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The Kharijites

Source: Al-Nass Wal-Ijtihad, Text and Interpretation
By: Allama Abdul Husayn Sharafuddin al-Musawi


The Kharijites were the Muslims, who apostatized from religion when they rebelled against Imam ‘Ali (as). They denied the arbitration (between Imam ‘Ali (as) and Mo’awiya), which they themselves had forced Imam ‘Ali (as) to accept. They were about eighty thousand or more. Imam ‘Ali (as) sent for them to remind them of Allah and the hereafter and to show them their faults and mistakes in what they had thought and kept to “..and most surely the frailest of the houses is the spider's house if they but knew” (Qur’an 29:41)
but they refused to come to him and they asked him to acknowledge that he had become unbeliever and he had to repent. When they did not come to him, Imam ‘Ali (as) sent to them Abdullah bin Abbas, who tried his best to refute their opinions with clear evidences but they insisted on their deviation as if there was deafness in their ears and there were veils on their hearts.
They agreed unanimously on considering every Muslim, who did not adopt their opinions, as unbeliever and that he and his family were to be killed and his properties were to be appropriated. They rebelled against the Muslims and they killed whoever passed by them. Among those, whom they had killed, was Abdullah bin al-Khabbab bin al-Arth at-Tameemi. They cut open his wife’s abdomen while she was pregnant. Their evils spread everywhere. Imam ‘Ali (as) came to them preaching to them and showing them that they were mistaken when they rebelled against him. He refuted their excuses and warned them that if they insisted on their deviation, they would be killed and in the hereafter they would be in Hell.
They insisted on their transgression without intending to repent and they became like the people of Noah when “..they put their fingers in their ears, cover themselves with their garments, and persist and are puffed up with pride” (Qur’an 71:7)
and then Imam ‘Ali (as) fought them and killed them. 101 Only ten of them escaped death and only ten of Imam Ali’s companions were killed. This was exactly what Imam ‘Ali (as) had predicted when warning them but they did not desist from doing evil.
Then some deviant people, who believed in the opinions of the Kharijites concerning the arbitration and rebelling against the walis, joined the few Kharijites, who had not been killed.
When Abdullah bin az-Zubayr became the wali, some of those people appeared with Nafi’ bin al-Azraq in Iraq and some appeared with Najda bin Aamir al-Harawri in Yamama (in the Arabia). Najda went too far in his opinions and he even exceeded the doctrine of the Kharijites themselves. He considered every one who did not join him and his followers to fight the Muslims, as unbeliever.
They annulled the verdict of stoning a married adulterer. They made it obligatory to cut a thief’s arm from the armpit. They made it obligatory on a woman to offer prayers during the period of menstruation and many other heresies that there is no need to mention here.
Until now there is a remainder of them spread here and there. The explorer Ibn Batuta met some of them in Oman during his travel in the eighth century of hijra. He has mentioned them in his book Rihlat Ibn Batuta (Ibn Batuta’s travel)102 and said: “They are Ibadhite in doctrine. They offer Friday prayer in four rak’as and when they finish it, their imam recites some verses of the Qur'an and then he praises Abu Bakr and Umar but he does not mention Othman and Ali. If they want to mention Ali, they nickname him by saying “the man”. They praise the cursed Abdurrahman bin Muljam (Imam Ali’s killer) and call him as “the good servant of Allah” in spite of the great sedition he has caused. Their women commit adultery too much and their men do not deny that nor have they jealousy.
One day I was with their chief Abu Muhammad bin Nabhan, who was from the tribe of al-Azd. A young beautiful woman came and said to him: “O Abu Muhammad, the Satan has played with my mind (her sexual lust was provoked)”. He said to her: “Go and drive the Satan away from your mind!” She said: “I cannot do unless you protect me.” He said: “Go and do whatever you like.” When she left, he said to me: “This one, and whoever does like her, will be under my protection. She goes to commit adultery and neither her father nor any of her relatives will be able to show their jealousy. If they kill her they will be killed in return because she is under my protection”.
The Messenger of Allah (S) informed of the truth when he said: “O Ali, no one hates you but a bastard, a child of menstruation103 or a hypocrite”.

Killing the Kharijites
Many traditions have been narrated about killing the Kharijites especially from the infallible Imams (S). Here we mention some of those traditions, which have been mentioned by the Sunni scholars. The Prophet (S) said describing the Kharijites: “They recite the Qur'an but it does not go past their clavicles. They kill the Muslims and set the idolaters free. They apostatize from Islam like an arrow slipping out of a game animal. If I live until they appear, I shall kill them like the killing of the people of Aad.” 104
In another tradition the Prophet (S) said: “If I live until they appear, I shall kill them.” 105
In a third tradition the Prophet (S) said describing them: “They are young and foolish. They repeat the best of saying. They recite the Qur'an but it does not go past their clavicles. They apostatize from religion like an arrow that slips away from a hunted animal. If you find them, you are to kill them. Whoever kills them will be rewarded by Allah on the Day of Resurrection.” 106
There are many other traditions like this mentioned in the books of Hadith. These traditions show that these people are unbeliever for killing them is like killing the people of Aad and Thamood.

