It’s not compulsory I marry more than one wife! -Muslim Cleric, Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem, President (TMC) declares… - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

It’s not compulsory I marry more than one wife! -Muslim Cleric, Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem, President (TMC) declares…

Love is golden. Muslim Cleric and Senior lecturer, Dr Luqman Abdur Raheem already has his hands full of it. The Amir (President) of The Muslim Congress (TMC) in Nigeria and overseas, is however not complaining.

As a Muslim leader, Dr Luqman Abdur Raheem daily sees to the good up keeping of the tenets of Islam in Nigeria, organising religious programmes and activities for members of his religious organization and at the same time, sees to the educational and entrepreneurial development of his students at Yaba College of Technology, where he lectures.

For him, it is a full life of devotion, championing of spiritual causes and attending to people’s needs. But how does his wife and family cope with such a schedule. And what kind of a wife can actually fit into that schedule!

Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem in this interview with Paul Ukpabio, tells us that and how he grew up with three mothers and how that early life shaped his future and leadership in the Islamic faith.      

So what does that entail?

The Muslim Congress (TMC) is a frontline Islamic organisation in Nigeria that was registered in 1994 to propagate Islam within the ambit of the Nigerian law. We felt that as law abiding Nigerians; we should register the organisation so that we do not run a faceless organisation. I am the third President so far. The first person used
eleven years, the second person used five years, this is my eight year as President.

Basically what does Muslim Congress stand for?

First and foremost, we are trying to revive Islamic practices among the elites, non-elites, old and young. Secondly, we want to show case the beauty of Islam in a multi-religious society and thirdly, we believe that Islam goes beyond religion so we should popularise Islamic economic frame work. As we speak, we have a bank call Al-Barakah Microfinance Bank. We also have what we call, Zakat and Sadaqat
Foundation (ZSF) which is a powerful arm and is about charity to the less privilege and also registered. We also have school called Vanguard Academy in Ogun State. So these are to show that Islam goes beyond praying five times a day. We must be pro-active on the socio-economic and other spheres of human endeavours. Also on national issues we contribute through issuing press releases and quarterly papers, we do state of the nation address. So these are some of the things we do.

What attracted you to join?

I was in the university when it was formed. I looked at the aims of the objectives which were good. At that point in time, we had few Islamic organisations, the popular ones then were the Nawair-ud-Deen and Ansar-ud-Deen and their programmes were very broad, and the youths wanted something that was more focused. Those other organisations focused on mosque building, schools and the like. We felt that we needed more than that. Through our organisation for instance, more people are being converted to Islam because we show and teach more understanding and the elites embraced it. These are the things that the Muslim
Congress and equally NASFAT represent. Both arrived almost at the same time.

What stands your organisation apart from the others like NASFAT for instance?

We do not really like making comparisons; we are all building structures and the more the structures, the better. We do basically the same thing. They do Asalatu, we do Asalatu. They do counselling, we do counselling too. They have Zakat foundation, we have too although our own came up first. They have hajj and umrah operators who take people to hajj, we also have that too.  The more the merrier.
Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem (First Right) during a visit to the Vice President's Office at Aso Rock, Abuja

It seems like yours is more of an elitist thing

Not really, we actually balance three segments of the society, the educated people, the artisans, and the traditional scholars, who have been to the Islamic schools.

But don't you think it’s more centred on academic focus?

Yes, especially for the leadership at the top, we normally use the academics and professionals, but when it comes to the issue of the Imams, we use the traditional scholars and when it comes to infrastructural development, we use the professionals and the artisans.

Are you born a Muslim?

Yes, I am. My parents were Muslims. I grew up in a home where Islam was being practised.

Tell us about your parents

I have a unique situation. I actually have three mothers! At a time, my dad married the first wife, who later left and he married my mother. When my mum died in 1980, it turned out that my father had to marry another wife. So he married another woman. I have had three mothers.

How did you cope with three mothers, how was growing up like with different mothers?

It was not as if he planned to have it that way. When the first wife left after divorce, he married my mother. So he did not put all the wives together at a go. When my mum died too, he married another wife.
The first wife left two children both of whom my mom raised; my mum raised them like children from same parents. It was when we got to secondary school that we found out amongst us that the two elderly children were not given birth to, by my direct mum. I was in primary school when I lost my mum. It was the third wife that eventually raised us all into adulthood.

How did that affect you all?

My father had a simple principle, he didn't discriminate. He saw all the children as belonging to one mother at any point in time. He called the woman our mother. She cooks for us, she attends to our needs, she followed us to school and so on. So we didn't really see the difference because of the nature of the dad that we had. My father worked with the government and retired at a construction company which was called Guffanti then, I think it was a fore runner to Julius Berger of today. He retired as a construction technician.

Was your dad a member of any Islamic organisation?

