The musings of a Ruga girl—Muslim Women in governance
I was abruptly awakened from my sleep by the ringing of my phone. Curious as to who could be calling at such an hour, I initially ignored it and tried to go back to sleep. However, I was soon jolted awake again by another noise. Grudgingly, I picked up the phone and was surprised to hear Aysha’s voice on the other end, excitedly informing me that she had won “taci zabe”. I was unsure who or what she was referring to, and asked for clarification. Aysha confirmed that it was indeed Binani, which left me surprised considering the norms and customs of our society. To clarify, I asked her if she was absolutely sure she had heard the news correctly, and she confirmed that it had been officially announced. The following day, Aysha called again and asked me to seek Mallam’s opinion on “Women in Governance” in Islam, as she was uncertain about Sumayya’s stance on the matter. I took a deep breath and assured her that I would ask Mallam for clarification.
Saturday mid-afternoon, I walked into Mallam’s room and found him reciting the Qur’an. I patiently waited for him to finish the chapter before he looked up at me with a warm smile and asked how my weekend was going. I replied that it was going well, but I had a question for him about the ruling on women in governance. After a brief moment of silence, he explained that there were varying opinions from scholars on this matter.
The scholars who oppose the appointment of women to public offices argue that Islam does not permit women to hold executive positions or any other office, citing Allah’s saying in (Q3:34) which states that “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them excel the other, and because they spend to feed (and support women) from their means.”
They also refer to a Hadith reported by Bukhari, Tirmizhi, Nasa’i, and Ahmad on the authority of Abi Bakrata, where the Prophet (PBUH) inquired about the successor of the King of Persia, who was succeeded by his daughter named Bouran. The Prophet (SAW) responded by saying, “People who are ruled by a woman shall never succeed.” However, it is important to note that this Hadith refers to family leadership, where men provide protection, support, and sustenance for their wives and female family members, and does not apply to public leadership.
It is important to note that Allah (SWT) has granted some degree of equality between men and women, particularly in matters of worship, education, faith, and justice. However, Allah has also ordained certain distinctions between men and women in areas where they naturally differ, such as child-rearing and breastfeeding, where women are naturally better suited. Additionally, due to their biological nature, women are given exemptions in performing Salat and fasting during Ramadan while menstruating or experiencing post-natal bleeding.
As I listened to him speak, I felt a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction. It reminded me of our previous conversations, which I had missed lately. I made a mental note to prioritize our talks and create more time for them.
He continued by saying…Importantly, you have to understand that the Hadith which was quoted above refers to the kind of leadership called “al-Imama” or “al-Khilafa” in Islam. This can literally be translated as, the “Great Imama” or the “Absolute Caliphate.” Kesra, the King of Persia, exercised this kind of leadership in his lifetime and that was why the Prophet (SAW) made reference to him.
The office of the Great Imama holds the highest authority in the Islamic State System, granting the Imam the ability to carry out his responsibilities with complete autonomy and absolute power. The Islamic System reserves these powers for a highly competent individual to effectively fulfill his duties without the need for approval or reliance on any other entity.
Consequently, the Great Imam’s jurisdiction encompasses all matters that affect the Ummah, including issuing legal proclamations, approving and executing projects, and settling disputes. Additionally, the Great Imam is responsible for hearing legal cases, making judgments, and overseeing all civil servants in the country. One crucial attribute of the Great Imam is the ability to independently derive and apply Islamic injunctions on religious issues from the primary sources of Islamic Law, be it general or private matters. It is important to note that the Great Imam’s powers differ entirely from those vested in members of the House of Representatives or senators and all other forms of authority present in modern states or political systems.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria serves as the supreme law of the land and governs the country’s governance system. It outlines the specific roles, duties, and functions of the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary. The heads of each arm of government, whether it be the Executive (President or Governors), Legislature (Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives or the Speakers of the States Houses of Assemblies), or Judiciary (Chief Justice or Chief Judges), do not have control over the other arms. This system allows for three distinct arms of governance to operate independently under the Constitution. This is in contrast to the Imama system, which has a single head controlling all arms of governance.
In light of the reasons and issues stated in this ruling, it is evident that women have the legal right under Islamic law to hold any office in the country, except for the position of the Great Imama. Therefore, women can contest and hold positions such as Local Government Chairpersons, Members of the Legislature, Senators, Governors, and even the President. They can also be appointed as Councilors, Commissioners, Ministers, and Heads of Boards or Parastatals. However, it is incumbent upon women to adhere to the Islamic legal requirements of decency and modesty without any frivolousness while participating in politics or holding any office.
These regulations are intended to protect a woman’s honor, morality, and reputation and keep her away from places that could raise suspicion. Despite the ruling, Mallam appeared uninterested, perhaps due to the arrival of a visitor, causing me to leave the room. I intended to share the news with Aysha, who I knew would be thrilled, but before I could, she called, and I sensed she was experiencing Soteriophobia, which I planned to discuss with her later.
*Sumayya Abubakar is a development worker, she is an educationist, and peace builder. She is the lead of Plateau based Muryar Fulani Peace Initiative Network Inc. She runs a schools system for marginalised populations in Plateau state, North central of Nigeria and can be reached at email@example.com