For about a decade or two, the raging controversy over the issue of marriage as it affects the Nigerian Constitution has been a topic of debate among members of the legislative arm of government as well as the Nigerian masses.
This issue has also occupied a prime place in cyber space. Feminist and other activists acting under the guise of protecting the Muslim female child have also exploited the scenario to lampoon Muslims and their institution of marriage.
Islam is a complete way of life and its institutions (marriage inclusive) are based on divinely ordained and well documented rules; for Islam remains the only religion with unadulterated scripture in the world. As such, whoever wishes to legislate or is given the opportunity to legislate must, while trying to do it, objectively arm himself/herself with adequate knowledge and documentary evidence. Anything short of this will earn lawmakers and commentators disrespect and contempt of Islamdom.
The whole debate in the National Assembly was misunderstood and misrepresented. It was not about child marriage per-se, it was about renunciation of citizenship. The provision of section 29 of the Nigerian Constitution says “any Nigerian of full age can renounce his or her citizenship” and some conditions were set such as (4a) under section 29 which says 18 years and above (4b) said any married woman. Now, what is the definition of a woman? The Constitution said not child. A woman, according to Wikipedia, and the Dictionary says a woman is an adult female human being. This was the beginning of the issue.
Islamically, there are four pre-requisite for marriage which are as follows; proposal and acceptance (al-ijaab wa alqubuul), approval by both parents (Ridaa alwaalidayn), payment of dowry by the groom (Al-Mihr) and the presence of at least two male witnesses at the ceremony (Shahidayn aadilayn).
Being a complete way of life, Islam has its rigid as well as its flexible parts, depending on the circumstance as the case may be. As explained above, age is therefore not part of the conditions which must be met before marriage can be solemnised in Islam. Where the bride is a “Minor” Islam prescribes protective solemnizing of marriage without consummation.
This means that the girl who is deemed to be of tender age is left untouched until she attains puberty. Another condition for child marriage is that the girl has the right to repudiate the marriage when she attains maturity and don’t like her spouse.
Looking at it from the common sense (logical) perspective, the Constitution says adult woman. As for Nigeria, as far as the rule of law or the constitution is concerned, there is no specific age of consent.
The Constitution only says the marriage age is 18. With all due respect to other religions, I don’t know it if they accept pre-marital sex, but in Islam sex is synonymous to marriage and by implication it is abomination and absolutely unacceptable for any Muslim. Going by their (Westerners) definition, at the age of 12 a girl can go to any pharmacy to purchase contraceptives, which implies having sex; what they don’t accept is child birth.
At this point I will say thumbs up to Senator Ahmad Sani Representing Zamfara West Senatorial District who despite all criticisms and challenges rose to the occasion and with the help of other law makers defended the Deen.
We as Muslims believe that honorable and dignifying child marriage is better than child prostitution which is rampant in our cities and red light zones. In comparison, the globalization and promotion of homosexualism, lesbianism and same- sex marriage is a direct challenge of the creators divine order. Whereas child marriage involves two proud legitimate and happy families.
Conclusively, it is paradoxical that some feminist and activist now claim to be defending the rights of the Muslims girl child. These should stop shedding crocodile tears because nobody can love our daughters, our wives, our mothers more than us.
Liman Abdullahi Usman is the SUG president, Bayero University, Kano.