My Polygamous Lifestyle: Practicing Polygamy in Indonesia
Breaking Down the Stigma About Polygamy
Depending on which part of the world you visit or who you are speaking with, polygamy falls under various different definitions. Most polygamous marriages stem from some sort of religious doctrine that supports it. Most often, when the word polygamy is brought up in conversations, there is a negative connotation to it, with the religion of Islam being at the center.
This is because Islam has been a target of demonization since its inception. But we're not here to get into the origins of various religions, whether or not Allah is actually the same God of the Christians and Jews, or whether the Quran is really the word of God. We're here to learn about the true meaning of polygamy in Islam and how those who practice it should have the same rights and protections as other socially acceptable relationships of today.
I think the conflict comes into play when people begin to debate women's rights and equality, better known as the "Women's Lib Movement." The liberation of women is a noble and worthy cause that has its place in our world. Nevertheless, the idea of women's liberation has its numerous branches and "sects," if you will, who strive to insert their own personal agendas and ideas into the movement, while displaying a one-sidedness that actually doesn't consider all women throughout all demographics.
Women's rights activists are the most outspoken against polygamy, no matter what religion is involved or whether the women in question have actually chosen such a marriage. Automatically, the male is labeled as a "cult leader," a "cult follower," a "womanizer," along with numerous other demeaning accusatory titles. We live in a world where homosexuality, zoophilia, "synthetic love," and many other forms of romantic "relationships" are considered "acceptable" as long as no one is getting harmed.
Nevertheless, when the word "polygamy" is brought up, people automatically take the stance that women involved in polygamous marriages are spiritually, mentally or even physically harmed - forced to participate in a marriage where the husband is the center of both women's worlds.
The fact of the matter is, this notion is totally incorrect and misleading. The true definition of polygamy in Islam (the religion I practice) is that it's the highest position of responsibility for both the husband and the wives. Not only is it designed to protect women in the true Islamic society, but it's designed to join families together.
In addition to that, a man who wished to take another wife based upon sexual desire is forbidden to do so. This is because a husband in Islam is first and foremost an Imam (a leader) whose first responsibility is to teach his wives and children Islam, guide them in religious and worldly affairs, provide for them all the things they require, and to protect them during times of danger or conflict. When he marries his wife, this should be his total intent. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be unsuccessful.” (Book #62, Hadith #27)
In this hadith, success refers to the spiritual life, not the physical or material one. This also applies to women looking for a spouse: the man should be of good religious standing, have good knowledge of Islamic Law, and comprehend it well. This will protect the woman from abuse and maltreatment.
The History of Polygamy In Short
It's impossible to pinpoint the exact time of the first polygamous relationship, but if one were of the Christian, Jewish, or Islamic faith, then it's most likely fair enough to assume that the Prophet Adam had more than one wife. To think that one man and one woman essentially populated the entire earth is ludicrous. Nevertheless, the Quran makes it clear that Adam was the first human to inhabit the earth. Whether or not there were others sent down from Paradise along with his wife Eve is not covered in Islamic texts.
Other than that, we can only assume that polygamy has been a part of human history since the very beginning. Every civilization at different points in humanity's timeline had their own reasons for practicing polygamy. In addition to that, there have also been a certain number of civilizations where polyandry (women with two or more husbands) was practiced.
Another statistical fact is that out of the 1,231 societies listed in the 1980 Ethnographic Atlas, 588 were found to be polygamous. The ones who practiced monogamy were only 186. Africa is the leading polygamous country, with slavery and countless armed conflicts throughout history dwindling the male population. One such historical example was after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where 70 percent of the adult population was female.
Within the Judaic Laws set in the Torah, mandates concerning polygamy are made clear.
Exodus 21:10: "If he takes another wife for himself; her food, her clothing, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish."
Deut 21:15–17: If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.
These types of mandates are continued throughout the Torah and can be found in the Bible. Once one takes a serious look at both books, it becomes clear that the Jewish and Christian view towards polygamy is identical to that of Islam. Note: The Quran only mentions taking more than one wife once in Surat An Nisa, verse three.
