Praise be to Allaah.
Allaah has permitted a man to have several wives, and has forbidden men to mistreat their wives. If a man wants to have more than one wife, then he can keep the first wife on a decent and reasonable basis, or he can let her go in a kindly manner. It is not permissible for him to keep her married to him whilst forsaking her and not giving her her rights. It is not permissible for him to be negligent with regard to his family and the upbringing of his children. Plural marriage has not been prescribed in order to destroy families, rather it is prescribed to build families and increase their numbers.
This forsaking of his wife and negligence is haraam for him, even if he had another wife according to shareeâah, so how about if he is forsaking his wife and neglecting his family for an illegitimate reason such as a haraam relationship and corrupt desires?
The wife has the right to ask for a divorce from her husband if she cannot bear his bad treatment. This does not mean that she does not accept the decree of Allaah. Indeed in some cases it may be haraam for her to stay with a husband who commits major sins and whose children are not safe from his evil influence and bad treatment. As divorce is allowed in Islam and it may even be obligatory to ask for a divorce in some cases, there is no need to think that this may go against belief in the divine will and decree, because Allaah has decreed both marriage and divorce.
The wife has the right to live with her husband and be treated in a decent and reasonable manner, and to have a husband with whom she can feel happy and who will be like a garment for her, so that there will be love and compassion between them. This is the reason for which marriage was prescribed, and if anything detracts from what we have mentioned, then it is contrary to the reason for which marriage was prescribed.
Hence the husband should choose a woman who is religiously-committed, and fathers and guardians should marry their daughters and female relatives under their care to men who are religiously-committed and of good character, because if the Muslim household is established on the basis of the laws of Allaah, no wrongdoing or cruelty will be seen in it. If a wife dislikes her husband for a legitimate sharâi reason, then she can ask for divorce (talaaq) or can divorce him by khulaâ, and if he dislikes her he can divorce her by talaaq and give her her rights in full. He should either retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness.
If divorce takes place, then Allaah may decree that she finds a good, righteous husband, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):
âBut if they separate (by divorce), Allaah will provide abundance for everyone of them from His Bountyâ
Some woman stay and put up with their husbands because of the possibility that Allaah may reform them, or so that he will remain in contact with his children and take care of them and spend on them. If a long time goes by and he does not reform or he mistreats his wife and children too much, and she has sufficient money to spend on herself and her children, then there is no point in her staying with him. Rather the right thing to do is to rid herself of him so that she can live a better and more decent life, and raise her children to obey Allaah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
You should take stock of yourself and repent to Allaah for any sins or transgressions that you may have committed against the rights of Allaah or the rights of your husband, or anyone else. Perhaps what has happened to you may be a punishment for a sin that you have committed, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
âAnd whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons muchâ
Think long and hard about your situation and how likely it is that you may find a husband after him or live a peaceful life without him. Consult people around you who are close to you and are sincere. I advise you, if they agree with you, to divorce him if the situation is as you describe in your question. So pray istikhaarah and ask Allaah for guidance, and if you feel at ease with the idea of divorce then go ahead, and ask Allaah to make you independent of means by His bounty. We ask Allaah to set your affairs straight and to relieve your distress and reconcile between you if that is better for you both.
And Allaah knows best.