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Opinions of Sunday, 19 January 2014

Columnist: Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

86 Wives and 170 kids to one man? It's not Islamic and fair

In this day and age, many are those who would be stunned at the news that an 84-year-old man with unreliable source of income is married to 86 women. This story is true as authenticated by media agencies like BBC and Associated Press (AP).

The man is a Nigerian known as Mohammed Bello Abubakar. Ironically he is advising other men not to follow his example. Mr. Bello Abubakar says he does not go chasing women, they rather come to him.

The former teacher and Muslim preacher, who lives in Niger State with his wives and at least 170 children, says he is able to cope only with the help of God.

"A man with 10 wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them," he told the BBC.

He says his wives have sought him out because of his reputation as a healer. "I don't go looking for them, they come to me. I will consider the fact that God has asked me to do it and I will just marry them."

But such claims have alienated the Islamic authorities in Nigeria, who have branded his family a cult.

Most Muslim scholars agree that a man is allowed to have four wives, as long as he can treat them fairly and equally.

But Mr. Bello Abubakar says there is no punishment stated in the Koran for having more than four wives.

"To my understanding, the Koran does not place a limit and it is up to what your own power, your own endowment and ability allows," he says.

However, many Islamic scholars in Ghana and the world over such as Sheikh Seebaway Zakariah of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology says the marriage of more than four women is not Islamic.

He says Muslims are allowed to marry a maximum of four wives with a condition that he would be just to the women otherwise he should settle for one woman.

The wives the BBC spoke to say they met Mr. Bello Abubakar when they went to him to seek help for various illnesses, which they say he cured.

"As soon as I met him, the headache was gone," says Sharifat Bello Abubakar, who was 25 at the time, and Mr. Bello Abubakar 74. "God told me it was time to be his wife. Praise be to God, I am his wife now."