[LOL, the pic above is unfortunately how alot of Muslims (at least in my experience] veiw Polygyny: the practice of a man having more than one wife, in Islam, up to a total 4 women on the condition he treats them all fairly].
I'll start first with the ugly, which is, when men or women abuse the practice. Often men will disregard all the rules and sunnah (traditions exempled by the Prophet Mohamed salalahu alhi wa salaam, and his Sahaba) in either who or how they take a second wife. Or they do not treat one or more of the wives fairly. Also, women are guilty of behaving badly, and hurting what is halal in Islam. No wonder alot of women and men cringe at thought of being in my situation :(. Or that non muslims can make it the brunt of attacks on Islam.
In Islam, WHEN, and WHO can a man take as a second wife? Islam says that it is permissiable for a man to marry up to four women, but in the same verse that allows this, says this is done to support orphans. In Islam, an orphan is a woman without a maharam (male guardian, such as a father, Uncle, brother of age, or a husband). In the specific ayah pertaining to the allowance for this practice, it is termed in caring for women who have no husband or provider/family. So, Islamic orphans include those with no living family or living father or Uncle, Converts/reverts who have no Muslim relatives, widows whose Muslim husband has passed away, and divorced women. Many women in these categories are also single mothers. *ALSO* if a first wife, or the other wives are ill or unable to fulfill their wifely roles, it is ALSO permissable for a husband to take another wife, because he does deserve to have his requirements as a husband met. This can either be for reason of the wife/wives having dehaibilitating conditions, or inability to have children/bareness. The women the man marries must be Muslim or a practicing and chaste Christian or Jewish woman (practicing means they follow the book of their religion btw, and they are rare these days). The HOW of this is set on the condition that a man must be fair to all the women. This does not mean he cannot have feelings more for one than another* because the Prophet Mohamed sallalahu alahi wa salaam had a preference for Aisha R.A over his other wives, but he must not let that preference be apparent in his treatment of all his wives. His spoken sentiments cannot be more for one than another, he must provide equally for financial and physical needs, and the time allotted must be the same for each wife.
The ugly: 1.) Some men completely neglect the fairness aspect concerning their wives. They spend all their money and time on one and completely neglect the other/others. This voids the validity of their marriage and women can divorce their husband over this, and he will have to answer to Allah on the Day of Judgement for this ill treatment. 2.) Some men marry a second wife only temporarily and then divorce her. This is haraam. This man is cursed. 3.) Some men marry another wife when there is nothing wrong with their first wife and look for a younger, prettier, and virginal second wife who is no way unable to find her own husband (as might be in the case of times of war) as a first wife or in dire need of physical and financial support. This is not being fair to the first wife, in the insecurities it might breed in her, and is not of the sunnah. The Prophet Mohamed salalahu alahi wa salaam was engaged to Aisha R.A before he married any other of his wives, and she was his only virginal wife, in fact, the only one who was not a widow or divorcee. All the wives that proceeded his engagement to Aisha R.A., were older than Aisha. His 2nd engagement after Aisha was to Sawda R.A who was widow senior to the Prophet salalahu alahi wa salaam, and was described as not being the colouring favoured at the time by the Arabs & slightly overweight by some of the companions. Obviously, concern should be for providing orphans with support and family, when taking multiple wives and the first wife has no condition upon her. 4.) Women behaving badly. When a wife tries to manipulate her husband from fullfilling his duties to his other wives. If she tries to steal time or money that should be more evenly distributed, questions him to reveal intimacies involving the other woman's lovemaking or private parts or to force him to give her gifts or sentiments not of equal value to something given to the other wife/wives, she risks making her marriage void before Allah, and will not be able blame her husband for this on the day of judgement. Also, speaking bad of the other wife to the husband, family or friends, revealing sins of the other wife/wives, refusing to say salaam or accept a visit or gift from the other wife, or trying to cause physical harm to her sister wife... ALL OF THESE things are not befitting a believing woman and may cause her to lose Allah's mercy for she will not be judged for her husband's actions, she will be judged for own towards another believer, and another sister in Islam.
Alhamdulilah, in my own situation, what keeps me from the ugly is A. my husband exhausts himself treating his wives (us) fairly. B. Neither of us he had married because one was younger or more attractive than the other. He married us firstly, because of the kind of Muslims we were. F, my sister wife, is the same age as me, give or take a year. She is GCC Arab and I am white revert/convert, and we have different looks, but neither of us is glaringly more attractive than the other. F also had kids to support and in her culture, divorcees almost always get looked down on. Had my husband more time (since it is difficult enough as it is dividing our days into equal 3 days Pixie, 3 days F [our ideal]) F knows an older divorced Omani girl our husband could marry to give her attention, and a home of her own, and children, since alot of women want children. If it were feasible, and affordable, both of us would support our husband to have another marriage if he married for an Islamic reason we'd also get reward for, such as sharing all the things that help a woman find happiness and strengthen her islam. Plus, it did not look like I could have children. F was very kind to me, and our husband informed us of his intention to marry again, and let us meet eachother before anything concrete to see if we'd like eachother ect. and could guage if the other woman could handle being in the same family.
C.) F & both see eachother as sisters in Islam. We do want for eachother what we want for ourselves. We are not always perfect, but we hold on to this ideal and try to measure ourselves by it.
Unto the bad. Even in the most halal of situations where everything was done the right way, not everything can work out perfectly.
Some men will never be able to treat all women fairly, or to marry for the right reason. These men should not marry more than one woman out of fear of Allah subhanhu wa ta'ala.
