Wedding Bells

I went to a beautiful wedding this weekend. A classmate of mine married her boyfriend of six years. They are an amazing couple, perfect fit. It was a dream wedding, the kind you see in movies. Everything was well done, with the kind of class and attention to minute details that only the affluent could buy. My friend has told me about some of the snide comments other grad students made about her background. Sure, her father is a wealthy lawyer who’s worked some high profile cases. And sure her new husband comes from a wealthy shipping family. But they are not the Onassis family, dammit!. A lot of graduate students take on this air of poverty, as if they become the long suffering proletariat. Though this was not a proletariat wedding, I have an admiration for my friend’s realness. She also has a sharp mind and a great sense of humor. She’s also not full of the pretensions that mark a lot of academics. Though they envy the world of my friend’s parents and in-laws, almost all of them come from privileged backgrounds. Their parents are lawyers, doctors, professors, and business men. They all exist in a world that seems to operate parrallel my own. When you see the mating habit and partnering customs of your peers, nothing hits home more than the trials and tribulations of being a single (and trying hard not to be bitter) black woman.

As I was cleaning up my hard drive, I came across some scraps of articles I pasted into a word document:

“African-American men are much more likely than white or Hispanic men to engage in polygamous relationships, the scholars found. About 21 percent of the African-American men had at least two partners at the time of the survey, compared with 6 percent of men overall in Cook County.”
“Furthermore, the researchers found that polygamy is more common among better educated black men, who presumably have more income. As a result, the number of men available for stable marriages in the African-American community is reduced, leading to the large differences in marriage rates between African-Americans and whites, the researchers pointed out. About 57 percent of black men have been married, compared with about 72 percent of white men, according to census figures.

from article: “Urban areas organized in well developed partnering markets,” University of Chicago research shows

“African Americans marry at a significantly lower rate than other racial groups in the United States. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that by the age of 30, 81 percent of white women and 77 percent of Hispanics and Asians will marry, but only 52 percent of black women will do so.”
from: “Marriage rate low in black community”

The numbers of “Blacks who marry whites is still small, just 6 pecent of b lack men and 2 percent of b lack women. “source unknown

This data are like bombs leaving lots of food for thought. There was a movie that came out in January that sent a message to black women which basically told us that our problem is that we aren’t open to dating outside our race. I know a number of black women who don’t, but then again I know a number of black women that have never had a man who isn’t black approach them romantically. Maybe they missed the signals. I also know from experience that black women dating outside their race is looked upon disapprovingly (even at times by black men who themselves are in interracial relationships).

Last year, there was a discussion about serial polygamy organized by the Black Graduate students. I bounced out of that meeting because for some polygamy was a theoretical issue, but I had dealt with that on a real level. I don’t know that stats for how many black Muslim do it, but it is a rather common phenomena, much like our high divorce rates. (These viewpoints are mainly on sunni Muslims, as I don’t know much about the marriage and divorce rates in the Nation of Islam) A number of my second generation immigrant Muslim friends commented on the instability of marriages in the African American Muslim community. They also have noted the tendency for out in the open polygamous relationships among African American Muslim men. Brothers are real quick to be like, “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee!! Three strikes you’re OOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUTTTTTT!!” My friend’s husband divorced her three times, and then she had to get married to someone else and then they got back together. He married someone else on the side, then divorced her, but then somehow after their third child they got back together again and are living abroad. Last thing I heard was that they were happy.

Well black women, maybe you found a group who has worse stats than you. Black Muslim women, yeah. We’re like 2 percent the population. Muslims do heavy recruiting in the prisons, meaning that brothas who are unable to secure stable jobs are over represented. And if you’re married to one who is doing well for himself and is attractive, chances are that there will be sistas out there willing to fill in three of the empty slots (he is allowed four under Shariah after all). Also, Muslims do not recognize a marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man. But a Muslim man can marry a Christian or Jewish woman. Not fair? Who said life is fair, the issue is how you navigate the constraints, disparities, and inequalities. Sigh, I guess I shouldn’t complain about the statistics. I am one of the lucky 52 percent thirty year olds. I got married. Sure, I am divorced but the cup is half full, right?

