Controversy-prone –or should I say ‘controversy-courting’- Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II is at it again. It has not been long since he stirred the hornet’s nest with the ‘heresy’ that the typical northerner has a penchant for building mosques even at the expense of funding education. Although if you ask me, nothing, in all fairness, can be truer, – that my northern Muslim brothers will sooner build a mosque than they will fund education. Most of us tend to seek the pleasure of God more in the symbolic building of places of worship than, fundamentally, in the building and improvement of the human intellect.
The dust from this last Sanusi ‘heresy’ has not fully settled and the Emir is already at it again, -this time with a brand new heterodoxy. From having stirred the hornet’s nest on an unpleasant -even if non-canonical- issue of ‘worship versus education, Sanusi has moved to open a Pandora’s box on a matter –Islamic polygamy- that is gospel in the truth of its practice and textually canon even in the veracity of its Qur’anic provision. Sanusi has dared to touch on a conjugal matter that is both a delicate preserve of the sacred realm and nowadays even a contemporary issue of demographic concern to the secular province.
Premised primarily on the existential socio-economics of life and living, Sanusi reportedly suggested that ‘polygamy’ under Islam should be regulated and made strictly the prerogative only of the wealthy and of those who can afford it. It should not, he advised, being what it has always been, namely the privileged pleasure field of any faithful, rich or poor, who may want to fulfill a sacred tradition that is over one thousand years old; –or maybe nearly five thousand years old if you reckon that even Solomon was a supper polygamist.
The argument of the secular-minded Muslims and non-Muslims alike is that no one should be allowed to bring a child to the world, who cannot conveniently fend for it. But the retort –especially from the non-secular, fundamentalist Muslims- has always been that ‘Allah alone has the prerogative to bring forth any ‘mouth’ into the world; and Allah alone feedeth all mouths that He bringeth into the world’. And although I cannot agree more with the logic of this theodicy, I am not one of those who believe that the controversial Hadith in which the prophet is said to recommend ‘marriage’ and ‘continuous marriage’ as remedy even to debilitating economic privation, is of a strong chain of authority (musnad). It is not. And in fact like me, many Muslims are wont to believe that this hadith is an interpolation.
But the argument of the secularist Muslim is still no less fluxed even from the premise of pedestrian logic and common sense: if no one should be allowed to bring a child into the world that they are not in a position to cater for, why should then ‘polygamy’ and not ‘marriage’ generally, be the target culprit? Why should anybody –including those who may be marrying for the first time- be allowed to bring a child to the world that they cannot fend for? Or should a ‘monogamist’, for the simple reason that he is married only to one wife, or for the reason that he is not a ‘polygamist’, be allowed to bring a child into the world that he cannot fend for?’
But then again, if the argument against ‘polygamy’ is more ‘demographic’ –in favor of controlling population growth- than it is ‘socio-economic’, -in favor cutting down on free-loaders, then we perhaps need to look even beyond the two ‘gamys’ (i.e. monogamy and polygamy) to the bearing of children outside wedlock. If the so called ‘secular’ State is now instigated to delegitimize all ‘conjugal’ avenues by which our national population is ‘needlessly’ inflated, then His Royal Majesty may have to rethink legitimizing ‘polygamy’ even to those who can afford it. Because head or tail, they will still bring more children to a ‘crowded’ world.
And so why not, polygamy should be off the ‘libidinous’ privilege of the poor Muslim faithful and even off the prerogative of the benevolent lascivity of his rich counterpart! But it should also be off the randy, lecherous whims and caprices of the traditionalist whose conjugal privileges are neither regulated by Christianity nor by Islam.
It is clear that whereas the ‘socio-economic’ perspective against ‘polygamy’ is motivated by the existential fear of bringing more ‘mouths’ to an improvident world, the ‘demographic’ perspective against it is motivated by the hedonistic fear of bringing more ‘people’ into an ‘already crowded world’.
But the question is still to be asked: ‘if the economic situation of nations had always been the basis for the right of foetal passage into the world, who should have kept the ‘gatek’, God or man? See me see trouble, the hapless ‘sperm-egg’ privileged from among several millions to come into the world, is now the proud, arrogant ‘demographer’ who thinks the ‘gate’ should be shut because the world is getting too crowded!
As it is with the Islamic divine order, so it is with Christianity: ‘Go ye into the world’ the Bible says, ‘multiply and FILL the earth’. This is the divine instruction –from the divine plane of God- given to the ‘People of the book’; to set foot on the earth and to fecundate it with men and women of their kind as a necessary condition to fulfilling the ultimate divine destiny of this wretched, sinful world! God has a divine purpose for this world; and it is the duty of man as God’s vicegerent on earth to key into that divine purpose and not to supplant it with morbid trepidation against the inevitability of an end time which will come when it will.
