Also known as ndoa za haraka haraka/ quick-fix marriages are preventive measures used to save face among families in Muslim communities. They
are akin

to forced marriages such that telling the two apart is not easy. Naima Hakim also found out that youth have added a new twist to these marriages and are using them to marry people of their preference as well as trapping boyfriends into marriage. They are conducted at lightning speed; as if done to beat the hundred meter dash record. The cast here, in most cases are two people usually a boy and girl ambushed/caught in the middle of illicit premarital relations. In extreme circumstances, the ‘damage’ may already have been done in the sense that the girl is nursing a pregnancy hence the ‘situation in dire need of instant remedy’.

On the other hand, cast members may constitute of an irate parent, guardian or relative(s) who stumbles upon such a couple; suspects their daughter is expectant or a preventive measure against early pregnancies usually out of wedlock. Given such a scenario, the stage is set for hushed up marriages whose sole aim is to safe guard family honour/name in many Muslim communities. These are ndoa za mkeka (read ndoa chap chap) or shot-gun marriages. Though they have no basis in Islamic teachings, ndoa za mkeka are happening and conducted without following due procedure for them to qualify to be referred to as Islamic marriages.

In most circumstances, they are conducted under duress; with no witnesses and on the assumption the couple ‘desire to be together and that they will cope’. As such they are impacting negatively on the Muslim community and society at large as they are to blame for skyrocketing numbers in divorces among other ails. If anything, in worst case scenarios, they are an attempt to cover up for ‘shame’ that befalls many Muslim families in the event a daughter falls pregnant out of wedlock. Reports from North Eastern and Coastal parts of the country also indicate they have been going on for sometime. Meanwhile, Marhaba Life and Style was in Muslim neighbourhoods of Kibra and Eastleigh respectively- both in Nairobi and many Muslim youth attest to know someone who was ‘matched by force’ to his/her better half courtesy of ndoa za mkeka. Mustapha Omar, 24, from Kibra ended up marrying the love of his life-now his wife after they were spotted and caught severally strolling hand in hand on estate streets.

“My dad-in-law is a respected figure in our community so when word went round about me having a thing for his daughter, he sent people to spy on me and our family,” says Mustapha. The following week after Friday Jumma prayers as Mustapha recalls, his dad and him were invited for ‘lunch’ at his dad-in-law house. “That is how I married my wife,” says Mustapha. 2 years down the line, he is grateful for the ‘abrupt’ wedding that made him a family man and habours no regrets whatsoever. In a disturbing turn of events, Marhaba Life and Style has also established that ndoa za mkeke is among a variety of techniques Muslim youth are using to marry someone of their preference as opposed to one being proposed/favoured by family or relatives.

Fearing to be deemed as having failed in their parental duties, many Muslim parents are finding themselves being blackmailed and yielding to  demands of children especially where a pregnancy is involved; just to save face. This begs the question as to whether Muslim girls who get pregnant out of wedlock, do it intentionally to validate their marriages to ‘desired to-be spouses’ or even give their parents a more convincing reason to marry
whom they desire? For instance, Shakila Abdi’s marriage was precipitated by a pregnancy out of wedlock to ward off advances from someone her parents had ‘chosen for her’. Wishing not to further embarrass her parents, Shakila’s eyes were also set on accomplishing her long cherished dream to get married to her boyfriend of 5 years. “Intentionally, my pregnancy was like a double edge knife. To ward off the ‘chosen one’ and to trap my boyfriend to marry me.” On the streets, Marhaba Life and Style received mixed reactions on ndoa za mkeka and not many are conversant with this term. It is only when one describes them, then they get to know what they are. Yusuf Kamotho is not aware of their existence, let alone heard of the name ndoa za mkeka. “I think they happen only in Mombasa,” he says.

For Bakari Islam a shopkeeper in Kibra, Nairobi, shotgun marriages or ndoa za mkeka are not good because by marrying your daughter to someone you saw her talking to, and someone whom she had not thought of as a husband, is a recipe for disaster. “It is neither fair nor does it make sense because love should be the foundation of marriage. So, if a couple was just ambushed and caught talking innocently could probably mean that they did not love each other. Thus, there is bound to friction with the end result being divorce,” he says. Suleiman Iddi a father of two from Eastleigh-Nairobi is of the opinion that marrying your daughter to someone without her consent is not right. “You will be setting up your daughter/son for disaster because you need their consent for such an undertaking since it impacts on them directly.” Ismail Onyango is of the opinion that ndoa za mkeka are bidaah (innovation). “They have no place in Islam because these are traditional practises being carried forward to this religion.” In neighbouring countries of Zanzibar and Tanzania, ndoa za mkeka aka ndoa za haraka haraka have a been a problem for quite a while in Muslim neighbourhoods and tearing apart the social fabric. According to reports from Zanzibar that boasts of a 99% strong Muslim population, statistics show that marriages conducted in this manner end in divorce as children borne out of such weddings end up in neglect. In fact, ordinary Muslims blame the office of the Kadhi and those in charge of officiating Islamic marriages in the islands for the sad state of affairs and for abetting them without the consent of parents.

The situation is so bad such that it creates tension among family members and in-laws to extent that parents involved shun their children until going to the grave without talking to them. On the other hand as the debate progressed, it emerged that ndoa za mkeka (ndoa chap chap) and forced marriages are one and the same thing such that differentiating the two is tricky. Usually, many people think that forced marriages only applies to old men marrying under aged girls; but here it involves mostly youth. For example, when Marhaba Life and Style sought the opinion of Rukia Abdallah from Pumwani-Majengo in Nairobi, she thinks that ndoa za mkeka are like forced marriages. “Binding two individuals in marriage in such a manner is tantamount to being forced/coerced and is not acceptable.” “Marriage is a mutual understanding between two consenting adults so being bumped into by parents and getting married immediately does not make sense at all,” says Rukia.

