Tag Archives: Polygyny

Lies, Wives and Videogames

20 Jan

Rarely does any discussion on Islamic forums get as heated as that on the topic of polygyny. Those who speak for it are as vocal in their arguments as those who oppose it. But in the main, such discussion is theoretical, with most of it set in Western countries where civil law bans the practise (except, of course, Germantown Masjid in Philly).

So with a trip on the cards to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I felt the time was right to sidestep the theoretical and speak to real people who live in a country whose laws uphold the right for a man to take multiple wives.

So as soon as I’d landed and dropped my bags off at the hotel, I headed straight for the coffee shops on Tahliya Street in downtown Riyadh, and found that just as with everything else in the 21st century, things were changing, even in this desert kingdom.

“Its not like the old days” sighed one man. “When I was in my twenties and thirties I could marry new wives and hide them from each other; I used to blame it on the sheep and camels keeping me late. But now these damn mobile phones means my wives can reach me anywhere anytime.”

As word spread of the discussion I was soon surrounded by a group of men on all sides wanting to give their two cents.

“Its great fun!” told me one, while another forcefully reminded me that it is his God-given right as a man to take more than one wife.

But barely had the interviews started when I was passed a message that someone outside was waiting to speak to me urgently. Worried that the feared Mutawieen [religious police] were onto me, I quickly packed away my recordings and stepped outside to find, not a member of the committee for prevention of vice, but a lone woman dressed in an abaya, the traditional Islamic dress for women.

“I need your help”

Speaking at first nervously, and then growing in confidence she told me her story.

“My husband and I had a great relationship for 6 years but out of the blue the stinker told me that he has taken a second wife, and my life has fallen to pieces. I noticed that he had become a little withdrawn of late, but I thought that was because of stress at work. I really miss the good old days when he did everything I told him to do. I mean everything. He’s left me with a couple of servants, but its just not the same.”

And then the discussion got interesting. She said that she had asked her driver to follow him secretly to his second wife’s apartment.

“It was difficult to trace, because he was very suspicious, and changes the route he takes to her house everytime he goes. Why be so suspicious? Its not as if he is the first to take a second wife, and its not as if he is doing something haram. But anyway, sharing my husband just doesn’t work for me, and it took over 3 weeks of trying to follow him until we identified the house.”

So now in possession of the location of the apartment, this scorned wife wanted my help: to be on hand when she confronted her husband and his new wife and demand that they divorce for the simple reason “I want my old life back again.”

With some reservations, but trusting my journalistic instincts, I agreed.

So that evening, feeling a great deal of anxiety, I sat waiting in a parked taxi outside the second wife’s apartment. What was I doing here? I asked myself. This was a private matter between married adults and by all rights I should be keeping my nose out of it. But the opportunity to change my mind was soon lost as she pulled up in a 4×4. She stepped out clearly pumped up and like a woman on a mission. “Follow me” the only words she spoke before heading straight into the apartment complex.

Three flights of steps later and we were there – standing silently outside the door. I felt a slight sense of disgust hearing the sounds of his laughter – this guy was really enjoying his dunya. Then to my surprise she pulled out a key, “he always keeps a spare key in the second plant pot to the left of the building entrance,” she whispered.

She stopped for a moment, undoubtedly steeling herself for the ensuing confrontation then slowly turned the key.

The lock clicked, then holding up her left hand she counted down from three and then burst in through the door. The next few seconds were a blur of flying objects and cries of “Ya Baba!”

And then she was off running from room to room screaming “Where is she? Come out you cow! You daughter of a cow! How dare you steal my husband!”

It gave me the chance to take in the scene before me: a small room with a single-bed in the corner and a thin Arab man sitting in front of a TV with an X-Box controller in his hands.

And then she was back “Where is she? Tell me now, or i’ll get the scissors out!”

Her husband’s face was red but strangely not with a look of anger, but more like he was going to burst into tears.

A neighbour and his wife walked in shouting “haraam alaik – vyy you wake us uuup?” I motioned to them to take my host outside to cool her down, and also to give me a chance to speak to her husband.

His story was shocking.

“I’m sick of her. She bullies me all the time, and is always nagging me. In the end I got sick of it and faked up a second wife. It was the only way to keep my sanity: the knowledge that every two nights I’d be away from her nagging and her never-ending requests and her ‘don’t-you-know-my-rights-over-you?’ and ‘I’m-Muslimah-Queen-Sheba’ lectures”

I looked around the room. It didn’t look like there was anyone else living there, what with empty takeaway containers piled up to one side, and a crate of Coke bottles next to them. No woman could live in a place like this. A small explosion on the TV showed his online character getting fragged; up till a few moments ago he had been playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops”.

Nope, this guy definitely didn’t have a second wife.

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