Educating the Silenced: Threads of Visual Culture in Domesticating the Wives in Malaysia

  •  Noraini Yusof    
  •  Esmaeil Zeiny    


As a very controversial issue in Islam, polygamy allows Muslim men to marry up to four wives. It has been told that the Quran encourages polygamy; thus, it is a part of Islamic Sharia. Many Muslim men practice it at their whim and they contend that they do so to follow the Sunnah. Amongst Muslim countries, Malaysia is one of those countries where polygamy is rife. To make it as an acceptable Islamic practice and a more common phenomenon, polygamy is favoritized and advocated through the mass media such as TV shows and newspapers. Although suffering agonizing experiences of being a co-wife, many Malay Muslim women cannot resist polygamy as they think it would be a rebuttal of religion. As a counter-argument of the seemingly happy images of polygamous marriages in Malaysia, this paper exhibits the vicissitudes of it through analyzing a documentary entitled ‘Four Wives – One Man’ and it demonstrates that the traditional interpretation of the Quran as regards to polygamy is in favor of patriarchy and cannot be appropriate. Utilizing the Contextualist interpretation of the Quran, this paper tries to educate the silenced women that polygamy is, indeed, not encouraged and questioning it would not mean disobeying the Quran.

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