Lawrence Chisambi and Christina Banda fell in love while at Mhlafuta Primary School in Traditional Authority (T/A) M’mbelwa in Mzimba.
Chisambi, 37, comes from Loti Village while Christina’s village is about 5 km away in Group Village Head Zebera .
Their love continued to grow until a few years ago when the suitor was forced to abandon her because he could not pay dowry.
Of course, he was convinced Christina’s love (for him) was genuine and that her parents accepted him despite coming from a poor background.
“However, elders at Kasukanthanga CCAP Church, to which I belonged, rejected my request to have the marriage blessed while I went about sourcing money equivalent to three heads of cattle needed as bride
price in line with the Ngoni custom,” said the disappointed suitor.
Chisambi said he was so angered by the decision taken by the church such that he not only abandoned the love of his heart, but the church as well.
He is now a member of the African Chipangano Church—a popular church in Mzimba, Kasungu and in the Eastern Province in Zambia.
But Chisambi said, to his surprise, the new church also advised against him tying a knot without meeting his dowry requirements.
His story is not necessarily unique as many other men have also been denied the opportunity to officiate their dream marriages because their parents could not afford bride prices.
However, what makes it is unusual is the church’s role in promoting material love by insisting on dowry even when the groom has declared the lack of muscle to afford it.
In some instances, church doctrines have prevented pastors from conducting mass or prayers at funerals for couples who fail to honour lobola.
This begs the question: Is dowry religious?
Reverend Bannet Zimba of the CCAP’s Livingistonia Synod said in a telephone interview from Elangeni in Mzimba that the Bible does not make it a requirement for Christians to pay bride prices before entering into holy matrimony.
“Lobola is purely an issue of culture. Right from the time of Abraham to this generation, dowry has never been a decree from God,” said Zimba.
Sheikh Abdurazak Liwonde of Balaka Masjid said the Qur’an encourages Muslims to pay bride price.
But Liwonde said, unlike in the traditional cultures where parents determine the amount a man has to pay, Islam gives authority to the bride to decide how much her groom must cough.
“The amount of the mehr (dowry), which is a right of the woman and which is to be given by the man is available in the sunnah (the sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad) and they form a basis for much of the Islamic law to prevent early and unplanned marriages,” said the sheikh.
He said, according the Islamic jurisprudence, sheikhs are supposed to mention about dowry while solemnising the nikah (marriage) to emphasise the importance of paying bride price.
Liwonde added that the woman is at liberty to return the dowry to her husband once married. n