Thursday, March 16, 2017

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - On The Proposed Family Law in Kano: The Hegemony of Patriarchy and the Obliteration of Women's Voice

The era of keeping women behind the scene belongs to the past. The world has changed drastically. Even Saudi Arabia, the most prominent leading lslamic nation, faces the challenge and seems to be finding a subtle way to accommodate the reality of our modern time; signals have been made there that women would engage in piloting and driving and discussions of certain issues, the practice that was outside women's domain in the past.

There is one fascinating aspect of lslam _that human beings should seek knowledge even if they would go as far as China,. Perhaps, it was seen as a remote part of the world at the time the idea came up. With the idea, one can say that obtaining more knowledge means finding more helpful ways to handle human issues. It also suggests possible changes based on new needs.

The ability to interpret situations appropriately and act accordingly is a sign of any fruitful education. Emir Lamido Sanusi seems to be operating on that paradigm and deserves global commendations for addressing issues that have affected some parts of Nigeria so much that they seem to be the fingerprints of the northern Nigeria.

As the world advances, the best way is for all religious scholars from different sects to realize that yesterday and today may look alike, but they are different days. It is one religion practiced by people of different generations. While religious purity should always be emphasize, any odds should be tackled so that society can be what it should be in this dynamic or everchanging world.

Bayo Omolola

On Wed, 3/15/17, Abdulbasit Kassim <> wrote:

Subject: USA Africa Dialogue Series - On The Proposed Family Law in Kano: The Hegemony of Patriarchy and the Obliteration of Women's Voice
To: "USA Africa Dialogue Series" <>
Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017, 4:48 PM

Since his ascendancy to the throne as the 14th Emir of Kano
on June 9,
2014, Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has embarked on different
reforms aimed at
addressing some of the social malaises that are pervasive in
Kano State and
Northern Nigeria at large. In his Thomas Hodgin Memorial
lecture delivered
at the University of Oxford titled "Tradition, Modernization
and Reform:
The Institution of Emir as change Agent", Emir Sanusi spoke
about his
proposed reform agendas which includes the codification of
family law, the
reform of education and the mainstreaming of Arabic as well
as the
utilization of Zakat (alms-giving) to systematically deal
with social
problems that plague Northern Nigeria.

Emir Sanusi's reform agendas did not come as a surprise. I
am not in
complete awe of the fact that I am familiar with his
antecedent avant-garde
records. He has been a cognoscente and an influential pundit
writing and
delivering interviews on different topical issues ranging
from religion,
politics and social reforms since the last decade. However,
his current
reform agendas, specifically the codification of family law,
has placed him
on an impending feud with the clerical establishment in
Kano. Emir Sanusi
proposed a law that will address the issue of marriage,
orphans, widows and divorce. An important clause in the law
is the
stipulation that will prevent Muslims from marrying more
than one wife
unless they can prove that they have the means of taking
care of more than
one wife and also treating them justly.

Several notable Northern intellectuals have debated the
proposed family
law. In his insightful piece, Dr Aliyu Tilde, campaigned for
the inclusion
of the voices of the Talakawas (peasants) in the ongoing
discourse. Other
intellectuals such as Ibraheem A. Waziri <>
and Adamu Tilde <> have also
their contributions to the ongoing debate. Notwithstanding,
the debate so
far has affirmed the hegemony of patriarchy and the
obliteration of the
voices of women in Northern Nigeria. Aside from my criticism
that the
current family law was drafted based on the family laws of
Middle Eastern
countries with different cultures and traditions from
Northern Nigeria such
as Morocco, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait,
Bahrain, and United
Arab Emirate, Malaysia and Jordan, I am yet to read a single
interview or
piece of article written by a woman on this topical issue.

