The Oasis Reporters
May 13, 2022
By Maiwada Dammallam
Much as it is dumb, self-endangering, utterly irresponsible and condemnable for people to refuse to be cautious by respecting the sensibilities, religious rights, traditions and taboos of people of other faiths especially when they are in the minority, the gruesome mob-killing of one Deborah Samuel, in Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, is one despicable murder too many.
Sad and volatile events like this are as common as they are preventable and avoidable yet, they persist for two strong reasons:
A dysfunctional justice system devoid of public confidence and lack of administrative and political will to apply, even minimally, the dysfunctional system to address serious problems hence, the option of quick mob-justice.
The purpose of this opinion is not to determine the innocence or guilt of the victim. That’s for the courts to decide and sadly the cart has been put irreversibly before the horse. The victim is dead and no amount of justice, functional or dysfunctional, could bring her back to be punished in line with the provisions of the law.
My purpose is to make the little I could of the sordid opportunity to highlight the ‘wrongness’ and the underlying dangers of mob-justice against the advantages of a civilized justice system, especially the Shari’a law, if not to punish or give justice to the victim, to save the living from similar fate in future.
The logic of subjecting offenders to an approved judicial process is simple. It is to give them the right to fair hearing to narrate their own side of the story and in the process give the system a chance to establish guilt or innocence before applying commensurate punishment.
That yesterday’s killing of Deborah Samuel Yakubu, is one of many in recent years that gives me the flexibility to deal with the matter on a wider scope.
Mob-justice largely begins from rumors and Islam abhors and condemns rumor mongering in totality. Allah SWT says:
“O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lets ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards becomes full of repentance for what ye have done…” Holy Quran Chapter 49 Verse 6-12
This is a warning to Muslims in the above verse that if anybody comes to you with any critical news/information that may cause loss of life and property or destruction of human beings, then try to scrutinize this news, so that you may not afflict a community or somebody with injuries, and you end up regretting what you have done, because you acted upon rumours. Therefore, rumour mongering is totally illegal and unlawful in Islam. What could be more civilized and sensible.
With regards to the Sokoto mob-killing incident viz-a-viz above admonition, could we say in all sincerity that the perpetrators actually listened to the offensive message sent to the whatsapp group which provoked the killing?
Personally I’m certain most of them participated in the killing based on hearsay and without minimum effort to verify the rumor as sanctioned by Allah SWT in Chapter 49: 6-12 above.
So, what if the audio clip was cloned (I’m assuming we are all aware technology has made these things possible) and sent to the group by somebody who’s aiming to harm the victim? Or, what if she recorded the audio and on a second thought decided that it was wrong, offensive or dangerous but somehow accidentally sent it to the group?
Here I’m also assuming we are also aware these things do happen, given the number of videos sent into the social media by individuals personally damaging to themselves yet sent absentmindedly without their consent. Isn’t this what Chapter 49: 6-12 is aimed at preventing?
Islam came to reform and make humanity more civilized by correcting anti-social responses to issues hence, it couldn’t have left serious matters like capital punishment in the hands of the mob.
There’s a comprehensive provisions on how to deal with offenses. Find below the positions of Islamic law on this matter:
On Who can Impose Punishment under Islamic Law:
According to Islamic Law, if a Muslim commits a criminal offence (that may render him to be killed) and another common Muslim meets him; apprehends him and kills him, then he too should be killed.
But minority scholars hold a contrary view and insist that he should be given a severe punishment that will become a lesson for others not to do what he did, because he did what is not his duty to do.
The Islamic Law Court is the one that has a right to punish any offender who commits any offence, not for an individual or a community to take the law into their hands. If Islam opens a door for everybody to go and punish whoever commits an offence, people may go about spreading rumours; they may go about punishing each other under the guise of Islam, whereas the conflicts between them might be resource based, economic or a political problem.
That is why even during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (SAW) it was only in his hand that somebody could be killed, because He (the Prophet) was the Chief Judge. Therefore, no one can go and kill another without command or an order from an Islamic judge.
Only the Islamic Law Court that has the resources, personnel and structure to determine whether a person alleged to have committed any offence had actually committed that offence.
Only the Court has the abilities and means to make these confirmations because of their specialist training in the field.
But for an individual, no matter how versed in Islam, no matter how knowledgeable in the Qur’an and Hadith, he is not permitted to take the law into his hands. The law is for the court only, to handle.
On Whether Islam Allows for Jungle Justice:
Islam does not allow for jungle justice, because it will lead to killing innocent lives and destruction of the properties of innocent persons. Islam does not allow people to do what they like and take laws into their hands. Qur’an 4:49, 4:65, 6:57, 12:40 & 43:10 is empathically clear about mob-killings and or extra-judicial punishments.
If all these do not make sense to one, probably a more critical consideration of such actions on a wider perspective could.
By extra-judicial killing of a minority Christian in Sokoto by some people in Sokoto, every Muslim who happens to be a minority in a majority Christian community is put at the risk of being an innocent victim of a possible reprisal attack.
And who will deny this existential threat given the number of reprisal attacks provoked by similar lawlessness that consumed many innocent lives?
A quick reminder is the August 2021 mob-killing of 25 Fulani travellers after they were intercepted and killed by suspected Irigwe militia in Gada-Biyu, Jos, Plateau State, as a reprisal for the killing of 6 indigenous people by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
How much sense does it make for 25 people to be killed for a crime they did not commit and were possibly not even aware of?
If anything, this should explain how exposed we all are to the irresponsible actions of the lawless among us simply because they are in too much hurry to implement without verification of their beliefs.
The point is, for every Christian minority exposed to the danger of mob-justice in a majority Muslim community, there’s a Muslim minority exposed to the danger of being a victim of mob-reprisal attack in one Christian community or another and, if there isn’t yet a report of reprisal attack as a response for a judicially convicted offender in any part of Nigeria for crimes against either Islam or Christianity, the Islamic option of judicial adjudication should make enough sense to both sides of the religious divide.
Islam is a civilized religion; a complete way of life with a comprehensive manual that covers even the tiniest of our affairs. Islam will not teach us how to slaughter a chicken properly and leave capital punishment in the hands of the mob and open to their choices and shallow understanding of the law.
The bottom line is, one cannot kill another person while chanting “Allahu Akbar” and believing to be doing God’s work yet without understanding much less, applying the terms and conditions stipulated by Allah SWT and Nabee Muhammad SAW.
Maiwada Dammallam is a public affairs analyst.