(Disclaimer: This is not to say that all African American Muslim men are naturally inclined towards polygamy. There are some really great families out there and really great husbands. The only problem is that suitable mates for an educated sista are in low supply. )

18 thoughts on “Wedding Bells

  1. Salaam alaikum,
    I dont generally respond to these things but I have to say a couple of things about this statement.

    “Disclaimer: This is not to say that all African American Muslim men are naturally inclined towards polygamy. There are some really great families out there and really great husbands. The only problem is that suitable mates for an educated sista are in low supply. )”

    1. I think you are wrong about this comment. I personally know of several brothers who are highly educated (MD, Engineers, PhD etc..) who are also knowledgeable, NOT SALAFI, but GOOD Muslims, but most of the time this is what disqualifies them.. they are EDUCATED, and some EDUCATED sisters feel like those brothers are too religious.. that is very sad

    2. Some sisters feel they are too educated to be in a Polygamous marriage.. Why is that? What makes them so good? Why is there a new group out trying to discourage muslims from this issue.

    3. May Allah help you find a Pious husband either as his # 1 or #2.

    wa salaam


  2. Abu Harun,
    The question is why did you feel a need to comment? It is clearly not to really dialogue, but to impose your views on what us educated sisters should accept–which means basically settle for a partner who is not devoted to them or their marriage.

    I am not making an off the cuff comment. My observation has been observed by many community leaders and numerous educated sisters. This has been indicated by the recent program put on by Mecca-One where Zaid Shakir was a guet speaker.

    As far as too good for polygamy. It is not an education thing, it is a devotion thing. So many brothers have a hard time being good to their first wives and holding down their households, why are they even looking for another wife when they can’t support the first? I know too many unhappy and failed polygamous marriages to really consider that a viable option.

    As far are your observations about sisters turning down your friends. I don’t know your friends. But I really doubt it was their education level that turned women off from them. Maybe they are approaching the wrong types of sisters. Because normally if a sister has an advanced degree, she’s not going to turn down a man just because he has too many degrees. Nor do I think it is religiosity. For the most part, religiosity is a pre-requisite for many of the sisters I know who are looking for marriage. but a lot of brothers are dogmatic and misogynist and many sisters will pass on that. I talk to far more women than you probably talk to, so I have a finger on the pulse of what the sisters are struggling with.

    Finally, if a sister is not going to be happy being in a polygamous marriage, she is not going to be happy. Why should she settle for a situation where a brother is not going to be devoted to her, not going to be supportive of her, and especially if that is not the situation she wants? It is not as if educated women think that they are too good, it is often the broke brothers, dead beat dads, etc. who are prone to take multiple wives. I’m sorry brotha, but I can do bad all by myself.


  3. wa alaikum salaam wr wb,

    Masha Allah, I am impressed with your response to my questions. I really do understand your points about a sister who would not be content in a multiple marriage, however I disagree that it is mainly brothers who do not have advanced degrees that are interested in such marriages.

    Personally, as I previously mentioned I know brothers who are very close to me, they are studying at one of the top ten colleges in the country (to obtain advance degrees). Some are done, some are done and practicing in their various fields, clearly they can afford it, but that is not the issue…. I do not with to make feel like I am trying to impose my opinion on the issue. The only thing that speaks volume about this matter is the statistics… (single sisters, single sisters with kids, brothers in jail, brothers who are not sincere muslims, etc)

    Masha Allah, “I’m sorry brotha, but I can do bad all by myself.”

    may Allah protect you and give you strength.

    “Indeed Allah is the Most Wise and ‘Alim”

    wa salaam alaikum wr wb,

    Abu Harun


  4. salaam,

    sorry, that response was written in haste, I will have to give a more comprehensive later. I am sure you are well equipped with all the arguments that support you stand on the matter.

