There are categories of Sunnah. There's Sunnah(Wajib) and Sunnah (Mustahhab) and there is Sunnah (Mubah).
According to Al Subki, Sunnah (Wajib) and Sunnah (Mustahab) are the proper Sunnah in Istilah (religious context). Sunnah (Mubahaa) is the Sunnah in linguistic context and includes any action of the Prophet and his companions. These actions are not Sunnah but if one performs them with the right intention of fulfilling a Sunnah, he will get reward.
al-Subki defined the Sunnah to be: "The Sunnah in Istlaah (religious context) means: what have been known as obligatory or preferable from the saying of the Prophet" [al-ibhaaj fi sharh al-minhaaj: 1/36]
The Ulema have stated that marriage takes the five different rules of Shari`ah, i.e. obligatory (fard or wajib), recommended (mandub or mustahabb), permissible (mubah), disliked (makruh), prohibited (haram)
*It is obligatory for the one who fears committing fornication while financially capable to afford it.
* It can be recommended in some cases.
* It is permissible for the one who does not need it desperately.
* It can be disliked in some cases.
* It is prohibited for the one who does not need it, cannot afford it, or believes he can not be just toward his potential wife.
The rules of multi-marriage take a similar structure to single marriage.
However , this is the default rule of first marriage (Bold):
* obligatory (for the one who fears committing fornication while financially capable to afford it).
* permissible (for the one who does not need it desperately).
* prohibited (for the one who does not need it, cannot afford it, or believes he can not be just toward his potential wife).
And this is the default rule of plural marriages (Bold):
* obligatory(for the one who fears committing fornication while financially capable to afford it).
*permissible (for the one who does not need it desperately).
*prohibited (for the one who does not need it, cannot afford it, or believes he can not be just toward his potential wife).
The Sunnah (recommended) is to get married once. When one gets married the first time he fulfills half his deen and does not need to worry about re-completing half his deen. It is no longer Sunnah (recommended) for him.
Choosing to stick to one wife (monogamy) or having multiple wives (polygyny) is Sunnah (Mubahaa). If you do either of these two with the intention of emulating the Prophet (SAW) then you will earn reward in both the Dunya and the Akhirah. But they are not Sunnah [recommended]. That is why the scholars I have read from [these scholars are the most respected scholars of their time] say that the practises are not Sunnah in and of themselves and that the first marriage is Sunnah and deen by default whereas subsequent ones [if done without a reason] are just Dunya.
Note: The above was the default ruling. If a man can not be just then polygamy can be Haram/Makruh for him.
If a man is in genuine need of it then polygyny can be recommended or even fardh for him (and this means he will have the opportunity to fulfill the Sunnah of marriage and finally complete half his deen which was otherwise incomplete with the first marriage). But if you were lowering your gaze as the Quran commands you to or coming back to your wife to release your physical desires if you are attracted to other women [as the Prophet advised men] then you most probably wouldn't even be in that position in the first place.
As a side note the first marriage is mustahab (recommended) as the general rule.
According to Imam Abu Hanifah marriage is Sunnah and recommendatory (Mustahab).
On the other hand in Imam Abu Hanifah's Mad'dhab it is simply Mubah to have more than one wife. It is not mustahab to have more than one wife.
To: Ismail Moosa
Posted: Wed May 05, 2010 12:56 am
Subject: Living with several wifes in one apartment
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh respected mufti.
What is the legal status of polygyny in the Hanafi madh'hab? Is it considered mubah or recommended (mustahab)? Is it considered virtuous?
Jazak Allahu khayran for your help respected Mufti.
From: Ismail Moosa
Posted: Thu May 06, 2010 9:03 pm
Subject: Re: Living with several wifes in one apartment
Wa’alaykum as Salām wa raḥmatullāh wa barakātuhu,
5) It all depends on the individual. If he is extremely lustful, and his needs are not getting fulfilled with one wife, it will be wājib to take the second. If he fears that he will not do justice, it will be ḥarām. Under normal circumstances it will be mubāḥ.
And Allāh Ta’ālā knows best
Darul Iftaa, Miftaahulkhair
Benoni, South Africa
It reflects my previous point that the first marriage completes half the deen. The first marriage is recommended [mustahab] but subsequent polygamous ones are not recommended in Islam, they are merely Mubah [permissible].
"When the servant of Allah marries, he has fulfilled half the (responsibilities laid on him by the) faith; so let him be God conscious with respect to the other half". (Mishkat)
One can obviously not complete half their deen by marrying over and over again. Half the deen is completed once one marries the first time.
"And marry those among you who are single and the righteous among your servants, male or female...."
The Arabic word /'ayama/ is the plural form of /'ayyim/, which originally means a woman who has no husband. Then it
has also been applied to man who has no wife. Thus, the totality of all unmarried men and women, whether they are virgin or widower or widow, are included in this verse.
Again there is no such mention of encouragement for polygyny as married men are not included in this verse.
The question is, does it make the act sunnah? From what I was taught by ulemah, the first wife is deen, the second wife, without intention, is dunya. In other words, the practice, in and of itself, is not sunnah. (This is also in my books by several scholars, those scholars are the most respected scholars of their time.)
To understand the sunnah aspect better, let's look at marriage. A man that can marry, but doesn't, is going against the sunnah, unless he has a valid reason. Each second he's choosing to delay marriage he's going against the sunnah. The Prophet ecouraged us to marry, and scolded single people. He's told men that just enter into adulthood to marry. There are hadiths targeted to young men to marry. It's because marriage is such an important sunnah. In fact, there is such a rush, that for women, several of them were married off before they were even baalig. (Think Aisha® and also Umm Kathuum ibn Ali ® to Umar ®). Yet we don't see this for polygamy, i.e. men aren't rushed to marry more than one. Even Sahaba who later became polygamous were in no rush to find their second wives, while they were desperate to get married if they were single.
As a side note, I was reading one of my favorit people, Imam Al-haramain Imam Juwaani. He mentioned a hadith that Imam Shafe'i wrote in his book on his 1st mazhab. Imam Sha'fe'i gives isnaad from himself to the Prophet . The Prophet asked a man if he was married. The man said no. The Prophet replied, "Nothing stops you from marriage, except impotence or immorality." There are just so many hadiths, and it's hadiths after hadiths against single men. Yet, not one, that I've seen, against monogamous men. Doesn't that strike you as strange, if it's a sunnah, in and of itself?
One side note, Muaaz (معاذ) the sahaba, after hearing about marriage said, "Marry me! Marry me! I don't want to meet Allah a bachlor!" The hadith is in ابن أبي شيبة. I don't think I ever read any sahaba saying, "I need another wife! I need another wife! I can't meet Allah a monogamous man!"
On a related note, the application of the Prophet's saying: ""Nothing stops you from marriage, except impotence or immorality." can in no way be linked to polygamy. The Prophet asked "are you married." When the guy said "no." There is no way "no" can be interpreted to mean "I only have one wife." So when the Prophet replied, "nothing stops you from marriage, except impotency or immorality", impotency would stop a man from gaining a first wife. That can't be applied to polygamy.
And about Ibn Abbas Hadith: They're just using another way to address the Prophet(saw). The best of this nation was also addressed as "covered up" by Allah (مزمل).
Ibn Abbas asked a single man to marry. Ibn Abbas didn't ask him to take more wives. If addressing the Prophet(saw) as "having most women" is proof of polygamy encouragement, then why didn't ibn abbas address married men who don't have 4 wives? Why a single man?
Secondly, it's clear marriage is a sunnah, and being single is abstaining from the sunnah. Whoever is single is not doing the sunnah. However leaves marriage, has left the sunnah (generally speaking). There are hadiths after hadiths encouraging single young people to marry.
I'll also give the real text of the hadith.
قال لي ابن عباس: هل تزوجت؟ قلت: لا. قال: فتزوج، فإن خير هذه لأمة أكثرها نساء
Ibn Abbas asked, "Are you married." I said, "No." [Then] he said, "Then get married, [for] the best of this Ummah [had] the most women."
Sulayman (s) actually had more women than the Prophet(saw), that's why the hadith said "this ummah." Hence, even though the Prophet(saw) had less women than Sulayman(s), the Prophet(saw) is better. Also, the Arabs generally praised one another by talking about how many women they had(الشفاء). So ibn Abbas, in once sentence, praised by the Prophet(saw) by arab standards, used a flowing sentence, and put another person's mindset in the frame of marriage. It was a great rhetorical usage of language. However, it was still used to promote marriage (not polygamy), and doesn't prove that more women = better, because Sulayman (s) had more women, but wasn't better than the Prophet(saw).
Many of those who believe polygamy is recommended also use the Hadith about a certain poor man who came to the Prophet for increase in his rizq (sustenance) and the Hadith mentions the Prophet telling him to get married four times for rizq. But the Hadith is supposed to be very weak or fabricated. It has a man named Sa`eed Muhammad Mawlaa Bani Haashim about whom Abu Haatim Al Raazi (well known muhaddith of old, and an expert in jarh/ta`deel i.e. determining the state of narrators) said his hadith is worthless.
There is a Hadith where the Prophet was visited by a group of young and single Sahaba. upon observing the household of the Prophet they proclaimed their intention to never get married, upon which the Prophet announced "Marriage is my Sunnah, I marry women and whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not from me". Note that here the emphasis like in all other such Hadiths was to get married as these men were single. The Prophet never encouraged a married Sahaba to get married again. All the emphasis of marriage was on single men. The Prophet would scold single men for not marrying. But he never meted the same treatment on those already married.
In the verse revealed on polygamy, the verb used which is ''Fankihoo'' is not for obligation but its to show permissibility which means the original Hukm of Polygamy is that of Mubah, and not necessarily a preferred act in and of itself.