Marriage: Inter-faith marriages - Matter of a Christian wife

Q351 :I was born in a Hindu family and I married a Christian girl. Sometime after my marriage, I embraced Islam, but my wife did not. My Muslim friends advised me that my marriage was invalid. I, therefore, married a Muslim girl and I have a son by her. I did not have any children by my first wife. Recently, I saw your answer to a question in which you confirmed that a Muslim may marry a Christian or a Jewish girl. I have not had any relationship with my first wife for the last ten years, except writing letters and sending money to her. Should I rejoin her? Or does financial help constitute my only responsibility? Is it necessary to have a new marriage contract or is our marriage still valid?

A351 : Sometimes I feel very upset at what happens to well-meaning Muslim people as a result of ignorance of the correct Islamic view. It only requires that a person goes to a well-read scholar and puts his question to him in order to determine the right course of action. People may suffer a great deal as a result of ignorance. Take for example the first wife of this reader. She has been divorced or separated from her husband for ten years unnecessarily. Another woman has been involved as a result of the second marriage. Much of this suffering could have been spared had the correct information been sought. I am not clear what happened to your first wife. Did you divorce her upon the advice of your friends? Or were you simply separated and living apart? If you were separated without you divorcing her, then your marriage is still valid. You need only speak to her and explain the situation. You then consult with her on what course of action you wish to take. If the two of you agree to rejoin each other, then there is nothing to stop you. Obviously, this step will affect your second wife. Perhaps when you tell her the position, she will be understanding. I hope the three of you can sort out an amicable arrangement. If you have divorced your first wife, then perhaps the best course of action is to leave things as they are. She has been divorced and she has no claim on you. The fact that you have been helping her financially is more than what could be expected of you in such a case. You have no liability towards her if you are divorced. It goes without saying that if you are still married, though separated, you continue to be responsible for her maintenance. You have been helping her financially and that is good. From now on, you have to give her adequate maintenance or let her rejoin you. If she does, then you have to treat your two wives equally, dividing your nights between them on equal basis and providing them with the same standard of living. If you have not been divorced, you need not have a new marriage contract. The first marriage contract is still valid.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )