Nigeria judge sentences imam to death over blasphemy
A Nigerian Islamic Sharia court has sentenced a prominent Sufi Muslim cleric to death for blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, in a rare capital punishment ruling against an imam.
The Upper Sharia court passed the sentence on Sheikh Abduljabbar Nasiru Kabara for his revisionist preaching which the court said misinterpreted some religious texts that portrayed the Prophet in a bad light.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue which attracts the death sentence in a dozen predominantly Muslim states in northern Nigeria where Sharia law operates alongside common law.
Death sentences are rarely carried out.
Judge Abdullahi Sarki Yola found Kabara guilty of blasphemy after he had been in custody since his arrest and subsequent arraignment in February last year.
“This court has established all the charges brought against you and hereby sentences you to death in accordance with Sharia provision on blasphemy,” Yola said during the hour-long judgement.
The judge ordered the confiscation of Kabara’s two mosques and his personal library.
Kabara sat quietly throughout the judgement in the courtroom packed with lawyers and journalists with scores of armed police and other paramilitary personnel on guard outside.
Kabara objected to his counsel’s plea for leniency and maintained his innocence, calling on his followers to remain calm.
Kabara, from the Qadiriyya Sufi order, has been at odds with other Sunni Muslim clerics in northern Nigeria, particularly ultra-conservative Salafi.
Their disagreement stemmed from his revisionist approach to Islamic history and theology which he claims are replete with myths, lies, distortions and concoctions.
Kabara’s opponents accused him of insulting the companions of the Prophet some of whom Kabara accused of lying against the Prophet and maliciously portraying him in a bad light.
Kabara’s conviction for blasphemy is the third in recent years in Kano.
In August 2020 a Sharia court in the city gave the death penalty to singer Yahaya Aminu Sharif from the Tijjaniyya Sufi order for a song he shared online that blasphemed the Prophet. His case is on retrial.
Abdul Nyass, a Tijjaniyya Sufi Muslim cleric, was sentenced to death in 2015 for blasphemy against the prophet in his preaching. The sentence has not been carried out.
In April, a Kano high court jailed Mubarak Bala, an atheist, for 24 years for blasphemous online posts against the Prophet.