Malaysian wins right to marry fourth wife

51-year-old has 18 children with three other women

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A Malaysian odd-job man with 18 children has finally won permission to take a fourth wife, after being knocked back repeatedly because of his low income, reports said Tuesday.

A judge in the conservative northern state of Terengganu finally relented after being convinced that the new wife, 34-year-old Suzi Sulong, was truly in love with Mohamed Nor Awang, who is 16 years her senior, The Star daily said.

"To be frank with you, before this proceeding, I met your future wife and her family and urged them to look for another candidate as you already have three wives," Judge Sheikh Ahmad Ismail Hakim said in the Islamic Sharia court.

"But Suzi told me that no man could replace you in her heart," he reportedly said.

Mohamed, 51, already has 18 children with his first three wives -- who consented to the new match.

His appeal to the court to marry again had been rejected three times previously as his 3,000-ringgit (937-dollar) monthly income from doing odd jobs was ruled as insufficient to support such a large family.

"But your three wives told the court they are willing to help each other out (financially), which shows there is cooperation among them," Sheikh Ahmad reportedly said.

Mohamed also told the court that his work performance would be affected if the court denied him permission to marry again.

He was pictured beaming in local newspapers, flanked by his wives in front of the court, and has said he plans to wed before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan starts in September.

Early last month, the same judge allowed a grandfather with 25 children to marry a fourth wife after he had showed that he was able to meet the financial needs of all of them.

Muslims in Malaysia are allowed to marry up to four wives but Islamic courts must approve multiple marriages before they can take place.

Activists and women's groups say polygamy is cruel and has deviated from its original purpose in Islam, which was to protect widows and orphans.