The height of true religion is spirituality

A freedom of the mind
rather than living by religion’s dogma. Religion, being man’s way
of finding God – not God’s way of finding man, changes over
periods of time and we’ve seen this happen many times for
example, in the North. In the 1930/40s for example, it was
unheard of for women to be seen in public but a certain Aminu
Kano took his wife on a tour in Bauchi and allowed her to go out
by herself very often. Ibrahim Imam who was of the conservative
NPC and his friend frowned at this by religion. In elections at that
time, Women were not allowed to vote because the NPC political
establishment which was in power appointed the Grand Khadi of
Northern Nigeria, Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi and his position
based on Islam was that women couldn’t vote. And so women
didn’t vote. On these issues, Aminu Kano of NEPU/PRP stood
heavily against the political establishment and he had many
supporters in the North because he was from a family of Islamic
scholars and nobody could fault his interpretations of religious
doctrine – but politically, he was caged. By 1979, the polity has
changed from the parliamentary to the presidential system of Govt
and whereas you only needed a majority from your local
constituency to become a parliamentarian and then Prime
Minister, now you needed a national majority to become President
of Nigeria. With men and women voting in the South and only men
voting in the North, there was going to be a clear advantage to the
South and so another interpretation of the “women don’t vote in
Islam” dogma was sought. And quite amusingly, it was found. A
panel was set up and the now retired Grand Khadi, same Sheikh
Gumi along with other scholars went to several foreign Islamic
countries and came back with the verdict: women can vote in
Islam. Gumi said: “Siyasa Tafi Muhimmancin da Sallah” – a radical
change from the past. In every society, there are always those
who defend tradition/dogma, those who are ambivalent towards it
and those who want to change it. When religion is involved, only a
strong religious personality can move against such dogma without
resistance – like Aminu Kano back then. The main reason the NPC
conservative and hegemonic tendency didn’t want women voting
was because Aminu Kano’s radical and populist NEPU had fiery
women advocates such as Gambo Sawaba who had amassed quite
a following among women in purdah and Kano himself was a
feminist of sorts.Kano dedicated his lifelong campaign for the
emancipation of Northern women to his mother whom he felt
could have been so much more, but for the limitations placed on
her by the society she lived in and the religious dogma of that
period. As a graduate student in London from 1946 to 1948, his
term papers usually revolved around topics like “The Problem of
Girls’ Education in Kano” and other parts of the North. He wrote a
strong article at the time in the Nigerian Citizen newspaper where
he said: (next tweet) “It is impossible to promote the status of
women and men (I now like to say women and men) in this
twentieth century while maintaining this medieval form of
government.” But the history of the North often omits folks like
Aminu Kano because he lost out politically to the NPC. Funnily,
from within the conservative NPC wing of Northern politics, you
also had Isa Wali, a top Northerner who wrote an article titled “The
True Place of Women in Islam” in the Nigerian Citizen edition of
July 18 to August 4, 1956 (a bi-weekly newspaper). He wrote
(next tweet): “As for public life, there is nothing in Islam which
prevents a woman from following any pursuit she desires. There
is no distinct prohibition against her taking part in public
leadership, as Aisha, the Prophet’s widow, demonstrated”. The
North also had and has radicals.As this brief history which I
started to research deeply after PDP lost in 2015 shows, there’s a
difference between true religious precepts and the interpretations
of humans whose motives are sometimes tainted by experience,
politics, sentiments and many other things. What the history also
shows is that the radicals always win – Women now vote and are
voted for in many parts of the North (although some will hold on
for long to dogma). But it has to come from a place of religious
authority and also of understanding, not attacks.Many of us down
South still find it difficult to accept gay issues like “gay
marriages” for instance – that’s how deeply many socio-religious
issues are for humans. Of course the arguments against child
marriage are clear but only because some of us are raised in that
culture.Go back a few centuries from now and many things we
forbid today were accepted back then and many that we accept
were also forbidden. Few decades from now in fact, we may even
accept many of the things we today reject in Nigeria – gay
marriages for instance? As to those who insist on child marriage
as a religious issue, I’m not aware that religion says you must
marry a very young girl – maybe it says you can, it doesn’t say you
must. It’s like the issue of polygamy – “religion permits” isn’t
equal to “religion commands”.


  1. Good post

  2. Hmm

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