If a husband opts for a second marriage and looks after the first and second wife equally, will it be sinful or unjust for the first wife to ask for khula from the husband, just because it hurts her and she cannot find peace in her heart because of the second wife?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Having more than one wife is permissible and appropriate only on condition that equality can be maintained among all wives as required under the Shari’ah of Islam, and that the rights of all can be duly fulfilled. If one does not have the capability to discharge his obligations in this manner, the rule is to keep to only one wife.
Allah Ta’ala in the Qur’an has permitted having up to four wives in marriage which means that marriages entered into within this limit will be correct and permissible. But, under such a contingency, that of having more than one wife, it will be obligatory (wajib) to maintain justice and equality between them.
The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alahi wa Sallam) has laid great emphasis on maintaining full equality and justice between all wives and he has given stern warnings against those who do otherwise. Above all, he has demonstrated the ideal example through his own conduct, treating his wives equally even in matters in which equality is not mandatory.
Advice to Brothers Intending to Take a Second Wife:
It should be understood that it is very painful, difficult, and traumatic for women, especially in those societies where polygyny is hardly practiced, to accept their husbands taking another wife. The influence of alien culture has so strongly overwhelmed them that there is not only a fear of ruining their marriages but also a chance of them losing their Imān. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that this matter be approached correctly and dealt with caution, care and diplomacy. Before thinking of a second marriage consider the following:
- Consider the responsibility which comes along with a second marriage.
- Reflect whether you can fulfil the sharʿī obligations of both wives in a fair and just manner.
- Seek advice from your local ʿulamā and senior members of his family and community.
- Seek advice from those already in a polygamous marriage.
- Be able to adjust your routine and daily schedule.
- Make all arrangements to ensure all wives receive their rights.
- Possess and foster a strong emotional state of mind to be able to handle the sensitiveness of all wives.
- Never contemplate polygyny as an experimental exercise.
- Never consider polygyny to spite the first wife.
- Take note that the permission of polygyny should not be abused.
- Take into account the feelings and sentiments of the first wife and endeavour to provide every reassurance, support and comfort to her.
- Be understanding, tolerant, caring and patient towards the first wife who is facing a most tumultuous period in her life that could cause her to have bouts of irrational behaviour from time to time.
- Consider the impact it will have on one’s immediate family and what measures there are in place to support them through possible turmoil.6
- Consider the law of the country one is residing in. Consult with an upright and experienced Muslim lawyer regarding one’s options.
After deliberation, if the costs of the impact on the wife and the immediate family, as well as the financial and emotional tolls on the husband are too great, the decision of a second marriage could be reconsidered as not right for one’s particular context.
Advice to a Woman whose Husband Seeks a Second Marriage:
A husband intending a second marriage could be very challenging for a woman, and potentially have disastrous consequences. Regardless, it is up to an individual what she wants to make out of it. Allāh Taʿālā does not burden his slaves with that which they cannot bear. Depending on the way she responds to her husband’s intentions of a second marriage, so shall the outcome be. If she responds positively, the husband’s second marriage could prove to be fruitful for her as well. We all know the busy and hectic lives women lead. From caring for the husband’s needs to the children, doing the household chores and her personal needs. A co-wife could prove to help and assist in her having more time for herself and her children.
Below are few ways in which a woman could respond to her husband’s intentions:
- She becomes angry, upset and is beside herself with rage, to the point of acting violently against others and herself. She threatens to leave him and abuses the custody of the children. In short, she simply creates a host of complex problems.
- She is all the above but does not leave him. Instead, she puts up a fierce resistance, creating clamorous unrest in the lives and home of her family.
- She accepts the situation begrudgingly. She does not display her anger, but rather gives the impression that all is well. This stored anger then drives her to act maliciously by placing various obstacles in the husband’s life.
- She is naturally upset, but takes it positively turning to Allāh Taʿālā, asking His assistance. She also encourages her husband and co-operates with her co-wife. Shaitān will most definitely bombard her with evil thoughts and feelings. However, by being patient and turning to Allāh Taʿālā, He will most definitely help her.
Islaam has clearly permitted a man to take more than one wife on condition he maintains equality with all his wives. In the enquired situation, if the husband is treating both wives equally and fulfilling the rights of both, it is not proper for the first wife to ask for Khula’ and divorce due to her emotions.
While such hurt by the first wife may be a natural emotion and out of a person’s control, continue to make lots of Dua. The hearts are in Almighty Allah’s control. He is the only One who is capable of bettering our situations. Have conviction that one is being rewarded tremendously by Allah Ta’ala for the difficulties you are undergoing. By observing patience and placing one’s trust in Allah, Allah Ta’ala will grant one a life full of happiness and bliss.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best.
Mufti Arshad Ali
Darul Iftaa, Jaamia Madinatul Uloom (Trinidad)
 Distributive justice between co-wives as Prescribed by The Sharīʿah
Compiled by Mufti Muhammad ibn Suleman Chothia