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The Khawarij

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Guest Al Faqueer

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The Khawarij


Who are the Khawarij




The fifteen sects of al-Khawarij


More Information about the Khawarij

Edited by Al Faqueer

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Guest Al Faqueer



The Khawarij are known by several names and nicknames. They came to be called the Khawarij ["the Seceders" or "the Rebels"] because of their rebellion [khuruj] against 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be well pleased with him).


They have been called the Hukmiyya, because of their refusal to accept the authority of the two arbitrators [hakamain], Abu Musa al-Ash'ari and 'Amr ibn al-'As (may Allah be well pleased with them both), and because of their war cry: "The decision belongs to Allah alone [la hukma illa li'llah]; the two arbitrators have no power to decide!"


They have also been called the Haruriyya, because they set up camp in Harura', which is a place [not far from Kufa].


Yet another name that has been given to them is "the Vendors" [shurat], because of their assertion: "We have sold our own selves for the sake of Allah's cause [sharaina anfusana fi'llah]," or in other words: "We have traded them in exchange for Allah's spiritual reward and His good pleasure."


They are sometimes referred to as "the Defectors" [Mariqa], because of their defection [muruq] from the religion [din]. They were actually described by the Prophet himself (Allah bless him and give him peace) as people who would swerve away from the religion, just as the [hunter's] arrow may swerve away from the animal target, and who would not come back to the fold. Such indeed are they, for they have swerved away from the religion and from Islam. They have separated themselves off from the religious community [milla], breaking loose from it and from the loyal congregation [jama'a]. They have gone astray from the level course of right guidance and from the true path [sabil].


They have withdrawn their allegiance from the ruling authority [sultan], and they have unsheathed the sword against the rightful leaders [a'imma], whose blood they consider it permissible to shed, and whose property they consider it lawful to confiscate. They have branded all who oppose them as unbelievers [kaffaru man khalafahum]. They dare to heap curses on the Companions [Ashab] of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and on his Helpers [Ansar]. They wash their hands of them, haughtily dismiss them as guilty of unbelief [kufr] and terrible sins ['aza'im], and consider it right and proper to contradict them.


They do not believe in the torment of the tomb ['adhab al-qabr], nor in the Basin [Hawd], nor in the right of intercession [shafa'a]. They offer no one any prospect of deliverance from the Fire of Hell, and they profess the doctrine that if someone tells a single lie, or commits a sin of any kind, whether it be trivial or serious, and if he then dies without repentance, that person will be counted as an unbeliever [kafir], and will be condemned to remain in the Fire of Hell for all eternity.


They do not regard the congregational prayer [jama'a] as valid unless it is performed behind their own Imam, but they do regard it as valid to postpone the ritual prayer [salat] beyond its prescribed time, to begin the fast [sawm] before the sighting of the new moon [of the month of Ramadan], and to break the fast [fitr] in like manner [before the end of Ramadan has been established by the sighting of the new moon of Shawwal]. They also admit the validity of a marriage contracted without the participation of a marriage guardian [wali]. They accept as lawful [halal] the practice of temporary marriage [mut'a] and transactions of the type in which one dirham [silver coin] is exchanged immediately for two dirhams.


They do not regard it as valid to perform the ritual prayer [salat] while wearing leather slippers/socks [khifaf], nor do they accept the practice of wiping [mash] over these [instead of removing them in order to wash the bare feet].


They do not regard the Sultan as having any right to obedience, nor do they accept the claim of [the tribe of] Quraish to the Caliphate.


The areas in which the Khawarij are to be found in the most considerable numbers are: Mesopotamia, 'Uman, Mawsil, Hadramawt, and the provincial districts inhabited mainly by the Arabs.


The names of the authors who have composed their textbooks for them are: 'Abd ibn Zaid, Muhammad ibn Harb, Yahya ibn Kamil, and Sa'id ibn Harun.

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Guest Al Faqueer


The Khawarij are subdivided into fifteen distinct sects:


1. The Najadat, whose name can be traced to Najda ibn 'Amir al-Hanafi, [one-time conqueror of the Arabian province] of al-Yamama. They are the followers of 'Abdu'llah ibn Nasir. They propounded the doctrine that if a person tells a lie or commits a minor sin, and makes a habit of it, he must be considered a polytheist [mushrik], although a person can still be considered a Muslim even if he commits adultery or fornication, steals, and drinks wine, as long as he does not persist in these offenses. They also maintained that there is no need for an Imam, since what is necessary is knowledge of the Book of Allah, and that alone is quite sufficient.


2. The Azariqa, so called because they are the followers of Nafi' ibn al-Azraq. They maintained that every major sin is tantamount to unbelief [kufr], that the residence of the Caliph is the residence of unbelief, and that Abu Musa and 'Amr ibn al-'As (may Allah be well pleased with them both) were guilty of not believing in Allah, when 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) appointed them to arbitrate between himself and Mu'awiya (may Allah be well pleased with him) for the sake of giving consideration to the best interests of the community at large.