He was not. We are the privileged ones; I joined the organisation in my second year at Obafemi Awolowo University where I studied economics.

How does the microfinance banking thing works?

It works like other microfinance banks, the difference is that it is a non-interest microfinance bank. It was established at the peak of the debate on Islamic banking. We felt that beyond rhetoric, we need to show Nigerians how it works. It was actually opened by the former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) the late Dr AbdulLateef Adegbite, we give out loans to members of the public irrespective of religion. It was actually established at Mushin where most of the initial customers were Igbo spare-parts dealers. We operate no interest, but you must have an account with them. Instead of interest, what they do is profit and loss sharing. For instance if you are Chijioke, you have been saving with them and you need a loan of N50,000, you will be asked, for what purpose, the anticipated return, and on the basis of that, you agree on the profit sharing ratio. And if you make losses genuinely, then the sharing will not hold.

How do you know when there is a profit and a loss?

They have field officers and marketers who go around checking records and if there are environmental issues which are beyond the control of the person, there will be an understanding. But if there is a misappropriation of funds, it will show. So to make money, they buy things like automobile, the popular ones like 'Marwa' and lease to the general public; they invest in agriculture, poultry and so on, in partnership with business people. Although by CBN rules, in some contracts you must charge interest. Those interests are put under CSR. We use it to build and protect the environment.

How about Zakat?

That is like the tithe that the Christians give. During the Ramadan period, members of the public who are Muslims are assessed. From the assessment, those people will pay into the coffers of Zakat and Sadaqat. After Ramadan, they do what is called Zakat distribution in six geographical zones in Nigeria. And will be given to those who apply. You must first apply to indicate that you merit it, or you are student in need, or you need economic empowerment, health support, accommodation challenge and so on. These are the headings under which Zakat is disbursed.

So Muslims pay tithe?

Yes we pay tithe, which is what is called Zakat. But our own is not 10 per cent, it is two and a half percent of your taxable wealth and not all your wealth! If you do not have up to a particular amount of money, you may not be required to pay tax. It is for the rich, people with good income.

How do you locate a person who is rich and taxable?

That is why I said that members of the body actually approach the body asking to be assessed. On our website, we have what is called a Zakat calculator. You can do the calculation yourself. If you are taxable you can even pay online. However some people ask to be assessed. Alhaji Aliko Dangote for instance pays, but not only to Zakat and Sadakat Foundation, but also to other Islam organisations.

So the tithe is not directly only to where a Muslim worships?

No, it can be paid to other places too.

So you combine all these with being a Lecturer?

Oh, I am a lecturer, which is where I get my means of livelihood. I teach entrepreneurship, I am a senior lecturer at The Yaba College of Technology. It is a department and all students must offer it twice before leaving the institution. The first time they offer it is at the beginning when we introduce it to them and remind them that there are no jobs and then towards the end of their courses, we remind them that they need to take the issue of self-employment seriously. I have programmes on entrepreneurship on radio. Sometimes I'm called to discuss as an Islamic scholar, like the last corporate governance code. We shared more light on it.

What was your view on the controversial corporate governance code?

The law is the law and you can't change the law. Where the man erred was the code which was not yet ratified but he rushed to implement it, which was an insubordination to the Ministry of Investment and Trade.
So he was then sacked. He should have waited because he called the Christians and the Muslims to make input into that code. They sent their input which had not yet reflected in the code. And even if it had reflected, he ought to have sent it back to the stakeholders for further preview before ratification. It was to be a code to support the law. There is nothing wrong with the law. And the code was to help us support the functioning of the law. The mistake the Director-General made was not waiting for the ratification of the code. Now the code has been suspended, but the law is still there.

What does that law say?

The law is actually an international law which says that financial reports must conform to a particular standard and must have a particular body that must enforce that particular standard. So for that standard to be understood by the private sector, the non-government body that is the NGO, there is the need for a code on how to implement that law. That was what was suspended. There were so many queries in that particular code. It is like the constitution which is broad, it takes the National Assembly to make the provision which explains the law. So the law is there but the explanation has been suspended.

Taking the above into consideration, what will you say is obtainable in your organization?

Right from the onset, we ensured that there are those checks and balances. The Board of Trustee is different from management and even as a president, you are entitled to two terms, there is nothing like life president.

When I graduated, I served in Kaduna, a secondary school, then I had a plan to teach in the academia. After that, there was an advertisement in Yaba College of Technology, I applied and joined since 1998. I went for my Masters in Economics at the University of Lagos, then another Masters in same institutions for Industrial Relations and Personnel Management. Now I have Phd in Entrepreneurship and Corporate responsibility from United Kingdom. In the academia you have to invest time and money on progressive education to be a first class academic because if you are not a Professor, you are only just marking time.

So at what point did marriage come in?

