World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000419032
Reproduction Date:

Title: Kharijite  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ceuta, Imam, History of Morocco, Syncretism, 757, 741, 767, 739, History of Bahrain, 958
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


"Khariji" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Khariji, Iran.

Kharijites (Arabic: خوارجKhawārij, literally "those who went out";[1] singular, Khārijī ) is a general term describing various Muslims who, while initially supporting the authority of the final Rashidun Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law and cousin of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, then later rejected his leadership. They first emerged in the late 7th century, concentrated in today's southern Iraq, and are distinct from Sunni Muslims and Shiʿa Muslims. With the passing of time the Kharijite groups fell greatly in their numbers and their beliefs did not continue to gain any traction in future generations.

From their essentially political position, the Kharijites developed extreme doctrines that further set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shiʿa Muslims. The Kharijites were particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to Takfir, whereby they declared other Muslims to be unbelievers and therefore deemed them worthy of death. The Kharijites were also known historically as the Shurāh (الشُراة),[upper-alpha 1] literally meaning "the buyers" and understood within the context of Islamic scripture and philosophy to mean "those who have traded the mortal life (al-Dunya) for the other life [with God] (al-Aakhirah)", which, unlike the term Kharijite, was one that many Kharijites used to describe themselves.

The differences between the Sunni, Shiʿa, and the Kharijites are the following:

  • Sunni Muslims accept Ali as the fourth rightly guided Caliph, and also accept the three Caliphs before him, who were elected by their community.
  • Shi'a Muslims believe that the imaamate (leadership) was the right of Ali, and the rule of the first three Rashidun caliphs (Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Umar bin al-Khattab, and Uthman ibn Affan) was unlawful.
  • Kharijites insist that any Muslim could be a leader of the Muslim community and had the right to revolt against any ruler who deviated from their interpretation of Islam.

One of the early Kharijite groups was the Harūriyya; it was notable for many reasons, among which was its ruling on the permissibility of women Imāms and that a Harūrī, Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam, was the assassin of Caliph Alī.


The origin of Kharijism lies in the first Islamic civil war, the struggle for political supremacy over the Muslim community in the years following the death of Muhammad. After the third caliph (Uthman ibn Affan), a struggle for succession ensued between Caliph Ali and Muʿāwiyah, the governor of Syria and cousin of Uthman, in league with a variety of other opponents.

In 657, Alī's forces met Muʿāwiyah's at the Battle of Siffin. Initially, the battle went against Muʿāwiyah but on the brink of defeat, Muʿāwiyah directed his army to hoist Qur'āns on their lances.[2] This initiated discord among some of those who were in Alī's army. Muʿāwiyah wanted to put the dispute between the two sides to arbitration in accordance with the Qur'an. A group of Alī's army mutinied, demanding that Alī agree to Muʿāwiyah's proposal. As a result, Alī reluctantly presented his own representative for arbitration. The mutineers, however, put forward Abu Musa al-Ashʿari against Alī's wishes.

Muʿāwiyah put forward 'Amr ibn al-'As. Abu Musa al-Ashʿari was convinced by Amr to pronounce Alī's removal as caliph even though Ali's caliphate was not meant to be the issue of concern in the arbitration. The mutineers saw the turn of events as a fundamental betrayal of principle, especially since they had initiated it; a large group of them (traditionally believed to be 12,000, mainly from Banu Hanifah and Banu Tamim tribes) repudiated Alī.

Citing the verse "No rule but God's," an indication that a caliph is not a representative of God, this group turned on both Alī and Muʿāwiya, opposing Muʿāwiya's rebellion against one they considered to be the rightful caliph, and opposing ʻAlī for accepting to subject his legitimate authority to arbitration, thus giving away what was not his, but rather the right of the people. They became known as Kharijites: Arabic plural khawārij, singular Khārijī, derived from the verb kharaja "to come out, to exit."

ʻAlī quickly divided his troops and ordered them to catch the dissenters before they could reach major cities and disperse among the population. Alī's cousin and a renowned Islamic jurist, Abdullah ibn Abbas, pointed out the grave theological errors made by the Kharijites in quoting the Qur'an, and managed to persuade a number of Kharijites to return to Alī based on their misinterpretations. ʻAlī defeated the remaining rebels in the Battle of Nahrawan in 658 but some Kharijites survived and, in 661, one Kharijite ultimately assassinated Alī. They are said to have organized simultaneous attempts against Muʿāwiya and Amr as well, as the three men were in their view the main sources of strife within the Muslim community, but were only successful in assassinating Alī, who did not keep bodyguards.