According to Abusufian Ahmad forced marriages have no place in Islam and says that parents should allow their children to choose their spouses. “There is nothing wrong with parents arranging marriage for their children but, it is imperative to have their consent.” On contributing to divorce cases, Munira Muhammad, the Chairlady of Lotus Welfare Association has previously been quoted in this column as blaming the present generation for being too Westernised and living in a ‘fast-lane life’ such that everyone wants to do everything in a fast way without wasting time. “We are living in a ‘fast life’ generation. From fast food, fast way of communication and unfortunately, fast nikkahs and inevitably, fast divorces,” Munira observed.
Zamzam Adan from Nakuru says that two wrongs don’t make a right. “These young people caught engaging in premarital relations are being forced into unfamiliar territories that are marriages. They are neither prepared for the challenges nor ability to take care of children to be born.” Besides contributing to spiralling divorce numbers, ndoa za mkeka are also promoting sexual permissiveness and illegitimate children among Muslim youth that would previously be frowned upon in the largely conservative Muslim society. According to Mwajuma Issa from Kitengela many youth are engaging in premarital sex for the fun of it. “They do it regardless of the consequences and whether the person they have sex with will marry them or not. Since the Muslim youth are at the centre of ndoa za mkeka/ndoa za haraka storm and issues surrounding them, what do they have to say?

“Regardless of what many people think or say, the Muslim youth of today like any other, is more exposed to all sorts of influences hence the temptation to engage in premarital relations,” observes Musa Amin a student from a Nairobi based university. Musa does not however agree with  measure taken by parents such as ndoa za mkeka. “Its a fire-fighting measure! Parents need to talk more often and be open with their children on matters to do with boy/girl relations.” Nasra Abdalla also from Nairobi blames hawk-eyed parents who monitor and micromanage their children. “Parent/guardian are always suspicious about everything we do. This makes many youth actually go ahead and do all those crazy things parents think about us.” However, in the social media era, tech savvy youth outmaneuver are finding creative ways to nature and sustain their ‘illicit relations’
regardless of micro-management from parents. Amina Abdulrahman, on her part blames Thana (unwarranted suspicion) on the part of parents. Amina actually confides to Marhaba Life and Style how her dad stumbled upon her Facebook friends; some of whom are male. “My phone was snatched away and threatened to avail the so called ‘lover’ so that he could marry me.” Infact, Amina says that her dad was ready to sign a marriage certificate to seal her fate as having been married. Noordin Ole Maiyan gives an interesting perspective by blaming the high dowry demands when one comes seeking for a wife. “High dowry prices are a leading contributor to ndoa za mkeka. These are young people in love and many times jobless. Prohibitive demands among many families/relatives does not make any better for them hence they to conspire by whatever means to achieve their dreams of living together.” Rashid Toya blames the ‘hot-blood’ running high among Muslim youth and lack of life skills. “Adolescence is half madness but this should not be used to justify every ‘crazy’ thing we do that goes against Islamic teachings.” After all is said about ndoa za mkeka/ ndoa za haraka haraka, what can we learn from Islamic teachings on how to go about this matter? Firstly, it is worthwhile to mention the qualities to look out for when seeking a prospective marriage partner. According to a hadith by Bukhari and Muslim, a woman (or man) may be married for four things: for her wealth, for her noble descency, for her beauty or for her religion. Choose the one who is religious, lest your hands be rubbed with dust. For an Islamic marriage come to pass, the couple need to consent and agree willingly to get married. There should be no coercion/ intimidation whatsoever. There should be a wali (usually father/ guardian) of the girl about the marriage and lastly, the ceremony needs to be witnessed by at least two witnesses. For those Muslim youth who justify the term ‘adolescence is half madness’, a hadith narrated by Ibn Masuud that The Prophet of Allah (SAW) said: “Young men, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it keeps you from looking at non permissible females and protects you from immorality. However, those who cannot should devote themselves to fasting, for it is a means of suppressing sexual desire.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Further, Islam does not support in any way a marriage where either the man or woman is unhappy with the set up.

On the issue of Thana (unwarranted suspicion) mostly on the part of parents, Ustadh Mohammad Abdallah cautions against it generally. “It is not healthy for the well being of the Muslim umma,” Ustadh was once quoted in his Saturday morning Talk show, Deen and Dunia on Iqra FM95.0- a Muslim radio station Riziki Ahmed, a counsellor at the Family Resource Centre (FRC) at Nairobi’s Jamia Mosque says that forced marriages are wrong especially because its about two individuals making a lifetime commitment to each other. “A key ingredient of a successful marriage is consent between two individuals wishing to live with each other.” Since most of these marriages are as a result of a pregnancy out of wedlock, chances are high that many of these youth will be forced to marry. According to Chief Kadhi Sheikh Ahmed Shariff Mudhar, it is illegal and cautions Kadhi and registrars of Islamic marriages against officiating them. While addressing a workshop organised by Supreme Council of Kenya Muslim (Supkem) that brought together Kadhis and registrars of Muslim marriages in and around Nairobi some years back, Sheikh Ahmed Shariff Mudhar warned against registration of forced marriages. Lastly, for those Muslim youth who have engaged in zina (premarital sex) out of wedlock, need to perform towbah; return to Allah (SWT) apologise; regret to have done; including commitment of not repeating the same/ abandon bad deeds and do much good.

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