• EN (English)
Fatwa ID: 3370
Title: Practicing Polygamy while it`s prohibited in US
Category: Issues of Muslim Minorities
Scholar: Dr. Hatem al-Haj
Date: 08/08/2007


Dear esteemed scholars,

May Allah safeguard you and bless you.

I have a general question and a specific question.

General: Many people immigrated to this country USA and find themselves in a new situation. I believe that as long as the laws of USA do not promote disobedience towards Allah, it is mandatory for every muslim/ah to follow them. For example, the seat-belt law, speed limit, paying income tax. Am I correct in this regard?

A more specific question: We know that polygamy is against USA law. But I heard from my friend that as long as you don`t register your marriage to the registrar, it is okay to have more than one wife here in the states i.e all the wives are living here. The argument that he made was that the law that prohibits marrying more than one is against the shaariah so, it is okay for us to break it. I told him, the essence of polygamy is not fardh, so, the US law about polygamy is not against Islamic law. In fact, coming to the USA itself is not daruree, so, immigrants who feel that the laws are against the shaariah, should refrain from coming if they intend to break the law. To my surprise, he told me that there are some scholars in the USA are practicing polygamy without the knowledge of the authorities using that argument.

What is the most balanced approach to this issue? Thank you.


All praise be to Allah, and may His peace and blessings be on the greatest messenger, Muhammad.

As for your question about the local laws that are not in conflict with the share’aah, they must be respected particularly when they agree with the objectives of sharee’ah such as the seat belt, speed limit and such laws that aim to preserve life and property.

As for the income tax, and such laws that are not consistent with the sharee’ah (taxes are considered by many not consistent with the US constitution either), it is different. A Muslim will follow such laws to avoid the bigger harm to himself and his community, and based on the balance of benefit and harm, it is prescribed for him/her to abide by such laws. (Taxes are generally forbidden in Islam with some exceptions in certain cases)

The difference between the first and second groups of laws is that with the first group, you abide by them while inwardly respecting them. The second may not be respected or valued inwardly because they conflict with the sharee’ah.

The issue of polygamy (polygyny) is a complex one, but those are some guidelines:

  • Polygamy is halal in Islam and may be highly recommended when the number of females is bigger than that of males to afford all females a decent life that suffices their physiologic, emotional and other needs. The US law about polygamy is against the Islamic law, for no one can make prohibited that which Allah specifically made allowable. (the permissible on the basis of textual proof vs. the permissible on basis of the presumption of permissibility until proven otherwise) 
  • Many Muslims abuse the legislation of polygamy and practice it in ways that bring a bad reputation to it.
  • A Muslim should not subject himself, family or community to harm.
  • You may ask a legal expert whether the undocumented marriage is illegal. You hear about many celebrities having extramarital affairs, and they do not get prosecuted!
  • The person who attempts to do anything may need first to ensure its legality to spare himself and his/her community all kinds of harm.
  • He may also consider the interest of the second partner and her children from him and whether they will suffer because of his actions.

Allah knows best.