Some aspects of polygamy
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Question: As-Salamu alaikum, I have some questions concerning polygamy:

a) Can a husband if his wife doesn’t obey him, threaten her that he would take second wife?

b) Can aman take a second wife secretly from the first wife and their relatives?

c) If the person married and only then told a woman that he already has the first wife, may she ask a divorce on the basis of this fact (that her husband concealed from her a certain fact till a marriage)?

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Answer:

Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakaatuh

a) It is not appropriate for the husband to threaten his wife in this manner. The couple should work towards maintaining a harmonious relationship where there is mutual compromise and cooperation between the two of them. The ideal marriage is the marriage in which there is no need to threaten to be obeyed. The love and bond in the marriage should be to such a level where both husband and wife constantly seek to please each other.

Yes, if the husband is fulfilling the rights of the wife and treating her correctly but despite this, she refuses to obey him or fulfill his rights, it will be permissible for him to take a second wife.

b) It is strongly discouraged for a man to take a second wife without first consulting and informing his first wife. If a man wishes to take a second wife, he should first broach the subject with his first wife and see if she is agreeable to the idea. If she is, well and good. If she is not, he should rather desist from taking a second wife and he should dedicate more attention to his first wife unless his rights are not being fulfilled by the first wife. If she is not fulfilling his rights, he may then take a second wife as indicated above.

Taking a second wife without the knowledge of the first wife usually leads to serious negative consequences later on. A second marriage can be kept a secret for only so long; but eventually, the first wife will come to know about it. And her coming to know about it later on without the husband being the first person to inform her will definitely hurt her feelings. It makes no sense to make a new marriage at the expense of ruining a subsisting marriage.

Some men are quick to proclaim that it is Sunnah to take more than one wife, but they fail to view the process holistically. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and the Sahabah did not go behind their wives’ backs and married in secret. They consulted their wives and informed them and in some cases, their wives had actually taken the proposal of marriage to the co-wives. It should also be borne in mind that when a man takes a second wife, both wives must be treated equally. The Qur’an has made this very clear and has stipulated equality and justice as a precondition for marrying more than one wife. Allah says in the Qur’an:

 

وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَى فَانْكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُمْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَى وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَلَّا تَعُولُوا

“And if you fear that you will not do justice to the orphans, then marry the women you like, two, three and four. But if you fear that you will not maintain equality, then (keep to) one woman, or a bondwoman you own. It will be closer to abstaining from injustice”. (Surah an-Nisaa’, Verse: 3)

Mufti Muhammed Shafee (Rahimahullah) states in his commentary of the Holy Qur’aan:

From here we find out that having more than one wife is permissible and appropriate only on condition that equality can be maintained amongst all wives as required under the Shariah of Islam and that the rights can be duly fulfilled. If one does not have the capability to discharge his obligations in this manner, the rule is to keep only one wife. As stated earlier, the injustice of multiple marriages during Jaahiliyyah without any consideration of rights of wives had made a mockery of this field of human relationship. So the Qur’anic command was: If you are unable to do perfect justice between wives, then restrict yourself to no more than one…. (Ma’ariful Qur’aan, Vol: 2, Pg: 310/311).

c) If the husband gave her the impression that he is unmarried and she (the second wife) married him on this assumption; and she thereafter found out that he is married, she has every right to ask for a divorce because he had deceived her into the marriage. 

And Allah Knows Best

Mufti Suhail Tarmahomed

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