Muslim polygamy a mere myth: Survey

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi may have jibed at Muslims during his 'Gaurav Yatra' last year by saying the fruits of development are neutralised by those who believe in 'hum paanch, hamare pachchis' (we five, our 25). Perhaps he didn't know what he had said is pure myth.

A survey conducted in Muslim-dominated areas of Ahmedabad stands contrary to the general belief surrounding the community's alleged polygamous tendencies, the staple diet of the Sangh Parivar's diatribe.

The survey, conducted in 1993, found that only two persons had four wives, two others had three wives and 279 had two wives. The survey covered eight blocks in the old city and some other areas, which together account for almost the entire Muslim population of Ahmedabad.

While Muslims have often been jeered, that fact is that Hindus are also involved in polygamous practices. As many as 29,951 cases of 'Maitri Karar’ (friendship contract) were found officially registered at the District Collectorate at that time. The Maitri Karar was a pact between a married Hindu man and his 'other woman' to circumvent provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act that prohibits another marriage while the wife is still alive, said sources in the legal fraternity.

"It was not legally enforceable, but the Maitri Karar was meant to give a sense of security to the married man's 'other woman'," said lawyer Girish Patel.

Among the Muslims too, the survey - conducted by the Gujarat affiliate of MARG - found that most of the second marriages could be attributed basically to extra-marital affairs, which were legitimised taking advantage of the Shariat laws.

In few cases, the second marriage was solemnised as the first wife was unable to bear a child, said former corporator J.V. Momin. Momin had ordered the survey in the wake of intense criticism from the Sangh on this score soon after the Babri Masjid demolition.

Some cases of second marriage among the Muslims emanated from the need to provide security to widowed sister-in-laws.