To the Government of Nigeria
And the Shari'ah Court of the State of Zamfara
Sirs, Eminent Judges and Excellencies:
We, the Muslims of North America, received the news of the conviction of Bariya Magazu with great concern and sadness. We appeal to you in the name of God and Islamic justice to reconsider your decision and punish the real perpetrator of this most grave offence.
Like you, we are concerned that the law of God be implemented on His earth. But again, like you, we are concerned that in carrying out the dictates of the Shari'ah we should be always mindful of the Prophetic hadith that states: "Avoid [inflicting] ultimate punishments (hudud) by means of uncertainties (shubuhat)." Here are some of the "uncertainties" we wish you to take into account as you reconsider your verdict:
Is Bariya Magazu really an adulteress? Adultery, in the case of a woman, can only be maintained if the woman in question willfully and consciously commits the act. This is confirmed by God's saying: "The adulterous woman and the adulterous manů" which clearly implies free choice on the part of the woman. This means that a woman who is compelled by her guardian to engage in illicit sexual relations is not an adulterous woman, but a victim whose rights must be protected. Bariya was forced by her father into prostitution against her will. Therefore, he is the guilty party who should be punished, not her.
In cases of unlawful sexual relations, both the man or men and the woman concerned must be investigated, and not only the woman. Furthermore, modern technology can with absolute certainty determine the actual father of the child.
The Maliki School (madhhab) of Madinah in particular gives priority to the welfare (maslahah) of the Muslims, including the accused, in implementing the law. Moreover, both the Qur'an and Sunnah encourage even those who commit offences to repent and be rehabilitated into the Muslim Ummah. Bariya, who according to international law is still a minor, must be treated with mercy and given the chance to turn to God to mend her life.
The case is analogous to the Ghamidiyyah woman who had committed adultery and who came to the Prophet, upon him be peace, and asked to be purified, that is executed. The Prophet turned his face away in reluctance and told her to go away until she delivered. The child was born, but he again told her to go away and nurse the child for two years. In all this, he wished to give her a chance to repent and ask God's forgiveness. The noble Qur'an repeatedly calls on all those who offend against God's juridical bounds to repent, and promises that God will accept sincere repentance.
Finally, we live in a world of many religions and ideologies. Islam must be presented in its true character as a religion of peace, tolerance and mercy. The aim of our respected scholars should be not to punish and kill, but to reform and restore the accused to the true faith (fitrah) in which we are all created. May we remind you and ourselves in closing of God's injunction: "If you pardon and forgive, it is nearer to righteousness."
We appeal to you again in the name of God to pardon this unfortunate young woman and help her to bring up her child. Please identify the father and hold him responsible for maintenance of the child and her mother. Only in this way can we show to the world the true spirit of Islam.
We thank you and pray to God to guide your effort to establish justice, fairness and forgiveness on His earth, for He is indeed the Hearer of prayer.
Posted January 22, 2001