The following question was asked of a marja`:
As-Salaamu `Alaikum wa Rahmatullah,
Does polygamy have conditions? What is it that we are to do when the first wife categorically rejects polygamy and explicitly states that she will seek a divorce if the husband should engage in the act during their marriage?
The marja,` Imam `Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shami, may Allah preserve him, answered with what follows:
There are no conditions set for polygamy when the practice in its’ essence is permitted. And when someone has made a covenant of marriage with a second or third wife and the pillars and conditions of the marriage are completed, then the contract is sound.
The main issue is that that the polygamy in its’ essence must be adhered to according to what affairs are permitted, disliked and impermissible. Polygamy is permitted when there is a benefit for the husband such as in the case when his first wife has not been faithful to him or the first wife is barren and he wants more children.
Polygamy would be disliked when there the husband has no need. It was said by Imam Mustafa Ar-Ruhaibani: “He does not marry more than one wife and this is praiseworthy as long as she has been faithful and submissive to him and there is not seeking towards that which is impermissible.”
The scholars of the Sunan collections have narrated with a sound chain of transmission the following hadith, ‘Whoever had two wives and inclined to one of them over the other, then he will come on the Day of Resurrection with one side leaning.’
Polygamy would be impermissible for the husband when he reasonably knows or is certain that he would not be able to be just in that situation and this has basis according to what has been narrated by Imams Malik ibn Anas and Ibn Majah in a hadith where the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, “There is no harm or reciprocating harm.” This hadith is indeed authentic.
When the first wife rejects being in a polygamous marriage and explicitly states that she will seek a divorce if this is done in marriage, then in the event that he is just and it is not necessary for him but he insists on it, then he may divorce her.
If he chooses not to, that is his choice. If she is patience and does not want it or she wants a khula` then this is permitted. Allah knows best in that regard.
Taken from the website of the maraji