-fearing to enter into a non-legal “spiritual union” with an additional partner.

    How such a non-legal “spiritual union” differs at all from an adulterous affair, I do not know. An individual, who was the first wife in one of these situations, articulated it as a “halal (Islamically permissible) affair”. I see it no other way.
    I wonder if those who are clamoring for law enforcement’s involvement on the issue would also consent for a legal sanction against adultery. Do we really want the police and government to enter into our bedrooms? Or are we simply outraged at something which is strange and different to our society and to our 100 year old laws which were borne out of a Judeo-Christian tradition and history? A tradition and history which an ever increasing minority of this country – Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists – has little connection with?

    The only reason which prompted me to speak about the issue of polygamy to begin with is because, while it is a rare occurrence in our community, it does happen.

    This is not an issue of whether Canadian law or religious law is better or stronger. My office at the Mosque often overflows with women who have, by Canadian law, attained a divorce, full custody of the children, and half of the assets of their marriage. However because they have yet to attain a religious divorce, they still consider themselves married. Here is a situation where our Canadian law has been fully exercised, but because the religious law has not been exercised those women are unable to move on with their lives and remarry because they still consider themselves married.

    As a side note, often the husbands of such women refuse to partake in the religious divorce proceedings out of sheer spite. In those cases I have to process a religious divorce in absentia of the husband – which has caused me to face multiple death threats from those husbands. That is an odd risk to take for the sake of women’s rights from someone who painted in the media and by politicians as an abuser of women rights.

    Even if we would attempt to enforce the law on polygamy, it would only drive the practice further underground and afar from the spotlight. The reality is that there are sometimes victims of this practice – sometimes it is the first wife, sometimes the second woman. There are no institutions or legal avenues for them to find any type of solace or support. There needs to be, in my opinion, a revision of the law – one that reflects the practices of such people in order to ensure the protection of rights of all the parties involved.

    On a final note, some people who caught only the gist of the story, caught the words “Aly Hindy” and “polygamy” and wrongly assumed the story was about myself entering into a polygamous marriage. And so I would like to clarify and tell my wife of 33 years – my one and only wife – that I love her and that in my eyes she is better than an infinite amount of wives.

    Imam Aly Hindy,
    Salaheddin Islamic Centre

  29. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 12, 2008 at 10:24 AM

    jazakallahu khayr – that was a real eye opener. it is good to hear the other side of the story and more context to the original articles.

  30. Avatar

    Harun

    June 12, 2008 at 11:00 AM

    salaam,

    I think MuslimMatters should make a separate new post for this op-ed from Imam Aly Hindy as a followup to this original post. The mainstream newspapers are clearly trying to silence his voice and misrepresent him so we should use our muslim media like this blog to oppose them and give more publicity to those they are trying to ignore. Aly Hindy’s op-ed is clearly not being published in the toronto star because it exposes their lies.

  31. Avatar

    Um Hana

    June 21, 2008 at 8:29 AM

    The issue of polygamy being illegal in US law is interesting. That law is not based on revelation. It is ultimately based on the consent of the governed. That is why you will see changes in the law. Gays can now marry in some states for example. Muslims who wish to practice polygamy – and Muslims who don’t themselves wish to practice it, but recognize it as a right for those who do – can challenge the illegality of polygamy. Otherwise they should continue to practice, if they so wish, the custom of their American culture, which is to not interfere with sexual choices and activities between consenting adults. This is in keeping with higher aims of the law; to protect privacy, individuals freeoms, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and so no. There are many anachronistic laws on the books, and anti-polygamy laws are among them in my opinion.

  32. Avatar

    Um Hana

    June 21, 2008 at 8:39 AM

    Even though I referred to polygamy in terms of sexual choice and activities, I in no way wish to suggest that polygamous relationships are based solely on sex. They have the potential to be as loving and long-lasting as monogomous marriages.

  33. Avatar

    another point of view

    June 22, 2008 at 12:29 AM

    This was in today’s paper:

    Taboo topic sparks critical debate
    TheStar.com – comment – Taboo topic sparks critical debate

    June 21, 2008
    Kathy English

    In the month since the Star published its investigation into the secret world of polygamy in our community, reporter Noor Javed has braved a firestorm of criticism.

