Wali was born in 1929, to the family of the Muslim cleric and Wali of Kano, Wali Suleiman, and was a brother of Na’ibi Wali. After his father’s death in 1939, he was raised by his uncle Abubakar Wali, a mallam well versed in the Arabic language. Wali attended the Kwaru Primary School, Kano Middle School and the School of Arabic Studies where he excelled in academics. In the Arabic school, he concentrated on studying the Hadith and Tafsir.
After completing his studies, he became an interpreter in the Northern Nigerian regional House of Chiefs and the House of Assembly and later was an assistant clerk. He then became more known among the intellectuals circles in the North for his modernist views on women especially after writing an article in the Nigerian Citizen on ‘The True Position of Women in Islam’ and minorities in the region and also for reforming the court system, reducing the emir’s salary and bringing the native authority under civil service regulations. However, many of his views caused controversy and he left Kaduna for Lagos to join the Foreign Service.
In 1958, he was appointed as the Nigerian representative to the United Nations and an associate of Amina Kano.
Isa Wali was a Nigerian diplomat from Kano who served as the Nigerian ambassador to Ghana during the independence period. He was known in the Northern region as a critic of religious and political suppression during the pre-independence period. He was in support of opening more doors of employment to the less privileged classes of people in the native authority.
He died in 1967.
Isa Wali’s Quotes
‘Custom has been confused with religion. As a result the former has been gaining an upper hand. For example the majority of Muslims in the region believe quite fanatically that customs like ‘Kulle(purdah), polygamy and concubinage are some of the necessities of Islam, while in fact , the reverse seems to be the case.’
‘Islam has secured equal rights for men and women in various fields of endeavour. They have been given complete freedom to claim and pursue those rights; the right of opinion, the right of action and the right of belief.’ The Nigerian Citizen, July 18th, 1956, on the rights of women in islam;
“But are women, in any case, the only sex that are required to preserve their modesty in such a way? Surely not. Men, too, are required to “retrain their eyes” from women, as women from men, and to “preserve their modesty” in the same manner.”
“Seclusion or veiling was meant to be a compliment rather than a restraint, an honour rather than degradation, and protection rather than domination.” The Nigerian Citizen, July 28th, 1956, on the misconceptions about islam;
“These (misconception and widespread ignorance), however, need to be cleared away immediately and urgently and our womenfolk in Northern Nigeria must be assured of a reasonable future, if our country is to take its rightful place among civilized nations of the world.”
This country too…cannot afford to leave half of our population unproductive. The religion of Islam itself does not condone such extravagance. The Nigerian Citizen, August 4th, 1956, on the disenfranchisement of women.