Along with agriculture, herding and trade, the ghazu was a recognized part of the seventh-century Arabian economy, and those who indulged in it were often celebrated as Robin Hoods of a sort. But the bounty raid was also a national pastime””a sport for turning boys into men. As is the case with piracy today, these earlier raids almost always ended without bloodshed, since any death was sure to bring on a cycle of vendetta killings every tribesman was eager to avoid””a cycle that Somali pirates recently promised to set into motion in response to the killing of pirates by American and French special forces.
All this might be of purely antiquarian concern except for the fact that Muslims today regard Muhammad not only as God’s final prophet but also as the human being par excellence. The Hadith, an Islamic scripture second in authority only to the Quran, records thousands of instances of Muhammad’s beliefs and actions, so Muslims can follow his example on matters as detailed as the cut of his beard. If Christians ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” Muslims ask, “What Would Muhammad Do?”
There are of course ways to read the Islamic sources as antithetical to piracy, but Muhammad himself both organized and participated in the seventh-century overland equivalent of the high-seas buccaneering that now bedevils world trade.
Read it all.