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Why Would a Husband Take Another Wife Secretly?

04 November, 2019
Q What is the reasoning behind the ruling that a husband may take a wife without his current wife/wives knowing?

Answer

Short Answer: Taking multiple wives is not a requirement in Islam, nor highly recommended. No woman is required to accept a marriage proposal from a man who is already married. She can even make it a condition of the marriage that her husband never takes another wife so long as he is married to her. If he accepts this condition, he must live up to it and to disregard the promise would be a sin upon him. One reason, however, for not informing a wife about a new wife might be to avoid instigating divorce proceedings with a woman he truly loves and wishes to maintain a family with. It is possible for a man to love more than one woman. Islam allows for relationships with up to four wives at a time, but this is of course not the ideal. One man, one woman is best

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Salam (Peace) Dear Sister,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

With respect to the ruling, unfortunately, I am unaware of its veracity or who made this ruling. I can offer some thoughts on the subject but it shouldn’t be considered a ruling in itself since I am not an Imam and not qualified to offer rulings or “fatawa”.

Honesty is a Pillar of Muslim Character

Having said that, I believe that honesty in all matters, especially concerning relationships between a man and wife, is a pillar of Muslim character. Once we become engaged in hiding things from each other or telling straight out lies, we open the door for more lies to cover the first one, and then there is not much a person won’t do to keep the truth from coming out.

I believe that a Muslim can be a lot of things, but a liar is not one of them. Lying opens the door to every other sin, but there is evidence from Hadith sources that some types of “lying”, or perhaps “stretching the truth” are allowed, even recommended when a greater good is intended.

3 Cases when a Lie is Not Considered a Lie

Humaid b. ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Auf reported that his mother Umm Kulthum daughter of ‘Uqba b. Abu Mu’ait, and she was one amongst the first emigrants who pledged allegiance to Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him), as saying that she heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:

“A liar is not one who tries to bring reconciliation amongst people and speaks good (in order to avert dispute), or he conveys good. Ibn Shihab said he did not hear that exemption was granted in anything what the people speak as lie but in three cases: in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them). [Sahih Muslim: Book 032, Number 6303]

So when we are trying to reconcile a husband and wife whom we know love each other but are being a bit over sensitive, or unreasonable,  for example, then stretching the truth, or putting words in their mouths serves the greater good of preserving the dignity of both, keeping two lovers together, protecting children from a strained relationship with one parent because of custody issues, etc.

Taking Multiple Wives is Not a Requirement in Islam

Taking multiple wives is not a requirement in Islam, nor highly recommended. No woman is required to accept a marriage proposal from a man who is already married. She can even make it a condition of the marriage that her husband never takes another wife so long as he is married to her. If he accepts this condition, he must live up to it and to disregard the promise would be a sin upon him.

One reason, however, for not informing a wife about a new wife might be to avoid instigating divorce proceedings with a woman he truly loves and wishes to maintain a family with. It is possible for a man to love more than one woman. Islam allows for relationships with up to four wives at a time, but this is of course not the ideal. One man, one woman is best:

“You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire, so do not incline too much to one of them (by giving her more of your time and provision) so as to leave the other hanging (i.e. neither divorced nor married). And if you do justice, and do all that is right and fear God by keeping away from all that is wrong, then God is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Quran (4: 129)

I hope this helps answer your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Did Muhammad Marry Women for Sexual Gratification?

Second Wife: A Feasible Alternative to Divorce?

Is Misuse of Polygamy the Main Cause for Divorce?

About Waleed Najmeddine
Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine is a Canadian born Muslim and public school administrator. He is an active member of the Muslim community and enjoys educating Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam. He currently holds a Master of Education degree in leadership and school improvement.