Azad Chaiwala says he first “came out” as polygamous when he was just 12 years old.
“That was when I was courageous enough to do so,” the 33-year-old businessman told Business Insider. “I told everybody I knew. I announced it. I told everyone I was a polygamous person.”
Throughout his teenage years and 20s, the British Muslim blocked out his desire to marry numerous women and instead focused on growing multiple businesses.
The Sunderland-based entrepreneur now claims to employ more than 100 people who run his investment portfolios, properties, YouTube channels, and websites.
It is a truism that successful business ideas often come from solutions to problems. Chaiwala’s problem was that he was finding it difficult to find a second wife.
Prior to their arranged marriage, Chaiwala had made it clear to his first wife — to whom he is still married — that she would not be his one and only.
“There was a taboo about the subject,” Chaiwala said. “No family member wanted to help me [find a second wife].”
Frustrated that there were websites catering to every “niche, desire, and fetish” except his own, Chaiwala launched SecondWife.com in 2014. After reaching profitability with the venture, Chaiwala opened a second website, Polygamy.com in 2016, to facilitate non-Muslim polygamous marriages.
Controversially, neither website accommodates women who want multiple husbands. Chaiwala said that this was simply because “it’s not a viable business model.”
However, he claims that this results from an essential difference between the “nature” of men and women.
“I think polygamy is more in tune with [man’s] nature than monogamy,” Chaiwala said.
The businessman said that membership across both sites is “just touching 70,000” and that it is responsible for at least 100 marriages (the number of couples who have sent him thank you letters.) He suspects that there are 400 or 500 more.
However, despite his success as a polyamorous matchmaker, Chaiwala has so far been unable to find his own second wife.
“From a personal point of view, it’s a bit sad, but it’s still the early stages,” said Chaiwala, whose ultimate aim is to have three wives.
But most people might wonder why a woman would want to share her husband with other women.
One woman’s experience using SecondWife.com
SecondWife.com user Alisha, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, is a 39-year-old care worker from London. She has four children from a marriage that ended in divorce.
A strict Muslim, Alisha told Business Insider that she signed up to the site in 2015 to find a “husband on a part-time basis.”
“Everyone seems to think the woman has the short end of the straw [in polygamous relationships], but I think it is the bloke because he has got to split his time, his finances, and his attention. He has got to make sure that the two families are both happy,” Alisha said.
“Whereas I can go about my career, look after my children, and do what I need to do, all while knowing that I’m married and I’ve got my independence,” she added.
Alisha did not always want to be a part of a polygamous marriage. When she first heard about the concept in her mid-20s, she was not interested.
“I wanted a full-time husband and I was immature, so it didn’t make sense to me,” she said.
However, as her marriage became strained, she began researching the subject. Later, she suggested polygamy to her husband as a solution to their problems.
She even set up a meeting between her husband and a woman who she thought had potential to be his second wife.
“He wasn’t capable,” Alisha remembered. “He was an absolute d—head.”
Their marriage ended in divorce. Not long after, she began browsing Secondwife.com.
Alisha admitted that she understood why some women would experience feelings of jealousy when sharing their husband with other women. However, she said her religion allowed her to ignore feelings of possessiveness.
“The thing is I’ve come to this understanding in my life, where I don’t think I possess anything,” Alisha explained. “Everything I have belongs to God — even my children are a blessing from God.”
However, after months of looking, Alisha still hasn’t found a husband on SecondWife.com. She said that too many of the men she met through the site were more concerned with the physical aspect of a relationship, without the emotional or financial commitment.
“That’s not permissible in my religion,” she said. “For a man to take a second wife, he has to provide for her financially.”
Polygamy is permitted in Islam: the Quran specifies that each man can have up to four wives.
However, it is illegal in the UK, according to Section 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The law states that those who practice bigamy can face sentences of up to seven years.
Chaiwala avoids legal difficulties by encouraging British polygamists to take religious or civil ceremonies, which are not legally recognised.
“But you have announce it, you have to make a hoo haa,” Chaiwala said. “Don’t just say you are husband and wife — that’s kind of cheating the system.”
The problem with unofficial polygamous marriages is they leave both spouses without the legal and financial rights that come with marriage under British law.
Chaiwala said that this was an unfortunate “hurdle” that could be crossed.
“I’m hoping one day it can become legal and recognised and they can register their marriages legally, but there have to be some sacrifices made at the beginning,” he said.
Another hurdle Chaiwala is facing on his battle to break what he calls the “last taboo” is convincing his own children of polygamy’s moral value.
Recently, Chaiwala had a conversation with his young daughter who, apparently “regurgitating something a relative told her,” said that polygamy was wrong.
“I tried to explain to her that’s it’s not wrong and that I her love mummy and that I love her,” Chaiwala said. “But that I am a man.”
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