    So too has the Star itself, with several complaints about Javed’s groundbreaking articles about polygamy within the Muslim community in the GTA coming to the public editor’s office. I’ve spent considerable time looking into these concerns and I think that the Star’s reporting on this was accurate, fair and balanced.

    I also believe it was a courageous act of journalism for Javed, a Muslim woman who has written illuminating articles for the Star in the past about her spiritual journey to Mecca to fulfill the holy Muslim pilgrimage called the hajj, and also about her choice to wear the Muslim head scarf, the hijab.

    As a journalist and a “visible” Muslim who chose to expose evidence of polygamy within the GTA’s Muslim community, Javed well knew she would come under fire. But she also believed that reporting on this controversial, “taboo” issue, which is clearly illegal in Canadian law, could spark critical debate among Canadians.

    I, however, was surprised by the personal attacks against her. Javed’s commitment to her faith has been questioned by other Muslims and some have even suggested it was improper for a Muslim reporter to report on this.

    One “open letter” that came to my office, the Star’s letters page, and is now circulating in the online blogosphere, accuses Javed of demonizing Islam itself. “If your intention was to spark debate on polygamy in the community then the Toronto Star was not the forum for it,” the letter states. “There is already ample anti-Islamic sentiment in the world and it is not befitting for a Muslim to add to it.

    “As a Muslim woman, you had an Islamic obligation, to defend this aspect of your faith, not to deliver a further blow to an already bruised community.”

    While many North American Muslims have widely, and sometimes justly, criticized the media for anti-Islamic bias in the days since 9/11, I don’t think the Star’s reporting on polygamy was either anti-Islamic or unfair. Javed spent several months investigating this, talking to dozens of people including four local Muslim women who believe they have been victimized by polygamy. This has not been about “airing dirty laundry,” as some have accused Javed of doing, but of airing these concerns.

    Javed’s reporting put the issue into context, explaining the perspective on polygamy of both the Muslim faith and Canadian law. She wrote that while polygamy is generally among the “last taboos” in Western society, it’s practised in more than 850 societies worldwide, including within the fundamentalist Mormon community in Bountiful, B.C. She also spoke to several legal experts who believe polygamy will soon be forced to face a constitutional challenge.

    But as Star columnist and editor emeritus Haroon Siddiqui also pointed out in a follow-up column to Javed’s articles, those practising polygamy in Canada are breaking the law as it now stands: “Muslims are obliged to obey the law of the land where they live” he wrote.

    Aly Hindy, the iman of Saluhuddin Islamic Centre who openly told Javed that he has “blessed” numerous polygamous unions, now accuses the Star of bias against the Muslim community. In an email to several hundred people, now posted online, Hindy’s son, Ibrahim, states that the Star has an “agenda” to “caricature” the Muslim community and Hindy as “backwards, as anti-women and even anarchist …”

    Last week, Hindy submitted a lengthy opinion article suggesting that Javed had quoted him out of context and was inaccurate in her reporting. In fully investigating this, including listening to Javed’s tape-recorded interviews with Hindy, I found these charges to be without merit. The Star declined to publish Hindy’s article. We did tell him that the Star would publish a letter to the editor to clarify his perspective. He has thus far declined to submit a letter.

    Despite this controversy, Javed’s reporting on polygamy has done what it was intended to do – instigate critical debate. Whether it was in mosques across the GTA, at dinner tables, or on radio and television, these Star articles have sparked heated and necessary discussion about polygamy and the legislation around it.

    For me, that fulfils the highest purpose of great journalism.

    publiced@thestar.ca

  34. Avatar

    Hassan

    June 22, 2008 at 9:07 AM

    How come lying is “another point of view”? Why is it considered a debate when one side is lying? Please read brother-bruce quoting Imam Aly Hindy above.

    There is nothing brave about lying.

