Aḥkām Ad-Diyār and the Grey Questions on Ḥudūd Rulings (including Blasphemy) in Nigeria

From an Islamic legal perspective, what is the territorial status of Nigeria in Islamic law? Is it dār al-islām, dār al-ḥarb, dār al-kufr, dār al-ʿahd, dār al-muʿāhada, dār al-amān, dār al-ṣulḥ, dār al-muwādaʿa, dār takhlīṭ or any other category in the Islamic territorial paradigm? Under what conditions is it valid to implement the ḥudūd in a land whose territorial status does not conform with the standard criteria of dār al-islām? Are the rulings on ḥudūd as embodied in the sharīʿa territorially bound or can they be implemented anywhere be it in dār al-islām or vice versa? To what extent are the rulings on ḥudūd and the sharīʿa penal codes valid under a “secular” or “multi-religious” political system whose overarching claim to democratic rules of governance are at near or complete variance with the classical theories of Islamic governance?

Against this backdrop, it is essential to ask a pertinent question: If the current political order or status quo in Nigeria does not fulfill the criteria of the “ideal dār al-islām” as argued by Abdullahi Doki and other leaders of Islamic reformist movements, including Ibrahim Zakzaky, what then are the criteria that determine the extent to which Nigeria can be considered “Islamic” for the rulings on ḥudūd, particularly those involving corporal and capital punishment such as blasphemy and apostasy, to be implemented within its geographical territory? Is the criterion for judging the “Islamic” status of Nigeria based on the country’s ruling powers or its political and legal systems? The country’s ruling powers are not caliphs, and their mode of governance is not guided or assessed by the terms of the sharīʿa but by qānūn or qawānīn al-waḍʿīya. The qānūn, in this case, is the constitution of Nigeria. The lawmakers who drafted Nigeria’s constitution plainly spelled out the clause that it is supreme and above any other law. Section 1(3) of Nigeria’s constitution states that “If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, this constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.” This clause alone has set the parameter of irreconcilable questions between the sharīʿa and Nigeria’s constitution.

It is crucial to bring the question of territoriality to the blasphemy case of Yahya Sharif Aminu. If he had committed his unfortunate infraction in a country like Saudi Arabia that fulfills the standard criteria of an “Islamic territory”, the verdict issued on him would have been closed to questioning. Yahya Sharif Aminu’s infraction did not take place in a territory solely governed by the legal and ethical norms of the sharīʿa alone. There is no recognizable Imam or caliph in Kano where he committed his act of blasphemy. Neither Ganduje nor the Emir of Kano governs solely on the terms of the sharīʿa. The legitimacy of the sharīʿa courts in Kano and the penal code is open to question. Kano state is directly under the territorial jurisdiction of Nigeria, a country whose overarching claim to secular democratic governance is at near or complete variance with the classical theories of Islamic governance. Muslims who violate the legal norms of the sharīʿa in territories outside the jurisdiction where the sharīʿa alone is the supreme legal system are only accountable to God. In this case, the validity of the judgment on Yahya Sharif Aminu is open to question.

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