Khawarij; Who and what are they!

The word “Khawarij” is being increasingly used nowadays. What is this phenomenon that everyone calls as Khawarij?

We are going to attempt and find out who and exactly what are these Khawarij and how to identify them.

The word Khawarij is a plural of Khariji,its root word is khuruj,which means to leave the main body,to expel oneself from the main body.This term itself was first used by Prophet Muhammad[p.b.u.h]

It was narrated that Ibn Awfa said:

 “‏ الْخَوَارِجُ كِلاَبُ النَّارِ ‏”

“The Messenger of Allah said: ‘The Khawarij are the dogs of Hell.'”

Sunan ibn e Majah – Book of Sunnah
Book 1 – Hadith 178

Narrated Yusair bin `Amr:

يَخْرُجُ مِنْهُ قَوْمٌ يَقْرَءُونَ الْقُرْآنَ لاَ يُجَاوِزُ تَرَاقِيَهُمْ، يَمْرُقُونَ مِنَ الإِسْلاَمِ مُرُوقَ السَّهْمِ مِنَ الرَّمِيَّةِ ‏”‏‏.

I asked Sahl bin Hunaif, “Did you hear the Prophet (ﷺ) saying anything about Al-Khawarij?” He said, “I heard him saying while pointing his hand towards Iraq. “There will appear in it (i.e, Iraq) some people who will recite the Qur’an but it will not go beyond their throats, and they will go out from (leave) Islam as an arrow darts through the game’s body.’ ”

Sahih Bukhari –  Book of Apostates
Book 88 – Hadith 16

This dispels any confusion which might exist . The reality is contrary to what some people claim today,the Khawarij are not new,they existed during the time of Prophet Muhammad[p.b.u.h] and then since then from time to time,they have kept appearing in the pages of history under different names and titles.Furthermore Prophet Muhammad[p.b.u.h] himself named them as “Khawarij” .(Ones who expel themselves from the religion)

There are numerous narrations in books of hadith which explain the marks and traits of these people.We are pointing out some ahadith from Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim regarding the Khawarij, as they were a part of authentic Islamic history. How often is it that we see sects accusing each other of being Khawarij, so we are shedding some light upon this matter.

Jabir b. Abdullah reported that a person came to the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) at Ja’rana on his way back from Hunain, and there was in the clothes of Bilal some silver. The Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) took a handful out of that and bestowed it upon the people. He (the person who had met the Prophet at Ja’rana) said to him: Muhammad, do justice. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Woe be upon thee, who would do justice if I do not do justice, and you would be very unfortunate and a loser if I do not do justice. Upon this Umar b. Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) said: Permit me to kill this hypocrite. Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: May there be protection of Allah! People would say that I kill my companions. This man and his companions would recite the Qur’an but it would not go beyond their throat, and they swerve from it just as the arrow goes through the prey.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2316]

In one narration the words are:

A person among the people then sought permission (from the Holy Prophet) for his murder. According to some, it was Khalid b. Walid who sought the permission. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam), said: From this very person’s posterity there would arise people who would recite the Qur’an, but it would not go beyond their throat; they would kill the followers of Islam and would spare the idol-worshippers. They would glance through the teachings of Islam so hurriedly just as the arrow passes through the pray. If I were to ever find them I would kill them like ‘Ad.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2318]

Another narration explains the event:

That man then returned. Khalid b. Walid then said: Messenger of Allah, should I not strike his neck? Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: Perhaps he may be observing the prayer. Khalid said: How many observers of prayer are there who profess with their tongue what is not in their heart? Upon this the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) said: I have not been commanded to pierce through the hearts of people, nor to split their bellies (insides). He again looked at him and he was going back.

Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: There would arise a people from the progeny of this (man) who would recite the Qur’an glibly, but it would not go beyond their throats; they would (hurriedly) pass through (the teachings of their) Deen just as the arrow passes through the prey. I conceive that he (the Holy Prophet) also said this: If I find them I would certainly kill them as were killed the (people of) Thamud.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2319]

This narration tells us that it was both of the companions asked the permission.

