Tag Archives: Marriage

Marriage Certification: The Open Legal Man-Hole for Muslims

Marriage is full of surprises, and weddings are cliche, but legally certifying a marriage in Nigeria can be misleading. What follows exposes a prevalent misdirection, so that Muslims, and others with similar issues, don’t fall for the (unintended) booby traps.

Like many traditions, marriage is fundamental to building a sound society for Muslims. For that reason, family law is one of the most prominent section ever-present in books of Islamic law (Fiqh). The Shariah regulates several aspects of the family life through family law. Unfortunately, the constitutional process of certifying Muslim marriages in Nigeria can be misleading; especially due to the officers one encounters. At the risk of stating an irony, Nigerians rely on other Nigerians for much information from directions to locations, to whether President Buhari controls Boko haram, but rarely from officially verified documents and instructions. Not that government agencies make these documents and instructions available.

So you have had a stressful week engaged in your wedding activities. You barely kept your cool to make it through the countless events. You don’t wish to go through another ordeal like this. Relief settles on your mind simply knowing that those last few months of stressful planning are over. Now you know why fairy tales end with “happily ever after”, because there is always a wedding at the end even if the author doesn’t mention it; anything after the stress of wedding seems like “happily ever after”. The Nigerian constitution laughs at you when you feel accomplished that you are married, because it is not legal yet! You need to have a Marriage certificate!

There is hardly any Muslim, faithful to Islam, who would have their marriage regulated by anything other than the Shariah. To be regulated by the Shariah, it is sufficient to have any legal framework that does not contradict the Shariah’s position, or that which allows for Muslims to live according to Shariah. It is a matter of compatibility/accommodation of Shariah rather than exclusively identifying a homogeneous rule-book called Shariah Marriage. Fortunately, Nigerian constitution allows for Muslims to opt to have their marriage legislated by the Shariah. But unfortunately, the Marriage registry staff can be misleading , and often successfully, even if unintended.

Basically, there are two main options to certifying marriages in Nigeria. One is “marriage according to the Act”, and the other is customary (Native Law and Custom) marriage; at least these are the two options we were exposed to. For either, the process begins with obtaining a declaration documents from a court. At this point, the couple is often not aware of the two options for certifying a marriage. So they proceed to the next stage which is the marriage registry. This is where the couple is often presented with the two options to marriage certificate; those that have an idea beforehand probably are just as misinformed as those who are unaware at this point. This second step is also the step of possible misdirection.

Steps to Certifying a Marriage in Nigeria
1. Obtain Marriage Declaration from court
2. Obtain Certificate at Marriage Registry

Do you want blah blah certificate or the flah flah certificate? This is the first question thrown at the couple, or at least the way they hear it. The registry officer who is used to couples being puzzled by the names of the options mentioned, goes on to clarify. If the couple looks Muslim, the officer knows just the right way to break it down to them. Do you want the one-wife certificate or the many-wives certificate? The latter allows for the man to marry more than one wife. The officer might elaborate by saying the one-wife certificate is a more tedious process than the other. All the while with the smile resembling a mischievous smirk. Not all civil servants are devoid of customer service after all.

Actually that is Customer Disservice! Based on an episode I witnessed, when you ask a newly married couple whether the husband would want to take another wife, what do you expect? This is how many Muslims end up taking the option of one-wife certificate. Only a few are bold, or insensitive, enough to go for the many-wives certificate. While polygamy hardly fails to attract interest, that is not the issue at stake when making that decision. By misrepresenting the issue, the registry officer has done a disservice to Muslim couples, probably without intent.

The issue is not whether the marriage can accommodate more wives or not. It is about whether the Shariah court would adjudicate and regulate the marriage, or other courts. The one-wife certificate is actually marriage according to the 1990 Marriage Act, whereas the many-wives marriage is marriage according to customary laws; and Shariah courts fall under customary laws. Marriage according to the Act, which means no Shariah court, also means the marriage would be regulated by other acts like the accompanying 1990 Matrimonial Causes Act which conflicts with the Shariah on matters such as divorce (dissolution of marriage). The 1990 Marriage Act already conflicts with the (default) Shariah in restricting number of wives to one; without a valid justification for sidelining the options provided by the default. Other areas of interest would be the process of re-marrying and child custody, etc.

