Nigeria has recently witnessed a string of religiously targeted attacks- including a massacre where 50 people were shot dead in an Owo church during Sunday mass, and another incident where a man who had a row with a Muslim cleric was set ablaze by a mob in Abuja. Additionally, last month, a Christian student was killed by Muslim students who accused her of blasphemy in the city of Sokoto. Human rights campaigners say the frequent cases of mob violence are fuelled by deep-rooted impunity and a lack of confidence in the criminal justice system.
Shaykh Muhammad Nuruddeen Lemu (Director of Research and Training, Da’wah Institute of Nigeria, Islamic Education Trust, Minna, Nigeria) has written a powerful piece condemning such violence and the crime of extra judicial murder:
EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLING IN ISLAMIC LAW
“Our love for Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) or any other of Allah’s prophets and messengers – peace be upon them all – should not allow us to take the law into our own hands, and contravene the Shari’ah that was brought to guide us.
Just as our anger should not make us deviate from the justice of the law, nor should we let our love make us deviate from justice.
What the punishment should be for any offense in Islamic law is decided by a judge based on knowledge of the law, the nature of the offence and evidence. No other member of the public has such jurisdiction and authority.
Whatever the punishment in Islamic law may be for any crime, whether this is clearly stated in the Qur’an and Sunnah, or is a product of juristic reasoning ( Ijtihad ), it is a criminal offence in the Shari’ah of Islam for anyone or any group to take the law into their hands.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the judge or Kadi of Muslims during his lifetime. All criminal offences were presented to him. No knowledgeable or rightly guided companion understood that the punishments for offenses mentioned in the Qur’an or by the Prophet himself (pbuh), were for them to individually or collectively implement without first reporting it to the legitimate authority.
Even when the specific punishment is prescribed ( hudud ) in the Qur’an or Hadith, only a competent judge/kadi of a Shari’ah court is allowed to approve of the witnesses and evidence, and to give the sentence for the execution of the appropriate punishment.
Taking laws into one’s hands and bypassing the judicial system is a dangerous and criminal act that should not be condoned by any society.
If just any individual or group is permitted to judge and execute punishments as they deem fit, there will be nothing but jungle justice, cycles of vendetta and the anarchy/fitna of pre-Islamic jahiliyya.
You cannot flog or stone, imprison, fine, exile, hang, amputate, or execute any other punishment mentioned in the in the Qur’an, Sunnah or books of Islamic law if you are not a competent judge of the state.
It does not matter whether the person stole or committed murder, kidnapped or raped, blasphemed or made hate speech, slandered or committed treason. The court of competent jurisdiction is the only authorised institution that is to determine the nature of the crime, and the right sanction for it accordingly to the law.
There may be no doubt that the crime was committed, trusted eyewitnesses and a full confession by the culprit. It is still for the judges and only them, to preside and adjudicate.
No level of certainty that the crime was committed gives anyone (besides the judge), the power to authorise or execute a punishment.
No scholar, Imam, Mufti, Hafiz, Sheikh, Ustaz, or Mallam; no Mufassir, Muhaddith, Faqih, Alaramma, Maulana, HOD of Islamic Studies or Prof. of Islamic Law, has the right in Islamic law to implement any punishment for any offense if they have not been given that right by the state.
Only a judge/Kadi has the prerequisite training, scholarship, experience and legitimacy to do that!
While scholars, Muftis and Imams, etc. (just like anyone else) can advise a judge, none of them is empowered with the legal authority to even break a simple marriage, let alone pronounce or implement a legal punishment in the name of Shari’ah.
So how have we arrived at a point where anyone else feels empowered enough to order and implement a death sentence?! Not dissolve a marriage! Not take custody of a child! But to take a life! …A LIFE!!!!!
How cases of people taking the law into their own hands, and usurping the authority of the state judiciary are handled, will be a test of the quality of Shari’ah compliance that a Muslim community claims to uphold.
I pray we do not let any offence or crime, however serious, prevent us from recognising the socially destroying and completely unislamic crime of extra judicial murder!
I cannot help but repeat; only a competent judge/Kadi or equivalent legal authority can execute a legal punishment in Islamic law. Anyone else who appropriates that authority to himself is a criminal. No mob can stand in for a judge. Definitely not in the Shari’ah of Islam, of the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
…And Allah knows best!!
… and peace be upon us all. By Allah, Nigeria is in dire need of it!!
Aluta continua… insha’Allah!!”