STONES FOR LOVE. By Ter Injo Lawr.
Aisha could not have picked a better time to go out, her mother had just left for a wedding ceremony in town and her father had traveled some days ago.
She hurried her bath, and then dressed up. But she could not be seen outside the compound without a Hijab, and so she selected a black one and fastened it to her head, only her face and fingers were visible in contrast with the rest of her.
As she walked down Kaduna Street, she knew Mustapha would be somewhere around the Hair salon with his friends. And so she quickly passed by the salon without as much as a glance in its direction, knowing that sooner or later Mustapha would follow her track; he was usually that alert and his friends also called his attention whenever they saw her passing by.
Mustapha had been her schoolmate in the primary school from where their casual acquaintance had developed into adolescent romance. Mustapha was a barber, a Mallam and at the same time a part-time student at the City University, he was also an entertainer and entrepreneur, facts which further made him a desirable young man.
He caught up with her shortly before she reached the grinding machine where she was headed. They did not shake hands or make any body contact; because it was highly forbidden by their common culture.
‘Aisha, how are you?’ Mustapha asked of her, she answered affirmatively, quickly excused herself and walked into the grinding machine shop. A few people were on the queue well ahead of her and so she dropped her container on the line and withdrew to wait outside.
Meanwhile Mustapha had found a corner where he awaited her, she saw him from afar and went to him, and they both knew more than to be seen in open courtship, so they lingered in the shadows of the nearby buildings.
The lovebirds chatted for a while until one of the girls from the grinding machine signaled to Aisha it was her turn. Mustapha asked her to come over to his shop anytime she had the chance to and she agreed.
Some days later Aisha was missing Mustapha and the laughter and excitement he always brought her, she wanted to go out but found no reason to do so. Then, she observed Sule and Abu; her younger brothers both had full and untidy hair on their heads and decided they needed grooming. Aisha easily persuaded her siblings and they prepared for the salon, and when she told her mother their destination, she suspected there was more to the hair cut, but simply smiled away. The subjugation of women in their part of the country was one thing she despised but could do nothing about.
Mustapha was at first startled when he saw her on the door of his salon; but smiled gladly at them as they took seats. He welcomed them happily and they took positions amongst the few people already queued up for haircuts.
Mustapha made a conspirators signal; he winked at Aisha and tilted his head towards a direction and then headed out. Aisha thought she had been a party to that signal once. AH! The things Mustapha did to her body had been overwhelming and she had never felt that way before.
She had been contemplating whether or not to follow him while Mustapha stood outside wondering why she had delayed for so long. She was doing his image no good with the delay for all he had told his friends, and he could already see the subdued mockery in his friend’s eyes.
Aisha eventually got up and followed Mustapha but told him sternly that she was only spending five minutes with him. No problem Mustapha agreed.
Mustapha called one of his shop boys and instructed them to ensure a delay on her brothers by attending to people before them. ‘Just generally delay them.’ He concluded.
When Aisha came into the room she had the rare chance to unveil herself. She was beautiful but pale as Mustapha came closer and held her to himself. In spite of an earlier understanding against body contact she yielded and they played. He fondled all her body and gradually eased her shirt. She made no protest as he played with her.
They did this for a while; the touching of each other here and there until Mustapha finally grabbed her skirt and eased it off her. She made no protest in spite of her earlier resolution. Then Mustapha eased her panties and deeply fondled her extremities until they both fell back and made love.
She whimpered in pleasurable pain because it was her first time, and Mustapha realizing this took her gently.
She later met with her brothers at the salon and they went back home.
Aisha then made things easier for Mustapha, for the route she had earlier used on her way to Islamia was further than using Mustapha’s route which was shorter, and as such they had more opportunities to engage in sexual acts.
Mustapha’s elder brother Jiboh one day called his younger brother whom many regarded as more prosperous and cautioned him on the rate at which he was going with the girl, and then dutifully reported to their Ustaaz that he suspected his younger brother was getting sexually involved with a woman who was not his wife. The Ustaaz called Mustapha and warned him sternly, he took the warning soberly, thanked the Ustaaz and left, only to sleep with Aisha later that same day.
That was several months ago.
Now, Aisha had missed her period for three consecutive months, but she only suspected having never been pregnant before. Her friends were not at all reliable and if she mentioned her fears to them; she was sure they would talk. And to her dismay, Mustapha began avoiding her from the day she mentioned her suspicions to him. And so, she hid the pregnancy as it progressed from family and friends in between visiting relatives and the bogus Hijabs she wore, until nine months later when she gave birth unaided in her elder sister’s bathroom.
Aisha was taken to the Sharia Court of Justice exactly three months after giving birth and charged with fornication. She was brought before a panel of Jurors (Mallams) whose total existence lay between the passages of the Holy book or whatever sense they made of it.
The court arose in deference to the heavily bearded Jugde(Ustaaz)of the Sharia court who came dressed in a Babariga and ankle length trousers. The following text is a direct translation of her arraignment which was carried out in Hausa language.
“What is your name?” The Judge demanded immediately after they had prayed and she made to swear by the book.
