Guest post by AbdelRahman Murphy
One night, during a conference that I went to in the summer, my wife and I had a conversation about the day’s events. One topic in our conversation that came up was the issue of American-Muslims and the struggle of marriage.
Earlier in the day, during his session, one of the lecturers asked for a quick show of hands as to how many people in the audience were married. Being a newly-inducted member into this (seemingly) exclusive group, I raised my hand and took a glance around the room, expecting to see a good number of brothers and sisters with their arms in the air. To my concern, the amount of raised hands in the was less than 20 – out of the 130 people in the room, approximately 110 of them were not married (as a piece of information to help paint the picture, the majority in the room was sisters).
As my wife and I discussed this odd phenomenon of young, practicing, Muslim singles remaining single, I asked the stereotypically male question, “Why are there so many unmarried people here? You would think that with such a large quantity of actively-Muslim Muslims that there would be a high percentage of brothers and sisters that were hitched.”
My wife shrugged, “Not sure, and it’s not like they don’t want to get married, a lot of the sisters I’ve met are looking for a husband.” And then it dawned on me – the proverbial apple had dropped from Isaac’s tree and struck me on the head, pulling to the forefront of my mind, an amazing idea: “Why don’t the brothers and sisters here who are unmarried just marry each other!” It was so simple! I was on my way to becoming the matchmaker of the century, and had already began imagining my acceptance speech as the new president of Practimate.com.
“Pfft,” she said.
“Pfft? Is that such a terrible idea? We have two groups of unmarried people here, is it so hard to imagine that there would be some marriage-matches amongst them?”
“It’s possible – if the guys act like men.”
Whoa! Where was this coming from? The brothers I’d met during my time at the conference were, masha Allah, rising stars of dawah in America. The level of knowledge that was to be seen on the Y-chromosome side of the classroom was admirable, and I felt lucky to be a part of the group. Surely, brothers who were actively racing towards gaining knowledge from their teachers had passed the proverbial gate of maturation into manhood!
“Act like men? Huh?”
“The sisters would be interested, if they noticed any guys who would act mature. The main complaint I’m hearing on the girls’ side is that the guys aren’t acting like candidates that the girls would be interested in. For example, today when the shaykh mentioned the phrase “second wife,” the brothers started giggling and high-ﬁving like…boys! Just watch for the next couple of days and tell me what you think.”
And so the Achilles heel of the situation was revealed; the sisters’ allergic reaction to polygamist tendencies.
I had decided to take my wife up on her suggestion and keep an eye on the personalities of the brothers as a group, particular when any topic of marriage was discussed, monogamist or polygamist.
Surely enough, as the days went on, I noticed precisely what my wife was saying. At any point during the seminar when any word or phrase that had a relation to having one or more than one wife was mentioned, there would be at least a small group of brothers who would make a smart comment, completing their ritualistic statements with some sort of testosterone-ﬁlled body gesture, whether it be a ﬁst-pump, a high ﬁve, or simply a ﬁst raised in the air (as though on an Olympic medal podium of the 1948 summer games). And then it dawned on me, as did many things in this blessed past year of marriage, the perspective from the “other” side. My wife had shed some light on the situation from the point of view of the sisters, and, as a public service (read: sadaqah jaariyah), I’d like to share some advices in regards to that utopian vision many of you may have.
For those of you who are single, a quick math refresher: you have to have one before you can have two! It’s fine if you genuinely and truly want more than one wife in this life (for the right reasons) – some guys do, and are actively looking for it. But realize that you, single brother, haven’t even experienced what marriage is like, yet. You haven’t felt the responsibility of maintaining a wife and a family – it is quite a handful, though the work doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. See if you can handle having one wife first, insha Allah, before you decide that having two is a piece of cake. Who knows, you may find the allure of having multiple wives not so strong when you get married for the first (and probably only) time.
