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Polygamy and the ‘Columbus Complex’

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There has been much talk in the news lately about polygamy in Britain’s Muslim communities. For the past 15 years, polygamous marriages have been rising. As you are all aware, polygamy (or bigamy as it technically would be) is illegal in the UK.

The issue was discussed on the BBC Asian Network – a caller, Imran (not his real name), said he had two wives. He claimed he did the ‘right thing’ in Islam by marrying the other woman instead of committing adultery. But how did he meet her in the first place? That part he kept vague, saying that he “met her and fell in love”. He said he kept the marriage a secret but he broke the news months later to his first wife who “gradually accepted it”.

For all his rhetoric about doing the “right thing” in Islam, it is outweighed by the fact that he kept it a secret, which is haram, and probably did not even meet his second wife in a halal setting anyway. Men like Imran neglect their Islamic duties, but suddenly remember their “Islamic right” to have more than one wife. A Muslim man can marry upto four wives, as long as he can deal with them justly and provide for them financially. Imran admitted on the show that his second wife is a working mother, which just shows that he’s not really providing for her adequately. He does the school-run for all the children, from both households, but other than that I’m not sure what he does financially.

According to Imran both wives now get along. Now. Meaning they did not previously.The first wife is from Pakistan- she had to get used to the idea as a-her husband had already married, therefore there was nothing she could do, and b-divorce is still a taboo in Asian and Muslims societies so that was not really an option. A woman who returns home after a divorce is not welcomed back with open arms.

Polygamy is something that should only be practiced in extreme circumstances, e.g. after wars when there are fewer men so consequently there won’t be enough men for women to marry. What was Imran’s reason? He himself said that his first wife was “perfect”, that she was a good mother, a good wife, etc. In fact, he even loved her when they first got married (he was aged 17). So what changed, why did he take another wife? “I just wanted a British wife because we’d have similarpersonalities”. Ah yes, that reason which is of course sanctified by theQur’an: “If thy wife does not understand thy jokes take another”.  Pakistani women are reserved in bed (in general), so my guess is that he wanted someone sexually more adventurous.

It’s funny how many men believe they are emulating the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when it comes to the length of their beards or marrying their cousins, but ignore the fact that the Prophet mainly married women not out of lust or love (Aisha and Khadija being the notable exceptions) but for alliances. The majority of the wives were older, and either divorced or widowed – women that no other man would touch with a bargepole basically.

Muslim men seem to have a ‘Columbus Complex’ -they’re obsessed with virgin territory. Especially the older ones, they suffer a mid-life crisis for various reasons: they’re ageing, balding, and getting more rotund in the middle, and their wife is no longer as bouncy and firm as she used to be (tip: having several children will do that to a woman). So whatdo they do? They get a second wife, usually much younger.

But some Muslims get extremely defensive about polygamy stating that it is not about sex. They comment that polygamy is a more halal way of a man being with another woman without sinning, unlike in the West, that cesspool of rampant sin, that men have affairs and sex outside of marriage with multiple partners all the time, so the Islamic model is a better model – the wife will not be upset that the husband is having an illegitimate relationship with another woman. But doesn’t that boil down to it being a primarily a sexual issue, that men have sexual needs one woman cannot possibly fulfill so instead of taking another woman in a haram way, they can do it in a halal way? Halal or haram, many women would not be happy with their husband even looking at another woman, never mind marrying her. When a woman finds that her husband wants another woman, believe me, she’s not upset over whether it’s a legitimate liaison or not. Anyone who uses this defense clearly knows nothing about women.

Then you get some people who try to justifypolygamy by stating men are ‘more polygamous by nature’. More promiscuous perhaps but polygamous? Men on the whole are also physically stronger so by that ‘logic’ then should men exercise their physical power over women? Beat them or hit them because they are stronger and because they can? Polygamous societies have existed for a vey long time – just look at King Solomon, they say. Kings are not a good example. Solomon was a king; throughout time, kings from all societies have had multiple wives, concubines and mistresses, whereas the ordinary poor Joe cannot afford to have more than one wife.The sex drive theory is nonsense anyway-if a man has two wives or four, they will not be enough for him if he has a very high drive, he will never be satisfied.

The anti-polygamy camp, I’ve noticed, always come out with the usual questions: “Why can’t Muslim women marry more than one man?!” Aside from the fact that would be slightly messy,  I don’t know ANY woman who would put herself through that –just think of the dirty socks. Discussing polyandry was just pointless in the show. (But I found this case very interesting)



Some women on the show who were second wives did come on the show to share their ‘wonderful’ experiences of sharing their husbands. If they all get along and are fine with it, then fair enough, each to their own, but the women did not really explain WHY their husbands had married again. Imran’s first wife apparently accepted the first marriage eventually, which means she must have resisted in the first place. Whether it’s an innate thing or whether they have been conditioned to think this way by society, women often put their happiness and comfort on hold for men because ‘men have needs’. (NB: Women have needs too!) This argument cropped up often, if a woman was terminally ill, and could not perform her ‘wifely duties’ her husband would need someone else to fulfill those needs. How heartless and insensitive are some men that they would think about their loins first and foremost when their wife is dying from cancer? Imagine if it was the other way around – would the husband give his wife blessings to go and find another man to satisfy her needs? I’ll give you a clue: it rhymes with ‘woe’.

But coming back to the UK, why is polygamy on the rise?There is one theory that I can come up with. In most cases, the man will keep his parents happy by marry a girl form ‘back home’. Then he will come back to Britain and will marry a British girl who is ether his girlfriend-haram by theway-or someone he’ll later “fall in love with”. Talk about having your cake and eating it. As the Imam who subsequently came on the BBC show said, Muslim men neglect their Islamic duties most of the time but suddenly remember their ‘right’ to have more than one wife.  In nearly all cases, the men will not marry women who are in need of a husband, e.g. widows and divorcees, but young fresh girls they can frolic around with while their first wife can keep her in-laws happy by being their domestic servant.

I agree that not all cases are like this. But most of the time they are. Forget why people are practicing polygamy for a moment and let us look at the legal situation. Polygamy is illegal. Muslim men flout this law by not registering their second wives, therefore making it impossible to arrest someone for bigamy. Ultimately, you have to respect the law of the land.The Imam on the show was right when he said polygamy only makes sense if you look at the customs of the people around you. In Saudi Arabia it is not unusual for men to have two wives but in many parts of Pakistan, having two wives is strange. Here in Britain it is illegal and quite frankly it is unnecessary.



Written by Iram Ramzan

September 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Posted in islam, UK

Tagged with , , ,

One Response

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  1. Mashallah what a wonderful and quirky post! I agree with you 100%. As Dr. Tim Winters said:
    “Polygamy is either for the best of men or the worse of men”. Unfortunately or rather fortunately most men, including me do not fall in either one of these categories.


    April 19, 2014 at 5:31 pm

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