Conditions for polygamy in Islam

Additional suggested reading: Polygamy in Islam: What It Means?

Author: Zainab Qadri

Here are some conditions for the practice of polygamy in Islam.

1. Justice or fairness.

The Quran says:

“And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (slaves) that your right hands possess. [al-Nisa’ 4:3]

“but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice”

This aayah is indicates that just treatment is a condition for plural marriage to be permitted. If a man is afraid that he will not be able to treat his wives justly if he marries more than one, then it is forbidden for him to marry more than one. What is meant by the justice that is required in order for a man to be permitted to have more than one wife is that he should treat his wives equally in terms of spending, clothing, spending the night with them and other material things that are under his control.

2. The ability to spend on one’s wives:

The evidence for this condition is the verse:

“And let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allaah enriches them of His Bounty” [al-Noor 24:33 ]

In this verse Allah commands those who are able to get married but cannot find the financial means, to remain chaste. So also, if you cannot afford the cost of a second wife dont dabble into it or attempt it.

3. Seperate Quaters

If a women wishes to stay seperate from the other wife it is permissible. Each wife has the right to her own, separate accommodation as prescribed in Islam. It is not permissible for the husband to force his wives to live together in one house.

It should be noted that polygamy protects the interests of women and children in society. However, technically a Muslim husband may take on a second wife without the consent of the first (although the ethics of this executive decision-making can be debated), but it is also perfectly within the rights of a Muslim wife to stipulate in her marriage contract that her husband must seek her counsel and consent before taking another wife and if he fails to, it constitutes valid and legal grounds for separation and/or divorce.

This is the sort of pro-active, pragmatic approach a woman must take if she plans to enter into a polygamous marriage, but most Muslim women do not insist on putting these sorts of key protective mechanisms in place before signing their name to the paper.

Muslim women tend to be unaware of their rights in a polygamous marriage, while men are usually ignorant of their responsibilities. According to verses two and three in the fourth chapter of the Qur’an, polygamy in Islam is permitted in the context of social welfare, so this arrangement is less about demanding rights from one’s wives and more about treating them with special care and consideration.

Yet, many Muslim men use this so-called “right” to multiple wives as a means to excuse themselves from the monogamy that Islam actually implores of them in favor of polygamy.  This sort of self-serving attitude leaves many women in these unconventional unions in a state of neglect, emotional distress, and without the comfort that Islamic marriage is supposed to provide.

RELATED: Why Polygamy is allowed in Islam 1

My hope in contributing to this discussion is that more Muslim women, whether considering polygamous marriage or already in such a relationship, take a close, hard look at their God-given rights within these unions and assert these privileges to ensure that they are as happy and as gratified as possible in their marriages.