Neither ‘eating to live’ nor ‘living to eat’ constitute the ultimate divine purpose of God for the world. Multiplying to fill the earth and some day coming to the judgment of the Almighty, is the ultimate divine purpose. And no amount of ‘socio-economic’ prudence or extravagance by man will slow or hasten this divine purpose. And whether we like it or not, man will, sooner or later, ‘multiply’ to fill the earth’ if not by the legitimate conjugal copulation of polygamists and monogamists alike, then by the illegitimate philandering of fornicators and adulterers. The earth will have to be filled –someday; whether we grow its population at geometric rate of birth or by arithmetic progression.
In fact with virtually more babies today born out of wedlock than within wedlock, regulating ‘polygamy’ or even outlawing marriage altogether is hardly redeeming enough of the dilemma mortal man has imposed on himself concerning how the world should be micro-managed in relation to the number of living ‘mouths’ it should feed, or in relation to the number of the un-born children that it should admit.
Man, like virtually all other animals lower than him, is polygamous by nature. Simply because religion and or socio-cultural affiliations have kept him in denial of his polygamous essence, is not necessarily repudiative of that nature. The Western world prides itself upon established biblical and statutory monogamy, but even behind the façade of its vaunted ‘one-man-one-wife’ claim, most so called western ‘monogamists’ actually practice what is called ‘successive polygamy’: -marrying and divorcing several times in a lifetime. In fact some Americans have married and divorced more than ten times in the span of less than a lifetime.
If you use the law to delegitimize ‘polygamy’ what will you use to delegitimize ‘successive polygamy’? Or what will you use by the way, to outlaw serial child-bearing that goes on daily outside of wedlock? Sometimes I don’t get it: virtually all vices committed outside the cloak of religion are tolerable. But not so if they have the stamp of religion –especially Islam. So called ‘underage-marriage’ is only bad because Muslims practice it. But a twelve year old can freely have sex and even get pregnant! Many Christians that I know come from polygamous homes. Yet many too that I know are not averse to condemning Islamic polygamy!
If you succeed in reforming the health sector, man’s life expectancy naturally will improve. If man’s life expectancy improves, the chances that his procreative energy will be boosted is high. But will you then, in order to avoid that unpalatable outcome, neglect to improve the medical sector? Equally so, if you improve agriculture and make food available to all, men –whether they are married or not- will soon put their procreative energies to use. Will you then, to avoid that undesirable outcome, neglect to improve agriculture?
But worse still even a prolonged unfavorable weather –sociological research has shown- has a tendency not only to keep man at home but soon to challenge his libido and his procreative prowess. Will you then, in order to avoid that, enact a legislation to outlaw extreme weathers? Polygamy in Islam is a divine gratuity for the rich in other that they spread and share their wealth in the society, even as they give other women –who may otherwise never have- the gift of conjugal experience in a lifetime. But polygamy is a divine necessity to the poor, especially women who will want to experience the pleasure of and the responsibility that come with marriage: having their children, keeping their piety.
If for economic reasons you regulate polygamy; if for economic
reasons you prevent any from marrying more than one , you must, for economic reasons too bar many even from marrying only one. You must too, for economic reasons, bar all who are un-married from bringing children into the world unless there is proof that they can fend for them. Or maybe even as we legislate to tie ‘marriage’ to the apron of ‘economics’, we should also legislate to tie ‘sex’only to the apron of ‘marriage’. No one should have sex outside marriage. We are predominantly a nation of Christ-believing and Allah-believing people, why can’t we do it? Zip-up until you can show cause –economically- why you should get married. Zip-up until you can show cause –economically- why you should bring children into the world!
The most economically-buoyant capitalist nations of the world –not excluding the bastion of it all, America- still have destitution on their streets. Yet some of the most populated nations of the world are still more provident than even some the most demographically prudent ones. As the Christians would say ‘let God be true and every man a liar’. There is no ‘mouth’ –as the Muslim would say- that the Almighty has ‘cut’ that He has not provided for in this vast planet called earth.
It is the failure of selfish political man and not the absence of divine provision that has put the world in the condition of perpetual lack! Political man has learnt to unsettle the world through wars and rumors of war, to keep it from attaining the bliss that God has intended for it. It is not the problem of religion; nor the inadequacy of the earth to provide for all. Believe it or not, the earth is vast and its resources are inexhaustible. It is the wickedness of man who politicizes everything including the economics of food. Ask those who regularly dump containers of excess grains at sea but only make a show of hypocritical ‘benevolence’ by dropping a few bags on fleeing refugees from the very wars that they have caused, or could effectively have stopped!
Diaphragms, condoms and other forms of contraceptives have failed to halt the rise in global population. And now man has even added ‘gay and lesbian’ marriages as a last ditched efforts –short of resorting to castrating especially us from the back countries of the world. Truth is neither ‘God’ nor ‘nature’ –whichever you believe to be the transcendental God- does anything in vain. If God did not divinely plan that man should ‘multiply and fill the earth’, He would not have biologically equipped man with the accessories to ‘multiply and to fill the earth’.
Those who complicate the ability of capitalism to micro-manage the socio-economics of the world are not the most ardent ‘polygamists’. Many of them are monogamists with a cat or a puppy, for child. If you get them to get their acts right, the earth is vast and its resources are inexhaustible. It can take care of all. Sanusi should leave polygamists alone!