What is the Islamic ruling regarding a second nikah in countries where polygamy is illegal?


A lady wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa saying, “My husband, who had been expelled from the Jamaat, has performed a second nikah without first divorcing me. Since he does not have the legal right to have more than one wife, he is therefore committing adultery. I do not see the Islamic status of such a nikah. Hence, his [second] nikah should be annulled.” 

In his letter dated 16 January 2021, Huzooraa provided the following reply to this request:

“It is true that it is legally forbidden for a married man to have another wife in most Western countries. However, Islam allows a man to have up to four wives at a time. If a man travels to a place where having more than one wife is not prohibited and marries another woman by way of a formal nikah, then in the Western countries, his second wife would not be afforded any rights under the law of the land. However, under the Islamic law, she would be considered his wife and their conjugal relationship would not be deemed adultery. 

“Would you have been pleased if your husband had had an extramarital affair with that woman, which is prohibited by the Shariah but the laws of these Western countries allow room for it to be considered legal?

“Just as Islam has defined rights for men based on their requirements, it has likewise established different rights for women. While elucidating this aspect of Islamic teaching, the Promised Messiahas stated:

“‘It is well known that Islam permits a man to marry up to four wives at a time; and this is a permission, not a compulsion. Every man and woman is well aware of this doctrine. When marrying a Muslim man, women have the right to lay down the condition that the husband will, in no circumstance whatsoever, marry another woman. If this condition is laid down before marriage, the husband will certainly be guilty of breach of contract if he goes on to marry another. However, if a woman does not prescribe any such condition, and is content with the law as it is, an outsider has no right to interfere. In such a case, the [Urdu] proverb seems relevant: “If the husband and wife are happy, the judge has nothing to do.” Every sensible person can understand that God has not made polygamy obligatory, He has only declared it lawful. If a husband desires, for some genuine reason, and under Divine law, to avail this permission, and his wife is not happy about it, she has the option to demand a divorce and be rid of this anxiety. And if the other woman, whom he wishes to marry, is not happy, she too has the easy option to decline the offer of such a suitor. No one is under compulsion. But if both women agree to this second marriage, what right then does an Arya have to interfere?’” (Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khazain Vol. 23, p. 246)”

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