NIGERIAN musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu has been sentenced to death by hanging by the Kano State Sharia Court for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad after he composed as song saying a West African cleric was a higher messenger of Islam.
Mr Sharif-Aminu, 22, was found guilty of committing blasphemy for a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March. An upper Sharia court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey area of Kano State said Yahaya did not deny the charges and although he was found guilty, Judge Khadi Aliyu Muhammad Kani said Yahaya could appeal against the verdict.
Only one of the death sentences passed by Nigeria’s Sharia courts has been carried out since the Draconian laws were introduced in 1999. Of the 19 states in northern Nigeria, 12 of them introduced the highly controversial Sharia laws, which among other things provide for the amputation of limbs for crimes like theft and the stoning to death of women who commit adultery.
Yahaya who is currently in detention, had gone into hiding after he composed the song but was eventually apprehended by the police. Protesters had burnt down his family home and gathered outside the headquarters of the Islamic police, known as the Hisbah, demanding action against him.
In his song, he was alleged to have said that Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, the Senegalese founder of the Tijaniya sect, which has a large following across West Africa, was bigger than Prophet Muhammad. Critics said the song was blasphemous as it praised an imam from the Tijaniya Muslim Brotherhood to the extent it elevated him above the Prophet Muhammad.
Idris Ibrahim, the leader of the protesters that called for the musician’s arrest in March, said: “When I heard about the judgment I was so happy because it showed our protest wasn’t in vain. This judgement will serve as a deterrent to others who feel they could insult our religion or prophet and go scot-free.”
An Islamic gospel musician, Yahaya is not well-known in northern Nigeria and his songs were not popular outside his Tjjaniya sect, who have many such musicians within their ranks. Few people had heard of him before his arrest in March but he is now a household name, with his conviction certain to spark a controversy.
The last time a Nigerian Sharia court passed a death sentence was in 2016 when Abdulazeez Inyass, was sentenced to death for blaspheming against Islam during after a secret trial in Kano. His sentence has not been carried out as a death penalty in Nigeria requires the sign-off of the state governor and Mr Inyass is still in detention.