Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Polygamy : My 2-cents in response to a comment.

In my previous posting Wanna b a bride, I talked about the problem facing Muslim women in many Muslim societies not finding Muslim husbands.  One of the comments mentioned polygamy in Islam asked about its impact of the problem discussed in the posting.

I responded with enough material that may deserved its own 'mini' posting.  Also, re-posting my comment may lead to stimulating a discussion on polygamy.  So, here is the question and my comment.

MW said in a comment: "If some men have more than one wife, does that mean that there is also a proportional amount of men with no wives?"
My response was:

This is not a problem in most cases because the proportion of polygamous men is tiny. I lived in Egypt for 30 years and have not known of a single person in my family, friends, family friends, coworkers and other immediate contacts that married more than one woman. It does happen (more commonly in rural areas, especially if first marriage did not produce children), but the proportion is very small.

That could theoretically still lead to disturbance of the balance between men and women available for marriage, but only if one does not know enough about the man-female sex ratio in population at different ages and under different conditions of society dynamics.

Natural discrepancy in sex survival rates, tendency in ALL societies to maintain few years difference on average between husbands and wives, emigration sex biases, wars, etc, all result in about 5% bias in favor of women. You can research this if you will. I already have.

Of course if polygyny becomes a goal in itself (usually in rich spoilt societies of the gulf), it looses the actual legitimacy that comes from the very tight regulation on polygamy in Islam. The only verse that allows polygamy (i.e., polygyny) in Islam has pretty tight conditions for that practice and, still, it was in the context of extending supportive family structure to a large number of orphans after some of the early battles that was associated with significant losses amongst Muslims men in the battle, leaving behind unsupported women and children in a society where support comes traditionally in the form of nuclear family structure.

Many Arab and Muslim societies have legally restricted the right to have more than one wife to varying degrees, and in most Muslim society polygamy IS looked down upon unless its legitimacy could be gleaned from the circumstance. Men who marry a new 18 year old girl every few years are not considered appropriately behaving. Polygamy in early days of Islam meant to marry an older woman, usually with children, as a second wife, not a 'trophy' young girl to prove that you are 'the Man'.

While I do not intend, or need, to justify polygyny under the strict limitations in Islam by mentioning extramarital affairs, I think it is most telling that rates of polygamy among Muslims is a small fraction of adultery among married men AND women in Western societies.  I am not picking on Western societies, but that is where more statistics are available).   And by marriage, I mean ongoing marriages - not past marriages or among separated couple.


Muslims in hostile world - Part 2: How should Muslims handle it

[This is part 2 of a sermon I gave in September to a local mosque.  Part 1 was posted before on this blog]
A primer on anger management and conflict resolution, the Quranic way

The tough times we face should teach many other lessons as well.  Lessons that have always been spelled out in the Quran, but that many of us may have not felt the need to put them to good use frequently.

Hate against Muslims is abundant, vocal and malicious. It may even make life impossible in the US for some of us. Hate comes in many forms and for many reasons: sometimes just out of ignorance and fear, and that is something we can help resolve.  In other cases, it is out of greed, and out of envy: and that is not easy to resolve.

But either way, God has given us clear instructions and examples in the Quran on how to handle these situations. If we like to use modern day jargon, He offers us “a comprehensive anger management and conflict resolution program”.  And it is a pretty good one.

So, let us take a look at what God has for us on that topic.