‘Aisha Garba Baba.’ She answered.
‘How old are you?’
“Eighteen years of age.” She answered again.
“Now,” Began the Ustaaz as his immense goatee made up of strong grey beards symbolizing both his age and knowledge of The Book and which shook appropriately as he spoke. ‘Do you know what you stand accused of?’
She nodded in affirmation, so many things were going through her young tortured body and soul, and it was more like a dream.
“Mallam Prosecutor, what evidence do you have to substantiate that she committed Zina(Fornication). The prosecutor gathered several books arranged them on the desk in front of him and rose; this was likely going to be his only chance and so he took his time. His moved methodically towards Aisha and pointed an accusing finger and contemptuous goatee at her and declared. ‘This young woman has milk in her breast, and as we can all see she is carrying a child. Now Aisha tell the court how an unmarried woman like you came to bear a child?”
She made an effort to speak but the presence was overwhelming, Aisha had grown up as any normal Muslim girl; locked up behind Hijabs, drab clothes, curtains and Gates. She had never had any direct involvement or close contact with so many men in one room, and not especially with all of them looking at her with so much hatred, she mumbled something but only tears came forth.
One of the Jurors moved closer to her, he however did not touch her; he in fact made conscious effort to maintain a distance, because she was first of all a woman, a tempters curse that had been placed on man at creation, and one that had caught herself in Zina with the childbirth. It took him and others a lot of patience to even sit in the same room with such filth.
Aisha inclined her head in his direction as he spoke sternly but in a calm and controlled manner. “Look here woman we are not here to play or act, we are before the almighty in obedience and to seek reward in the hereafter. We are here to try and punish you for all the ill that you have caused our community and faith. I believe you can see the caliber if men seating over your case, save our time and answer the questions put to you, you are no longer a child.”
She mumbled a few incoherent words, but none heard or understood. Several of the Mallams raised the tempo of their mumbling voices in impatience.
The prosecutor spoke “Aisha well it seems you do not possess the speech with which to tell of the deed that has brought you before this court today. I will make this simple for you. Who is the man that made this baby for you?”
After a prolonged silence she was able to call the name of Mustapha, whose surprised uncle was amongst the jurors.
Mustapha was suddenly ushered into the court as if he had all along been waiting on cue outside. He was given the book and made to swear by same that he would not lie to the court.
Then he was cross examined. He admitted that he knew Aisha, but vehemently denied that he had as much as talked to her in recent times and could not have anything to do with her childbirth. Aisha was shocked, at least Mustapha would have given her a little honour, now it would be rumoured round that she was a loose woman. She looked into Mustapha’s face, her tired and strained eyes pleading; he looked away in shame, for when he glanced at the child she held, he saw more than a little reflection of himself in its innocent face.
The prosecutor returned “Now, Aisha can you name four witnesses to testify that Mustapha had ever got you involved in the sexual act?”
She felt tortured and exhausted but was desperate for in her mind she knew the men were dead serious, she could see it in their eyes. She called the name of Jiboh, Mustapha’s elder brother. She knew he was a kind and considerate man.
Jiboh was brought in too and asked to talk. He said so many things in contradiction of himself after swearing to the book that the Judge instantly called him a liar and sentenced him to twenty strokes of the cane for contempt and for misleading the court. His punishment was not due till the next market day.
Apart from Jiboh, Aisha had nothing or no one else to call, she could not call on any of Mustapha’s friends for she had always made is look like Mustapha would never as much as dream of touching her, and they would surely claim ignorance before the book and the bearded men. She realized that in all of this she was alone.
The prosecutor spoke “According to the law a person accused of Zina would produce four witnesses who would all have to accept that they actually saw the accused and the person he or she claim they committed Zina with in the act.”
The prosecutor then told the court that he could not continue to detain Mustapha merely because a woman who had proven to be immoral was accusing him, he was therefore immediately released.
The prosecutor continued after Mustapha was led out. ‘This court was constituted to try Aisha Garba Baba of Zina and as I earlier stated has enough evidence to conclude the case. The fact that she is nursing a baby and is unmarried is enough to prove that she is guilty of this crime. Or does any other scholar here have any other interpretation on what the punishment is if proven?”
A young but nevertheless heavily bearded man got up, adjusted his skull cap, cleared his throat then spoke. “Praise to him the most merciful and the most powerful.” A good number of them responded in one huge mumble. “The punishment for Zina if proven is stoning to death, and no other book can change that. But my own submission is that this Zina of an act is a product of the deviations from our old traditions. If not what would an eighteen year old be doing at home unmarried. There is no way we can stop all this without looking at this critical issue. Marry them out very early so they become women in their early puberty, this will save us from the evil that such acts bring upon us all.’’
The Ustaaz passed sentence “Aisha Garba Baba you have been found guilty of Zina, but in consideration of the child you are nursing, you will be given one hundred strokes of the cane on the next market day for lying to this court after swearing to the book, and will be stoned to death for zina on a day to be appointed by this court one year from now. God have mercy on your soul.”
“Amin.” The Mallams chorused, her case file closed and another accused hurriedly pushed in.