By NBF News
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Mrs. Maryam Uwais, lawyer and expert in rights and welfare of children, has written the most outstanding opinion on the offences allegedly committed by Senator Ahmed Yerima, a former governor of Zamfara State. Mrs. Uwais' article, 'Child marriage: Yerima's On His Own', This Day, 4th May, 2010, cover story, pages viii - x, is a great service to Islam, Sharia and Prophet Mohammed.

I must confess that certain periodic events in the Muslim North have unsettled many of us in the South over the years, including the violent outbursts against churches, the ethnic/religious killings in Jos where babies and women were recently slaughtered like animals, and the fatalism of extremists like the Boko Haram. The 86-wife Alhaji is a different matter altogether.

The submission by Maryam Uwais, which should be published in other media, is refreshingly candid, scholarly, simple and rich in education and information. A good number of non-Muslims around the world took wrong cues from Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, which put Islam and its founder, Prophet Mohammed, in very poor light, especially his libido.

When one travels in the North and sees the harems and the high walls guarding them, one often wonders what goes on inside them. Senator Yerima himself, if he could find the humility to read Mrs. Uwais, with meditation, I believe, would repent and practice a more humane Islam. If the Prophet Mohammed lived a life of love for his wives, caring for them tenderly all their lives, and if the Caliphs were good exemplars of the faith who condescended to answer questions on their personal lives and fortunes, then big shots like Yerima should do the same as role models and not brutalize women.

Mrs. Uwais rightly isolates the sins of Yerima as two-fold. He callously and casually dumped a 17-year-old wife after fathering a child with her. This divorce legally opened the gate for him to commit the second offence of marrying his latest child-wife which has unleashed great controversy. One is consoled and enlightened to learn that divorce is not easily granted by Sharia and that there must be serious reasons and a process of arbitration before approval. But much more important is that legislation on what is permissible, as apposed to injunction, is the practice in Sharia. Thus, many of the Islamic countries, writes Uwais, including Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are legislating against child marriage and fixing much older ages (15 - 20).

Ideally, and Uwais agrees with this, a girl in this century, and given the economic pressures of industrialization and urbanization, must reach maturity (far beyond puberty) and receive reasonable education before venturing into the serious business of marriage and child-bearing and rearing. To snatch children from their parents before they can make reasonable decisions and to expose them to the risk of the dreaded VVF syndrome is a grave sin which can never be the holy will of God. To hide behind religious legalism in doing this worsens the matter. Holy books such as the Koran and the Holy Bible should not be taken literally but need expert interpretation. From Uwais' informed opinion, it is clear that Islamic scholars and the Caliphs, over the centuries, have been interpreting the Koran and related books to ensure sound moral practice.

From reading Uwais, it has become glaring that all fundamentalists, Muslim and Christian alike, suffer from this grave error of rigid legalism. It is from this blind focus on faith that, I believe, jihadists, suicide bombers, al-Queda and so many other groups emerge. They have painted Islam as a religion of darkness.

Christendom has similar extremists in the sects that have mushroomed over the past 50 to 60 years. They not only insist on sola scriptura (scripture only), they rigidly stick to their views with little or no attention to reason. Only the Catholic Church reserves the final right to the Magisterium to interpret any biblical passages while not forbidding the common meaning of any text. Christ Himself gave this power of legislation and guidance to Peter and his successor-popes (Mt 16:18-19). For any Christian, therefore, to question, for example, the honour given to the Blessed Virgin Mary because Jesus Christ is the only Saviour is to reject reason. Do I have to write in my driver's letter of appointment (or any of my staff) that proper respect and honour must be given to my mother, wife or daughter? Love is all-inclusive

That Christ ate and drank, even turning water into wine at Cana in His first miracle, may be cited by a glutton or drunkard is the kind of absurdity that Senator Yerima tried to apply by invoking Prophet Mohammed's marriage to a young girl in the Seventh Century. The Blessed Virgin herself was betrothed to Joseph at a tender age of about fourteen toward a marriage that was never meant to be consummated. Can any Christian apply this in contemplating any form of sin or marriage to a minor?

The ongoing public discourse on the sexual indiscretions of Alhaji Ahmed Yerima is a good thing for the nation which hopefully may result in change of attitudes. The corruption revealed in this scandal is manifold, not least how governors amass tremendous fortunes especially from security votes. All the media tales about how Yerima bribed parents, in Zamfara and in Egypt, tell a lot about how Nigeria's oil money is being burnt in iniquity.

Only very few persons will possess the kingdom of God in the end. Our Lord Jesus Christ told a visionary simply known as Julia (or Julker in her Croatian, East European language in a book titled Jesus Calls Us, among several bitter truths, that the number of the saved souls in our time is so small that in some countries not a single soul will be saved. If this is true, then we must be careful not to fall into what Pope Benedict XV1 calls spiritual relativism. In other words, God will not judge anyone in relation to the sins of another.

While we may not be guilty of pedophilia, incest or child marriage, there are mortal sins of sorts concerning abuse of marriage. Mere illicit desire condemns a soul, at least in Christian doctrine (Mt. 5:28), There are, besides those who usurp the innocence of baby-brides and expose them to disease and ignorance, widows in Southern Nigeria who are debased and dehumanized through pagan practices, marriages that are thwarted because of osu and oru caste systems in Igboland and so on. False Christians engage in these evils and also in polygamy invoking 'the customs and traditions of our people'.

Souls will be saved who worship God in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23 - 24) and who do the will of God. (Mt. 7:21-23). Only the saints do the perfect will of God and go straight to Heaven but all others, who do not do it perfectly will be purged of their imperfections in Purgatory, whether Catholic, Protestant or Muslim. It is only by the Precious Blood of Christ that salvation is granted.

In our bigoted religious attitudes we often err by judging others but only God knows all and is the only true Judge. The Blessed Virgin Mary told the youthful visionaries of Medjugorje in the 1980s that the holiest woman in their village was a Muslim woman, proving thus that God is the Father of all, not necessarily that Islam is the true faith. Christ has His main flock in the Church but he also said He has other flocks (Jn 10:16). Most occupants of Heaven, in the end, will be Catholics and most occupants of Hell will also, ironically, be Catholics who failed to practice the true faith, ignoring the Sacraments, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Angels and Saints.

They followed the errors of the last days by practicing the New Christianity, characterized by fundamentalism.

Whether Christian, Muslim or pagan in nature, fundamentalists in their blind extremism are unlikely to see the face of God. Jesus Christ used his teachings on the observance of Sabbath day to warn those who conveniently and expediently quote laws that it is only love that saves and not legalism.

Political and religious leaders who keep half of the population (women) in bondage, oppressing, suppressing and exploiting them, in the belief that God created women to satisfy the libido of men, will forfeit not only progress and modern development but are heading for perdition. They will quote books, the prophets and other authorities, but their conscience will condemn them before the Creator's judgment seat.

Odum, writes from Lagos.