Question # 155: Is it ok for husband to marry a second wife, without the consent of the first wife?
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: Although it is not obligatory for the husband to have the approval of his first wife if he wants to marry a second one, it is a noble trait of character and good relations for him to appease her by whatever decreases her pain and softens her heart for approval. However, 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. As for stipulating certain conditions in the marriage contract restricting polygamy, some scholars believe that such conditions are valid. If the husband breached such condition and marries another woman, the first wife has the right to annul the contract. Lastly, it should be noted that if a person lives in a country (for example, USA) where polygamy is forbidden, he should respect the laws of that country. Also please refer to Question # 170: Splitting time between wives and Question # 395: Financially Supporting Two Wives.
Long Answer: The wife’s approval is not a condition for plural marriage, and it is not obligatory for the husband to have the approval of his first wife if he wants to marry a second wife. But it is good manners and kind treatment to approach the issue in such a way as to reduce the pain which women naturally feel in such cases, by smiling at her, greeting her warmly, speaking nicely to her and spending money on her according to his means, in order to gain her approval. (The Permanent Committee, Fataawa Islamiyyah)
Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an “…marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you will not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one…” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:3) [However,] if a husband takes a second wife, he has to treat his wives equally as far as possible. If he does not treat them equally then he is exposing himself to a stern warning, for it was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever has two wives and inclines more towards one of them than the other, will come on the Day of Resurrection with half of his body leaning.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisaa’i, Abu Dawood; classed as sahih by al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan al-Nasaa’i)
As for stipulating certain conditions in the marriage contract such as not to make polygamy, some scholars believe that such conditions are valid. If the husband breached the condition and married another, the wife has the right to terminate the contract. (‘Fatwas of Muslim Women’ by Ibn Taymiyyah)
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “If she stipulates that he should not take another wife, this is permissible. Some of the scholars said that it is not permissible, because it is restricting the husband in something that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has permitted to him, and it is contrary to the Qur’an (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:3). It may be said in response to that that she has a reason to ask him not to marry another wife and she is not transgressing against anyone. The husband himself is the one who is giving up his right; if he has the right to marry more than one, he is giving it up. So what is to prevent this condition being valid? Hence the correct view with regard to this matter is the view of Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him), which is that this condition is valid.” (Al-Sharh al-Mumti’) (Islamqa.info)
Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzan (may Allah preserve him) said: “Among other conditions that are valid in marriage is if she stipulates that he should not take another wife. If he fulfils the condition (all well and good), otherwise she has the right to annul the marriage because of the hadith, “The condition which most deserves to be fulfilled is that by means of which intimacy becomes permissible for you.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) …” (Al-Mulakhkhas al-Fiqhi) (Islamqa.info)
This being said, it should be known that if a person lives in a country where polygamy is forbidden, he should respect such laws. (Shaykh Waleed Basyouni PhD) [For example,] …polygamy is a federal offence in the U.S. Second marriage could not be officially registered as a marriage, which is something might affect [the] new wife’s rights, like her right for sponsorship and inheritance. (Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah) (Fatwa by members of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America)
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.