Al-Shahrastani defines a Khariji as:

Anyone who walks out against (seeking to overthrow) the true appointed Imam (leader) upon whose leadership the majority is in agreement is called a Khariji. This is the case, despite whether the walking out (against the Imam) occurred in the days of the Rightly-Guided caliphs or other than them from the Tabiʿeen.[3]

Some of the Salaf used to call all those who practiced Islam based upon their desires as Kharijite.

Beliefs and practices

They considered the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar to be rightly guided but believed that Uthman ibn Affan had deviated from the path of justice and truth in the last days of his caliphate, and hence was liable to be killed or displaced. They also believed that Ali ibn Abi Talib committed a grave sin when he agreed on the arbitration with Muʿāwiyah. In the Battle of Siffin, Ali acceded to Muawiyah's suggestion to stop the fighting and resort to negotiation. A large portion of Ali's troops (who later became the first Kharijites) refused to concede to that agreement, and they considered that Ali had breached a Qur'anic verse which states that The decision is only for Allah (Qur'an 6:57), which the Kharijites interpreted to mean that the outcome of a conflict can only be decided in battle (by God) and not in negotiations (by human beings).

The Kharijites thus deemed the arbitrators (Abu Musa al-Ashʿari and Amr Ibn Al-As), the leaders who appointed these arbitrators (Ali and Muʿāwiyah) and all those who agreed on the arbitration (all companions of Ali and Muʿāwiyah) as Kuffār (disbelievers), having breached the rules of the Qur'an. They believed that all participants in the Battle of Jamal, including Talha, Zubair (both being companions of Muhammad) and Aisha had committed a Kabira (major sin in Islam). [4]

Modern-day Islamic scholar Abul Ala Maududi wrote an analysis of Kharijite beliefs, marking a number of differences between Kharijism and Sunni Islam. The Kharijites believed that the act of sinning is analogous to Kufr (disbelief) and that every grave sinner was regarded as a Kāfir (disbeliever) unless he repents. With this argument, they denounced all the above mentioned Ṣaḥābah and even cursed and used abusive language against them. Ordinary Muslims were also declared disbelievers because first, they were not free of sin; secondly they regarded the above mentioned Ṣaḥābah as believers and considered them as religious leaders, even inferring Islamic jurisprudence from the Hadeeth narrated by them. [5] They also believed that it is not a must for the caliph to be from the Quraysh. Any pious Muslim nominated by other Muslims could be an eligible caliph.[6] Additionally, Kharijites believed that obedience to the caliph is binding as long as he is managing the affairs with justice and consultation, but if he deviates, then it becomes obligatory to confront him, demote him and even kill him. [7] Regarding Islamic law, the Kharijites considered the Qur'an as the source for Islamic jurisprudence but regarding the other two sources (Hadith and Ijma) their concepts were different from ordinary Muslims. [8]

Ihsan Abbas, another modern-day Muslim scholar, analyzed the Kharijites from their own writings, a perspective which has rarely been taken by other Sunni writers. Based on their poetry, Abbas divided Kharijite expression into three categories of focus: the strong desire of Kharijites for martyrdom and dying for the sake of God, detailed descriptions of how Kharijites defined a just and pious ruler, and their universal tendency to blame the self for failing to establish the previous two categories.[9]

Modern times

The Ibadis, a group who stemmed from the same mother group as the Kharijites, have survived into the present day, though they do not directly descend from the Kharijites. They form a significant part of the population of Oman (where they first settled in 686),[10] and there are smaller concentrations of them in the M'zab of Algeria, Jerba in Tunisia, Jebel Nafusa in Libya, and Zanzibar.

The Wahhabi movement has been referred to as the modern Khawarij by 18th century Hanafi scholar Ibn Abidin.[11]

See also



Further reading

  • J. J. Saunders, A History of Medieval Islam, Routledge (UK), 1 October 1972 ISBN 0-415-05914-3

External links

  • Imam Wahab ibn Munabih's (died 110 AH/728 CE) Advice to the Khawarij
  • Salafi Publications. Refutations by the leading Sunni scholars against the Khawarij rebels, past and present. Under heading "Deviated Sects".
  • Contemporary Islamic scholars who oppose and refute the Kharijites of the modern-day. (Under Articles)
  • Refuting the Doubts of the People of Takfeer and Bombing
  • Extremism in Takfeer
  • Ibadhi Islam site
  • The Kharijites and Their Impact on Contemporary Islam
  • Hermeneutics of Takfir
  • Hadith collection regarding Kharijites and Haruriyah

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.