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Dealing with Co-wife

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Askmufti.co.za

Q: My husband has told me he wants a second wife. His reasons being that he needs somebody business minded to help him in the business, as I am not. He also wants more children, as I have had a tubal ligation done after my 3rd child because of medical reasons. He says he wants to do everything Islamically. But I somehow do not believe him. We are married now for 11 years, Alhamdulillah. I do everything a housewife and mother supposed to do for their family. I do everything my husband asks me to do. I look after my family well Alhamdulillah. He asked me 1st to help him out in the business. I am trying,but it is difficult to run a house, cook, clean, see to the children, etc. and help in the business. He says I am not a person of authority and he needs somebody like that to be in his business, and that’s why he wants a 2nd wife. Please help me to understand if his reasons are allowed in Islam. And I know that islam allows second wives, but how do I accept somebody else?

A: Although it is correct that a man does not require permission from the first wife to marry another, it is his moral obligation to inform her and his kids. The second wife and kids also inherit from the deceased husband just as the first wife and kids. Not knowing about the second family can cause confusion and denial at such a time and embarrassment, especially for the second wife and kids.

Before explaining the situation to the first wife, the man has to ascertain whether he is ready for a second marriage. Having a second wife is a great financial responsibility and there are Islamic dictates too that have to be fulfilled.

He has to compulsorily share the nights equally between the two homes unless one of the wives gives up this right. Even if she gives up this right, she still has the right to rescind her decision whenever she wishes.

If she agrees to forego this right even before marrying her, she can rescind her decision after marriage and the husband will have to oblige, notwithstanding the understanding and agreement before marriage. Sharing the nights is a right given by Shari’ah and she can call on it whenever she wants and it has to be fulfilled.

There has to be fairness in the treatment of the wives. It is essential that the person who wishes to take a second wife possesses Taqwa and is conscious of his Islamic duties. If he does not have Taqwa and is negligent of his Deen, he will bring more sin and harm upon himself because of the second marriage and will invite the displeasure and curses of both families. It is only Taqwa that will push him to fulfil their rights. It is not advisable for a person devoid of Taqwa to take a second wife.

If the criteria are found in the husband and he wishes to proceed in taking a second wife, the first wife should be explained the following:

In the Qur’aan Allah Ta’aala has in His infinite knowledge and wisdom, granted the male permission of keeping more than one wife.

The word Islam means ‘total submission’ to the laws of Allah. The complete Shari’ah must be wholeheartedly and unequivocally accepted to qualify as a true Muslim. An integral part of the Shari’ah is the permissibility of a man taking more than one wife.

By marrying the other lady and thereby making her Halaal for himself, he has saved himself from sin, and this is commendable. These words will only have an effect on the first wife if the husband is a practicing Muslim. He should not use the Shari’ah to justify a second marriage whereas he is negligent in all other Islamic duties. 

She should resign herself to the fact that the other lady was written in his Taqdeer and no one could have prevented that and should not let this bother her. The husband must ensure her that he will fulfil her rights without decreasing any of the previous arrangements with the exception of time allocation.

It is natural for the first wife to become envious and annoyed but the husband should console and reassure her with exemplary character, forbearance and kindness. In due time, she will settle and become accustomed to the new setup.

May Allah Ta’aala grant ease, Aameen.

Moulana Yusuf Laher

This answer was collected from AskMufti.co.za, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Siraj Desai of Darul-Uloom Abubakr, South Africa.

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