Qur’anic criteria for polygyny: being just; but how to know that without ever taking a second wife

Every man knows what Qur’an says on polygyny and in many instances, he can even locate the verse, unlike any other topic in the Noble Qur’an. It’s the most famous and adorable verse (for married men) from the Qur’an (Surah An Nisa 4, 3). Indeed, few try to find its explanation and very few might ponder over it. For a long time, I thought how to find if I am unjust unless I take another wife :). This is my little thought drafted hoping to help myself and others evaluate our intentions.

Quoting :


Sahih International

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].

..let’s find out what the verse says (and warns) contrary to our understanding of the luxury and fun in having more than one wife.

Let’s first know that an “orphan girl” is taken care by her guardian. And he is supposed to take of her and her wealth till she becomes an adult. You might have noticed multiple times while reading the Noble Qur’an that Allah forbade accommodating the orphan’s wealth and to be just to them. In this verse, the meaning of dealing unjustly with orphan girls is in the sense that: they (the orphan girls) were married by their masters if they were wealthy and beautiful; otherwise, they were not touched. Now, when they get married to their masters, their wealth get mixed with that of the masters. Moreover, the dowry he would pay her might not be equivalent to the dowry paid by a suitable external match for her. This is injustice to her, so Allah commands the masters to marry other women of their status (who they can pay suitable dowry), two, three or four [1].

Now, the core part: if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one …”. As soon as Allah gave us the option of multiple wives, He immediately put a condition of being just. This is not something new to us, but Allah is reminding it here to be just or else we are transgressing the human rights (huqooq al-ibaad) set in Islam. I said this is not something new because we can relate this to our routine decisions where we have more than one responsibility and we act justly. For example, we have two kids – we bring two chocolates home, we have 10 students – we give them all bonus marks, and so on (but with respect to things, if we have two cars –  we maintain them both but like to ride on one more; if we’ve two pair of shoes – we keep’em both clean but one pair is precious) In case of wives (humans), Allah reminds us to fear being unjust though Allah knows we cannot be just [2]. That’s something to pause and reflect. Allah knows shortcomings in our nature, yet He reminds us to be cautious in being just. Subhanallah! and recall how we treat our children knowing their shortcomings and obvious mistakes. Allah is the Most Merciful and Ever Merciful.

Now, the word “injustice” is used for orphan girls in the first part of the verse, and repeated while talking about the wives. The injustice about the orphan girls is explained by Aaishah radhiallahu anha [1], but to my search, I couldn’t find and explanation of injustice done among the wives and how can we know that without ever having multiple wives in the first place. I am not saying we need to take few wives and test ourselves in the field of being just and if we fail, divorce all except one. No. Here on, I am applying my own intellect to understand the verse which can be an ignorant interpretation and possibly a false. Correct me if you see me creating a fitna.

being unjust to first wife

The injustice among wives can be known before even taking a second wife. How? (The crux of this article). It all depends upon the intentions of the one who is planning for a second wife. If he is looking out for another wife because he thinks he has time, money, physical ability and (optional) an intention to help struggling widows/poor, then I think his injustice, if exists, can only be seen after taking a second wife, but not before. But, If a person is intending to take a second wife because he is fed up with his first wife in terms of her habits or etiquette or use of tongue or housekeeping, spending etc, then he is already being unjust to her by belittling her status in front of the anticipated second wife. There is a high chance that such a person, after marriage, will love, respect, spend time and money more so on his second wife due to his differences with the first one. In such a case, If a person is intending to take another wife, he has already a thought of injustice hoping a better one than the one at home. Hence, Allah commands to have only one, that will give some attention to the first wife, rather than being completely neglected in the presence of a second wife. This verse is indeed a security to the first wife, warning men of being unjust due to their anticipated inclination towards the other. Subhanallah!

Additional thoughts: Who doesn’t like more wives? Apart from always having an option to set your mood right or eat better food, polygyny gives a sense of mindfulness and competence in the wives towards their common husband. If one thinks that everybody brings their own rizq in this world, then, the major threat of financial inability is lifted. Yet, men today be excessively patient with most annoying wives who abuse them even outside their homes houses. On the other hand, the very nature of jealousy amongst many of the righteous wives discourage their husbands from thinking of another wife. In actual, today’s men, with minimal liability and decision-making lessons, do not find (dare) polygyny as a blessed option while witnessing their already chaotic and tangled married life.

Disclaimer: If you think I am misinterpreting the Qur’anic verse or overdoing with my opinion (rai), then do let me know what scholars have explained about doing injustice among wives. I would be happy to retreat my words and post the correct scholarly understanding.


