According to a recent statistics conducted by National Centre for Sociological and Criminological Research (NCSCR) after only three short years of marriage, nearly 25 percent of Egyptian husbands take on a second wife when almost 70 percent of those second marriages end in divorce!
The alarming rapidity with which men remarry raised the imperative question of why Egyptian men are yet again embracing polygamy in the midst of the deteriorating economic status of the country, the obligatory military service and the exacerbated unemployment crisis. Nevertheless, the validity of polygamy in Islam was almost never really questioned here in Egypt, it was never legally banned before like in many Islamic countries including Tunisia, Turkey, Tajikistan and Indonesia, yet it was always frowned upon by women!
“Polygamy is God’s right granted for men limited to four wives with a number of conditions underlying fairness to the first wife. The problem is that women overlook the sanctity of protecting fellow Muslin sisters from the various harms in society because of selfishness and the idea that their husbands are insulting them by taking a second wife,” said, Sheikh Mohamed Gad, Head of Panorama el Shrouk Mosque, Shrouk City, Egypt.
In Egyptian society, the reasons why husbands take second wives can vary randomly. Some men remarry out of nothing but love, yet the idea of informing the first wife is too scary for many reasons, to mention a few, to avoid marital problems, to maintain a healthy peaceful environment for the children and escape the divorce demands the first wife insists on when informed about the second marriage. “There’s nothing wrong with my first wife, I love her and I still do, but I did not want to sin or do anything that will jeopardize my faith so when I met my second wife , I decided to get married. It was not an easy decision, and it requires a lot of sacrifice from my second wife to keep our marriage as discreet as possible, but in the end I am doing nothing wrong or illegal,” said, Moustafa Hussein, 36, businessman.
Others seek fatherhood, which is one of the most common reasons why Egyptian men remarry when the first wife is reproductively challenged. However, in most rural cities in Egypt, many men blessed with daughters remarry for the second and even third time until they have the heir they hope for. Despite the hail of equality messages Egyptian media adopted throughout the past seven years, well educated men still pursue the outdated desire for a son. “I have four daughters and I love my family, but I wanted a son of my own and thankfully now I have one as a result of a second marriage; I informed my first wife after having my boy because I didn’t want to create problems out of nothing if God didn’t grant me Hamza,” said, Ayman Galal, 48, anesthesiologist.
When torn between misery and family, some men try polygamy to have the billboard-like marriage they dream of instead of breaking the first one. “It was the endless fights and demands; I didn’t want to divorce my first wife and I still don’t to keep my family together, so I married another to give me the peace and patience I need to continue my life,” said, Amr Faramawy, 42, businessman
Yet, not all Egyptian women refuse the idea of polygamy; in fact some wives don’t want a full-time husband and would not mind being a part-time wife either which means sharing him with another wife. “I married my second wife 6 years ago, my first wife knew all about it from the moment I decided to get married, she was jealous and hurt at first of course but now she has the time she needs to look after the kids as she likes without having to worry about me and what I think of her,” said, Emad Antar, 42, field engineer.
Polygamy is most certainly the most controversial family system in Islam; however there are many conditions that allow the man to have more than one wife yet keep the responsibility and presence of marriage alive. “Polygamy was mainly intended for protecting widowed women with children, to give her the security and marital life she accustomed and guard her from sin,” said, Sheikh Mohamed Gad. For a husband to remarry he should be able to afford the expenses of multiple households, he should be able to give fairness in terms time and treatment to both wives, and a justifiable reason to get married like if the wife is sick or barren.
Polygamy like any system has its advantages and disadvantages. “Look at the number of Muslim women who are not married, divorced or widowed; if a man can be fair and pay for more than one home, then why shouldn’t he marry another,” said, Sheikh Mohamed. Polygamy will definitely help abolish the phenomena referred to as “spinsters”, curb men’s excessive sexual needs where one woman may not be enough, and increase population. But the problems resulting from the misuse and the misinterpretation of polygamy is the reason why most men are cautious about second marriages.
Egyptian women are fighting polygamy hard; in 2000 a new marriage contract was issued legalizing for Egyptian wives to put the conditions they want which if violated by the husband, a divorce can be easily granted by the court. Among those conditions are allowing the wife to work, number of kids or in some cases none, marrying another and travelling to work abroad.