KANO, NIGERIA —
A Nigerian Shariah court has sentenced a prominent Sufi Muslim cleric to death for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad in a rare capital punishment ruling against an imam.
The Upper Shariah court sentenced Sheikh Abduljabbar Nasiru Kabara for what was seen as his revisionist preaching.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue that can lead to a death sentence in a dozen predominantly Muslim states in northern Nigeria, where Islamic law operates alongside common law.
Death sentences are rarely carried out.
Judge Abdullahi Sarki Yola found Kabara guilty of blasphemy. He had been in custody since his arrest in July 2021.
“This court has established all the charges brought against you and hereby sentences you to death in accordance with Shariah provision on blasphemy,” Yola said during the hourlong judgment.
The judge ordered the confiscation of Kabara’s two mosques and his personal library.
Kabara sat quietly throughout the judgment 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 ultraconservative Salafi.
Their disagreement stemmed from his 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 about 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 Shariah 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 was found to have 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, to 24 years for blasphemous online posts against the prophet.