  35. Avatar

    Specs

    June 24, 2008 at 7:43 AM

    Brother Bruce_ Your point # 2 seems to be conflicting with the facts here. A man with three restraining orders on him is hardly likely to run TO the police with his children, isn’t he? Wallaho’Alam, you might be correct but i find this rather strange.

    Secondly, like Mezba pointed out, the secrecy is rather strange. Safa was in Egypt and her husband in Canada; she couldn’t have done anything if he had told her himself. This is a fact of life that if a supposedly good act is being done in ‘secrecy’ there IS something to hide there. A legal marriage shouldn’t have to be like a clandestine operation. Imam AlHindy was wrong if he advised that.

    The focus of the article here seems to be the fact that the dirty laundry of the Ummah was ‘aired’. May i ask you, before you object to the ‘airing’ what have you (and i as well) done, as a member of the Muslim Ummah to prevent these events from ever happening? Had Sister Safa’s relatives and her husbands relatives, as part of the Ummah, taken on the role of just moderators in the issue, it would not have come to a head like this. We cannot hold one party guilty only because she ‘aired’ the issue and her (ex?)husband seems to be let off and not criticized because he has somehow become the wronged party! We can only criticize airing such an event if it happened *after* all our best efforts to prevent it. I’m sorry, i might be repeating myself here but i fail to see what right do you (or i) have, to criticize any other Muslim for telling their problems to the world.

    I might be wrong, WallahoAlam, but i think if such an issue IS aired, we, the members of the Muslim Ummah, should concentrate on the Issue and NOT the person who bought it up. This secrecy will really not help matters. We’re supposed to solve it so this does not happen again.

    • Avatar

      Tajweed

      May 27, 2012 at 4:49 AM

      Is it possible to meet you in person

  36. Avatar

    Aalia

    June 26, 2008 at 7:40 PM

    Ibnabeeomar, you should tone it down or else Fouad Boutaya will acuse you of being the “devil’s advocate”—as he has called me today, LoL! I did a post on my own Blog showing the letter that Imam Aly Hindy had written in response to the Toronto Star’s article. As you can tell from the comments, both Safa Rigby and Fouad Boutata replied. Here is what Fouad Boutaya had to say to me:

    http://chasing-jannah.blogspot.com/2008/06/hiding-truth-exposing-truth.html

    Fouad Boutaya has left a new comment on your post “Hiding the Truth & Exposing the Truth”:

    Reply from Fouad Boutaya to Aalia, the owner of “Chasing Jannah” blog:

    I wish to respond to your blog on Thursday, June 19, 2008 (Hiding the Truth & Exposing the Truth) and your unfounded defence of the pseudo-Imam Aly Hindy, who violates Islam, the rights and lives of Muslims, and arrogantly continues to do so.

    Your blog stated: “In the follow-up article (Polygamy is a Crime, is not it?), They ran another soap opera tale regarding Mr. Boutaya coming home to find Mr. Ismail at his home and married to his wife. Had the Toronto Star performed the duty of simple journalistic fact-checking, they would have easily found that there were three restraining orders on Mr. Boutaya and that he was unable to even approach his ex-wife.”

    – The Star did do their homework carefully. They contacted me and I showed them documents of what I told them. Before publishing my piece knowing that Hossny Ismail’s name would be mentioned (as his wife Safa Rigby said in her response to your blog) they tried to contact him to hear his part of the story; but I guess he would not know what to say, so he did not dare to reply to them. When I was taken off ground by the surprise upon coming unexpectedly from Ottawa to my home and family in Hamilton (I did not have any restraining order whatsoever) I found my wife (still my wife to this date) with Hossny Ismail (Safa Rigby’s husband) in my home eating at my dinner table with my wife, one day after the pseudo-Imam so-called married them on December 5th 2005. Unfortunately I opened my house to Hossny Ismail who apparently betrayed me by making a romantic relationship with my wife behind my back. He did not only betray me and his wife, Safa, and the other woman whom he was with at the time he was with my wife, but also betrayed Islam and Allah and his Muslim customers to whom he sold, believe it or not, “Halal” meat. Unfortunately, years before that I did not only trust him and opened my house to him, but took him as a brother. So, the fact that my wife and Hossny Ismail had an affair is true and numerous people in Hamilton know this fact and witness to it. Hindy seems to have helped his close friend Hossny to cover-up that affair; abusing Islam.