This hadith has been narrated through another chain of transmitters and (the narrator) made a mention of elevated forehead, but he made no mention of tucked-up loin cloth and made this addition:” There stood up ‘Umar b. Khattab (Allah be pleased with him), and said: Should I not strike his neck? Upon this he said: No. Then he turned away, and Khalid the Sword of Allah stood up against him, and said: Prophet of Allah. Shall I not strike off his neck? He said, No, and then said: A people would rise from his progeny who would recite the Book of Allah glibly and fluently. ‘Umar said: I think he (the Holy Prophet) also said this: If I find them I would certainly kill them like Thamud.”
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2320]

Other narrations regarding the Khawarij state that the Prophet SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam said: There would arise in this nation a people and you would hold insignificant your prayers as compared with their prayers. And they would recite the Qur’an which would not go beyond their throats and would swerve through the Deen (as blank) just as an (swift) arrow passes through the prey. The archer looks at his arrow, at its iron head and glances at its end (which he held) in the tip of his fingers to see whether it had any stain of blood.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2322]

The Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) said: Leave him, for he has friends 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 collarbones. 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 com! e forth at the time when there is dissension among the people. Abu Sa’id said: I testify to the fact that I heard it from the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam), 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 (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) had described him.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2323]

Narrated Yusair bin ‘Amr:

I asked Sahl bin Hunaif, “Did you hear the Prophet saying anything about Al-Khawarij?” He said, “I heard him saying while pointing his hand towards Iraq. “There will appear in it (i.e. Iraq) some people who will recite the Quran but it will not go beyond their throats, and they will go out from (leave) Islam as an arrow darts through the game’s body.’
[Sahih Bukhari: Volume 9, Book 84, Number 68]

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri said that the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) made a mention of a sect that would be among his Ummah which would emerge out of the dissension of the people. Their distinctive mark would be shaven heads. They would be the worst creatures or the worst of the creatures. The group who would be nearer to the truth out of the two would kill them. The Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) gave an example (to give their description) or he said: A man throws an arrow at the prey (or he said at the target), and sees at its iron head, but finds no sign (of blood there), or he sees at the lowest end, but would not see or find any sign (of blood there). He would then see into the grip but would not find (anything) sticking to it. Abu Sa’id then said: People of Iraq. It is you who have killed them.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2324]

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) said: A group would secede itself (from the Ummah) when there would be dissension among the Muslims. Out of the two groups who would be nearer the truth would kill them.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2325]

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) as saying: There would be two groups in my Ummah, and there would emerge another group (seceding itself from both of them), and the party nearer to the truth among the two would kill them (the group of the Khawarij).
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2326]

‘Ali said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) as saying: There would arise at the end of the age a people who would be young in age and immature in thought, but they would talk (in such a manner) as if their words are the best among the creatures. They would recite the Qur’an, but it would not go beyond their throats, and they would pass through the Deen as an arrow goes through the prey. So when you meet them, kill them, for in their killing you would get a reward with Allah on the Day of Judgment.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2328]

Ali (Allah be pleased with him) said: O people, I heard the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) 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 collarbone; 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 great boon) has been assured to them by their Messenger (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) they would completely rely upon this deed (alone and cease to do other good deeds), and their (that of the Khawarij) distinctive mark is that there would be (among them) 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 Muawiya and the people of Syria and you would leave them behind among your children and your property (to do harm). By Allah, I believe that these are the people (against whom you have been commanded to fight and get reward) for they have shed forbidden blood, and raided the animals of the people. So go forth in the name of Allah (to fight against them). Salama b. Kuhail mentioned that Zaid b. Wahb made me alight at every stage, till we crossed a bridge. ‘Abdullah b. Wahb al-Rasibi was at the head of the Khawarij when we encountered them. He (‘Abdullah) 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 Harura. 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 the ! people (among the army led by Hadrat ‘Ali) on that day. ‘Ali (Allah be pleased with him) said: Find out from among them (the dead bodies of the Khawarij) (the maimed). They searched but did not find him. ‘Ali (Allah be pleased with him) then himself stood up and (walked) till he came to the people who had been killed one after another. He (‘Ali) said: Search them to the last, and then (‘Ali’s companions) found him (the dead body of the maimed) near the earth. He (Hadrat ‘Ali) then pronounced Allah-O-Akbar (Allah is the Greatest) and then said, Allah told the Truth and His Messenger (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) conveyed it. Then there stood before him ‘Abida Salmani who said: Commander of the Believers, by Allah, besides whom there is no god but He, (tell me) whether you heard this hadith from the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam). He said: Yes, by Allah, besides whom there is no god but He. He asked him to take an oath thrice and he took the oath.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2333]

