Question # 170: Please tell me how the Time is to be split up among 2 wives?

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).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has enjoined justice and fairness between co-wives, and there is a warning against wronging one of them at the expense of another. Hence, the dos and don’ts for a man with multiple wives are as follows:

  • He must divide his time, night and day, among his wives, and must divide it equally, without being unfair. So if he stays with one of them for one or more nights, then he should stay with the other for the same number of nights without preferring one over the other. An exception is made to this general rule in case of a new wife, who is given preferential period of three or seven days within which the husband and wife may get used to each other;
  • He does not have to treat them equally with regard to copulation, rather he should stay overnight with all of them but he does not have to copulate with each of them; however, it is recommended to not neglect intimacy with any of them;
  • He does not have the right to make his two wives live together in one house without their consent;
  • He should spend equally; however, he has the right to give one more than the other with regard to spending and clothing, only if he has provided each with her basic necessities; and
  • If a man wants to travel with one of his wives, he should cast lots between them.

Long Answer: Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has enjoined justice and fairness between co-wives, and there is a warning against wronging one of them at the expense of another. 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 shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one… That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:3)

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever has two wives and favors one of them over the other, will come on the Day of Resurrection with one of his sides leaning.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, al-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah; classed as sahih by al-Albani in Sahih al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb)

Let’s look at the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) treatment with his wives:

  • Muslim narrated that Anas said: “The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) had nine wives, and when he divided his time among them, he did not come back to the first one until the ninth day. Every night they used to gather in the house of the one whose night it was.”
  • ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) said: “Every night he would go around to all of us, and would come close to each wife without being intimate, until he reached the one whose day it was, and he would spend the night with her.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood; classed as sahih by al-Albani in Sahih Abi Dawood)

BEGINNING DIVISION

Even a man with the most sincere intention and the most upright character might find himself in a dilemma concerning the initiation of time division. [Although,] no hard and fast methods have been set in Islamic law for how this decision should be made, whatever method is used to determine where the division should begin, that method should not unjustly favor any of the wives. A simple method endorsed by Islamic law (by the Prophet’s practice) is the drawing of lots (qur’ah) each time a process of equal time division is necessitated and no previous rights have been established. An example of such necessity would be right after marriage to a new wife if the man already has one or more wives. Immediately after a man gets married again, he must re-organize how his time is divided between his wives. By drawing lots it is possible to determine dispassionately who gets the first time period… One possible method of determination mentioned by scholars suggests that the husband write numbers on the lots (slips of paper) indicating the order of the nights, he must then shake the lots within a container and then hand the lots to the individual wives as he picks them from the container. (Al-Mughni)

There is, however, an exception to this general rule of equity in the assignment of time periods. When a new wife is married, she is given a preferential period of three or seven days within which the husband and wife may get used to each other. At the end of this acquaintance period the cycle of division among all of the wives must begin anew. This law is based on the Companion Anas (رضي الله عنه), report, “It is from the Sunnah (the Prophet’s practice) if a man marries a virgin that he stay with the virgin wife for seven days and then divide his time equally after that. And, if he marries a woman who was previously married, not a virgin, he should stay with her for three days then divide his time equally.” (Collected by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

DIVISION OF TIME

Al-Shafi’i said: “The Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and the view of most of the Muslim scholars indicate that the man must divide his time, night and day, among his wives, and must divide it equally, and that he is not allowed to be unfair in that.”  (Al-Umm)

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “He has to treat his wives fairly according to the consensus of the Muslims. In the four Sunans it was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever has two wives…” He has to be fair in his division of time between them. So if he stays with one of them for one night, or two or three, he should stay with the other for the same number of nights, and he should not give preference to one of them in his sharing of his time.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa)

