Praise be to Allaah.
Islam requires the man who has more than one wife to treat
his wives equally and fairly.
What is meant by that is fairness with regard to spending the
night, accommodation, spending and clothing.
What is meant by fairness in spending the night is that he
should divide his time equally among his wives, so if he spends one or two
nights with the first, he must spend the same amount of time with each of
The Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah and the view of most of
the Muslim scholars indicate that the man must divide his time, night and
day, among his wives, and must divide it equally, and that he is not allowed
to be unfair in that.
What is meant by fairness in accommodation is that each of
them should have her own accommodation where he comes to her, and their
accommodation should not vary with the intention of favouring one over the
Ibn Qudaamah said:
The man does not have the right to make his two wives live
together in one house without their consent, whether they are young or old,
because that causes them harm due to the enmity and jealousy that exists
between them, so making them live together provokes arguments and fighting,
and each of them can hear sounds when he is intimate with the other, or she
can see that. But if they agree to that then it is permissible, because they
have that right but they are also allowed to forego it.
If the husband wants her (his wife) to live with her co-wife
or her in-laws, such as his mother, sister or daughter from another wife, or
with his relatives, and she refuses, then he must accommodate her in a
separate house, because they may annoy her or harm her if she lives with
them. Her refusal is an indication of that annoyance and harm. Also he needs
to be able to have intercourse with her and be intimate with her at any time
that suits him, and that is not possible if a third person is present.
Badaa’i al-Sanaa’i’, 4/23.
What is meant by fairness in spending and clothing is that he
should spend on them as much as he can afford.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him)
With regard to fairness in spending and clothing, this is
also Sunnah, following the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings
of Allaah be upon him), He used to spend equally on his wives, and also used
to divide his time equally among them.
Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 32/269.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
He (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to
treat them equally as regards staying the night, spending time with them and
spending on them.
Zaad al-Ma’aad, 1/151
With regard to other things, it does not matter if he does
not treat them equally, such as giving a gift to one of them, or being more
inclined towards one of them in his heart, or giving her more clothing than
he is obliged to, or having intercourse with one of them more than another,
without intending to harm the other. But if he treats them all equally that
Ibn Qudaamah said:
He does not have to treat his wives equally in spending and
clothing if he does what he is required for each of them.
Ahmad said – concerning a man who had two wives – he has the
right to give one more than the other with regard to spending, desire and
clothing, if the other has enough, and he may buy a finer garment for her,
so long as the other has enough.
This is because it is too difficult to treat them equally
with regard to all these matters, and if it were made obligatory he would
not be able to do it, except with great difficulty. This is why it is not
obligatory, such as treating them equally with regard to intercourse.
Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said:
If he gives each of them her rights with regard to clothing,
spending and spending time with them, then it does not matter if his heart
is inclined more towards one or if he gives one a gift…
Fath al-Baari, 9/391.
Our companions said: If he treats them equally (in the
matters where that is required), he does not have to treat them equally with
regard to intercourse, rather he should stay overnight with all of them but
he does not have to have intercourse with each of them. He may have
intercourse with some of them when it is their turn for him to stay with
them and not others. But it is mustahabb for him not to neglect intimacy
with some of them and to treat them all equally in this matter.
Sharh Muslim, 10/46.
Ibn Qudaamah said:
We do not know of any dispute among the scholars regarding
the fact that it is not obligatory to treat one's wives equally as regards
intercourse, which is the view of Maalik and al-Shaafa’i, because
intercourse has to do with desire and inclination, and there is no way to
treat them equally in this regard. A man's heart may incline more to one of
them than the other. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“You will never be able to do perfect justice between
wives even if it is your ardent desire”
‘Ubaydah al-Salmaani said concerning love and intercourse:
If you are able to treat them equally with regard to
intercourse, that is better, because it is more fair and just… But it is not
obligatory to treat them equally with regard to intimacy that is less than
intercourse, kissing, touching, etc, because if it is not essential to treat
them equally with regard to intercourse, then that applies even more to the
things that lead to it.
Al-Mughni, 7/234, 235.
With regard to the husband going out when it is one wife’s
turn, if that is because of some need and he does not intend to hurt her and
he is not going out to the other wife, there is nothing wrong with that in
sha Allaah. The basis of equal sharing of time is staying the night: he has
to spend most of the night with the wife whose turn it is. Allaah has not
created any hardship in religion, and it does not prevent the husband from
going out or going shopping or attending classes during the time of one of
his wives, if he does not intend to hurt her by going out, and he does not
spend most of the night outside the house of the wife whose turn it is.
Dr Ahmad Rayaan said:
Some of the scholars have spoken in strict terms about
fairness in dividing his time, and they say that everyone who goes against
that is not treating his wives equally. Some of them even say that if he
comes to the first wife after sunset and to the second after ‘Isha’, he is
not treating them equally.
What that means is that the husband must finish with all his
business during the day, before the sun goes down, so that he can control
the time when he goes to his wives each day, so that he goes at a specific
hour each day. That may have been possible in the past when life was simpler
and there were less necessities and people could live with less. But it is
not possible now. How many men now can regulate their movements in such a
way as to make sure they enter the house before the sun goes down each day,
so that their division of time and their spending the night with each wife
is completely equal?
Rather it is more appropriate to suggest that he must spend
most of the night in the house, without specifying the time when he should
come in or go out, because his living circumstances or other people’s rights
or the pursuit of knowledge and other circumstances may require him to go
home late or leave home early. So what matters is that he should stay with
the wife whose turn it is for most of the night, because the point of
staying with his wife is to keep her company and be intimate with her, which
can be achieved by the husband spending most of the night with her. We have
seen from the ahaadeeth quoted above the way in which this division of time
was achieved in the family of the Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him. The fact that he visited his other wives by night or by
day, or met with them in the house of the wife whose turn it was did not
contradict this fair division of time, even though it is well known that
these visits and meetings might detract somewhat from the rights of the wife
whose night it was, because it took some of her own time, and she had the
exclusive right to this time where the others did not.
Hence I think that what matters with regard to the issue of
dividing the husband’s time among his wives is that he should spend most of
the night with her whilst stipulating that his coming late should not be
done with the intention of harming the wife whose night it is, rather it is
the result of the husband’s everyday work.
And Allaah knows best.