Basically Muslims are mislead into regulating their marriage using a document that contradicts the Shariah, though unintentionally. Seeing that many Muslims only acquire marriage certificates for official reasons and conveniences, it is no wonder that the many Muslims who have been misdirected to the one-wife certificate are not necessarily affected by the certificate in practice. These same Muslims, follow the Shariah but not via a court, often through family and community. Nonetheless, any of the spouse could insist on taking the other to court for violating stipulations of the marriage regulating acts; which is foreseeable when passions are high and one feels the Shariah is to their disadvantage.

Nigerian Muslim couples, new and old, should be aware of this likely pitfall during marriage certification. Do not be baited into thinking the issue is polygamy, the issue is the regulatory framework of the marriage.

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A Thought Experiment on Polygamy

Imagine five people tied to a train track and a train fast approaching such that there is no time to reach the people and free them. On a separate train track to the side of those five people, there is one person similarly tied. In front of you is a button which if pressed, would divert the moving train from the path of five people to the path of the one person. Death is inevitable, time is running out! Would you press the button?

Alternatively imagine a similar situation however this time, there is no button and no track with one tied person. Instead the one person is standing beside you, far from the five about to die. But the train has to pass you to reach those helpless five. The person beside you is fat enough that if they were to happen to be hit by the train from your position, the train would slow down to a stop and not hit the five people ahead. Of course the fat person would die as a result. All it takes if for you to push the fat person. Would you?

This is a rendition of a classic thought experiment in (western) philosophy under morality. People vary in their answers, even though there are just about two options, because their reasons for selecting the same answer may be vary considerably. Thought Experiment is a tool of Philosophy which science cannot afford; even though psychology borrows often.

Some days ago, while discussing the issue of polygamy among Muslims, I came up with a thought experiment which I thought I should share. I had my motif for designing that experiment. I would like to present the experiment as simple as possible, however the issue of polygamy in Islam has deep ideological and cultural sentiments attached to it. Therefore I shall try to create a fair ground (objectivity) in the experiment by providing neutralizing information to the simple experiment. Here is the experiment, simply:

A Muslim man who is married to a woman meets another woman and is overcome by passion for this new woman. This passion can be anything; sexual, intellectual or spiritual. He would do anything to get married to her. It turns out she is available for him to marry, and even inclined to marry him as well. He is certain his life (spiritual and otherwise) would be greatly enhanced if with this woman. Should he marry this woman? Keep in mind one thing: that Shari’ah allows for men to marry up to four wives at a time.

Now the second question

A Muslim woman who is married to a man meets another man and is overcome by passion for this new man. The same passion applies in this situations and she would do anything to marry this man. It also turns out that the man is inclined to marry her were she not bounded by marriage. She is certain her life (spiritual and otherwise) would be greatly enhanced if with this man. Should the woman marry this man?

The following are what to keep in mind (The neutralizing information):

  • The Shari’ah does not allow for a woman to have more than one husband at a time.
  • The Shari’ah allows for a woman to initiate a divorce, and effect it with the approval of the court or the husband.
  • Men and Women are considered equal in Islam because they are essentially souls that will be judged not based on the bodies they were given but based on how they related with the bodies they were given(e.g. how did they respond to their passions; which love falls under)
  • For this experiment, disregard the societal unfairness weighed on women where men can effect a divorce even by slip-of-the-tongue, whereas women would have to go through societal hurdles, juristic restrictions decided by males, and even stigma before succeeding in their plead for divorce. Disregard this in our fair world of thought-experiment.
  • The verses in the Qur’an (Q2:229, Q4:128) that talk about a woman’s right to divorce can be interpreted to empower women much more than it is often presented, while remaining faithful to the spirit of the Qur’an (actually I think it would be more faithful)
  • It is on record that The Prophet (acting as the Islamic Court/Judge) granted the request of a woman who wanted divorce from her husband, not because he lacked in character or his religious duties but because she feared she would continue to “behave in an un-Islamic manner” if she remains with him (Bukhari 63:197). I’d like to think that covers all situations where dislike of the husband festers the mind of the woman to an extent that she wishes evil on him for nothing wrong he has done.
  • A woman who has been married to a man for some time should be able to bring up so many cases to buttress her point of making her “behave in an un-Islamic manner”. Just as we cannot ascertain the sincerity of the man who says he is adding a wife because she is well behaved; not simply out of passion.