They are the worst of people
The tradition narrated from the infallible Imams (S) and showing that the Kharijites are the worst of people are clear and recurrent but here we mentioned the traditions mentioned by the Sunni scholars. Muslim mentioned in his Sahih a tradition narrated by Abu Dharr and Rafi’ bin Umar al-Ghifari that the Prophet (S) had said: “After me there will be some people of my Ummah who recite the Qur'an but the Qur'an does not go past their throats.107 They get out of religion as an arrow that slips away from a hunted animal and then they do not go back to it (religion). They are the worst of people.” 108
Muslim mentioned in his Sahih another tradition narrated by Abu Sa’eed al-Khidri that the Prophet (S) had mentioned some people, who would appear from among his Ummah, and said: “… They are the worst of people. They will be killed by the righteous people.” And then the Prophet (S) gave an example when saying: “…like a man, who shoots his arrow at an animal and then he looks at the arrowhead but he does not see anything and he looks at the bowstring and he does not see anything.”109
Ahmad mentioned in his Musnad a tradition narrated by Abu Barza in two ways that the Prophet (S) had described the Kharijites and said: “…They recite the Qur'an but the Qur'an does not go past their clavicles. They get out of religion as an arrow that slips away from an animal and they do not go back to religion. They will still appear until the last of them will be killed with ad-Dajjal (the fraud). If you meet them, you are to kill them for they are the worst of people and the worst in nature. They are the worst of people and the worst in nature. They are the worst of people and the worst in nature.” 110
If they were the worst of people and the worst in nature, then the idolaters and the unbelievers would not be worse than them and this would be a clear evidence showing their unbelief.