It would be the Catholic Church that condemned taking more than one wife in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 2387, where "other offenses against the dignity of marriage" included polygamy stating it "is not in accord with the moral law." And even though the Catholic Church claims to follow the teachings of the word of God, it took it upon itself to change Biblical Law.
Marriage Clarified In Islam
My Polygamous Marriage
After I found the path of Islam, I grew unhappy with my condition in the United States. I decided that if I wanted to truly become a practicing Muslim, I should move to a Muslim majority country. For me, it didn't matter much that I was leaving behind all I had in America - what mattered to me was living according to how I believe. Today, we hear a lot of hype about Muslim refugees escaping war-torn countries and settling in Europe and the United States, and how these Muslim refugees are bringing terrorism with them. As I will discuss in another article, any true Muslim who understands the Islamic faith would never run from a conflict. Secondly, he or she would never choose to live in a non-Islamic country.
I met my first Indonesian wife, Astria, on a Muslim matrimonial website in 2011, In the beginning of 2012, I moved to Indonesia and married her a month after proposing to her. In the beginning, we were considered average Muslims: we knew enough to know what was halal and what was haram but didn't yet understand the deeper reasons behind our faith.
After I joined a more conservative group of Muslims, my knowledge and faith began to take its true form. This is also where I started to meet more men who had married more than one woman. They would tell me, "If all you ever do is talk about it, then you'll never do it. You just have to go and do it." What they were talking about was how wives generally reacted to the topic of polygamy, even the women who had a deep and wide understanding of Islam - it always ended in a fight.
The point was, once you go out and find a second wife, get through all of the first wife's crying and whatnot, then over time, everything would settle down. For me, though, this didn't seem right.
How I saw the whole issue was that polygamy was taught in Islam, there were guidelines set in place to protect the woman's rights, and that when it was all said and done, it made perfect sense. Therefore, If I took the time to teach my first wife these things, eventually she would welcome a second marriage.
Needless to say, my first wife didn't accept the idea in the beginning. As a matter of fact, it took about three years of study before the both of us could actually sit down and have a civil discussion about the topic. During these discussions, she expressed her understanding and agreement of polygamy. Nevertheless, when it came to making that commitment, she still wavered.
Finally, in 2017, she approached me one morning and said, "I've been thinking. If you think you're truly ready to have two wives, then I am okay with it." For me, this was how it should be: not going behind her back and marrying someone and then forcing it down her throat. I wanted her to not only agree wholeheartedly that this is a part of our religion but to also truly accept it in our marriage.
Today, I have been married to my second wife, Veronica, for about five months. She is a banking executive for one of Indonesia's largest private banks, is divorced with three children. I fly to Bandung in West Java from Sumatra island to visit her every three weeks (I spend three weeks with my first wife and three weeks with my second).
Astria and Veronica often send each other gifts back and forth, share child-rearing advice, discuss Islam, and generally have a good relationship. Recently, Veronica has made plans to fly to Sumatra in order to meet Astria and her sisters face-to-face in the hopes of bonding further. So, things in my polygamous marriage ended up pretty well compared to others. And I have told both of my wives that it's our duty to make a good example for other Muslims, so they can see the good side of the coin.
Equality Should Be Spread Equally, Especially When It Comes To Lifestyle Choices
As folks from around the globe are fighting tooth and nail for the equality of the LGBTQ community, other types of lifestyle choices, such as polygamy, are still punishable by law. For example, in Canada, anyone caught practicing polygamy can be handed a prison sentence of up to five years. In America, it's also a felony, even if the spouse thought his wife was dead and married again - he can still be charged as a felon in all 50 states.
Nevertheless, it's now perfectly legal for two men or two women to get married and even adopt children. Additionally, it's not against the law to get a sex change or to conduct sexual reorientation procedures, even though studies have shown a higher suicide rate among those who have had the procedure done.
I'm not here to discuss whether gay marriage is wrong or right, but rather pointing out the fact that polygamy should be considered an individual's personal right, the same as gay marriage.
When people want to start discussing what is a human's right and what isn't, I think the first and foremost right of humanity is the right to make choices, as long as those choices don't hurt others or bring harm to society.