A 22-year-old Nigerian musician has been sentenced to death in the northern state of Kano after a Sharia court convicted him on blasphemy charges against Prophet Mohammed through one of his songs.
Yahaya Sharif-Aminu admitted in court that he composed and circulated the song over Whatsapp in March. When it went viral, the song infuriated some faithful of the religion who called for Sharif-Aminu’s prosecution.
The accused ran into hiding but was recently arrested by the Hisbah, Islamic religious police. The BBC reports that Sharif-Aminu’s family home was burned down by an irate mob.
His accusers say Sharif-Aminu’s song places an imam of the Tijaniyya, an African Sufi sect, over the Holy Prophet of the Muslims. Similar accusations have been leveled in the past against others who have supposed that Tijaniyya leaders are more relevant than Prophet Mohammed.
Sharia in Nigeria
Sharia is Arabic for law and in Islam, Allah’s immutable laws. Outside the Islamic world, and especially on western platforms, Sharia is thought to be often misunderstood and desecrated.
Since 1999, 12 northern states in Nigeria with Muslim-majority populations work with Sharia as part of civil and criminal jurisprudence. These states also abide by secular federal laws.
Only Muslims are governed by Sharia in Nigeria. If a non-Muslim requires a Sharia court to adjudicate in a matter involving them, the non-Muslim would have to put their request in writing to a Sharia court.
A non-Muslim’s agreement is required even in cases involving a Muslim.
Sharia court judges are learned in both Islamic and secular laws and are expected to provide those who appear before the court every opportunity to make their case.
Death sentences are rarely carried out even though they are frequently handed out for such things as adultery convictions against women, murder and other crimes. Death sentences require the assent of usually unwilling state governors.
The last man to be sentenced to death according to Sharia, Abdulazeez Inyass, has been in detention since 2016. The last death sentence to be carried out was in 2002 against a man who was convicted of killing two children and their mother.
Sharia courts also have avenues for appeal as well as a Supreme Court.