    The goal is not to compel you, but to simply express to you that women (educated or otherwise) should stop “dogging” this matter, simply I wish they would leave it alone.

    Personally, I think the objection you “gals” have is from what I call J-ness “JEALOUSY”.. no one wants to share their spouses and I have tried to think about if it were allowed for a woman to have multiple partners, how would I feel… and it is a disturbing thing to think about… anyway, got to go to work

    salaam alaikum wr wb


  5. Salaam alaikum,

    How do you expect sisters to leave an issue alone if that is something they have to wrestle with? This is a real issue that sisters are confronted with on a regular basis. It is one thing if you personally chose to do it and it is a joint decision with your spouse. I do not go onto polygynous websites and impose my views. I respect the people who choose that and the wives who choose to stay and try to make their marriages work. I am not going to dog out a brother or a sister if they choose to live in a polygynous households, but I find it unacceptable to be demeaned because I want my husband to be true to me and be as supportive of me as I am to him.

    It is important to critique the abuses of polygyny because I see so many broken up families due to it. The fact is, that my brothers do not always understand the fiqh of marriage and how serious it is if they do not treat their wives fairly. You have to have separate houses for each of them, maintain them equally, rear and maintain the children from each of those marriages equally. This is why there are so few polygynous marriages in the Muslim world today. And in West African Muslim societies, the leading cause of break ups in marriage is the tensions between co-wives in polygynous marriages. Marriage is half of your Deen, but some people take it as a joke. The mothers of the believers had discord and jealousy amongst themselves and the best of Men (s.a.w.) mediated them. But he was also operating within the cultural context of 7th century Arabia So you are saying that modern day women are supposed to outshine the best of women from the 7th century? Respectfully, I have to say, come on.

    I’m a reasonable Muslima. You bet I have solid arguments for and against polygyny. I’ve wrestled with this issue for 14 years. I’ve been disillusioned by seeing all the misguided attempts at folks attempting to make our religion fit their whims. That makes my critiques all the more sharper.

    Peace and light,


  6. As Salaamu Alaikum

    Sisters, please don’t break on me for this, but I believe that all men are “naturally inclined towards polygamy.” I also believe that a man can be fully devoted and supportive to more than one wife. Polygamy can be a good or bad thing, for men and for women, for a variety of reasons…just like monagamy.

    That said, I basically agree with all of Aziza’s points concerning the practice and implementation of polygamy in our society. It is an extraordinary responsibility that requires much more than thinking your are mack-of-the-year.

    I have seen men make a mess of their lives by taking another wife. I have seen women who hurt themselves by refusing to consider polygamy. I have seen uphappy monogamous marriages and happy polygamous marriages.


  7. Salaam alaikum,
    My issue with saying that a man can be fully devoted to more than one wife is the issue of logistics in support. Hmmm, I know a polygamous inclined man who admitted that he wanted more than one wife because he did not trust depending on one. He didn’t want to fully commit to one woman. That was a fear of intimacy thing. Some people it is a commitment thing, an outlet to still put the mack down.

    When I speak of devoted partner, I am also talking about logistics. For example, a new parents in a polygamous family. The new mother would have to spend half her nights alone, without a parnter to help diaper, burp, or provide a second hand. Not everyone has extended family or other people to help. Not everyone can afford a nanny or babysitter, but sometimes a man just have to chalk it up and help out his wife by doing dishes or holding the baby and changing a diaper. When there’s an emergency, he has to leave his other wife. Neither wife is getting the full support to raise those children. The children see their dads only part time. Maybe it is easier in a pre-industrial society to take off time for work, but face it we are under very different pressures that have affected families far more than ideologies (i.e. don’t blame feminism for the break down of traditional families, blame consumer capitalism for transformations of the family, communities, morals, and traditions)

    I have not yet seen a happy polygynous marriage yet. And several sisters I know have shared their unhappy polygyny experiences or recounted unhappy situations themselves. But that is based upon my experiences and exposure.I guess my question about wha those situations would be: Have you talked to the wives, got really inside their heads? Also, what structures did they have in place to make those marriages work? Anyways, I find the polygyny blogs written by women fascinating. Even those advocating for it, are struggling with the concepts. But you’re right, there are unhappy monogamous marriages, but are they unhappy because of monogamy or pressures that are caused by the structures of monogamy? That would be an interesting study.

