“O You who have chosen to be graced with belief! It is not lawful for you to force women into marrying or holding on to them in marriage against their will.” (Q4:19)

Once again Islam and Muslims are in the news for the wrong reasons. Every morning for the past few weeks, I wake up to a fresh story on abduction, forced marriage, forced conversion, brain washing, hypnotism and a whole lot of illegality allegedly perpetuated by Muslims on non-Muslims against their will. While I am yet to hear anything loudly or read anything viral from Muslim groups denouncing these acts, my heart bleeds when I hear stories like this. The loud silence from Muslim groups worries me even more.

I am wholesomely uncomfortable when the representation that my religion gets in the local and even international news on one negativity or the other. started because we wanted to re-write these stories, we wanted to show the truth, the beautiful truth that Islam is, but we get beaten down by a constant barrage of these criminalities in the name of religion. Negativity should not represent us, criminality should never define Islam. But if all the world puts out there in the name of Islam is terrorism, illiteracy, suicide bombing, poverty, disease, backwardness and now abduction, it becomes a moral burden on all of us to gird our loins and speak for what is right, speak for what Islam really is.

Yes, Ese could have been Yinusa’s girlfriend, yes Ese could have been sexually active with Yinusa right under her mother’s nose but she was a fourteen years old girl, she and the rest of the girls abducted are all young teenage girls; they neither had the wisdom nor the emotional intelligence needed for marriage or conversion and she definitely did not need to be abducted from her parents. I think basically, some men do not see women or girls more than anything other than an object to have sex with, impregnate and become a wife and mother. There is certainly more to a girl child than just being a wife and/or mother. While I may sound like an idealist, every one of those girls is a potential genius at something. Ese Oruru and the rest of the other abducted girls should ideally be in school, develop their mental discipline and capabilities and be working towards becoming something needful in life.

Any one of those girls could become anything in life; the last I checked, the world was still in need of the cure for cancer, one could be our first female President, a business mogul that would employ thousands of unemployed Nigerians, a scientist, an inventor, anything apart from just being a wife and mother. Marriage and motherhood is not the “be it and end it” for the girl child. No one should truncate anyone’s purpose in life like this. There is still a place of consent of the parents which was clearly lacking in the cases reported.

The story has been twisted on its head by the mainstream media to make Islam look bad as always, but definitely these Muslims too are culpable. Even if these girls have fallen “in love” and want to be married; for all it is, it is against their parents’ consent and they are still minors. No individual should be forced into marriage in the name of Islam, and no one should be forced to accept or practice Islam. There is no compulsion in this religion. There are conditions which must be met to practice. Islam also teaches that when a man proposes to a woman, her consent and that of her parents, especially the father are necessary and no relationship should exist if there is no consent. It is clear that all these parents did not consent to any of these relationships.

All these girls were forcefully abducted from their parents and kept somewhere awaiting marriage and sometimes the parents are not even allowed to communicate or see their daughters. This is criminality, it is not even culture. Again, there must be witnesses from both families; there must be girft, no matter how little, by the groom to the pride. All these did not take place. All that has been reported is against the techings of Islam.

Marriage is an institution which requires a lot of work, motherhood is even harder. You constantly have to be able to make sound judgments and put your ingenuity to good use. There is need for maturity and a whole world of wisdom to navigate this terrain and make the best of it. Young people should be adequately protected; young girls who have not attained maturity cannot decide for themselves and so should stay with their parents or guardians until they are of age to consent to marriage in order to cope with the intricacies involved with that institution. The Qur’an equates marriageable age with the ability to make mature and sound judgments; I do not believe we reach that age till we are well in our 20s and even 30s in some cases.

Finally, there is need to see the girl child beyond the home, beyond the role of bringing forth the next generation alone. The next generation will be better for it when women are adequately educated, well experienced, enlightened and exposed.

Salam alaikum waramatulahi wabarakatu.


Keem Harun-Adeleye


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