Why are we hearing only the voices of the clerical and
establishment? Why are the women silent? One would expect
that given the
vehemence of the ongoing debate, women will rally together
and make use of
the just concluded International Women's Day to address this
topical issue.
Here are some of the reasons the voices of women should
never be
obliterated from this

ongoing discourse:

A. #ChildNotBride

The current debate on the family law is bringing back to
light the
#ChildNotBride campaign that previously spurred a national
hullabaloo when
Senator Ahmed Yerima attempted to justify his marriage to
his 13 yr old
bride by using Shari'ah law as an excuse to filibuster a
amendment. According to the Child Right Act 2003 Part 3
Section 21 "No
person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a
marriage, and accordingly, a marriage so contracted is null
and void and of
no effect whatsoever." Section 22 Subsection 1 "No parent,
guardian or any
other person shall betroth a child to any person." Section
22 Subsection 2
"A betrothal in contravention of Subsection (1) of this
section is null and
void." Section 23 "A person—(a) who marries a child; or
(b) to whom a child
is betrothed; or (c) who promotes the marriage of a child;
or (d) who
betroths a child commits an offense and is liable on
conviction to a fine
of x500,000 (five hundred thousand Naira) or imprisonment
for a term of
five years or to both such fine and imprisonment."

Emir Sanusi proposed family law once passed by the Kano
State House of
Assembly will protect the rights of the Girl-Child. It is no
longer a news
that young girls under the age of 18 in Northern Nigeria are
betrothed into
forced marriages against their will. In his objection to the
family law, Shaykh Aminu Daurawa, a Salafi cleric in Kano,
stated that the
clause in the family law that says "Both bride and grooms
most attain the
age of 17 before getting married" is antithetical to
Islamic injunctions
specifically verse 4 of Surat Talaq. This objection begs the
question of
the need to revisit the law that should govern Northern
Nigeria. The region
is not a separate entity from Nigeria. Although the region
is presently
governed by the secular constitution of Nigeria, the
Shari'ah as well
customary laws, there is a blurred boundary on the
jurisdiction of each
category of laws.

Shaykh Daurawa stated in his criticism of the family law
that many scholars
in their Quranic exegesis of Surat Talaq verse 4 explained
that a girl can
be married off at a younger age, provided that would help
her protect
herself from committing adultery, uphold her religion,
protect her health
and dignity. He argued that Islam has not specified an age
limit for a
Muslim girl, as far as marriage is concerned and as expected
he invoked the
oft-repeated marriage of the prophet to Nana Aisha at the
age of 9.

There is an urgent need to start problematizing this
oft-repeated reference
to the prophet's marriage to Aisha at the age of 9. No one
is challenging
the prophet's morality of marrying a girl at the age of 9,
but one thing
should be made clear that there is a variation in time and
social context
between the period of the prophet and our current epoch. For
the fact that
the prophet married Aisha at the age of 9 in 619 AD is not
sufficient as a
sacrosanct evidence to marry off young girls in 2017 at the
same age
without their consent. There are variances in time and
social contexts.

Slavery was once revered in Islamic history and legitimized
by prophetic
traditions. The prophet participated in the institution of
slavery. For
instance, in Sahih Muslim there is a hadith that affirmed
that the prophet
purchased slaves حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى
بْنُ يَحْيَى التَّمِيمِيُّ،
رُمْحٍ قَالاَ أَخْبَرَنَا
اللَّيْثُ، ح وَحَدَّثَنِيهِ
قُتَيْبَةُ، بْنُ
سَعِيدٍ حَدَّثَنَا لَيْثٌ، عَنْ
أَبِي الزُّبَيْرِ، عَنْ
جَابِرٍ، قَالَ
جَاءَ عَبْدٌ فَبَايَعَ
النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم
عَلَى الْهِجْرَةِ
وَلَمْ يَشْعُرْ أَنَّهُ عَبْدٌ
فَجَاءَ سَيِّدُهُ يُرِيدُهُ
فَقَالَ لَهُ
النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم
‏"‏ بِعْنِيهِ ‏"‏ ‏.‏
بِعَبْدَيْنِ أَسْوَدَيْنِ ثُمَّ
لَمْ يُبَايِعْ أَحَدًا بَعْدُ
يَسْأَلَهُ ‏"‏ أَعَبْدٌ هُوَ
"There came a slave who pledged allegiance to
Allah's Apostle on migration; he (the Prophet) did not know
that he was a
slave. Then there came his master and demanded him back,
whereupon Allah's
Apostle said: Sell him to me. And he bought him for two
black slaves, and
he did not afterward take allegiance from anyone until he
had asked him
whether he was a slave (or a free man)"

