At one of those going away parties before departing for Egypt, I remember friends joking about that I will meet an Egyptian guy while in Egypt and become the fourth wife. Polygyny — perhaps the most notorious part about Islam and very misunderstood. Before we begin, only 2% of Muslim marriages are of this nature. (citation)
There are 2 aspects that many don’t know. The first one being about fairness. Note that Qur’an permits but does not command a man to have four wives. Should he have more than 1 wife, he must treat them the same, including providing separate accommodation for all of them. He bears the responsibility to be fair to all his wives. If he wants to have a car, he should buy 4 — one with each wife. He has to make sure his time is equally divided among the women. Perhaps a rotating schedule? I don’t know how one would keep up with such a schedule realistically.
The second aspect has to do with circumstances. This is even more misunderstood in Western media. If you only understand the fairness part, what about a rich muslim guy? He can certainly afford the lifestyle. As I stated in a previous post, Egypt (or Middle East) is still a men’s country. It is hard for a woman to survive by herself. An Egyptian friend told me one of his friend has 2 wives, which is very rare in Egypt. The second wife was a widow. The couple see this as helping the widow and help raising her kids.
This bring up another very sensitive topic – gender inequality. Why can’t a woman raise kids without a husband, like in the west? This is a complex issue. The lack of father figure would be harmful for the kids in a society like Egypt. Since the father is the man of the household and makes decisions, the lack of it means there’s nothing to stop the kids from going wild and unruly.
I’m not defending polygyny or Islam. It is unfortunate that especially in those societies, it is harder for women to live and raise children by themselves. While it isn’t exactly how it was described by Western media, what they are doing makes sense for their circumstances. It makes stating whether it is right or wrong that much more complicated. One thing is for sure — men and women do not have equal rights in Egypt. The same can be said anywhere in the world. I remember reading an article a few years ago that women were paid 30% less for the same job (an article written in US or Canada).There is still work to be done.