In the Name of Allah
Who are the Kharijites? When did they emerge?
According to Arabic linguistics, the word Kharijite is a plural form meaning the “leavers” or “outsiders”. A Khaariajee (Sing. Khaarijee – Seceder) is someone who engages in openly rebelling against the authority of a rightful Muslim leader (Jawzee’s, 2001, p 21).
During the time of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), this misguided sect was born. When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was sharing the war booty, Dhul- Khuwaysirah said to him: ‘O Muhammad, be just, for you are not just.’ The Prophet (PBUH) responded:
“ “Woe unto you! Who will be just if I am not?” When the man turned away, the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Out of the offspring of this man, will be a people that you will consider your prayers and worship insignificant in comparison to theirs. They will recite the Qur’an but it will not go beyond their throats, and they will go out of Islam as an arrow goes out of the target wherever you meet them kill them for there is indeed a reward in killing them for the one who killed them”( Nasa’i 4103).
The best definition is given by Abu al-Hasan. He says, ‘the name Kharijites was given to the group that rebelled against the fourth Rightly Guided Caliph ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (R.A ). He said: ‘The reason why they are called Kharijites is because of their rebellion (khurooj) against ‘Ali when he agreed to arbitration.”( Sallabi, 2010, p252).
Are they limited to that period?
Any Muslim rebelling against the legitimate ruler of their country is known as a Kharijite. There is no period that they are restricted to. Ash-Shahrastâni defined the Kharijites, ‘All those who rebel against the rightful ruler of Muslims, on whom they all agree, are called Kharijites, no matter whether their rebellion occurs during the time of the Companions against the Rightly Guided Caliphs or it occurs following that against those who followed them for some time and the rulers of all eras’.( Shahrastaanee, 1975, p114)
On the banks of the Nahrawan (in Iraq), Ali suppressed them temporarily for a short time during a bloody massacre in July, but they reappeared many times in the history of Islam under various names. ( Rahman, 1989, p61)
The tenth-century scholar Ibn Hazm advocated that anyone has the same thinking as a Kharijite (whether he agrees or disagrees) if they oppose the settlement reached between caliph Ali and Muawiyya (R.A) refer to people who commit major sins as disbelievers and will live in hellfire forever.
Thus, throughout Islamic history, they have remerged under various names whenever scholars challenged their views and beliefs. Furthermore, whenever the Kharijite’s attack reached the level of killing and terror, scholars responded in kind to the aggression.
There are differing opinions among Muslims about when the Kharijites first emerged.
The advent of Kharijites was believed to date back to the time of Mohammed (PBUH) by some Muslim scholars such as Shahrastani, Ibn Hazam, and Ibn Jawzi (May Allah have mercy on them). They attribute the incident to the Prophet Muhammad during the time of his teachings to both Bukhari and Muslim’s authentic Hadith collections. In light of this incident, the scholars characterized the Kharijites as those who very quickly leave religion, leaving nothing behind them comparable to an arrow that leaves no trace on the arch because of how quickly it is launched. They are markedly recognized by having a man among them whose arm is like the breast of a woman. As Al-Bukhari reports, they appeared also during conflicts, skirmishes, and divisions among Muslim societies ( Bukhari 6933)
The second group of scholars believe that Kharijites are thought to have been formed during the rebellion against the third caliph, ‘Uthman (R.A), they caused his death illegally and wrongfully. According to the commentator on Tahawiyyah:’ “The Kharijites and the Shia emerged during the first fitnah” (Izz. 1418H, p493).
During the time of ‘Uthman (R.A), Ibn Katheer labelled the Kharijites as those who rebelled against him and killed him, saying about them: ‘The Kharijites came and seized the wealth of the public Treasury, in which there was a great deal of wealth’.
Those who put forth the third view believe that the Kharijites were initially formed after the battle of Siffin in 657 AD (37 AH), which occurred during the Muslim civil war between the armies of Caliph Ali (R.A) and Muawiya (R.A). After the battle, both parties appointed a judge (truce broker) with the Quran to reach an agreement. Abu Musa al Ashri was appointed by caliph Ali and Amr ibn Al Aas by Muawiyyah (R.A). The battle ended with an agreement, but a significant group from the caliph’s army refused to adhere to the agreement, declared their disobedience, and established their military camp. This was the first time Kharijites appeared as a group.
Generally, scholars are in favor of this view because the word Kharijite, as it is defined in its literal meaning, only means those who left Caliph Ali’s army after refusing to accept the judges’ rulings in the battle of Siffin. In addition, they appeared to be a group of political figures who held their own opinions and ideologies that had a considerable effect on the beliefs and ideology of Islam.
