16 April, 2008

Verses of Love

For the last few days, the news has been full of the Texas/Utah polygamists. But American law and constitutional rights, is hypocritical and most absurd in the way it handles the whole issue of polygamy: a man has the right to engage in any form of consensual sexual relationship with any number of women and can live with multiple women (Hugh Hefner style) and even sire children from different women so long as they do not marry; but when that same man accepts a legal commitment for two or more partners "as a spouse" even with the consent of the women - he is sent to jail. And yet the same man can keep as many mistresses as he wants; it's not against American law. But get married to more than one woman, and the American legal system comes down hard on you. Incredible.

All the three Great religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism seem to agree on polygamy. All the great Prophets, except Issa, were all polygamists; both the Quran Al Kareem and the Bible contain rules for the division of property in polygamist marriages. I personally am no polygamist and, by character, can not be one; but I feel America is being too hypocritical in the way it's dealing with polygamy. As long as the women are not underage and consent to sharing a husband, I do not see any thing wrong at all with polygamy. If the US has anti-sodomy laws that give 'gays' rights; I do not see why it should be difficult to give polygamists rights.

Which brings me to 'Verses of Love'. The Indonesian blockbuster film. It is about polygamy. Polygamy - the Islamic way. 'Verses of Love' - based on the best-selling novel by Indonesian novelist Habiburrahman El Shirazy, is set in Egypt but shot in Central Java and India; and has drawn almost 3 million viewers in Indonesia in the first three weeks, including Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. For many, especially those who do not understand Islam, the film is an eye opener and informative; it shows a side of Islam that's rarely portrayed these days. Many Muslim men who practice polygamy, have abused that freedom; they fail or ignore to practice it in its real Islamic essence and be guided by the laid down Islamic rules; strict, clear cut rules for the man to follow.

Here in Hadhramout, polygamy is legal and allowed. But, very few men indeed do have more than one wife. Even the many who are well off and can afford to maintain many wives, prefer to keep only one. Marriage, be it in a polygamous form or a monogamous one - is a very serious undertaking. And for the man, it's a commitment that has the most responsibilities. Islam does allow polygamy; but the very strict Islamic rules and laws for the husband to follow and keep up with in a polygamous marriage, is what discourages and makes it difficult for most Hadhramys to have more than one wife.