She looked calm and composed when her husband introduced her to the public as his wife. His second wife.
All eyes turned towards her. Some accusing. She didn't even flinch. A slow smile appeared on her face as her husband started to talk about his two families.
I wondered how she managed it, returning the looks of the public with such calm composure. No fear. No embarassment despite some accusing looks given by the ladies of the audience. She just sat on the chair at the back of the hall looking replescent in her pink baju kurung and red tudung.
Later she whispered to me,"He gave me a surprise. He had it planned. There was no warning. I don't blame him, instead I'm proud of my husband for daring to come forth and being honest about it. Not many husbands in polygamous marriages dare to do so. I hope I looked fine just now."
I assured her that she was. In fact she looked great.
Another sister approached her.
"Gosh, you look so young. How do you maintain your youth, kak?"
She smiled. "Jangan cepat marah (Don't get angry easily)"
"How to be happy being a co-wife, kak?"
Again she smiled. "Sentiasa bersangka baik dan berlapang dada, dik (Always think well of people)"
The sister looked interested to know more about life as a second wife. I wonder why. We've just known each other for a short time. I listened as the sister asked her the secret of a happy polygamous marriage.
"Alhamdulillah my husband plays his role well. He's a good leader and I'm glad for his leadership. We learn to manage ourselves and our emotions better. Learn to be unselfish and willing to share. If Allah wills that we are to share responsibilities as wives of our husbands, then perhaps it's something He wants us to learn from in this temporary world. That our husbands don't belong to us; he belongs to Allah. That we shouldn't depend on our husbands as the source of happiness or sadness; instead we love because of Allah. I'm happy being his wife. We live as good Muslims, live life as prescribed in Islam. Frankly, I'm not bothered about what the narrow-minded public think of me as a second wife."
"What about the first wife?"
"Oh, kakak (the first wife) is a good woman. She can't come because she's busy with other important matters at home. So maybe next time she'll be here instead of me."
We salam and parted as sisters in Islam.
In the car, Husband gave his opinion. "The Malay public despite being Muslims for centuries still harbour negative thoughts about polygamy. They are afraid of what people would say. Despite the fact that Rasulullah himself and his sahabat had polygamous marriages, they see it as something shameful. Even some religious ustazahs will create havoc if their husbands want to marry again. Blaming other people is easier and so much fun. People will accuse the first wife of being a bad wife, unable of taking care of her husband's needs. Never mind that she has been a good and is still an examplary wife. The husband will be accused of being gatal and philanderous; never mind that he prefers to have a halal relationship with another wife compared to some husbands who keep haram girlfriends and mistresses. The second wife will be accused of being a husband snatcher and a home-wrecker, although she could be a virtuous woman. It's as if only monogamous marriages are perfect and acceptable. These gossipers and malicious people are the ones who actually cause disharmony in otherwise happy marriages. That's sad but true."
I nodded in agreement.
"Well, if I were the wife, I'd thank the gossipers and accusers for giving me their good deeds for free. Why bother with what people say? Just concentrate on being a good Muslim wife to the husband. Think positively. I do find that some Malays are actually full of dengki. They don't like to see other people happy. They spread tales, instil jealousies and cause quarrels in otherwise happy marriages. They are the syaitan in disguise. Strange, even the Chinese don't indulge in so much gossips about other people. If you don't believe me dear, just compare the gossip columns in the Malay tabloids and Chinese newspapers."