Moharebeh (محاربة) (also muharebeh ) 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; [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

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. 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,[10] 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,[11] 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.[12] 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.[13] In a February 2011 televised address before a group of clerics in the city of Qom, cleric Ahmad Khatami, senior member of the Assembly of Experts, accused reformist presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi of Moharebeh as "leaders of sedition."[14]


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.[15]

According to at least one 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]


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