By Sh. Abu Aaliyah Surkheel
August 24, 2015
As ISIS continues its murder and violence
across the provinces it controls and seeks to control, and as it continues to
plague the conscience of the great majority of Muslims around the world, what's
worth recalling is that we've seen this before in history with the sect called
the Khawarij (anglicized to Kharijites). So before tackling ISIS, let's look at
their forerunners; the Kharajites, to whom their pedigree can be traced.
The Hadith canons relate that shortly after
the battle of Hunayn while the Prophet
was distributing charity to a few people whose hearts needed to be
reconciled, there came a man with a thick beard, prominent cheek bones, deep
sunken eyes, protruding forehead and shaven head. He exclaimed: Fear Allah, O
Muhammad! The Prophet responded: 'Who
will obey Allah if I were to disobey him? Am I not [sent as the] most
trustworthy person on earth; and yet you trust me not?' The man then turned
back, whereupon one of those present asked for permission to kill him. But the
Prophet said: 'Verily, from the progeny
(di'di) of this [man] shall come a people who will recite the Qur'an but it
won't pass beyond their throats. They will slay the followers of Islam and
would spare the people of idolatry. They will pierce through the religion just
like an arrow which goes clean through a prey.
Another Hadith records that this man's name
was Dhu'l-Khuwaysirah, from the tribe of Tamim, about whom the Prophet alerted: 'Leave him; he has comrades whose
prayer and fasting will make your prayer and fasting seem insignificant. They
recite the Qur'an but it doesn't go beyond their throats. They shall pass
through the religion as an arrow that pierces clean through its prey such that,
on inspecting the head; then the shaft; then the fletching; then the nock,
would see no traces of blood or viscera on it whatsoever.' Ibn al-Jawzi
said: 'the first of the Khawarij, and the most wretched of them, was Dhu'l-Khuwaysirah
… His problem was that he was too puffed up with his own opinion. Had he been
granted grace, he would have realized that no opinion was above that of Allah's
Messenger. The followers of this man were those who fought against 'Ali b. Abi
Talib, May Allah ennoble his face.'
A few decades after this post-Hunayn
happening, and as had been prophesied, Dhu'l-Khuwaysirah's ideological comrades
and offspring took on the shape of the very first sect (Firqah) to deviate from
the main body of the Muslims: the Khawarij (culled from the Arabic word Kharaja
– “to go out” or “to leave” the main body of Muslims). Indeed, their very name
was mentioned by the Prophet himself,
who said: Al-Khawarij Hum Kilab Al-Nar – “The Khawarij are the dogs of
Hellfire!' The emergence of the Khawarij as a sect occurred during the
caliphate (Khilafah) of 'Ali, in the immediate aftermath of a civil war and its
arbitration at Siffin.
Ibn al-Jawzi tells us: ''Ali returned from
Siffin and entered Kufah: the Khawarij did not follow. Instead, they
settled in Harura. There were 12,000 of them, and they were declaring: la
Hukma Illa Li'llah – “There is no judgement, except Allah's.” This is
how they initially started.'
Imam Muslim narrates from 'Ubayd Allah b.
Abi Rafi', a freed salve of the Prophet
, that the Khawarij came out against 'Ali, and declared: 'There is no
judgement, except Allah's.' So 'Ali replied: 'A word of truth, intended for
something false (Kalimatu Haqq Urida Biha Batil).'
Imam al-Nawawi explains: 'Meaning, the
basis of their statement was true. Allah says: The judgement is for none but
Allah. [12:40] What they intended by it, however, was to reject 'Ali's
[acceptance of] arbitration, may Allah be pleased with him.'
As with Dhu'l-Khuwaysirah who,
blinded by his warped piety and self-righteousness, thought he had a keener
sense of justice than the Prophet, the Khawarij were also possessed of
holier-than-thou pretensions and smug convictions. It is this puritanical,
embittered self-righteousness – devoid of any true glimmer of knowledge or
spiritual wisdom – that is the hallmark of the Khawarij and their ideological
cousins who drink from the same murky theological waters today. Of course,
along with such fanatical zeal, their other great infamy was Takfir – declaring
other Muslims to be disbelievers, and spilling their blood because of it.
