Question: What is the ruling on polygamy? How do we establish polygamy properly?
Allah the Almighty commands:
“If you fear that you might not treat the orphans (under your guardianship) justly, then marry the women that you like: two, or three, or four. If you fear that you will not be able to treat them justly, then marry (only) one, or marry from among the captives under your guardianship. This will make it more likely that you will avoid injustice.” (The Women 4:3)
Men are permitted to wed up to four women according to Islam. But none of the weddings (nikah) can be performed secretly. All of these weddings must be supervised. The supervisor can be someone from the family of the bride or an official if the bride’s family does not perform this duty. Weddings which are performed without supervision are void.
Announcing the marriage is also required. According to a narration by Muhammad Hatib al-Jumahi: The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said, “The distinction between what is lawful and what is unlawful is playing the tambourine at a wedding and announcing it.” (Tirmidhi, Nikah, 6; Ibn Majah, Nikah, 20; Nasai, Nikah, 72)
Aisha narrated that The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said, “Announce the weddings, conduct them in crowded places such as mosques, and play the tambourines to announce them”. (Tirmidhi, Nikah, 6)
The most important rule of polygamy is to treat the wives fairly. More precisely, providing the same opportunities for every one of them, sparing the necessary time, money, etc. and behaving justly. Because Allah commands:
“(…) If you fear that you will not be able to treat them justly, then marry (only) one, or marry from among those under your guardianship. This will make it more likely that you will avoid injustice.” (The Women 4:3)
If the husband has a hard time doing this, he should at least keep on doing his essential duties if he still wants to keep the other wife. Allah commands:
“You will not be able to treat your wives with absolute justice even if you keenly strive on it. So at least do not be inclined completely on one and leave the other in suspense. If you reconcile and guard yourselves (against evil), surely Allah will forgive and grant.” (The Women 4:129)
The husband does not need to take permission from his first wife for the second marriage. There is no evidence on this. However, if polygamy is not common in the community living in, the wife will have a right to divorce her husband without giving her Mehr (bridal gifts) back in this situation. So it is advised that the couple should talk about this priorly. Besides, since no wedding can be performed secretly, the first wife would be aware of the second one very soon.
Please see also:
Women’s Right To Divorce: http://www.islamandquran.org/?p=838