    I agree that men are driven by a natural instinct to spread their DNA to as many women as possible. This drive occurs in both matriarchal and patriarchal societies. Likewise, women are naturally inclined towards cuckolding, where they pick stronger younger more attractive sex partners, but pick caring more established men to raise their children. I’ve seen studies, and there were jahiliyya practices that followed this method. The fear of cockholding is something that drives strict seclusion of women. In fact, scholars such of Ghazali point out that one of the aims of Shariah was to protect lineage. This is why there is such greivous penalties toards adultry.

    One of the innovations that Islam brought was patrilocal patriarchy. This meant that before Islam polygamy was more easily practiced because the women stayed with their family (matrilocal) they did not go to live with their husband. Islam made it so that the man did not go and visit his wife, but instead was responsible for her upkeep because she moved to his household. It looks like in America people are really about jahiliyya polygamy.

    You have said that you seen sisters hurt themselves by refusing to consider it. I was always of the school that you couldn’t make something halal haram. But I have seen brothers hurt themselves and their families by taking another wife. I’m not saying that polygyny is bad. But I just find ridiculous when run-of-the-mill brothers who can barely handle one woman end up making two women unhappy for the price of one.


  8. I have to agree with you Margari. A lot of this is about people stroking their own egos rather than practicing restraint and self-assessment. I actually think some brothers belive that Islam is all about male gratification and pleasure. The sad thing is that you have people embracing retrograde style chauvinism and calling it their rights. It’s sad because it really shows the extent to which people forfeit community and love in order to assert their own wills over other Muslims. The fact is if you cannot be a companion and true support to your spouse you should not put them through so much pain and hurt. That to me is just common decency.


  9. The logistics issue is a very serious concern. I have heard warnings about this exact topic from brothers with experience in plural marriage, brothers who discourage the practice among the youth. We already suffer from no support structure. As converts, we are all like orphans drifting around, just trying to survive. Polygyny can certainly exacerbate that problem.

    In Egypt, polygyny is more common. It is also easier for Western brothers to take a second wife because the cost of living is so low. (watch out!) Egyptian culture frowns on polygamy, and considers it, at best, a safety net for spinsters and divorcees. The latter are not considered good prospects for marriage because divorce is always the woman’s fault, obviously. (twilight zone)

    I dispute your linking of polygyny with the more animalistic aspects of male and female sexuality. Besides the fact that I’m not trying to hear about the cuckolding thing, there is the simple fact that polygamy is a lawful institution in Islam. It has nobility though our creator’s approval, something that cannot be said for men spreading their seed around town and…that other example you mention.

    I realize that the run-of-the-mill polygamist and welfare harem crowd will use the same rhetoric to justify what they do. However, there is also the other extreme of denying the legality of polygamy outright, or rendering it obsolete through endless argumentation.

    I used to taek a more happy-go-marry position on this issue, but after seeing some real disasters, and reading about many others, I am more measured in my views.


  10. Salaam alaikum Musa,
    I am really not interested in a Western brother in Egypt trying to approach me for polygyny, I’m not trying to live in Egypt. Nor do I really care about Egyptians’ opinions about divorcees, Black women, and educated women who do not live with their families. In fact, I’m not really interested in anyone who will consider me less than because of my class background, race, or status.