The Kharijites’ apostasy
There have been many clear prophetic traditions talking about the apostasy of the Kharijites. Here are some of them besides the ones we have mentioned above. Al-Bukhari and Muslim have mentioned in their Sahihs a tradition narrated by Abu Sa’eed al-Khidri saying: “While we were with the Prophet (S), who was taking an oath, Thul Khuwaysira, who was a man from the tribe of Tameem, said: “O Messenger of Allah, be just!” The Messenger of Allah said: “Woe unto you! And who is just if I am not? Surely I shall fail and lose if I do not do right.”
Umar said (to the Prophet (S)): “Would you allow me to kill him?”111 The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “Let him alone! He has companions, who exaggerate in offering prayers and in fasting. They recite the Qur'an but it does not go past their clavicles. They apostatize from religion as an arrow that slips away from a game animal…their sign is a black man whose upper arm is like a woman’s breast or like a dangling piece of flesh…they will appear at the time of a good group of people.” 112
Abu Sa’eed said: “I witness that I heard this tradition from the Messenger of Allah and I witness that Imam ‘Ali (as) fought them and I was with him. Imam ‘Ali (as) ordered that man to be brought. When he was brought, I looked at him and I saw that he was as the Prophet (S) had described him.” 113
The prophetic traditions talking about the evil doings and aspects of the Kharijites are true and recurrent whether have been narrated from the infallible Imams (S) or the Sunnis. These traditions were among the signs of the Prophet (S) and Islam due to the unseen that appeared like the light of morning to people after the death of the Prophet (S). People saw clearly the apostasy of that group (the Kharijites) from religion when they revolted against Imam ‘Ali (as), who was the legal caliph.114
Their rising was when people had separated into two groups.115 They were killed and their killer was the Imam of the truth. 116 They, as the Prophet (S) had predicted, killed the faithful people and let the idolaters free. They became too strict in religion where there was no necessity for strictness. They recited the Qur'an but it did not go past their clavicles because their hearts were covered with their apostasy. Nothing of the light of the Qur'an got into their hearts.
They exaggerated in offering prayer and fasting but they ignored the rights of Islam by apostatizing and being away from its guidance. Their sign, as the Prophet (S) had predicted, appeared to the people. It was a black man whose upper arm was like a woman’s breast or like a dangling piece of flesh as the Prophet (S) had said. The Prophet (S) had confirmed, through his sayings about this apostate group, that the Ummah would remain prevailing unlike what the fabricators had fabricated. It was the unseen that Allah had revealed to the Prophet (S). Allah said: “The Knower of the unseen! So He does not reveal His secrets to any except to him whom He chooses as a messenger; for surely He makes a guard to march before him and after him” (Qur’an 72:26-27). 231
Let us finish our speech about this apostate group with a tradition narrated by Jundub117 and mentioned by at-Tabarani in his book al-Awsat. Jundub said: “When the Kharijites parted with Ali, he decided to pursue them and we joined him. We moved until we reached their camp. There were noises like those of bees. They were busy reciting the Qur'an and among them there were notable and respected persons. When I saw them, I hesitated to fight them.
I stepped aside, fixed my spear in the ground, got down of my horse, put off my burnoose, spread my armor on me, held the halter of my horse and began praying. I said in my prayer: “O Allah, if fighting these people is obedience to You, allow me to fight them and if it is disobedience to You, show me the truth.” As I was doing so, Ali bin Abu Talib came near to me and said: “O Jundub, ask Allah to protect you from His wrath!” I beseeched him. He began praying.
Then a man came to him saying: “O Ameerul Mo’mineen, have you anything to do with the people?” He said: “What is there?” The man said: “They (the Kharijites) crossed the river and gone away.” Ali said: “They have not crossed the river.” The man said: “Glory be to Allah!” Another man came and said to him: “They have crossed the river and gone away.” Ali said: “They have not crossed the river and they will never cross it. They will be killed before it. It is a promise from Allah and His Messenger.”
Then he rode on his horse and said to me: “O Jundub, I will send to them a man to invite them to the Book of their God and the Sunna of their Prophet but when he will come to them, they will shoot at him with arrows. O Jundub, less than ten persons from us will be killed and less than ten persons from them will escape death.” Then he said: “Who will take this Qur'an and go to the people (the Kharijites) to invite them to the Book of Allah and to the Sunna of His Messenger but he will be killed and will go to Paradise?” A young man from Bani 118 Aamir bin Sa’sa’a responded to him.
The young man, holding the Qur'an, went towards the Kharijites. As soon as he became near to them, they began shooting at him with arrows. Then Ali said: “Attack them!” I (Jundub) myself had killed eight persons of them before I offered Dhuhr 119 Prayer. Less than ten persons from us were killed and less than ten from them escaped death as Ali had predicted. Praise be to Allah.” 120
Notes:
101. By doing that Imam ‘Ali (as) just followed the orders of the Qur'an and the Sunna. Allah said: “..fight that (group) which acts wrongfully until it returns to Allah's command..” (Qur’an 49:9) and: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered… ” (Qur’an 5:33). As for the orders of the Sunna, I shall mention them in the main text of the book inshallah.
102. Vol.1, p.172.
103. That he has been created out of making love during a period of menstruation.
104. Muslim’s Sahih, vol.1 p.393.
105. Ibid. vol.1 p.394.
106. Narrated from Imam ‘Ali (as) and mentioned by Muslim in his Sahih, vol. 1 p.396.
107. It means that their hearts do not perceive what they recite and they do not benefit from it. They do nothing but utter the words of the Qur'an in their mouths when reciting them. Their hearts are covered with the stain of the (ill) which they do! Nothing of the light of the Qur'an gets into their hearts. Neither their reciting the Qur'an nor any of their doings will be accepted by Allah.
108. Vol.1, p.398.
109. Vol.1 p.395 and Ahmad’s Musnad, vol.3 p.5.
110. Ahmad’s Musnad, vol.4 p.422, 424.
111. Would that he had killed him when he had been ordered to!
112. The group of Imam ‘Ali (as) and his followers.
113. Ahmad’s Musnad, vol.3 p.56.
114. The Prophet (S) had predicted that: “They will revolt against the best group. (He meant Imam ‘Ali (as) and his followers).”
115. Their appearance was in Siffeen when the people were in two groups; one with Imam ‘Ali (as) and the other with Mo’awiya.
116. The Prophet (S) said: “They will be killed by the one, who is the nearest to the truth” or “…the worthiest of the truth” in another tradition mentioned by Muslim in his Sahih.
117. Jundub bin Zuhayr bin al-Harith bin Katheer bin Sab’ bin Malik al-Azdi al-Ghamidi was one of Imam Ali’s close companions. Ibn Hajar has mentioned him in his book al-Isaba. There was a debate about his companionship with the Prophet (S) but there was no doubt that he was one of the great successors and he was one of their heads and ascetics. He fought with Imam ‘Ali (as) in the battles of al-Jamal, Siffeen and an-Nahrawan. In the battle of an-Nahrawan he was the leader of the infantrymen. Abu Durayd mentioned in his book al-Amali a tradition narrated by Abu Ubayda that Younus had said: “Abdullah bin az-Zubayr had lined us up on the day (the battle) of al-Jamal. Salih came out to us saying: “O people of Quraysh, I warn you of two men; Jundub bin Zuhayr and (Malik) al-Ashtar because you cannot stand against their swords.” This Jundub bin Zuhayr was not Jundub, who had killed the magician. The one, who had killed the magician, was Jundub bin Ka’b al-Abdi and he had been killed in the battle of Siffeen when fighting with Imam ‘Ali (as). This has been mentioned by az-Zubayr bin Bukar in his book al-Muwaffaqiyyat quoted from Ibnul Kalbi and others.
118. Bani means “the family of” or “the tribe of”.
119. Dhuhr means noon.
120. Kanzol Ummal, vol.6 p.71.

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