Jungle Justice Under Islamic Law By Yusha’u Sani Yankuzo
Jungle justice has been repeatedly happening day in day out in many Muslim communities in Nigeria. In fact, the act has become popular not only among Muslim communities but in the Nigerian society in general. Only a few months ago, to be precise, on March 15, 2010, a taxi driver called Umaru Mohammed alias Marau-Marau was mercilessly killed and burnt to ashes in Kano by some youths, majority of whom were identified as commercial motorcycle operators, on the allegation that the deceased had kidnapped three school children.
But a comprehensive police investigation report revealed that the deceased, (a gentle and easy going taxi driver during his life-time) was not a kidnapper but only had a traffic disagreement with some motorcyclists when they stopped at a junction along BUK Road, and the motorcyclists got annoyed with his action and chased him. When he was forced to stop at Kofar Na’isa by the motorcyclists, he alighted from his cab and started fighting them back. Noticing that the motorcyclists were trying to overpower him, he rushed into his car and zoomed off again. Unrelenting, the motorcyclists kept chasing him and started yelling that he was a kidnapper. When they yelled at him he panicked and increased speed in search of safety. The motorcyclists chased him further until he reached the residence of the owner of the taxi located at Gadon Kaya Area. On reaching there, he rushed into the house and hide. But the motorcyclists mobilized other youths in the area telling them that Marau-Marau was a kidnapper. The youths immediately went into action and despite the deceased’s pleas, they brought him out from the house and started hitting him with sticks, iron rods and heavy stones until he died. When he died, they drenched his car and his body with petrol and set them ablaze.
The Position of Islam in Respect of the Above Case:
(1) On the Effect of Rumors in Terms of Punishment in Islam:
Islam condemns rumour mongering and punishes rumour mongering in like manner. See Chapter 49 Verse 6-12 of the Holy Qur’an, where 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…”
Allah (S.W.T.) warns 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
(2) 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; apprehend 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 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 every body 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 a resource based, economic or political problems. That is why even during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (SAW) it is only in his hand that somebody can be killed, because, He (the Prophet) is 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.
(3) On Whether Islam Recognizes Right to Fair Hearing:
Islam recognizes Right to Fair Hearing and Justice more than any other religion in the word. Thus, the Glorious Book in Chapter 4 Verse 58 Allah cautions all Muslim, especially those in position of authority, thus:
“Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those who are worthy, and when you judge between people, you judge with justice and fairness; surely Allah admonishes you with what is excellent. Allah is seeing, hearing.”
Also narrated Ali Ibn Abi Thalib (RA), the messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
“When two men bring a case before you, do not decide in favour of the first, till you hear what the other has to say, then you will know how to judge”. Reported by Ahmad, Abu Da ’ud and At- Thirmidhi. See Bulugh Al-Maram, Chapter 14, Hadith 1193.
Therefore, no matter what offence a Muslim is alleged to have committed, he is entitled to Fair Hearing (to defend himself) not just to be punished quickly merely on the allegation made against him. Because, even Satan (the accused) was given the chance to defend himself (Qur’an 38:71-76)
(4) 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. See Qur’an 4:49, 4:65, 6:57, 12:40 & 43:10.
The previous Qur’anic Verses and many more, are but guidelines on the position of Islam against Jungle Justice. Details are in Fiqhu books. Books like: Fiqhus-sunnah, Sulussalam, Naylul Awtaar, Mukh’tasar Alkhaleel, Thamarud-daany and in short every Fiqhu book, irrespective of the school of law, carries these details, under a chapter called “Hudud”.
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