If the prophet participated in the institution of slavery,
why was slavery
abolished by Muslim-majority countries (slavery is still
being practiced in
Mauritania) even though Boko Haram and ISIS have
resuscitated this
abolished institution? So if slavery can be abolished then
the prophet's
marriage to Aisha should not always be invoked as a
reference to force
young girls into marriages against their will. I am with
Emir Sanusi.
Prescribing an age limit for marriage is an ijtihad (the
process of making
a legal decision by independent interpretation of the legal
sources) that
does not negate Islamic injunctions. If the institution of
slavery can be
abolished, I see no reason why marrying off young girls at
the age of 9
cannot be condemned.

Shaykh Aminu Daurawa also stated that there is no scientific
evidence that
proves that early marriages of young girls lead to VVF
fistula". This claim also begs the question: if indeed
Shaykh Daurawa is
accurate in his claim, why are the cases of VVF more rampant
in Northern
Nigeria? Why are we not seeing the same vigor our clerics
are showing in
the ongoing debate on Family law in the campaign for
Girl-Child education
in Northern Nigeria?

B. Is Family Planning An Agenda of the West?

Another criticism of the proposed family law is the notion
that the law is
aimed at promoting family planning which has often been
interpreted as an
agenda of the West. This strain of thought is not new in
Northern Nigeria
specifically in the aftermath of the debate on polio
vaccines where Muslim
women were believed to have been sterilized. The proposed
family law has
also been framed into the net of "It is a Western Agenda".
Although Boko
Haram violently express their denunciation of western
culture, the
suspicion of the west is a pervasive frame of thought even
among the
intelligentsia of Northern Nigeria.

Despite the explanation of the societal benefits of the
proposed family
law, the clerical establishment has successfully framed Emir
reform agenda as a Western-induced agenda aimed at curbing
the geometric
growth of population in Northern Nigeria like the erstwhile
debate on
family planning. His lecture at Oxford may also be
interpreted along the
same line of thought. It is excruciating that women who will
bear the brunt of whatever decisions the patriarchal society
put forth to
the state assembly are reticent. There is no discussion of
addressing the
mortality rate in the region? There is no discussion of
domestic violence
against women? There is no discussion of providing
affordable antenatal and
postnatal care for women? But right here, you have men in
positions of
power debating about the number of women to marry? Is this
not the best
time for women in Northern Nigeria to speak out against the
custom that treats them as sex objects? Is it not the best
time for women
in Northern Nigeria to speak out and demand for their
fundamental human
rights to education, freedom to make a decision about who
they choose to
marry? freedom of expression and inclusion into the
policy-making process
of issues that affect women?

C. Where I concur with the propositions of Shaykh Aminu

Although Shaykh Aminu Daurawa presented the positions of the
establishment on the proposed family law, I agree with some
of his
propositions. He proposed the inclusion of marriage
education in the
curriculum. For a state like Kano with a high rate of cases
of divorce,
marriage education is not just necessary, it is crucial and
should be
included in the educational curriculum. I also agree with
his proposition
of the importance of counseling for marriage-related issues.
Finally, I
agree with his proposition that there is a need for more
enlightenment and
awareness campaign on the proposed family law. Maybe a town
hall meeting or
Jumu'ah Khutbahs should be delivered to enlighten the public
about the law. No
matter what the patriarchal society decides on the proposed
family law, the
voices of women and even young unmarried girls should never
be obliterated.
They should be giving the platform to also discuss the
issues and make
suggestions before the law is passed as a bill in the House
of Assembly.

Abdulbasit Kassim

Ph.D. Student

African Studies, Islam and IR

Department of Religion

Rice University

6100 Main Street

Houston, TX, 77005

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