The historians al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir
chronicle alarmingly precise accounts of their intimidation, violence and
terror. Under the events of 37H/657CE they detail how the Khawarij began
terrorizing the countryside around Nahrawan, Iraq, subjecting those whom they
caught to an Imtihan or “inquisition”. If the answers failed to satisfy
their zeal for purity, or agree with their understanding of things, then the
punishment was death. Things came to a head when they chose 'Abd Allah, son of
an early companion, Khabbab b al-Aratt, as their victim.
A number of the Khawarij rode into his
village for supplies and thought to make an example of him. They fired their
loaded questions at him. They first asked him about the caliphates of Abu Bakr,
'Umar and 'Uthman. 'Abd Allah extolled them all and praised their successive
caliphates. So far, so good. They then asked him about 'Ali, and his state
before and after the arbitration or Tahkim. 'He has far greater knowledge about
Allah than you do,' replied 'Abd Allah, 'and has much more piety in terms of
his religion and possesses greater insight.' With that, his fate was sealed.
They bound and dragged him and his pregnant wife to an orchard laden with date
palms, next to a river.
As they were proceeding to kill him, a date
fell to the ground, so one of the Khawarij picked it up and put it in his
mouth. 'Do you do that without the owner's permission and without paying for
it?' said one of his Kharajite comrades. He spat it out instantly. Another
Khariji, wielding his sword in threatening circles, accidentally killed a cow
that had been wandering behind him. His comrades insisted he should go and find
the owner and pay him the full price of the animal. They waited whilst he did
so. Thus, having acted most righteously in the matter of the date and the cow,
they slit 'Abd Allah's throat and then disembowelled his wife. Date spat out,
cow paid for, husband, wife and unborn child butchered; and with the clearest
of consciences, they purchased their supplies and went on their way.
Theologians have differed as to the precise
meaning of the Prophet's words: 'They will pierce through the religion (Yamruquna
Min Al-Din) as an arrow which goes clean through a prey.' The idea of Maraqa
– an arrow 'piercing' or going 'clean through' its prey with such force and
velocity that it exits its prey without any trace of blood or flesh sticking to
its tip or shaft, describes emphatically how the Khawarij immerse themselves in
religion, but exit straight through it. The question, however, is do they exit
the fold of orthodoxy (and become heterodox, deviant Muslims), or do they leave
the actual fold of Islam? A minority of scholars went with the latter view;
most went with the former. The majority view takes its cue from 'Ali, may
Allah be pleased with him, who was asked: Are the Khawarij Mushrikun? He said:
'They flee from shirk.' Are they Munafiqun? He said: 'The hypocrites remember
Allah only a little.' Then what are they? He said: 'They are our brothers who
transgressed against us (Ikhwanuna Baghaw 'Alayna), so we fought them
for their transgression.'
We may be forgiven for thinking that the
Khawarij are an anachronism; a thing of the past, that have no bearing upon
Muslims and today's world. But we would be terribly wrong! The Khawarij, as we
shall soon see, were prophesied as raising their ugly heads throughout time,
until the Dajjal appears at their tale end. It is crucial, therefore, that we
acquaint ourselves with their traits, attitudes and bent of mind:
first trait, as was mentioned, is that they will keep on rising throughout
time. The Prophet warned: 'A group of
young men will rise up reciting the Qur'an, but it won't pass beyond their
throats. Whenever a group appears, it is to be cut off; until the Dajjal arises
at their tale end.'
Ibn 'Umar said: I heard the Prophet saying: 'each time a group appears, it is to
be cut off' more than twenty times. Thus the Khawarij will continue to
plague Islam and the Muslims, till the Dajjal arises in what remains of them.
typical trait is their ignorant, over-simplistic understanding of religion. To
this reality, there are these following words of the Prophet: 'There will arise
at the end of time a people young in age and weak in intellect (Hudatha'
Al-Asnan Wa Sufaha' Al-Ahlam). Their speech will be that of the best of
creation. They will recite the Qur'an but it shan't go beyond their throats.
They will shoot through the religion just like an arrow goes through the game.
