Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
It is one of the foremost requirements from a man who has more than one wife to treat all his wives equally and justly. There are grave warnings mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah for oppressing, mistreating or not being fair with the wives. The Qur’an conditioned the permissibility of marrying more than one wife with justice and fair treatment.
Allah Most High says:
“If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, three, or four, but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one…(Surah al-Nisa, 3).
It is a grave sin to treat the wives unequally. Any man who wishes to take a second wife also has to meet the important condition of fair treatment of all his wives. The verse quoted above includes the command to treat wives equally, and anyone who is unable to do so should marry only one wife.
Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “A man who has two wives and he does not deal justly with them will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment with half his body paralysed.” (Sunan Tirmizi, no. 1141)
Equal treatment includes all social, economical and physical needs. It is very difficult for human beings to be completely fair, a fact which is recognised by the Qur’an:
“You are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: but turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air)... (Surah al-Nisa, 129).
The above verse alludes to the fact that, a man must be fair in his external treatment of his wives, in that he should spend equal time with all of them, spend out on them equally, etc. However, if his heart is inclined towards one or he has more love for one wife over the other, then that is not blameworthy, for it is beyond his control.
Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) would treat his wives equally and justly, and then say: “O Allah! This is my distribution according to my capability, thus do not hold me for what you own and I don’t (meaning, what is in your capability and beyond my means).” (Sunan Tirmizi, no. 1140, Sunan Abu Dawud, no. 3133 & Musnad Ahmad).
Imam al-Mawsili (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“It is mandatory upon a man to treat his wives equally with regards to spending the night….. A virgin, non-virgin, old, new, freed slave, Muslim and from the people of the book all have equal rights, and must be treated equally….. However, equality and fairness is not necessary with regards to sexual intercourse and love, for the former is based on agility and energy (nashat), whilst the latter (love) is the action of the heart.” (al-Ikhtiyar li ta’lil al-Mukhtar, 3/143).
A wife may even relinquish her right of spending the night with her husband and give it to her co-wife. It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) issued a revocable divorce to Sawda bint Zam’a (Allah be pleased with her). She requested the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) to take her back, and that she will allocate her turn (of spending the night) to A’isha (Allah be pleased with her), in order that she may be included among the wives of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) on the day of Judgment, thus the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) fulfilled her wish and took her back. (See: Mishkat al-Masabih, 2/966, no. 3237)
If a wife relinquished her right, then she has a right in the future to once again demand equality. Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“If a wife granted her right of companionship with the husband to her co-wife, then this will be valid, and she will have the right to reverse her decision in the future if she so desires.” (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 3/206)
Similarly, it will be permissible for the husband to remain more in the company of one wife with the express permission of the other, for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) sought the permission of his wives during his illness that led to his demise (maradh al-Mawt) in order that he remain in the house of Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her). His wives granted him permission, thus he spent his last days until he passed away in the house of A’isha (Allah be pleased with her). (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4919)
As far as travelling is concerned, one may travel with whom one wishes, although it is preferable to draw lots and travel in the company of the one whose name appears. The reason being, that, one may feel more comfortable with one wife than the other whilst travelling, or she may be more suitable in being a travel companion. However, the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was to draw lots and travel with the one whose name appeared. (Radd al-Muhtar, 3/206)
With regards to your specific question, you must explain to your husband about the necessity of equal and fair treatment, and the warnings of punishment for failing to treat the wives fairly. You have understood from the above explanation as to exactly what rights you have and what he must do. Get him to read this article also and remind him of the hereafter and the reckoning thereof.
You mention that, he keeps promising to move in your house although nothing happens, but you must remember that he can not completely move in with you also. He must spend one night with you and the other with his other wife. Both of you must be treated equally in all aspects.
Despite all attempts, if he fails to adhere to the injunctions of Shariah, then you may exercise patience, for which there is great reward. However, if the suffering is too much to bear, then you may refer your case to an Islamic council for the dissolution of marriage on grounds of oppression (jawr) and unfair treatment.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK
Marrying a second wife?
I asked whether the husband can marry without the first wife's permission according to the hannafi fiqh the males I know tend to think they can but i am not so any more... I didn't think they could but if they feel they can provide for the two does it make it ok for them to still go ahead without the first wife's permission? sorry I think I asked two questions jazak Allah khair.
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
The fatwa of major Arab and Indo-Pak scholars is that it is generally wrong and unwise in our times to marry a second wife, without consulting wise and knowledgeable scholars (even though it is in itself permitted), because of the harm and mess that inevitably results:
a) the harm to the first wife;
b) the troubles with the second wife when the first is upset;
c) the harm of not giving both their legal, emotional, and material rights;
d) the harm to family relations;
e) and, also vitally, the harm to one’s children…
Marrying another woman is not just a question of providing for both…
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