A Muslim polygamy site operated out of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has more than 100,000 profiles for users in Britain, where polygamy is illegal. The site gets most of its traffic from Pakistan, the United Kingdom, India, and Indonesia.
“According to sharia law, Muslims are allowed to practice polygyny,” SecondWife.com explains on its “About Us” section. “Polygyny” is a term for polygamy between one husband and many wives. “The Qur’an sipulates [sic] that a man may have up to four legal wives at any one time; the restriction on the number was not customary before the advent of Islam in Arabia.”
The website quotes Surah 4:3, which reads, “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or that which your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.”
Soldiers of the Islamic State (ISIS) have used the “that which your right hands possess” as a justification for raping women captured in war. The Second Wife website, however, insists that “the husband is required to treat all wives equally.”
“This applies right down to the finest details, if you give a gift to one wife you must give a gift of similar value to each of the others,” the site explains. “You must spend an equal amount of time with each wife and you must be fair in how you devide [sic] your love and attention to each.”
Many westerners might find this an idle curiosity — so Pakistani Muslims might be practicing polygamy, what of it? On Monday, SecondWife.com founder Azad Chaiwala told the BBC that around 100,000 Muslims in Britain have created profiles on the site. Men outnumber women three to one, he added.
This may sound astonishing, but traffic numbers from Alexa Internet support these claims. While 22 percent of the site’s traffic comes from Pakistan, a full 19 percent comes from Britain. By contrast, only 8 percent comes from India and 2 percent from Indonesia. Men are “greatly overrepresented” at this site, while women are “greatly underrepresented.”
The site’s success in Britain may present legal issues, as polygamous marriages in the United Kingdom are only recognized if they took place in other countries where they are legal. British law does not stop unregistered religious ceremonies from taking place, however.
Chaiwala told the BBC, “The second wife website came about from my need, and thinking there’ll be other people in my situation.”
“There are other deceiving ways of doing it — affairs, prostitution, etc. — those are not necessarily good for relationships,” the web designer told the BBC. “Here it is more honorable.”
Chaiwala added, “We’ve got so many successful marriages and so many women signed up themselves … they are opting to enter this kind of relationship.”
Professor Thom Brooks, dean of Durham Law School, told the BBC that polygamy typically gives a husband “full control over who every single member of that family is.”
“I think that as the country’s trying to get a greater sense of equality, certainly trying to make steps towards gender equality, I think this is something which would be a stumbling block — this would be a setback,” Brooks said.
Tarek, a SecondWife.com user who spoke to the BBC, said he “found there were a lot of ladies who are growing old, or divorced, or single mothers, and nobody’s really interested in them.” He said he uses the site to help the less fortunate. “I’m not just doing it to have, I’m doing it to give,” the polygamist said.
Tracy, his second wife, told the BBC, “I thought long and hard about polygamy and I thought ‘well, OK, this could actually work out to my advantage.’ I want to be married to somebody but I still want to be able to travel and have my independence.”
But this second wife also ran into some problems. “I do think about my co-wife, they’ve got another child coming along, she does need more support,” Tracy said. “I’ve found myself being more insecure… it’s really affecting me. As much as I really love Tarek, I wouldn’t do it again, because it’s not easy emotionally, it really isn’t.”
Tarek suggested the second wife has unusual autonomy. “The wife has the choice. She can walk away from the ‘marriage’ at any point,” the user said.
The site explains that it is only for Muslims “seeking a polygamous marriage within the eyes of Allah,” and encourages users to “check local law where you reside.”
“Where polygamy is illegal, we advise you still have a ceremony in which your families and the religious community recognise the relationship as a marriage, even though it may not be legally registered,” the site advises.
Jews and Christians, who do not accept polygamy, may point to the biblical story of Jacob and his two wives, Leah and Rachel. The jealousy Tracy spoke about more or less defined Leah and Rachel’s relationship, and each of these two wives competed with the other to provide children for Jacob. They even gave Jacob their handmaids to be surrogate mothers.
For Jews and Christians, the story of Jacob’s two wives is a cautionary tale about the dangers of polygamy. Both Genesis and Jesus stipulate that marriage is between one man and one woman, who are to become “one flesh.”
Muslims are more divided on the issue, and while most Muslims in the West do not practice polygamy, evidently many in Britain do — or would like to.
Chaiwala did not return multiple requests for comment from PJ Media. He also did not explain to the BBC how his polygamy site navigates the obvious shortcoming of having three times as many male users as female users. Perhaps this explains the site’s decrease in Internet traffic from January of this year…