Skip to main content

FLASHBACK: Being Muslim Is A Condition For The Offence Blasphemy In Nigeria And Is Punishable By Death – Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad Ruled As Judge In 2007

The rule in Islam is that the defendant must be a mentally fit and mature Muslim before Sharia decree could be applied to them.

In 2007, while giving one of his rulings, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad (then as Justice of the Supreme Court), stated categorically certain conditions before a defendant could be liable for the offence of blasphemy under Sharia in Nigeria.
According to the head of the judicial arm of the government, the rule in Islam is that the defendant must be a mentally fit and mature Muslim before Sharia decree could be applied to them for the offence of blasphemy within the area of jurisdiction.


Justice Tanko made this verdict in the case of Abubakar Dan Shalla v. State (2007) LPELR-3034 (SC) where it was alleged that a group of persons, including the appellant, had stated that one Abdullar Alhaji Umaru (now deceased) made certain remarks which were insulting to Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W.) and that the deceased ought to be killed as prescribed in the Holy Quran for making the alleged remarks.
They went in search of the deceased, laid their hands on him and slaughtered him with a knife. The incident was reported to the police on July 14, 1999. The appellant and five other persons were arrested for killing the deceased.
Muhammad had said: "The trite position of law under Sharia is that any sane and adult Muslim, who insults defames or utters words or acts which are capable of bringing into disrepute, odium contempt, the person of Holy Prophet Mohammed (SAW) such a person has committed a serious crime which is punishable by death. See Alkhursi, commentary on Mukhasar Al-khalil Vol. 8 page 70, Hashiyatul vol. 2 page 290.
“However as observed by the court below, Islamic law has not left the killing open in the hands of private individuals. The offence alleged has to be established through evidence before a court of law. The court itself will have to implore its professional dexterity in treating the case by allowing fair hearing and excluding all the inadmissible evidence or those persons who may fall within the general exemption clause such as infant, imbecile or those who suffer mental delusion.
“Thus the killing is controlled and sanctioned by the authorities..... The law will thus, [would] have set a dangerous precedence if private individuals were authorized to take law into their hands as the appellant and others did in this case Sharia guarantees and values the sanctity and dignity of human life. That is why it outlaws unlawful killing of human life..."

Meanwhile, something similar to the 2007 Dan Shalla's case was what happened in Sokoto on Thursday, but the victim, Deborah Samuel, was a Christian. 
SaharaReporters had earlier reported that Ms Deborah, a female Christian student, was killed and burnt on Thursday by her fellow students for allegedly insulting against Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
The Sokoto State police command on Thursday confirmed the arrest of two students suspected to be involved in the killing of a female student.