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The Kharijites and Their Impact on Contemporary Islam - Part 1

 

 

By Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Much of the excesses and extremism that we observe today may be understood in terms of the origins and unfolding of Kharijism during the first few centuries of Islam.

While a number of writers - both past and present - are of the opinion that this sect is extinct, others are of the view that it’s not. I share the latter view. The influences of this sect have always been present, in different guises and in varying degrees, throughout the history of Islam. But it appears to have gained a renewed momentum with the emergence of Muhammad Abdul Wahhab during the latter part of the 18th century.

This series will attempt to explore the relationship between the two and also to critically examine the position of Abdul Wahhab himself.

Hurqus - the first Khariji

The origins of Kharijism date back to the time of the Prophet (s). Amongst the clearest indications we have of this is the Hadith of Hurqus ibn Zuhair in Bukhari and Muslim.

After the Battle of Hunain the Prophet (s) - in distributing the booty - gave preference to a number of non-Muslims. His aim was to attract them to Islam. Hurqus rebuked the Prophet (s) by saying to him: "Be just in your distribution O Messenger of Allah."

The Prophet was incensed by this remark and responded by saying:

"Then who can be called just if I am not just?"

To this the Prophet added:

"There will come a time when a group of people will leave our ranks. They will recite the Quran with fervour and passion1 but its spirit will not go beyond their throats. They will leave our ranks in the manner of an arrow when it shoots from its bow."

The Battle of Siffin

It is significant that this selfsame Hurqus was elected as one of the heads of the Kharijites after the Battle of Siffin. This story needs to be told, albeit briefly.

The Battle of Siffin was a battle for Muslim leadership, with Sayyidna Ali on the one side and Muawiyah on the other. This probably marks one of the most painful moments in the history of Islam. But there are enormous lessons here and we need to understand them.

Many Companions on both sides were disheartened by this conflict. The necessity, therefore, for arbitration between the two parties was mooted by a certain al-Ash'ath Ibn Qais. The proposal was accepted by both parties with Abu Musa al-Ash'ari representing Sayyidna Ali (r) and 'Amr Ibn al-As (r) representing Muawiyah (r).

Nonetheless, when the pact was read out by Ibn Qais a large group on the side of Sayyidna Ali objected vehemently to its terms. Most of the members of this group belonged to the Bedouin tribe of Tamim. Their spokesperson on the occasion was Urwa ibn Udaiyya.

He said: "Are men to arbitrate in the affairs of Allah? There can be no arbitration except by Allah."

In support of his view he quoted the following Quranic passage: "The prerogative of command rests with none but Allah. He declares the truth and he is the best of judges" (6:57).

Sayyidna Ali's response to this was typical:

"There is a word of truth in what they say," he said, "but their ends are devious."

Urwa, along with 12,000 others, then seceded from the party of Sayyidna Ali. Initially they set up camp at a place called Harawra on the outskirts of Kufa. Here they elected Abdullah ibn al-Kawwa as their head. Sayyidna Ali pursued them and engaged them in debate. Ibn al-Kuwwa conceded to Sayyidna Ali's arguments and he, along with a few others, returned to his ranks.

The rest of the Kharijites then left for Nahrawan. Here they elected Abdullah ibn Wahb al-Rasibi and the above-mentioned Hurqus ibn Zuhair as their leaders. It is interesting to note here that al-Rasibi was known for his fervour in reciting the Quran and was also nicknamed Dhu al-Thafanat (the one whose kneecaps appeared like two humps of a camel because of the intense and extended nature of his prostration in Salaah).

Nevertheless, on their way to Nahrawan, they encountered Abdullah Ibn Khabbaab al-Aratt, one of the governors of Sayyidna Ali. Amongst the things he said to them after they identified him as an enemy was the following:

"My father related to me that the Prophet (s) said: 'There will come a time when the Fitna (corruption and sedition) of the one who sits will be considered preferable to the one who stands; and the Fitna of the one who stands will be preferable to the one who walks; and the Fitna of the one who walks will be preferable to the one who runs. So if it is at all possible then try to be amongst those who are slaughtered rather than amongst those who will do the slaughtering."

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 Sayyidna Ali he set out for Nahrawan with an army of 4,000 men.

The subsequent meeting that ensued between Sayyidna 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 Sayyidna Ali, Muawiyah, 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 Sayyidna 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 Sayyidna 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).

Sayyidna 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 Sayyidna 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.

Sayyidna Ali's position in that confrontation at Nahrawan is one every Muslim needs to know.

Source: http://www.sunnah.org/aqida/kharijites1.htm

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/radical-islamism-and-jihad/shaykh-seraj-hendricks/the-kharijites-and-their-impact-on-contemporary-islam---part-1/d/11255

 


TOTAL COMMENTS:-   4
  • Dear muhammad yunus - 4/24/2013 1:24:39 AM.
    Thanks for re-establishing the connection. I am reading articles by Ziauddin Sardar and of course yours later.

