A Christian man and his divorced Muslim wife are locked in a legal dispute over the remains of their adopted daughter in Kenya.
Isaac Njuguna Njoroge claims Yasmin Isaac Njuguna, who died on March 10 this year aged 22, was a staunch Christian, while his former wife Zainab Isaack Njuguna insists she was a Muslim.
Yasim was adopted by Mr Njuguna and his former wife in 1995 when her mother Fatuma Noor died. Fatuma Noor was Zainab’s step sister from a polygamous family of three wives.
Njuguna and Zainab married in 1987 and had three children of their own. Njuguna claims they married according to Gikuyu custom.
The couple divorced in court on January 16, 2012 after Zainab accused Njuguna of adultery. She alleged secret marriage to a Swiss woman in Mtwapa, Kilifi County.
Zainab now lives in Kisimani in Bamburi while Isaac lives in Mtwapa. Trouble started on March 15 when Njuguna went to collect Yasmin’s body at the Coast General Hospital for burial but was told that Zainab had obtained a court order restraining him from removing the body.
He filed his defence and sought to overturn the court order in order to bury Yasmin.
Yesterday, during the hearing of the case in Mombasa, the magistrate appealed to the two to solve the dispute out of court. No agreement was reached.
“I am the father of the deceased and that is why I want the remains of the girl to be buried according to her wish,” said Njuguna. He told senior Principal Magistrate Simon Rotich that it will be painful for him if his adopted daughter is buried in accordance with Islamic religion rituals.
According to Isaac, Yasmin was raised a Christian despite having a Muslim name and being born in a Muslim family.
“My daughter left a will that she wanted to buried as a Christian despite having an Islamic name, which she was given by her mother who died in 1995 when she was only one year old,” said Njuguna.
He insisted that if her step-daughter is buried in accordance with the wishes of his former wife, this would affect his life and that of their children.
He said after being served with an injunction stopping the burial, he filed his defence and was now ready to defend his decision to have Yasmin’s body buried according to Christian tradition.
“Your honour, I am ready with two witnesses to support my defence application on why I want my daughter to be buried in accordance with Christianity,” said Njuguna, who insisted that Yasmin died a Christian.
He added: “At the time of her death, she was attending Catholic Church Mtwapa, which can be attested to by Beatrice Wangare, Kennedy Wanjiru and the house help Lucy,” said Njuguna. He argued that a Muslim name does not make one a Muslim.
Njuguna further alleged that Yasmin had expressed willingness to be buried as a Christian after a disagreement with Zainab.
But Zainab, who told off Njuguna in front of the magistrate, said Yasmin died a Muslim and practiced Islam when she was alive.
“I lived with the deceased in the same house and never did I know of any differences between her religious beliefs [and mine]. I knew her to be a Muslim,” said Zainab.
Zainab’s brother disputed claims that Yasmin was adopted when she was a year old. Yasmin, he said, came from Tanzania after the death of her mother when she was five years old.
“I do not recognise the statement by Njuguna and his advocate and reiterate that Yasmin came from Tanzania when she was around five and not one year as alleged,’ said Abshir Noor.
Mr Abshir claimed Yasmin came to Mombasa “to be under Zainab”, who was living with Njuguna “who gave her his name and promised to pay her school fees” and disputed claims that Yasmin ever became a Muslim.
The case resumes on May 5.