How Can He Treat His Two Wives Fairly? Treatment Of Co-wives In Terms Of Gift-giving And Intimacy
Islamic Rulings -
Living Shariah Verdicts
Islamic Questions & Answers
Is it permissable for a man to be unfair to his
wife if he has two wives or one of his wives by not
splitting up up the time properly . he sometimes
leaves the second wife house two or three hours late
causing the first wife to be upset because of his
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
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 his wives.
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
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on
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 is
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
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
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
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
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
And Allaah knows best.
Does a man have
to treat his co-wives equally in terms of gift-giving
Does a man have to treat his co-wives equally in
terms of gift-giving and intimacy?
Praise be to Allaah.
Ibn Qudaamah said:
He does not have to treat his
co-wives equally in terms of spending and clothing, so
long as he does what he is obliged to do with regard
to each of them.
Ahmad said concerning a man who
had two wives: he has the right to favour one of them
in terms of spending, intimacy and clothing, so long
as the other has enough. He may buy for one of them
clothing of a higher quality than for the other, so
long as the other has enough. This is because treating
them equally in all these matters is too difficult,
and if it were obligatory then he would only be able
to do it with great difficulty. So he does not have to
do it, as is the case in treating them all equally
with regard to intimacy.