When you meet them, kill them; for in their killing you will receive a great
reward from Allah on the Day of Judgement.'
Ibn Hajr wrote: 'The Khawarij, what led
them to judge those who opposed them to be disbelievers, making their blood
lawful … and engage in fighting and killing Muslims? All this is from the
vestiges of those who worship upon ignorance; those whose hearts haven't been
expanded by the light of knowledge, nor do they hold tightly to the firm rope
Indeed, more than any other Fitnah today,
the Ummah is beset with Takfiri violence, murder and mayhem, wreaked upon it
mostly by those 'young in age and weak in intellect.'
and fanaticism is another quintessential character. The Prophet said about them: 'There will arise among you
a people whose prayer will make your prayer look insignificant, whose fasting
will make your fasting look insignificant, and whose deeds will make your deeds
look insignificant. They will recite the Qur'an but it won't pass beyond their
Ibn 'Abbas said about the Khawarij, when he
went to debate them: 'I came to them at midday and entered upon a people, the
likes of whom I hadn't seen in terms of their exertion in worship. Their
foreheads were grazed from [constant] prostration. Their hands were rough, like
[the knees of] camels. They wore recently washed, girded up tunics. And their
faces were pale from staying up at night [in prayer].'
Despite their ostensibly impressive
religiosity, which has ensnared many a youth into their misguided, brutal
embrace, Ibn Hajr puts things into perspective for us: 'It was said of them
[that they are] “Reciters,” because of their tireless exertion in reciting the
Qur'an and [devotion in] worship. Except that they would interpret the Qur'an
upon other than its intended meanings, were obstinate, and went to extremes in
regards to worldly detachment (Zuhd), humility in prayer (Khushu') and other
speech is impressive, but their actions are abhorrent and wicked. One Hadith
states: 'There shall appear in my Ummah schisms and divisions, and a people who
will beautify their speech, but their actions will be evil. They shall recite
the Qur'an, but it will not pass beyond their throats …' A clear case that
the Khawarij can talk the talk, but not walk the walk – and how yesterday
demean the seasoned scholars well-known for their depth of knowledge, fiqh and
piety, and cut-off from them. The Prophet
described the Khawarij as: 'young in age, weak in intellect,' Ibn
'Abbas, in his parley with them, told them this home truth: 'I come to you from
the Emigrants (Muhajirun) and the Helpers (Ansar), and the son-in-law of
Allah's Messenger. To them the Qur'an was revealed. They are more learned about
its meanings than you are; and there is not a single one of them among
Fewer things are as repugnant as the blind,
holier-than-thou absolutism of the newly reformed sinner (as the Khawarij saw
themselves to be). In their purer than the pure self-righteousness they
declared 'Ali, Mu'awiyah, and other Sahabah to be unbelievers or Kuffar, for
they had failed to cross over to their puritanical way of seeing things. In
fact, Khariji bigotry has always treated with contempt the true people of
knowledge. The mediating voices of the scholars become, for the Khawarij,
religious compromise or betrayal. Juristic nuances are seen by them as
pharisaic, there to hide the simplicity of passing judgement on others.
The Prophet said about such murderous misfits: 'They
shall recite the Qur'an thinking it is for them, but it is against them.'
And that: 'They would call to the Book of Allah, but would not be from it at
all.' Such can be the tragedy of those who, notwithstanding their religious
zeal, are wet behind the ears in terms of age, experience and knowledge.
In contrast to those 'young in age, weak in
intellect,' the Prophet said: Al-Barakah
Fi Akabirikum – 'The blessings are with your senior ones.' Indeed,
cutting-off from the senior scholars in particular, and the people of knowledge
and spirituality (Ahl Al-'Ilmi Wa'l-Ihsan) in general, is the root
causes of how zeal for religious purity is taken over the brink into all-out
with the murder and violence, their most infamous trait is making takfir of a
person for a major sin, or something for which Takfir cannot be made. I have
written at length about Takfir: Its Dangers & Its Rules elsewhere, so I'll
limit myself to this one Hadith. The Prophet
said: 'Truly what I most fear for you is a man who will recite the Qur'an
until its radiance appears on him. So he becomes a support to Islam, changing
it to whatever Allah wills. He then separates from it, casts it behind his back
and raises the sword against his neighbour, accusing him of idolatry (shirk).'
