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Taking a second wife in Islaam.

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Fatwa-TT.com

On marriage of a man to more than one wife. I know it is a very tricky and difficult matter. When a man has more than 1 wife must he provide, separate living quaters or home.
Must he be equal in all things, example food, clothing, shelter, and intimate relations. Is he allowed to live for 5 months with one wife and leave the other alone without any financial or family support. I’ve read that the prophet was allowed to interchange his wives as he pleases. But not so for anyone else.  The men are always anxious to have more women yet allow Islamic rule and guidelines to fall along the way. How does the other wife not get depressed or lonely from being left alone.


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

On the outset, Islam did not introduce polygyny but permitted it and remedied the ills and abuses around it. The Hindus, Babylonians, Persians, Athenians, Jews and pre-Islamic Arabs recognized no limit to the number of wives a man could marry. Islam limited and restricted it in number; and hedged it with severe restrictions. Nowhere in the Shariah is polygyny condemned or discouraged, but neither is it an obligatory commandment enjoining men to take multiple wives. Coupled with this permission is the emphatic command of justice and equality, financially and physically.

Only one wife is allowed where injustice is likely.

Allah Ta’ala says in The Qur’an after allowing up to four wives:

فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ

‘But, if you fear that you will not maintain equity, then, (keep to) one woman, or a bondwoman you own’ (4:3).

From here we find out that 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. As stated earlier, the injustice of multiple marriages during Jahiliyyah without any considerations 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 wife.

The outcome (to be seen as a whole) is that the Qur’an has permitted having 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.

Doing otherwise is a grave sin. So, anyone who thinks of having more than one wife should first think about all those factors and conditions around him and, more importantly, look into himself, introspect, weigh, deliberate and figure out realistically whether or not he has the ability, or the capability or quality to treat all of them equally and justly without causing the least infringement of their rights. If strong likelihood exists that one will not be able to come up to the standard and most probably will fail to maintain such justice and equality, then, having the audacity to go ahead and step into the bonds of more than one marriage is really a thoughtless plunge into a grave sin. One must stay away from doing something like this and consider living with only one wife as sufficient.

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.

In a hadith, the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alahi wa Sallam) has said: ‘Anyone who has two wives and he does not fulfill their rights equally and justly, shall be raised on the Day of Doom in a condition that one of his shoulders will be drooping down.’ (Sunan Abi Dawud 2133)

We should, however, keep in mind that this equality of treatment is necessary in things which are within the control of man. For example, the coverage of personal expenses and parity in overnight stays. As for things out of man’s control, such as. the natural inclination of his heart which might tilt towards one of them, there is no accountability there for this is not a matter of choice. However, the binding condition is that this tilt should not affect matters which are within man’s control. Our noble Prophet, may Allah bless him for ever and ever, treated his venerated wives with full equality in everything within his control, yet he pleaded with his Lord:

‏ اللَّهُمَّ هَذَا فِعْلِي فِيمَا أَمْلِكُ فَلاَ تَلُمْنِي فِيمَا تَمْلِكُ وَلاَ أَمْلِكُ ‏

O Allah, this is my equalization’ in what I control. So, do not hold me accountable in matters You control and I do not. (Sunan Ibn Majah 1971)

Allah Almighty so honored the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alahi wa Sallam) that he was exempted from observing equality between his wives but the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alahi wa Sallam) never availed of this concession in practice; he always maintained full equality between all his blessed wives. According a narration, from Sayyidah A’ishah (Rahiallahu Anha) and reported by Bukhari, if the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alahi wa Sallam) had to postpone his visit to any of the blessed wives at her turn, for some reason, he would seek her permission even after the revelation of the verse wherein he was exempted from observing equality between his blessed wive[1]s.

Thus, it is absolutely clear that the Shari’ah commands a man to be equal between wives, and it is totally Haram to leave a wife without financial and family support. It is most unfortunate to hear the mentioned despicable conduct of certain men today, as such actions and Haram, and such individuals will have to answer to Allah Ta’ala for their wrong doings.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Mufti Arshad Ali

Darul Iftaa, Jaamia Madinatul Uloom (Trinidad)


  1. Maarif us Sunnan

This answer was collected from Fatwa-tt.com, which is operated by the Darul Iftaa of Jaamia Madinatul Uloom (Trinidad and Tobago) under the advice and guidance of Mufti Ebrahim Desai (Daamat Barakaatuhum) of South Africa.

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