It is interesting to note that what men give as reasons for having another wife varies depending on their community and what is considered as acceptable. Some proudly boast that they marry more wives because they like more women and find pleasure in that; that is because their community accepts such statements. Others however would give other reasons. The point is that reasons given are likely no more than justifications, culturally variable, rather than the sincere reason that prompted them to marry extra. Similarly a woman only needs to justify herself properly in the court of the thought-experiment.

I reiterate the situation of the woman:

A Muslim woman who is married to a man meets another man and is overcome by passion for this new man. This passion can be anything; sexual, intellectual or spiritual. She would do anything to get married to him. It also turns out that the man is inclined to marry her were she not bounded by marriage. She is certain her life (spiritual and otherwise) would be greatly enhanced if with this man. Should the woman marry this man even if it means orchestrating her divorce with the current husband?

Whatever your answer, how is that different from your answer for the situation of the man. Remember, in this world of thought-experiment, women and men are essentially equal in Islam because they are essentially souls that will be judged not based on the bodies they were given but based on how they related with the bodies they were given. Should the woman seek divorce in order to marry the other man?

If you haven’t guessed by now, my motif for this thought experiment is that I think simply wanting a different/variety of spouses is not a good enough reason for men to marry more than one wives. Reason here is referring to the sincere reason that may be only known to the person and God, not what the person claims.

 

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Courtship Template

Courtship Template Cover - v1.0

My dissatisfaction with the state of marriages in my immediate environment (Muslims, Nigerians) has led to preparing the work below. I would refrain from emphasizing that this is an issue of contemporary marriages alone, while neglecting the marriage-of-our-parents (former generations), which is praised but undeserving in my opinion. Like I said the intention is not to criticize marriages. However, because marriages of the past have not failed overtly, it does not mean they have succeeded either… I find it more truthful to say they have survived.  My belief is that the difference between a surviving marriage and a successful marriage is the amount of planning and effort put into it; all wrapped in the garment of sincerity and goodwill… and of course God’s blessings.

The work below is my first attempt at correcting this failed and surviving institution. It is titled Courtship Template. So far it has been received with minimum cynicism, Alhamdulillah. More importantly, feedback has been coming in and more is expected, and more is welcomed. While anticipating feedback, the first release has been tagged version 1.0.

Find below links to the first release of the Courtship Template. The two links are for a case where one is unavailable.

Courtship Template – Bilal Bugaje or here.

 

Enjoy

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Polygamy and Cheating: A Thin Line?

Background

This post relates to the apparent rise in relationship cheating among Hausa men of Nigeria. The Hausa are predominantly Muslims and Islam allows for Polygamy. I explore the relationship between Polygamy and cheating (if there is any).

We hear about (and see) married Hausa men cheating. Even though some are of the ages of our parents, cheating became popular within the last twenty years (according to people I talked with). What could be the cause? Is it decadence of both sexes, is it men liking more women, is it women liking more married men?… These may have a part to play but I want to argue that the answer lies in Polygamy and Boyfriend-GirlFriend-Paradigm. However the cause of it is Moral Corruption.

Single Marriages: Then and Now

Tales of how our parents met each other has the innocense of a primary school kid, even the most adventurous of them. There was as much formalities as there is today around weddings; probably more. The reigning conservative mind-set made it easier for couples to have minimal (or supervised) interactions. Today, a few years later and thousands of romantic movies (novels and songs) later, we prefer to have boyfriends and girlfriends before becoming husband and wife. Basically, the methods of pursuing marriage has changed.

Scenario: Conservative First Marriage

– Boy sees girl or meets her briefly or visits her at her parents’ house
– Boy likes girl, boy tells daddy or mummy
– Daddy talks to girl’s daddy
– Girl’s Daddy asks girl and (hopefully) girl agrees
– Marriage is arranged

Scenario: Adventurous First Marriage

– Boy sees girl or meets her briefly or visits her at her house (or parents’)
– Boy takes girl out privately or Girl comes to meet boy. They meet in fun spots and apartments; Girl’s parents know not
– Depending on the what is considered romantic, they do some of it or all of it
– Boy likes girl, boy tells daddy or mummy (it is official now)
– Daddy talks to girl’s daddy
– Girl’s Daddy asks girl and (hopefully) girl agrees
– Marriage is arranged

Cheating: Then and Now

Cheating is an area that has been greyed by several definitions and many people’s tolerance as to what they consider cheating and what is innocent socializing. In all of this the fundamental feeling of guilt and inappropriateness of cheating has remained the same. Moreover, cheating methods have hardly changed from the old skool days to today. Whereas methods of pursing marriage has changed drastically, methods of cheating has changed trivially. Most of what was considered cheating will still be considered cheating today.

