Attaining justice in a Polygamous relationship

بســـم اللــه الرحــمــن الـرحـــيــم

▪️Attaining justice in a Polygamous relationship▪️

📩 Question:

The questioner says: How is justice [attained] between the second and first wife?

📝 Answer:

It begins with him spending three nights with the new wife as soon as he marries her; if she’s not a virgin, or seven nights; if she’s a virgin. And there is no allotment (sharing out days equally) between the two wives in this period, as proven by the Hadeeth of Anas ibn Maalik, may Allaah be pleased with him, who said: “[It’s] from the Sunnah [that] when a man marries a virgin he remains with her seven[nights], then [after those seven nights] he begins alloting. And when he marries a non-virgin he remains with her three[nights] and then begins alloting”.
[Reported by Bukhari and Muslim]

Then after this, the allotment begins with alternate nights (one night on, one night off for each) as was the practice of the Prophet ﷺ.

And the basis of allotment here returns back to nights. As for the daytime, then he remains with his wives according to his work schedule; he might have work on one of the wive’s turns, meaning he can only stay with her briefly and/or when his work permits. However, he’s not allowed to deliberately assign work on days belonging to one of them so as to avoid spending time with them.

He must not pursue this, rather it must be left to Allaah’s decree (i.e. whoever’s allotment the work coincides with). What’s more, during the daytime he should remain with the wife whose turn it is. But he’s allowed to make short visits to the other wife, be it the first or the second. So if he is with the first, he’s allowed to visit the second, and if it’s the second wife’s turn, he’s allowed to visit the first; a short visit in order to check up on them; for the Prophet ﷺ would visit his wives after ‘Asr (the late afternoon prayer) without engaging in any sexual intercourse – but merely to check up on them, without prolonging his visit ﷺ.

And it’s not permissible for the husband to have sexual intercourse with any of his wives within the [alloted time] day/night of the other, because this is one of her rights, so he’s not allowed to visit the latter [within the former’s allotment] and have sexual intercourse with her.

And it’s all the same, whether the allotment begins at nightfall; as was the practice of the prophet ﷺ, such that the daytime follows on from the previous [night], or whether the allotment begins after salaatul-fajr, such that the night follows on from the day. Both are permissible, although the preferred method is that of the prophet ﷺ; in that the allotment begins at nightfall and includes the day after.

It’s also permissible to start the allotment after salatul-dhuhr, when the sun reaches its zenith. In other words, each wife should be given the same allotment; one day and one night, or more than that, provided the two wives consent to that; like two or three nights each; this might be useful for him if his houses are far apart; he might [even] need to allocate more time. So in general, he should not add without consulting his wives.

Unless [coming to an agreement] is too difficult for him, in which case [he opts for something suitable], and there’s no harm; because this is also a form of justice, even if one of them disapproves. If it’s too difficult for him [to appease both], then the goal is to maintain justice, and justice is attained [by giving them equal time], whether it be two, three or more nights each. However, the allotment must not be extensive such that it brings harm to any of the women.

Furthermore, when one of the wives becomes sick, he must not go and have intercourse with the other wife, this is a mistake. It’s not permissible for you to go to the other wife because this one is unwell, rather you [must] remain with her on her night, consoling her upon her sickness, and in doing so she will become more cheerful. As for deserting her at this time and going to spend time with the other wife, then this is not permissible for you, rather this is a form of oppression.

Likewise, it’s not permissible for him to be crafty when it comes to allocating time; whereby he gives one less time than the other. So for example, the allotment ends with one of them, so he says, “lets start the allotment anew” [so it starts again from the one whose turn just ended]. This is another form of oppression.

Also, if he has to travel and leave his wives behind, then upon his return, he has to continue from where he left off. So if he travelled when this one’s turn came to an end, he has to start with the other one. And the main thing to take note of here is the nights. So if he set out before nightfall, the one whose night it was would not have had her full share, so when he returns he has to satisfy her share. So for example, if he stayed in his residence from Fajr to Asr, then unexpectedly he had to travel just before maghrib, he would have been with that wife throughout the day (i.e. From sunrise to sunset), nonetheless, nights carry more significance, so upon his return he has to spend a night with her becuase he owes her a night.

And if he intends to travel with one wife, even though both have already agreed to take turns in accompanying him on his travels, then he should still clarify to them the journey’s duration so as to avoid any injustices/unfairness. Because one journey might take longer than the other, hence, likely resulting in dispute. But if there’s mutual consent after knowing how long the journey will take, then there’s no harm. Although the preferred [method] in this matter is that of our Prophet ﷺ; drawing lots; he casts lots between them, and whoever comes out on top – he takes her with him.