    So, it is a documented fact with the Hamilton Police that when I unexpectedly entered my house as usual on Dec. 6th, 2005 coming from Ottawa to discover Safa Rigby’s husband with my wife, I did not have any restraining order whatsoever. A matter of fact I directly went to the Police station with my two children after I left the house, leaving Hossny Ismail and my wife there. The restraining order came much later on when my wife went to the Court as my estranged wife and introduced Hossny Ismail as her boyfriend and asked for a restraining order, I did not bother to fight her claim.

    – To this date I am still not divorced from my wife.

    – At the time the pseudo-Imam Hindy married my wife to his close friend Hossny Ismail (yes, they both are — maybe now I should say were — very close friends) he (Hindy) seems not had checked or asked if this woman (my wife) was divorced, single, or widowed. Otherwise, this so-called union between my wife and Hossny Ismail would have not taken place at all. A matter of fact, my son who was 10 years old at the time and also my daughter who was seven years old (both of them did not wish to stay with the mother and left with me on Dec. 6th, 2005 –- the date I returned from Ottawa unexpectedly and discovered the affair — and I have full custody of them now) told me that their mother did not leave them at all on that day and both my son and daughter did not go to school on that day because they were no classes due to teachers’ meeting at the school (the day Hindy married Safa’s husband to my wife, Friday Dec. 2th, 2005). She was with them here in Hamilton the whole day. Which means that; either Hindy married her to his friend Hossny over the phone; or either that he did not even see or talked to her over the phone; but even if we assume that he talked to her over the phone, how did he knew for sure that it was she who wished to get married to Hossny Ismail which is a requirement in Islam that to be sure who is willing wittingly to be married of both parties without being forced. But, regardless, the marriage is “haram” and Islamically illegal and void because she was married to me. My son and daughter until now still and after two and half years psychologically suffer from different shameful and dishonouring behaviour of Hossny Ismail and their mother including intimacy in my bedroom.

    – Aalia, you mentioned in replying to Safa’s comments and I applaud her for writing it, that you only know Hindy from your husband and other Imams. You cannot judge people and blindly and unfoundedly defend them from what you hear about them from your husband or someone else, this is un-Islamic. It appears that your husband is befriending and close to Hindy and I just hope that your husband is not one of the two witnesses Mr. Abdul Wahad Ibrahim and Rachid Boujrhoul on the so-called marriage certificate I provided to the Star, which they published. Moreover, please listen to what numerous authentic and true Imams say about Hindy’s actions; they only say the truth; the truth which I ask Allah to guide you to.

    Please go to the following URL CBC Radio-Canada clip:

    http://radio-canada.ca/actualite/v2/zonelibre/archive79_200503.shtml#

    When you go there, please scroll down until the end. You will
    see a photo of a veiled Muslim woman. For Part I, please
    click on:

    Tribunal islamique, première partie

    And for Part II, click on:

    Tribunal islamique, deuxième partie

    There you will see Hindy saying that a Muslim woman cannot divorce her husband in Islam. He is wrong, she can and this is called Khul’. He, in this clip, claims ignorantly that the reason Islam does not permit women to divorce is that “women are emotional” and he goes on to say that Islam is wise, otherwise a Muslim woman would divorce her husband “seven times a day.” And he seems to say this with a sarcastic smile. So, he seems to make a joke of Muslim women and classify them as “emotional” and cannot be trusted to make decisions on their own. This is NOT Islam; this is chauvinism.
    In addition, Hindy goes on, in the clip, to say that he would follow the Islamic law when it comes against the Canadian law. A fact that he claims he did not tell to Noor Javed, Toronto Star Reporter, when it comes to polygamy, but he claims he said it only answering a question about going to war in Iraq, even though Javed’s interview with him was recorded (see the Star article on June 21, 2008 by Kathy English). But, Hindy seems to trying to misguide people, including his follow Muslim women and their husbands whom he claims to serve. By the way, this clip’s date is April, 2005. And, Noor Javed’s Article was June, 2008. I leave you with Allah when it comes to judging Hindy’s actions.

