She married him.
She married him in secret, knowing very well that marriages never went down like that in any culture or religion. Marriages were celebratory and typically included an announcement of some sort. It didn’t have to be anything big or over the top but there had to be something. She knew that but had been convinced otherwise. From the outside Islam always looked so perfect. There was order and a sense of simplicity, but once she converted she quickly realized Muslims were far from that. They struggled just like everyone else and for her that was a huge disappointment. She slowly learned to see the human in people irregardless of their religious practice.
The first time she saw him he was in the mosque. He always looked so dignified. Clothes crisp and freshly ironed. He wore a lot of white linen and his kufi sat neatly placed on top of his head. He had the type of smile where all his teeth showed. He needed a wife, she thought.
Through the curtain she could see him bent over from the waist up offering his afternoon prayer. She looked around to see if any sisters were looking at her before she peered through the sheer pink curtain for a better peek. As her eyes found him her mind began to wander to intimate spaces in her mind. She imagined her body pressed against his linen suit. Pressed so tightly that her curves wrinkled his outfit. He would pull her in closer. She would pull back, not a “real” pull back but the one that translated into “pull me in closer”. She would feel his breath on her neck. Her body would breakout in goosebumps. His hand would rest on her arm but she would feel it slowly making its way down her back. She imagined his smell, which would be of sandalwood mixed with a hint of mint from the gum he was chewing…
She stopped herself and embarrassingly pulled the curtain back into its rightful place.
Little did she know that she’d already caught his eye. Later she would find out that he spotted her in a group of sisters chatting it up outside the mosque weeks prior. He would always laugh and say he spotted the orange hijab first. When she turned around though he knew that she would be his. Her face brighter and more beautiful than the scarf that donned her head, crowning it like a halo. Like any man he enjoyed women. He relished in the thought of conquering a woman, especially the ones who were young and feisty. The ones who swore up and down that they would never be second wives. He had a wife already and had been married for nearly ten years. His wife was not into polygyny. It just wasn’t her thing. He brought up the idea to her once and her reaction made him promise to never speak of it again.
He knew what he wanted though. It was selfish but he didn’t care.
The story of how their relationship began was nothing special or profound. He ran across her Facebook profile based on the mutual friends they had. He requested her. She accepted him. There were no messages exchanged for the first two weeks. Both waited anxiously for the other to say something. There would be occasional “likes” on both ends but it didn’t progress until he popped up in her Messenger. The innocent online messages progressed to meet ups at random cafes. He convinced her that it was permissible because they were in public. Not knowing too much she believed him. After two months of these meet ups he asked if she would marry him. At this point she was already aware of his first wife.
Her feelings were invested. She didn’t care. What if this was her only opportunity to get married? She would often hear of sisters complaining about the difficulties of finding spouses.
So they got married.
At first their relationship was pure bliss but eventually the reality of its circumstances began to surface. Her desire to make the relationship public kept tugging at her. It was obvious that his loyalty was with his first wife. When she would bring it up he filled her with empty promises and one liners about how he didn’t want to cause fitnah (discord) in his community. She always heard the other sisters say that being a good wife meant you didn’t cause your husband undue stress, or at least that is what she had been told. “Allah will always reward the patient and those who perservere…” was a common saying of his. She got sick of him saying it. Quite frankly, she felt like slapping the shit out of him as soon as it began to roll off of his tongue. He was using Islam to fit his needs and desires. It only suited him to use that quote when it worked in his favor. That was not Islam to her…
Who was being patient here?
It certainly wasn’t him.
This was a quick way to religiously shut her down. She would nod in agreement and he would gently brush his hand on her face. Her eyes would close and her mind followed the tracings of his fingers. This would be followed by a kiss on her forehead. His touch would jolt through her body; like an electrical current sending sparks all throughout her being. He made her feel alive, even if that was only in a physical sense because deep down her soul felt dead and abandoned. The trail of touch would go up her arm, to the nape of her neck, between her breasts and eventually the feeling would gently settle between her legs. At this point he would want more and she would gracefully drape her body beneath his.
This became a cycle, one that never failed to repeat itself.