  1. http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=719&Itemid=59
  2.  “You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire” Surah An-Nisa 4, 124

A mini-guide to second marriage

3 F’s: Feelings, Finance & Fun (skill)

Feelings: Make sure how badly you need another marriage. Sheikh Badie-uz-Zamaan Madani in his workshop in Jubail, Saudi Arabia (on 28th-29th Oct 2016) drifted in his topic and said “Don’t say that you married so-and-so to help her financially, (you fool) but marry her if it includes your desires for her. Marry her if you want to save yourself from sinning. The one who remarries to save himself from falling into sin is relatively a better muslim/worshipper‘. I understood it as, if helping is the reason, you can give her regular charity (like Umar gave Mistah radhiallahu anhuma), and you need not marry her until your feelings includes a desire of saving yourself from sinning, through her. Allah knows best.

Finance: Dr. Bilal phillips posted once on his facebook page: If Allah blesses you with money, increase your standard of giving, not standard of living”. I say, even if you are not as ‘rich’, you can live at a lower standard of lifestyle and maintain two families ;).

Keeping two wives under the same roof is risky enough to blow your roof :). So, a smaller house, cheaper schools for kids and a simpler life would help maintain your new lifestyle, if you are willing to compromise a little. Do your calculations when you are resting. But always, believe in Allah that every person brings his/her own rizq in this world, so you are not the one providing them in real, nor giving them good health or peace at heart. So, being a husband/second husband is not that of a big duty as shaitan makes us believe. Pleasing Allah is not difficult unless we listen to shaitan’s whispers.

Fun (skill): Relationship management is a tricky skill. You will soon realize that they both talk to each other and compare the love & care they are provided with, subtly (and it’s good to know your husband faster with the help of another wife). Two families might be enormous pampering to you :), but it can be equally itchy when things go wrong on both sides. So, I think, distributing love and care equally can be done by carefully managing your time, money and most importantly your love on both sides. It won’t be like $100 here and $100 there, but it can be like $87.45 + 110% love + 102% care here this time, and $115.80 + 99% love + 100% care there. Do how you want and what you want, but always remind yourself with what Allah said: BE JUST TO THEM.

Conclusion: The above mentioned are my personal (inexperienced) thoughts. I think these traits are needed in a man to have multiple wives, but I also believe that one’s obligatory duties come first. A person who has established his prayers, fasts without missing, and gives charity expecting a reward from Allah and yet feels like his desires are frequently dragging him from purity in worship, then he must remarry. Allah is the provider of feelings, finance and fun (skills), and not the priority of the above mentioned Fs. I’ve seen people having 4 wives with little or -ve finance and still managing for years. Who knows his intentions and how better he is trying to be a good muslim than us.

Most Common Cause of Divorce

It wasn’t a shock to me but I got the proof, hence I am sharing this with you all.

My aunt and uncle use to do marriage counseling at our city police station. That was about 5 years ago when the city police commissioner (muslim guy) was concerned about the growing divorce rate. Later, when the commissioner changed, such sessions were stopped. Soon, my uncle died and my aunt joined a private marriage counseling center near by and still continues her practice there.

This year, when I visited her to give her share of meat on Eid-ul-Adha, I planned to ask her a few crucial questions I was curious about marriage counseling.

So, I asked her if people really come to them in the first place to solve family issues. She said “yes, many”.21a9fdf0b37b0381c36082cb95f00e5b

Then I asked her what’s the most common cause she sees in those quarrels?.

She said “ego” (“ana” in urdu). Then she added ” people usually don’t want to adjust. Both sides want only their way/words to follow. No one wants to step down even in few matters and try not to quarrel. They just cannot accept a single adjustment.”

Then I asked her if their center utilizes the religious way of tackling those issues [and I thought that would help].

She said “Yes, but there is no fear of Allah and respect to Sunnah. There is no Islam visibly practiced in their lives and they are least bothered to know how turning towards the religion is the only solution.”

Then, I asked THE question: ” whose mistake do you usually see?”

She said ” Mostly, the girl’s (wife’s) side.”

[me ]

she continued ” After the Dowry Act was made for protecting women from abuse, the act has been misused by them (wives) to win their cases”.

Then I got a little more evil and wanted to know more about what’s wrong with these wives? 

She said “Most girls today are not like how we use to be. They want to be modern and not ready to adjust, they don’t want to listen any command from the husband. They argue and loose patience in no time. Their parents interfere in make things worse. The biggest irony is that her parents support her even if the situation is moving towards a separation (divorce).

Then I got sad, because it wasn’t the first time I was hearing that the involvement of parents worsened the situation, permanently in few cases.

Then we discussed about a common acquaintance (my local friend) whose situation was the best example of issues she addressed a while ago. I then left as I had to distribute meat to other relatives in the locality.

There were some very serious lessons I learned from this discussion…let’s list them down in my next post, be’iznillah.

image from pinterest user