‘Ubaidullah b. Abu Rafi’, the freed slave of the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam), said: When Haruriya (The Khawarij) set out and as he was with ‘Ali b. Abu Talib (Allah be pleased with him) they said,” There is no command but that of Allah.”

Upon this ‘Ali said: The statement is true but it is intentionally applied (to support) a wrong (cause). The Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam described their characteristics and I found these characteristics in them. They state the truth with their tongue, but it does not go beyond this part of their bodies (and the narrator pointed towards his throat). The most hateful among the creation of Allah is one black man among them (Khawarij). One of his hand is like the teat of a goat or the nipple of the breast. When ‘Ali b. Abu Talib (Allah be pleased with him) killed them, he said: Search (for his dead body). They searched for him, but they did not find it (his dead body). Upon this he said: Go (and search for him). By Allah, neither I have spoken a lie nor has the lie been spoken to me. ‘Ali said this twice and thrice. They then found him (the dead body) in a rain. They brought (his dead) body till they placed it before him (Ali). ‘Ubaidullah said: And, I wa! s present at (that place) when this happened and when ‘Ali said about them. A person narrated to me from Ibn Hanain that he said: I saw that black man.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2334]

Sahl b. Hunaif reported Allah’s Messenger (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) as saying: There would arise from the east a people with shaven heads.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2338]

Bloodshed and Violence:

The hadiths stated above cover many characteristics of Khawarij. If I were to pick out one of the most significant trait, one which makes them amongst the worst of creation, then it would be their attitude towards human life and blood. They have no respect for human life, their savagery is evident from the fact that during the civil war in the time of 4th orthodox caliph Ali[May Allah be pleased with him] they used to behead the pious companions and hang them by the trees to warn others not to support the caliph.

The act of beheading and desecrating the dead bodies is their defining characteristic. It is this disrespect towards human life which can safely be declared to be the main reason for their expulsion from Islam. They indiscriminately kill men, women and children. Lets see what standards were set by Prophet Muhammad[P.b.u.h] regarding women and children during the time of warfare.

Narrated `Abdullah:

During some of the Ghazawat of the Prophet (ﷺ) a woman was found killed. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) disapproved the killing of women and children.

Sahih al Bukhari – Book of Jihad
Book 56 – Hadith 223

Verily the people who massacre and decimate the dead bodies cannot be the followers of a Prophet who even prohibited the killing of women, children, elderly and non-combatants during a war.Their lust for blood stems from ignorance and arrogance. The Prophet [Peace be upon him] said that they`ll consider anyone who differs from their creed as an infidel. They have this sense of self righteousness that they are the best muslims and since they are the best,they believe everyone should follow them and agree with them. Since everyone else is infidel for them, they feel it just to kill and cleanse the world from unbelievers.

In today’s day and age, what some people fail to understand is that when Prophet Muhammad[Peace be upon him] mentioned these Khawarij, he was not indicating at any particular sect or a set of ideology or creed. Khawarij are those who create rifts between communities of Muslims and cause bloodshed, the fact that marks them out is their tendency for violence. They forsake democratic and all other civilised means to get their voice across and instead they take up arms and make people submit to their ideology by force. This is their dinstinctive feature.