    So Aalia stop play the devil’s advocate, follow your own advice first by checking the facts before you try to propagate any false news, and be honest to yourself and what you call “my readers” and do not try to muzzle the truth. Fear Allah, only in doing so you may enter the Jannah which is not attained by only chasing it as your blog “Chasing Jannah” indicates.Fouad Boutaya

    • Avatar

      Tajweed

      May 27, 2012 at 4:58 AM

      Fouad did they charged your wife and her 2nd husband with bigamy. Did they acknowledge hindy nikah or you got any proof of the nikah that you submitted. Why haven’t they charged him or her isn’t religious marriage counts as marriage

  37. Avatar

    Sobia

    August 24, 2008 at 11:23 AM

    It was a story to be told. The imam in question was encouraging men to take a second wife and not tell the first wife. People needed to know and see. This was not airing dirty laundry but opening the eyes of those around them.

  38. Avatar

    Peaceful Me

    August 24, 2008 at 3:20 PM

    Frankly, I am put off by this author’s tone and the apparent greater concern than we shovel the manure to cover up the faults in the ummah, than the serious issues at hand (ie., men lying to their wives; men not supporting their wives and children properly; men not adhering to the laws of the countries they live in, etc.). There has been a great deal written about this situation (and in fact, the specific people involved) and the Toronto Star is not the first or last ones to pick up the story. Do you really think non-Muslims are so stupid they don’t read our blogs?

    Ya’Allah! Can we start addressing the deep issues in our communities and stop trying to paint a pretty picture for the non-Muslim world?

  39. Avatar

    sam

    February 14, 2009 at 3:00 AM

    I’d like to relate my personal opinion on this matter.quite recently my husband divorced me over wanting another wife.If he could have just told the truth and had not taken islam as an excuse my parents would have readily agreed to it.So far what I’ve seen that polygamy in itself is not a bad issue but how men are using religion to fulfill their desires.Polygamy is a right given to man but this in no way allows a man to look at other women while married with the intention of finding someone he can marry.Although this comment is a bit late in coming but I do hope it gets the point through.But if men think that its a religious obligation they need to think again what should come first:their wife or another woman they want to marry.

  40. Avatar

    Tajweed

    May 27, 2012 at 4:52 AM

    So whatever happened to Mr. hossny and safa rigby. did canadiian govt charged him with bigamy or sentenced him or acknowledge his 2nd wife. Curious

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Manners

Podcast: How Intimate Can a Couple be Post-Nikkah, but Pre-Marriage? | Yaser Birjas

Question:

I just had my nikkah done with my husband and we are having our rukhsati done soon (in the next few months). The reason for [the] delay is just mainly to prepare for the wedding and  [to] accommodate family members’ schedule [for] the wedding. After the nikkah is it permissible to do all the acts that are permissible between a husband and wife even if the rukhsati hasn’t been done?

Sincerely,
Getting married in my 20s

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Marriage

Podcast: Like Tinder, But Safer: Troubleshooting Arranged Muslim Marriages | Newaz Ahmed

The biodatas that we send and receive are inherently superficial. We’re not given much time to make a decision on that limited information, and so the result is the same sort of superficiality, an un-Islamic swipe based on attractiveness alone.

When I tell people I want a religious wife, they seem to translate that as subservient to me, not Allah. And that scares me.Click To Tweet

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#Life

Like Tinder, But Safer: Troubleshooting Arranged Muslim Marriage

Like many people in my mid-20s, I approached my parents about getting married and initially chose to use a more traditional route. That is to say, creating a resume – or biodata – and sending it to matchmaker aunties. I wanted this approach because I wanted to be able to balance my American, Desi, and Muslim identities. I wanted things to be done in a halal way with my parent’s knowledge. However, over the past 2 years, my experience with the process has left me jaded.

Before I continue, I want to preface with two things. The first is that my parents are wonderful. We’ve butted heads, but I recognize that they are doing what they think is best, via a method that they’re used to. Providing critical feedback of the method should not be taken as critical to my parents.