I asked: O Allah's Messenger who most deserves to be imputed with Shirk; the
accused or the accuser? He replied: 'The accuser.'
Ibn Taymiyyah said: 'The Khawarij were the
first to declare Muslims to be unbelievers due to committing sins. They
declared as disbelievers whoever opposed them in their innovation, and made
lawful the shedding of blood and the seizing of wealth.'
final trait. They do not venerate the Prophet, even if they zealously observe
some of the outward Sunnahs. We should recall that the precursor to these
Khawarij, Dhul-Khuwaysirah, rebuked the Prophet, telling him to 'fear
Allah' and 'be just!' Such disrespect towards the Prophet, and towards his
compassion and his concern to reconcile hearts (for that was the context in
which he spoke these insolent words), still courses through Kharijite veins
More than any other attribute, Rahmah –
compassion, mercy and clemency – was the defining quality of the Prophet. Allah
says about His Prophet: We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.
[21:107] The Prophet once said: 'I am
indeed a merciful gift.' That being so, seldom will you find this profound
prophetic attribute manifest upon them, save in some limited way. Anger,
hostility, resentment and vengeance are more what animate them than mercy,
humanity and tolerance. For theirs is the way of political agitation, not
reconciliation; of demolishing, not building; of insulting the people of
knowledge, not honouring or being guided by them; of “learning” via books, not
at the feet of seasoned 'Ulema.
Again, seldom will you find one of them
having a daily word, or set portion, of sending salutations (Salawat) upon the
Prophet, by which the bonds of profound love and attachment to him are
cultivated. In fact, veneration (Ta'zim) of the Prophet, and that ambition to
emulate something of his inward states, are generally conspicuous in them by
Yet without this deep prophetic attachment,
dehumanizing the Quranic message and making faith appear utterly repugnant
becomes more than a possibility; it becomes a hideous, living reality. What is
clear is that those unschooled in Ihsan – in the beauty of Shari’ah – rooted
spirituality – will only bring ugliness into the world.
To summarize: Part 1 of this post mapped
the origins, significance and extremist nature of the first heterodox sect in
Islam: the Khawarij. Section I recounted the genesis of the Khawarij,
personified in the hubris of Dhu'l-Khuwaysirah – the 'father' of this
violent, brutish, self-righteous sect. We saw how they made La Hukma Illa
Li'llah – “No judgement except Allah's” – their clarion call, dressing it
up in their false meaning and misapplication. Section II gave us a window into
their lopsided piety: acting most justly when it came to the price of a date,
but having no conscience whatsoever when it came to butchering and killing
those who did not share their political views. Such superficial piety is what
the prophetic warnings about them allude to: 'a people who will recite the
Qur'an, but it won't pass beyond their throats.'
Section III discussed some of their
defining traits and attitudes: a black and white grasp of religious realities
because of being 'weak in intellect'; extremely puritanical; that Muslims would
be the main victims of their violence and murder; they will keep appearing
throughout time, but will be identified by the learned for what they truly are;
their political rabble-rousing and denigration of the scholars; and, of course,
their wanton Takfir of Muslims for matters wherein Takfir is not permitted.
In the second and concluding part of this
blog, we shall look at how Kharijite beliefs, ideas and methods have surfaced
in modern times; especially in the form of the outfit known as ISIS/ISIL. The
claim of ISIS as being the legitimate Islamic Caliphate will be examined, as
will some of their pronouncements and their 'Management of Savagery.' And
Allah's help is sought.
Abu Aaliyah is the founder of The Jawziyyah
Institute, a leading institute for Islamic moderation and contemporary thought
in the United Kingdom. Sidi Abu Aaliyah has been in involved in Da’wah and
Islamic teachings since 1986. He has translated a number of books from the
Arabic language into English such as “The Exquisite Pearls”. Abu Aaliyah's
written works and audio lectures can be found online.
 Muslim, no.1064.
 Bukhari, no.3610.
