Why They were Khwarij

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

It is recorded in Swahih Muslim, that Zayd ibn Wahb (r.a.) reported and he was amongst the squadron under the command of ‘Ali (k.w.) and which set out to curb the activities of the Khwarij.  ‘Ali (k.w.) said, ‘O people, I heard the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) say, ‘There would arise from my ummah, a people who would recite the Qur’an, and your recital would seem insignificant as compared with their recital, your prayer as compared with their prayer, arid your fast, as compared with their fast.  They would recite the Qur’an thinking that it supports them, whereas it is evidence against them.  Their prayer does not get beyond their collar bone; they would swerve through Islam just as the arrow passes through the prey.’

If the squadron which is to encounter them were to know what has been assured to them by their Apostle (s.a.w.), they would completely rely upon this deed, and their distinctive mark is that there would be a person whose wrist would be without the arm, and the end of his wrist would be fleshy like the nipple of the breast on which there would be white hair.  You would be marching towards Mu’awiyah and the people of Syria and you would leave them behind among your children and your property.  By Allah, I believe that these are the people against whom you have been Commanded to fight and be Rewarded, for they have shed forbidden blood, and raided the animals of the people.  So go forth in the name of Allah.”

Salamah ibn Kuhayl (r.a.) mentioned that Zayd ibn Wahb (r.a.) made them alight at every stage, until they crossed a bridge.  “‘Abdullah ibn Wahb ar-Rasibi was at the head of the Khwarij when we encountered them.  He said to his army, ‘Throw the spears and draw out your swords from their sheaths, for I fear that they would attack you as they attacked you on the day of Harurah.’  They went back and threw their spears and drew out their swords, and people fought against them with spears and they were killed one after another.  Only two persons were killed among our people on that day.”

‘Ali (k.w.) said, “Find from amongst them,” referring to the body of the maimed person.”  They searched but did not find him.  ‘Ali (k.w.) himself stood up and walked until he came to the edge of the field of dead bodies.  ‘Ali (k.w.) said, “Search them to the last.”

‘Ali’s (k.w.) companions found the body of the maimed man.  ‘Ali (k.w.) then pronounced the takbir and said, “Allah told the Truth and His Messenger (s.a.w.) conveyed it.”

Then, ‘Abidah Salmani (r.a.) came before ‘Ali (k.w.) and asked, “Commander of the Faithful, by Allah, besides Whom there is no god but He, tell me whether you heard this hadits from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.).”

‘Ali (k.w.) replied, “Yes, by Allah, besides Whom there is no god but He.”

As seen from the hadits, ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.) was certain of them being the foretold Khwarij because they had shed forbidden blood and the raided the wealth of Muslims.  The obvious distinction between the Khwarij from other everyday criminals are that the Khwarij justified their atrocities in the name of Islam, and this, by takfir upon the Muslims.  The Khwarij considered it as their religious duty and right.

The Wahhabi sect, the modern Khwarij, make the excuse that the Khwarij considered those who committed sins to have committed kufr and they do not ascribe kufr for committing sins.  This argument of theirs is false.  As seen in the above narration, ‘Ali (k.w.) did not investigate whether they ascribed kufr on those who committed sins.  In fact, the Khwarij in the time of ‘Ali (k.w.) had not evolved this doctrine yet.  This would come later.

Instead, they ascribed kufr based on their saying that Judgement belongs to Allah Alone, and that ‘Ali (k.w.) committed kufr by judging by other than Allah.  ibn ‘Umar (r.a.) said that the Khwarij used to take the verses revealed regarding the polytheists and ascribe it to believers.  They take verses Revealed in context regarding the polytheists and strip it of that context and meaning and ascribe it to Muslims instead based on a literal reading.  The doctrine of imputing disbelief for committing sins was a later evolution of their doctrine when the Khwarij crystallised into a separate, isolated sect.  This doctrine is of imputing disbelief for committing sins is not mentioned as the trait of the Khwarij in any of the ahadits describing them.  The scholars only cited it as it was one of the important doctrine of the later Khwarij sects and not on the basis that it is a condition for one to be Khwarij.

The Hanafi faqih, Imam ibn ‘Abidin (r.a.) explained this in a similar manner when he described the Wahhabi movement to be a Khwarij sect.  He wrote in his Hashiyat Radd al-Muhtar, “His words and who consider the companions of our Prophet (s.a.w.) to be disbelievers are not a condition for someone to be a Kharijite, but rather are a mere clarification of what those who revolted against ‘Ali (k.w.), in fact, did.  Otherwise, it is enough to be convinced of the unbelief of those they fight against, as happened in our own times with the followers of ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, who came out of the Najd in revolt, and took over the sanctuaries of Makkah and Madina.  They followed the Hanbali madzhab, but believed that they were the Muslims, and that those who believed differently than they did were mushrikin.  On this basis, they held it lawful to kill Sunni Muslims and their religious scholars, until Allah Most High dispelled their forces, and the armies of the Muslims attacked their strongholds and subdued them in 1233 AH.”  1233 AH is 1818.

Based on this, it is proven that it not a condition for one to be considered Khwarij only if they consider ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.) or ‘Utsman ibn ‘Affan (r.a.) specifically to be disbelievers; and similarly, it is not a condition that they have to specifically believe that committing sins are kufr.  The Khwarij are those who make false takfir of Muslims and on account of it fight the Muslims shedding their blood and raiding their wealth.  This is the Wahhabi sect.


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