May 31, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 4767

Revolutionary Fatwa Against Polygamy By India's Darul Uloom Deoband Seminary

May 31, 2012
India | Special Dispatch No. 4767

Darul Uloom Deoband in India

In April 2012, the Darul Uloom Deoband – the second largest Islamic seminary in the world after Cairo's Al-Azhar University – delivered a revolutionary fatwa (edict) against polygamy, advising Muslims in India not to contract a second marriage. The fatwa against polygamy cited the Koran against multiple marriages.

The anti-polygamy fatwa surprised reformist sections among Indian Muslims, as the Darul Uloom Deoband has delivered a number of anti-women fatwas in recent years, prohibiting them from marrying non-Muslims or mixing with male colleagues at work, preventing adolescent girls from riding bikes or talking to a fiancé on the phone, forbidding women from preaching or delivering sermons or from working as qazis (Islamic judges), and others.[1]

Regarding polygamy, the Islamic clerics at the Darul Ifta of Darul Uloom Deoband were asked to respond to a question by an unidentified person, who stated:

"[Unedited original English] I am married since last 9 years and have 2 children. During my college days I had one way love on a Muslim girl but she did not accept it then. But today after so many years she is not getting married due to some problem with her hair, she has lost 2-3 inches hairs from front and due to which she is not getting married and now we are again in contact and again I gave her my proposal for marriage and she accepted it and now we are planning to get married, she has no problem of me married, also she knows that I have 2 children and then also she is ready. So please advice me whether it will be good for me to marry second time?"

The question was numbered 38097 on the website of the Darul Ifta, the seminary's institute that specializes in delivering fatwas.[2] The clerics' fatwa – dated April 10, 2012 – was numbered 776/665/B=1433 and stated:

"[Unedited original English] According to Shariah, it is lawful to keep two wives at the same time but it is not generally acceptable in Indian custom. Here in India it is like to invite hundreds of problems to keep two wives. Moreover, the husband generally cannot maintain justice and equality between two wives. Hence it is better to have only one wife as the Quran said: فان لمَ تَعْدِلُواْ فَوَاحِدَةً. {Arabic words: 'And if you don't [meaning, are unable to] be just to all [wives] equally – then marry one [only]'}. You should discard the idea of second marriage; otherwise you would feel sorry later.

"Allah (Subhana Wa Ta'ala) knows Best."

Maulana Mufti Arshad Faruqi, who heads the Darul Ifta at the Darul Uloom Deoband, later justified the fatwa, stating: "It is absolutely unacceptable that someone gets married for the second or third time without any valid reason. More precisely, minor disputes within the family can never be a reason.

"Shariah gives a Muslim the right to keep four wives at a time. But in that case it becomes the responsibility of the man to give equal rights and a decent life to all four wives. If he fails in doing so, his marriage cannot be justified."[3]

Dr. Naeem Hamid – a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which is a leading pressure group of orthodox Islamic groups in India – expressed support for the fatwa, saying: "Polygamy or more than one marriage was permitted in the past because of various social and economic reasons. Many girls used to remain unmarried due to poor financial condition of their parents. So rich people were allowed to marry up to four times. But times have changed."[4]

He added: "Now the Muslims avoid a second marriage, let alone four marriages. They are conscious about their economic condition and act accordingly. It is true that there is no need for a second marriage if it adversely affects the family financially. Darul Uloom used to support plural marriages in the past. But now they are concerned about uplifting the community. Obviously they will discourage more than one marriage."[5]


[1] For a list of orthodox fatwas issued by Darul Uloom Deoband recently, see MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 3900, June 9, 2011 (Orthodox Fatwas Issued by Darul Uloom Deoband Seminary of India – Blog Posts from MEMRI's South Asia Studies Project)

[2] (India), accessed May 22, 2012.

[3] (India), April 12, 2012.

[4] (India), April 12, 2012.

[5] (India), April 12, 2012.

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