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Moharebeh (also muharebeh, محاربة) is the title of a crime in Islamic law. Mohareb (محارب) refers to the perpetrator of the crime.[1] Moharebeh has been translated in English-language media sources variously as "waging war against God,"[2] "war against God and the state,"[3] "enmity against God."[4] [5] Mohareb has been translated by English language Iranian media as "enemy of God".[6][7] It is a capital crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran.


According to Islamic scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl, the root of "Moharebeh" — the verb and crime of "Hiraba" — in the Islamic context literally means "waging war against society" and in Islamic jurisprudence traditionally referred to acts such as killing noncombatants ("the resident and wayfarer"), "assassinations, setting fires, or poisoning water wells," crimes "so serious and repugnant" that their perpetrators were "not to be given quarter or sanctuary anywhere."[8] Another source states that the concept "has its roots in a Quranic verse that calls for death, maiming or banishment for those who 'wage war' against God."[9]

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; [Quran 5:33]

According to journalist Brian Murphy, "many Islamic scholars interpret the references to acts that defy universal codes such as intentionally killing civilians during warfare or causing random destruction."[9]

Islamic Republic of Iran[edit]

The term is widely used by Iran's Islamic Judiciary, citing Sharia law, and is "usually used against those who take up arms against the state,"[4] and usually carries the death penalty. The term is used in articles 183 to 196 of Iran's criminal law. The cases that fall under this term typically require involvement in armed criminal activities, e.g: taking up arms for terrorism and disruption of public safety (article 183), membership in groups conducting armed uprising (article 186), supporting groups planning to overthrow the government by force using weapons and explosives (article 187), accepting critical posts a Coup d'etat government. Articles 190-191 state that judge can give a person convicted under one of these crimes capital punishment. Peaceful and unarmed opposition to government does not fall under this term. Typical convicts under the term are members of armed ethnic separatist groups, members of armed drug trafficking groups, and people involved in armed robbery. [10]


Between the early days of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when scores of former officials of the Shah and others were arrested and executed for moharebeh,[11] and the 2009 election protests, executions for moharebeh were rare, and usually applied against members of armed opposition/terrorist groups, Kurdish separatists, or common criminals.[9]

In recent years, Iranians executed after being charged with Moharebeh include Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani (2010), Arash Rahmanipour (2010), and Ehsan Fatahian (2009). Others accused, charged or convicted of Moharebeh include Adnan Hassanpour, whose sentenced to death for Moharebeh was overturned in 2008 on appeal, and Zeynab Jalalian, whose death sentence was commuted to life in prison. Shia cleric Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, known for preaching that religion is separate from politics, was reportedly charged with Moharebeh in 2007 by Iran's Special Court for the Clergy,[12] but had his sentence reduced to 11 years in prison after appeal. Student demonstrator Mohammad Amin Valian was sentenced to death for Moharebeh in 2009, a sentence overturned by an appeals court in March 2010.[13] In March 2010, the 76-year-old former dean of Tehran University, Mohammad Maleki, was charged with it for alleged "contact with unspecified foreign groups and working to undermine the Islamic system." [9] (He was later convicted of lesser charges.) Abdolreza Ghanbari, a university lecturer living in Pakdasht, was arrested in the wake of 2009 Ashura protests and convicted in 2010 of “Moharebeh through ties with hostile groups [against] the regime”. A request for pardon of the death sentence was rejected on February 28, 2012.[14]

In a February 2011 televised address before a group of clerics in the city of Qom, hard-liner cleric Ahmad Khatami accused reformist presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi of Moharebeh as "leaders of sedition."[15] However the Iranian judiciary has been reluctant to officially press any charges against them.

Abdolfattah Soltani, an Iranian attorney and member of Center for Defense of Human Rights has argued that under Articles 86 and 89 of the Islamic Punitive Laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the accused must "either have engaged in armed confrontation or he must have been a supporter or a member of an armed group and must have committed effective [deliberate] actions on behalf of that organization." Conditions that have not been met by defendants such as Valian, who threw stones at militia members.[16]

According to a journalist, the Iranian Islamic regime's use of moharebeh against 2009 election protesters has "opened deep rifts between ruling clerics and Islamic scholars questioning how an idea about safeguarding Muslims can be transformed into a tool to punish political protesters." Ayatollah Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad has reportedly sought to "rally clerics to oppose the use of moharebeh charges against political protesters."[9]


  1. ^ Maritime Space: Maritime Zones and Maritime Delimitation
  2. ^ Iran, With Opposition Protests Continuing, Executes More Prisoners By NAZILA FATHI, February 1, 2010
  3. ^ Iran: Kurdish Activist Executed November 10, 2009
  4. ^ a b Ashoura protesters at risk of execution in Iran, 8 January 2010
  5. ^ Trial of 16 Ashura riot detainees begins in Iran| |31 January 2011
  6. ^ Daragahi, Borzou (January 29, 2010). "Iran executes 2 alleged government opponents". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  7. ^ google search of Tehran Times
  8. ^ Abou El Fadl, Khaled, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists, by Khaled Abou El Fadl, Harper San Francisco, 2005, p.242
  9. ^ a b c d e Iran calls political opponents enemies of Islam By BRIAN MURPHY (AP) 9 March 2010| accessed 14 March 2012
  10. ^ Iranian Criminal Law (Persian)
  11. ^ More commonly theses offenders were sentenced to death for committing a related violation of Islamic law, mofsed-e-filarz, or "spreading corruption on earth".
  12. ^ Arbitrary arrest/ fear for safety/possible prisoners of conscience/medical concern/torture and ill-treatment,, 10 August 2007
  13. ^ Iran court upholds death for opposition activist By ALI AKBAR DAREINI (AP) 3 March 2010, accessed 4 March 2011
  14. ^ "Iran: Stop the execution of Abdolreza Ghanbari". 2012. 
  15. ^ Iran opposition leader ready to 'pay any price', by ALI AKBAR DAREINI, AP, 16 February 2011, accessed 4 March 2011
  16. ^ Abdolfattah Soltani: “According to law and Sharia, throwing stones or breaking windows do not constitute ‘moharebeh’”| ICHRI| 9 February 2010