Under what conditions, if any, can a Muslim have more than one wife?
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Question No. 9871 : Under what conditions, if any, can a Muslim have more than one wife?
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Condition of Polygamy
In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad (saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 4 Surah Nisaa verse 3:
And if you be apprehensive that you will not be able to do justice to the orphans, you may marry two, or three, or four women whom you choose. But if you apprehend that you might not be able to do justice to them, then marry only one.
The one and only condition Allah Subhanah has laid upon the believers who wish to practice polygamy is that they deal fairly and justly between their wives, especially with their time allotment and in the providing of their sustenance. If one chooses to utilize the option bestowed upon them by the Lord Most Merciful to practice polygamy, but inclines or favors one of his wives in such a way so as to leave the other wife hanging (ie. neither does he divorce her, nor does he allot equal time to her, nor does he provide equal sustenance to her, etc.); the Messenger of Allah (saws) warned that such a person will have a severe accounting in the Court of The Majestic Lord on the Day of Resurrection.
Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 2128 Narrated by Abu Hurayrah
The Prophet (saws) said: When a man has two wives and he is inclined to one of them, he will come on the Day of resurrection with a side hanging down.
Other than the condition of dealing fairly, justly and equally between the wives, there are absolutely no conditions or restrictions for a believer if he wishes to utilize the option of marrying more than one wife, upto a maximum of four wives at any one time. The truth of the matter is that, no matter how hard one tries, it is so difficult to be fair and just between ones wives, that Allah Subhanah has Himself declared this nature of man in His Glorious Quran.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 4 Surah Nisaa verses 129-130:
129 Ye 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)! If ye come to a friendly understanding and practice self-restraint Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.
130 But if they disagree (and must part or divorce) Allah will provide abundance for all from His all-reaching bounty: for Allah is He that careth for all and is Wise.
It is only natural that, just as one has a favorite friend amongst his friends, or one favors or loves ones own brother or sister or uncle or aunt more than the other, or one has a favorite child amongst his off-springs, etc.it is only natural that if one has more than one wife, he will obviously be more attached to or have a favorite one amongst them. As long as one is fair and equal in the allocation of ones time and resources, and tries his level best to fear Allah and be as fair and just as much as he can amongst them, it is expected that he will not be held to blame in the Court of Allah Subhanah.
Even the Prophet Mohamed (saws) had a favorite wife (Hadrat Aisha), and although he (saws) was absolutely and exemplarily fair and just amongst all of them, he (saws) would constantly supplicate Allah Subhanah to not hold him accountable for the condition and inclination of his heart!
I take this opportunity to declare that all the other conditions and restriction one hears regarding the permissibility of polygamy in Islam; like one needs permission from the first wife to marry another, or one can only marry another if he has no children from the first wife, or one can only practice polygamy in the cases of war, etc. are absolutely all self-invented and man-made and have absolutely nothing to do with the guidance of Allah and His Messenger (saws). The one and only condition that Islam has declared if one wishes to practice polygamy upto a maximum of four wives, is that one must be fair and just amongst them.
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me alone. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your brother and well wisher in Islam,