The New Kharijism

The Khawarij are considered legally to belong to the Umma in certain rulings such as burial in Muslim cemeteries, share in the spoils of war, praying in the masjids; and they are outside the Umma in other rulings, such as not being prayed upon after death, nor does one pray behind them in life,2  their dhabîha is harâm not halâl, their marriage with a Sunni woman is invalid, and a Sunni man is forbidden from marrying one of their women if she adheres to their doctrines. `Ali ibn Abi Talib said to the Khawarij: “Our responsibility towards 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 (fay’) as long as you fight with us.” And Allah knows best.

Al-Shawkani in Nayl al-Awtar (7:167-268) reports that there is disagreement whether the Khawarij are disbelievers or Muslims. Ibn al-`Arabi al-Maliki said that the correct position is they are disbelievers on the basis of the hadiths of the Prophet : “They shall leave the Religion” and “I would kill them [if I met them] like the people of `Ad,” while al-Khattabi said they remain a Muslim sect (firqa) despite their misguidance (dalâla) and that it is permitted to intermarry with them and eat their dhâbiha, and that they are not declared kâfir “as long as they adhere to the foundation of Islam.” Ibn Hajar related the above in Fath al-Bari (12:253).

It is known that Ibn `Umar prayed behind the Khawarij. However, Taqi al-Din al-Subki said in his Fatawa: “It has been argued that the Khawarij and the extremists among the Rawâfid were disbelievers because of their takfîr of the eminent Companions, since such an act entails disbelief of the Prophet’s testimony that they are bound for Paradise, and I consider this position the sound one.” And Allah knows best.

The practices of declaring the Muslims apostate (takfîr / tashrîk) and armed action (baghî) against the central Muslim authority – the Caliphate – became and continue to remain the hallmark of the Khawarij past and present. In our time, this baghî and takfîr took place in Northeastern Arabia at the turn of the 19th Century CE as mentioned by the scholars of Islam:

The name of Khawârij is applied to those who part ways with the Muslims and declare them disbelievers, as took place in our time with the followers of Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab who came out of Najd and attacked the Two Noble Sanctuaries.3

The Khawârij altered the interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunna, on the strength of which they declared it lawful to kill and take the property of Muslims as may now be seen in their modern counterparts, namely, a sect in the Hijaz called Wahhabis.4

The above excerpts are nothing new. The categorization of the Wahhabis as Kharijis has been a leitmotiv of Sunni heresiography for the past 200 years. Only now, has it become politically incorrect among the `Ulama.

Since the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, the only manifestation of Kharijism to remain is the declaring of Muslims apostate. The exercise of takfîr and tashrîk are therefore the chief marks by which neo-Kharijis can be recognized in our time. They are those who address the Muslims with the shouts and libels of kâfir! mushrik! kufr! bid`a! shirk! harâm! (“apostate,” “polytheist,” “unbelief,” “innovation,” “idolatry,” “forbidden”) without proof nor justification other than their own vain lusts – and without solution other than exclusionism and violence against anyone that disagrees with them.

They satisfy their consciences that such charges may carry capital punishment in Islam and so make light of the sanctity of life and the honor of their brethren. As Shaykh al-Islam said: “Extremists are fanatic zealots who exceed bounds in words and deeds” and “bigots.”5

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