A Polygamy Problem in Saudi Arabia


SCORES of expatriate workers living in the Kingdom enjoy a permanent visa status for their family. However, this does not help those who have more than one wife.

“I have two wives, but I couldn’t get a residence visa for both. As a result, I could bring only one of my wives and her children here,” said Aslam Rahil, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in Jeddah for 7 years. 

Rahil married his second wife two years back. He has three daughters from his first wife. “I want to bring my second wife here from Pakistan and wish to have children with her,” he said, adding that his second wife is insecure as she has not been able to produce a son so far.

Many expatriates are unable to deal equally with their wives who live in their home country as they stay here with only one wife and her children brought here on a permanent visa status. “I went to Pakistan only once to meet with my second wife after marriage,” said Rahil.

In Saudi Arabia, polygamy is an accepted practice. Under Islamic law, a Muslim man may take as many as four wives, provided that he can support and treat them all equally. 

Dr. Ali Hasnain, an Egyptian therapist, has three wives. He brings his wives one at a time on visas to the Kingdom. “When I failed to get permanent visas for all my wives, I decided not to bring any one of them permanently. Instead, I invite them on visitor’s visas one at a time and so none of them complain of unequal treatment,” he said.

 Basha Nawaz Khan, an international legal expert, said that the Kingdom does not permit the entry of more than one wife and the children of other wives on a permanent visa. They, however, can enter on a visitor’s visa.

“The latest regulations of the local passport authorities (Jawazat) do not permit an expatriate to bring more than one wife or the children of other wives here,” said Khan. 

He said that if the profession mentioned on one’s Iqama is that of a laborer, driver, agricultural laborer, tailor, etc., he is not eligible to apply for a residential visa or a visitor’s visa.

Relevant applicants should have a minimum salary of SR3500 (and above). Iqama holders with professions like that of doctors, engineers, IT engineers, legal advisers, chief mechanics, accountants, investors, sales managers, and marketing managers can apply for a permanent family visa, for only one family.

The applicant’s salary certificate issued by the sponsor and attested educational certificates are required when he is applying for a visitor’s visa or a family visa. Polygamy is widespread among Muslims in South Asia sanctioned under the Islamic law of Shariah, with polygamous marriages constituting one to three percent of all marriages.

A Pakistani investor, requesting anonymity, who wanted to bring his second wife on an investor’s visa, said he obtained a family visa for his second wife only after a long uphill struggle. “I succeeded to bring both my wives to the Kingdom, but this is not possible now as per the local authorities,” he said.  

According to the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) rules, investment license holders and owners of a company/ establishment/ industry/ factory in Saudi Arabia can bring their first wife within a couple of weeks of obtaining a business license.    

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a relatively easy online procedure of obtaining a visitor’s visa. 
“The visitor’s visa can be extended two to three times as per the requirement, with the payment of SR100 as the fee. In the case of the wife’s pregnancy, the visitor’s visa can be extended until her delivery, on the basis of a relevant medical certificate,” said advocate Khan. 

Muhammad Abdullah (name changed), an Indian sales manager, obtained a temporary visitor’s visa for his second wife from Nepal, although he originally wished to get a permanent family visa for her.  

“I married a Nepali Muslim woman after I converted to Islam from Hinduism. Since I already have my Indian wife’s picture on my Iqama, I was not eligible for obtaining a permanent family visa for my second wife who is also a Muslim convert,” he said.

Abdullah’s first wife plans to sue him in India for marrying a second time. 

Under the Hindu Marriage Act of India, polygamy is illegal for Hindus. The law excludes Muslim Indians. As compared to India, polygamy is more common among the Hindus in Nepal because of which most Nepali women are accustomed to being a second wife. 

Abdullah said his first wife refused to divorce him and to return to India permanently. “Since we have two kids, I cannot ignore my first wife.

But I can bring my Nepali wife on a permanent visa only after I send my first family back,” he said. – SG

Credit for the above info: Saudi Gazette Internet Edition, by Sameera Aziz


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  • ummof4

    December 8, 2013

    M H Khan,

    I hope I misunderstood what you said. All men do not need to have sex every day. Many women would also like to have sex every day. It is different from person to person. As far as the menses, there will be times when a husband has 2 wives and both of them are on their menses or both of them may be far along in a pregnancy and unable to have sexual intercourse with the husband. Are you saying then he should get a 3rd wife so he can have sex every day?

