Know Your Khawarij2

Khawārij: pl. of Khārijī. “Separatist Muslims.” Originally a group of puritan followers of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib who rebelled violently against his leadership.

They began as a group of up to twenty thousand pious worshippers and memorizers of the Qur’ān (‘ubbād wa qurrā’) – without a single Companion of the Prophet among them – who were part of ‘Alī’s army but walked out on him after he accepted arbitration in the crises with Mu‘āwiya b. Abī Sufyān and ‘Ā’isha. Their ostensibly strict position was on the basis of the verses “The decision rests with Allah only” (6:57, 12:40, 12:67) and “Whoso judges not by that which Allah has revealed: such are disbelievers” (5:44). ‘Alī summarized their stance in his famous statement: “A word of truth spoken in the way of falsehood!” (kalimatu haqq yurādu bihā bātil).

They dubbed themselves “muhājirūn ⁽emigrants⁾ from unbelief to belief” (cf. al-Nisāʾ 4:101) and “shurāt ⁽sellers⁾ of their own lives for Paradise” (cf. al-Baqara 2:103 and al-Tawba 9:12). The name became applied to dozens of MUTUALLY ANATHEMIZING SECTS THAT ALL WAGED ARMED REBELLION (al-khurūj ʿalā al-amīr), DAMNING (ikfār/takfīr) OF MUSLIMS AND CONSPICUOUS RELIGIOSITY such as praying and fasting above the norm.

Their sects and beliefs are described at length in heresiology catalogues such as al-Ashʿarī’s Maqālāt al-Islāmiyyīn, al-Baghdādī’s al-Farq bayn al-Firaq and al-Milal wal-Niḥal, Ibn Ḥazm’s al-Fiṣal fīl-Milal wal-Ahwāʾ wal-Niḥal and al-Shahrastānī’s al-Milal wal-Niḥal.

Abū Manṣūr al-Baghdādī wrote in al-Farq bayn al-Firaq (Distinguishing between the Sects):

<<The Khawārij are considered legally to belong to the Umma in certain rulings such as burial in Muslim cemeteries, share in the spoils of war and praying in the masjids; and they are outside the Umma in other rulings, such as (I) not being prayed upon after death, (II) nor does one pray behind them in life, (III) their dhabīḥa is ḥarām not ḥalāl, (IV) their marriage with a Sunni woman is invalid (V) and a Sunni man is forbidden from marrying one of their women if she adheres to their doctrines. ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib said to the Khawārij: “Our responsibility toward you is threefold: we shall not initiate fighting with you; we will not prevent you from praying in the mosques of Allah in which His name is remembered; we do not prevent you from your share in the spoils (fayʾ) as long as you fight along with us.”>>

Al-Bayḍāwī said in his commentary on Sūrat al-Fātiḥa: “Whoever comes short of deeds is a transgressor (fāsiq) by general agreement; but the Khawārij consider the latter an unbeliever (kāfir).” Hence the Khawārij are also known as Waʿīdiyya (<waʿīd, threat of punishment) or “Punishists” because they considered sinners to be apostates and/or eternally condemned to hellfire even if they were Muslims, and they also considered small sins to be major ones if committed deliberately. They also denied all intercession—Prophetic or otherwise—to all but the dwellers of Paradise.

The Khārijī `Abd Allāh b. Wahb al-Rāsibī, whose forehead and knees were worn out with frequent prostration, would not call `Alī b. Abi Talib – the most righteous of Muslims in his time – other than “the atheist” (al-jāhid). `Ali’s assassin belonged to their sect.

Modern Khawarij include the Wahhabiyya (as stated by Ibn `Abidin, al-Sawi, `Abd Allah b. Hasan ibn Fadl Ba `Alawi, `Alawi b. Ahmad al-Haddad, Muhammad Abu Zahra, etc.) and their myriad politicalized offshoots and hybrid grouplets and parties East and West under various veneers of civility—and even intellectualism and education—who continue to promote hatred in the name of Islam.

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad