Co-Wife Club

Co-Wife Club- Surah Yasin

“Be mindful of what lies ahead”….. Maryam pondered these words and considered what she had sent forward by way of deeds.  She thought of those things she had left behind.  By “things” she meant feelings that were hurt, people who were disappointed, friends who were let down.  One in particular was Tahira.

Maryam should have seen it coming, but as their relationship just happened, she “rolled with the flow”.  It was becoming more and more apparent that her husband, Habib,  was growing restless. He began hinting about taking another wife.  At the same time she met a sister, Tahira, who had just moved to the area and complained that she did not have any friends.  Being the outgoing person that she was, it was easy for Maryam to invite Tahira over regularly.  For the next two months Tahira spent most weekends at their home, and became very comfortable with them as a family.  Maryam could not deny the feeling of friendship that was growing between herself and Tahira.

Okay, so they were getting married, fine.  How did they all end up in the same house?! Maryam saw it coming, but it was never discussed outright. Right before Tahira and Habib left town to get married, Maryam was moving to another house just because their lease was over, and Maryam wanted more space than they had in the little apartment.

When Tahira and Habib returned from their honeymoon to Maryam’s house, Tahira was not just a visitor. Tahira would STAY there in her own room!  It was not too much of an adjustment, since they had been constant companions prior to the marriage.  But now that Tahira was a wife, she took more control over the running of the house.  She claimed the kitchen, which came with no opposition from Maryam, who was more comfortable with the “wardrobe management”.  (She made their clothes) Also Maryam did the food shopping.

Every morning after fajr salah the two sisters sat down to read surah Yasin. Each one took half and read in Arabic.  It seemed no matter how difficult the living situation became, praying and reading made the discomfort easier to bear.  Maryam did not dislike her sister Tahira, but she felt over time that each of their marriages did not have the full potential because of the lack of privacy.  Tahira, on the other hand depended on Maryam for support in how to deal with their husband.  Her insistence that everything in the home be “in its place” made the husband feel like he lived in a museum.  Although he liked the idea that Tahira cooked delicious meals he still sometimes wanted Maryam’s basic spaghetti.

The two sisters were seen in public at events like weddings and sister gatherings and classes.  Their beautiful garments were made with the same style, but different colors. They shopped together and went to classes and became known as the “twins”. They even had sisters come to the house for girl parties. It was a special time for the both of them.  Other women looked at them either with admiration or disdain. How they could cope with living in the same house seemed amazing to those looking on.  And since Maryam feared Allah, her family would not be the subject of conversation with other people. Any problem she had would have to be worked out among the three of them.

Maryam was such a helper to Tahira that when Tahira studied for her drivers license, Tahira asked Maryam for help because she was a more patient teacher than their husband.  For all that she did, though Tahira could not understand why sometimes Maryam had a mean face on the mornings that she and Habib decided to sleep in.  And if she had the nerve to show up (come downstairs) in one of his shirts that would just twist the knife!  Tahira reacted to Maryam’s face with stern questioning, which made Maryam guilty and even more sad at the entire situation.

Habib decided to let Tahira go, but Maryam begged him not to let it go that far.  She really did feel like she needed to take care of Tahira, who was 6 years her junior.  What a dilemma. Two sisters who need each other but not having a true sense of what would best allow each to blossom.  Maryam thought that by moving into her own house Tahira would have a chance at a relationship with their husband that was sincere, and not governed by what was acceptable to the whole. She  for one was ready to take up her relationship where it left off before they shared one house.

She did see her husband every day, but it was a lukewarm sight.  She dared not to run and hug him, because then Tahira would feel it necessary to do the same, and then she may even hug for longer.  Rather than have to face that, Maryam would choose to do nothing, but remember the days of happy home comings. If the two sisters were out together and the husband called Maryam, she felt it necessary to give the phone to Tahira. She would then say the required salaam and yes, we’re fine.  How awkward…

Maryam was wrong about many things.  She did not understand that Tahira needed to live as a group to feel validated and necessary.  She liked being part of a family. She liked telling Maryam and Habib how to dress and eat and just everything to do. It did not occur to her that her insistence that Maryam be happy with everything that came with sharing a husband made an unbearable burden on her sister. Tahira did not understand that when she complained about her husband that she was also complaining about Maryam’s husband, and therefore Maryam had to put a correction on it.  It was not taking sides as Tahira would accuse her of doing.  Maryam’s role as a Muslimah was obedience to Allah, which meant obedience to her husband and guarding his back.

Yes, Maryam did appreciate the kindnesses that were given like the dua that Tahira insisted that they read together after fajr to help Maryam cope, and the fact that they read Sura Yasin every day together. She appreciated the cup of tea that was offered as she sat at the sewing machine to make their next outfit for the upcoming event. She appreciated the companion in travel to visit non-Muslim family.  She did like having her around.  Why couldn’t they just get some space?  Apparently with Tahira and their friendship it was all or nothing at all.  Maryam did not get that memo.

