The Kharijites and Their Impact on Contemporary Islam 4

After the original Muhakkima numerous Kharajite factions emerged. At least twenty are listed in both the al-Milal wa an-Nihal of Shahrastani and the al-Farq baina l-Firaq of al-Baghdadi. Even more is mentioned in the Maqalat al-Islamiyya of Abu l-Hasan al-‘Ashari.

Nevertheless, the most important of these factions were the Azariqa, the Najadat, the Buhaisiyya, the Ajarida, the Tha’alaba, the `Ibadiyya, and the Sufriyya. From these core factions a host of other sub-factions emerged. These factions and sub-factions merely differed in the extent of their extremism. While a detailed study of the nature and extent of their differences is beyond the scope of this series, it is, nevertheless, instructive to know precisely how some of these divisions occurred.

After the Muhakkima, the first and by far the most powerful and influential faction to emerge was the Azariqa. This faction, mentioned previously, was founded by Nafi’ b. Azraq (d.60 AH). The chief difference between them and the Muhakkima was the manner in which they regarded those who differed from them. While the Muhakkima viewed others who differed from them as kuffar (unbelievers), the Azariqa now regarded them as mushrikeen (idolaters). The fine thread that distinguished kufr (unbelief) from shirk (idolatry) was all that distinguished them from each other.

The following therefore, formed part of the principles espoused by the Azariqa:

a) That those who refused to settle in or undertake a hijra to the territories they controlled were declared mushrikeen, even if those who refused to do so agreed with their opinions.

b) That it was obligatory for anyone seeking to join their armed forces to be subjected to an inquisition. Part of the inquisition included presenting to the candidate a Muslim prisoner of war that differed with the Azariqa. The candidate was ordered to kill the prisoner. If he refused to do so then he, in turn, would be declared a mushrik and killed.

c) That it was permissible to kill both the women and children of those who differed with them and that their children, after being killed, would permanently reside in hell.

The notions of a Dar al-Hijra (an abode of refuge for Muslims) and a fervent sense of “belonging” to their views were strong in Azariqa circles. In their Dar al-Hijra they were the Muhajireen (those who fled, literally, from a state of unbelief to a state of true belief). The rest who refused to flee with them were all mushrikeen residing in a Dar al-Harb (an abode of war violently opposed to Islam). Nafi` b’ Azraq finally declared too, that it was not permissible for those Kharajis residing in non-Kharajite lands to hide their beliefs. This form of taqiyya (or to hide one’s faith under life-threatening circumstances) that have broadly been accepted by the vast majority of Muslims, was classed as an act of shirk by Nafi`. This latter view of Nafi`’s was one of the main reasons that lead to Najda b. `Amir al-Hanafi breaking ranks with the Azariqa. Thus emerged a new faction – the Najadat.

While Najda, along with a military contingency, was on his way from al-Yamama to meet Nafi’ he encountered Abu Fudaik and `Atiyya b. al-Aswad al-Hanafi. They informed Najda of certain new innovations (bida`at) invented by Nafi’. Najda rejected these innovations and was then pronounced the new leader of the Kharijis. He adopted the title of Amir al-Mu’mineen (Leader of the Faithful). It was not long after that that Najda, in turn, found himself in trouble with both Abu Fudaik and `Atiyya.

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