The Azariqa also consider it permissible to kill young children, meaning the offspring of those who attribute partners to Allah [awlad al-mushrikin]. They regard as unlawful [the punishment of a convicted adulterer by] stoning to death [rajm]. They do not impose the legal penalty [of eighty lashes] on a person guilty of slandering a respectable male [qadhif al-muhsan], although they do impose that penalty on one who is guilty of slandering a respectable female [qadhif al-muhsana].


3. The Fudakiyya, historically related to Ibn Fudaik.


4. The 'Atawiyya, who can be traced back to 'Atiyya ibn al-Aswad.


5. The 'Ajarida, historically related to 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn 'Ajrad. They actually represent a composite grouping of many subsects, collectively known as the Maimuniyya. They consider it permissible for a man to marry the daughters of his sons and the daughters of his daughters, as well as the daughters of his brothers and the daughters of his sisters. They also maintain that the chapter entitled "Joseph" [surat Yusuf] is not really part of the Qur'an.


6. The Jazimiyya. Peculiar to this sect is the doctrine that friendliness [walaya] and hostility ['adawa] are a pair of attributes applicable to His Essence (Exalted is He). The Jazimiyya can otherwise be regarded as a branch of the Ma'lumiyya, since they maintain that anyone who does not know Allah by His Names is an ignorant person. They refuse to accept the doctrine that actions [af 'al] belong to Allah (Exalted is He) in terms of creation, and that the ability to act is brought into being simultaneously with the action itself [al-istita'a ma'a'l-fi'l].


7. The Majhuliyya, who constitute one of the fifteen basic groups [of the Khawarij]. They are proponents of the doctrine that if someone knows Allah by at least some of His Names, he is to be considered as having knowledge ['alim] of Him, not as a totally ignorant person [jahil].


8. The Saltiyya, who are historically related to 'Uthman ibn as-Salt. They maintain that if a person has an infant child at the time when he responds to our call and embraces Islam, that child cannot be regarded as a Muslim until he reaches the age of puberty, at which time he must be invited to enter Islam and must accept the invitation on his own behalf.


9. The Akhnasiyya, who trace the origin of their name to a man called al-Akhnas. They hold the opinion that the slave-owner may take for himself part of the alms [zakat] due to his slave, and pass on to him only part of his alms, if he [the slave-owner] is needy and impoverished.


10. The Zafariyya.


11. The Hafsiyya, a sectarian group [ta'ifa] that branched off from the Zafariyya. They maintain that as long as a person acknowledges Allah, he cannot be considered guilty of polytheism or idolatry [shirk], even if he does not believe in anything else in the religion apart from Him, such as a Messenger [Rasul], a Garden of Paradise and a Fire of Hell, even if he perpetrates all the most heinous crimes, such as homicide, and even if he regards it as lawful to commit adultery and fornication [zina]. According to them, a person can be considered guilty of shirk only if he is ignorant of Allah and refuses to recognize His existence, and on no other grounds at all.


They also maintain that the "one lured to bewilderment [hairan]," who is mentioned by Allah (Exalted is He) in the Qur'an, is none other than 'Ali, along with his party and his companions, "who call him to guidance, [saying]: 'Come to us!'"


These are the people [who fought against 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) in the battle] of Nahrawan.


12. The Ibadiyya [or Abadiyya]. They maintain that every religious duty which Allah (Exalted is He) has made incumbent upon His creatures must be treated as an article of faith [iman], and that every major sin is an instance of ingratitude for divine blessings [kufr ni'ma], not of polytheistic misbelief [kufr shirk].


13. The Bahnasiyya, historically related to Abu Bahnas, have adopted a doctrine peculiar to themselves, since they maintain a man cannot be considered a Muslim until he knows everything that Allah has made lawful to him, and everything that He has made unlawful to him, specifically and personally.


There are some among the Bahnasiyya who say that if a person commits a sinful offense, he should not be treated as an unbeliever until he has been arraigned before the Sultan, so that the latter may impose upon him the penalty [prescribed by the sacred law for his particular offense], and that only then should he be convicted of unbelief [kufr].


14. The Shimrakhiyya trace the origin of their name to 'Abdu'llah ibn ash-Shimrakh, who declared that the killing of one's own parents is a lawful act [halal]. At the time when he made this assertion, however, he was under duress or threat of injury [fi dar at-taqiyya], so the Khawarij were able to wash their hands of him.


15. The Bida'iyya. Their doctrines generally coincide with those of the Azariqa. Peculiar to them alone, however, is the assertion that the ritual prayer [salat] should consist of only two cycles [rak'atan] not only in the morning, but also in the evening, on the strength of [their interpretation of] the words of Allah (Exalted is He):

And perform the prayer at the two ends of the day and in some watches of the night; surely the good deeds will drive away the evil deeds. (11:114)


They are in agreement with the Azariqa on the permissibility of taking women captives from among the unbelievers [kuffar], and of killing their infant children inadvertently, on the strength of [their interpretation of] the words of Allah (Exalted is He):

[And Noah said: "My Lord,] do not leave upon the earth even one of the unbelievers." (71:26)


All the sects of the Khawarij are in full accord when it comes to holding 'Ali guilty of unbelief [kufr] on account of his decision to resort to the appointment of arbitrators [tahkim]. They are also in unanimous agreement on the imputation of unbelief to the perpetrator of a major sin [kufr murtakib kabira], with the exception of the Najadat, who do not subscribe to this doctrine.