The second is that while I have critical feedback, I am not intending to discredit the entire process. Meeting people through family is hardly a bad thing, and maybe what some people need. It is very possible that I will still end up using this process. That said, there are changes that need to be made, especially in the modern world. I want to make sure that my younger brothers and sisters can get an idea of what the process is, and what they’re in store for.

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Superficiality

The biodatas that we send and receive are inherently superficial. They are, in total, the person’s education/career, info on their parents and extended family, and pictures. There’s nothing written about the person’s personality barring, perhaps, a few sentences about their interests. This doesn’t provide any real depth of information about the other person at all.

Then there is the emphasis that is placed on the pictures. It is important to acknowledge that physical attraction plays a role in all of this. I think one of my early mistakes was that I was trying to pretend it didn’t matter at all, and that’s not reasonable for a marriage. The problem, however, is that given the lack of personal detail in the written part of the bio-data, we are left with the photo being the most personal piece of information presented. Unless you really care about where a person’s grandfather went to University in the 1940’s, that photo ends up being the most important thing you’re making your choice on.

Like “Tinder, but safer,” a friend said to me, as I explained how these situations played out. That’s not far off from how the experience played out for me. We’re not given much time to make a decision on the bio-data, so the result is the superficial, un-Islamic swipe based on attractiveness alone.

How many times have I heard, “Oh, she’s too fat,” or “Oh, she’s too short,” or “Too tall,” or “She’s pretty dark isn’t she?” Bengali speakers will recognize the word “moyla,” [dirty] used to describe women who are slightly darker, which is terribly problematic.

It’s not just that women are being chosen based on their looks alone, but on top of that, they’re being held to Eurocentric notions of what is deemed attractive. We’re all being held hostage to a standard designed by and for an entirely different race of people, and I have been told that it would be weird for me to be attracted to a darker-skinned woman because in the minds of many, dark skin is undesirable.

The superficiality is worse for women, but even as a guy I felt it. I’m fine with how I look, but you can only hear, “Oh, your face looks weird in that picture,” or, “He’s not tall enough,” so many times before it starts to mess with you. Men face another superficial judgment as well: the problem with men being reduced to their ability as moneymakers. I’m a graduate student and there are people in my class who have a spouse and children and are making it by just fine on the stipend we receive. But, inevitably, it will come up that I’m not making tons of money, so how can I support a family? While recognizing that men do have an Islamic responsibility to financially support their families, it troubles me that the process boils men down to one thing and one thing only – money, and not just having enough of it, but lots of it.

Age

I’m relatively young, 27 in May, and so when I started this process two years ago, I told my parents that I was willing to go +/- 3 years, just because I thought that would be a good range to encompass people I’d have some similarities with. However my prospect of an older wife – even a day older – was rejected with quite some vigor. I’ve been disqualified from matching with some women because they were born just a couple of months before I was.

The majority of the biodatas sent to me are of women still in college, between the ages of 19 and 22. It doesn’t matter when I say that’s too young, or how that I feel like I’d be taking advantage of someone who hasn’t fully grown up yet. I get told that I’m wrong.

Do you know how many random aunties and uncles have told me that a 7-8 year age gap is necessary to make a marriage work because otherwise, the women “will demand too much?” It’s shocking that I’m being told specifically that I need a wife young enough to be manipulated and shaped to my desires. When I push back on this, I’m, again, told that I’m weird.

I’m being constantly told to reconsider my age preferences as if wanting to marry a woman in her mid-20’s is a weird thing to do when I myself am in my mid-20’s. The sheer number of times I face this makes me think it’s an inherent flaw in how our cultures think, and not something unique to my situation. This is to say nothing of the fact that people will, to our face, tell me (26) that I’m too young for marriage, but my sister (25) is rapidly passing her expiration date.

Race

As a Bengali man, I have no problem marrying a woman of Bengali descent, but it’s annoying that even in 2020, it’s seen as a taboo to marry outside of your race in Desi culture. I personally have had it conceded to me, that if I choose an Indian or Pakistani woman on my own, that might be ok, but nothing else. Not an Arab. Certainly not someone with (black) African descent. And a white/Hispanic/black convert would cause a genuine scandal.