Maryam did eventually move to her own house and even though the two sisters made a try at contacting each other, it became very clear after a month that things had changed completely. Maryam got the privacy she so wanted, but suddenly it felt like excommunication. There was no turning back.

Now here she sits years later with Sura Yasin open to this ayat. “Beware of what is before you and what is past so that you may be treated with kindness.” She can only beg Allah to forgive her past petty jealousies and times of impatience.   Maryam also made a dua that Allah forgive their short comings, accept their best intentions, and grant them reward for each letter they read together despite their differences, ameen.



Co-Wife Club

Co-wife Club- the Phone call

Maryam was busy as usual with school work when her phone rang.  The call was from a former co-wife. This was a bit unusual so she took the call.

“As Salaamu alaikum, sis! This is a pleasant surprise.  How are you?”  The answer came as a shock.

“I’m calling to tell you that your ex, brother Dawud just passed away last night,” came the voice on the other end.  Amina was the elder of the two wives when they were both married to brother Dawud, and Maryam always liked and respected her.  Now that the both of them were in new marriages they were friendly when the met in public and still felt a bond of sorts.

Amina had been in touch with their former in-laws, and had known of the illness.  Maryam, on the other hand, had completely dropped out of the “family” circuit. And that was best, because she had stayed married to Dawud many years longer than Amina, and had even gone through another two shared marriages after that. Yes, she was sad in a way, but no tears came.  Rather a general overall sadness at the finality of death.

Even after the marriage had seemed to just fade into nonexistence, there was a familiarity in Maryam’s mind that could have been understood to be love.  Amina didn’t stay on the phone much after delivering the news, but she promised to keep Maryam informed.  Her mind raced….. should she try to go to the janaza?  What would she say to the non-Muslim family  who had become so used to her presence at the family reunions, and holiday gatherings?  What about the Muslims who did not know or who would have found it hard to believe that they had actually divorced? Not those two who seemed so right for each other.  Not those two who showed people how to live with two women in the very same house for ten years?

Maryam  went to call just a few people who knew her and the former husband.  Her intention was to have them make dua, as they lived too far away to come to the janaza. She did not feel like talking, though, as the reality set in. There would be no accidental run-ins that would reveal the feelings of one to the other. Since this new marriage Maryam dreaded a chance meeting that might betray her true emotional state.  And now there would be no accidental anything. Was that a relief?

She still was not sure about the janaza, but was leaning away from going.  That other sister may be there and she may make a scene.  The last wife, the one who had shared living space for ten years was still very angry that Maryam had decided to move into her own house(?).  As uncomfortable as it was living together, it was harder to maintain the semblance of friendship after Maryam moved into her own house.  Actually she thought the space would allow each to grow with their respective marriage. They seemed to work well living together until Dawud lost his job and the sisters had to find work to pay bills and buy food.  Now there was “time by default” as Maryam called it in her mind.  She was relieved when Zainab drove away for her day shift.  The house was then all hers and Dawud’s. Likewise, Zainab felt a sense of calm as Maryam got ready for her second shift at the Census.  They both wondered when and how the brother would find work, but neither one wanted to upset the apple cart and be the “bad guy”, so things just went on and on until Maryam finally could not take the pressure.  How long was she going to see herself and the other sister work and wait on the promise of a major project that is “sure to pay off”?

Memories of the funny times and the sad times  went through Maryam’s mind for the rest of the day.  She made strong dua for his forgiveness and otherwise kept quiet about it. Since she was no longer the wife she did not have the right to “condolence” calls.

As it turned out, the janaza was held in a town more than two hours drive away, which was not feasible for Maryam to get to. Later that night Amina called to fill her in on the events of the day.  There had been many people there, and even “that one”.  Amina found out that she had been visiting Brother Dawud up until his passing.  So she got to see him last.  Maryam wanted to get an attitude but she kept it to herself. She knew they had broken up after she got her own house, but she did not know they maintained contact.? There would be many things that she would not know, and Maryam had to make up her mind that it’s okay. Having been the first wife in this case had given her the advantage  in many family decisions, and she had her husbands trust and confidence. That could have disadvantages, though, as when he talked about whether or not to marry someone else, Maryam had to put on her big girl pants and advise as an objective outsider.

Maryam spent the day of the janaza  away from the glances and whispers of  people who mean well, but can’t help but wonder at the outcome of such a long marriage. She was glad to be out of the view of people who take account of each glance and word spoken and gesture between herself and her former co-wife turned enemy through no fault of her own, and despite her attempts at apologies. She talked to Allah and begged forgiveness for her lack of patience with the financial and emotional shortcomings.

She looked at her new situation and realized the goodness that lay before her, and was content to let the past stay there.