- Nabilah Phillips dropped out of Cambridge to marry Hasan Phillips
- She is one of three women married to the businessman and charity worker
- There are as many as 20,000 polygamous Muslim marriages in Britain
Studying for a PhD in engineering at one of the world’s leading universities, she might not seem like a prime candidate to enter into a polygamous marriage.
But that is exactly what Nabilah Phillips has done, dropping out of Cambridge to become one of three women married to businessman and charity worker Hasan Phillips, 32.
And yesterday it emerged that Nabilah, 35, is among thousands of Muslim women entering into such relationships, illegal in the UK but allowed under Sharia law, which permits men to have four wives.
Nabilah Phillips dropped out of Cambridge to become one of three women married to businessman and charity worker Hasan Phillips, 32
Hasan Phillips and his three wives Nabilah 35, Sakinah 33, and Anub 41. Having already been through a divorce, Nabilah, originally from Malaysia, signed up to a similar matrimony service specifically looking for a married man
Nabilah, 35, is among thousands of Muslim women entering into such relationships, illegal in the UK but allowed under Sharia law, which permits men to have four wives
A new documentary, The Men with Many Wives, exposes the rise in these unions – there are believed to be as many as 20,000 in Britain – and the dating agency, Muslim Marriage Event, responsible for setting many of them up.
Having already been through a divorce, Nabilah, originally from Malaysia, signed up to a similar matrimony service specifically looking for a married man.
She told the programme: ‘I was looking for someone who had been married or was already in a marriage.
The couple were interviewed in this week's Radio Times
‘I was married before and having gone through one divorce, you kind of know what you want in marriage, so I wanted someone who already knows how to be a husband.
‘I really enjoy being in a polygamous relationship. If people can see what the greater benefit is, we are not stupid people who are forced into this type of relationship.’
It was through this service that she met Mr Phillips – also divorced but re-married to City worker Sakinah, 33 – and decided to abandon her studies to become his second wife.
The wives occasionally meet, when Mr Phillips – who also works for a charity aiming to spread the word of Islam – organises family outings and Nabilah admits the green-eyed monster does rear its head - and her husband is usually to blame.
She said: ‘I’m not the jealous type of person, if I do get jealous it’s usually his fault.
If any problem happens between co-wives it’s usually his fault.
Praising somebody too much. “Why don’t you be more like her, she’s this, she’s that. If he didn’t say that, we would all be happy.”
Nabilah has two children with Mr Phillips – who has six in total – and now helps run his import-export business but abandoning her academic career was not her only change after she married. She also began wearing the Muslim veil, the niqab.
She told The Radio Times: ‘I wanted to wear one before I got married – being married to Hasan has given me the opportunity to wear one and be steady at it. The only prejudice I have met so far has been from other Muslims.’
During filming, Mr Phillips, who converted to Islam from Christianity when he was 16, marries a third woman, Somalian-born Anub, 41 – who had also never worn the niqab until Mr Phillips requested she do so – who said: ‘A brother who has a wife is already more responsible than one who hasn’t.’
Nabilah has two children with Mr Phillips - who has six in total - and now helps run his import-export business. But abandoning her academic career was not her only change after she married. She also began wearing the Muslim veil, the niqab
He did not invite his other two wives to the small ceremony, held at the local mosque, saying: ‘I don’t think it would be right to invite them. Even though they are accepting of polygamy, you don’t want to really rub it in their faces, “Look, I’m getting married”, and expect them to be happy and have a party about it.
‘You’re doing it not for them, you’re doing it for the greater benefit of yourself and the person you’re marrying.’
THE RISE OF POLYGAMOUS MUSLIM MARRIAGES IN BRITAIN
Each wife lives in a separate house in London and Mr Phillips splits his time equally between them all, spending three nights in each home before moving onto the next.
The programme also speaks to Mizan Raja, who claims to have more than 50,000 clients on the books of Muslim Marriage Event, which appears to facilitate polygamous marriages.
He said the popularity of such arrangements is ‘driven by the women’ who are having difficulty finding a husband, he admits that while these women are looking for ‘security’, many of the men have baser motives.
He said: ‘Men are more drawn to polygamy. Even though there are some who sincerely want to help, those are few, most men who want to do polygamy, probably 80 percent, it’s a sexually driven thing.’
The problem for some women is that because polygamy is illegal, the relationships are not officially recognised and they therefore do not have the same rights as a normal wife, especially when it comes to divorce.
As a result, mother-of-eight Shaheen Qureshi is shown in the programme having no choice but to apply for a divorce from a Sharia court after her marriage breaks down.
The show, which will be broadcast at 10pm next Wednesday on Channel 4, also looks at life inside other polygamous relationships, including Mohammed, 43, who has three wives – including one in Morocco – and eleven children but has been unemployed for two years after losing his job in the restaurant trade and must rely on benefits to support his large family.