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Such a query is often concerning Muslims, as pursuant to the Islamic Sharia laws, a Muslim male may have as many as four wives. Thereby, polygamy is practiced in the UAE. That said, the Sharia laws also place high responsibilities on the male, specifying that further marriages should be entered into only when the husband can offer equal maintenance and treatment to all the wives.
The UAE laws allow for all nationals as well as expatriates to conduct and solemnize their marriages in the UAE. When it comes to Islamic Marriages, the Sharia provisions will apply, and regardless of the nationality of persons, the following rules will apply:
- The minimum legal age to marry should be met, which is eighteen years of age.
- The groom and bride have to be Muslims. However, if the bride alone is ‘Ahl Al-Kitaab’, such as a christian, the marriage will still be legal.
- A Muslim woman, however, cannot marry a Non-Muslim male.
- Apart from the minimum legal age to marry, a spouse should not be twice the age of the other. If so, they would be required to get special permission from the courts before entering into the marriage.
- A marriage contract once entered into, has to be registered with the courts in the UAE.
- The bride’s father is required to attend the marriage and witness it; in his absence, two male witnesses are required as his proxy. Also, if the father of the bride is not a follower of Islam, then a separate ‘no-objection’ letter is also required to be submitted.
- A pre-marital health screening from a government-approved health centres (For, Dubai- Dubai Health Centre) is also a mandatory step.
- Islamic marriages can be conducted in the UAE by the respective judicial departments of given emirates or through the services of the authorized marriage officers who are referred to as ‘Mazoons’.
Since polygamy is legally allowed in the UAE, if the parameters for valid marriage are fulfilled for a second marriage, it would automatically constitute a legal marriage. Thus, it would not require prior consent from the first wife. However, that said, ‘Mehr’ could be claimed by the first wife, as per the terms of the marriage contract already entered into between the parties. Further, following the Islamic principles that both the wives must be treated equally and respectfully, the first wife could have the right to file for a maintenance claim or other rights if such conditions have arisen.
In all circumstances pursuant to the UAE Sharia laws, the husband is liable to pay for the maintenance of the wife and his children, and this is even when the wife might be working and earning as well. Family disputes, be it for a claim for maintenance or divorce, for the emirate of Dubai, are submitted to the family guidance section of the Dubai Courts, and there are family guidance counsellors appointed to seek reconciliation between the parties prior to a formal court case being lodged.