And even this concession is not universal, as there are many Bengali parents I know who will not let their child marry anyone outside of their own culture. Even when people have pushed through it and married outside of their ethnic backgrounds, there is still gossip and concern as to how the parents could “let this happen.”

Going into this I thought, “Well, all I have to do is show a few videos from Imams talking about how inter-racial marriages shouldn’t be taboo for Muslims,” but it doesn’t matter how many of these clips I show, it falls on deaf ears.

I understand the concern of losing culture and heritage to life in the West, I get it. But if I want to teach my kids about their Bengali roots I can do that with a wife of any background, and if I don’t want to teach them, having a Bengali wife isn’t going to make me any more likely to do so.

Ultimately, the feeling I get is that the older generation wants in-laws who they can go and have chai and gossip with, to do traditional things they saw their parents do with their in-laws. And again, while I empathize with the desire to do something familiar, this seems like an unhealthy reason to dictate why your children can’t marry someone from another race or culture.

Classism

I understand that families need to mesh and that it makes things easier if there are similarities that exist. However, in what world am I reading a biodata and seeing what a woman’s uncle does for a living, and then deciding that she’s marriage material?

It doesn’t work for me that way, but it works on the minds of the older generation, and there are even ways of working the class distinction to your advantage. Uncles in the community have actually told me that marrying into a “lower class” may be good if you want someone to be subservient to you because they’re thankful you brought them to your status. But they’ve also told me that marrying a “higher-class” woman isn’t bad either, because a rich father-in-law could have its perks. Caveat- beware of them being snobby with you, since you may be expected to be thankful, subservient one instead.

I can’t even wrap my head around what people are talking about here, but it’s yet another factor that I end up having to deal with during this process.

Religion

I want a wife who cares about the deen and prays 5 times a day, and I want this not to be a controversial take.

I have been told that’s unrealistic. Literally a couple of weeks ago, an auntie told my sister that ‘modern women’ do not pray regularly and so I should not expect that in a future wife. She said this, of course, to my sister who is both a modern woman and someone who prays five times a day without fail.

It’s crazy to be told that I’m being too picky because I want a wife who already has her religious-ness established. I have been told, by both aunties and uncles, that it’s better for me to marry a wife who isn’t too religious yet so that I can shape her deen. This isn’t about mutual growth in faith as you may hope for in a marriage. This is about controlling women with religion by only teaching her what I want to teach her. When older women tell you this, it raises so many concerns about what they’ve been through and what they want future generations of women to go through.

When I tell people I want a religious wife, they seem to translate that as subservient to me, not Allah. And that scares me. I don’t mean to fetishize anybody, but I want a wife whose religion drives to be bold, to stand up for what’s right, to be outspoken. I want to partner with someone whose religiosity pushes me to be a better version of myself, not to do what she’s told.

Marry Back Home

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me, as someone who has lived their entire life in the US, to think that I’ll mesh much better with someone with a similar background. This isn’t universal, some people will genuinely get along better with people from “back home,” and that’s fine, but this needs to be a personal choice.

Yet, I keep getting told that it would be better for me to marry from “back home.” I have been told, straight up, if you bring a wife over here, she’ll be more “indebted,” to me because I brought her to America. Setting aside that I don’t want to marry someone who just wants to marry me for a Green Card, why would I want to marry someone who feels like they owe me?

I fail to see how marrying from “back home” is an issue of compatibility in this case, it feels way more like an issue of subservience.

You can see here that the concern isn’t about finding a spouse who matches with my personality, it’s about finding someone who’ll come and cook and clean and bear children for me without speaking up about it because they feel like they owe me. Which segues to…

Gender Roles

I want to preface this section by saying that this is one topic where my parents haven’t, at all, been the source of my concerns, but rather, this something that comes up when talking to certain members of the community.

For men, there is an emphasis on making money to provide for a family, and for women, raising children and taking care of the home. There’s no problem with this model, but it is not the only model. It’s a valid option, but I am being told it’s my only choice.

