Culture Humanitarian

Whether he is dead or not, only God knows, says wife

Since the start of the insurgency in northeast Nigeria in 2009 thousands of men and boys have disappeared – some killed or abducted by the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), others detained by the military and never heard of again – leaving mothers and wives with no protection, little or no support and at a greater risk to sexual exploitation and abuse.

Many of the men who were detained were suspected of being members or sympathisers of the JAS, more commonly referred to as Boko Haram. But many were innocent and have been kept in detention centres for years.

The wives left behind still do not know if their husbands are dead or alive, according to Allamin Foundation, a non-profit, non-political, non-religious and non-governmental peace-building organisation, and for years they have been begging military and security authorities for information.

Bintu Hassan, an internally displaced person originally from Auno ward in the Konduga Local Government Area in Borno State, but now living in Maiduguri, told RNI that the her husband went missing eight years ago.

“Whether he is dead or not, only God knows,” she said.

“My husband, Kolo Modu, went missing when our community in Auno was destroyed by Boko Haram. We were sitting at home having a meal with three of his relatives when the insurgents barged into our house and took the men away. That’s how we parted ways.”

She said she had not seen or heard a word from him since then. She had lived in hope for years waiting to be reunited, but eventually she decide to remarry and wedded Bulama Hassan.

“Even though I have remarried, not knowing the whereabouts of my first husband still disturbs me, especially as we had four children together.”

Bintu said she waited for four years for Modu to return. “Life was very hard and we did not always have food on our table. I was really struggling to take care of my children’s needs.”

She decided to get remarried but, before doing so, she was required to observe the iddah – a waiting time for four months and 10 days (130 days).

“Nobody forced me to remarry. I did not have a stable business or any other means to take care of my children, especially their schooling needs. And it was only after my iddah was confirmed that I could lawfully remarry,” she said.

“I have been married to my second husband for three years now. But I still think about my first husband and wonder where he is. After all, he is my children’s father. But still neither I nor anyone else has heard anything about his whereabouts. No one has found him. We don’t know whether he is dead or alive, whether he is with the Boko Haram or whether he is in detention somewhere. Only God knows.”

Mahmood Muhammad Ibrahim, an Islamic cleric, said he knew of many women who were in the same predicament as Bintu. They had also waited for years for their husbands to return. Eventually, some of them had decided to remarry. “But many are still waiting.”

Ibrahim said that if the first husband returned or was found after the wife had remarried, the scholars had identified two solutions: the wife could go back to her first husband after observing iddah or she could stay with her second husband.

  • The iddah is a waiting period that a Muslim woman observes after the death of her husband or after a divorce. The Qur’an says:

“For those men who die amongst you and leave behind wives, they [the wives] must confine themselves [to observe iddah] for four months and ten days.”

Widowed and divorced women are required to observe the iddah for 130 days. The exception is if the widowed woman is pregnant, then her waiting period ends when she gives birth to the child.

The widow or divorced woman is required to avoid doing anything or going anywhere unless it is to buy essential items. She is prohibited from marrying or making any arrangements for marriage. Men are not allowed to propose to her during this period.

 

 

 

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