RE: Common Causes of Problems in Polygyny (Rivalry among Wives on Calling the Husband By Whose/Which Child’s Name: Abu XYZ, Daddy XYZ, Baba XYZ)

As trivial as this may sound and appear, wives in polygyny do compete among themselves upon making the first child of each of them (or any other preferred child of each) to be affiliated to the husband so that it is by the name of a child of each of them that the husband will be nicknamed and addressed, either by each them or their friends and relatives. Such nickname is known in Islam as “al-Kunyah: الکنية”. In other words, if the first child of the first wife is Fatīmah and that of the second wife is Abdulrahman while that of the third wife is Hafsah and that of fourth wife is Summayyah, each wife would deliberately strives to ensure that the husband is nicknamed and addressed as the father of her own first child thus: Abū Fatīmah; Abū Abdulrahman; Abū Hafsah; Abū Summayyah; respectively.

Of course, in doing this, there is bound to be some feelings of jealousy from each other and justifiably from the first wife. This becomes more controversial if the first child is not from the first wife or the first son is not from her. The husband may more proudly be preferred to be nicknamed and addressed by the name of a son; especially the first son. Is this also acceptable in Islam?

Therefore, for every Muslim polygynous family, there is a solution to this unwarranted problem within the polygyny.

The Solution

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has once decreed that, a Muslim father should be nicknamed and addressed by the name of his eldest child, whether a male or female. This does not change even if the mother of that first child is deceased or has been divorced. From the tone of the directive from the Prophet, whether the child is still alive or not may equally not matter.

The Basis in the Hadith

A companion of the Prophet, by name Hānīa (Abu Shurayh), reported that he was once nicknamed Abu-l-Hakam (Father of Judgement). The Prophet said to him, “Allah is the Judge and unto Him are all Judgements” (inquiring why he was nicknamed Father of Judgement). Then, Abu Shurayh replied: “When my people disputed on any matter, they do bring their disputes to me and I do hands down some judgements among them and both parties are usually pleased and satisfied with my judgements”(clarifying the reason for the nickname).

Then, the Prophet said:”That is fantastic/excellent (!ما أحسن هذا)! But do you have any child?

The companion replied, saying he had children: “Shurayh (شريح); Muslim; and ‘Abdullah“.

Then, the Prophet asked: “who is their oldest?“. He replied, saying it was Shurayh. Then the Prophet declared: “Thus, you are Abu Shurayh” (see _Sunan Abu Daud_ , Hadith 4955 in Vol. 4, page 289; _Sahih Fī al-Jāmi’_ by Al-Banī, Hadith 1845). See also, Abdullah Bin Muhammed Bin Sa’d Āl Khunain, _At-Tahkīm fī Sharī-ati-l-Islāmiyyah_ , p.32.


From the foregoing, it is clear that in Islam, the valid Kunyah for every Muslim father is by the name of the eldest child among the children, regardless of the wife that gave birth to that child and regardless of the gender of such child (oldest). This is apparent from the directives made by the Prophet to the companion, Hānīa, Abu Shurayh. As earlier noted,
this ruling does not change even if the mother of that first child is deceased or has been divorced. From the tone of the directive from the Prophet also, whether the child is still alive or not may equally not matter.

Therefore, competing in Kunyah of the husband has no basis in a Muslim polygynous family. Let all the wives conduct themselves on this matter in accordance with the Islamic ethics and etiquettes on Kunyah for a Muslim father. If the first child is Hameedah, it is incumbent upon all other wives to address the husband as Abū Hameedah (Daddy Hammeedah; Baba Hammeedah)*. Families and friends of all other wives who are not the mother of that first child should avoid creating divisions in the family by not unnecessarily calling the husband by name of a child of the wife who is their own, when her own child is not the first; the oldest.

Like other common causes of problems in the Muslim polygyny, the issue of which name to call the husband in terms of the child by which he would be nicknamed should not be an issue. There is a clear stipulation on this in Islam. It is the responsibility of all the stakeholders in the polygny to abide by the Islamic directives. Thus, if there is a problem within the Muslim polygyny, parties involved should check themselves and put no blame on the religion of Islam that sanctions it. The polygny as as a system of marriage cannot equally be balmed.

Dr Abdullahi Saliu Ishola
Ilorin, Kwara State
Friday, 4th November, 2022.


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