Marrying two, three or four women
Fatwa No: 257272

Question

What are the views of the Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki and Hanbali madhabs on whether it is better to have only one wife or more than one wife as a general rule?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and messenger.

Many jurists have stated that marrying more than one wife is just permissible, while some of them are of the view that it is better to have only one wife unless there is a need for polygyny, such as if spinsterhood is widespread, if there is a large number of widows and divorced women, or if the husband cannot remain chaste with only one wife, or wishes to have children [i.e. if his wife is barren]; in such cases it is better to marry more than one wife if the person believes that he is able to maintain justice between his wives.

However, Daawood Ath-Thaahiri  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him is of the view that it is better to marry more than one wife. Al-Jassaas, from the Hanafi School of jurisprudence, said in his Tafseer (interpretation of the Quran): “With regard to the saying of Allaah (which means): {…two or three or four…}, it implies that it is permissible for a man to marry two wives if he so wishes, three if he so wishes, or four if he so wishes, and he has the choice to marry whichever number among these. He said: if he fears that he will not treat them fairly, then instead of four, he should marry three, and if he fears that he will not be just between three, then instead of three he should marry two, and if he still fears that he will not be just between two, then he should marry only one.” [End of quote]

Ash-Shirbeeni from the Shaafi’i School of jurisprudence, said in Mughni Al-Muhtaaj: “It is a Sunnah not to marry more than one wife if there is no apparent need.” [End of quote]

Moreover, Al-Maawardi, from the Shaafi’i School of jurisprudence, said: “Allaah has permitted a man to marry up to four wives, saying: {…two or three or four…}, but Allaah advised that it is desirable for man to marry only one wife, saying: {...But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one} Ibn Daawood and a group who follow the methodology of Ath-Thaahir (sticking to the apparent meaning of texts while denying the validity of analogical reasoning) are of the opinion that it is better to marry four wives if the person is able to fulfill their needs and he should not restrict himself to marrying only one wife, as the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) did not restrict himself to marrying only one. However, Ash-Shaafi’i is of the view that it is desirable to confine oneself to marrying only one although it is permissible for him to marry more than one. This is to avoid being unfair by being more inclined to some of them than others, or being unable to financially support them. The more preponderant opinion in my view is that this depends on the condition of the husband; if he is satisfied with only one, then it is more appropriate for him not to marry a second wife, and if he is not satisfied with only one wife because he has a strong desire and an excessive need to have sexual intercourse so often, then he may marry as many as will satisfy him, be it two, three or four, in order that he lower his gaze and protect his private parts from unlawful sexual intercourse.” [Al-Haawi]  

Furthermore, Ibn Qudaamah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him from the Hanbali School of jurisprudence, said in Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer: “It is more appropriate to marry only one wife. The author of Al-Muharrar [i.e. Abul Barakaat Al-Majd ibn Taymiyyah] said this, based on the saying of Allaah (which means) {...But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one}.” [End of quote from Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer authored by Shams-ud-deen Ibn Qudaamah]

Finally, Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “It is safer to restrict oneself to only one wife. However, if one sees that one wife is not enough for him and he cannot maintain his chastity by having only one wife, then we enjoin him to marry a second, a third, or a fourth, until he feels comfortable, lowers his gaze, and enjoys peace of mind.” [Excerpt from Ash-Sharh Al-Mumti’]

For more benefit, kindly refer to Fataawa 81469, 86818 and 89753.

Allaah Knows best.

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