    On the issue of spinsterhood (and I don’t like that term at all), it is true that marrying more than one wife will benefit women who cannot find a husband. Hopefully if a woman in this situation becomes a 2nd wife, she will have a husband who takes care of her financially, cares for her, is kind to her, respectful to her and not just see her as an extra person to have sex with.

    Again, I hope I misunderstood you. But you seemed to say that a primary reason for a man to have 2 or more wives was because all healthy men need to have sex daily, and that is not possible with one wife.

    May Allah guide us all.

  • Gail

    December 8, 2013

    M H Khan,
    I agree with what u are saying to a point but marriage is not all about sex.Well at least not for woman.When Polygamy does become an issue for a couple it is a very emotionally hard thing.It is nice you see it from the male perspective but where is your sympathy for the female?

  • M H Khan

    December 8, 2013

    Only the illegal sex supporter (prostitute) & Kafir can oppose polygamy approved by almighty Allah (equal & fair treatment for wives must be maintain). In 1 month most women ministration period is 3-7 or even 9/10 days. They feel uneasy for 1/2 days before & after the period. A healthy man needs his wife almost every day. Again during the pregnancy it is very difficult to love. So, at least 2 wives can only solved the problems and from becoming girls to be a spinsterhood. As Allah knows everything, that’s why He had written it in the holy Qur’an

  • ana

    November 7, 2013


    I’d love to help you out with your problem, however, I cannot. I haven’t the foggiest idea how you should or could get her there. Sorry!

    This is an open house. No need to knock. Just come on in.

  • areej

    November 6, 2013

    Am indonesian wife married officially to canadian guy.we’re planning to marry a second wife, n we found a girl from morocco. We want to bring her here. How could we bring her??
    Should we bring her as a worker?? I found it to be tough cz i will not let our second wife to work. And since we will marry her islamically only-cz it’s forbidden for a canadian to marry more than one wife- how can we bring her as visitor??

  • ana

    October 13, 2012

    I am only familiar with United States laws. Perhaps others here could answer your question.
    This is an open house. No need to knock. Just come on in.

  • unknown

    October 13, 2012

    m married and my husband had a ist wife and it was hidden from us now he disclosed that he has a son also from her, now he wants to cal his son here and i am living here in saudia on a permant visa, my husband’s son would come on visit?

  • Khadijah Z

    February 10, 2011

    YOu may have to go threw ur sponsor or go to the embassy

  • aoun ali

    February 10, 2011

    salam to all,

    brother my name is aoun ali, i have done my intermediate from saudia Arabia and did higher education in london, i have started my job in Saudi but the thing is that the company have given me 90 days of prohibition time period and my visa status is student my question is how i can apply visa for my wife!!!….please help me guyzzzz

  • Ana

    November 27, 2009

    Fatimafaisal, Wa Alaikum As Salaam. Welcome to polygamy 411.

    I was waiting to see if someone would come forward with an answer to your question about the policies in Dubai, regarding multiple wives of a husband moving there. I would love to help you; however, I don’t know the answer.

    I pray that everything works out with you and your husband. I know it can’t be easy finding out after marrying your husband that he already had a wife, and later finding out he took a third. I’m a strong believer in mutual consultation amongst parties. No one should be forced to accept someone else’s decision, or should I say have someone else’s decision imposed on them.

    Insha Allah, someone with knowledge of the answer to your question will be forthcoming.

    Thank you fatimafaisal for visiting and for your question. Please visit us again soon and often.

    This is an open house. No need to knock. Just come on in.

  • fatimafaisal

    November 24, 2009

    Im second wife of my husband who has 3 wives. In my case, when i married him i dont know he married already also he married third one i have no idea abt it(coz i was living in my country alone for 2yrs). This year he told the truth to all of us and dont want to dirvoce any one of us.
    Now he is working in Dubai, as he told me that its allow to bring more than one wife in UAE only if u can prove that u have enough money to suport all of ur wife. is it true?

  • Ana

    November 22, 2009

    I just thought about what I previously said above. I thought it best I recant that word “strange” and replace it with “different”. I could get in a lot of hot water with semantics, referencing Saudi Arabia.

    Everyone please forgive me. No disrespect intended to Saudi Arabia. I was there and I experienced a bit of a culture shock. Insha Allah, I intend to go back soon, to experience it from a different perspective, a much better perspective for my spirituality.

    This is an open house. No need to knock. Just come on in.

