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By Oraegbunam, Kenneth Ikenga E.
This study has critically examined the human rights implications of recent sharia practice and enforcement in relation to the tenets of constitutional democracy in Nigeria. In line with this, it studied the nature and sources of sharia and evaluated their provisions on human rights. It equally explored the possibility of implementing sharia without infringing on the rights of individuals and corporate bodies in Nigeria. This research further examined the debate on the secularity of Nigeria and drew a response vis-à-vis sharia and human rights questions. It finally juxtaposed the notion of an Islamic state with the idea and practice of a modern constitutional democracy with a perspective on Nigeria. Useful suggestions such as Islamo-legal reform, de-politicization of Islam, adherence to state secularity principle, avoidance of fanaticism and fundamentalism, need for national and inter-religious dialogue, and so on, were made with a view to remedying the observed anomaly. This work largely employed a phenomenological method of data collection and analysis of the primary and secondary sources of Islamic law generally and sharia penal laws and practices of some northern Nigerian states on the one hand, and the 1999 constitution and tenets of modern democracy on the other hand. Thus, the study involved a critical analysis and examination of relevant scriptures, statutes and scholarly works including internet materials. Hermeneutical method also was used for the interpretation of the verses of the Koran, and the statutes referred to. Since the work made reference to human rights practices in other Islamic communities, the method of comparative analysis was germane for conducting an objective and comprehensive research on the subject matter. Ultimately, a structural-functional evaluative approach was used in examining the Islamic sharia practice in Nigeria in the light of the social roles of religion. The study established that, theoretically, provisions on human rights are contained in the sources of sharia. However, it is revealed that the practical implementation of sharia law violates, among others, some fundamental rights such as the right of minorities to practise the religion of their choices, the right to life, and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which attitudes in turn, violate Nigeria’s international human rights obligations. This work found out that the victims especially the minorities have sometimes reacted to this violation of their rights with violence, which incident had occasioned inter-religious conflicts that have claimed thousands of lives and property worth huge amount of money since the adoption of the recent sharia regime in 1999. This research equally discovered that in a multi-religious country like Nigeria, unlike in pure Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, jurisdictional limitation of sharia enforcement to personal aspects would, among other factors, be helpful to the sustenance of democracy. This research has left an opening for further studies on the exegesis of the human right provisions of the sources of sharia, role of Islam on terrorism, and comparison of the human right practices in Islam and Christianity in Nigeria.