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SAUDI ARABIA: 'Polygamy for women' article sparks public row in Egypt, Muslim world

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"Allow me to choose four, five or even nine men, just as my wildest imagination shall choose. I’ll pick them with different shapes and sizes, one of them will be dark and the other will be blond. ... [T]hey will be chosen from different backgrounds, religions, races and nations.”

So reads the first paragraph of Saudi journalist Nadine Bedair’s controversial article, recently published in the Egyptian independent daily Al Masry Al Youm, that raised the question of why only men are allowed to practice polygamy in Islam but not women.

As expected, the daring article, entitled "My Four Husbands and I," has stirred the pot among various groups.

Comments and criticism on the article continue to trickle in at a steady pace nearly a month after its publication, especially in Egypt, from where it originated. There, some Muslim authorities and lawmakers have attacked Bedair, condemning her writings as inflammatory and sexually provocative.

One of those who reacted with fury to her reflections on the alleged unfairness of polygamy in Islam was Sheikh Mohamed Gama’i. He lashed out at the Saudi journalist in an article published on an Egyptian news site, saying that “no woman has the right to attack our traditions in this manner” and said that Bedair ought to be “stopped.”

The article has also irritated some in Egyptian political circles, with one member of parliament reportedly filing a lawsuit against Al Masry Al Youm on accusations of promoting vice.

In her argument, Bedair suggests that either both men and women be permitted to take several spouses or that it’s time to make the rules more fair and come up with a new "map of marriage" in which men can’t marry more women just because they’ve gotten bored with the old one.

Islam allows men to marry up to four women at the same time, but only if they can treat the wives equally.

While Bedair's article has been met with a storm of criticism from some conservatives, there are those who believe she has a valid point and that her commentary has opened the door to an important, and long overdue, debate.

One Egyptian imam, Sheikh Amr Zaki, said the concept of polygamy simply doesn’t fit in with today’s societal structures and that the world would be better off if the practice was banned.

"In our world today, polygamy should be unacceptable. There is no need for it and, besides, no man can truly love more than one woman and vice versa," he was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper.

Heated discussions on the female polygamy article and polyandry in general have also surfaced in the Arab blogosphere and in Web forums in the region.

Echoing Sheikh Zaki’s argument for scrapping polygamy, one female commentator writing in online Muslim youth culture magazine Elan argued that there is just no need for the centuries-old practice in today's world.

“Back in the seventh century, men married multiple wives for practical reasons -- to forge alliances and strengthen communities, save widows from squalor, etc. But things are different now. I really don’t think single women need to be rescued anymore. If a woman remains unmarried at 30, I think she’ll survive. And if a man is so bored by one woman, then maybe he shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place,” she wrote.

Some clerics insist, however, that male polygamy provides social security for widows and divorcees.

Then there are also those who believe that the article is not so much about polygamy as about highlighting women's rights issues in traditional Arab nations.

Saudi blogger Ahmed Al-Omran, who runs the popular blog Saudi Jeans, is one of those who takes on Bedair’s article from a different perspective, saying it does not so much argue for women's right to practice polygamy as it does to serve as a stinging criticism of the practice.

“People who attacked Nadine [Bedair] missed the point entirely. ... She was just trying to criticize polygamy by putting men in the shoes of women who accept to be part of such marriages. ... I think one of the good outcomes of Nadine's article is that it has rekindled the debate on women's issues in the country, especially those concerning how judges, and the legal system in general, treat women,” he told The Times in an e-mail conversation.

Women living in some conservative Arab countries are left with few rights, in principle, if their husband suddenly decides to marry an additional woman.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Islam allows men to marry up to four women at the same time, but only if they can treat the women equally. A recent article by a Saudi journalist challenges the concept of male polygamy in Islam. Credit: BBC

Comments () | Archives (9)

to ghazi jamil.. How in the world do you know how the world should be balanced? Are you Allah?
The so-called polygamy is permitted, but was not encouraged by God. Read the quran as stated in
Noble Verse 4:3 "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice."

It is the short sighted MEN who manipulates the idea of polygamy and how it was stated in the Quran and make it a reason to screw women whenever they want it and legalize it to avoid being called the philanderer.

I salute Nadine Al Bedair for her courage to point out again and again the meaning of gender equality.

I think that at some point both has benefits. I don't also agree on practice of polygamy, but since I converted to muslim. I have seen a lot of things and reasons on why some men ended up having second wife. maybe favorable for having 2 wives, but 3 and 4th I don't exactly know how a man can justify that.

Basically, in most muslim countries, fixed or arranged marriage are still being practiced. And most of the young ones, and still being into this arranged marriages by their parents. So lack of love in marriages are the main reason of failure marriages, ending in seeking for another wife or going back to the woman they love, but I don't know with woman because most woman cannot fight for their rights.

And sometimes, man are being kept in marriage for the children's sake even love doesn't exist. And some also we're being stop for having second wife for the reason that wife didn't agree or mostly the mothers and entire family and uses the children to keep him from staying with his wife.

Somehow, I found this things very unfair, for both man and woman.
Being force to marry out of love for security puposes and then later on find another wife? For men, it's very hard to have another if the entire family refused and accused you of being the only bad guy and cannot be understood. And for women, it's hard to be with a man whom you don't love and what if you love someone else? Don't people think they might commit sin, having with her husband and thinking someone else's but cannot be free to choose him?

Even we're living in the modern society I think, there are still too many of these kind of family who are practicing such traditions. Which most likely makes their children suffer under unwated marriage. And producing a victim children.

Not all have this king of stuff, but many among them had experienced this and experiencing this kind of situation.

The so-called pologmy is a permit ordained by GOD, it is not the making of shortsited human being, Muslims are directed on how to run thier lives, it is not an option to follow Islam,as for marying more than one wife it is given for many reasons, but a man does not have to explain to any body why he needs to marry another woman, more than how his sex life is bieng conducted in private.

In the Arab world and all over the world many women are really a true surplus ,they have no chance of getting married, many of them refuse to be a second wife , but they are so naive and ignorant they cant relize they would be lucky if someone have enough time and financial muscle to accept her as a second wife, chances are she would be lonely she would live in a prepetual state of depresion the rest of her life for the hardheaded attitude and ignorance of how this world will be balanced.

women: is peace, is life, is the mother

Nadine Al Bedair success at combating

Of love from Kurdistan

Uh . . . I believe its called polyandry when you're talkin' multiple hubbies.

What's Good for the Goose, is Good for the Gander.

Peace, Love & Respect.

To Incest-o-meter: You seem to have missed the point. Islam does NOT allow an "endless amount of wives". There's a maximum limit of 4. At least when a marriage is registered, the offspring of that marriage is of kown ancestry and there is no room for incest. On the other hand, consider common practices in the West such as extra-marital affairs and changing the family names of adopted children, i.e., not calling those children by their biologocal family names. Where do these 2 practices leave you on the subject of "incest combinations"? Both are not permitted in Islam.

Come to America an marry me, I'm surrounded by fat chicks and need some help! Just one will do.

if a guy could have an endless amount of wives........ how in the hell can anyone
keep track of the possible incest combinations.................


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