In this counseling answer:
• Polygamy is allowed only when the man is able to commit to being just between his wives.
• I strongly urge you to find an Islamic authority in your region who can officiate a faskh for you.
• If possible, search for a Muslim woman’s shelter in your area.
As-salaam ‘alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh,
Thank you for contacting us here at AboutIslam.net. I am so sorry to hear your story. What has happened to you is profoundly wrong and goes against all Islamic ethics of honor, dignity, respect, marriage, and the treatment of women. Islam is a religion of justice and mercy, not of abuse.
Your situation involves several different issues, amongst them being justice in polygamy, the obligations of a husband towards his wife, and a woman’s right to divorce.
When Is Polygamy Allowed?
With regards to polygamy, Allah says:
“And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].” (Qur’an 4:3)
Polygamy is allowed only when the man is able to commit to being just between his wives. A Muslim man who chooses to marry more than one wife is absolutely obligated to pay for both families, not just one. Indeed, it is abhorrent for him to claim that he only owes his first wife and children anything.
The Prophet Muhammad explicitly warned men who seek to do injustice between their wives of the severity of doing so.
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 favors one of them over the other, will come on the Day of Resurrection with one of his sides leaning.” (Tirmidhi)
In Islam, husbands are obliged to financially care for their wives and take care of their necessities. Obviously, this means ensuring that their wives have a roof to stay under, food to eat, and all the requisite utilities are taken care of.
Who is a Qawwam?
Allah described men as Qawwaamoon – that is, guardians and caretakers of women – precisely because they are obligated to financially support their wives.
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means.” (Qur’an 4:34)
It was narrated that Mu‘awiyah al-Qushayri (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I said: O Messenger of Allah, what are the rights of the wife of one of us over him? He said: “That you feed her as you feed yourself, clothe her as you clothe yourself, do not strike the face, do not disgrace her and if you want to shun her (by way of disciplining her) do not leave home.” (Abi Dawud)
Allah also says:
“Lodge them of where you dwell out of your means and do not harm them in order to oppress them…” (Qur’an 65:6)
While this verse specifically refers to women who have been divorced, we must know that this applies even more so to women who are still married!
What your husband is doing to you and your children is a complete betrayal of his role as Qawwaam – as guardian and caretaker. His claims that he is not responsible for your welfare or your expenses are absolutely incorrect. Nor do you “owe” him any sexual intimacy; by neglecting his own obligations towards you, he no longer can lay claim to that “right.” You should not feel guilty about not engaging in sexual intimacy with him as he has completely violated all your own rights over him.
You Can Seek a Divorce
Finally, Islam does not say that only a man can give a divorce! In fact, there are several ways of ending a marriage in Islam. The talaq, which is a male-initiated divorce; the khul’, which is a female-initiated divorce; and faskh, which is a legal means of annulling or dissolving a marriage in cases of negligence, abuse, and so on.
In fact, considering the details of your situation, and the dire circumstances that you have been placed in, I strongly urge you to find an Islamic authority in your region who can officiate a faskh for you. The man that you are currently married to is someone who has no honor, no dignity, and no respect for you as a wife. As a Muslim woman, you are entitled to excellent treatment, justice, and mercy from any man who wishes to be your husband.
If you are willing to share your location with us, we may be able to put you in touch with those who can (from an Islamic legal perspective) end your marriage and free you from having any marital relationship with this degenerate individual.
If possible, search for a Muslim woman’s shelter in your area. Otherwise, please do seek assistance from a local masjid or Islamic center. InshaAllah, the Muslim community in your region should come together to help you out of your deeply unfortunate situation.
After all this, I just want to let you know that what you have gone through with this man is absolutely no reflection of Islam as a religion. Unfortunately, while Islam is perfect, many Muslims are not; in this case, this man has used you and abused you and gone against basic Islamic ethics, morals, and obligations.
Allah Doesn’t Want You to Live in Oppression
What you are going through is not easy, but know that Allah does not want you to live in oppression. Indeed, Allah hates oppression and has forbidden Muslims from inflicting it upon others. He has commanded mercy for Himself, and He has commanded us to have mercy on others.
As a Muslim woman, your faith is your own and is not tied to this man. Rather, know that your Lord and Creator chose you amongst all others to accept Islam in your heart, truly, not for the sake of a human being, but for the Sake of the Most Merciful. Turn to Allah and seek His Love, His Mercy, and His support – He is there for us when no one else is, and He loves for us to ask Him for His blessings and His assistance in our times of need.
Know that even in times of greatest difficulty, Allah provides us with hope. He tells us,
“For indeed, with hardship comes ease. Indeed, with hardship comes ease!” (Qur’an 94:5-6)
I pray with all my heart that you and your children are protected from the evil of this man, and that you are able to leave this terrible situation. May Allah ease your affairs and bless you with a beautiful future full of happiness, security, and above all, His Mercy and blessings upon your family.
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.