Biki means Ceremony in Hausa. When unqualified, it refers to wedding ceremonies. This has been a tradition that has puzzled me and I have accepted that it is just one of those irrational exhibitions humans are never short of; especially when it is so devoid of esoteric significance but rather tainted with a copy-cat practice.
How It is Typically Done
Wedding Ceremonies (among Norther Nigerian Tribes) last an average of four days. Most Northern Nigerians are Muslims so I will focus on that. I am not aware of Muslims going to the court for legal marriage but if they do, it is not an event during the ceremony. The main event that effects matrimony is usually on second to the last day and it is just another event.
The events are a mix of ceremonies/events with cultural origin and others are as borrowed as bridal showers. If not for restriction by religion, many would by now be having bachelor’s nights (As in Hollywood productions). The following is a typical list of events for a wedding ceremony: Lunch, Walima, Dinner, Indian Night, Arabian Night, Mothers Night. Depending on the locality the couples are from, there is a menu of standard (albeit cliché) cultural events to pick from.
Wedding ceremonies can be quite varied in the name of events but disappointingly look and feel the same. On the spectrum of wedding ceremonies, two stand out at the extremes: The Extravagant Orthodox and the “Bid’ah conscious”.
Two Known Extremes
The Extravagant-Orthodox wedding can last between four days and a week; this is more popular despite the gap in economic-capabilities of its practioners. Venue for the events cost hundred-thousands (Naira) or Millions to rent. The food is expensive even if not posh. The souvenirs (goody-bags) may include microwaves, water kettles, toasters (which are not cheap in Nigeria) etc. The couple’s wardrobe and jewelry (for the wedding) costs Millions as well. Gifts given to the couple may include houses, cars, and millions of cash. The dowry is worth millions.
On the other end are the Bid’ah-Conscious. They are “Pious” Muslims who despise innovation. Innovation is basically anything that cannot be shown to have been sanctioned by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In the context of Northern-Nigeiran weddings, the oath (Niqah) is said in front of witnesses and dowry is presented; not as in a church but via representatives. This usually takes place either at a mosque or the house of the bride’s grandparents. A Walima then follows and that is it! A Walima is a get together in an “islamic” way i.e. no music and probably sex segregation.
Of course the Extravagant-Orthodox subsumes all the events in the Bid’ah-Conscious but not limited to that and probably not in the same manner.
Dialogue on the different Positions
There are three characters in this episode: Kunne is an observer trying to form an opinion on wedding ceremonies. Malam is a Bid’ah conscious guy and DanDuniya is an extravagant orthodox guy. Kunne does not participate in the conversation but only thinks while listening. You, the reader, are Kunne.
Kunne (Thinks): I shall soon be getting married. I am not fussy on the details of the event(s), I just hope I can afford to pay for it.
Malam: Weddings these days… Muslims are lost. They don’t adhere to what the prophet has taught us; that one should not be extravagant and wasteful. They wear the most expensive clothes for show off, print the most expensive wedding invitation cards they can afford, hire the most expensive venues, give the most expensive souvenirs and gifts… all for fame. So that they will be praised across town and be envied by others. Show off like that is a sin, not to talk of the vain waste involved. How they pay so much to burden themselves with sin.
DanDuniya: It is not really extravagance when you can afford it. As for being wasteful, I know I am not wasteful. May be others are. A wedding should be made worthy of remembrance, let everyone come or hear about it. Of course I don’t mean “everyone” because it is strictly on invitation. Even the Prophet ,that you keep quoting, says the more the merrier and the more blessed the wedding.
Malam: What about the trouble you people go through to make your wedding grande?
DanDuniya: You wont even understand. Both families of the couple expect much from you. You have to meet their demands and be sure to impress them if not they could make life miserable for you. They will say of you: there goes the miser (or pauper). In any case, a seminal event like a wedding is worth doing in the best way.
Malam: Did you know that all of this troubles you go through (to get sins) was not practiced by the prophet?
DanDuniya: I know but what we are doing is culture. In fact we do all that the prophet sanctioned. We just do more and that is for our culture.
Malam: Aha! Culture… and therein lies your demise. You have admitted it. You are bringing INNOVATIONS inside the pure religion. And you know that any innovation is forbidden as it is a path to hell fire.
DanDuniya: Well that is your opinion. Even though you seem to know more about the Prophet’s sayings, other pious people I know do like I do and so they must know something you don’t which permits our manner of wedding ceremonies.
Malam: But you don’t know, yet you follow. God save you
DanDuniya: On the other hand, people like you have no appreciation for culture so you wont understand.
Malam: what culture is there better than Islam? I don’t need any other culture apart from the “right path”.
DanDuniya: Like I said, you wont understand. For us there is culture and there is religion. We do both.
Malam: If that is what you call culture then its a shameful culture. Look at the “sexually suggestive” fashion people (but of course he means only the females) wear at those events. Even parents. And the parents endorse it. Glory be to God! It is so shameful yet you are unconscious of it. No I think it is clear, you only deny it. But beware of judgment-day.
DanDuniya: So what?! These are the clothes we were everyday. Who gave you the right to judge us. Do you think if our dressings are inappropriate our own parents will let us wear them?! We cover where needs to be covered and we eve wrap veils.
Malam: A transparent veil you mean. It is mandatory on muslim women to wear the full hijab. Anything less is commitment to hell fire
DanDuniya: Your dream of having every woman – and I repeat only women – to be covered in hijab will not be realized so find a different preoccupation.
Malam: Since you brought it up, let us talk about parents. The epitome of decadence is when parents not only help organize these events but they are the main dancers in some. Don’t even get me started with the content of the songs; very despicable indeed.
DanDuniya: Do you see the parents dancing everywhere they go? No they only do that in these events. This is the only time they get to feel young again with their peers. Plus most of the mothers only dance in women-only events. As for the contents of the songs well… (giggles) that is something else. It is important that the mothers do all this in seclusion.
Malam: God save you from this innovation to religion. I can see you are clearly lost but you deny it. Rid yourself of satan.
DanDuniya: Look at you acting all pious when we have heard stories of what people like you do behind closed doors; at least I am not a hypocrite.
Disclaimer: Although I think the character Malam is a typical example of his archetype, DanDuniya is not so much. DanDuniya seems to care a little about his actions and cares enough to distinguish between religion and culture. However in reality most DanDuniya(s) EITHER agree with Malam’s view and decide to look the other way OR they don’t have an opinion of themselves but can’t be bothered to contemplate on their actions as long as everybody does it. Personally, I am critical of both positions.