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Does Islam Encourage Polygamy?

26 July, 2017
Q Dear scholar, as-salamu `Alaykum. I was told by somebody that polygamy is actually encouraged in Islam. Apparently all the sahabahs did it and nearly all the great Imams too. This, therefore, meant that if a man were to marry more than one he will be pleasing Allah more than if he just had one wife. Does it mean someone with only one wife is of a lower standing in Allah's eyes? Can a man marry another woman even if he hasn't fulfilled all his obligations to his first wife? Thank you for your time.


Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

1- Islam gives due care to marriage. Hence, there are numerous rulings related to marriage, husbands and wives’ rights and duties, etc.

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2- All Muslims, men or women, are ordained to strictly follow these rulings, especially, nowadays to save Muslim families from modern social diseases.

3- As for polygamy, it is a very controversial issue in Islamic jurisprudence. But the most sound agreeable view is that its ruling should be stated individually according the circumstances of each case.

Responding to your question, Dr. Main Al-Qudah, Assistant Professor, AOU, IAU, SAA, Member of AMJA Fatwa Committee, and Imam of MAS Katy Center, states:

Marriage is a highly recommended act in Islam in general, and is the practice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). But meanwhile, its status might differ from one person to another. Scholars stated that marriage takes the five different rules of Shari`ah, i.e. obligatory (fard or wajib), recommended (mandub or mustahabb), permissible (mubah), disliked (makruh), prohibited (haram);

  • It is obligatory for the one who fears committing fornication while financially capable to afford it.
  • It is recommended for the one who can maintain his chastity without marriage.
  • It is permissible for the one who does not need it desperately.
  • It is disliked for the one who thinks he might not treat his wife fairly, and;
  • It is prohibited for the one who does not need it, cannot afford it, or believes he cannot be just toward his potential wife.

Multi marriage (or polygamy) takes-almost- the same rules of marriage furnished above. Meaning, it could be obligatory for the one who could not obtain his chastity with only one wife while being able to afford it, as well as to be just with his wives, recommended for…etc.

But our scholars differed regarding the default rule of polygamy in Islam, whether it is the permissibility or the desirability based on their understanding of Allah’s saying in the Qur’an (what means), “And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:3)

For instance, some resources of the Hanbali School of jurisprudence mentioned that the desirability is the basic rule of polygamy if the husband is able to afford it and can be just and fair enough toward his wives.

 While the Shafi`i school indicated, “It is better to be limited to one wife”. Obviously, there are many other evidences every party used to support his approach.

Having said that; the most sound opinion- and Allah Almighty knows best- is that polygamy is permissible when justice between wives is guaranteed. Nevertheless, it could be recommended for some husbands because of their need for multi marriage.

Furthermore, it could be obligatory for some men if their chastity is not obtained with only one wife while the possibility of deviation is high when banning the second marriage.

Allah Almighty knows best.