During the early period of Islam, this custom continued without being limited. As a result, men initially took too many wives to satisfy their greed. Later, they could not do justice to all of them and their wives lived like prisoners. It was the Quran that stopped this great injustice prevailing in human society at large. The Quran restricted the plurality of wives by declaring that keeping more than four in marriage is unlawful. Furthermore, to treat any of them unfairly will also be unlawful. Allah says:
وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَىٰ فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ ۖ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَلَّا تَعُولُوا
“If you fear that you will not be just with orphans, then marry those who please you among women, two or three or four. If you fear you will not be just, then one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not commit injustice.” (Surat al-Nisa 4:3)
Marriage is a reciprocal relationship of love and mercy; it is not based upon men dominating their wives or treating them like disposable commodities. If men violate the terms of their marriage contract, the marriage can be annulled. One will surely call upon himself worry and distress. The rights of several wives are so delicate that not all can comprehend them. Allah says:
وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَىٰ فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ذَٰلِكَ أَ
“And if you fear that not you will be able to do with the orphans, then marry what seems suitable to you from the women two, or three, or four. But if you fear that not you can do justice then (marry) one or what possesses your right hand. That (is) more appropriate that you (may) not oppress.” (Surah Nisaa 4:.3)
Marriage isn’t a joke so you have to consider the pros and cons very carefully. If you are afraid to your 1st wife would divorce you over it, well that is her right because she believed to be going into a monogamous marriage with you so in her eyes it will be a full betrayal. Besides this, the rulings of the jurists in this regard are very difficult to abide by. Allah says:
وَلَن تَسْتَطِيعُوا أَن تَعْدِلُوا بَيْنَ النِّسَاءِ وَلَوْ حَرَصْتُمْ ۖ فَلَا تَمِيلُوا كُلَّ الْمَيْلِ فَتَذَرُوهَا كَالْمُعَلَّقَةِ ۚ وَإِن تُصْلِحُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا
“You will never be able to be just between your wives, even if it is your ardent desire. Do not incline to one of them and leave the other neglected. If you are righteous and fear Allah, then Allah is ever forgiving and merciful.” (Surat al-Nisa 4:129)
The great responsibility, and trial, of marrying additional wives was emphasized again in the same chapter, stating that it is impossible for a man in his heart to love two or more wives equally. If you can do justice between both the wives then there is no prohibition from the Shariah. However, it will be advisable in these times to have one wife. Allah says:
إِذَا كَانَ عِنْدَ الرَّجُلِ امْرَأَتَانِ فَلَمْ يَعْدِلْ بَيْنَهُمَا جَاءَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَشِقُّهُ سَاقِطٌ
If a man has two wives and he is not just between them, he will come on the Day of Resurrection with one of his sides collapsed.” (Sunan Al-Tirmidhī 1141)
In Islam, marriage is a solemn contract for which the Shari`ah lays down rules and arrangements to guarantee its stability. Though Islam permits a man to have more than a wife, it stipulates that certain conditions are to be met in this regard, for Islam’s main focus is on building a stable marital life.
Moreover, if you think you will be able to do justice between your wives then the following rulings must be adhered to:
- It is wajib to be just and equitable to each wife in giving maintenance, allowance and being friends with them but not in sleeping together.
- If he treats them equally in sleeping together, kissing, etc. then it is mustahabb though not wajib.
- As for the gifts which are not necessary, it is wajib to dispense justice in the view of Imam Abu Hanifah (RA).
- When the man proceeds for a journey, he may take any of his wives along. But it is better if he draws a lottery to choose one.
- It is essential to give a separate home to each wife. One is not allowed to compel both to stay in the same house.
- However, if both are willing then it is allowed to keep them together for as long as they are willing.
- It is not proper that while he begins one wife’s turn after Maghrib, he begins another’s after Isha.
- Similarly, it is not proper to stay at both places for some time during one night.
- Equality is not wajib for visits during the day. Rather, short visits are enough.
- Or, if he goes to one wife for some purpose then to it is proper.
