Informing the First Wife of the Second Marriage

Informing the First Wife of the Second Marriage

Question:

Firstly, I’d like to say, may Allah reward Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam for taking the time to serve the Umma by answering questions. I was reading through the site and came across an answer that made me a bit uneasy. I am not a scholar by any means, but the answer seemed strange to me and I’d like to seek clarification.

The answer in question is regarding the necessity of telling one’s first wife that one has entered into a second marriage. It is found at the following link:

https://www.daruliftaa.com/question.asp?txt_QuestionID=q-10023695

Basically, as I understood it, the Shaykh concluded that a man is under no
obligation to inform his first wife that he has indeed married again.

With all due respect, that seems absurd to me due to the following reasons:

1) One of the conditions of a marriage is the presence of witnesses presumably so that there is no deception involved–so that there is no suspicion, no lies, everything is on the up and up, so to speak. In addition to this requirement, it is sunnah to invite the public to a walimah celebrating the event–again, presumably in part so that knowledge that an actual marriage has taken place and the individuals in question are not fornicating. I don’t know, maybe strictly according to the letter of the law, a man’s first wife is not required to be among the witnesses–but what are we advocating here? That everyone in the community has a right to know that a man has contracted a second marriage but his first wife–who is most affected by his actions– can be kept in the dark? What kind of marriage is that?

2) How is the first wife (or second wife) to know whether or not her husband is giving her the necessaries in terms of her rights in a polygamous marriage if she isn’t even aware that she is in one? How does she know if she is being cheated in terms of equal sustenance and/or equal time when she doesn’t even know the second wife exists?

3) Realistically, if he doesn’t tell her, at some point he is going to have to account for his time/money away from the house. If he is asked, and he hasn’t been open and forthwith about what he has done elsewhere, he is going to have to lie and deceive to cover his tracks. Clearly, this is haram and creates a seriously undesirable situation.

4) Doesn’t the first wife have the right to know, particularly in these days of STDs and so forth; that her husband is having sexual relations with another woman–and to be assured that this other wife has a clean bill of sexual health? Doesn’t she have the right to protect her own health? If she is under the mistaken impression that she is in a monogamous situation, and she in fact is not, and is not having protected sex, doesn’t she have any rights here?

5) What about the damage to the level of trust that inevitable discovery will create in the first marriage? Fact is, he won’t be able to hide it forever, and when it does come out, the fact that polygamy is lawful will not negate the first wife’s feelings of having been betrayed and deceived–and those feelings can in fact destroy a marriage.

I could go on. There are so many problems with this scenario–it is, in my opinion, very dangerous to give off the impression that this type of behaviour is appropriate Islamically.

Sincerely,
A concerned sister

Answer:

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

I hope and pray this email finds you in the best of health and spirits. May Allah grant you all good and success in this life and the hereafter, Jazak Allah khayr for bringing this sensitive issue to my attention. May Allah reward your efforts, Ameen.

The points raised by you are, without doubt, extremely important and relevant. I fully agree with your concerns, and I am sure many others would also. I always like constructive criticism, since without it; it is possible for a human being to overlook important aspects. Hence, I once again thank you for your contribution and pray for your success in this world and the hereafter.

As far as my answer is concerned, what I merely said is that the marriage of a man to a second wife without his first wife’s knowledge is “technically” valid, in that his relationship with the second wife will not be a relationship of unlawful fornication/adultery (zina). I said:

“If you are willing and happy to be his second wife, then strictly speaking, your marriage with him would be valid (provided all the necessary ingredients for a valid marriage are met).”

However, I did not comment on whether this is something a man should do or otherwise. In light of the concerns raised by you, there is no doubt that this kind of behaviour is unreasonable to say the least, and may even be sinful. Indeed, in normal circumstances, a man should inform his first wife of his second marriage, but if he does not, his marriage with the second wife is “technically” valid. I say, “normal circumstances” because a man may be faced with extraordinary circumstances that do not allow him to disclose his second marriage — for a short period of time at least – to his first wife. It would be wrong to make a blanket statement that all men who marry without their first wife’s knowledge are corrupt and sinful. It is best to take each individual case and judge it on its own merit.

In other words, there are two separate aspects here: a) Validity, and b) Appropriateness. As far as validity is concerned, the marriage is valid, whilst, in normal circumstances, this is a wrong thing to do (and in some cases even sinful). But, this cannot be made a blanket ruling, since each individual’s situation differs from others.

Furthermore, I stated in my answer that even if he fails to disclose his second marriage to his first wife, she will automatically come to know of it, since he will be obliged to treat them equally. My actual words are:

“Thus, if one has to treat both of one’s wives equally and justly, then as a result, he will have to inform his first wife of his second marriage, unless the second wife forgoes her rights of equal treatment.”

Undeniably, my answer is incomplete, in that I failed to comment on this kind of behaviour of the man. I merely stipulated the Islamic ruling on whether a man’s marriage to a second wife is Islamically valid or not if he were not to inform his first wife of this.

The above should be sufficient in answering your concerns, but nevertheless, I would like to briefly address your concerns point-by-point:

1) It is, without doubt, a Sunna to publicize one’s marriage as much as possible. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Announce this marriage, and perform it in the Masjid…” (Sunan Tirmidhi and Sunan Ibn Majah)

However, the marriage itself is considered “valid” if it is witnessed by two male witnesses (shahidayn), or one male and two female witnesses in addition to the other basic requirements of an Islamic marriage contract being fulfilled, and the couple will not be guilty of involvement in an unlawful illicit relationship. If only two male witnesses were aware of a couple’s marriage and no other person, their marriage is Islamically valid. This is the position of most classical jurists, including the Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali Schools. The Walima is also a Sunna and not a pre-requisite for the validity of one’s marriage. (See for the Hanafi School: Radd al-Muhtar 3/21-22, for the Maliki School: Hashiyat al-Dasuqi ala ‘l-Sharh al-Kabir 2/342-343), for the Shafi’i School: Mughni al-Muhtaj Sharh al-Minhaj 3/194, and for the Hanbali School: Kashshaf al-Qina’ 4/60)

2) If the husband treats his wives unjustly, then that is a grave sin committed on his part, regardless of whether his wives have knowledge of this or otherwise. In fact, even if he were to disclose his second marriage to his first wife, there is no real way of the wives knowing whether he is treating them equally or unfairly. He may provide one wife with more financial support, without the other one knowing. As such, this, in of itself, is not something that makes his second marriage invalid.

3) Lying and deception are, without doubt, two of the major sins and from among the enormities (kaba’ir). But again, they are independent sins, and do not invalidate a man’s second marriage. One has to always ensure not to commit these grave sins, whether one is married, unmarried, involved in polygamy or monogamy.

4) Undoubtedly, it is a man’s obligation to ensure that his wife’s sexual health is protected, but this obligation is not restricted to when he has more than one wife. The husband is sinful if he knowingly transmits diseases to his wife regardless of whether, in a polygamous marriage, by means of having sexual relations with another wife, or in a monogamous one, by engaging in illicit sexual relations with another woman.

5) This is indeed very true, and as such, I reiterate that in normal circumstances, the husband must inform his wife of his second marriage and be upfront and truthful from the outset. However, if he fails to do so, his second marriage, in of itself, is still valid.

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

Question #: 5323
Published: 23/10/2008