    By rational - 4/24/2013 4:11:32 AM
  • Dear Rational!

    I fully appreciate your outburst/ grievance/ concern. I have nothing against any form of Islam because as you will know through the exchange of scores of comments with you, I passionately and objectively believe in the divinity of the Qur'an, its humanism and pluralism and universalism that does not admit of any sectarian division. Even in my comment below I have condemned the "fascist, retrogressive, rigid and atavistic model of Islam" which you can hardly deny, the world 'conflates' with wahabi Islam, not the other way round please. I think Sultan Shahin Sahab has similar views.

    By muhammad yunus - 4/24/2013 1:24:39 AM
  • Dear muhammad yunus - 4/23/2013 5:59:45 AM
    It is very informative article. I met a Hendrik in Cape Town long back. I remember His surname Handrick because it was a surprise to me. His real name is not in my memory. His ancestors were from the Yemen. A very kind and warm person. I met him in a mosque in Cape Town. He offered his services FREE OF COST saying he will take me to important places in cape town. This was an example of Islamic brotherhood. This mosque was said to be first by early Muslims in the cape town. It was not aligned to Kaba perfectly so Nemazis were using a different angle. I could not accept the gentleman's offer because we had to left the Capetown next day and for security reasons.

    A person even if reads the Quran with its meaning may reamin unguided or can be misguided. The company of the prophet may turn to be useless. Hurqus is such an ecample.
    So we can conclude that the Qurain is not a guide book. Either It depends on the person reading the Quran or Allah. Allah has put some Ayat Mutashbihat along with Ayat Mohkamat. The Question is why
    Ayat Mutashbihat in a guide book.
    Let us agree one should seek the clear verses. At the same time Allah tells that He misguides
    some people with these Ayats. Is the goal of God is to guide the people or misguide or guide some and misguide some.
    Taking the views of Muslims about other Muslims  into consideration no one is guided. One remains uncertain of his guidance.
    A person with political ambitions study the Quran. finds it can be interpreted in political terms. Like here we are calling Wahabi Islam a political Islam. He is able to attract many Muslims calling it real Islam free from Shirk and Bidats. Now the Muslims who are attracted to it are called Wahabis. What they are told it is real Islam. They offer salat, keep fasts, live a moral life in their way unaware of reality.. They offer their prayers sincerely saying Ihdinas Siratal Mustaqeem. Sirat all ladheena an amta allaihim ghairil magdhoobi alaihim waladh dwaleen. Hundreds of people say Ameen.
    Are not they sincere in their religions/prayers? Why doesn't Allah Guide them to Barailvi aka Sufi Islam if it is the real Islam? I am not talking about an individual set out to be bad in intentions. Are they responsible for their beliefs in Wahabism or any other ism?
    Now you may say that every one is responsible for his beliefs. He will be judged according to his beliefs. Tell me how many Muslims can understand the Quran?
    Here a debate ran between two learned people, what is the result? What is the fault of like me, hatts off etc or non-Muslims on this site. Can every Muslim afford to visit this site to disassociate him from the Wahabi Islam?
    Are Mr Sultan Shahin and Mr Naseer Ahmed not like Ulema outside of this site. Don't these Ulema have power and influence to keep people ignorant? What if Mr sultan Shahin has some other goals in this disguise. After all all political and religious leaders talk in a way that they keep masses around them. That's why they are leaders. Who will say he is not a real servant of Islam

    So I think there is no religion/book/prophet from God. To make it acceptable it is propagandized it is from the God like the Pharohs  called themselves sons of God or part of god. It is to separate self from the masses so he can rule the masses.

    He is a part of God/He is a prophet from the God/He is God in the form of Human being/ are all THE METHODS to give authority to your claim.
    Despite your intense unjust condemnation I am here. My energy is not exhausted despite the attacks from so many moderates. As a social animal I am worried for Muslims because I belong to them. I am named after a prophet by my Nani where every body was named in the names of prophets. Later they turned into Wahabis. My Nani used to read the Quran till her last breath with her limited vision.
    So socially I am a Muslim otherwise I don't know what I Am?
    I just don't bother if someone call me any name.


    By rational - 4/23/2013 11:18:36 PM
  • A very timely article by the learned Shaykh Seraj Hendricks. It reinforces Sultan Shahin Sahab’s unrelenting and impassioned crusade to expose the true character of the fascist, retrogressive, rigid and atavistic model of Islam that is conflated with Wahabi Islam.  

    I look forward to reading the later parts of the series.


    By muhammad yunus - 4/23/2013 5:59:45 AM

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