Nigerian Muslim Leader Moves to Restrict Polygamy

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The emir of Kano. (Photo: Video screenshot)

Muhammad Sanusi, the emir of Kano, blames polygamy in part for the rise of the terrorist organization Boko Haram. He argues that men who cannot afford to adequately provide for even one wife are marrying numerous women and producing too many children, who then grow up neglected and in poverty.

“Those of us in the north have all seen the economic consequences of men who are not capable of maintaining one wife, marrying four,” the emir said.

“They end up producing 20 children, not educating them, leaving them on the streets, and they end up as thugs and terrorists.”

The Emir has introduced a law to the Kano state legislature to codify restrictions on polygamy and put in place other regulations concerning marriage. Currently the law is under review by a council of Islamic scholars.

“The law will address what Islam says on marriage, it will outlaw forced marriages, it will make domestic violence illegal, it will put in conditions that you need to fulfill before you can marry a second wife, it will spell out the responsibilities of a father beyond producing a child,” the emir continued, according to Nigerian media outlet Vanguard.

“It is a big law which covers a whole range of issues from consent to marriage, to maintenance to divorce, to maintenance of children and inheritance. It will be the first time in northern Nigeria that a Muslim law on personal status will be codified,” he added.

The law will be enforced through local sharia courts. Kano state is ruled under sharia governance.

The emir of Kano is a traditional leader in Nigeria who is also the head of the Tijaniyya Sufi order. The office holds considerable prestige and also has the power of patronage.

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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.