Terrorism, Banditry and Hirabah: Advancing New Shariah Perspectives
Hirabah is the nearest Shariah legal concept to terrorism. Modern technological change, however, has altered the nature of this crime so much that corresponding adjustments in the law of hirabah are inevitable. Remote control devices, precision device-timing, vastly destructive weapons, and even suicide bombings were not considered by early Muslim jurists in their scholastic articulations of hirabah. The Qur’anic conception of this crime, on the other hand, is broad enough to accommodate the needed adjustments, and which is what this article attempts to do – in other words, to reconnect the fiqh of hirabah to its Qur’anic origins. This is necessary as, in its global reach, the scourge of contemporary terrorism has greatly pained and anguished, not only Muslims, but humanity at large. The nature of the phenomenon before us demands suitable Shariah responses. To facilitate this, we have attempted to comprehend contemporary terrorism in its own terms. The discussion therefore begins by defining terrorism and hirabah. A review of the principal Qur’anic verse on hirabah is presented at the outset and then followed by a review and analysis of the fiqh of hirabah in the expositions of the leading schools of Islamic law. Being one of the prescribed hudud crimes, the Qur’an provides a four-fold punishment for hirabah, but while also opening the prospect of repentance and pardon for its perpetrators under certain conditions, and which Muslim scholars have elaborated upon in their deliberations. Yet what they have said in this regard has naturally been bound by the conditions of their own environment and time. This has involved elements of interpretation and speculative ijtihad. In our own attempt to bridge the gap between the fiqhi conception of hirabah and contemporary terrorism, we look into contemporary opinion and research on this phenomenon so as to encapsulate its salient new features. Terrorism has been overshadowed, to some extent, by the clamour generated by the so called ‘clash of civilisations,’ by Islamophobia and by confrontational politics, at the expense of reflective Shariah responses to issues. Muslim scholars have provided some through the issuance of fatwa and scholarly opinion, which we also review in a separate section below. The article ends with a conclusion and set of actionable policy recommendations.