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Hirābah (Arabic: حرابة) is an Arabic word for “piracy”, or “unlawful warfare”. Hirabah comes from the root hariba, which means “to become angry and enraged”. The noun harb (حرب, pl. hurub حروب) means “war” and/or “enemy.” One who commits hirabah would be a hirabi. In Iran, the same crime is known as moharebeh and one who commits it is a mohareb.
Punishment for Hirabah
The Qur'an commands strict punishment for those who spread disorder in the land. As it is in the Qur'an:
"The punishments of those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and strive to spread disorder in the land are to execute them in an exemplary way or to crucify them or to amputate their hands and feet from opposite sides or to banish them from the land. Such is their disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom save those who repent before you overpower them; you should know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Ever Merciful." — Surah al-Ma'ida 5:33-34.
According to these verses, the punishments permissible for spreading disorder in the land include:
- Taqtil (تقتيل: execution that serves a severe warning to others i.e. stoning)
- Taslib (تصليب: crucifixion)
- Amputating limbs from opposite sides
- Nafi (نفى: exile)
A judge can give any of these punishments depending on the severity of the crime and condition of the criminal. These punishments can be prescribed for any crime that can threaten the society at large. Examples of these crimes are robbery (unlike theft which has a different punishment), rape, and terrorism.
Relation with Jihad
Hirabah has been suggested as a better description of a punishment than the often-used jihad which is often misconstrued as referring to religious terrorism. The argument is that jihad means literally "struggle". The meaning is broad, and can include personal, internal struggle to purify oneself as well as external struggle for justice. By definition, Jihad cannot be a bad thing, as jihad means "to struggle in the way of God", or "to struggle to improve one's self and/or society". Therefore, someone who is misguidedly responsible for unlawful killing and chaos in the land can only be described as someone engaged in hirabah.
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