Polygamy in Iran will still require first wife’s permission in most cases

Yes, polygamy is alive and well in the Islamic world, but everything has rules. One key question for polygamists is whether taking a second wife requires permission from a first wife. A debate in Iran has raged around this very issue recently, and legislation will now not alter the status quo, which requires such permission except “when a man can prove to the court that his wife suffers from infertility, an incurable mental illness or physical disease, is an addict, does not carry out her marital obligations or is jailed”.

Such debates also exist in the West, with Christian polygamists dividing over whether permission is required. Some suggest that permission is required owing to the inclusion of words like “forsaking all others” in many wedding vows, and the general assumption of monogamous marriage in western societies. Others question this, pointing out that one of the vows for wives is a commitment to “obey”, and that during the Reformation, leading figures such as Martin Luther and Martin Bucer wrestled with a similar issue, as they started off under vows of celibacy, but ended up with wives when they came to view those vows as based on bad doctrine.

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