Second Marriage: Does one need to tell the first wife

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Question:

My second question regards polygamy. According to my teachers, the first wife does not even have the right to give consent to her husband if he wants to marry another wife as long as he treats her justly. Is it true? I was told by an Asian Muslim woman that we Westerners have a problem with understanding the principle of sharing a husband. Asian women are used to this and don't see anything wrong with it. For me it is so repulsive to imagine my beloved husband having another woman, making love to her and then the next day coming to me and making love to me. I find it very perverse.

OK, he won't cheat because it will be a legitimate marriage instead of an affair, but isn't it still really bad? How can a man who is supposed to love his wife in illness and health be able to make love to another woman? Then he is not in true love with his first wife. I would understand this rule if it was practiced under emergency circumstances such as after a war when there are a lot of widows who can't support their families, or in a society when women outnumber the men. But not when normal conditions exist. Then I firmly believe that there is absolutely no need for a man to have another wife.

Is it possible to have a premarital contract and express your total disagreement in case your husband marries another woman? I have read that this contract is not allowed in Islam. Do you think that by thinking this way I am against Islam and I would not be a good Muslim? This is what I am afraid of. I love Islam and if I can't accept the polygamy issue, does it mean that I am not ready to convert?


Answer:

Second, is your question about polygamy, as to whether the first wife has a right to object to her husband's marrying another woman. According to scholars, the Shari`ah does not require the husband to get the consent of the first wife for a second marriage. If the conditions for a second marriage are right according to the Shari`ah, he can legally go ahead and marry. But we need to understand the spirit of the Islamic ruling first.

For instance, if the second marriage is likely to upset the first marriage and the family structure already established, then a second marriage should be avoided, as it undermines the very purpose of the Islamic rules of marriage. But the permission of plural marriage is given in the context of protecting widows, as they need to be taken care of. In the very same verse it is stated clearly that if a man cannot treat his wives with equity, he should not marry more than one woman. This is a clause usually ignored or taken lightly by many men, depriving women the rights Allah Almighty has granted.

It is also worth mentioning that the bride has the right before marriage to demand her fiance to agree in advance to certain conditions of hers, in case he is interested in pursuing another marriage later on. Actually, this can be part of the marriage contract. As it is the duty of Muslims to fulfill all obligations, the Muslim husband cannot but honor such a condition.





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