I married in 2000 two years after I started working now I have three girls and one boy. My wife is not a lecturer but she is in the academia, in the campus as an Administrative Officer.

Why did you choose to marry someone at work with you?

As it is, in some professions, it is likely that you meet your spouse there. Most bankers for instance, meet themselves in the bank and then one of the spouses, changes to another bank. But in the core public service, you don't have to change. It is not a taboo so far you are not working as a syndicate, even then, there are checks to avoid that in the public service.

How did you meet?

We met at programmes (laughs), when we go for programmes every Sunday.
Of course we used to see after the service. And then through a friend who is a lecturer in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife who stood as an intermediary, a relationship was brokered. We married few years after.

What attracted you to her?

Well in Islam, especially for us who see ourselves as activists, we love to share our ideological lifestyle, advocacy and I saw that in her. I assured myself that she is the right kind of person for me. So I made some contacts. My friend acknowledged that she is a very good person and we moved on from there.

What do you share in common?

First we share the same faith. Secondly, we have been attending the same Sunday programme. I saw that she is dedicated. Some people vouched for her integrity and morality. Those basic yardsticks were enough for me to marry her. She is also well educated. I saw that she will be ready to educate my children.

You are a Muslim, does that mean you are likely to have four wives?

As an Islamic scholar, I think I should correct that impression. Islam is a religion with law. And when we say law, there must be provision in the glorious Quran. There is permissibility for four wives for those who want to marry two, three and four. There is boundary, lower and upper. We are not the same. We have so many people who are not Christians or Muslims but marry more than one wife, even up to seven wives. It is their fundamental rights. But Islam has regulated it to one wife, two or three and permits four for those who want to. That is the position of Islam. It permits four but does not enjoin four.

So are you sticking to one wife?

In life, one does not pilot one's destiny. As one goes on, there may be need, some even for political consideration. There are so many people who are not Muslims but became Kings or traditional rulers. But as Muslims, we believe that God will guide us to do what we are supposed to do from time to time. My senior brother married for years. The wife didn't give birth for more than 20 years. He married again and today they have children. So there are many things which could lead to more marriages. But for now, I have one wife.

You have a licence to marry four wives as a Muslim cleric, who is also financially comfortable. Are you going to marry more wives soon?

It’s the financial capacity that determines anything in that direction. Though, people abuse that. I think it is wrong to put two women in a room in the name of marriage. I don't think it is decent because children could grow up irresponsibly in that regard. There are also limitations to the license of having four wives, can you feed them?
Can you clothe them? That is why Emir Sanusi of Kano recently told Muslims in general that he wants to regulate that practice. He is not changing the law, but to regulate it. It’s not just about marriage alone, even Hajj, you must have the means before you go for Hajj. It is not compulsory.
If I don't have the means to take care of them, I don't think I should have more wives. Okay I have the money, but do I have the knowledge? So a seminar is necessary to learn how to marry two women or more in the same house. So when I am ready, I will go to that seminar (laughs). If you visit magistrate courts and see how people commit injustice through marriage of wives that they cannot take care of. You must be capable and ready before marrying more than one wife. And when they need you sexually, you must be ready to do it and not give excuses; your excuses will be injustice.

Fashion and style has caused greet controversy among religious women in Nigeria in recent times, should it be hijab, should it not be hijab. What do you have to say?

Islam has what we call regulated standard for fashion. Women should look beautiful, women should use cosmetics but such cosmetics or clothing should not be used to attract men! Cosmetics or clothing that can attract men should be limited to the four walls of your bedroom.
When you are going out, you are expected to cover your hair no matter how beautiful, you are not expected to put on erotic or sexually induced clothing or put make up that will attract men. That is the nature of Islam. Painting of finger nails and use of artificial nails is not Islamic because when you perform ablution, water must touch your finger nails but artificial will not allow it. Again, when Muslim women co-habits with their husbands, they are expected to take spiritual bath. But if you as a lady had done perming and so on, the lady is forced to use shower cap, probably because they have spent probably about N20,000 or more to it, and the moment water does not enter the ear, you have not done the spiritual bath proper. That is why we say Islam has a regulated standard.

So what if a lady does whatever kind of hairstyle but allows water to touch the hair, is that okay?

No problem. But you must not open that hairstyle outside, then if you do hairstyle if you don't want water to touch it then what’s the point.
Also the artificial fingernails are not allowed and tattoo is totally prohibited. There are provisions which say we shouldn't do tattoo or use artificial hair. Your natural hair is allowed but artificial hair not allowed. So as a lady you can do your hair in any style you want so long as you don't mind water touching it. And when you are going out, you wear your hijab as a banker, engineer or whatever kind of job you find yourself, dress modestly. When you get inside your house, you can wear your jeans or tights or shorts for your husband.

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