Islamic marriage advice and family advice

What is the legal status of a second wife?

Assalamualaikum All

I hope you are in the best health wherever you are and May Allah bless us all. amin

I read some discussion in this forum is about men doing polygamy with or without their first wife's permit. Here I want to ask brothers or sisters who live in Western countries and live in poligamy. I myself never live there, I live in Asian country  but I know a revert American brother and some men who live there and want to do polygamy/have intention to do that.

It is also about my past experience asked to be the second wife by a brother who had a wife and kids and they live in USA. They were not divorce yet but the wife allowed him to take another wife.

As long as I know US law doesn't allow polygamy means only the registered marriage will be lawfully accepted. If it is so, how is my status and also the born kids ( by law ) if I accepted that? In Islam as long as the requirement fulfilled, the marriage is halal. But we live under a government too which is built to rule the society by laws.

In my country, doing polygamy some requirements must be fulfilled, if not, the marriage will be unregistered and the wife and kids will have problems related to documents, will, etc.

For mixed couple marriage I read some bad experience about separation and deportation because of not unfulfilled requirements or unregistered marriage. If it is so, where is the husband's duty to protect his kids and wife as Islam order him?

Pls share anything you know or suggest or advice. It is important for my sisters who face this case/ having future husbands from different country but not divorce yet.


Allah Hafidz

- Skylite

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4 Responses »

  1. Salaams,

    You are correct. In the US, even though polygamy is accepted in the eyes of Allah, it is not accepted in the eyes of the government. So yes, there would be issues related to having the legal status of a spouse to afford the government benefits and such. It definitely makes things complicated when it comes to inheritence, but not altogether impossible. However, you wouldn't be entitled to any social security benefits or anything like that if he retires or passes away.

    If you became the second wife to a US citizen who already had a "legal" wife here, and you were to get pregnant and deliver the baby in the US, the child would be considered a US citizen regardless of the status of the parents. What that means is, a child born on US soil is not going to be "deported", even if the parents are. The child's birth certificate will still have the name of the father on it, and the status of the parents' relationship at the time isn't going to keep the child from being able to get a social security card, enroll in school, or any of those other things. Trust me, there are a lot of (legally) unwed couples who have children and the children are able to be taken care of just the same as those of wedded couples. So really, for the children this isn't so much a problem.

    However, if you were hoping that by marrying the man you could gain residence in the US as a wife, it's impossible unless you have a legal marriage. He won't be able to get you a green card as a spouse with only an Islamic marriage. So if you were looking at it from a citizenship angle for yourself, then you would basically have to immigrate on your own merits and not through a spouse. In that sense, if you came on a visa and the visa expired before you could get a green card on your own, yes you could be deported (but any children you had here could remain).

    I hope some of that information was helpful, if you have more specific questions we will try to answer them too insha'Allah.

    -Amy Editor

  2. Salam

    Thanks for the helping information sister. Your explanation helps me to understand more about it. Now I know many men in USA do polygamy and seems no obstacle as long as they live in USA.

    The kids are secured under US law if they live there. The problem seems come if it is related to the law in my country ( South East Asian ). Our Government will never issue a Book Nikah / the marriage will be unregistered if the man doesn’t provide divorce paper or / a paper about he is able to get married which is issued by his embassy while we know US will never issue this paper because of no polygamy law. The marriage will be Islamic marriage only and by law I was single and my kids will be tourists anytime they come to my country or we decide to stay in my country. Seems women especially from my country must have considerations before coming into a marriage like this.

    If I have more question or specific question about it later insha Allah I will write it in this forum.

    Jazaakumullah Khoir


  3. I live in Australia. My husband and I have been married for 30 years, together for 35 years. He is Iranian and I am English but we are not both Australian citizens and live in Australia.

    We married twice, once in Iran and once in England, both during 1981. Both marriages were registered in Iran and England. Due to my husband's intended infidelity (4 years ago) we briefly separated for one month but worked out our problems. However, my husband has depression and wanted to go ahead with a divorce in Australia that we had already applied for. I foolishly agreed but we stayed together as we are still married with the Iranian marriage documents.

    Now he has done the same thing but carried out the infidelity and it is his cousin he is with. They married in Iran and have now married in Australia but we are still married because of the Iranian marriage. The divorce certificate only divorces us from the English marriage not the Iranian marriage.

    Nobody wants to help me or listen to me here in Australia. I think this is bigamy. I knew nothing about these marriages and I never agreed to any of it. He has deceived immigration to get a visa for her by not declaring I am still his wife. I am not being treated equal, he has left me and his son and daughter.

    I need a lawyer, can anyone help please?

    • Asalaam alaikum,

      Are you Muslim or a non-Muslim? Are you Sunnis or Shias? The later will have bearing below.

      The problem that you are facing is that Australian authorities cannot enforce a marriage decree from another country (Iran) once they have legalized a divorce upon their own records of the marriage. What also is problematic is that because Australia is part of the countries in which sanction Iran, they cannot deem the documents as legitimate or as enforceable. The third point is that both of you are neither Australian citizens.

      What you need to do is to research legal unions in Australia and see if you two fit in that category prior to his marrying his cousin. This would at least give you civil recourse if you decide to pursue this further. I am not familiar with Australian civil marriage law, so you'll have to do your homework on this aspect.

      However, you should have recourse with the mosque that you attend in Australia by seeking counsel from the resident alim and seeing how the issue can be dealt with and the requirements of dealing justly with multiple wives addressed. This is of course on the basis that you wish to be remain married to him. Under Islamic law, he does have to fulfill your rights.

      A few questions you should have answer to before talking to the alim:

      1. Do you wish to remain married?
      2. Do you understand that Islamically, he can marry up to four wives at the same time?
      3. Do you understand that Islamically, he can marry his cousin?
      4. Which scholar does he or you do taqleed of, if he and/or you are a Shia Muslim?

      If he is a Shia Muslim, the last question may play a significant part in how the alim will be able to proceed. In Shia Islam, some scholars say that the first wife's permission should be sought if she is a Muslim. Others have said that it is not necessary. Then there is a different application of the Islamic law if the wife is a non-Muslim.

      The more specifics you have at hand, the better chances of a resolution can be found.

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