A Muslim preacher who believed Allah had granted him a special power to marry a limitless number of women has died. Mohammed Bello Abubakar, also known as Mohammed Bello Masaba, passed away on 28 January – he leaves behind at least 86 widows.

The Nigerian, who fathered at least 170 children, clashed with Islamic authorities over whether his large harem was consistent with Koranic law. Most Islamic scholars believe that men may take a maximum of four wives.

But Abubakar argued that Allah had given him a rare strength enabling him to marry as often as he liked. Speaking in 2008, he said: "A man with 10 wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them."

Some reports suggest that Abubakar had taken as many as 97 wives by the time he died, aged 93. Most of them were less than 30-years-old – younger than many of the children from his earliest marriages.

"I don't go looking for them, they come to me. I will consider the fact that God has asked me to do it and I will just marry them," Abubakar told the BBC.

Abubakar forbade any of his wives or children from using medicine and was reported to believe that Malaria did not exist. He refused to explain how he was able to provide for such a large family despite having no visible means of income.

One of his wives told the BBC that many of the harem believed Masaba was a healer who received direct communications from the Prophet Muhammed. He was regarded as an heretic by the Islamic establishment in Nigeria.

Masaba's assistant Alhaji Mutairu Bello confirmed the preacher's death at the weekend, saying: "Baba (Masaba), told us that his time was up; he personally told me that he had completed his divine assignment and was ready to meet his creator.

"He also told us to remain dedicated to the cause of Islam and urged us never to deviate from his teachings on righteousness, piety and total submission to the will of Allah.

"He warned us to shun adultery but said that we should marry our women because it is Halal before Allah," according to News Agency of Nigeria.