When the words of God are insulted, what should we do?
“And, indeed, He has enjoined upon you in this divine writ that whenever you hear people deny the truth of God's messages and mock at them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things.” (4:140)
وَقَدْ نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الْكِتَابِ أَنْ إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ آيَاتِ اللّهِ يُكَفَرُ بِهَا وَيُسْتَهْزَأُ بِهَا فَلاَ تَقْعُدُواْ مَعَهُمْ حَتَّى يَخُوضُواْ فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ
 “Whenever you meet those that indulge in [blasphemous] talk about Our messages, turn your back upon them until they begin to talk of other things …”  (6:68)
وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ يَخُوضُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ حَتَّى يَخُوضُواْ فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ
And what should we do next? Should we respond to an insult with an insult? Would the “eye-for-an-eye” approach be useful? Should we say something nasty about something dear to them, be it their beliefs, or what they may worship and associate in worship with God?
God does not seem to like that approach.  He instructs us succinctly (in 6:108) not to revile “those [beings] whom they invoke instead of God, lest they revile God out of spite, and in ignorance.”
وَلاَ تَسُبُّواْ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ فَيَسُبُّواْ اللّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ كَذَلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ
And even non-insulting arguments with those who hate us, insult God and insult us, has to be done in a special way: actually, in the most kind of ways.
And do not argue with the followers of earlier revelation otherwise than in a most kindly manner - unless it is the ones that are bent on evildoing - and say [to them]: "We believe in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon you: for our God and your God is one and the same..." (29:46)
وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَأُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَإِلَهُنَا وَإِلَهُكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ
So, they insult us and yet we MUST respond by trying to show them what may make us and them feel closer rather than highlight what sets us apart from them.
But that gentle soul approach is not always guaranteed to work, and God was aware of that when he asked us to use it.  He even tells us why it does not work in some case:
كَذَلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ
“…to EVERY nation”, God informs us, “We have made their own doings appear goodly indeed”. (6:108)
But that is not for us to resolve, as God proceeds in that verse (in 6:108) to tell us that “In time, unto their Sustainer they must return: and then He will make them [truly] understand all that they were doing.”
So, we were meant to be different from one another,
God tells us in 22:67, “UNTO every community have We appointed [different] ways of worship and belief, which they ought to observe.”
This is part of His plan for Mankind, not a design flaw.  And if we cannot convince the others to follow our way, we still need to learn to live and let live; to coexist in a diverse and often contentious world.
He informs us in 25:63 that the best of us are those that handle this diversity and contention without arrogance, or aggression
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا
For, [true] servants of the Most Gracious are [only] they who walk gently on earth, and who, whenever the foolish address them, reply with [words of] peace;
Our job is not to force them to believe one way or the other, but in the words of the Quran, our job is
“… to convey this Qur'an [to the world].  Whoever, therefore, chooses to follow the right path, follows it but for his own good; and if any wills to go astray, say [unto him]: "I am only a warner!"(27:92)
وَأَنْ أَتْلُوَ الْقُرْآنَ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَى فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ
So, we should not get broken-hearted when they opt not to do it our way.  They have turned away from better person than you or I will ever be: they turned away from our Prophet, pbuh. And God showed him how to handle that:
“…if they turn away, say: "God is enough for me! There is no deity save Him. In Him I have placed my trust...” (9:129)
فَإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَقُلْ حَسْبِيَ اللّهُ لا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
But handling rejection and hatred is not easy.  Still, God has drawn a clear line, and expects us not to cross it ,: no excuses accepted, as detailed in this verse:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ لِلّهِ شُهَدَاء بِالْقِسْطِ وَلاَ يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَى أَلاَّ تَعْدِلُواْ اعْدِلُواْ هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ إِنَّ اللّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
“O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious.” (5:8)
God also is the One that created us, and he knows we are tempted to ‘repay injustice with injustice’, so He makes us an offer that is hard to resist:
وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَى - فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَى
“But unto him who shall have stood in owe of his Sustainer's Presence, and held back his inner self from base desires”, (in our case: greed, anger, vengefulness amongst others), “… Paradise will truly be the final destination!” (79:40-41)
And we need more than just to avoid being unfair towards them.  God tells us to show them ultimate kindness, using the Arabic word ‘berr’, the extreme kindness we are supposed to treat our parent with.
لَا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ
“As for the unbelievers that do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and do not drive you away from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably.” (60:9)
And for the really evil ones: should we pay them in kind, or punish them if we can? Should we forgive?
Look at what God asks our Prophet to do, under a more adverse situation that ours:
وَلاَ تَزَالُ تَطَّلِعُ عَلَىَ خَآئِنَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً مِّنْهُمُ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“… and from all but a few of them you will always experience treachery. But pardon them, and forbear: verily, God loves the doers of good. (5:13)
In another verse, the divine wisdom teaches us that forgiveness is not a tactical ploy, but rather a strategy of a very high yield in the end:
وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
“But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil) with something that is better - and lo! he between whom and yourself was hostility [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [to you], a true friend!” (41:34)
Above all, we should always remember the verse 7:199 that has been described as the most comprehensive and most succinct of Islamic moral code- crafted in just seven short words in Arabic.
خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْجَاهِلِينَ
MAKE due allowance for man's nature, and enjoin the doing of what is widely known to be right; and leave alone all those who choose to remain ignorant."
I hope that I have managed to deliver few points about the Glorious Quran and its timeless teachings that can help us today as much as it helps the Prophet pbuh, and his companions over 1400 years ago.
Our primary goal as Muslims is to learn God’s words.  And who is better at teaching us those than God Himself in an easy to understand and clear Book that he promised to preserve from deviation, and corruption, and to make easy for us to learn.
وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ
“Hence, indeed, We made this Qur'an easy to understand and easy to bear in mind: who, then, is willing to take it to heart?” (54:40)
This book is not only easy, but it also details the message of what he wants from us.
وَلَقَدْ جِئْنَاهُم بِكِتَابٍ فَصَّلْنَاهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ هُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
“For, indeed, We did convey unto them a divine writ which We clearly, and wisely, spelled out - a guidance and a grace unto people who will believe." (7:52)
  All we need is to invest the time in reading and contemplating it, trusting that it is sufficient to guide us to the right path.
Referring to the Verses of the Quran, God says: 
“These are the signs of God which We recite unto thee (Muhammad) with truth. Then in what fact, after God and His signs, will they believe?” (45:6)
تِلْكَ آيَاتُ اللَّهِ نَتْلُوهَا عَلَيْكَ بِالْحَقِّ فَبِأَيِّ حَدِيثٍ بَعْدَ اللَّهِ وَآيَاتِهِ يُؤْمِنُونَ
I would like to conclude on a joyous note. 

