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Perception of Piracy in Islamic Sharīʿa

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Chapter Summary

Seven major offenses prescribed by the sharīʿa call for the imposition of severe punishments in the earthly life: Highway robbery/piracy and spreading mischief and disorder; murder and injury; theft; adultery; false accusation of immorality; apostasy; and sedition. Piracy, as a second formidable threat to merchantmen, when Somali pirates, continually threaten the safety of navigation in the Bab al-Mandeb. Whereas Roman jurisprudents deemed pirates hostis humani generis, their Muslim counterparts viewed maritime ḥirāba as an immediate threat to Islamic civilization, culture, and economy. As a consequence, the founders of the four schools of Islamic law consensually agreed that combating ḥirāba is the best type of jihād and more meritorious than launching wars against ordinary enemies of the Abode of Islam. Even if the perpetrator participated in a military expedition along with ordinary troops, the punishment, as prescribed by the Qurʾān, cannot be dropped if he has been identified.

Keywords: Bab al-Mandeb; Islamic law; Piracy; Qurʾān; sharīʿa; Somali pirates



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