Her heart couldn’t find the courage to convince her lips to say how she really felt. Her body never failed to betray her. She succumbed to his every touch. The relationship was more sexual than it was anything else. He used her. Sometimes she felt like they used each other. He would often complain about his problems at home with his first wife. She would listen and not dare complain to him. She felt like she had a lot to complain about but she willingly put herself in this position. She just felt stuck and there was no room to move. There was no one to confide in and she understood that majority of the blame would fall onto her if this secret ever came to light.
She was the woman. She would be shamed. Her integrity would be questioned. This was the reality. There was only a matter of time before she would burst open.
So this cycle continued and she found herself in the same position that many Muslim women find themselves in.
Married yet alone.
The rise of unmarried Muslim women has resulted in many considering and taking part in secret polygyny. When I use the term secret polygyny I am referring to “the intentional practice of covert marriages.” This practice, that some do state to be permissible within Islam, is more widespread than one would think. In most cases, secret polygyny involves vulnerable women such as recent reverts, those with very little family support and lastly those who are uneducated when it comes to the rights of women in Islam.
Now, before I get labeled as a sista who is bashing polygyny please hear me out. I do not have personal experience to back my claims nor to I have empirical data to support what I am stating. I believe there are several cases where polygyny works out fine, in most of these situations we are dealing with a brother who is extremely fair and righteous. These men who willingly take on multiple wives are far and few in between. Again, the honest truth. This is just the reality. Today, its hard enough to stay within a monogamous relationship and be successful at it. How are some men even considering second wives? Then, how do some men Islamically justify the deceit involved with secret polygyny?
Now as women we play our role in this saga as well…
Unfortunately, some women go by the motto “It’s better to have some man than no man.” This saying has greatly influenced how Muslim women approach the practice of polygyny. Many feel as though it may be their last shot at a relationship, even though polygyny was one that they had no intention of practicing beforehand. Whether or not polygyny still has relevance today, truth of the matter here is that it is extremely hard to convince someone who was raised in the West that it actually works and is practical. Then we throw in the whole “secret wife on the side” piece and you’ll really get conflicted feelings. Yes, we are Muslim but many of us come from different walks of life, culturally speaking, and some of those cultures do not practice polygyny.
I often think of my own experiences and having brothers who are already married approach me for marriage. One of the first questions I always asked was if their first wives were aware of their search. Some would reply with a yes but many more responded in the negative. I could see nothing but selfishness and deceit with these types of men. If they couldn’t honor their first wives, the ones that bore their children, then there was no way I would be respected and upheld. This is why even the mere thought of polygyny just turns me off. The misguided and ill intentions surrounding the polygynous marriages I have seen convinced me, as well as many other women, that polygyny is not where it’s at.
I can’t help but think who benefits most in these scenarios. I’ve personally known several sisters who have taken part in these relationships and all were given the false promise that their marriages would eventually become public. The way a brother treats you in the beginning says a lot in regards to how he will treat you in the midst of your relationship. The few who have come out have had their marriages exposed by others or by the accidental exposure that one risks being on social media.
In all these situations the women have been blamed in one way or another.
We often blame the women for even considering taking part in these marriages without paying attention to the main culprits. What about the imams and religious leaders who marry these individuals? What about the Muslim men who intentionally prey on vulnerable women? Have you ever heard an Imam give a khutbah about that?
These subjects, that are greatly affecting Muslims, are totally bypassed.
More of the concern should be focused on who is marrying these individuals in our community because often these men are repeat offenders and shuffle through vulnerable women intentionally. They leave behind a trail of heartbreak, broken women and in some cases neglected children.
There is nothing Islamic about this.
With all that being said, I need my sisters to take responsibility and become more conscious of the men they decide to wed. Any act, including marriage, out of desperation should probably be left alone. Paying close attention to the signs early on in a relationship will give one a very clear idea as to where the relationship is heading. Being practical about marriage can be very challenging when feelings are involved.
Side note to the brothas, when you bring up polygyny to a Muslim woman and her face amazingly warps into that of the Incredible Hulk now you know why.
So I end this with saying a secret wife is a glorified side piece. If you respect her and the sanctity of your relationship it will be made public.
The truth never lies.