Polygamy in Islam: When is it Permissible for Muslim Men

Polygamy in Islam

In Islam, a man is allowed to have up to four wives. This is justified by the reason that if there are widows, orphans, or other vulnerable women in society who require assistance, a wealthy Muslim man who can provide justice to each wife can marry up to four to help those in need. It is important to note that the practice of polygyny in Islam is conditional upon treating all wives with fairness, equality, and justice, In Islam, polygyny (having more than one wife) is allowed under certain conditions, but it is not allowed to be done solely for fulfilling one’s desires or without the ability to treat all wives equally. 

Releted: Polygamy in Hinduism

📖Quran 4:3
And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].

  • This verse from the Quran is addressing the issue of taking care of orphan girls, and it suggests a solution for those who fear that they may not be able to treat them justly. The verse permits men to marry women, up to a maximum of four, as long as they can treat them all equally and justly. However, if they fear that they cannot be just to multiple wives, they should only marry one or choose to be with those whom they already have a lawful relationship with, such as their female slaves or servants. The verse emphasizes the importance of justice and fairness in all relationships, including marriage, and encourages people to choose the option that ensures they will not incline towards injustice.

Footnote:

This guidance does not promote the taking of slaves. Rather, it acknowledges the reality that there were individuals who were already in a state of servitude and provides guidance on how to treat them justly. It is important to note that Islam encourages the freeing of slaves and emphasizes the humane treatment of all individuals, regardless of their social status. While slavery is now widely recognized as an immoral and illegal practice, if such a situation were to arise in the future, Islam would still provide guidance on how to treat individuals in a just and humane manner.

📖Quran 4:129
And you will never be able to be equal [in feeling] between wives, even if you should strive [to do so]. So do not incline completely [toward one] and leave another hanging. And if you amend [your affairs] and fear Allah – then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.

  • The text describes the meaning and context of Quran chapter 4, verse 129, which addresses men who have more than one wife in Islam. It highlights that the verse acknowledges that treating all wives equally in terms of feelings is impossible, despite a man’s best efforts. The verse advises men to avoid showing complete favoritism toward one wife and neglecting the other, instead encouraging them to strive to be fair and just in their treatment of all wives. The importance of fearing Allah and seeking His forgiveness and mercy in all matters, including marital affairs, is emphasized. The permission for polygyny is given by Allah as an option for those who can fulfill its conditions, including the ability to provide for and treat all wives fairly. Ultimately, the text explains that individuals can choose what is best for their personal circumstances while following the guidelines set forth by Allah.

Hadith on Helping the Poor and Widows

📖Sahih al-Bukhari 5353
The Prophet (ï·º) said, “The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah’s Cause, or like him who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day.

📖Sahih al-Bukhari 5353
The Prophet (ï·º) said, “The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah’s Cause, or like him who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day.

  • Helping widows and the poor can take many forms, such as providing financial assistance, donating goods, offering emotional support, or even marriage. While marriage can be a means of support for widows, it is important to note that it is a personal choice and decision that should not be made solely for the purpose of providing support. It is also important to respect the widow’s wishes and decisions regarding whether or not she wants to remarry.

📖Sahih Muslim 1419 a
The Prophet (ï·º) said, “A woman without a husband (or divorced or a widow) must not be married until she is consulted.

Second marriage in Islam: Do you need permission from your first wife

📖Quran 4:3
If you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one.

  • The passage “But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one” from this passage is suggests that a Muslim man cannot marry simply because he desires to. Instead, it is necessary for him to act with justice and fairness towards all parties involved. If a Muslim man is already married and considering a second marriage, he must first communicate with his first wife and tell her the reasons why he wants to marry again. If he knows that his second marriage will cause problems in his family, then going ahead with it would be an act of injustice, which goes against the teachings of this Quranic verse.

Do not marry a second wife, if first wife harmed

📖Sahih Muslim 2449 a
Miswar b. Makhramali reported that he heard Allah’s Messenger (ï·º) say, as he sat on the pulpit: The sons of Hisham b. Mughira have asked my permission to marry their daughter with ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (that refers to the daughter of Abu Jahl for whom ‘All had sent a proposal for marriage). But I would not allow them, I would not allow them, I would not allow them (and the only alternative possible is) that ‘Ali should divorce my daughter (and then marry their daughter), for my daughter is part of me. He who disturbs her in fact disturbs me and he who offends her offends me.
  • This hadith describes how the Prophet Muhammad expressed his concern for his daughter Fatimah and stated that he would not give permission for Ali ibn Abi Talib to marry the daughters of Hisham ibn al-Mughirah unless he intends to divorce Fatimah. The Prophet Muhammad mentioned that he is upset by what upsets Fatimah and harmed by what harms her. From this hadith, one can infer that Islam emphasizes the importance of considering the feelings and well-being of the existing wife/wives when a Muslim man intends to marry another wife. It encourages Muslims to be mindful of the potential harm that may be caused to the existing wife/wives and to avoid such harm.

Footnote

If a husband wants to do a good deed, such as providing justice to someone, and his first wife is not agreeing without any reason even after he has explained it to her, then the husband has the right to marry without her permission. However, it is still important for the husband to inform his family, friends, or the society that he is doing it for a specific and noble cause, to help someone.

Why Women are Often Not Allowed to Practice Polygamy

One of the reasons why polygamy is not allowed for women is the concern that it could lead to uncertainty regarding the paternity of the children born to the woman. In a polygamous relationship where a woman has multiple husbands, it may be difficult to determine who the biological father of the child is, which could lead to legal and social complications.