PROF. AKINTOLA INTERVIEW ON YERIMAH’S MARRIAGE TO A ‘MINOR’

Guardian of Sunday, 23rd May, 2010, page 58
Subject: Questions on Child Marriage from Bisi Williams, The Guardian

Senator-Ahmed-Sani-Yerima1). What is the position of the Holy Quran on marriage, and on marriage to a minor?

Islam regards the institution of marriage as sacred. It is the foundation of family life and that of society in general. Qur’an 30:21 affirms that marriage is an opportunity for the manifestation of love and mercy between a man and a woman. Qur’an 2:187 regards marriage as a form of protection. Qur’an 24:32 commands Muslims to marry. Celibacy is an anathema in Islam.

2). Is there anywhere where the Quran says that men are allowed to marry a minor?

The Qur’an is silent on this. Though not encouraged, marriage to a minor stands in Islam so long as the parents of the girl approve it. The parents’ decision depends on their observation of the physiological development of their daughter. However, the girl has the right to reject the marriage. A marriage cannot stand in Islam if the man or girl does not approve the marriage proposal. This is called ijab wa qubul in Shari’ah.

3). Some Muslim clerics have frowned at the high dowry paid on the said minor, is that the only problem with this marriage contract?

Nobody has the right to frown at the bride price. The bride and bridegroom alone are the ones who should baggain this and reach a concensus. Who are the Muslim clerics who criticized the bride price? What are their credentials? I am sorry, I do not think any Islamic scholar worth the salt would contradict this well established Islamic tradition.

A Muslim woman has the right to ask her prospective husband to give her anything, anything at all, anything under the sun or even above it. She may ask for the least amount of money, say, two hundred naira (N200) or even five naira (N5) only. And it is nobody’s business if she demands forty four billion naira (N44 billion) which is the same amount for which Ibori is now a fugitive.  Whatever she is given is her own by right. Nobody should share it with her.

She may, out of love or sympathy for the man’s poor financial standing, make no material demand at all! My own wife refused to collect any money. Perhaps because she knows that I am a poor lecturer. She asked me to read the Qur’an for her and to pray for her!

There is no problem at all with this marriage. Those who are crying wolf over it see the wolf only in the figment of their imagination. Nigerians are yet to get to grips with how to respect and tolerate their neighbour’s faith.
4).The Governor had to divorce a fifteen year old to marry a thirteen year old for his convenience, is this allowed by the Koran. Was his action justified since he said he wasonly following Prophet Mohammed’s footsteps who married a nine-year-old girl, Aishatu, is this true?

You said so. I don’t know. I do not have to swallow everything the press says hook, line and sinker. If a journalist enters my house and says ‘good morning’, I will go outside to check whether it is really daylight before responding. Of course there are exceptions to my rule. There are highly responsible and truth-seeking journalists that I also know. Give me proof of the 15 year old divorced by the governor. Do you even have any proof of the real age of the so called 13-year old girl? I challenge you to produce it. This is fault-finding. It is wicth-hunting of the highest order. It is unwarranted victimization.

I will advise the press and non-Muslims to paddle their own canoes. A Muslim’s marriage is his own private affair. We will not be dragged into a debate on our Prophet’s wives by those who have not shown evidence of good intention. Let them say whatever they like to say among themselves. But it may become another thing when they publish provocative statements on the pages of newspapers, on radio or television. The circumstances surrounding the Prophet’s marriages are there in the books of history for those who sincerely yearn for the truth.

There is nothing to defend about Muhammad’s marriage because there was no breach in the first place. I pity those who refuse to respect others’ way of life. Cultures are bound to clash where people condemn other people’s culture and seek to impose their own on all and sundry. Nigerians are yet to learn to leave the Muslims alone with their own way of life. This is a major cause of religious crisis and I like to advise the press to watch this angle. Loyalty to Reverend Henry Townsend who started journalism in Nigeria should not be carried too far.

