17 March 2017

Nigeria: Mixed Reactions Trail Emir Sanusi's Proposed Family Law

Photo: Daily Trust
(file photo).

Kano — The recent proclamation by the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi ll to present a bill regarding matrimonial issues at the state assembly has generated fierce debate between supporters and opposers of the bill.

The Emir made this pronouncement at an event, held in Abuja, marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Isa Wali. Though the law, if enacted, will regulate multiple aspects of family issues, the aspect in regards to the regulation of polygamy seems to attract the most attention.

Those in support of the law say it is a good development because, according to them, the law might bring sanity into the family. As for those opposing it, they said that such a law could lead to an increase in the number of single women in the society.

It is interesting to see that for an issue, which appears to have women at the receiving end, almost all women interviewed commended the Emir and see him as a champion for women's rights. They see it as a development that will salvage them from the shackles of selfish men.

Recall how sometime ago, the Emir spoke about something similar, stating that a wife should retaliate when her husband beats her. His statements generated a lot of debate.

Hajiya Khadijah Aliyu, who is a retired court worker and an Islamic cleric said the move is a positive development.

"This is a very welcome development and it is not something new because even during my diploma course in law, we were taught how marriage is conducted in the Arab world, most especially polygamy.

"Before a man can add another wife, he would have to go to the court to declare his intention and then declare his income for the judge to assess and see if his income would suffice him to take care of an additional wife," she said.

She added, "If the income is sufficient enough for that, he would be given the go ahead to add another wife but if his income is inadequate, he would be prevented from adding another wife."

Khadijah noted that a lack in adequate regulation was responsible for the abuse of polygamy by men.

She said, "Some men take and dispose women like the cloth they wear. Some would marry and after getting two or more children with the woman, would run away and leave her. In the end, she would have to return to her parents with additional children. This is not Islamic and any man who engages in such act is selfish. What the Emir is trying to establish is commendable."

Also reacting to the Emirs comments, a business man, Alhaji Muhammad Usman said that sensitization and not enacting a new law will solve the issue, "People should be sensitized on the need to do justice between their wives, rather than come up with a law that will ban additional wives. After all marital enjoyment is not about wealth because there are some rich men who abuse polygamy," he said.

He advocated the need for government to establish a centre that would educate couples on matrimonial affairs.

His words, "Men should learn how to be just and fair to their wives. When this is done, no law would be needed to regulate marriage."

However this view was challenged by other respondents who said it was not ignorance that was responsible for men's glaring selfishness.

"What kind of sensitization do they need. After all Islamic scholars on daily basis preach against such but to no avail. People have reached a stage whereby only the law will work on them as far as family life is concerned," said Ladidi Ibrahim, a divorcee.

In his own submission, Suleiman Shuaib said what the Emir proposed was in line with Islamic teachings.

"Even the Qur'an has said, 'and let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste until God enriches them of His bounties' (24:38). From this verse one can see that if one finds no means, he is supposed to exercise patience and wait for God's intervention, before he can marry or add another wife."

He added that in the authentic saying of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), he advised young men to get married when they have the means and he added that if they don't have the means, should keep fasting to help control their sexual desires.

"So what the Emir is proposing is not unlawful, it is the right thing," he said.

Sumayya Ibrahim Usman, said that no sensible and just person would oppose this law.

"If we observe the situation on ground; how women are maltreated by men, no time is better than now for such a law. I have seen a man convert his kitchen to a room to accommodate a second wife in it. The room is so small that after fixing the bed, there was no space left in the room for her to spread a prayer mat, if she has to pray, it has to be at the small compound. Tell me how this woman will be comfortable," she said.

She added, "Those opposing this law are the oppressors who have no respect and sympathy for the womenfolk. They are simply after satisfying their desire at the detriment of woman."

Reacting to the issue, the Director, Centre for Gender Studies Professor Aisha Abdu Ismail said people should study what is contained in the bill before commenting, saying, "Society needs to progress. The law if enacted is not about banning polygamy but about regulating the practice. If we look at the Qur'anic verse that allows polygamy, it is not saying one should simply add but rather, it stressed the need for capacity which entails aspects beyond monetary and emotional realms."

She further observed that parents are suppose to have children they can properly train.

"When you marry just for your desire and you give birth to many children that you cannot train you push them away and into the society, don't you think that you will be questioned since children are a trust and we shall all account for that trust. Let them know that the law is not about a ban but regulation.

"The government should come up with a policy that will address poverty, education, skills and employment to make the law work effectively," she said.

Hajiya Sa'adatu Hashim, the Kano State President of the Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigeria (FOMWAN), noted that FOMWAN, as a religious body was in full support of the law.

"We are in support of this law 100 percent. The Emir is not talking ignorantly, he knows what women are going through today and he is well versed in both the Islamic and Western knowledge," she said.

She added, "Law is important in our daily lives, we have laws that regulate for example, traffic, then what is wrong if we have laws that will regulate family affairs."

She further noted that when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said people should marry and bear children that he would be proud of on the Day of Judgment, he did not mean miscreants, he meant pious and respectable children who are well trained and well educated.

According to her, the argument raised by those opposing the law, stating that it could lead to the rise in the number of unmarried women in the society, noted that even if all the women were to get married, they would give birth to even more women.

She cited the example of how some men not capable of marrying more than one wife would marry about three or more wives, saying, "Each of the wife will be in a house where she is made to pay rent. In addition she fends for herself, her children and the husband. Who can justify that this is the ideal way of marrying more than one wife in Islam?," she said

Despite the uproar, the Emir has reiterated his stance on the issue and that there would be no going back on the proposed law.

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