It’s Hurting Your Game
Now, since we’ve established that getting married is a goal for you, brother, maybe taking a look at how these actions of pseudo polygamist rhetoric affect your standing with the sisters could give you some insight into how to ﬁx your problem of involuntary singularity. As this article is bluntly stating, most sisters don’t enjoy the thought of their potential spouse scoping out their wedding for wife numero dos. If you’re serious about carrying out this particular Sunnah for your own personal reasons, then seek out sisters who are predisposed to accepting it as your lifestyle. But if you’re just doing it because the dream excites you or makes you feel “macho,” then drop the gig, because it’s not helping you, and is actually hurting your chances for finding Sr. Right.
Once, while I was at a friend’s house discussing this topic with him, and a certain article came up in conversation. It was one that we had both read that had articulated the idea that wives should realize that part of manhood is the innate desire to want more than one wife, so the wife should be constantly and adequately “re-inventing” herself, so as to distract the husband from wanting more than one wife. To this, the brother’s wife chimed in, “So wait, on top of my family responsibilities and my social and dawah responsibilities, now I’m supposed to worry that when my husband goes out by himself, or even with me, that he’ll be scoping out for another wife? That’s depressing.”
Now, we all may have heard a story or two about how sisters go beyond the bounds of protectiveness and dwell in the lands of suspicion in regards to their husbands. We know that from an Islamic (49:12), as well as a marital, perspective, these unfounded fears are not fair to the men in these relationships. Not only are they not fair, but a lack of trust, from either side of the relationship, is extremely damaging to the marriage in general. However, the (usually sarcastic) referencing of “getting another one” fuels what could’ve been a small spark of waswaas from Shaytan into an inferno of paranoia and worry.
One thing that I’ve learned from taking classes with different teachers on marriage and family life is that a man should never dangle a second wife over the first wife’s head as a threat or motivation to “do better.” This is disturbing and damaging to the psyche of sisters in general, whether they are married and it’s happening to them, or if they are unmarried and worrying about picking a guy because “what’s the point, he’ll probably just be scoping out for number two while we’re cutting the cake at our own wedding.”
Respect The Sunnah
This article is not meant to say that it is weird, or that it is unnatural to want more than one wife. Definitely not – to each his own. Some men have the desire for more than one wife in this life, some don’t. Regardless whether you truly do or don’t, respecting it as a Sunnah comes into play. It’s not something to prance around about, flaunting how you’re going to have each of “the four” specialize in different culinary cuisines (true story). If you’re doing this, it’s because Allah allowed it and the Prophet and some of his companions did it. It is a Sunnah in this regard, and should be treated with the dignity and seriousness of any other Sunnah. By lowering it to some sort of sensory fantasy, you’re lowering it’s dignity for those brothers who actually do plan on supporting more than one family insha Allah.
As A Preemptive Defense
I am a brother who is already married, and I did not write this article with the intention to woo and sister with my compassion into proposing to me. I am simply a guy who noticed a void in the akhlaaq and honor of the Muslims and decided to give it a bit of analysis and honest advice. The tone might’ve been a pinch cynical, but I think it was needed to get the message across. This is something that has been on my mind (as well as a few others, feel free to reveal yourself as a supporter of the cause) for a while, and I thought MuslimMatters would be a mature enough forum to discuss it.
Loving Muslim Marriages Episode 3: Are Muslim Women Becoming Hypersexual?
Are Muslim women with sexual demands becoming “hyper-sexual,” being negatively influenced by life in a Western, post-sexual revolution society? Allah made both men and women sexual, and the recognition of a Muslim woman’s sexual needs is a part of the religion even if it seems missing from the culture. This segment is a continuation of the previous week’s segment titled, “Do Women Desire Sex?”
To view all videos in this series, as well as an links or articles referenced, please visit www.muslimmatters.org/LMM
So You Are The Wali, Now What?
The way most Muslims (as well as conservative Christians and Jews) live, a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage from the father.
The father is not just a turnstile who has to say yes. He is a “wali” or protector and guardian of his daughter’s rights. So he will be asking some serious questions that would be awkward if the woman had to ask them.