As for the governor’s marriage, I see nothing wrong in it. I strongly believe that the ex-governor is presently being witchhunted on account of his involvement in the Shari’ah affair. I knew that his detractors would seek to nail him. But they have lost the moral right to sit in judgement on any issue involving Muslims. All this noise cannot rubbish Shari’ah. Where was the Nigerian press when a Christian terrorist rammed his car into a passenger plane last month? I didn’t hear the word terrorism! It is reserved for Muslims. Why can’t we treat Christians and Muslims the same way? Why does the press treat Christians with kid gloves while Muslims are hounded from pillar to post? This bias cannot take Nigeria anywhere. Now you expect Muslims to condemn Yerima for exercising his right as a Muslim. Only myopic and half-baked Muslims will do that. The man has done nothing wrong as far as the rules of Islam are concerned.

Look at it this way. The only kind of relationship between a man and a woman which Islam frowns upon is the amorous and illicit one. If you tell me that Yarima picked a 25 year old lady by the roadside and impregnated her after several secret outings, that will be a contravention of the teachings of Islam. I will condemn him, even publicly. But he has not done that. Everything done was with the family’s knowledge. He paid a dowry as required in Islamic law.

Why won’t Nigerians try to understand their Muslim neighbours? We are not asking you to do things our own way. But we do not have to do things your own way. Kaajiko? The plurality of cultures in this country necessitates variety of actions. Let us respect that variety. It is colourful. It is kaleidoscopic.

5). Yerima was the first Governor of the nation’s 12 Muslim-dominated northern states to introduce Sharia law in 2000,yet, he spurned Nigeria’s Child Rights Act of 2003 which forbids marriage with anyone under 18, what is your view on this as a religious cleric?

Did the engineers of the Child Rights Act consider the interest of all Nigerians (including that of the Muslims) before ramming it into place? We are not part of it. We know the rights of our children. Perhaps you would want to prove that non-Muslims love Muslim children more than the real parents? Well, I won’t be surprised. That was how you claimed to love our women more than we love them and so much noise was made over this. But when it came to protecting Muslim women who were actually being persecuted by government officials in Lagos, Ibadan, Oyo, Ondo and other South-West states, the press went to sleep. The so called human rights outfits went into coma. All of them ignored our complaints and petitions until we trooped out into the streets. No, you can’t coax us into joining you in your fight against Yarima. My memory is not so short.

Do you agree that the 18 year adult limit is a European creation and not applicable in the African context?

I do more than agree. That is one of the effects of globalization. ‘One man one wife’ too is part of it. But does the average African stick to one wife? It cuts across faiths. Many of my non-Muslim friends have more than one wife. President Zuma of South Africa has married four wives and his country’s laws recognize all of them. But here in Nigeria we slavishly follow Western idiosyncracies and call it the law. The law my foot!
6). Would you give out your daughter at that age, why or why not?

Objection my lord! That question is prejudicial. My client should not be made to answer that question.

At what age? The girl’s age has not been confirmed by anybody. You are all still beating about the bush. We cannot allow the press to lead us by the nose. Do your findings properly. Yarima himself has denied it and we owe it a duty to listen to him. Give the man a break jare! I know that the Nigerian press is always out there waiting for the day they would deal with anyone who promotes Islam. Yarima promoted Islam by introducing Shari’ah. You think you have something to use against him now. But do you, really? I call it persecution. I call it victimization of the highest order. Leave Yarima alone….and please leave my daughter out of this. That question is prejudicial.

Professor Ishaq Akintola
Guardian of Sunday, 23rd May, 2010, page 58

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6 thoughts on “PROF. AKINTOLA INTERVIEW ON YERIMAH’S MARRIAGE TO A ‘MINOR’

  1. You have really said the truth, Nigerians (Muslims) hve been waiting your reaction about the lingering issue all this while . AlhamduliLLah, am happy for you . We don’t want you people to keep silent on the matters that affect Islam as an entity just as they (Disbelievers and especially the CAN President) too did not . May Allah increase you in knowledge,faith and guidance and may He guide them to the right path. Aamiiiin.

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