Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by


I will like you all to explain in some detail on the toipc of polygamy.
Jazakallah in advance.


While instituting the laws of Marriage in Islam, Allah has granted an allowance to a man to have more than one wife at a time to a maximum of four and has outlined strict rules and injunctions upon the husband governing his wives in such a contract.

Allah states in the Quraan, “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 take only one.’ (4:3 Two important injunctions are evident from this verse:

1. Marriage to more than one woman at a time is only an allowance and a permission granted by Allah and it is not a command or an encouragement.

2. This allowance is conditional, which means that it can only be practiced if a certain condition is fulfilled, which is to deal justly with all of them. If a person cannot deal justly with all of them then it is the command of Allah that he must take only one wife (at a time).

It is therefore essential that if someone wants to take more than one wife:-

1. He should have sufficient resources to look after the needs of the additional wives as well.

2. He must do equal justice to all. Each wife must be treated equally with respect to the fulfillment of their conjugal and other rights. There must be equality of treatment in food, clothing and lodging. Therefore if a man cannot maintain equality, justice and fairness in all the above cases then it is not permissible for him to take more than one wife (at a time).

Allah informs us that maintaining equality and justice is indeed very difficult, He says, “You are never able to be fair and just between women even if it is your ardent desire but turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her hanging. If you come to a friendly understanding and practice piety, Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful. But if they disagree (and must part) Allah will provide abundance for all from His all reaching Bounty, for Allah is He that cares for all and is Wise.” (4:129-130) In this verse Allah makes it clear that you cannot deal equally with all of your wives however much you wish. Therefore, you are directed not to incline towards one so much that you leave the others in suspense.

There may be many factors on account of which it would be difficult for a husband to deal equally among all his wives. For example difference in temperament, appearance, education, family background, age, ability to look after the household affairs etc. may cause the husband to prefer one above the other. However, the husband must try his best to be balanced and afford them equal treatment in the things of which he has control. For the things over which he has no control like love and affection, even then he should not display by his outward behavior that he loves one wife and hates the other one. Aisha (R.A.) reported that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.) used to have turns among his wives and do justice. He used to say, “Oh Allah this is my division in what I can control. So don’t blame me in what You can control and I cannot control.” (Tirmizi, Abu Daud, Ibn Majah) The husband should not incline towards his favorite one and neglect that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.) said, “When a man has two wives and he does not deal equitably between them, he will come on the Resurrection Day with a side hanging down.” (Tirmizi, Abu Daud, Nasal).

A careful study on the subject would reveal that polygamy existed in the past nations and peoples. It existed in other religions, cultures and traditions and so it existed in the pre Islamic days. Islam did not institute polygamy, but instead controlled and limited it with restrictions and conditions. Ibn Umar (R.A.) reported that Gailan bin Salama accepted Islam while he had ten wives of the Days of Ignorance. They all embraced Islam with him. The Holy Prophet said, “Keep four and be separated from the rest!” (Ahmad, Tirmizi, Ibn Majah).

Naufal bin Muawiyah said, “1 accepted Islam while there were five wives with me. I asked the Messenger of Allah about it and he said, ‘Separate one and keep four!”‘

It should be understood that the only condition given, as Divine guidance for the permissibility of polygamy is that the man must be able to treat his wives equally and justly. There are no other conditions attached such as illness of the wife etc. However jurists and scholars have explained the wisdom underlying why permission was granted and how some cases it may be encouraged. For example:

1. In cases of Jihad (holy war) men are generally killed in large numbers. As such the number of men will decrease while the number of females will increase especially with regard to helpless widows and orphans. If polygamy is not permitted to support these two groups and also to bring unmarried women into the marriage bond, it would lead not only to economic misery of many families but also to immoral practices like prostitution, adultery, sexual anarchy etc. Such a social disintegration can be averted only if a man is permitted by law to have more than one wife.

2. The wife may be barren and the natural desire for progeny may lead the husband, who does not want to divorce the first wife but at the same time wants to have children, to contract another marriage.

3. The wife may be chronically diseased and unable to satisfy the sexual urge of her husband. In certain cases she may be able to perform the marital obligations but her fragile health may not withstand pregnancies and child births. Hence a second marriage in such a situation may become a necessity.

When a man has two or more wives then it is incumbent upon him to make an equal division of time with each of them and there is no distinction between the former wife and the new wife. It is not permissible for him to spend his time with a certain wife when that time was fixed for another wife. The division of time must be done with respect to his passing the night with a wife, in other words he must divide his nights while the day will be a follower of the night. In a case where a man performs his job at night then his division is with respect to the day.

The time of journey is not to be counted against the husband, this means that he is under no obligation, on his return to make up for the time lost within that period. During that period of journey it is the husband’s option to carry with him whomsoever he chooses. However it is preferable that he cause them to draw lots and takes with him on the journey whichever comes.

Islam, while giving the permission to a man to contract other marriages has also reminded him that he is accountable to Allah. As such a man should not take advantage of the permission granted and should try his best to fulfill the rights placed on him towards his family members.

And Allah knows best,

Mufti Waseem Khan

This answer was collected from, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.

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