How Hassan Shibly Tried to Game Islamic Law

I wrote earlier about Hassan Shibly’s old interview with an institute at U Cal Berkely, which when read today helps explain his outrageous serial bigamy now exposed by NPR. The interview revealed Shibly’s wily approach to bigamy under US civil law: Because his state of Florida doesn’t recognize common law marriages, any marriages he enters into only under Islamic law don’t count in US courts.

But left unresolved is whether Shibly’s bigamy is legal under Shariah law, which in theory allows a man to marry up to four women at once. Let’s review the situation:

  1. The first thing we’re taught in Islamic education in high-school all over the Muslim world is the Islamic way to marry. The first Rukn (condition) of Nikah (marriage) is that it be publicly declared.
  2. Taking another wife is only allowed under strict conditions, including requiring the consent of any existing wives and the equal treatment to all wives.
  3. The ancient institution of Muta’ [temporary] marriages was expressly forbidden by the Caliph Umar and perhaps even the Prophet himself. All Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence uphold this ruling.

Shibly, a Sunni expert on Islamic law, knows all this. After his new wife Vanessa was revealed in December by his legal wife Imane, Shibly reacted by insisting that Imane had given him written permission to marry someone else and that he had “introduced Vanessa publicly as my wife before my family, donors, non-profits, community leadership, and masjid leadership. There was no attempt to make this marriage a secret from my friends, family, or even Imane.” Shibly had to insist on this (whether true or not) because otherwise he had violated the firs Rukn of Nikah.

But when NPR began investigating his other marriages – some entered into (via a phone call!) more than two years before he separated from Imane in 2019 – Shibly had a problem. Had he also introduced these other wives to donors, non-profits, community leaders, and masjid leaders back in 2016? Had he shared news of them on his various social media accounts? In 2016, were CAIR’s leaders and Florida masjid leaders totally cool with Shibly being married to three wives?

To NPR, Shibly denied any of the relationships were secret and described them as “courtships.” But there is no sign of them on his social media, from what I can see. And I would bet the marriages were indeed secret. Kyla McRoberts is on the record with NPR saying that in 2016 Shibly married her over the phone with just one friend on the line as a witness. Hardly sounds like a public marriage – and hardly sounds like Shibly’s wife Imane had consented or that Shibly was treating these two wives equally – let alone the third women he was Islamically married to 2016 who took to social media to complain about his abuse.

My suspicion is that Shibly was totally going for secret temporary marriages. While Muta’ marriages might be totally haram, I’m guessing Shibly considered them Misyar marriages (literally, “on the go”) – a new category of marriage created in the late 1970s by the Saudi cleric Bin Baz, specifically to help Saudi airline pilots who were constantly on the road for work. These Misyar marriages are hardly mainstream, but Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood extremists have been known to take advantage of them for their pleasure purposes.

As a new innovation (Bidah, anyone?) Misyar marriages are not part of the Islamic culture we grew up with. But new converts like Kyla McRoberts wouldn’t know better. And so when Shibly insisted to her that a hush-hush marriage by phone was fine, who was she to disagree with renowned Sharia expert Hassan Shibly.

In other words, not only was Shibly gaming the US legal system, he was also gaming Sharia to advance his own pleasure agenda. He has to lie now to insist all the marriages were public, otherwise his Sharia ruse totally falls apart.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, was for years one of CAIR’s renowned community leaders. As I’ll explain later, he is a perfect emblem for the corrupt organization he represented.