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 The word "Kharijites" in Arabic is a derivative of word 'Khurooj', which means revolt or rebellion, while Kharijites means rebels. The Khawarij belief based on radicalism with respect to religion, which stemmed from an overzealous sense of righteousness. They always oppose the view of Ahl al-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah under the pretext of concern for more religiousness and piety. However, their extremist tendencies were incompatible with the realities of life, and showed radical ideas and practices over time; The basic extremist idea of Kharijis belief is that they considered anyone who had committed a major sin (i.e. drinking alcohol, fornication, backbiting) to be a disbeliever (disbelief in God), and whoever disagrees with their extremist ideology, he is - by default - a disbeliever and could be fought and killed.

 

They were described by the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him thousands of years ago in the known Hadith about the Kharijites:

Abu Sai'd al-Khudri reported:

 

"When we were in the company of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and he was distributing the spoils of war, there came to him Dhul-Khuwasira, one of Banu Tamim. He said: Messenger of Allah, do justice. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Woe be upon thee! Who would do justice, if I do not do justice? You would be unsuccessful and incurring a loss, if I do not do justice. Upon this Umar b. Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) said: Messenger of Allah, permit me to strike off his neck. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Leave him, for he has friends (who would outwardly look to be so religious and pious) that everyone among you would consider his prayer insignificant as compared with their prayer, and his fast as compared with their fasts. They would recite the Qur'an but it would not go beyond their collar-bones. They would pass through (the teachings of Islam so hurriedly) just as the arrow passes through the prey. He would look at its Iron head, but would not find anything ticking) there. He would then see at the lowest end, but would not find anything sticking there. He would then see at its grip but would not find anything sticking to it. He would then see at its feathers and he would find nothing sticking to them (as the arrow would pass so quickly that nothing would stick to it) neither excrement nor blood. They would be recognized by the presence of a black man among them whose upper arms would be like a woman's breast, or like a piece of meat as it quivers, and they would come forth at the time when there is dissension among the people. Abu Sai'd said: I testify to the fact that I heard it from the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and I testify to the fact that 'Ali b. Abu Talib fought against them and I was with him. He gave orders about that man who was sought for, and when he was brought in, and when I looked at him, he was exactly as the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) had described him."   (Sahih Muslim)

 

The majority of scholars agreed that the appearance of the Kharijites - as a group has its own political and  ideological views - was not in the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).

 

The first appearance of the Kharijites as an independent sect , according to the majority of Scholars, was in the succession of Ali bin Abi Talib - may Allah be pleased with him - specifically in the arbitration incident that took place during the Battle of Siffin.

 

The battle of Siffin took place between the forces of Ali bin Abi Talib and the forces of Muawiya bin Abi Sufyan on the first day of the month of Safar of the year 37 Hijri. Regardless of the underlying causes of the battle, at one point, Ali and Mu’awiyah had ceased fighting and began a process of arbitration to bring about peace.

 

After the arbitration, a group of Ali - who hold the ideology of extremism - thought that this is a sin that requires repentance. And that Muawiya and his men should be killed according to the verse that says:

"إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ ۖ يَقُصُّ الْحَقَّ ۖ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الْفَاصِلِينَ" (الأنعام: 57)

 

Interpretation: "The judgement (hukm) is Allah’s alone, He relates the truth and He is the Best of deciders." (6: 57)

They misinterpreted the verse. He (Ali) denounced their action and refused to accept their opinion. He defended himself, and said of them:

“The verse is right but what (they think) it means is wrong". Ali refused to denounce the covenant and reminded them of the verse that says:

" وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِ اللهِ إِذَا عَاهَدْتُمْ" (النحل: 91)

Interpretation: " And fulfill the covenant of Allah when you have taken it" (16: 91)

 

However, the group insisted on their opinion; furthermore, they believed that Ali and all his followers, who accept the arbitration, are transgressors and disbelievers and that they should be fought and killed. They became known as the Kharijites, or Khawarij since then.

 

6000 of them split away from Ali’s rule and formed their own tribe. Later on when Ali - may Allah be pleased with him - sent some Companions to debate with them, 2000 of them returned to Ali's rule. However, the remaining 4000 refused to acknowledge their wrongdoing.

 

After they spread corruption in the land and killed many innocent people, Caliph Ali - may Allah be pleased with him- decided to root them out. He fought them for many years in many battles until they were practically eradicated in the Battle of Nahrawan in 659 CE, except for a few stragglers who dispersed and fled.

The Kharijite belief still exists to modern times, following the same direction (extremism) that came from an idealistic view of truth and far from reality and moderation, and eventually, leads to injustice and deviation from the truth.

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