    You can dispute my linking of polygyny to instinctual sexual drives, but the drives home the point of how ridiculous it is to try to support our arguments based upon “human nature.” Polyandry and cuckolding are clearly not acceptable in Islam. But my point is that one of the aims of Shariah is regulating human affairs and safeguarding certain rights. One of those rights is lineage and polyandry and cockholding makes it impossible to determine patrilineal lineage. While polygamy is allowed, there are clear warnings about how one is supposed to treat multiple wives.

    I still support my argument that if a woman is not going to be happy in a polygynous set ut, no one should force it upon her. Modernity and increased education and access to jobs have given women more options. They are less dependent upon men and they have some more bargaining power in determining the outcome of their relationships.

    This goes back to the original point of my article, my peers in academia do not even have to think about this issue. It is like living in a parallel universe to my White classmates.


  11. Ha ha!! Understandable…I’m bitter even before I get started. As you can tell, I’m bitter about sketchy scenarios. I used to be all idealistic and open minded, but I’ve seen way too many Muslims misuse Islam suit their own ends and be mean to others. It makes me distrust a lot of brothers, especially when they try to take a non-conventional route.


  12. hi margari aziza hill,
    what you have said about interracial is true-as all get-out.
    i would also add of my own experience in reaching out into dating-and in past, marrying outside of my black self, that, i
    have truly indeed-a double standard of evolve per interracial interact-largely due to default of not knowing/meeting black
    men that are clearly (chosen) monogamous in behavior and looking to have relationships with black women.
    i’m sure you can agree that black women are usually the most
    authentic, grounded, excellerating and expansive people in
    this mostly-come-from-an-8-year-old-emotionally-to-react-from-on-everything world, and sometimes there’s more of our stance
    about the place being more strong and empowering, compared to
    non-black women, that being of such stance-we are PERCEIVED as
    intimidating by all who will desire to see so, and the amongst groups, black men knee-jerk away from us the most-taking up
    with non-black women.
    i do indeed defend the desire to have created-more experience
    of black men seeing me as respectable to honor the best relationships i can have-with, and without them.
    men of all races are the ones who need to show up in themselves emotionally
    competant to have relationships


  13. As salaaam Alaikum, I am not sure if anyone is still posting here, however, In the event you are, I am a second wife. I was unsure of what was happening within me since my conversion to Islam. Now I understand. Allah has opened my eyes to the world and to men. With much due respect, as a black woman, I ask us black women to not beat up our brothers. I believe my husband has problems sometimes and I do as well with our marriage, however, we talk about it. I as a black mother am proud to be Muslim, and I most grateful this man is in my life. I have no intention of ever leaving him or not supporting him. I believe as a man thinketh in his heart, so shall he be. I am a woman, I give him all the love and respect, pampering and attention that I can. In return for my loving him, he loves me the way a woman is supposed to be treated. You treat someone bad, you will get bad things. You treat a person the way you want them to be, not how they are and they will act accordingly eventually. WOMEN (Sisters) IF WE treat our men like men, with the full repspect and love they deserve with softness and in a non-competitive and non-manly way. You would be suprised what you get back. He will be a new man, I guarantee it.


  14. As-salaamu-alaikum Nazmeen,

    Some of these men who are getting “bad things” from their wives are getting such because they treat their wives poorly.

    I’m not going to marry a guy hoping I can “love” him into being a man of good character who will treat me well. Lots of women do that and have nothing but misery to show for it.

    I’m glad you’re happy though.


  15. Since Polygamy is the fastest growing marriage system in Blackamerikkka,we sisters should begin to share openly since we(and all women in fact)share anyway. Black Muslims, Rastas,Black Jews, Blacks in Yoruba,Ghanian,Ancient Egyptian Religions all practice Polygamy. I started in the l970’s with my Blackamerikkkan husband with a junior wife. By the time he passed away we were living BACK TO AFRICA in Yorubaland,Nigeria,so I am now in a Yoruba polygamous situation. If Sisters can learn to love and respect each other Polygamy can be POSITIVE!
    Yours, Sister Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade under category”Positive Polygamy”)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s