MUSLIM MARRIAGES: POLYGAMY AND THE THREE “TALAK”
Lawyers told CNA that Muslim women who may have been mistreated in polygamous marriages may decide that a divorce would be the best course of action.
In Malaysia, polygamy is allowed for Muslims and permission must be granted by the Shariah courts.
“Some men (in a polygamous marriage) may not really invest time, energy and effort into the first or second wife when there is a third and fourth to look after.
“In those kind of scenarios, the older wives may not want to tolerate it anymore (and seek) other options such as being independent. They know their rights and they seek a share of the assets or maintenance,” Ms Goh told CNA.
She added that she has handled cases where the second wife is made to be the “wealth generator” while the husband does not not contribute to the marriage.
“I see sometimes the husband ‘goyang kaki’ (idles) and the wives are the ones looking after the house and working because they have to put food on the table and put the kids through school. And these wives are sometimes abused physically, sexually and emotionally,” said Ms Goh.
“So these women (decide that) this is not acceptable and say ‘I would rather be independent and be free of all this abuse’ than to be in an unhappy and abusive marriage.”
Sisters In Islam – a local civil organisation which promotes women’s rights within the framework of Islam – noted in its 2021 findings that the top concern raised by women in a polygamous marriage was that their husbands did not provide them any maintenance.
Data gathered from the organisation’s legal clinic also found that the second most recurring issue was that their husbands had entered a polygamous marriage without their permission, followed by unregistered polygamy.
Mr Gomez noted that in civil marriages, couples can only seek a divorce after two years of marriage. Meanwhile, Muslim men are allowed to declare the “talak” three times for an immediate divorce.
The utterance of the word “talak”, which means to release or untie in Arabic, is a method of divorce recognised by the Shariah court, though Islamic law varies from state to state. In the east coast state of Terengganu, for example, the declaration of the “talak” must be made thrice in court for the divorce to be recognised.
Ms Jazzmine Khoo, a managing partner at Jazzmine Khoo & Associates, also noted the quick process for a Muslim divorce.
“A Muslim (couple) … can get a divorce done within a short amount of time – a few hours only or less than that. (Meanwhile), a non-Muslim divorce would still need a few months to get done,” she said.