Some women will never be personally secure enough to be able to own their own identities in a marriage, even WITH their husband having only one wife. I was the only wife before. I had to get over my insecurities, to need Allah and know myself more than I needed a husband or attention and affection on the 24.7 to get to this. This can be a woman's beauty, but in a marriage with more than herself, it can be something that ravages her self-esteem. I personally believe that if a man is good and Islamic, all women could potentially be able to handle a marriage such as mine which is why it is halal, but I know from how many of us have been raised in our societies, insecurities and inability to define one's own identity run so deep, that the situation would be impossible to rectify in some cases. If you do not know your own value, know that what you have to offer no other woman can in the same way and glorify Allah by that, then my situation is probably not right for you, or will be very challenging. Women always say they couldn't because they are jealous, but jealousy is a small thing and is cured easily, but insecurities take alot more work. There is also nothing wrong with not being able to define one's identity so strongly, I am not saying that women who can accept these marriages are superior in any way at all. I am simply saying, despite what alot of men think, even the good ones, not all women are ready for it, or should have to accept it. Men should consider their wives abilities, and weigh them with their own needs/preferences. *If marrying again causes your wife to divorce you or be mentally unstable, probably you shouldn't marry, because she isn't at the state you can treat her fairly, even with her as a wife alone.
Additionally, society sucks, Muslim country or no. My own experience. F & I both have to deal with families that are nasty about the marriage (and I haven't even TOLD ALL MY FAMILY!). Some people simply refuse to visit F, and some friends stopped visiting me. I am afraid to tell people because we get the cold shoulder alot, and especially non Muslims here, they're kind to either F or me, but not both of us, and Husband is always regarded as pure evil. While F & I have come to terms with the gossip and people telling us to divorce Husband, we don't like it. Husband never cared, and says men are a lot nicer about it but are scared of their wives lol.
People (women) seem to think that the first wife either was not attractive enough for her husband or was sexually boring or bad somehow or that the second wife is a slutty manipulative man-stealer/ or a beauty who is everything first wife was not. Third wife USUALLY gets away with everything, so I think being third wife would be easiest lol! People are always trying to pity the first wife or hate the second, whether or not the wives accept the situation and are friends.
So I conclude, even if you live in a place where 2-4 wives is not that rare and certainly not against the law, society sucks. I think because Arab Muslim men have mistreated the institution for so long that it got a bad rap, even from the Muslims.
The Good: A.) You get all the benefits of being married with some perks of being single. You can make whatever you want to eat for dinner 3 days out of the week. Sometimes I make a plain can of soup, or just eat icecream and no one will ever care. I can go out with my girlfriends for as long as I want and husband is never like, I am bored, come home. I can choose whatever I want on TV or movies, and I can wear slobby sweat pants or a Granny jalalbiyia and not make the bed or do the dishes and not feel like a lazy or bad wife. How many married people can do that? Hmmm. Plus, the spark is always there when your man comes home. He missed you. Also, he thinks you are perfect, because you had 3 days to make the house clean, or do a home decorating project, or memorize a surah, master a new recipe, and make yourself as fabulous as possible. He has no idea unless one of your days ends up being s asick day or period day, that you aren't the best dressed or most interesting woman on earth. Or that you burn the new recipe on the first 3 tries. This really, really suits me. I love attention, I really do. But I think I get bored of it, and need a break from it, to really appreciate it, and be worthy of it. B.) Your sister wife is actually your friend and confidante. If you are mad at your husband and right, she's on your side and mad at him too, and he's more likely to change then if it was just you pointing out something that he's messing up. Two witnesses are always better than one. If you are wrong, she can make you laugh at yourself, and feel better anyway. Sometimes she likes to do the things that you hate to do with your husband and that he wants someone with him with. For example, our husband loves running and sports. F hates running. I like it. Husband and I run together. Husband likes volleyball. I hate it because I bruise very easily. F likes it. Works out so we both don't have to do stuff that we hate. And stuff husband hates like girly movies? Well, he still has to suffer through the same movie twice in a row if both F and I like it. It is nice for me having no Muslim family, to actually have a Muslim female relation. We can sit together and halal 2 girls and a guy hanging out situations, though be warned, in such situations, one woman is always playing the friend role, and the other the wife. I am okay with the friend role. I like my kind-of-gooshy moments in private. I am not a sentiments-in-public girl. I think a marriage works best if the husband marries 1 romantic type girl (F, definately lol), and another anti-romantic but into practical love kind of thing (me!), that way he can love both equally but in different things. That seems to be our marriage's strength, the three of us are realizing. C.) These kind of marriages help women who'd otherwise be alone find the phsyical protection and affection that they deserve. Otherwise they'd engage in haraam relationships to satisfy natural urges and longing for attention and affection, or be resigned to celibacy and maybe unable to support themselves, or marry men who would be less suitable or likeable to them. And in cases where the first wife is unable to fulfill her wifely duties, it makes it easier on the husband to fulfill his role as a husband, but have his requirements fairly met as well. This way, when done Islamically, and with love for all our sisters, no one is abandoned or allotted less.
I find it very helpful for women to read a book on women's issues by a Canadian woman called "Bent Rib" on the polygamy section of the book. Actually, I do recommend the book for all reverts or women living in the West as they explain many controversial Islamic issues, and "Women Around the Prophet" with a special look at the Prophet's wives, and his relationship with them. Also the men of the Sahaba's proposals to women, to understand polygyny in an Islamic manner. LOVE, LOVE these books.
InshaAllah you all found this rather opinionated post to be informative. I got alot of unpublished comments when I announced the news about my marriage lol, so I thought I'd gather the majority of my thoughts on the subject in one place.