Monday, November 27, 2017

The Igbo, Yoruba, and African custom adopted by Abraham and Sarah

Written by Chibuzo Ihuoma


Among the Igbo people of Nigeria, there is a custom which allows a barren woman to inherit another woman ceremonially (sometimes the word "marry" is erroneously used) in order to give to her husband so that he may produce children. When a child is produced that child belongs to the barren wife. The position of the woman who gave birth to the child is similar to that of an indentured servant but under the direct control of her inheritor. This ceremonial custom is practiced all across Africa from the lands of the Igbo and Yoruba or Nigeria to that of the lands of the Kenya, South Africa and beyond. It is an African cultural practice with its variations from place to place.








In the book "Between Sex and Power: Family in the World, 1900-2000", Goran Therbon gives insight of the woman-to-woman "marriage" practice being an African practice:



It became important to speak on this subject when I noticed a few individuals from my ethnic group, the Igbo, using this African custom to draw parallels between us and the Jews, a people they adore primarily because they have white skin and secondly because of their glory. They figured that fabricating a narrative that connects them genetically with the Jews would make them somehow superior to other Nigerians and Africans in general. Their inferiority complex is indeed deep. The example used to draw the parallels is found in the Bible in the story of Abraham and Sarah. In this story, Sarah could not produce a child for Abraham so she gave him her Egyptian slave, Hagar, so that a child may be produced through her. Here is the story in Genesis 16 verses 1-4:
"Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children, and she had a maidservant, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Please go in to my maid; it may be that I will obtain children through her.”Abram listened to Sarai. So after Abram had been living for ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, his wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived."

The similarity in customs can be recognized; however, they do differ. In the Igbo custom, the barren wife inherits another women ceremonially. Unlike with Sarah, in Igbo custom, the wife doesn't just choose any woman and hands the woman to her husband to bare a child. Also, the woman does not become a wife to the barren woman's husband. She remains the possession of of the barren woman. Often times I have encouraged the Jewish ancestry proponents to first research the customs of their neighbors before jumping into another continent. But of course, they refuse because if they discover that their neighbors practice that same or similar customs as they do then it means they are no different from them and are not "special". However if they did learn about the customs of their neighbors they would learn that groups such as the Yoruba and likely others in Nigeria practice this same custom known to the Igbo as 'Igba ohu'.

In a 1965 book by O. Temple named "Notes on the Tribes, Provinces, Emirates and States of the Northern Provinces of Nigeria: Compiled From Official Reports" Temple reveals this Yoruba custom of a barren wife inheriting another woman for her husband to use to produce children in the exact same way as the Igbo on Pg. 105 of the book:



In a 2005 book titled "Tommy boys, lesbian men, and ancestral wives" by Ruth Morgan and Saskia Wieringa some insight is given on this African practice of woman-to-woman marriage in which a barren woman provides her husband a child through another woman:


Iwao Hoshii in his 1986 book titled "The World of Sex, Vol. 2: Sex and Marriage" on Pg. 26 names various countries in Africa where he did research and found that traditionally they practiced the same childless wife custom as Abraham and Sarah of the Bible:



To conclude, the practice where a woman brings in another woman for the purpose of surrogacy that she may provide a child for her husband has its origin in Africa, not the Middle East. In fact, that the Igbo practice this custom makes the even more African. It is pertinent to note that there was no mention of the practice of surrogacy in the Bible before Abraham and Sarah went to live in Africa, specifically Egypt. It is a practice they carried out of Africa. We Africans are the originators of this varying custom. Using this custom to draw parallels between the Igbo and Jews is no longer feasible. The truth is now out. Most if not all of Africa traditionally practiced the custom.

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