Furthermore, in the Muslim community today esp. in the West, there are many converts that seek out a wali because they have no male relative who is Muslim. In this post, I share some guidelines aimed at the wali in his new role and stories that are useful.
Being a wali is not an honorary role. You’re not just throwing out the first pitch. You’re actually trying to throw curveballs to see whether the proposal checks out or has issues.
Here are some questions and demands a wali should make:
Background check: Call and meet at least four people that were close to the man who has proposed and interview them. There’s no husn al-zann (good opinion) in marriage. As a potential suitor, you are rejected until you prove yourself, much like an application for employment. These days, most people’s background can be found on their social media, so the wali has to spend time scrolling down. Keep scrolling, read the comments, look at the pictures, click on who’s tagged in those pictures. Get a good idea. You are a private investigator *before* the problem happens, not after.
Check financials: You need to see the financials to make sure they are not in some ridiculous debt or have bad credit such that they can’t even rent an apartment or cover basic needs. You want some evidence that he can fulfill the obligation of maintenance.
Check the educational background or skill set: This is a given. If it’s solid, then it can outweigh lack of funds at this moment.
Check medical records: If this is a stranger, the wali needs medical records. There was once a wealthy, handsome young man that was suave and a seemingly amazing prospect who proposed for a girl who was comparatively of average looks and from a family of very modest means. The mother and daughter were head over heels, but the dad had enough common sense to know something was up.
“Why would he come knocking on our door?,” he asked.
So the father demanded medical records. The guy never produced them. When the dad pressed him, the man admitted, he had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and that’s why he couldn’t find anyone else to marry him.
Now note, there are legitimate cases where people have a past when they have made mistakes. This happens to the best of us, and the door for tawbah (repentance) is open. In those cases, there are organizations that match-make for Muslims with STDs. People should act in a responsible manner and not damage the lives of other humans beings.
Lifestyle: It is your job to check if the two parties have agreed on life essentials such as religious beliefs, where to live, how to school kids, etc?
In-laws: Have you at least met the family of the suitor and spent some time with them to make sure there’s nothing alarming?
Engagement: Contrary to popular understanding, there is such a thing as engagement in Islam. It’s an announcement of a future commitment to marriage. Nothing changes between the fiancees, but nobody is allowed to propose anymore. The purpose of engagement is to give time for both parties to get ready. For example, the groom may want to save up some money, or the girl may be finishing up college. Also, it’s easy to put on a face during the get-to-know process, but it’s hard to fake it over an eight or nine-month period. I remember a story where a young woman was engaged, and four months into the engagement they discovered the young man was still getting to know other women. He basically reserved the girl and then went to check for better options. Needless to say, he was dumped on the spot. Engagements are commonly a few months. I think more than a year is too much.
Legal/Civil: The marriage should be legal/civil in the country where you will settle. If you accept a Shariah marriage but not a civil one, know that you’re asking for legal complications, especially if a child enters the picture. (Ed. Note- we realize that some countries do not allow legal registration of more than one marriage- if that is a consideration please look at all options to protect your ward. There are ways to get insurance that can be set up.)
Mahr: Get 50% of the dowry upfront (or some decent amount) and whatever is scheduled to be paid later should be written and signed. I’ve seen too many cases where a really nice dowry is “promised” but never produced.
The dowry should be commensurate to current standards depending on the man’s job. For example in our area in America 5, 7, or 10k is a common range.
In sum, there are very few things in life that are as bad as misery in marriage. The wali’s job is to eliminate the bad things that could have been avoided. If that means he has to be demanding and hated for a few months, it’s worth the cost.
It’s preventative medicine.
The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’
As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.
While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:
The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.
I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,
The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.
First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.
Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.
More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:
Al-Arian mentions that,
“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.” He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban. But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.
These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.
Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:
This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.
What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?
What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.
Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?
If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.
If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.
When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.
Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch