The view of Ayatollah Khamenei is that having several wives is permissible, but it has no rewards or recommendation.
This view is supported in fiqh and is in accordance with the common view of early fiqh scholars and some recent and contemporary ones; and Sheikh Tusi even claimed the consensus of fiqh scholars on the recommendation of sufficing to having one wife.
Ayatollah ‘Abbas Ka‘bi, the member of the teachers society of the seminary of Qom and the representative of the people of Khuzestan province in the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership explained about the view of Ayatollah Khamenei regarding lack of recommendation of having several wives in a statement to media as follows:
- The principle of marriage and proceeding to establish a family is a strong recommendation and has great rewards. Verses of the Glorious Qur’an and many hadiths imply it through consensus of Muslims and the school and even religion necessitate it; and in some conditions, it becomes obligatory such as when there is fear of falling in sinning in case of abandoning marriage.
- The permission for marrying the second or more women for men up to four women exists in the religion as a primary rule among the established rules of the school and religion in case of providing justice among the wives and affording to provide equal maintenances for them. There is no objection for it among fiqh scholars; and the honorable marja’, his eminence Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, may his blessings last, has the same view. However, the rule of having several wives is sometimes obligatory, recommended, disapproved or prohibited for different people based on different conditions the same as marriage is itself.
- The view regarding permissibility and not recommendation of having several wives, aside from its different conditions and states which Ayatollah Khamenei count; not only is supported by profound arguments in fiqh and most early fiqh scholars and also some recent ones believe in it; but, late Shaikh al-Ta’ifaTusi (blessed be his soul) claimed lack of opposite views against the permission of having several wives and not its recommendation. He issued explicit fatwa for the permission of having several wives and the recommendation of sufficing to having one wife and considered this fatwa having no arguments against it among religious scholars. His statement in Mabsut, vol. 5, p. 111 is, “it is permissible for a man to marry four [women] without any opposition; and the recommendation for [marrying no more but] one” and in Khilaf, vol. 5, p. 4, he said, “it is permissible for a man to marry four [women] without any opposition; and it is recommended that one does not [marry] more if he knows that he cannot fulfill it; and all fiqh scholars say that, ‘it is recommended to suffice to [marry] one [woman].’”
After late Sheikh Tusi, late Qadi Ibn Barraj and late Tabrisi too issued fatwa for recommendation of sufficing to having one wife.
- The arguments of believers in the recommendation of having several wives are based on general references in hadiths which suggest the recommendation of marriage [in general] and not having several wives; and it is proved in Usul al-fiqh that it suggest the [general] issue, not the times or repetition and “a [general] issue comes to existence if onse example of it exists” and in the issue under discussion, marriage takes place by one instance and all its merits would thus be achieved.
But, regarding the noble verse 3 of sura al-Nisa’,
“If you fear that you may not deal justly with the orphans, then marry [other] women that you like, two, three, or four. But if you fear that you may not treat them fairly, then [marry only] one, or [marry from among] your slave-women. That makes it likelier that you will not be unfair.”;the late author of Jawahir and other recent scholars did not deduce recommendation of having several wives from this verse. Although they finally issued fatwa for recommendation of having several wives, they deduced only the permission for having several wives. Although, late Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhsin Hakim and following him, other commentators of ‘Urwat al-wuthqa have referred to this verse for proving the recommendation of having several wives, to answer about rejection of the recommendation and deduction of its permission, different aspects can be counted;and we briefly just explainit according to the fiqh principle of “ordering after prohibition” which suggests [only] the permissibility; and [thus], the noble verse suggests the permission for having several wives, not its recommendation.
Among the commentators of ‘Urwat al-wuthqa, in Madarik al-‘Urwa, vol. 29, p. 20, late Ayatollah Sheikh Alipanah Eshtehardi believed in the permission of having several wives and rejected the recommendation of having several wives. However, due to social considerations and its negative influences, he believed in disapproval of having several wives and considered referring to the noble verse 3 of sura al-Nisa’ causing different problems.
The translation and explanation of the statement of late Ayatollah Sheikh Alipanah Eshtehardi, among great fiqh and ethics scholars of the seminary of Qom is that he said, “the permission for having several wives is clear; but, there is no argument from verses and hadiths regarding recommendation of having several wives. Verse 3 of sura al-Nisa’ does not encourage to have several wives; but rather, it explains the importance of caring about orphans and observing justice regarding them. The relation between the condition “If you fear that you may not deal justly with the orphans” and its result “then marry [other] women that you like” suggests that the verse is among challenges by referring to its interpretations in exegeses. Then, late Eshtehardi concluded that, “rather having several wives is disapproved due to sadness and bothering of the wives, social problems and the fear for not observing justice by men.
To conclude what is mentioned above, it can easily be understood that the fatwa of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei (may his blessings last) about the permission of having several wives and rejecting its recommendation is supported by profound arguments in fiqh and has very strong authenticity among great early researchers such as Sheikh Tusi, Qadi Ibn Barraj and Tabrisi and contemporary scholars including the author of Madarik al-‘Urwa and late Ayatollah Sheikh Alipanah Eshtehardi; and the claim of commonness of recommendation of having several wives among fatwas is not established; but rather, the common opinion among early scholars, the claim about existence of consensus over the permission of having several wives and recommendation of sufficing to having one wife in the religion is mentioned differently and independently from people’s statuses and different conditions.