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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

YARIMA AND HIS BRIDE

I intend not to tread the path of many commentators on Yarima’s marriage. The issue should be viewed beyond an individual and his marital privileges. We should look at this matter from the lens of Islamic scholarship, vis-à-vis the principle of avoiding darar (harm) to the Umma (Muslim community). Today’s topic, therefore, is addressed to my teachers, the Sheikhs in our community, who are silent on this important issue.
This article has nothing to do with the ranting of women’s rights organisations (Islamic or otherwise) and so-called activists on Yarima’s recent marriage. Before they stage demonstrations or write petitions against child marriage, most of the Muslims among them should have started from their homes where most of their parents, not only gave them out, but actually, forced them into marriage when they were 12 years old - in some cases, slightly below or above that age. Or, they should have demonstrated against their grandparents who gave out their mothers in marriage at an early age. Let them also reflect on the effect of early marriage to their education and, by extension, the Ummah – for only Allah knows what they might have become had they been allowed to pursue their academic dreams. Millions of young girls in Muslim communities, as I am writing this article, are forced into marriage at a very early age. Why did the so-called women’s rights organisations delay their demonstrations hitherto? They should have also taken issues with teenage sex which has become so commonplace no one raises an eyebrow anymore. The irony is that what these very young girls “enjoy” out of wedlock is the same as what the so-called thirteen year old bride will “suffer” in wedlock. Was Yarima’s marriage a reminder of an embarrassment, and of what the little girl might be going through? Was it loving for their sister, what they would have loved for themselves? Or a concern for the potential opportunities the girl may have to sacrifice? Or is it a concern for the challenges women in general face, and Muslim women in particular for which another girl having her education possibly truncated is just too unbearable, especially when done by someone who has been associated with Islam and Shari’ah? Or is it just another headache for those who have to defend Islam from another round of Islam’s critics. Or was it all of the above and more?

