ACCORDING to the Perlis Islamic Religious Department, couples who solemnise their marriages outside the country are required to inform the Malaysian consulate or embassy.
“Then the couple should register the marriage at their respective state, using documents provided by the consulate or embassy, so that the marriage is officially declared legal under Malaysian law,” he said.
However, many couples failed to do so, the spokesman said.
“For example, many couples wish to keep their marriage a secret, hoping that the man’s first wife wouldn’t find out.
“This may go on for years. Some couples also claim that they can’t afford to pay the fine for getting married abroad,” he said.
There have also been cases where the couple’s children are unable to enrol in public schools as they do not have birth certificates, since their parents’ marriages were not registered in the country.
“When the couple apply to register their marriage here, an investigation will be carried out to verify that the solemnisation ceremony was made by an authorised body.
“It is important that the process complies with the criteria to allow couples to get married outside the country, such as the distance where the solemnisation took place.
“It should be more than two marhalah or more than 92km from where the bride’s wali (father, male sibling or close relative) resides,” he said.
He said the department’s officers would also scrutinise a video recording of the marriage to ensure that the process was carried out according to Islamic law.
“Once we are satisfied that the marriage was conducted according to syarak, only then can the marriage be registered,” he added.
Those who fail to register their marriages after six months of their return to the country, can be fined not more than RM1,000 or jailed up to six months or both, if found guilty.
In Kedah, the process is a bit different.
“First of all, he will have to declare their income and the number of people he is supporting from the current marriage.
He will also be required to disclose information about the woman he plans to marry and other new family members, if any,” said a spokesman of the Kedah Islamic Religious Department.
He said the department would also summon the current wife or wives, and the new bride-to-be to give statements to support the marriage application.
“The Syariah Court will then review the application and if the court is satisfied with the application based on the Kedah Islamic Family Law Enactment 2008, approval will be given.
“A marriage that occurs without the consent of the authorities is against the law, whether it is a single marriage or polygamous marriage,” said the spokesman.
Individuals found guilty of such an offence face a fine of RM1,000 or jail of up to six months.
He added that couples who had lived abroad had six months to inform the embassy or consulate office before registering their marriage with the nearest state Islamic Religious Department.
He said the laws were put in place to safeguard the interests of the children at a later time.
“The law is not meant to make things difficult for men to take more than one wife, but rather to protect the family and avoid problems that might occur in future especially to their children,” he said.
He said married men should be honest about whether they were capable of supporting more than one family before deciding to take another wife.
“Yes, it is true that Islam allows Muslim men to take up to four wives, but not many are aware or choose to ignore the fact that in Islam, justice is the fundamental requirement of a polygamous marriage.
“If the husband is not even capable of supporting his existing family, how could he convince others that he is capable of taking care of an extended family?
“That is why Islam has made it very clear that if you cannot be just in a polygamous marriage, stick to one wife,” he said.
Kedah Women Development and Community Welfare Committee chairman Datuk Suraya Yaacob urged women to find out about their rights before agreeing to tie the knot with a married man.
She said it was paramount for women to understand their rights so that they would not end up as victims.
“Islam does not prohibit men from taking more than one wife, but first and foremost, they have to make sure that the welfare of his future and current wives and children will be protected.”