Ghana: 86 Wives and 170 Kids to One Man? It's Not Islamic and Fair

In this day and age, many are those who would be stunned at the news that an 84-year-old man with unreliable source of income is married to 86 women. This story is true as authenticated by media agencies like BBC and Associated Press (AP).

The man is a Nigerian known as Mohammed Bello Abubakar. Ironically he is advising other men not to follow his example. Mr. Bello Abubakar says he does not go chasing women, they rather come to him.

The former teacher and Muslim preacher, who lives in Niger State with his wives and at least 170 children, says he is able to cope only with the help of God.

"A man with 10 wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them," he told the BBC.

He says his wives have sought him out because of his reputation as a healer. "I don't go looking for them, they come to me. I will consider the fact that God has asked me to do it and I will just marry them."

But such claims have alienated the Islamic authorities in Nigeria, who have branded his family a cult.

Most Muslim scholars agree that a man is allowed to have four wives, as long as he can treat them fairly and equally.

But Mr. Bello Abubakar says there is no punishment stated in the Koran for having more than four wives.

"To my understanding, the Koran does not place a limit and it is up to what your own power, your own endowment and ability allows," he says.

However, many Islamic scholars in Ghana and the world over such as Sheikh Seebaway Zakariah of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology says the marriage of more than four women is not Islamic.

He says Muslims are allowed to marry a maximum of four wives with a condition that he would be just to the women otherwise he should settle for one woman.

The wives the BBC spoke to say they met Mr. Bello Abubakar when they went to him to seek help for various illnesses, which they say he cured.

"As soon as I met him, the headache was gone," says Sharifat Bello Abubakar, who was 25 at the time, and Mr. Bello Abubakar 74. "God told me it was time to be his wife. Praise be to God, I am his wife now."

Ganiat Mohammed Bello has been married to the man everyone calls "Baba" for 20 years. When she was in secondary school her mother took her for a consultation with Mr. Bello Abubakar and he proposed afterwards.

"I said I couldn't marry an older man, but he said it was directly an order from God," she says. She married another man but they divorced and she returned to Mr Bello Abubakar.

"I am now the happiest woman on earth. When you marry a man with 86 wives you know he knows how to look after them," she said.

No work

Mr. Bello Abubakar and his wives do not work and he has no visible means of supporting such a large family.

He refuses to say how he makes enough money to pay for the huge cost of feeding and clothing so many people.

Every mealtime they cook three 12kg bags of rice which all adds up to $915 (£457) every day. "It's all from God," he says. Other residents of Bida, the village where he lives in the northern Nigerian state, say they do not know how he supports the family.

According to one of his wives, Mr. Bello Abubakar sometimes asks his children to go and beg for 200 naira ($1.69, £0.87), which if they all did would bring in about $290 (£149).

Most of his wives live in a squalid, unfinished house in Bida; others live in his house in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital.

He refuses to allow any of his family or other devotees to take medicine and says he does not believe that malaria exists.

Marriage from multiple women in Islam might not be allowed for those who might result in damaging the society with their marriage by bringing more illiterate, poor, and in many cases starving children to the society. The prophet introduced polygamy during the war with non believers when he lost many of his followers in the battle. In order for the few soldiers to be able to take care of the orphans and the widows he asked the remaining soldiers to take on additional women.

Let us look at Noble Verse 4:3 of the Holy Quran "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice."

Notice how Allah Almighty allowed polygamy only for helping the orphans (more women are needed to take care of the Muslims' and infidels' orphans after every battle.) Notice also how Allah Almighty ordered the men to be either fair to their wives or else to never marry more than one wife.

Mr. Bello Mohammed has the right to marry up to four wives. To go beyond it to marry up to 86 women is not Islamic. Where are the human right activists working for the welfare of women and children in Nigeria? Where are the Islamic leaders in Nigeria who are concerned with the violation of rules by Islamic leaders? Where are government's Ministers of Education and Social Welfare?

All these authorities must combine their efforts to do something about this satiation. Otherwise many more men in Nigeria would go ahead to marry more women produce more children. These children might not be able to gain access to education good parental care and end up becoming liabilities and not assets to their nation and Africa.

The writer is the Executive Director of eanfoworld for sustainable development

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