Polygamy

What constitutes pursuing marriage has been stretched so wide now that it has overlapped (or engulfed) what can be considered cheating. Polygamy gives the husband the right to add a wife (the legimacy of this is not the purpose of this post). It is important enough that this is what most Muslims in West Africa accept. The question is how do the men go about it? Do they approach it using methods on the conservative end of marriage methods or do they wander in to the adventurous end (which overlaps with cheating)?

Scenario: Conservative Second (or third or fourth) Marriage

– Man sees girl or meets her briefly or visits her at her house
– Man likes girl, Man makes it known through his Father, Uncle or Friend
– Man’s representative talks to girl’s daddy
– Girl’s Daddy asks girl and (hopefully) girl agrees
– Marriage is arranged

                – Scenario: Adventurous Second (or third or fourth) Marriage

– Man sees girl or meets her briefly or visits her at her house (or parents’)
– Man takes girl out privately or Girl comes to meet Man. They meet in fun spots and apartments; Girl’s parents know not
– Depending on the what is considered romantic, they do some of it or all of it
– Man likes girl, Man tells his representative (it is official now)
– Man’s representative talks to girl’s daddy
– Girl’s Daddy asks girl and (hopefully) girl agrees
– Marriage is arranged

Moral Corruption

The dynamics of Moral Corruption in atmosphere of Religious Approval is the cause of cheating. The religious approval of polygamy gives the husband license to pursue additional marriage. Based on the scenarios on polygamy, it seems the Conservative Polygamy Approach does not fall in to a cheating phase. However steps (second and third) of the Adventurous Polygamy Approach can be considered cheating. Therefore an adventurous polygamy-approach passes through a cheating phase.

This is the interesting bit; where moral corruption (or the devil) comes in. A married man becomes a habitual cheat but he convinces himself that it is his right to pursue another marriage if he wills. He decides he likes the Adventurous Polygamy Approach. However he enjoys steps (second and third from the scenario) so much that after that steps are done, he pulls out from his endevour. Then moves to the next prospect for another adventurous endeavour. He doesn’t really intend to marry again but he tells himself that it is his prerogative. He conveniently forgets to asses his adventurous approach on its own right as if the religious approval of seeking marriage has compensated for any wrong done in the process. As if the end justifies the means.

If we agree that Cheating is wrong, then even if a marriage is resulted from an Adventurous Polygamy approach, the cheating phase remains as wrong as farting loud in front of your in-laws.

Who is Polygamy for?

I prefer to answer the negative equivalent of the question. Clearly Polygamy is not the issue here, the issue is cheating which is concealed in seeking of polygamy. Based on the scenarios, Polygamy is not for the Adventurous; not because of problems with Polygamy but the method of reaching it.

It is interesting that only the cheat seems amnesic to the wrongness of his actions. The mistress (girl involved) may be fully aware of her part.

Final Note

I’m sure people who don’t endorse Polygamy are very clear with themselves when they are cheating, whereas those who endorse it don’t display as much guilt. When there is high number of reported cheatings, it is probably exactly what it is; reported. The same amount of cheating may be going on at two different times but some are concealed and others are reported. Those that don’t hide it may not just be brazen but may be convincing themselves that they are not cheating, just exercising their rights. Hence the ubiquituous reports of guilt-free pro-polygamy cheats. The anti-polygamy cheats don’t get the luxury of flaunting it and so must conceal it.

I have failed to explore the girl involved in the adventurous polygamy approach, her situation may be more complicated as far as cheating is concerened. The complication depends on how much she knows and her intentions (not her actions). She is not the subject of this post.

The polygamy-oriented should be cautious of what justifications they use for being adventurous when adding wives. I am sure the right to polygamy did not include that license. Look in to your hearts… and better don’t be thinking of the red valentines-day heart, I mean your conscience!

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