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Pegging bride price is not the answer

In a similar move, authorities in Jakusko Local Government Area of Yobe state have endorsed a by-law which pegs the dowry of a divorcee that…

In a similar move, authorities in Jakusko Local Government Area of Yobe state have endorsed a by-law which pegs the dowry of a divorcee that wants to re-marry at N5, 000.00 and N10, 000.00 for a new bride. The chairman of Jakusko local council declared that the edict is to make marriage easier for people of the area. He lamented how difficult marriage has become for many people due to high bride price. The initiative, he continued, would reduce social vices in the local government area.

Although each has peculiar motives for pegging bride price, the two local governments of Illela and Jakusko implicitly seem to be united on two common lines of reasoning. First, both agree that marriage has become very expensive in their respective local government areas making it difficult for youths to marry at the most appropriate time. Second, pegging bride price is seen by both as a means to forestalling extravagance in weddings. While they may be right in the first, this column believes that they are missing the real issue in the second. In truth, the chairmen of the two local governments under reference know it better that extravagance is not in the bride price but in matters that are mere auxiliaries to marriage because such wastefulness has more to do with festivities than with the marriage contract. In any case, we commend the pegging of bride-price because the Prophet (SAW) said, “The most blessed marriage is that with minimal bride price”. However, it is pertinent to remind the two chairmen that this does not by any stretch of implementation solve the problem of extravagance which they seek to curb.

Extravagance sets in when unimportant things are allowed to take precedence over basic requirements of a marriage contract as outlined in the Qur’an and prophetic traditions. Such unnecessary burdens and worthless ceremonial activities include shopping trips to Dubai or the United Kingdom by the bride; silver-blended invitation cards printed and imported from South Africa; a giant wedding cake baked and decorated in France; assorted souvenirs that may include gold-plated wristwatches, specially designed handbags of varying sizes and lace materials, each carrying a portrait of the bride and the groom; elaborate wedding programme that may stretch over a week including mother’s night, lady’s luncheon, gala night, picnic, novelty football match, groom’s reception, etc. These are in addition to the spray of naira notes and American dollars that accompany each of these events. Reckless spending at wedding ceremonies seems, for now, to be the latest fashion in town

The affluent among us who have lost moral bearing are so intoxicated with women, money and power that they think a man or that of his family is determined by how much was spent (sorry, not spent but lavished) on their son or daughter’s wedding. Perhaps, wealthy Nigerians through their frequent visits to Dubai gradually became secret admirers of Mohammed, son of Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, whose marriage in Dubai in may 1981 to princess Salama lasted seven days and gulped £22million ($44.5million) or about N 6.6billion. Events in recent times reveal that we do not only have a generation of disciples of Al-Maktoum’s son in Nigeria but also a crop of skilled contestants competing to snatch the trophy of the priciest wedding from him. Remember, a minister under President Yar’adua allegedly celebrated 20th anniversary of his wedding with about N120million last year. Many Nigerians could have been saved from some distress if such huge money were directed to where it was needed most.

The solution to curbing profligacy in ceremonies especially wedding does not actually lie in pegging bride price because the lavishness is in matters other than dowry. This is where we expected Shariah Commissions at state and local government levels in all shariah-compliant states to have come in. We are not too surprised at their docility because governors that launched the shariah legal system a decade ago did so for political reasons. Today, the commissions are more of an extension of the political affairs unit in the respective Government Houses of concerned states. The commissions ideally have a duty to fashion out laws that would ban un-Islamic and non-commonsensical activities that have made marriage more expensive than it should in this part of the world. Such practices that should be outlawed may include shopping trips abroad, mother’s night, lady’s luncheon and gala night on which occasions money spraying is the national and “exclusive language” spoken by all. Concerned authorities may go further to regulate wasteful spending by defining which category of items that could be used as souvenirs with a clause that such must be locally produced goods in Nigeria!

Allah (SWT) frowns at reckless expenditure and states in Qur’an 17: 26, 27 “…But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift; Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil ones, and the Evil one is to his lord ungrateful”. We understand from these verses that it is forbidden to spend out of bravado. Squanderers of God-given wealth, according to the above citation, are ungrateful to God. May Allah (SWT) inspire the rich to create a space in their hearts and in their wealth for the needy, amin.

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