It is a personal and intimate account about what it was like for Umm Janna - an educated, modern and deeply religious woman - to become part of a polygamous relationship.
What follows are some of the most fascinating excerpts from her book/blog, which is available online.
It's an interesting read because her sorrow is painfully evident. So it forces the reader to ask: is she making a sacrifice for Allah? Or is putting herself and her future children through unnecessary problems? Is she a martyr or is she the pathetic victim of a bad marriage? It is so easy to pass judgment, but so hard to actually understand what she is going through until you are living it yourself.
From the chapter "The Shock":
The intensity and persistence of the pain and hurt that I felt when my husband took another wife was unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my life. Most of us probably associate the most difficult trial of all with the loss of a loved one. When I first began writing this book, about five years ago, I hadn’t lost anyone in my family that was very close to me. Since then I have; that was certainly a difficult period in my life. Every situation is different, though, and everyone’s reality is different. For me, polygamy continues to be the most difficult trial I have ever had to deal with. We thank Allah for the good and the bad. I remember quite vividly the day my husband broke the news to me. My husband, children and I were riding home in the car. As we pulled up into the driveway for my husband to let us out before he parked, he said, “I’m marrying the [other] sister.” I suddenly felt numb and dazed, robot-like. I got out of the car, unlocked the front door and entered the house. I felt almost like in a dream world. I can recall waiting for him to say he was just kidding. But he never did. The first night was the most traumatic of all, although many other nights and days competed closely. Because I was still pretty much in shock, the reality of what this all meant to me hadn’t really set in. What I did realize was a gut wrenching agony, loneliness and sadness. The loneliness was beyond loneliness where I wished for companionship. It was a loneliness of emptiness, one of loss. It was at this point that I realized that I had no one but my Lord—Allah. I do not recall sleeping at all that entire night. I made dhikr almost continuously. When I wasn’t making dhikr I was making salat and dua. And through all of it I cried…probably the whole night through.
For every pain that a Muslim experiences even the pricking of his finger with a thorn, some of his sins are forgiven. (Bukhari)
Some people feel they are being weak if they cry. But according to one hadith the Prophet (saw) cried when he was saddened. And he is the best of models. When the son of The Prophet’s daughter was dying, she sent for The Prophet (saw). He sent a message back for her to be patient. She sent for him again. He then met her and held the baby. Tears fell from his eyes. His companion asked, “Oh Rasullulah, what is this?” He said, “They are tears of mercy. And Allah does not have mercy on those who do not have mercy. (Bukharai)
From "The Depression":
After the initial shock subsided somewhat, I went into a deep and long depression. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and rejected. How could he have married someone else unless there was something wrong with me? I had low self-esteem. He does not love me anymore. She has taken my place. For the most part, Allah blessed me to stay in control of my emotions and maintain my dignity in front of others when I went out to masjid functions during the initial period. This was a very difficult period for me because almost every community activity that I attended the other sister was also there. Although I tried to conceal my feelings in public, at home is where I let most of my pain and hurt show.
Initially I did not completely comprehend how long and tiresome the journey in polygamy would be. Fortunately Allah blessed me to have spurts of energy filled with generosity and kindness towards the other sister in the beginning. I am not saying that there were not times that my feelings of anger and resentment did not come through. There were certainly times that I behaved in a way that I would not consider appropriate as a Muslim sister. But over all when I consider the intensity of the feelings that I felt at that time, and compare that with how I interacted with the sister, I conclude that my actions were generous indeed, by the mercy of Allah.
I had asked for a “divorce” several times from my husband. This was done during the earlier periods of my difficulty with polygamy. That is not to say I do not think about divorce even now. The pain, turmoil and unfathomable adjustment just seemed too difficult to bear. I can see the wisdom in divorce not being in the hands of the wife. I knew inside that I really didn’t want it. I just wanted my husband to feel my pain and anguish and I wanted the hurt to go away. When thinking about the hardship of polygamy a sister must keep in mind that Allah Most High knows His creation better than the creation knows itself. He knows why He has made the lawful, permissible and the forbidden, impermissible—even if we do not. He knows the emotional disposition of the woman, for He created her. He could have made her character different if He had chosen to. Although it may be hard or almost impossible for a first wife to see the wisdom of polygamy for the first wife, she must suffice it to believe that Allah is sufficient to maintain her affairs. And she must put her trust in Him.
One of several recourses some sisters take in response to their pain is going into seclusion. This seems to be the road I have taken. I am not necessarily recommending this for anyone, but it is a choice. Even though I was somewhat shy in the past, polygamy presented so many emotional and social conflicts for me in public that being a hermit seemed a reasonable solution. I call it being a hermit. Some may see staying home a lot as a positive Islamic characteristic for Muslim women. Everyone is different, and everyone has different needs. People are inclined to various coping mechanisms, and everyone has a unique personality type.
I found myself growing less sociable as time went by. I would often sit by myself when in public reflecting on and contemplating my situation. I would sit staring straight ahead in thought. Once when I was sitting in a waiting room while visiting the doctor, someone made the comment to me, “You look like you just lost your husband”. Apparently the anguish in my face was so obvious. It is interesting how this person chose to describe my expression, because polygamy is a loss—a loss of so many things. It is a loss of social status, a loss of being the sole affection of your husband, a loss of normalcy in one’s life pattern and to some degree, yes, a loss of your husband himself.
My depression led to daily, and I mean daily, crying spells. I spent so much time in my room lying in bed that I still today regret that I was unable to give my children much of the attention they needed at that time. I can see how an extended family of grandparents and aunts would have been a great benefit to them in order to fill the void, and Allah knows best.