In this counseling answer:
• Polygamous marriages in Islam must be conducted the same way that a monogamous marriage is.
• You are under no obligation to maintain a relationship with the new wife.
• Seek counseling or therapy for yourself.
• Take some time away from this marriage before making a decision.
• Joint custody can be worked out.
• Turn to Allah.
’Alaikum As-salam wa Rahmatullah wa barakaatuh,
Thank you for reaching out to us at AboutIslam.net.
Your situation is one which contains many elements that we must look at and discuss in detail. There is no easy way to solve this matter. It will require you to reflect on what is most important to you and what you want out of your life.
First of all, you have said that your husband already gave you talaq. I assume that you are now officially divorced, as your ’iddah has undoubtedly ended since then.
With regards to the reasons behind you pushing for the divorce, it is indeed concerning that your suspicions regarding the other relationship (and the children thereof) turned out to be true.
Polygyny in Islam
Obviously, zina is absolutely prohibited in Islam. It is considered to be even more serious for someone who is already (or has previously been) married. For a man to engage in an adulterous relationship, and then to marry that person, is not the correct way for any Muslim man to practice polygamy.
Rather, polygamous marriages in Islam must be conducted the same way that a monogamous marriage is – openly, without any violation of Islamic standards, and certainly without pre-marital intercourse. It is certainly hypocritical, then, for someone who has done so to accuse someone else of not being a religious enough Muslim!
Your own spiritual well-being is something that you should seriously consider in this situation.
It is heartening to know that you are making the effort to pursue a religious education and learn more about Islam in order to practice it during your daily life.
May Allah facilitate that for you further. May Allah make it easy for you to implement and make you strong in maintaining it, ameen.
With regards to the question of whether you should go back to this man or not, there are two options. It is up to you alone to decide what it is that you wish to do and what you think is right.
On the one hand, it may be that your ex-husband and his wife have sincerely repented for their sins and truly regret the situation that they caused.
The other woman could very well feel genuinely bad for the consequences of her relationship with your ex-husband. Maybe she truly wants to make amends with you.
Your Relationship with the Second Wife
You are under no obligation to maintain a relationship with her. However, in the Islamic spirit of forgiveness and mercy, it would be praiseworthy if you did choose to have a cordial relationship with her.
If you still love this man and want to be a part of his life, knowing that he has this other wife and has children with her, then that is certainly up to you. However, if you choose this path, then know that the relationship will require a great deal of work and effort from both of you.
I highly recommend pre-marital counseling (since you would have to perform a new nikah in order for the marriage to resume), as well as consistent marital counseling afterward. It will help to resolve the pre-existing marital issues that you mentioned in your original question.
In addition to that, you will have to contend with the many challenges of polygamy itself. Keep in mind that it is difficult to even in the best of circumstances.
On the other hand, you have already witnessed many red flags from both your ex-husband and his current wife.
As you noted, he not only engaged in an illicit relationship and had a child from it. Even when he did marry the mother of his child, he maintained that relationship in secret.
He lied to you (whether directly or by omission), but he also committed an injustice against his children from the other woman by not being present for them the way he should have been as a father.
Putting aside the issue of zina, simply looking at the situation as one of Islamically sanctioned polygamy, this man violated the Islamic rights of both women – the right to equal time, in particular.
Of course, we could mention a lot more besides the issue of equal time. However, this is perhaps the first and most obvious issue at play.
The Prophet 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.” (Tirmidhi)
The other woman participated in the relationship with your ex-husband in the way that she did. She, therefore, bears the responsibility of that herself. She could have come forward to you at any time.
Since your divorce has already been concluded, and you are no longer married to this man, you might want to stay away from entering into a relationship with him once again.
While it is natural to continue feeling love for a person that you have been married to for so long, remember that love does not equal respect, nor does it mean that love will make everything “better” or fix the issues in a relationship.
It may be more beneficial for you to seek counseling or therapy for yourself. Therapy will help recover from what you have gone through, and to focus primarily on your own self-development as a Muslim woman.
Finally, with regards to your son, note that custody can be mutually agreed upon. It does not mean that you or your ex-husband must have sole custody. Instead, joint custody can be worked out and your son can maintain a relationship with you both.
As well, it is prohibited to prevent your son from visiting his father or do not have a relationship with his siblings (the children from his father’s other wife are your son’s half-siblings, and must be acknowledged as such).
It is understandable that you are uncomfortable with having your son around the other woman in particular. However, this is an issue where all the adults involved must express and resolve the matter in a way that places the well-being of the children above all.
Take Your Time Before Making a Decision
The third option is for you to take some time away from this marriage before making a decision as to whether you wish to marry your ex-husband once again. Time and emotional distance will give you a better perspective on what you want for yourself – both on an individual level and a relationship level.
Think deeply about how you wish to develop as a Muslim, spiritually and otherwise. Consider the impact that relationships have on personal well-being and how that would, in turn, affect your spiritual progress.
Would you prefer to return to a relationship that is already established in some way – for better or for worse? Or do you feel ready to start anew?
Turn to Allah
The most important thing to do, regardless of what choice you make, is to turn to Allah and seek His assistance and guidance to that which is best for you in this world and in the Hereafter.
Your worth as a Muslim woman does not depend on your relationship with a man, but rather, your relationship with Allah. All else follows suits.
Certainly, you are going through a difficult time in your life. Take comfort in Allah’s Words:
“For indeed, after hardship comes ease. Indeed, with hardship comes ease!” (Qur’an 94:5-6)
The Messenger of Allah also told us,
“If Allah loves a people, then he afflicts them with trials. Whoever is patient has the reward of patience, and whoever is impatient has the fault of impatience.” (Musnad Ahmad)
May Allah ease your situation, fill your heart with guidance and the strength to do what is best for this life and the Hereafter. May Allah grant you a future of joy and blessings,
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.