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Moharebeh (Arabic: محاربة‎‎) also muharebeh, refers to the crime of Hirabah, (a crime in Islamic law), or the perpetrator of Hirabah.[1] Mohareb (محارب) has been translated by English language Iranian media as "enemy of God".[2][3][4] In English-language media sources Moharebeh in Iran has been translated variously as "waging war against God,"[5] "war against God and the state,"[6] "enmity against God."[7] [8] It is a capital crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran.


The original meanings of the root word haraba are to despoil someones wealth or property, and also fighting or committing sinful act. The Quran "refers to both meanings" in verses 2:279 and 5:33-34.[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]

In keeping with the Quranic verse 5:33 quoted above, "most classical [Islamic] jurists" held that the penalty for moharebeh was crucifixion, cross-amputation (amputation of right hand and left foot) or being banished from the earth.[10][11]

According to legal historian Sadakat Kadri the crimes of waging `war against God and His apostle` (Moharebeh) and spreading `disorder in the land` (Mofsed-e-filarz) were originally punished either by exile or some combination of double amputation, beheading, and crucifixion (what Kadri calls "islam's equivalent of the hanging, drawing and quartering that medieval Europeans inflicted on traitors"). This was the only capital penalty permitted rulers by the Quran (in the case of murder the killer's fate was in the hands of the victim's next of kin not the judge[12] during the early years of Islam "when enemies of the faith and political rebels often looked frighteningly similar" the crime had broader application including apostasy from Islam but was "gradually narrowed" to apply only to "highway robbery in the open county."[13]

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,"[7] 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. [14]

According to Human Rights Watch, "at least nine people" convicted of moharebeh by Islamic Revolutionary Courts for "their alleged ties to armed opposition groups" were executed in 2014.[15]


Between the end of early days of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when scores of former officials of the Shah and others were arrested and executed for moharebeh,[16] and the beginning of the 2009 election protests, executions for moharebeh were rare, and usually applied against members of armed opposition/terrorist groups, Kurdish separatists, or common criminals.[17]

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 death sentence 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,[18] but had his sentence reduced to 11 years in prison after an appeal. Student demonstrator Mohammad Amin Valian was sentenced to death for Moharebeh in 2009, a sentence overturned by an appeals court in March 2010.[19] 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." [17] 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.[20]

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."[21] However this was not followed up with any charges against the two by the Iranian judiciary.

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.[22]

According to at least one journalist (Brian Murphy), 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."[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amin, ElSayed (2014). Reclaiming Jihad: A Qur'anic Critique of Terrorism. Kube Publishing. p. 133. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  2. ^ Daragahi, Borzou (January 29, 2010). "Iran executes 2 alleged government opponents". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  3. ^ google search of Tehran Times
  4. ^ Maritime Space: Maritime Zones and Maritime Delimitation
  5. ^ Iran, With Opposition Protests Continuing, Executes More Prisoners By NAZILA FATHI, February 1, 2010
  6. ^ Iran: Kurdish Activist Executed November 10, 2009
  7. ^ a b Ashoura protesters at risk of execution in Iran, 8 January 2010
  8. ^ Trial of 16 Ashura riot detainees begins in Iran| |31 January 2011
  9. ^ Amin, ElSayed (2014). Reclaiming Jihad: A Qur'anic Critique of Terrorism. Kube Publishing. p. 132-3. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  10. ^ Affi, Ahmed; Affi, Hassan (2014). Contemporary Interpretation of Islamic Law. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 109. Retrieved 9 November 2015. ... most classical jurists ... believe that the penalty for those who wage on God and His Apostle shall be that they are crucified, be subjected to cross-amputation or be banished from the earth. 
  11. ^ Kadri, Sadakat (2012). Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia ... macmillan. p. 218. ISBN 9780099523277. Exposure from a cross is a punishment that the Quran authorizes for anyone who has "[made] war against God and His apostle" or "spread disorder in the land." It served historically to humiliate rather than kill, but it could be combined with execution, because the holy book acknowledged those crimes -- uniquely -- as capital offenses. 
  12. ^ Kadri 2012, p. 219.
  13. ^ Kadri 2012, p. 241.
  14. ^ Iranian Criminal Law (Persian)
  15. ^ "World Report 2015: Iran". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  16. ^ More commonly theses offenders were sentenced to death for committing a related violation of Islamic law, mofsed-e-filarz, or "spreading corruption on earth".
  17. ^ a b c Iran calls political opponents enemies of Islam By BRIAN MURPHY (AP) 9 March 2010| accessed 14 March 2012
  18. ^ Arbitrary arrest/ fear for safety/possible prisoners of conscience/medical concern/torture and ill-treatment,, 10 August 2007
  19. ^ Iran court upholds death for opposition activist By ALI AKBAR DAREINI (AP) 3 March 2010, accessed 4 March 2011
  20. ^ "Iran: Stop the execution of Abdolreza Ghanbari". 2012. 
  21. ^ Iran opposition leader ready to 'pay any price', by ALI AKBAR DAREINI, AP, 16 February 2011, accessed 4 March 2011
  22. ^ Abdolfattah Soltani: “According to law and Sharia, throwing stones or breaking windows do not constitute ‘moharebeh’”| ICHRI| 9 February 2010