A monogamy principle is a basis of regulations governing conclusion of marriages in Western countries and countries of the North America. Absence of a registered marriage is an essential condition for conclusion of a valid marriage.
Polygamous marriages are common in Muslim countries.
State registration exists in Muslim countries but it is not obligatory. Existence of a marriage registered in accordance with the established procedure is not an obstacle for a marriage ceremony marriage ceremony in a mosque.
Unfortunately the legal base of a Muslim marriage is insufficiently regulated at a statutable level. It is based on the Koran and the Sunna – fundamental sources of the law. Family and succession relationships, guardianship, relative responsibilities of spouses, parents and children, other relatives are regulated by the Koran and the Sunna. As for polygamous marriage, it is explicitly provided for by regulation 4:3 of the Koran: "… marry those women who are pleasant to you – two, and three, and four".
A Muslim is entitled to marry any woman apart from atheist. It is explained by the sheriat law according to which a husband having unlimited power in the family can proselytize his wife. But an ability of a man to support to all his wives financially is an essential condition for a Muslim marriage.
Muslim women can not marry a man of other religion. Laws of some Muslim countries provide for imprisonment of a woman who married a man of other religion.
A Muslim divorce is practically always initiated by a man who enjoys unlimited rights. A divorce procedure is simplified for a man: an verbal statement is enough for him as a head of the family. A marriage is considered dissolved in case a man says “You are not my wife” three times in public. But notwithstanding a formal equality of men in Islam, marriages among disadvantaged population are not dissolved so often due to expensiveness of legal procedures related to property and alimony issues, upbringing and support of children and other related matters.
I would like to mention that divorces in families where a wife is from the Central Asia or Transcaucasia are quite rare when divorces with Slavic wives are quite often.
Brought up in the atmosphere of sexual equality Slavic women often negatively perceive husband’s priority established by the laws and obedience to him as the head of a family. Consequences of such divorce usually have negative impact on a woman who stays in a foreign country without any rights and she can’t take her child to her native country and can’t either support herself financially not protect her rights in court.
In case when a marriage contract doesn’t contain provisions regulating issues related to children in the most Muslim countries courts determine children’s place of residence in accordance with the “child’s interests”. In reality it means that preference will be given to a spouse who can prove his/her ability to take full charge of a child: child’s health, upbringing, education, development, financial support. It is not surprising that such cases are usually won by men. Only a small percent of women who obtained citizenship, have a profession, real estate or an ability to purchase real estate, fluently speaking local language make an exception. After death of one parent children usually stay with the second parent.
Property matters in case of divorce are also settled in accordance with the sheriat laws which means not in favor of a woman. But in some cases the sheriat laws provide a woman with a right to receive an indemnification for moral or financial damage in case of divorce. An amount of such indemnification is determined on the basis of a usual living standard of a family. It can be an immediate compensation or so called “life annuity”.
In the most singular cases a woman can initiate a divorce: husband’s apostasy, his long absence, concealment of husband’s physical defects prior to marriage and some other. When there are no sound reasons for divorce a woman often recourses to cunning saying that she concealed that she was an atheist: as it has been mentioned above Muslim laws do not allow a marriage with an atheist.
Due to that not only a marriage contract shall be concluded but also other types of agreements provided for by laws for the purpose of confirming such rights as choice of profession and place of residence, right to dispose of property owned by a woman and the most important – determining children’s place of residence and maintenance obligation in case of divorce. Number of concluded contracts and agreements f such kind has increased in recent years and our women are trying to protect themselves from probable husband’s tyranny. Modern Russian citizenship law also contributes to protection of women’s rights by allowing a woman to obtain Russian citizenship for her child in a Russian Consulate abroad.
Notwithstanding the tendency of legal regulation of women status in an Islamic family there is a number of difficulties in practice depending mostly on husband’s position, personal qualities and education. And there is no such law that could change thousand-years-old traditions of androcratic Muslim society with a stroke of a pen.