Ownership and Polygamy

When trying to unpick polygamy and understand why it is so hard for many women to accept, the sense of ownership in a marriage must play a part. When something is ours, it is up to us if we share it or not.  Young children find this especially hard, but even as adults it is not always easy. When someone mentions their reluctance to share their husband in polygamy, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the paraphrased hadith of wanting for your sister what you want for yourself.

(Th original hadith is: “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” Related by Bukhari & Muslim)

In fact there is a book with a title similar to this, which I hope to read at some point:

My… Our…husband

OK, so there’s no arguing with the hadith, and we would be happy to be on the receiving end of a sister wanting good for us, so how can we look at this from a different angle and make it easier to share?

One way is to rethink our sense of ownership. Although a woman of course says “MY husband is….” we do not own him, he is not our possession, as much as we are not our husband’s possessions.  This is similar to  “MY children”  Our husband does not belong to us and our children are also simply entrusted to us, not our possession.

We all belong to Allah (SWT).

Men as well as women are guilty of this sense of ownership, with the classic abusive jealous man saying “If I can’t have you, nobody can.”

If we stand back and look at it, the ownership of a person is limited to slaves and we know how slavery is repugnant and is to be abolished from this world.  So really, our husband is not ours to share in the first place. If Allah (SWT) has made is qadr (destiny) to have more than one wife then that’s it. But this is hard – really hard – to accept, but gently trying to unlearn the sense of ownership should help.

One way to unlearn this thought pattern is if  we think about this: when we start to claim ownership to someone and take away their rights, it pushes them away from us rather than draw them closer. When a husband is free and does want to be be with you, it’s a fulfilling feeling that he has chosen this, rather than from a sense of duty or obligation.

In the end, we should focus back on Allah (SWT), and on that we are all His slaves and owned solely by Him.


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