A Nigerian singer/musician has been sentenced to death by hanging for committing blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. An upper Sharia court in the state of Kano handed down the sentence to 22-year-old Yahaya Sharif-Aminu for a song he posted on Whatsapp in March.
The singer, who is currently detained, did not deny the charges although he went into hiding after composing and circulating the song. Aminu and his family fell victim to harassment from angered protesters who burnt down his family home earlier on. They gathered outside the Islamic police headquarters while demanding action and punishment against him.
Many who heard the song heavily criticised it saying it was blasphemous because the song praised an imam positioned in the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood. The lyrics depicted the imam in such a manner that seemed to have praised him above the Prophet Muhammad.
In a report by the BBC, the leader of the protesters, Idris Ibrahim, had called for the singer's arrest in March saying that his judgement should serve as a warning to those who are even "contemplating toeing Yahaya's path"
"This will serve as a deterrent to others who feel they could insult our religion or prophet and go scot-free," he added.
Only a few people knew of Yahaya's musical work prior to his arrest. He is an Islamic gospel musician but has not made much of a name in northern Nigeria. His songs have not broken through outside of his Tijaniya sect which has quite the number of musicians looking to make it into the Islamic gospel music industry.
States across Muslim northern Nigeria embrace both secular and Sharia law. Since the death sentence was reintroduced in 1999, there has only been one death sentence that was carried out by Sharia courts.
Several death sentences have been passed-- including those on women who were convicted of having extramarital sex.However only one was carried out in 2002 on a man who was guilty of killing a woman and her two children.
Interestingly, the last time a Nigerian Sharia court handed down a death sentence was in 2016 for committing the same crime of blasphemy against Islam. He was arrested for having said that Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, founder of the Tijaniya sect "was bigger than Prophet Muhammad."
As of now, the said Sheikh is still in detention.
According to Judge Khadi Aliyu Muhammad Kani , Yahaya is eligible to appeal against his verdict.