I was born and brought up as a Muslim. I was raised up by a very religious family. My family members were devout Muslims. Arabic is my mother tongue and I spoken only that language when I was in Sudan. It is the language of Islam and the Qur’an is believed to be revealed in Arabic. I have two sisters and one brother. My brother died when I was six years old and he was in grade four. He got drown in the water. My two sisters are older to me. In the beginning I didn`t have any doubt about Islam. I was like any other Muslim. I learned a lot about Islam from my school. We used to have Islamic religious class. From grade one to grade twelve I was taught Islam in a daily basis. I also learned from the mosque. I used to attend the mosque regularly. My first sister was very religious girl. I learned a lot about Islam from her at home. She trained me to fast when I was still very young. The first time I fasted the full month of Ramadan when I was ten years old. We used to read the Qur’an every day at home. The society where I was brought up was pure Muslim society. Almost everybody around me was a Muslim. Everything like the school, the mosque, the radio, the TV, and everything around us was an Islamic and taught us nothing except Islam.
In the beginning, I didn`t have any problem with my religion. My first doubt started when I was in grade seven. My first sister got married when I was very young. Although it was an arranged marriage, still it was a happy marriage. My sister and her husband loved each other. They had a son. When their son became two years old, he died. It was a natural death. The problem started at that time. As I said, I was in grade seven by then. After that, my sister and her husband wanted to have another child, but they came to know from doctors that my sister would not be able to give birth to a child any more. And that created a little bit of tension between her and her husband. They visited so many doctors. They went even to the capital city of Sudan, Khartoum and consulted many doctors, but all the doctors said that my sister would not be able to conceive again.
Then, my sister discovered that her husband was planning to marry another woman because as you know that in Islam the man is allowed to marry up to four wives at the same time. Nevertheless, my brother-in-law used as an excuse that he wanted to have a child. When my sister came to know about the plan that her husband intended to marry another woman and the proposal already happened she confronted him. In the beginning, he denied it but when she confronted him with the sources from where she obtained the information he admitted it. He said to her, it is true I love you so much and I wasn`t intended to marry any other woman besides you but because of the child. I want to have a child that is why I decided to marry another woman. (By the way, in Islam there is no reason for the husband to give as an excuse to marry a second wife besides his first wife. According to the Qur’an in Sorah Al-Nissa 4: 3 the man is allowed to marry two or three or four women at the same time and if he wishes to have one it is up to him there is no compulsion. But he got that license to marry up to four wives at the same time). Therefore, my brother-in-law made as an excuse his desire to have a child that is why he planned to marry another woman. However, my sister made it clear to him that she would not share him with another woman. She said to him it is impossible for her to agree for that or tolerate it. Moreover, she said to him if you are truly keen in getting another woman just divorce me and let me go back to my parents’ house and go ahead and get married but I cannot stay with you. However, her husband didn`t like her condition because he still loved her. He wanted her and at the same time, he wanted the other woman. So, he went ahead and married that woman. He thought that because my sister was emotionally angry or she wanted to scare him that is why she made that condition. He thought after some time she might accept his marriage to the second wife because after all it was lawful in the Shari’a and he was allowed to do so.
When my sister came to know that the marriage already took place and her husband went and spent few nights with that woman, she ran away from his house and came back to our house. Although at that time, I was very young and in grade seven still it pained me to see my sister coming back home crying, and feeling being rejected and betrayed. She felt that her husband cheated on her. Still I could not do anything to help her because polygamy is allowed in the Qur’an. I could see it happening around me everywhere; my father married two women and my uncle had two wives too. I knew many neighbours married more than one wife. So, my brother-in-law came after some time and requested my sister to come back to his house, but she refused. Then, he talked to some elders from his family and my family and called for elders` gathering. His parents and my parents and some elders from both families met together and talked about this matter and called my sister and tried to convince her to return to her husband`s house but she refused. She told them her decision was final. However, they said to her he didn`t divorce you and as a woman you cannot divorce yourself. They explained to her that as a woman the Shari’a does not give her the right to divorce her husband unless there was a legitimate reason like he was not living with her as a husband, or was not supporting her as a wife, or if he was physically impotent. She told them my only reason I cannot share him with another woman. They said to her that cannot be a reason acceptable by the Shari’a. My sister said to them if you would kill me, I would not go and stay with him. If he wanted me right now let him go and divorce that woman but her and me wouldn’t live together. The elders told her husband that we could not do anything. Anyway, he didn`t accept the decision of my sister and the elders and went and lodged a complaint against my sister in the Shari’a court. In his complaint, he stated that his wife ran from his house without any reason and refused to return and live with him.
