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5 points to note about new Sharia Expansion Bill

Senate President Bukola Saraki

The controversial Sharia Expansion Bill has scaled through a second reading at the National Assembly with a bid to increase the Jurisdiction of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory and the Sharia Court of Appeal of a State by including Criminal Matters of Hudud and Qisas and for other Related Matters.

Many Nigerians are concerned about the implications of the new bill with some misinformation gaining traction that the Bill seeks to install the Sharia law in all states in Nigeria.

Here are some critical points about the proposed law that every Nigerian should know.

  1. The amended Sharia Law if passed will be binding in States where the Law is already in practice and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
  2. It WILL NOT affect states where Sharia Law is not practiced unless the State House of Assembly adopts it.
  3. The main amendment the Bill seeks to make is to add criminal matters to the civil matters it currently caters for legally. The criminal matters it seeks to accommodate are the ‘Hudud’ and ‘Qisas’ which will be elaborated upon at the end of this article.
  4. The proposed amendment will strike out all conditions that protect Christians from the Sharia Law. i.e Non-Muslims can be prosecuted for “crimes” against the Islamic faith. E.g. Christians can be stoned to death or amputated under the Law if said offence is committed in a Sharia state.
  5. In summary, if the expanded Sharia Law is passed, states with Sharia courts are no longer obliged to be secular. They can now be, constitutionally, Islamic states.

Meaning of Hudud and Qisas for the layman

Hudud is an Islamic concept: punishments which under Islamic law (Sharia) are mandated and fixed by God. The Sharia divided offenses into those against God and those against man. Crimes against God violated His Hudud, or ‘boundaries’. These punishments were specified by the Quran, and in some instances by the Sunnah. They are namely for adultery, fornication, accusing someone of illicit sex but failing to present four male Muslim eyewitnesses, consuming intoxicants, outrage (e.g. rebellion against the lawful Caliph, other forms of mischief against the Muslim state, or highway robbery), robbery and theft. Hudud offenses are overturned by the slightest of doubts.

These punishments range from public lashing to publicly stoning to death, amputation of hands and crucifixion. The crimes against hudud cannot be pardoned by the victim or by the state, and the punishments must be carried out in public.

In most Muslim nations in modern times public stoning and execution are relatively uncommon, although they are found in Muslim nations that follow a strict interpretation of sharia, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Qiṣās: is an Islamic term meaning “retaliation in kind” or revenge, “eye for an eye”, “nemesis” or retributive justice. It is a category of crimes in Islamic jurisprudence, where Sharia allows equal retaliation as the punishment. Qisas principle is available against the accused, to the victim or victim’s heirs, when a Muslim is murdered, suffers bodily injury or suffers property damage. In the case of murder, Qisas means the right of a murder victim’s nearest relative or Wali (ولي) (legal guardian) to, if the court approves, take the life of the killer.

Daniel Fayemi for encomium.ng

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