The Kharijites and Their Impact on Contemporary Islam 1

Khabbab, ironically, was one of the first victims of Kharijite brutality. He, along with his pregnant wife, was hacked to death. When the news of this slaughter reached Sayyidina `Ali he set out for Nahrawan with an army of 4,000 men.

The subsequent meeting that ensued between Sayyidina `Ali and the Kharijites merit a separate and full treatment. This we will relate in the 2nd part of this series.

Kharijite principles

Suffice it for us at this stage to know that by now this group of Kharijites – known as the “Muhakkima”- had already resolved upon the following principles: a) The declaration of Kufr (unbelief) on Sayyidina `Ali, Mu`awiyyah, and all those who had participated in and agreed to the process of arbitration b) Takfir (charging with unbelief) of all those who disagreed with them on any theological issues c) The right to kill any of the above. In this context the response of Sayyidina `Ali to their view that the “prerogative of command belongs to Allah alone”2 by saying that it was “a word of truth with a devious end” becomes quite apparent.

It was evident to Sayyidina `Ali that theirs was a political agenda – an agenda that was inspired by an ill-conceived sense of political isolationism owing to their Bedouin status. The spirit of Islam – as yet – had not served to de-tribalise them. Strength, to them, resided in aggression and belligerence; and not in the deeper recesses of the spirit and soul – the wellsprings of genuine faith (Iman).

Sayyidina `Ali understood this for he understood the meaning of the Quranic verse:“The desert Arabs say, ‘We believe (amanna).’ Say: ‘You do not as yet have true faith.’ Rather say: ‘We have only submitted our wills to Allah (aslamna), for not yet has true faith entered your hearts.'” (49:14).

It is therefore not surprising that the Hurub al-Ridda (the War against the Apostates) that occurred during the time of Sayyidina Abu Bakr was inspired by a group of people with similar backgrounds. It is even less surprising that most of the claims to prophethood after the death of the Prophet (s) also emanated from these localities.

For the Kharijites, on the other hand, to legitimise their agenda and justify their killing of Muslims they had to declare them as Kafir and hence the territories in which they lived as a Dar al-Harb (an abode of war). This they legitimised under the nefarious pretence of “the prerogative of command belongs to Allah.” This statement – and more correctly read, in its Kharijite context, as “only we (with our swords) have the prerogative of command” – spawned thousands of little gods who maimed and massacred and killed in the name of the most Merciful of the Merciful.

Sayyidina `Ali’s position in that confrontation at Nahrawan is one every Muslim needs to know.

Part 2



1 lit. “with tongues that are moist”.

2 “fal-hukmu lillah”, Quran 40: 12.

Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions

© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America

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