India bans polygamy for Muslims as 'not fundamental right in Islam'

The Supreme court of India banned polygamy arguing that it is not a fundamental right for Muslims Flickr/Creative Common

India's Supreme Court has ruled out the practice of having multiple wives for Muslims arguing that it is not a fundamental right for those who practice Islam.

Judges TS Thakur and AK Goel said that article 25 of the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession and practice of religion, but does not also guarantee the practice of polygamy.

"What was protected under Article 25 was the religious faith and not a practice which may run counter to public order, health or morality. Polygamy was not integral part of religion and monogamy was a reform within the power of the State under Article 25," they said during the ruling.

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The court also upheld the decision of the government of Uttar Pradesh to fire an employee after he tried to marry a second woman while the previous marriage was still in place.

According to some interpretations of the Quran, Islam allows a man to marry up to four women, only if he is able to deal with them justly. However, it is preferable for him to have only one wife.

Common Ground News Service (CGNS) - which aims to provide constructive articles to promote dialogue on issues such as Muslims in the West and race related conflicts - explains that the Quran discusses polygamy in terms of the needs of women and children "at the time" and never in terms of men's rights.

The Quran refers to polygamy in its fourth chapter, which tells about the migration of Muslims from Mecca to Medina and marks the start of the Muslim calendar.

"[This chapter] builds on the preceding one regarding the Battle of Uhud between early Muslims and the inhabitants of Mecca in which many Muslim men were killed, leaving widows and orphans," CGNS said. "This is the context which is crucial to any discussion of polygamy in Islam; polygamy was allowed in verse 4:3 because of God's concern for the welfare of women and orphans who were left without husbands and fathers."

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