  • Ana

    November 22, 2009

    Wa Alaikum as Salaam,

    Wow Mai, you’re just a wealth of information. Thank you so much for helping everyone out. It’s really very kind of you. I keep learning more and more each day.

    I pray that you and your family are settled in there and are happy and at peace (f)

    This is an open house. No need to knock. Just come on in.

  • Mai

    November 22, 2009

    As salaamu alaykum all.

    UmmAbdullah – they are referring to the residence permit/iqama when they say permanent residence I believe. They term it permanent because it doesn’t require constant renewal, only on a yearly or two yearly basis.

    As for the rules here, a British brother working in Madinah told my DH that he almost married a Saudi woman after obtaining all the government approvals, etc. However, it simply didn’t work out between them. I don’t know what exactly the procedure is to apply to marry a Saudi, but I know it takes a bit of time. I remember a friend in Bahrain was married to a Saudi and had to live in Bahrain for around 2 years until her husband could get her a visa to enter and live here.

    I, too, am surprised at the lack of provision for multiple wives for expatriates. However, I suppose it is different when bringing people in to work on visas, etc. Realistically, it is a lot to ask to bring in another family at the employer’s expense, as they cover medical as well.

    One man here has four wives and he is an expatriate. Only one of them is Saudi, so I wonder how the others can stay. I think one family stays in his home country and perhaps the others are here under an iqama for some other purpose, not as his wives. Surely, it is not a simple thing.

    As far as the University of Madinah situation, students can come in on a married status, but their conditions are different. They don’t get the dorm accommodation, they have an allowance which the family cannot easily survive on, and I’m not sure if the status can be changed once they have entered as single students. However, it is quite possible that he simply hasn’t asked the right people. He would need to speak to the University staff first to see how he can get her here. The difficulty may lie in him being able to support her, but they definitely do allow students to be here with wives and children. We are friends with some families who are exactly that.

  • Ana

    November 22, 2009

    Yes Saudi is a strange place to be. I surmise you’ve been there as well, since you’re Haji happy

    This is an open house. No need to knock. Just come on in.

  • Haji Rafiq

    November 22, 2009

    Alhamdolillah. Seems I am lucky in Jordan. Unfortunately the Saudi bureaucracy does have a terrible reputation.

  • Ana

    November 21, 2009

    Isn’t that bizarre!

    This is an open house. No need to knock. Just come on in.

  • Amina

    November 21, 2009

    This is ridiculous to me. A country allows polygamy, but all of a mans wives can’t be with him?

  • Nazim Beedassy

    November 17, 2009

    My niece from Mauritius recently married to a Student who is studying Shareeah on a Scholarship program at the University of Madinah. The marriage was arranged while the young man was on holiday in Mauritius. He has now returned back to Saudi Arabia and he is unable to get a visa for his wife to come and join him as her spouse. Does this make sense or is it that he does not know the procedure to follow. I would appreciate if anybody has any idea how to go about materialising this matter. jazaakallah.
    Asslamu Alaikum

  • Ana

    November 5, 2009

    Ummabdullah, Wa Alaikum As Salaam,

    I thank you for your patience and apologize for not being able to get back to you sooner. The info. you requested is as follows:


    Any information you have that would shed any light on the subject, would be much appreciated.

    How easy is it for a foreigner in Saudi to marry a Saudi woman?

    I know of an African American Muslim who moved to Saudi on a visa to study. He said the Saudis refused to marry their daughters to him, as he is a Black man. He said there is a lot of prejudice there with reference interracial marriage of a Saudi woman to a Black male.

    He took his American wife with him to Saudi. He said they are separated, but no one was aware of it. He said his American wife would have to return to America, if they are no longer married. Who knows whether he’s really separated or just lied? He was interested in him and I marrying.

    This is an open house. No need to knock. Just come on in.

  • ummabdullah

    October 31, 2009

    salaam alayk Ana, please can I get a link of the page in which you got this story from in saudi gazette? I live in saudi and as far as I know, there is no permanent visa for expatriates or their families. I want to know if the permanent visa being referred to here is a new law or the journalist that wrote the article was confusing the renewable resident visa for workers with permanent visa. Thanks. And as per the topic, I think its very unreasonable for any man who lives in saudi and is aware of the fact that he cannot bring more than one wife to saudi to still go ahead and marry a second wife and then complain about not being allowed to bring her. What happened to looking to marry a woman who is already in saudi?