An Islamic court in northern Nigeria sentenced a 22-year old singer to death on Monday for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad in a song he circulated on the messaging platform WhatsApp in March.
Kano state, in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, has Islamic sharia courts that function alongside civil courts. While the courts are active, death sentences for blasphemy are unusual and the most recent, handed down in 2015 to nine followers of the Tijani Muslim sect, have yet to take place.
The man sentenced on Monday, Yahaya Aminu Sharif, is a resident of Kano city, the state capital that is also the commercial hub for the north. It was once a key stop on trans-Saharan caravan routes connecting Africa’s interior with the Mediterranean.
Kano state was among several northern states to introduce sharia law in 2000. The prosecutor, Inspector Aminu Yargoje, described the verdict as fair, and said it would prevent future blasphemy in the state.
Guards at the court barred journalists from speaking to Sharif after the sentencing. A court spokesman told Reuters he has 30 days to appeal.
Protesters earlier this year burnt down Sharif’s family home in a fit of rage over the song.
The court also sentenced another man, Umar Farouq, to 10 years in prison for making derogatory statements toward Allah in a public argument.