My addressees, in this piece, do not include Senator Ahmed Sani, Yariman Bakura. Suffice it to say that the Distinguished Senator should know that he is not like other former governors or senators (former or serving). He is by special providence the man who saw to the introduction of Shariah in Nigeria, in spite of unbearable pressure to stall the process from within and beyond our shores. Allah will reward him for resisting all temptations material and otherwise, to thwart the initial plan and campaign promise he made to implement Shariah in his state. Whether Senator Yarima was able to discharge his responsibility in a Shariah compliant way during his tenure is for Allah, and after that, history to judge. Even though some will argue that physical development of the state is also there for us to assess as against the funds available to his government, especially where you assume that development is confined to road networks and structures. They are two different issues: the good intention to introduce the Law, and its effective implementation. May Allah overlook his mistakes and reward him for both. But Yarima should not be oblivious of the fact that many people see Islam through whatever he does. They cannot decipher that Yarima is not a scholar but a Muslim who is trying to live by the dictates of his religion to the best of his ability, and according to what the scholars privileged to be close to him interpret. On account of this, he should avoid doing certain things even where such things may be mubaah (permissible in Shariah). For example, urinating in public while standing is not a sinful act if one does not expose their nakedness etc, but a Muslim of Yarima’s standing cannot do that because it is an uncalled-for mode of behaviour. I deeply believe that Yarima abhors anything that will give Islam a bad name; his respect for the Shariah will make him forsake doing a mere mubaah (what is only permissible, not obligatory) in order to help the ignorant against maligning Islam undeservedly.
I am not talking to those people who think that Yarima should be left alone as marriage is a personal matter, after all, nobody has confirmed the actual age of the girl who has since gone back to Egypt to continue her education; that since what he did is not against the Shariah, it is not rape, adultery or debauchery..., and everybody should face their own business; that why are people not criticising or demonstrating against sexual child abuse and sodomy in the Catholic Church....? This group is, rightly, entitled to its opinion, but my write up is not directed at it.
I am worried, as mentioned early, about the dead silence of Muslim scholars on the furore occasioned by Yarima’s marriage. The world is waiting to hear their position on the issue. What is ‘the marriageable age’ in Islam? Since the Glorious Qur’an is silent on the age of marriage, is there any light in that regard in the practice of the Prophet? If their answer is in the affirmative as there is mention of 6, 9, and 14 according to some narrations about the Prophet’s marriage to Aishah, is there any difference between our time and that of the Prophet, blessing and peace be upon him, in the area of women’s education and their role in society? Today, Muslim women are exposing their nakedness to male doctors (Muslim and non-Muslim) that are not related in any way to them. To what length can the leverage of darurah (necessity) be stretched? Has the time not come for the Ummah to produce enough female doctors to manage our hospitals and attend to female patients? Senator Yarima has set a perfect example of that by having a Medical doctor as one of his wives. In what way can we compare that illustrious Muslim wife of Yarima to the young girls forced into marriage today? How can such married young girls successfully complete their education and become Medical doctors? The argument that a girl can pursue her studies from her husband’s home hardly holds water, because no spouse will be able to put off the urge of consummating the marriage for long. So, what Islamic measures are in place to prevent ‘unexpected’ pregnancy that is certain to impede intellectual pursuit?
The answers to these queries are manifold. Some opine that marriage does not necessarily end education. In fact, it is widely practised in many parts of Nigeria. What may be a problem is where the husband does not understand or where the girl is still in secondary school. To the best of my knowledge, there is not a single secondary school which would admit a pregnant girl. Of course, people get around this too- especially girls with unwanted pregnancy who would simply take a transfer from the school, sit at home until the child in born and weaned and resume where they left off.
Others insist that she need not get pregnant and point at Yarima’s so-called 13 year old wife as an example. She returned to Egypt to continue her education immediately after the wedding. This can only work for some time or where the couple are not in a haste to have a child. This implies that the man who thought it fit to marry a youngster should also have the patience and understanding to allow her schooling to continue; in the end they shall both benefit from the patience. Islam even teaches a natural way to plan families which does not require any visits to the clinic or taking pills. It is called coitus interruptus (interrupted ejaculation). It is for those who have the ability to resist the urge to ejaculate right ‘there’ and even this is not failsafe.
We have reached a point where the scholars should come together and pronounce a fatwah (religious verdict) on marriageable age in Nigerian Muslim community. His Eminence the Sultan, under the aegis of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs can call for a summit of eminent Muslim scholars of all fields of the Shariah (Tafseer, Hadeeth, Fiqh, Usul al Fiqh,al Maqasid and sub-branches of these), along with social workers, medical professionals and specialists in reproductive health issues to come up with an indigenous verdict for the ummah. The scholars would consult the medical experts of what effects, if any, will early marriage cause a young girl and at what age? Is VVF the outcome of early marriage? Are there not older women with VVF? What is the ratio of both young and old in relation to VVF, and what group (young or old) is most vulnerable? And how early is early? In other words, a full impact assessment of the pros and cons of early marriage to the Ummah’s future.  Is VVF the issue or the absence of effective medical attention during pregnancy?
The summit conference must be frank, honest and sincere in its findings and resolutions. If it is established medically and Islamically (keeping the intent of Shariah in focus), that early marriage brings more harm to the girl, her future, her education, and the Muslim ummah at large, the scholars should peg the age of marriage to what they hope shall be in the interest of the girl, medically and in tandem with the Shariah. The fact that her life and what is in her best interest is the priority in Shariah, is clear from the fact that in the rules of Shariah surrounding child custody, what is in the best interest of the child is a priority over what is in the interest of any parent. And Allah knows best.

Another way to go about it might be to pass a fatwah making it mandatory on anyone who marries a girl of school age to ensure that she completes at least secondary schooling.
The Sultan and Ameerul Mu’mineen of Muslims in Nigeria will do well to call for this summit. The fatwah from scholars who will participate in it would be stronger than the verdict of any scholar in the world. The Shari’ah encourages flexibility, adaptability and giving fatwah according to condition of people in a given time. You find early scholars changing their positions on issues with the change of environment because the condition that warranted this verdict was now altered by a different one. Therefore, all Muslims in Nigeria MUST abide, willy-nilly, by the position of the proposed summit. ‘We hear, and we obey...’
Until his Eminence the Sultan calls for such summit and the position of experts is made known to us, I will continue to act according to my very scant understanding of the texts of Shariah and my appreciation of the realities of the world around me; and that is I will not give the hands of my daughters in marriage at an early age. No, they will have to graduate, Allah willing, in any useful course to the ummah that is of their choice. Their suitors would have to sign a powerful marriage contract that once they prevent them (their wives) from working in the service of the society - in these days when such collective obligations (fardu kifaya) have now become individual obligations (fardu ‘ayn) on us all -  the union is rendered null and void, with no legal efficacy whatsoever! Unless of course my daughters feel otherwise, as it is ultimately their life to live.

