By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
An Islamic human rights organization, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has joined the call for parental accountability in Nigeria. According to the group, child abandonment should be criminalized in order to hold parents accountable and reduce the incident of child neglect.
This was contained in a press statement issued on Monday, 2ndMarch, 2020, by the director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
The statement reads:
“We are worried about the large number of children roaming the streets. These are the leaders of tomorrow. Our children are our strength but that is only if we give them proper upbringing through a balanced education otherwise they become a sword of Damocles hanging above our heads. Nigerian children North and South are not receiving necessary attention. Thousands are hawking wares on the streets. They hold bowls begging in traffic gridlocks.
“The Glorious Qur’an chapter 2 verse 233 charges parents (particularly fathers) to provide the basic necessities of life including food, accommodation and clothing. It also compels parents to educate their children. It is therefore a gross dereliction of parental responsibility to send children to the streets to beg, hawk or engage in any form of child labour.
“There is also the eschatological correlate in the issue of child bearing. Allah is going to ask parents how well they take care of their children. This much is contained in kulukunm roo‘in, the famous hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) where he made it clear that all of us will be held accountable for those under our care: leaders, husbands, wives, parents, masters, etc.
“It is sad to note that the permission to marry more than one wife which is contained in Qur’an chapter 4 verse 3 is often abused and misunderstood. More often than not, men ignore the provisocontained in the same verse that marrying more than one wife is only permitted if a man has the ability to provide adequately for the extra wife or wives and the children.
“The existence of about 10 million almajiri children is an alarming phenomenon. More so the gory sight of thousands of children and young hawkers running after vehicles for the purpose of making sales and thereby getting their daily bread is symptomatic of governmental failure. The state and local governments are the officials of first instance who are closest to the citizens. What are they doing to alleviate the suffering of citizens under them? Allah will ask them yaom al-Qiyamah (on the Day of Resurrection).
“These roaming youth are time bombs. We cannot solve the problem of crime proliferation without securing the future of our young ones. We must keep them busy with some vocation and means of income. But the state governments are not doing this. How then can we reduce crime in society?
“MURIC calls on the National Assembly (NASS) and all state legislatures in the country to set the machinery in motion for criminalising child abandonment. Men who fail to educate or train their children and allow them to roam the streets should be held accountable. It is not enough to arrest child-hawkers. Their parents, particularly the fathers, should be arrested, detained and prosecuted. There should be a law that empowers law enforcement agents to take an almajiri to his father’s house for the purpose of arresting the father and making him face the full wrath of the law.
“Imams are urged to reform the Friday khutbah (sermon) on theminbar (pulpit) to suit the needs of society. Our khutbah must be geared towards the fear of Allah and a better society. Conservative exegetical methods must be jettisoned. The minbar must target the reform of the Ummah (Muslim society). Imams must be prepared to look at their followers eyeball to eyeball. The days of sentimentalities are far gone. Only frankness can save the Ummah.
“This is the time for influential Islamic scholars to record lectures on the theme of parental responsibility and share the information through social media among their fans. Islamic organisations have an important role to play in this respect. They must begin a new season of re-engineering. The themes of their public lectures, seminars and conferences must reflect this re-orientation.
“MURIC charges Nigerian Muslims to re-examine the Islamic philosophy of predestination. We have clinched tightly to fatality at the expense of divine reality and all-encompassing knowledge of Allah. We multiplied the number of wives and children believing that Allah will take care of them. But sitting down and day-dreaming will not put bread on the table. Allah brings the rain and the pasture but you must plant the seeds and harvest the wheat. The concept of qadar (predestination) revolves around Allah’s knowledge of who, where, how and when we are born and die. The rest is either our responsibility or irresponsibility.
“In summary, MURIC supports the idea of severe punishment for fathers of children found begging, hawking or wondering in the streets. We advise Muslims in particular to strictly abide by the teachings of Islam on marriage by restricting the number of wives and children to those they can adequately cater for. We urge the NASS and the various state assemblies to expedite action on the criminalization of child abandonment. Imams, Islamic scholars and Islamic organisations are advised to focus on sensitizing Muslims on the need for parental responsibility”.