By Hoda Nassef
Having a second wife here in Egypt, does not mean that the grieving widow finally remarried, nor does it mean that the divorced man chose his proper mate and had a second chance; it means that he has two wives, both alive, and sometimes actually living under the same roof!
In the ‘Islamic World’, men can have more than one wife. A foreign friend recently told me, ‘Lucky Egyptian men…they can have TWO wives!’ I answered, ‘Not all, and not really lucky, but silly, as marrying second wives in Islam should be under strict Islamic rules.’
This is a repeated and gross misinterpretation of the facts in Islamic marriages, seen through the eyes of most foreigners, and most religions as well.
Strange as it may seem, the poorer and less educated men often have a wife or two, and maybe three! They marry more than once, although they are less able to afford even the ‘first’ wife, than the ‘upper class’ men, and can barely support her, let alone support himself plus a second wife. They would rather be a ‘polygamists’ - (in the eyes of the Europeans) – than commit the BIG immortal and immoral sin and be eternally cursed to damnation for fornication outside of wedlock!
On the other hand, many ‘educated’ men prefer to have secret illicit affairs, than get caught with their pants down by their wives! Having affairs here, as elsewhere abroad, is quite common – and kept ‘under cover’. He might brag about it to his close male friends, but acts pious in public and portrays the image of The Perfect Husband and citizen.
As for the majority of the ‘Second Wives’ who know in advance that their husbands are already married, many young ladies target men who are already well off, have good careers, and are financially stable if not actually rich, rather than wait years for young suitors or boyfriends to reach that status, and find it a sort of conquest to take another (and much older) woman’s husband.
The Second Wives usually calculate that they will have to put up with the hassles of the First Wife as well as problems from children of the first marriage, along with the husband’s wrinkles and perhaps impotency, as a price to pay for the ‘easy road’ to wealth and status, knowing that they will be properly pampered by the foolish husbands for marrying someone much younger than the First Wife; cunningly knowledgeable that the husbands’ psyche or egos are easily vulnerable and inflated for having such a catch at their Twilight Age. Consequently, neither of the newlyweds have any remorse for breaking up the first marriage, if it comes to that.
Having two wives is not outlawed in Islam, as in Christianity. However, there are new-founded laws to protect the first wife’s rights – the foremost is that she must be told in advance from her spouse that he is marrying another woman. She then has the option to either stay married, or ask for a divorce.
Usually she remains married, if he does not prefer to divorce her, simply because she has no other means of livelihood. Sometimes she is even relieved, being already frigid from long years of insignificant sex or none at all. As long as he kept the money rolling in, she didn’t mind!
But, laws are meant to be broken, and not obeyed, and usually the First Wife finds out about the Second wife, only at her husband’s funeral!
Paradoxically, is statistically known that women out-number men now worldwide, by almost four times. Is that perhaps one of the reasons Allah has allowed a Moslem man to marry more than one – up to and not exceeding four. It is seen as a sort of sanctuary for Single Women, if they chose to be a ‘dorra’ (second wife) - and a Safety Zone for lusty men not to stray.
There are various other reasons why a single woman may marry a man who is already married, and vice versa. As one strange example, I know a lady who married years ago, with the full knowledge that her man was already married. She also had a couple of bad marriages in her past, and he seemed a ‘good catch’ even then, for a divorced young woman. They stayed very happily married for several years, until he passed away. She was much younger than her husband, and has many more years ahead of her, but would not want to remarry because she would lose her pension from her deceased husband.
Both wives attended the funeral, but avoided each other like the plague. Later on…much later, I asked her, ‘Why did you REALLY marry him? You had a job, a child from the first marriage, a nice flat in the suburbs, plus a beach house.’ Her surprising answer was: ‘We played Bridge or Poker almost every night and had our own poker game ongoing for years, with the same group. Poker nights, with a couple of drinks, made life worth living. His wife hates cards.’ You could have knocked me with a feather! But I put on MY poker face, nodded quickly and politely agreed, while I hurried to the door after barely saying a brief goodbye!
As another example, in the eyes of an upper-class man who married a Second Wife, while dining at the Automobile’s Club downtown, I asked the distinguished middle-aged gentleman why he re-married - (after 25 years of happy matrimony!) - since his First Wife was such a wonderful woman, pretty, liked and respected by everybody, and raised their children to be happy and successful citizens, as well. His new wife was ‘a virgin’ when they married, according to him, and obscenely much younger than both of them – almost their own children’s age.
Without blinking, he drawled out, ‘You know, the same old story: stimulus. She made me feel young again.’
To each his own! She exploited him for his status and wealth, but he also exploited her youth and beauty.