And even if after spending a whole week with him, when they return, the winning wife goes back to her normal allotment, because that [time spent with him] was her fortune from the picking of lots.

If he sets out on another journey, he draws lots once more. The turn doesn’t automatically fall to the second wife; because the point of casting lots is not so that when he returns he gives the other wife the same as the first; so just because the first wife won the draw last time round, the next journey is automatically awarded to the other wife, No! Rather, the intent behind casting lots is so that it is repeated for every journey, and that once he returns, he resumes the allotment from where he left off. So if he set out on the turn of the accompanying wife, he resumes with her from where the allotment stopped.

Likewise, he has to maintain justice when buying clothes and food. But in terms of essential expenditure and clothing, each one is given in accordance to her needs; essential clothing like for example, if one of them doesn’t have enough to cover her ‘Awrah, or if one’s footwear becomes faulty, he buys her another pair. So all in all, the essential expenditure and clothing is in accordance to their needs. Equality is not required in this matter. For example, if one doesn’t have shoes and the other one does, he purchases a pair for the one in need, and he’s not required to purchase a pair for the other one, unless she too is in need. So each wife is given her essential clothing and spending needs accordingly.

Another example is if one of the wife’s garments becomes ripped, leaving her with only a dress or two and she’s really needs an extra garment, there’s no harm in him buying her an extra garment. This is not an issue of equality (i.e. he doesn’t have to now go and buy his other wife an extra dress aswell). And the same goes for any essential expenditures. For example, the first wife has four or five children while the other hasn’t except a child or two, here he would have to spend more on the first wife. There’s no doubt that he has to spend more accordingly. [Another example], one of them becomes sick and needs medication while the other is fit and healthy, this one can’t turn around and say, “You bought medication for her, so buy me fruits”!! She has no right to do so. And [the same] regarding home appliances and the like, so long as the need is urgent there’s no problem.

If one wife’s needs are met, he can buy essentials for the one in need.

As for nonessentials; surplus clothing and expenses – which are known as luxuries – including gifts, it’s incumbent upon him to observe equality. Justice must be observed with regards to surplus expenses spent on one’s wives, and the same applies to his children; [because the Prophet ﷺ said:] “Fear Allaah and treat your children equally”.

Also on Eid, people have become accustomed to [buying new] clothes, but this doesn’t mean it’s incumbent for the husband [to buy new clothes for his wives], unless the wife is in need. However, the norm is that he buys her clothes, especially if she wants some and she didn’t get any all year round; it’s recommended that he buys her clothes (in this case). But as far as it being (wajib) mandatory, then this is only if there’s a need; only then does it become wajib upon him.

Similarly, some husbands get treats from the market for one/some of his wives. It’s wajib for him to be treat them equally in this regard also.

And with regards to [hosting] guests, then it should coincide with whoever’s turn it is. He shouldn’t seek to always host them at [the home of] a particular wife, rationalising this by saying: “this one, mashallaah, has more endurance over hard work”. No, he shouldn’t seek this!

Also, with accommodation, what’s wajib upon him is as previously mentioned, i.e. Satisfying their [essential] needs. If it happened that he housed his first wife in a spacious accommodation, then afterwards he marries a second wife and houses her in a smaller accommodation, she would have no right to demand a more spacious house like that of the first; because she had that before her marriage.

And if one of them is a student of knowledge, there’s no harm in him taking her out in order for her to benefit other women in some of the surrounding areas – provided it’s not a travelling distance (Safar), and the time spent together would count towards her allotment. As for it reaching travelling distance, then he is not allowed to travel with her until lots are drawn [or after coming to an agreement with the rest of the wives]. So he can take her out to benefit other women on her allotted time provided it’s not a travelling distance, and this would count towards her turn. Furthermore, the intent in these excursions must not be for pleasure and enjoyment, but rather to benefit the people.

If the intent was for pleasure and enjoyment, he would have to take the other wife out on a suitable excursion, so that she too may enjoy herself likewise.

And if – after marrying a second – he buys gold or clothes for the first wife in order to appease her, then this is fine. There’s no harm in seeking to appease her in this case, because women – as is well known – become severely heartbroken when their husbands marry over them. So it’s good that he seeks to appease her through [gifting the likes of] gold or clothes. And it seems like if he does this early on and informs the new wife about it, she won’t be too fussed. But if he delays and seeks to appease her later on, the second wife will also demand her right to equality.

And all praise be to Allaah, and may peace and blessings be upon the messenger of Allaah, his family, his companions and those who follow him.

Translated by:
Abu Jabal Haidar Al-Haatimi

Click to subscribe:

Original Fatwa: