How many marriages are too many? Tom Arnold just finalized divorce No. 3. Mickey Rooney has had eight wives, and ten children. But Mohammed Bello Abubakar of Nigeria has 86 wives, and at least 170 children.
Now a court in Nigeria has told him he must divorce 82 of his wives, most of whom he married when they were 25 or younger, or be sentenced to death. That would leave Abubakar, 84, with only four legal wives, the customary limit under Muslim law.
Some wives and children live in a compound in the Nigerian village of Bida, and others live in Lagos.
The BBC now reports that Abubakar, a former teacher and self-proclaimed healer, has upset Islamic authorities in northwest Nigeria, where Muslims are in the majority and strict Sharia law was reinstituted in 2000.
Sharia says that a man is allowed to have four wives as long as he can treat them equally.
But Abubakar is challenging Muslim scholars, saying there is no punishment in the Koran for having more than four wives. By his interpretation, “the Koran does not place a limit and it is up to what your own power, your own endowment and ability allows.”
He credits Allah with giving him the authority to “control” 86 wives. Speaking directly to Allah has not endeared him to the courts in Nigeria either.
But no one has so far proved that any of his wives is unhappy. The women have created a female-centric family, and consider Abubakar their guru.
One of them, Ganiat Mohammed Bello, has been married to Abulbaker for 20 years. “I am now the happiest woman on earth,” she told the BBC this month.
“When you marry a man with 86 wives you know he knows how to look after them.”
Although Sharia law has sentenced several people to death in Nigeria for adultery, so far not one death sentence has been carried out.
Besides, Abubaker says, he doesn’t recommend this for everyone.