Based on the author’s request, names and personal details are withheld to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
We are like a set of scales – the three of us, my husband, his first wife, and me as the weighing plates – because it is we who keep our husband in the balance!
In this way our happiness lies in each other’s good works, care and love and so is constantly reinforced, because a good wife protects her husband from wrong doing.
K has many names for me – all depending on what role she is playing. Sometimes I am her daughter, sometimes her sister, sometimes she calls me by my professional title, sometimes a scholar but always a friend.
I know whenever I achieve anything she will be the most proud of what her sister has done and so I always tell my husband “Please don’t tell K I want to tell her myself” because I love to see the joy on her face .
Like a child I want her approval and as a woman I want her to share my success as only another woman can understand.
We have many names for our husband too, when we talk about individual needs and rights, we say ‘My husband’; when we talk to family and friends he is ‘Our husband;’and when he is in trouble he is ‘Your husband!’
I wonder if there is something wrong in the way we are because it seems so unusual to love one’s husband’s other wife so much. But no matter how we try to formalize our relationship and protect it through distance, Allah brings us closer together.
My Father and My Husband’s First Wife
Here my father is our greatest supporter with the joy and happiness he feels at our sisterhood. Whenever we speak, he will always ask me first “How is your sister” and then “How is your husband?”
I am so proud of him, that in his old age he is able to support us in this blessed Sunnah in a way which no one except a father’s concern for his daughter’s happiness can understand and he tells me “She is also my daughter” and I feel so happy that he thinks in this way.
My father is always a just person, reminding us to be good to each other. He laughs out loud when I tell him my husband is in trouble with K because of something he has said to upset me.
My father always makes du`aa’ for my husband’s first wife. I feel it is his du`aa’ that has made this relationship so special. K believes this too because she regularly tells me she prays for my parents – as I pray for hers.
It is unusual for me to have a conversation these days without mentioning her.
Indeed, one day I was telling a friend that my husband was on holiday with my sister K; my friend was rather disturbed that I had allowed my husband to go away with my sister. I quickly explained she was his wife and my friend laughed shaking her head, “You talk about her so much I thought she was your actual sister I never realized she was your husband’s first wife!”
I have often just sat and watched K’s face while she is working or sharing her life with me or shouting at her children and I feel in awe of her. She is so careful and cautious, yet so carefree and relaxed. She is so focused, yet so impulsive. She is so thoughtful, wise and so concerned.
She is My Teacher
It’s true to say that she, along with many of my friends, has taught me how to be a wife and has protected my marriage as much as her own but within the appropriate boundaries.
She is possessive over me when I am upset, she encourages me when I want to do things in my life and she is severe with me when I want to give up – she is always there for me. I love whenever I make du`aa’ for her and her husband to be together in this life and in the Hereafter how she always says “With you.”
I have often wished that my mother – were she alive – could have met K and that I had known her when I was younger. Not because she is my husband’s other wife but because she is in herself a remarkable woman.
One day at a party K and I were talking and I was wearing a ring of my mother’s which I took off and gave to K, with tears in her eyes she took it and put it on her finger. I notice how often when I come to visit or we go out together she especially puts it on.
We Enjoy Freedom
Of course we are clear with our boundaries and we agree that we should each feel the freedom to be husband and wife within the boundaries of our religion.
Yes, we live our own lives, we have our privacy with our husband but we cherish our own sisterhood equally. We do our utmost to protect our relationship from our husband and friends as much as we do for our individual marriages.
Of course when we are together, we do not cross the Islamic boundaries of conversation about our personal relationship with our husband. Both practically and psychologically there is clear boundary.
The only sadness that K and I share is about those women who feel unhappy that we are so close, who feel threatened at our example fearing that if their husbands may see us happy, worry that they will also take their right and re- marry. This is the sad state of sisterhood for some Muslim women – who fear harm by their own lack of faith, so start the (co –wife) relationship by harming first.
They forget that while they have power over the other wife they lose respect in the eyes of their husband and clearly do not fear Allah swt. But K and I agree that a good friend is one who is happy when you do good whatever that is and no matter who it affects.
I could write many pages about all K has done for me. I was a stranger in the land in which I was married and I can not count all the times she has been there for me, all the times she has supported me against her own friends, all the times she has just cared, put her arm around me and wiped my tears and enjoyed my laughter.
I need only sneeze and she will send me a remedy for flu. I need only sound sad and she will come and see me or shout at my husband for me! I will only mention I am tired and she will volunteer one of her children to come and ‘serve’ me as she puts it. My husband and I call her Mudirah (Director) – a perfect title for her because with her energy and love she organizes us all..
When we were married I said to my husband that I hope when you marry me you will appreciate what a wonderful wife you already have and I hope that in my presence you will realize this about her – I think K has – without need and without doubt – proved this to be true.
I feel in many respects more fulfilled in my marriage because of her – as a woman she knows what women face, the challenges, the expectations and injustices and she is always there fighting my corner, no matter who the opponent.
She is in my mind throughout the day as we live our own lives and when I pray I wonder if she has prayed and when I clean I wonder if she is cleaning also and I picture her busy in her home all day with jobs and children.
She tells me when she prays she thinks the same and when she eats always sets aside some food for me before her husband and children to send to me when my husband comes. She does not know how many times she has had my heart’s du`aa’ for feeding me over the time we have known each other. Her reason is she says, because “I will have to account to Allah on the Last day for how I treated my sister.”
For me, this is Iman (faith).
It is truly a miracle from Allah when one wife can say that one of the greatest blessings of her marriage is her husband’s other wife.
May Allah bless My K., Allah protect her, raise her in honor, grant her endless peace and happiness with her husband and keep them both for each other; and most of all keep her for me.
First published: May 2013