A growing number of young British Muslims are taking second or third wives in an unexpected revival of polygamy.
The new wave of polygamy is revealed in a special report by the BBC Asian Network using findings from the Islamic Sharia Council.
The council, which provides legal advice and guidance to Muslims, said it was receiving an unprecedented number of inquiries about polygamous marriages.
Its most recent figures show that, for the first time, polygamy is now among the top ten reasons cited for divorce, as wives decide that they can no longer tolerate competing with one another.
Polygamy is illegal in Britain, but Muslim men can take a second, third or even a fourth wife under Sharia law in a religious ceremony known as the nikah.
These wives are not recognised by British law, but are considered legitimate within many Muslim communities.
Out of 700 applications for divorce in 2010, 43 cited polygamy as the reason.
Three main reasons are being given for the growth in polygamy. The first is the growing number of young Muslim men who want to practise a more orthodox and conservative form of the religion.
Young men who have come into a more radical understanding of faith know it is illegal to marry more than once under British law, but do it to spite the system.
These marriages have the lowest record of succeeding.
The second and biggest group are men whose first marriage has failed.
Typically their wife does not want a divorce, there are children involved and the father wants to carry on seeing and supporting the children. Rather than carry on living together and biting each other’s heads off, the husband takes a second wife. That is the model which works best, largely because it is a pragmatic arrangement.
Everyone is happy, he says, apart from his parents, who are appalled.
There is a small third group of men whose parents live in the country of origin, say Pakistan, and need help in old age, so they marry a woman from the community there.
Perminder Khatkar, who carried out the investigation by the BBC, said there was also growing concern that wives in polygamous marriages are unaware that they have no legal rights.
The Muslim Council of Britain has urged all those who marry only under Sharia law to have a contract in place setting out who is entitled to what. However, these contracts require the consent of all parties, and may be challenged in a British court.