As a Second Wife, I’m Not Being Treated Equally

Question and answer details
A (34_female_UK)
As-salamu `alikum. I got married second time round in Ramadhan last year. I knew this guy for a while. I also knew he is married & has a first wife; when he proposed I was against it as I knew he won't be able to handle the two of us. Anyway since we have been married all we have done is arguing. His family does know about us & they think it's not a marriage. Please read carefully and advise me as its tearing me apart. When I got married I asked my husband to let the first wife know (as from my understanding he has to ask her permission). He said to me she's aware and has agreed. Secondly when the Imam (Qazi) read our Nikkah we had witnesses but he did not bring the marriage certificate book Nikkah Nama. However, in the process his brothers have called me everything under the sun and said that were not really married. I've been begging my husband to get the marriage certificate and he always talks himself out of it. Anyway recently our arguments have escalated as me and his first wife had good communication however, the other day she twisted my words and told him which he took quite badly. He came over to my house; I explained it was not what I said and even showed her message but he still didn't believe me. I have now had enough as I had learnt to compromise with my husband a lot. He never eats from my house, he never has taken me out, asking for money is like getting a blood out of a stone and the most upsetting for me is that he only stays around two nights a week. His first wife can drive, his two sons are 14 & 15, they are capable to look after themselves. I'm not saying he should leave them I never said it when we read Nikkah and I wouldn't even say it now; I just want equality, yes he does do most of my shopping but then I have to listen to it all the time. He is a helpful man and does help me with chores but that's all that is. In his eyes I should just fulfill my duty as a wife and that's it, which I do as he's my husband and I do love him. This week our arguments escalated so much that he told me to find myself another husband. In anger I said I will; he then said "well I'm not divorcing you, you can divorce me". I had a horrible first marriage and to be honest I have no regrets when we separated. I can't have the 2nd tag on my head it will kill me. I love him very much. I have two little kids (from first marriage). He does love them dearly especially my daughter which he calls his own and would do anything for her but he is never there for any of us. He understands his duty towards his first wife and kids but why not me. Please someone tell me what to do as it's becoming moreand more unbearable everyday. I don't want to reach a point where I have to do a Khul`...JZK
Sakeena Abdulraheem

As salaamu alaykum dear Sister,

After reading your question, there are three major themes that resonate with me which are: the importance of following one’s intuition, utilizing and developing insight, and the importance of having a strong sense of self-worth. A person who possesses these qualities will have a basic emotional foundation that will help the individual in navigating the world of marriage.

In your initial statements you said you married a man and you knew he was married to someone else when you married him. You also stated that "when he proposed I was against it because I knew he would not be able to handle the two of us." Although Islam in the Quranic and other religious texts mentions polygamy as being permissible there are certain criteria that must be met that most men are not able to meet. Among these criteria is treating the women the same in every way. If you would like further elaboration on that I would encourage you to post your inquiry on the Ask About Islam or Ask the Scholar sections of our website.

Due to the fact that the standards are so high and that multiple marriages should not be taking place unless these criteria have been met, many men Islamically are not able to obtain this type of lifestyle and fulfill the Islamic obligations successfully.

Also historically the men who had multiple wives did not necessarily marry these women for romantic, sexual, or for fulfilling some type of selfish desire that objectifies the woman that is the object of that pursuit. Many of the men married women who needed help financially, their husbands died in war, as a form of protection, etc. So as I mentioned earlier these situations are contextual and although it is a historical practice that is mentioned as permissible it does not necessarily mean that it is appropriate for implementing in modern western society, which in many western nations the practice is against the law. As a result, part of being Muslim, is abiding by the laws of the nations in which we live and being contributing and engaging citizens and members of our community.

One of the reasons of why the criteria for having more than one wife are so strict and very specific is because these criteria are meant to serve as a protection for women in general. A lot of critical factors that are often not taken into consideration are sometimes a woman not being able to get a marriage certificate with her husband or receive a firm commitment from him, not being acknowledged by the family as being a wife, her property rights and inheritance rights often go unfulfilled, there is arguing or fighting between the wives involved in the marriage, and sexually transmitted diseases are sometimes spread.

Based upon the explanation of your question your main concern is that you obtain equal treatment from your husband as you mentioned that along with other problematic factors you argue with him frequently and you only get to see him twice a week. 

Looking at all of these factors my question to you is what do you want to get out of this type of marriage? What are you looking for in marriage in general? How do you expect to maintain equal treatment in a marriage where the foundation of the marriage is unequal?


You stated that "since we have been married all we have done is argue." What does a healthy relationship look like to you? Do you feel that the current marriage that you are in is a healthy relationship? Emotionally? Psychologically? Spiritually? Sexually? If the answer is no then now is the time to reflect on whether it is healthy and safe for you to continue in a situation like this.

I would recommend consulting with a local marriage and family therapist in your area that is comfortable, familiar, and knowledgeable about working with Muslim families in therapeutic settings. However, these key questions should make it clear to you as what the best course of action to take is. I highly recommend utilizing a therapist to help you in negotiating the equal treatment you would like to receive in your marriage.


For further guidance, please try the following links:


About the Counselor:

Sakeena Abdulraheem holds an MA in Social studies with a concentration in Islamic studies from the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. She is currently completing her M.A.in counseling psychology with a concentration in trauma counseling. She has extensive experience working as a teacher, mentor, and consultant.

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. You are strongly advised to seek face-to-face counseling and consult your physician or therapist when making a drastic change in your lifestyle in terms of behavior, medication or diet etc.