Question # 395: Asalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu. I am married with two wives the older wife have 5 children the youngest being 20 years we live in north America. I got married to a my second wife who lives in Africa. During my second marriage I did not tell my old family until after my marriage. My older wife if 34 years says that due to our financial condition there is no way she can accept this relation to go on therefore she is asking for divorce or I divorce the second wife. It is true we are somehow struggling financially but still I believe I can support and as time goes by hope change in our financial situation Insha Allah. Please advise as soon as possible. Wabillahi towfiq asalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: A husband taking a second wife should treat his wives equally, else he has been warned by Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) that such a person will come on the Day of Resurrection with half of his body leaning. Similarly, it is haraam for the wife to ask for divorce unless the husband falls short in his duties (including financial support) towards her, or causes her harm, in which case, she has the right to demand divorce. Under the given circumstances, it would neither be fair nor just for you to divorce either of your wives. It would be best if you would show extreme patience in these trying circumstances, and strive hard to gain financial stability. In due time, as you believe that your financial situation will change, your first wife will accept the situation as it is, and her resistance to your second marriage will disappear, In sha Allah. If after exerting all your efforts, you cannot become financially stable and feel that you will not be able to fulfill their rights, then you may resort to divorcing one or both of them. Also please refer to Question # 155: Marrying second wife and Question # 170: Splitting time between wives.
Long Answer: Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Quran: “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one.” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:3)
Hence, Allah has given the option and permission to the believing men, that if they wish to, they may marry and keep up to a maximum of four wives at any one time. There is absolutely no condition in the Shari’ah that the believing man who wishes to exercise this option and marry multiple times needs to take permission from his first wife. The only condition Allah has laid upon the believers who wish to exercise this option is that they should deal with justice and equality amongst their wives with their wealth, their time, etc.; and if one fails to deal justly between them, the punishment in the Court of Allah will be very severe indeed. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) 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. (Sunan Abi Dawud, graded: sahih by Al-Albani)
Furthermore, none of the two wives can put any pressure for divorce on the husband as he is the custodian/head of the family and he has the final word in the house; if however, the husband falls short in his duties (including financial support) towards her, or he causes her harm, then she has the right to demand separation, i.e., divorce. On the other hand, if the husband gives her rights as prescribed in shari’ah, then it is haraam for her to ask for divorce, because of the hadith narrated by Thawban: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: If any woman asks her husband for divorce without some strong reason, the odor of Paradise will be forbidden to her. (Sunan Abi Dawud, graded: sahih by Al-Albani)
[However, we recommend that since] you have already married for a second time, it would not be fair, neither would it be considered righteousness if you divorced [either of your wives]. It would be best if you would show extreme patience in these trying circumstances, and be as tender, and kind, and merciful, and understanding, and loving to your first wife as you were when she was your only wife. In due time, [as you believe that your financial situation will change], she will accept the situation as it is, and her resistance to your second marriage will disappear, In sha Allah. If after exerting all your efforts, the life does not become financially stable and you feel that you will not be able to fulfill the rights towards them, then you may resort to divorcing one or both of them.
(Most part of the above answer is based on various answers provided by Islamhelpline.net)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.