 

FEEDBACK ON YARIMA AND HIS BRIDE


Salam I thank you for educating the deaf among the Muslim ummah through your column on Islamic affairs. Honestly I am still interested in reading your column because of its Islamic teachings. I am confident that it will be useful not only to the present generation but also to generations yet unborn. Thanks. 0708 246 55 30
Assalamu Alaikum Ustaz. I just stumbled on your number on Leadership. Please is it okay if I send text to ask questions that border on Islam generally, because I don't know if the line is just for reactions on the articles you write? 0703 382 21 11
Yes, my brother, you can!
Salam. Uztaz Abubakr. May Allah reward you with al-Jannah Firdaus nuzula. Amin. I've read your article 'Yarima and His Bride' and found it interesting and educating. I only defer with you in only one place; in your last conclusion. That, anybody that wants your daughter for marriage has to sign a powerful marriage contract that once the husband breach the covenant, the marriage will become Null and Void, with no legal efficacy whatsoever. My question here is that, is this what Islam said we should do before marrying out our daughters? And you've ended by saying 'Unless of course your daughters feel otherwise, as it is ULTIMATELY their life to live'. I beg to hear from you. Bissalam! Alh. Dan'azumi Zakari kawo kaduna. 0803 606 25 34
Alh. Dan’azumi, Islam has made marriage contract and conditions part of the requirements in nikaah, but our society has neglected it. I will not!
Salam Alaika, your piece on Yerima and his bride of today is well articulated. your call for a summit is a good idea. May Allah bless us with more of you, of like minds. May He keep you in good health and continue to guide you. Bintah Ismail. 0805 600 18 81
Ustaz, you must be commended for the well-reasoned, rational, and non- emotional comments in your article titled " Yarima and His Bride" (Leadership 07/05/10). That you refrained from being emotional singles you out from the pack. In particular, your suggestion that Islamic Scholars in Nigeria need to "come together and pronounce a fatwah (religious verdict) on marriageable age in Nigerian Muslim community" is indeed germane. Thank you. Yakubu Sankey. 0802 501 48 01
"Verily, over you are angels appointed to protect you, kind, honourable at writing down all your deeds. They know all that you do." Q82:10-12. Whatever you do, you will see it later .Ya Abubakar Allah ya biyaka, ya saka maka da Alkhairi. Amin. Abdus Samad 0803 313 82 33
Salam; my dear brother. May Allah enrich you abundantly in knowledge. Your article on Yerima & His Bride in the Leadership of 7/5/10 is an Eye opener. I hope to communicate through the mail. I have so many pains with Muslim's conduct to the Qur'an & the teachings of Muhammad. Allahumma A'izzal Islam Wal Muslimun. 0803 317 40 09
I called Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, on your article. He promised to read it and told me there is a Fatwah Committee that will act on it. Abdulmumin Balogun (AGM, Leadership) 0806 972 77 98
Salam sheik, Islam is not a religion that is trying to impress anybody; it is just based on Qur'an and teaching of the Prophet not the way you personally want it; is either you take it as revealed or leave it but you can’t alter it. Yarima's marriage is SUNNAH of the Prophet, because the Prophet has practised it. So, you can’t give any fatwah to deviate from the SUNNAH, you can only give fatwah on the things that are not clear on the text of the          Prophet’s SUNNAH. Thank you - from Haliru Ibrahim 0805 724 55 94
I just want to commend you on your Islamic Perspective on Friday Leadership. I’m a Christian, though, but always love listening or reading your messages both on television and over the Radio. I must say I’m always blessed... Allah is really using you as an instrument in this our generation. Well done sir. 0805 369 50 51
Salam sheik, I just text to say sorry if I used hash words in my text yesterday, Thursday; I was upset when I read the article but nonetheless, that’s what Islam is all about; you have to be touched when hard things like that are discussed. I’m really sorry if I offended you & please forgive me.  From your Brother in Islam Haliru Ibrahim 0805 724 55 94
My Brother Haliru, you’ve not in any way offended me. May Allah forgive us...
Salam. Your column on Yarima's marriage made a more enlightening and inspiring reading than many of the grandstanding, holier-than-thou pieces I saw these days. May Allah SWT reward you.
Ibrahim Sheme,
Editor, Leadership 0803 642 64 31

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