Wa alaykum salaam and thank you for sending your question to Ask About Islam.
I am truly sad to hear of your situation. Polygyny is a very difficult lifestyle choice, and comes with numerous challenges to one’s own self as well as one’s marriage.
Polygyny: Not a Game
For men, polygyny is a serious responsibility that is accompanied by dire warnings of the importance of justice.
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
Whoever has two wives and favours one of them over the other, will come on the Day of Resurrection with one of his sides leaning. (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1141), Abu Dawood (2133), al-Nasaa’i (3942) and Ibn Majaah (1969))
The Qur’an itself warns against injustice between wives in a polygynous marriage:
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. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice. [Quran 4:3]
Thus, if a man is unable to stop himself from showing favouritism to one of his wives, it is disliked that he even engage in polygyny to begin with.
Having said that, with regards to your specific situation, there is often a lot going on that’s not mentioned in the initial question. Based on the information you have provided me, however, the following is my advice:
Consider what your options are in this situation and decide which one you wish to pursue.
First, turn to Allah, pour your heart out to Him in sujood (prostration) and du’a (supplication), and ask Him to guide you to that which is best for you in this world and the Hereafter.
You should also certainly sit down and have a serious talk with your husband, and if possible, include your co-wife in that conversation.
Express your concerns, specify what it is that is upsetting to you, and provide examples of how you have been treated unfairly.
Remind them both of the husband’s obligation to deal with his wives with justice. Your time with him is a right that you have over him, and it is obligatory for him to honour those rights of yours.
Inform your co-wife that while you respect her and her children, you are also his wife and are to be respected in turn.
If she is consciously attempting to take away your time, then she is engaging in injustice as well and is accountable for her actions.
Ideally, the three of you should be able to respectfully and calmly discuss the situation and come up with practical solutions to the issues you are facing.
If your husband acknowledges his errors and makes an effort to correct himself, then alHamdulillah! However, if he does not, then you should think about what it is that you want from your marriage and what you want for your own future.
You can certainly attempt to contact a local Islamic authority or marital counselor and seek to pursue marital counseling for yourself and your husband.
You Always Have a Choice
Ask yourself: what kind of marriage do you want? Do you want to be treated with respect and given your time as a wife? Are you willing to put up with less than equal time and attention?
Are you okay with making certain compromises if he is unwilling to make more drastic changes to your current situation?
If, after trying your best, you find yourself continually upset and emotionally hurt by the way things are, are you ready to step away from the marriage and choose a different path for yourself?
As individuals, we are only capable of changing our own behaviour. We can try to communicate with others about their behaviour, but at the end of the day, we cannot force anyone to change themselves.
In the end, it is up to you to decide what kind of treatment you will tolerate. Love is great, but love is not what always makes a marriage healthy – or you happy.
Think about what you want for yourself and your future, seek Allah’s assistance every step of the way, and do what it is that you feel will be most beneficial for your Dunya (life on earth) and Aakhirah (afterlife).
May Allah grant you ease in your circumstances and grant you that which is best for your in this world and the Next, ameen.
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