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More Information about the Khawarij


The Kharijites [Kharidjites, in Arabic Khawarij, singular Khariji, meaning "those that seceded"] were members of the earliest sect in Islam that left the followers of Ali [cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad]. The third Caliph, Uthman, was killed by mutineers in 656 AD, and a struggle for succession ensued between Ali, and Mu'awiya, governor of Damascus. The Kharijites left the followers of Ali [the Shia] because of Shia willingness to allow human arbitration of Ali's dispute with Mu'awiya in 657, rather than divine judgment. The Kharijites believed that the Imam should be elected for his moral qualities. The Kharijites considered that Ali made a mistake in looking for a compromise with Mu'awiya. For this reason they are not considered as properly Shiite by some commentators. Ali defeated their rebellion, but the Kharijites survived and an adherent of the movement murdered Ali in 661.


Kharijites rejected primogeniture succession of the Quraysh, the tribe of Muhammad, and assert that leadership of Islam, the caliphate, should be designated by an imam elected by the community from candidates who possess spiritual and personal qualities.


The Kharijite theology was a radical fundamentalism, with uncompromised observance of the Quran in defiance of corrupt authorities. Kharijites considered moderate Muslims to be "hypocrites" and "unbelievers" who could be killed with impunity. The Khawarij made takfir -- declaring a person to be Kafir -- of the main body of believers. The Kharijite held that only the most pious members of the community could be entrusted with political power.


The most prominent quality of the Kharijite movement was opposition to the caliph's representatives and particularly to Muawiyah, who became caliph after Ali. Although the Kharijites were known to some Muslims as bandits and assassins, they developed certain ideal notions of justice and piety. The Prophet Muhammad had been sent to bring righteousness to the world and to teach the Arabs to pray and to distribute their wealth and power fairly. According to the Kharijites, whoever was lax in following the Prophet's directives should be opposed, ostracized, or killed.


The Kharijites Islamic sect in late 7th and early 8th century AD was concentrated in today's southern Iraq. Kharijite uprisings continued under the Umayyads in Iraq, Iran, and Arabia. The apogee of Kharijites influence came between 690 and 730, when their main city, Basra, emerged as a center of Islamic learning. Finally, under the Abbasids, Kharijism was suppressed in Iraq.


Modern Kharijites are sometimes called Ibadites after Abu Allah ibn Ibad (ca. 660-ca. 715), a moderate Kharijite who spent considerable time in Basra, Iraq. Ibad's followers founded communities in parts of Africa and southern Arabia.


In the eighth century, some Kharijites began to moderate their position. Leaders arose who suppressed the fanatical political element in Kharijite belief and discouraged their followers from taking up arms against Islam's official leader. Kharijite leaders emphasized instead the special benefits that Kharijites might receive from living in a small community that held high standards for personal conduct and spiritual values.


The Kharijite movement continued to be significant on the Persian Gulf coast in the ninth through the eleventh century. It continued to play an important political role in eastern Arabia, North Africa, and eastern Africa. Over time the views of the movement moderated and adherents became less antagonistic to the rest of Islam. Eventually, the Kharijite insistence on the primacy of religion in political life moved into the mainstream of Islamic thought.


The Kharijites Islamic sect survived into the twentieth century in the more moderate form of Ibadi Islam. Ibadites refer themselves back to the Kharijites but reject their aggressive methods. There is a Kharidjite majority in Oman and, there are significant Kharidjite minorities in Algeria (in the Mzab, more than 100,000). Some 40,000 Berber-speaking Ibadi people living on Jerba [Djerba] Island in Tunisia still kept to austere Kharidjite beliefs in the mid-1980s.


Ibadi leadership is vested in an imam, who is regarded as the sole legitimate leader and combines religious and political authority. The imam is elected by a council of prominent laymen or shaykhs. Adherence to Ibadism accounts in part for Oman's historical isolation. Considered a heretical form of Islam by the majority Sunni Muslims, Ibadis were not inclined to integrate with their neighbors.


The term Kharijites became a designation for Muslims who refused to compromise with those who differed from them. The uncompromising fanaticism of the original Kharijites was indicative of the fervor with which the tribal Arabs had accepted the missionary ideology of Islam. It was this fervor that made it possible for Arab armies to conquer so much territory in the seventh century. This same spirit helped the Al Saud succeed at the end of the eighteenth century and again at the beginning of the twentieth. Some observers compare today’s radical Salafis with the ancient Khawarij terrorist sect, since they pioneered the political killing of Muslims considered heretic.

Edited by Zeinab

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