The recent trend of some Muslims to contract court marriage or statutory marriage over Islamic marriage has raised dust in Kwara State.
AbdulSalam and Aisha’s (not real names) union was a few years old and things appeared to be rosy. AbdulSalam later travelled out of the country. But in the guise of joining her hubby in the UK, Aishatu prevailed and convinced him to contract a statutory marriage at the Kwara State High Court, Ilọrin.
However, a few years after the development, the marriage crashed before Aishatu relocated to the UK.
AbdulSalam said that the decision to contract court marriage under the Marriage Act “had remained one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
“Anytime we had a disagreement, I was always threatened with the certificate and it was such a frustrating bondage until I was able to wriggle out of the web through a legal expert who took me through the long and tortuous road of divorce. Even now, there is a caveat that I am still praying she does not activate in the whole saga which may spark another protracted legal hostility.”
But for Aishatu who denied claims that she insisted on having statutory marriage to entrap her estranged hubby, she said, “I have since moved on.”
The case AbdulSalam and Aishatu is one out of the numerous issues with statutory marriage in Ilorin Emirate and other parts of Kwara State despite the strong Islamic heritage and history that pervade the state.
For many Muslim legal experts, the hallmark of such a decision is selfishness, ignorance and self-centeredness, especially on the part of the Muslim women who mostly insist on having court marriage against the religion of Islam they profess.
The experts, however, noted that some Muslim men were also guilty of the problem, claiming that it was for the “love” that existed between partners.
But they said marriage in Islam was much more than the love ingredient.
A lawyer in the state, who craved anonymity, said, “Most of those who engage in it are mostly for travelling and are oblivious of its content and not ready for its consequences.”
At a recent function by the Islamic Orphanage Foundation in Ilọrin, the Deputy Register of the Kwara State Sharia Court of Appeal, Abdulmumini Uthman, lamented the situation among Muslim women, especially those who now preferred statutory marriage over Islamic marriage.
Speaking on the issue, the immediate past Chairman of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN), Kwara State chapter, Ibrahim Sharafadeen, blamed ignorance and selfishness on the part of those that engaged in it.
He said there were some side benefits derivable from statutory or court marriage, especially when they were licenced to conduct such with the provision of the marriage act.
He further said, “But one clear advantage marrying under the act confers on the woman is that she has the man exclusively to herself. In other words, one man, one wife, and that is the main reason why some women now prefer it irrespective of the religion they profess.
“Then while the marriage subsists, any other one done outside becomes null and void and should anything happen that calls for divorce or separation, the only court with requisite jurisdiction to do that is the high court, unlike marriage under the Islamic right that confers jurisdiction on any area court, not even the Sharia Court of Appeal which has no original jurisdiction to entertain any matter. It only has appellate jurisdiction.
“Another point is that if the man dies interstate, the woman has the estate to herself under the act. The idea of giving the parents some inheritance does not arise as obtained under Sharia.”
Sharafadeen further said, “There is little or nothing we can do about this, because even Section 277 C of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) restricts the operation of Sharia to the level of personal status.
“But when it comes to marriage, we can only appeal to the conscience of our youths, women and men because we have cases where men also prefer it.
“Even when you conduct Islamic marriage and subsequently have statutory marriage, the flavour is that of statutory marriage. So, what we do as preachers and scholars is to appeal to those concerned to know the consequences of their actions and choices, especially given the fact that there are several verses of the Qur’an admonishing Muslims to conduct their affairs in line with Sharia. But this cannot be enforced, it can only be done by moral persuasion.”
He noted that the practice was prevalent among the elite Muslim women who were opportune to have Western education or that schooled in the West.
He said, “They are the core of those who do it. An average Muslim woman would still want to conduct her marriage in accordance with Sharia. But those who believe they are well-read and educated cannot imagine sharing the husband with another woman or competing with an ordinary “market woman” except when the circumstances dictate otherwise.”
On his part, the National Chairman of MULAN, Prof Abdulkadir Ibrahim Abikan, while faulting the submission that the trend is rising, said culprits were doing it out of “gross ignorance of the position of the law.”
Abikan said, “What makes it to be more pronounced now is the recognition given to the certificate of such marriage when affected couples want to travel out of the country.
“But the Sharia court can also give such a certificate recognised all over the world as a government recognised institution.”
He said another dimension to it was the belief that having a statutory marriage would stop man from taking another wife or practicing polygamy.
He, therefore, said, “My advice is that it is very dangerous for any (Muslim) woman or man to agree to such marriage; which is also a church marriage. It is not correct that only a statutory marriage certificate is accepted for travelling.”
Citing a recent case: “Mohammed vs Mohammed”, decided by the Sharia Court of Appeal, Ilọrin, Abikan said, “A Muslim soldier got married to a Christian woman under the act. But the woman abandoned him at the most critical time. Unfortunately, the husband did not go for the dissolution of the marriage but contracted Islamic marriage with two other Muslim women. The man died and the former wife who abandoned him and her children showed up claiming they were the only persons entitled to his inheritance. The Sharia court ruled in their favour and they claimed all his entitlements despite the man still having a mother, other children and wives who were all disentitled.
“The mere fact that the woman is a Christian does not force statutory marriage on the deceased, he could still perform Islamic or customary marriage as recognised under our law.
“Statutory marriage is a colonial legacy against our customs and religion, and any Muslim going for it should understand that they are going out of what Islam provided for and placing a law above Islam; which is not allowed under Sharia.
“One funny thing about statutory marriage is that the parents and families do not require to know about it. It can be conducted between strangers before the registrar of a court. But marriage in Islam is beyond the couple and requires the consent of the parents and bonding among the two families.”
He advised Muslims to seek knowledge about Islam irrespective of age and to always ask questions about any act of engagement as Muslims.
For Prof. Lanre Yusuf Badmas, those preferring registry marriage are afraid of polygamy and expressing their hatred for Islamic law of inheritance.
He said, “Divorce is what Allah hates but permits in Islam because of certain conditions of incompatibility, especially when the life of any of the parties in the marriage is under threat.
“There is no penalty for anybody contracting registry marriage, but it is the most hateful practice to those who are conversant with Sharia.
“We read in history about the life of Prophet Ibrahim, the father of faith, who heeded the advice of his first lady to marry another woman and the two women later bear him children through the mercy of Almighty Allah.”
He blamed the exposure of Muslims to Western civilization, noting that, “It is not that the provisions in the registry marriage are better than those in the Sharia marriage.
“Now people marry through social media across countries and continents only to be disappointed when they make a physical trip or visit to their would-be spouse or are even duped and find themselves in dangerous situations.
“The solution is for Muslim parents to give adequate enlightenment and education to their children in matters of Islam; to know that it is the most important thing in life and not degrees or accumulation of wealth.”
Prof Badmas, who is the Chairman of Hijrah Organisation of Nigeria and Imam of Al-Hilal Crescent Mosque, Ilorin, noted that there were three fundamentals in child upbringing in Islam: the first is for the parents to ensure the child knows the dos and don’ts in Islam. The second is the school children attend which called for prioritisation of Islamisation of knowledge.
He further said, “Then the issue of enlightenment and education as Muslims.
“Now, is there anything like societal righteousness or uprightness? A society that is promoting same sex marriage and encouraging gender transfiguration, giving false narrative of children’s freedom to live their life without any input from their parents. Is it such a society we are going to rely upon to shape the lives of our children?
“That is why we are having this kind of situation and problem. Western civilisation is eroding the fundamental training and child upbringing in the contemporary time. It is the duty of the parents to ensure proper Islamic education for their children and for us imams to always draw the attention of the audience to the significance of having proper understanding of Islam.”