Look at us:  living in a non-Muslim country, a small minority, with little material power.  Yet we are entitled, by law, to be treatment as equals, and we do not have to accept anything less. A minority with little outreach and with difficulty engaging the public at large: yet, God avails to us people in the media and amongst the public, of different faiths, and sometime of no faith at all, that would take our cause to heart, and defend us as if we where their own people.

We should thank God for those blessings.  But, we should also promise ourselves, that whenever and wherever the tide turns in our favor, we should treat the others the best way they treated us and no less
In fact, if we heed God’s teachings, we should treat them better than they treated us:
“… when you are greeted with a greeting, answer with an even better greeting, or [at least] with the like thereof. Verily, God keeps count indeed of all things.” (4:86)
وَإِذَا حُيِّيْتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّواْ بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَا أَوْ رُدُّوهَا إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَسِيبًا
Let us not be of those defrauders that He threatened with woes on the Day of Judgment
وَيْلٌ لِّلْمُطَفِّفِينَ - الَّذِينَ إِذَا اكْتَالُواْ عَلَى النَّاسِ يَسْتَوْفُونَ -  وَإِذَا كَالُوهُمْ أَو وَّزَنُوهُمْ يُخْسِرُونَ - أَلَا يَظُنُّ أُولَئِكَ أَنَّهُم مَّبْعُوثُونَ
“WOE UNTO THOSE that deal in fraud-
Those who, when they are to receive their due from [other] people, demand that it be given in full
But when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due!
Do they not know that they will be raised from the dead, and that they will be called to account?” (83:1-4)
May God guide us all to the right path.


Part 1 of this sermon:

Muslims in a Hostile World - Part 1: positive lessons from Islamophobia-filled season

[This is part 1 of a sermon (delivered on in September 2010), that I put together for a local mosque.  Part 2 will be posted soon and it is about what the Quran teaches us on anger management, and conflict resolution]
These are very turbulent times for American Muslims.  We are reminded daily how many fellow Americans hate us.  But we are also blessed to see many Americans that do not hate us, and moreover, they come to our rescue more efficiently and more visibly than we do ourselves.  We should be grateful to them and also to God for availing them to us in these tough times.  God has told us in His Book, about such people, non-Muslims, who are up-right people, that stand up for the truth as they see it, even if it means being against people closer to them than Muslim Americans are.
لَيْسُواْ سَوَاء مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أُمَّةٌ قَآئِمَةٌ يَتْلُونَ آيَاتِ اللّهِ آنَاء اللَّيْلِ وَهُمْ يَسْجُدُونَ
“They are not all alike:”.  God tells us (in Surat Al-Imran), “ among the People of the Book there are upright people, who recite God's messages by the night, and prostrate themselves [before Him].” They “… enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and compete with one another in doing good works: and these are among the righteous.” (3:113-114)
Those good people upheld an important moral commandment: bearing witness to the truth, no matter in whose favor it is, or against whom it is. God repeatedly taught us that in the Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ فَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ الْهَوَى أَن تَعْدِلُواْ وَإِن تَلْوُواْ أَوْ تُعْرِضُواْ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
 O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. ……Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do!  (4:135)
And while we should thank God for extending help to us through those people, we need to learn from that example. In many instances, unfortunately, we fail to fulfill that glorious commandment. We should pray that we, as a community, mature enough and consult our religious conscience more often when we feel the wrong doings and injustices committed by fellow Muslims against non-Muslims or against other Muslims wherever that may be: either here, in Europe or in places Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya or other unlucky places in the world wherever some so-called Muslims commit atrocities against other Muslims or against non-combatants of any kind.
وَإِذَا قُلْتُمْ فَاعْدِلُواْ وَلَوْ كَانَ ذَا قُرْبَى وَبِعَهْدِ اللّهِ أَوْفُواْ ذَلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُم بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
“And when you voice an opinion,”, God tells us (in 6:152), “ be just, even though it be [against] near of kin. ... This has He enjoined upon you so that you always remember.
So, when you wake up on a Friday morning to find out that Friday worshipers in a Shi’a mosque have been slaughtered in our name, or that an Ahmadeya mosque in Pakistan or a church in Iraq, has been bombed, or that a school for children in Russia has been seized – all done in the name of freedom for Muslims - , please remember to bear witness to the truth only, the way God told us to.

Do not feel afraid or awkward criticizing and standing up against our own friends, next of kin or just wrong-doing Muslims anywhere in the world.  We owe it to God to bear witness to the truth in a way that pleases Him.