- It is not proper to have sexual intercourse with a wife during the day if it not she turn that night.
- It is the husband’s prerogative to determine the length of the time
- But it should not be prolonged to such an extent that the other has to endure the wait, for instance, a year each.
- If a husband stays at one home during his illness then on recovery he must stay as many days at the other home.
- Also, if a wife is seriously ill then there is no harm in staying at her home to attend to her. However, these days too should be redeemed.
- One wife may give her turn to another. She can take it back when she likes it.
METHOD OF LIVING WITH TWO WIVES
The pattern for the husband
- He should not disclose the secret of one wife to another.
- He should lodge them separately each having her meal at her place.
- He should not complain to one wife about another.
- He should not praise one before another.
- In short, neither should be mentioned before another nor listen to one speak about the other.
- He should politely decline to tell a wife about another if she asks him about something.
- He should not let any of them doubt that he gives more to one than to the other. Rather, he should declare it.
- He should not try to please any of them claiming to love her more than the other.
- He should not look for an opportunity to say that the other wife praised her.
The pattern for the first wife
- She should not be jealous of the new wife.
- She should not taunt her.
- She should bring herself to treat her with kind manners so that even if she has not to love, she does not harbour hatred either.
- She should not display such informality with her husband in the presence of the second wife as he might not like it lest the new wife also becomes rude to him.
- She should not mention the defects of the new wife to her husband, for no one likes his beloved to be criticized, particularly by her competitor, a co-wife.
- She should treat the new wife in such a way that she (the new wife) does not ever argue with her.
- She should obey and serve her husband more than ever before so that she does not lose esteem in his eyes.
- If her husband falls short of giving her rights to her and she can do without them then she should not speak of them. But if she finds it difficult to do without them then she should tell him politely when he is in a happy mood.
- She should deal with the relatives of the new wife cheerfully so that she respects her.
- She should surrender her turn to the new wife once in a while so that her husband might esteem her.
The pattern for the new wife
- She should deal with the first wife in a way one deals with one elder.
- She should not take much pride in her husband or think that she is his dearest. The first wife has an established relationship with him and the emotions for the new wife cannot displace them.
- If her husband gives her a separate home, she must pay occasional visits to the first wife and invite her sometimes.
- She should impress upon her husband not to neglect the first.
- If the first wife is strict or taunts her, she should excuse her and not complain to her husband.
- She should serve the relatives of the first wife.
- She should keep excellent relations with the children of the first wife to the extent that the first wife has a soft corner for her.
- She should seek the advice of the first wife in important matters for she has a good experience and this will bring them closer to one another.
Allah Subhanah, Who created everything in existence and bestowed on each its nature, Knows best the weaknesses and inclinations and the nature of each in His creation. Because in its inherent nature man has been created polygamous, when one amongst them who is already married chooses to exercise his option and decides to marry again, there is very little one can do to change his mind.
Thus the man who has made up his mind and desires another woman in addition to his wife is left with three basic options:
- Form an illicit and secret unlawful relationship with the other woman
- Divorce and leave the first wife and marry the other, or
- Keep the first wife, and marry the other as his second wife
A believer who wishes to exercise his lawful option of taking a second wife must indeed inform the new wife that he is already married, but there is absolutely no stipulation, condition, or restriction in Shariah Law that a believer who is already married and wishes to take on a second wife, must seek or have the prior permission of the first wife.
The only condition Islam lays upon the believer who wishes to exercise his lawful option of practising polygamy is to make sure that he does justice amongst his wives with his allocation of time and resources towards them. Allah says:
وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَن يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُّبِينًا
“It does not behove a believing man and a believing woman that when Allah and His Messenger have given their decision in a matter, they should exercise an option in that matter of theirs. For whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, has indeed strayed into manifest error.” (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:36)
Regardless of whether the husband chooses to inform his first wife before taking on a second wife or not, provided all the obligatory conditions of a nikah are fulfilled, his second marriage will be lawful in the Sight of Shariah Law and Allah Subhanah.