Most people know that for a marriage to be valid in the UK, a civil Registry marriage has to be performed. This is done according to the Marriage act 1949 and for same-sex couples in the UK, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.
The effect of this is that it gives the married couple rights which a non-married couple generally do not have. Furthermore, upon divorce, both parties are entitled to financial provision and they can make applications to the court for remedies including maintenance for themselves and their children, periodical payments, sale of property, etc.
What most Muslims living in the UK will also know is that when a Muslim gets married, he/she will usually perform the Islamic Nikah ceremony first or at the same time as the Registry marriage. This is because Islam places great virtue and emphasis on the institution of marriage and also culturally, many people feel that they have not been truly married until they have had the Nikah ceremony performed.
Unfortunately, what most people do not know is that having just an Islamic Nikah does not create a legally recognised marriage with the couple still classed as a non-married couple in the eyes of English law. Therefore, should the marriage break down, the parties to that marriage will not have the same protection of the law as they would have if they had a Registry marriage performed.
Most Muslims, unwisely, think that a Nikah is sufficient and are happy to live that way in the UK. What they don’t realise is that there are a lot of people who take advantage of this ‘loophole’ in the law and use it to have two or even three or four wives.
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At this point I can imagine that most Muslim men reading this will say to me, ‘Well what’s wrong with that? Islam allows us to have more than one wife’. While that is true, and a fact frequently cited by Muslim men, the fact which is not frequently cited is that for a man to have more than one wife, there must be a good reason and there must be perfect equality in treatment of the wives – this is something which is rarely achieved with having just one spouse, never mind two.