By Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido
In today’s Nigeria, we experience a rapidly growing population at an average rate of 3% per annum. We currently have about 220 million citizens and still counting. Our population is projected to reach nearly 400 million in the next 28 years. It is factual also that the population growth is much higher in the Muslim communities of Northern Nigeria than in other communities in both the North and the South.
Due to many reasons, foremost among which is the widespread practice of Islamically permissible polygyny, our population grows exponentially. At the same time, little is done to plan the expansion of infrastructure and provide alternative ways of coping with the needs of the expanding population. An average Northern Nigerian man likes and practices polygyny (i.e. marries more than one wife). In addition, family planning and birth control are generally considered taboos. Families are, therefore, mostly large.
While the population is supposed to be a blessing, it can also be a curse if not well managed. It is clear also that most of the Muslim masses and a large chunk of the Muslim leaders, intellectuals and even religious scholars are oblivious of the long term consequences of an ever-growing population that is not matched with a corresponding sharī’ah-compliant solid plan for taking care of the education, health, food and other socioeconomic and religio-spiritual needs of the expanding population.
While few are partly aware of some of the projections related to population growth vis-à-vis the socioeconomic and other realities, we are largely oblivious of the need to develop Islamic oriented ways of building the society and coping with the socioeconomic challenges associated with our growing population and exponentially changing societal dynamics. Therefore, the issue can quickly become controversial during any discussion.
But a society that accepts, based on an interpretation of religious teachings and cultural beliefs, that polygamy – rather polygyny – should be widely practised and even encouraged should also be a society that always goes back to the scripture for proper guidance on how to manage polygamous families. Since, as a religious Ummah, we have accepted what Islam has provided for us of the permissibility of having many children, is it not also Islamically incumbent upon us to go back to the Qur’an and Sunnah to learn how to organise the social, educational, economic and other needs of our families? Within this context, I intend to introduce family waqf, an almost entirely unknown Islamic institution for organising and planning the prosperity of families in Nigeria.
Unpleasant Consequences of Life without Planning
How often have you heard stories that end with statements like: “Allahu Akbar! Late Alhaji Adamu was a wealthy person, a kind, gentle, and successful businessman. But look at how his children are suffering…”; or “Can you remember Alhaji Mai-Turare: the owner of XYZ Business at Tudun Muntsira quarters? Do you know that this hopeless drug addict is his son! He dropped out of school and joined a team of hooligans…Allah ya sa mu gama da duniya lafiya (May we have a good end in this world)”. And similar stories?!
Those are recurrent stories in Northern Nigeria. You have several successful entrepreneurs or accomplished aristocrats and professionals who reached the zenith of fortune in their chosen businesses and professions and lived lives of accomplishment and contribution. However, shortly after their demise, their estates would be shared among their 30 heirs; four wives, over 20 children, etc. After a few years, those inheritors of enormous wealth would fall from the world of prosperity to that of harsh poverty.
Many people would be rich, with an ever-expanding flow of income in the booming years of their careers. Still, they would never think of making a sustainable investment for the future prosperity of their children, not even for their life after retirement. After the family has grown large, inflation has multiplied manifold, and life has become unbearably expensive against their sources of income which have rather contracted due to age and other factors; they turn from affluence to poverty, battling to settle even the most basic of their bills. They neither invested for their retirement nor made an ever-flowing investment for their second life, the eternal life after death.
They have no passive investments that generate income for them at old age, nor a waqf (endowment) that would continue to fetch them rewards even while in their graves. They have no plan for what would sustainably finance their family’s education, health, and other essential needs. And so the worst happens. And the whistle is blown for their final, inevitable transition to the next world, leaving their family in economic and financial confusion, which often spirals into other messes in the spiritual, social and mental spheres. Soon after dearth, history forgets them as they have left nothing that continues to fetch them rewards and people’s prayers, not even for their immediate family.
The Importance of Making a Financial Plan
But why is it essential to make a financial plan for your children’s and family’s future prosperity? Does that have any place in Islam? Sa’d b. Abu Waqqas was an uncle to the Prophet (peace be upon him). He was among the ten topmost companions that received glad tiding of a direct entry ticket to Paradise in one sitting. He was rich. Actually, very rich.
One day, during the farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet visited Sa’d on his sickbed. After exchanging greetings, Sa’d told the Prophet that I am seriously ill, as you can see. He apparently was doubtful of surviving that illness. He said, “And I am a very rich person, but there is no one to inherit my wealth except a single daughter.” He then asked if he could give two-thirds of his wealth to charity, leaving one-thirds for the daughter. The Prophet instantly replied with a quick “No”. “What of half?” The Prophet again said, “NO”! What of one-thirds?” Now, here is where the Prophet reluctantly approved by saying, “One-third! Even one-third is huge and too much”. Anyway, the Prophet followed this with a statement that deserves the attention of parents at all times; “It is better to die leaving your heirs in affluence than to leave them in poverty, so they continue begging people for alms”.
Many lessons abound in the above conversation of great personalities. One, piety and affluence are never mutually exclusive; you can be profoundly pious and superlatively prosperous. Two, connected to this, enjoying worldly opulence does not preclude enjoying everlasting other earthly felicity. In fact, worldly riches are effective instruments for attaining success in the next world. This is clear in the stories of great companions like Abubakar Siddiq, Uthman Bin Affan, Abdurrahman and, of course, Sa’ad.
Significantly also, you can plan all of these for your loved ones beginning with your children and wives. Not only you can; you have to! This is Prophetic advice, if not an order. The Prophet (may peace be upon him) made it impermissible for a person, especially while bidding farewell to the world, having no chance on sight to go to the market and earn more resources from gifting out his fortunes lest he throws them into poverty after him.
In simple terms, what the Prophet wanted from us is to plan for making our children self-reliant, self-sufficient and socio-economically empowered. With this, instead of being dependent, they will be independent. We should try making them givers, not receivers, assets rather than liabilities. Ask yourself, if not for empowering the deceased person’s posterity, why would the Sharī’ah even prescribe the inheritance laws in the first place? And in the Hadith of Sa’d above, the Prophet wants us to understand that the philosophy behind inheritance itself is to plan for the sustainable prosperity and economic independence of the deceased’s heirs; leaving them with sufficient inheritable resources to make them rich (agniya’) as against poor (alah).
Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido, Chairman, Zakah and Waqf Foundation, Gombe . He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.