Researchers studying the history of the Kharijite sect will find that followers of this sect possess several distinct characteristics, including:
Adopting extreme positions on religious issues
The Kharijites were undoubtedly devout and worshipful people. As they applied Islamic rulings and stopped doing everything that is prohibited, they were very enthusiastic about adhering to Islam. Also, they made a point to avoid committing any sin that was contrary to Islam. However, overstepping the boundaries of moderation, they went to extremes. Their strictness caused them to go against the principles of Islam as its strictness led them to follow what their logic suggested, such as the belief that a person who commits a major sin is an unbeliever (Jami, 2014, p75)
In his teachings, the Prophet (PBUH) cautioned against conforming to extremes in religious matters since this is contrary to the modesty and ease of Islam, and those who behave in such a manner will be doomed to loss and loss will be their reward.
Historically, Muslim scholars have unanimously agreed that a Muslim cannot become a disbeliever until they find a way to make that sin permissible (Halal). Ibn Taymiyyah says,” if anyone declares kafir any of the seventy-two sects, he goes against the Quran, sunnah and the consensus of the companions and the righteous scholars’ ( Taymiyyah, 2000, p 557)
Rebelling against authority
Revolting against the sinful/straying imam is obligatory in Khaawarij’s view. They believe it is permissible to renounce loyalty, and if the individual in authority sins, then he owes no loyalty to himself or the people.
Because fighting the leader contains a corruption of both the world and the religion, it is not allowed in the Sunnah. Fighting with arms against a leader is not permissible, as this can lead to great evils.
Sharee’ah’s basic comprehensive principle dictates that evil may not be removed or reduced using another evil ( Fawzaan, p233).
Those who revolt against the leader and renounce loyalty will suffer the following consequences:
- Muslim communities are disunited.
- Blood is unjustly shed
- Enemies will overpower
A person has been deemed a disbeliever due to sin, and the blood and wealth of a Muslim are considered permissible.
Their view of the Muslims’ blood and wealth is permissible as they consider the lands of the Muslims to be lands of war, whereas their lands are lands of faith. This is the practice of the majority of Râfidis as well. However, some of them viewed it as acceptable to shed their blood if they disagreed with them; they saw it as necessary to fight against them.
It was for no other reason than that Abdullah ibn Khabbâb (R.A) did not agree with their views that he was killed.
The three traits of Kharijites, as listed earlier, could be applied to any contemporary extremist group.
If the three characteristics of Kharijites mentioned earlier are implemented, any contemporary extremist group could be classified as being inspired by the ideology of the classic Kharijite.
As the Kharijites saw it, Caliph Ali and his followers had changed Allah’s rule to one made by man. Modern Kharijites hold extreme claims and isolate themselves from ordinary Muslim societies. Today, these extreme groups are more likely to use this same tactic to tempt their followers like the bombers on ISIL and Buku Haram who talk about going to heaven.
Thus, we can conclude that Kharijites are extremists in their views and practice. They have distorted the noble teaching of the Islam causing irreparable damage to it. Iblees deceived them that Alee ibn Abee Taalib and those with him from among the Muhajirs and the Ansars were incorrect when they were not. The blood of children was made permissible while eating a date without paying a price was forbidden. When the sword struck Ibn Muljam’s tongue, he cried out because he would never have the chance to mention the name of Allah again. Yet they made the assassination of ‘Alee ibn Abee Taalib (R.A) permissible ( Jawzee’s, 2001, p 32)
Jawzee’s, ‘Abdur-Rahmaan, (2021), the devil’s Deception, Edited Translation
Philips, Ameenah Bilal. Makatbah Assunnah,
Sunan an-Nasa’i 4103, Hasan (Darussalam)
ash-Shahrastaanee, al-Milal wan-Nihal, (Beirut: Daar al-Ma‘rifah, 2nd ed. 1975), vol. 1,
Rahman, H.U. (1989). A Chronology of Islamic History 570-1000 CE., , G K Hall & Co, US
Sallabi Ali M. (2010), Ali ibn Abi Talib vol 2, Trans: Naseeruddin Khattab, IIPH
Ibn Al Izz, Sharh al-Aqeedah al-Tahawiyah [Explanation of the doctrine of Tahawi], Edited by Ahmad Shaker, Vol. 1, (Saudi Arabia, 1418 H)
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Aman ibn Ali al-Jami, (2014) The Islamic Creed and Its History. A Historical Insight into Sects and Divisions, DuSunnah Publication: United Kingdom,
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