Tag Archives: Northern Nigeria

Biki Dialogue

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.

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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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