Equal division of time must also be made for women unable to have sex; for example, sick women, menstruating women, women in Nifas (the period after childbirth), women in ihram,  and women who have passed menopause with no desire for sex, unless they decide to give up their right. (When the Prophet’s third wife, Sawdah, became old, she gave up her turn to be with the Prophet to ‘A’ishah) The reason that equal time is insisted upon in Islam even if women are unable to have sex is based upon the woman’s psychological and emotional need for companionship for which marriage was ordained. That need in most cases increases when women are disabled temporarily or permanently. [On the other hand,] if a wife travels to fulfill a personal desire such as work, trade, education, visiting relatives or friends, or for religious reasons like ‘Umrah, her right to equal division of time and support is dropped since the division of time is for intimacy which she has chosen to forego…

CONJUGAL RIGHTS

Al-Nawawi said: “Our companions said: If he treats them equally (in the matters where that is required), he does not have to treat them equally with regard to intercourse, rather he should stay overnight with all of them but he does not have to have intercourse with each of them. He may have intercourse with some of them when it is their turn for him to stay with them and not others. But it is mustahabb (recommended) for him not to neglect intimacy with some of them and to treat them all equally in this matter.” (Sharh Muslim)

Ibn Qudamah said: “We do not know of any dispute among the scholars regarding the fact that it is not obligatory to treat one’s wives equally as regards intercourse, which is the view of Malik and al-Shafi’i, because intercourse has to do with desire and inclination, and there is no way to treat them equally in this regard. A man’s heart may incline more to one of them than the other. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:129)…” (Al-Mughni)

The Prophet’s Companions, ‘Ubaydah as-Salmani (رضي الله عنه) and lbn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه), both stated that the equality spoken in the above ayah 129 refers to love and sex. (Al-Mughni) Furthermore, we must take note of the fact that even the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) begged pardon for that which was not in his possession, the feelings of love, affection or sympathy which were known to be greater for one of his wives than the others. ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) said: “Allah’s Messenger used to divide his time equally amongst us and would pray, ‘O’ Allah, this is my division in what I possess, so please do not hold me to blame for the division (of affection) which only You control.’” (Collected by Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Ahmad and authenticated by Shaykh al-Albani in Mishkat al-Masabih, as well as by al-Arna’oot in Jami’ al-usool)

RESIDENCE RIGHTS

It is preferable that each wife have separate living quarters in which the husband visits her because that was the way Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) divided his time. Ibn Qudamah said: “The man does not have the right to make his two wives live together in one house without their consent, whether they are young or old, because that causes them harm due to the enmity and jealousy that exists between them, so making them live together provokes arguments and fighting, and each of them can hear sounds when he is intimate with the other, or she can see that. But if they agree to that then it is permissible, because they have that right but they are also allowed to forego it.” (Al-Mughni)

TRAVEL RIGHTS

If the husband wishes to travel and wants to or is only able to take some of his wives with him, he has to choose among them by drawing lots as all of them have equal rights to travel with him if they wish. This principle is based on the Prophet’s practice as narrated by his wife ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها): “When the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) wanted to go out on a journey, he would cast lots between his wives and the one whose name was drawn, he would take her with him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

SPENDING AND CLOTHING RIGHTS

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “With regard to fairness in spending and clothing, this is also Sunnah, following the example of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), He used to spend equally on his wives, and also used to divide his time equally among them.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa)

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “He (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to treat them equally as regards staying the night, spending time with them and spending on them.” (Zaad al-Ma’aad)

[However, equality among wives with respect to spending and clothing is not obligatory once the husband has provided each with her basic necessities.] Ahmad said: “…concerning a man who had two wives – he has the right to give one more than the other with regard to spending, desire and clothing, if the other has enough, and he may buy a finer garment for her, so long as the other has enough. This is because it is too difficult to treat them equally with regard to all these matters, and if it were made obligatory he would not be able to do it, except with great difficulty…” (Al-Mughni)

Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said: “If he gives each of them her rights with regard to clothing, spending and spending time with them, then it does not matter if his heart is inclined more towards one or if he gives one a gift…” (Fath al-Baari)

(The above reply is based on various answers by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid and the book ‘Polygamy in Islam’ by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips and Jameelah Jones)

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.

Wassalaam