Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Hiraba Definition:

Muslim law: organized crime such as highway robbery.

Related Terms: Robbery, Hudud

Also presented as al-hirabah.

Hussain defines al-hirabah as follows in Islamic Law and Society:

Al-hirabah ... refers to robbery with violence. There are differences among the jurists as to whether the offense can only relate to robbery on the highway or whether armed holdups in urban areas are also included.

“The penalty varies according to whether the robber has killed or injured the victim or simply robbed or threaten to rob him or her.

“The prescribed penalties are death (if the robber has killed but has not got away with the stolen property); crucifixion (where the robber has killed and got away with stolen property); cutting off the hand and foot on opposite sides (robbery with violence where the robber does not kill the victim); (and) exile (where the robber frightens the victim but does not kill or get away with the stolen property).”

According to Al-Awwa, the Koran prescribes this sentence for hiraba:

“The only reward ... will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or they will be expelled out of the land.”

Schacht suggests that the punishment for the highway robbery variant of hiraba (kat’ al-tarik) is as follows:

“[I]f only plunder has happened in the value of the loot (is below a certain value), the right hand and the left foot are cut off. If only homicide has happened, execution with the sword takes place.... If both plunder and homicide have happened, execution by crucifixion alive takes place. These punishments are awarded to all accomplices, whatever their individual acts.”


  • Al-Awwa, Muhammad Salim, “The Basis of Islamic Penal Legislation”, published in The Islamic Criminal Justice System (Rome: Oceana Publications Inc., 1982), page 138
  • Hussain, J., Islamic Law and Society (Sydney: Federation Press, 1999), page 135
  • Schacht, J., An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964)

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