Mohammed Was The Original Pirate, in the Desert

It’s a glorious day to sit on the back patio and what better to read than the weekend WSJ? Here I found out about the prophet Mohammed’s career as a pirate, and how today’s Somali pirates are carrying on a long Islamic tradition.

Stephen Prothero writes that when Mohammed and his followers left the commercial center of Mecca for the agricultural settlement of Medina in 622, they suddenly found themselves out of jobs. That’s because they were used to trading and all of their customers and suppliers were back in Mecca. Lacking farming tools or knowledge, the Mohammed and his men turned to a longstanding Arabian practice called ghazu, or the bounty raid. Like the pirates we hear about who attack tankers off the Somali coast, Mohammed and his men attacked camel caravans and held them for ransom. The result was that soon caravans began changing their routes to avoid being taken hostage by the Great Prophet.

Strangely, ghazu wasn’t considered a crime in Mohammed’s day, as long as they didn’t take anyone hostage during the pilgrimage to Mecca. The author says that if Western governments really want to stop the piracy scourge they have to enlist the Islamic world, and like many did after 9/11, they have to express their opinion that piracy is wrong, just as the attacks were wrong. Somali’s current prime minister has denounced piracy as a crime against Islam, so that’s a start.