Abu Khuzaimah Ansari
Synopsis of the Khawārij
In the modern world today, various groups, organisations and movements have emerged that have misrepresented and manipulated the image of Islam, this is not to say the media hasn’t played its unscrupulous role. There has been considerable destruction, loss of innocent life and the lives of millions have changed due to the events of the last two to three decades. The devastation faced by the Muslims has been distressing and disturbing. A great part of the blame rests with modern day groups and sects, which have and are still evolving with new and dangerous narratives. In the following series of articles, we will look at the origins and emergence of the Khawārij sect and the many strands they take in current times.
Who Are the Khawārij?
The Khawārij are those who primarily rebelled against the Sunnah and the Jamāʿah (i.e. Ahl al-Sunnah waʾl Jamāʿah or the Muslim Community) and they left or abandoned the greater body of the Muslims. Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Kathīr (d.774H) said:
They are called Khawārij because they stopped obeying the ruler (the Imām) and therefore they became independent of the Sharīʿah of Islam.
al-Shahrastānī (d.548H) said:
The Imām or ruler – upon whom the whole Ummah is agreed upon and is united behind, so whosoever does Khurūj i.e. rebels against them, will be called a Khārijī. This is whether the Khurūj is during the time of the Ṣaḥābah, during the time of the rightly guided Khulafāʾ or even after their time from amongst the Tābiʿīn or whether it is in the era of any Muslim ruler.
Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar (d.852H) said:
Khawārij is the plural of Khārijah, these people are innovators and they were called Khawārij because they left the Dīn of Islam, they rebelled and made Khurūj against the best people of the Muslim Ummah.
Imām Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (d.463H) said:
The Khawārij are the people who distort the Book of Allāḥ and made thr blood of the Muslims lawful and they want to declare Muslims to be un believers due to their sins. They raise the sword against them and they opposed the Jamāʿah. The declared the prayer to be obligatory upon the menstruating woman, they also believed there was no rajam (stoning) of the adulterer and they were of the view to lash them 100 times. They also held the view that ritual purity could only be achieved by using flowing water or water that was in very large quantities. They had many other issues in which they opposed the Jamāʿah of the Muslims i.e. Ahl al-Sunnah. Similarly, they innovated many new things in the Dīn and they left the Dīn just as an arrow leaves its prey.
Here we find the Khawārij have been described with a few characteristics, that have been repeated by many Scholars. For example, they went to extremes and eventually left the religion. The example of attaining ritual purity was a prime example. The Khawārij also had other hallmarks and it is these signs and characteristics that are rampant and evident on a whole array of people in our midst who claim to be upon the path of Ahl al-Sunnah. Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728H) describes them further with another sign, he said:
One of the first innovations spread in Islam was the Bidʿah of the Khawārij.
So, the Khawārij were the first sect of Islam who rebelled and made Khurūj against the body of the Muslims i.e. Ahl al-Sunnah, while raising the sword due to their false beliefs, defective methodology and tyrannical oppression of the Muslims. Imām Ibn Taymiyyah further said:
The very first people of innovation who separated from the Jamāʿah of the Muslims were the Khawārij.
The Khawārij have historically always troubled and harmed the Muslims in every era and century. This is why, from Divine texts we find they were condemned and we were commanded to fight them. Aḥadīth transmitted in this regard are so numerous that they reach an overwhelming level. An example of this is the ḥadīth:
Abū Ghālib reported: Abū Umāmah, may Allah be pleased with him, said, The Khawārij are the worst of those slain under the heavens, and the best of those slain are those who were killed by them. They are the dogs of Hellfire. They were Muslims and then became unbelievers.’ I said, ‘O Abū Umāmah, is this something you say?” Abū Umamah said, ‘No, rather I heard it from the Messenger of Allāh Sallalalhu Alayhi Wasallam.’
 Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr, 1:209.
 Al-Milal waʾl Nihal, 1:114.
 Fatḥ al-Bārī, 12:283.
 Al-Istiẓkār, 2:499
 Majmūʿa al-Fatāwaʾ, 3:279.
 Majmūʿa al-Fatāwaʾ, 3:349.
 Sunan Ibn Mājah, no.176, Shaykh al-Albānī said Ṣaḥīḥ in Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Mājah, no.146. Also transmitted by al-Tirmidhī, no.3000; Aḥmad, no.22208.