In the eyes of many, the preference is to pick a homemaker. This seems at odds with the desire to select a woman with a good education, making it seem that I’m then not expected to let her utilize that education professionally. After all, it could be embarrassing for me if my wife makes more than me, and I have been told to be careful, because a wife who makes too much money could be “too independent.”

I must also be careful to stay in my exclusive role as a moneymaker too, and not try to go beyond that. I had pictures with my nephews in biodata because they mean the world to me. I was told to take them out because somehow a man taking care of children is deemed…bad?. I also like cooking. I once said this to an auntie and I remember her saying, “Why do you like doing girl’s stuff?”

Quite bluntly, I don’t want a wife who will only cook and clean and raise children for me. I want someone I can share those duties with because they’re my equal partner, an idea that, to me, keeps getting glossed over in this process. Every couple deserves the opportunity to figure their marriage out for themselves.

Quick Marriages

There are limits to what we can(‘t) do as Muslims. I understand that we shouldn’t have 3 year-long courtships or live together before getting married, and I am not advocating that. But we should be allowed some time to make such an important decision. I’ve been shown bio-datas and have been expected to come back with an answer in two days – just two days – about whether the information on this piece of paper is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Please, can we have a few months? Can we talk, and try to make sure that this is the decision we want to make (chaperoned)? When reviewing potential spouses, try to make sure everyone is one the same page about how much time you give to each other in order to avoid heartbreak and confusion.

Nature Of Relationship With Parents

My parents and I have a pretty good relationship. It’s relatively open and comfortable, but it’s still a Desi parent-child dynamic. Expressing a dissenting opinion is disrespectful, which means it can be harder to speak up without fear of disappointing them.

Plus, my parents and I never openly spoke about sex or physical attraction, at least not in-depth. To go from that to suddenly having to talk to your parents about the physical aspects that you’re looking for in a wife is awkward, and it can lead to miscommunication.

It’s a culture clash on top of a generational one. I have a hard time articulating what I want to my parents, and it’s not easy to figure out. If you know this before starting the process, you can make an effort to speak as openly about things as you can. You can even recruit an older cousin or friend, or an Imam you trust to help you. Don’t do what I did and go by yourself, have people to support you to make sure you and your parents are communicating well.

In Conclusion

It’s not reasonable to expect that you’ll get everything you want in a spouse. There will be compromises that are made, whether they be with yourself or with what your parents want. But don’t sacrifice on the points most important to you. Determine those, know what your must-haves are, and negotiate on other things. Make sure your potential spouse is on board. It can be awkward, especially with how many of us were raised, but talk to your potential spouse about these important things.

While this was a reflection of my own experience, I place emphasis on the aspects I feel are more universal. Speaking to other Desi Muslims in my age bracket, it certainly does seem that my concerns are relatively common. Obviously, there are individual factors that are at play, but these were things that came up regularly when speaking to elders in the community.

I also, again, want to stress that this isn’t an attack on my parents. While I have a level of frustration with how this situation has played out, I recognize that this is what they’re used to. And to their credit, they have made some concessions. Furthermore, it’s not just parents who are playing a role in this. The (often unwarranted) voices of certain elders are given undue emphasis, and that, I think has complicated the situation even further.

Ultimately, I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t consider arrangements or biodata, but if you do, then you must openly discuss this with your parents. Make sure they know what you want, and stand firm if it’s something important, even if it complicates things. It may put a strain on your relationship with your parents, but it’s better to open about things now than to have anger and resentment towards them for years later.

I’ll end with a specific piece of advice to the brothers: You have a duty to learn about why these issues are red flags and to push back on them yourselves. Women can be labelled as too rebellious if they push back themselves, and we need to be aware of this. Speak up for your (biological) sisters, family members, and friends when you notice their discomfort. Make sure you establish with your potential spouse that she is actually on board with the process, not just going along with it because she feels that she needs to. It might be awkward, but it’s important to establish a clear line of communication with someone even before you get married.

May Allah bless us all with happy, healthy, and fruitful marriages. Ameen

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