Shortly after his complaint, my sister received an invitation from the Shari’a court. My parents and some elders from my relatives went with her to the court. Her husband also came along with his parents. At the court the judge asked my sister, why you don`t want to stay with your husband. My sister told the judge of the Shari’a court that she had already told her husband that she wouldn`t share him with another woman and he went ahead and got married to a second wife. The judge asked her, did he neglect you, left you totally, and spent the whole time with that other wife, did he not supporting you financially, or did he impotent? My sister said there was nothing like that but the only reason she could not share him with another woman. The judge got angry and said to her ‘you are speaking as if you are not a Muslim woman’. He said further, ‘I myself have three wives and all my wives have children and living together and I am living with them. So, this is not excuse for you to leave your husband’. He showed her from the Qur’an and the example of the prophet Muhammad that what she was saying was un-Islamic. Then, he asked her to repent and go back and live with her husband. Nevertheless, my sister said to the judge ‘I will never go back to him as long as he is having a second wife. She told the judge further that she was prepared to go to jail than to live with her husband while he was having a second wife’.
There was something in Muslim countries called Hukm Alta`a or Bait Alta`a. (Hukm Alta`a means Obedience Law and Bait Alta`a means the House of Obedience). According to the Shari’a if the wife left her house without any legitimate reason and her husband complained against that the judge of the Shari’a court had the right to pass that law against her. Then, the police would come and take the disobedient wife by force to her husband`s house whether she liked it or not and that exactly what happened to my sister. The police came to our house and dragged my sister by force and we could not able to do anything because that was the law and if we tried to do anything we might be accused of obstruction of justice or might be even beaten by the police or something worse might happen to us. Although they took her back to her husband but she did not treat him as a husband any more. They had a lot of problems and fighting...
At that time, I was astounded about what had happened to my sister. I asked myself, how the law could force the wife to stay with her husband against her wish. That was the first time I started asking questions. Some doubts began to form in my mind about polygamy in Islam. I myself could not even think for a second that I would allow another man to share my wife with me. The woman would feel the same thing if her husband married another woman besides her. How could any woman in the world sleep at night when she knew that her husband was in bed with another woman? However, it was the saddest experience in my life when I saw my sister being dragged by force out of our house as if she was a criminal or an animal. She was crying and resisting and begging us to stop the policemen from taking her to her husband’s house. Unfortunately, none of us was able to help her. That abusive experience haunted me forever. Being young in age at that time I just left it as that. I hid that doubt in my heart and did not share it with anyone.
The first time I shared my doubt with my Islamic religious teacher when I was in grade ten. He was teaching us about marriage in Islam; how to treat your wife, what the duties of the wife towards her husband, and what the rights of the husband over his wife. Then, he taught us about the importance of polygamy and why the Qur’an allowed the man to marry up to four wives at the same time. He said polygamy was necessary because it satisfies human instinct for the man burdened with a strong sexual desire and for whom one woman is not enough to guarantee his chastity the Shari’a recommended that he adds to the first wife, others. The total should not exceed, however, four. The teacher quoted the famous verse of the Qur’an which says, “And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly of the orphans, marry of the women who seem good to you, two or three or four and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess” (Qur’an Sorah al-Nissa 3: 4).
On that day, I expressed my doubt bluntly to my teacher. I told him in Sudan if the husband had a wife and married a second wife the Sudanese Islamic society would call the second woman Aldarahwhich means Evildoer or the woman who brings evil to the first wife. Even in Egypt, the Islamic society nicknames the second, third, or fourth wife Aldorah which also means the person who does evil to you. I told my teacher even the Islamic societies like the examples of Sudan and Egypt call the second wife evildoer. Then, I asked him how Islam could allow the man to bring to his first wife another woman who was called by the Muslim society evildoer. The teacher got so angry and said to me ‘don`t say that again, never ever use the society to judge a law written in the Qur’an. This licence was based on a verse in the Qur’an. Then, he quoted to me again Sorah Al-Nissa verse three. According to this verse, every Muslim man was allowed to have two, three, or four wives. He told me we could not question anything if it was mentioned in the Qur’an. Therefore, we had no any right to question polygamy.
In response I said something, which at that time I said it innocently. However, what I had said turned out to be a big sin for the teacher. I said to him still I see polygamy as injustice towards the women. The teacher got so mad, took something, and threw it at me. It hit me on my face and then he kicked me out of the classroom. After the class was over, he went and informed the headmaster. The headmaster called me in his office and questioned me about my opinion on polygamy. When I admitted what he heard from the teacher he asked me to go out of the school and not come back unless I bring my father with me. When I brought my father they told him that I said the Qur’an teaches injustice. My father got angry and slapped me in front of the headmaster and my Islamic religious teacher. Then, I was strictly warned and told that I should never ever say again such blasphemous words as I said in the classroom. I got physical punishment by receiving fifteen lashes on my back. I was also suspended from the school for two weeks. When I returned to school, the headmaster made me to promise by placing my right hand on the Qur’an that I would never ever say anything against polygamy again. He strictly warned me that if I was caught by anyone sharing my doubt with any student I would be dismissed from the school. Although I promised the school authority that, I would not speak about polygamy again but that doubt remained inside me…
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