 Ibn al-Jawzi, Talbis Iblis (Beirut: Dar
al-Qalam, 1982), 88; also see: al-Shahrastani, al-Milal wa'l-Nihal (Cairo: Dar
al-Halabi, 1967), 1:118.
 Ibn Majah, no.176. Al-Albani graded it
as sahih in Sahih al-Jami' al-Saghir (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1987),
 Talbis Iblis, 89.
 Muslim, no.1066/157.
 Al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim (Beirut:
Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyyah, 1995), 7:152.
 Consult: al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Rusul
wa'l-Muluk (Egypt: Dar al-Ma'rifah, 1964); 5:81-2; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah
wa'l-Nihayah (Dar al-Hijr, 1998), 10:584.
 Ibn Hajr al-'Asqalani, Fath al-Bari
(Cairo: Dar al-'Alamiyyah, 2013), 8:225, 15:392-94, where he says that those
who considered the Khawarij to be outside the fold of Islam include: Ibn
al-'Arabi in his Sharh al-Tirmidhi, al-Subki in his Fatawa, and al-Qurtubi in
 Al-Bidayah wa'l-Nihayah, 10:591.
 Ibn Majah, no.174. The Hadith was
graded hasan by al-Albani, Silsilat al-AHadith al-Sahihah (Riyadh: Maktabah
al-Ma'arif, 1991), no.2455.
 Bukhari, no.5057; Muslim, no.1066.
'There will arise at the end of time' has been explained to mean: the end
period of the rightly-guided khalifahs. See: Ibn Hajr, Fath al-Bari, 15:376.
 Fath al-Bari, 15:394.
 Bukhari, no.5058; Muslim, no.1063.
 Cited in Ibn al-Jawzi, Talbis Iblis,
 Fath al-Bari, 15:371. Point to note:
No doubt, the early Khawarij exerted themselves in worship. But this is not
necessarily a trait of theirs in later times; nor even today. In fact, many of
today's Khawarij often have, despite their political zeal, rhetoric and
commitment to carnage, little attachment to sustained religious practice
(although in these religiously lax times, just praying a few prayers a day or
growing a full beard can seem religiously impressive to some).
 Abu Dawud, no.4765. It was classified
as sahih in al-Albani, Sahih al-Jami' al-Saghir (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami,
 Bukhari, no.3611; Muslim, no.1066.
 Talbis Iblis, 89-90.
 Muslim, no.1066.
 Ahmad, no.1338, and it is sahih. See:
al-Albani, Sahih al-Jami' al-Saghir (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1986),
 Ibn Hibban, Sahih, no.559; al-Hakim,
Mustadrak, no.210, where he said: 'It is sahih according to the conditions of
 Ibn Hibban, Sahih, no.282. Ibn Kathir
said: 'Its chain is excellent (jayyid).' See: Tafsir Qur'an al-'Azim (Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rifah, 1987), 2:276.
 Majmu' al-Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar 'Alam
al-Kutub, 1991), 3:279.
 Bukhari, no.6933; Muslim, no.1064.
 In fact, similar resistance to
reconciling hearts can be seen in Kharijite hostility to the tahkim or
arbitration at Siffin. Moreover, the same disrespect towards the Prophet can be seen in their insults against, and
takfir of, 'Ali – the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law; and thus a member of the
 Al-Hakim, Mustadrak, no.100; and it is
sahih. See: al-Albani, Silsilat al-AHadith al-Sahihah (Riyadh: Maktabah
al-Ma'arif, 1995), no.490.
Militants Killing Muslims in Iraq will Taste the Hellfire
A highly technical and exhaustive article that comes to exactly the same conclusion as the following focused article that also draws on authentic Islamic sources but makes its point on the strength of a few compelling arguments rather than lining up layers upon layers of weak/ oblique arguments:
For International Fatwas To Declare The Terrorists Who Advocate Wanton Killing
Of Innocent People In The Name Of Islam As ‘Terrorist Apostates’, Like The
Kharijites Of Early Islam
Declare The ISIS As The Kharijites (Those
Who Seceded From Islam) As This Article Demonstrates And Declares: Global SOS
To The Ulama, Muftis, Intellectuals And Scholars Of Islam