It will be highly inappropriate to label any particular sect as “Khawarij”. The Khawarij use the pretext of religion to give weight to their unjust actions.

It has been established that the act of killing anyone unjustly is not just condemnable, but also punishable in Islam, to understand this we must first have a look at the law for capital punishments in Islam.

Law of Capital Punishments in Islam:

“…If anyone kills a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people” (Qur’an 5:32)

Life is sacred, according to Islam and most other world faiths. But how can one hold life sacred, yet still support capital punishment? The Qur’an answers, “…Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom” (6:151).

The key point is that one may take life only “by way of justice and law.” In Islam, therefore, the death penalty can be applied by a court as punishment for the most serious of crimes. Ultimately, one’s eternal punishment is in God’s hands, but there is a place for punishment in this life as well. The spirit of the Islamic penal code is to save lives, promote justice, and prevent corruption and tyranny.

Islamic philosophy holds that a harsh punishment serves as a deterrent to serious crimes that harm individual victims, or threaten to destabilize the foundation of society. According to Islamic law (in the first verse quoted above), the following two crimes can be punishable by death:

  • Intentional murder
  • Fasad fil-ardh (“spreading mischief in the land”)

Intentional Murder

The Qur’an legislates the death penalty for murder, although forgiveness and compassion are strongly encouraged. The murder victim’s family is given a choice to either insist on the death penalty, or to pardon the perpetrator and accept monetary compensation for their loss (2:178).

Fasaad fi al-ardh

The second crime for which capital punishment can be applied is a bit more open to interpretation. “Spreading mischief in the land” can mean many different things, but is generally interpreted to mean those crimes that affect the community as a whole, and destabilize the society. Crimes that have fallen under this description have included:

  • Treason / Apostacy (when one leaves the faith and joins the enemy in fighting against the Muslim community)
  • Terrorism
  • Land, sea, or air piracy
  • Rape
  • Adultery
  • Homosexual behaviour

Actual methods of capital punishment vary from place to place. In some Muslim countries, methods have included beheading, hanging, stoning, and firing squad. Executions are held publicly, to serve as warnings to would-be criminals.

It is important to note that there is no place for vigilantism in Islam — one must be properly convicted in an Islamic court of law before the punishment can be meted out. The severity of the punishment requires that very strict evidence standards must be met before a conviction is found. The court also has flexibility to order less than the ultimate punishment (for example, imposing fines or prison sentences), on a case-by-case basis.

Whenever and wherever the Khawarij have emerged, they have always used the pretext that the current system is unislamic, therefore they setup their courts on roads and streets and give out verdicts and sentences against anyone and everyone who seems to violate “their” sharia. It is clear from the above text that there is no place for vigilantism no matter how solid ones case maybe. As we can see, even the fourth caliph, Sayiduna Ali[May Allah be pleased with him] took his case to the court when his armour was stolen. Being the caliph he could have decided the matter then and there is his own court, but no, he upheld the Islamic Justice system and went to the court to settle the claim.

In addition to their thirst for blood, another fundamental error which this group has is their sense of self-righteousness, which in reality stems from deep rooted arrogance. They blatantly violate all the teachings and injunctions of Quran and Sunnah and then raise the slogan of the “Rule of Allah”.They themselves don`t follow the code of Quran and Sunnah and then indiscriminately,without proper trial kill anyone who differs from their version of Islam.

Their love for blood coupled with flawed self righteousness and arrogance, turns them into the monster which they are, a plague for humanity. People today are scared of their recent growth and exposure to the media. In these dark and troubled times, we should have faith, look back at history and you`ll see that this group might have won a few battles, but they have never won any war and have almost always been wiped out because they are murderers,rapist and slaughterers and civlised world has no place for such cruel men to co-exist with peace loving human beings. But in order to tackle them successfully we must know what they are. They are very clever, they know how to shift public support in their favor, the false bubble which they have created of fighting for the cause of Islam can only be created by spreading awareness at the grass root level. It is the duty of the righteous scholars to come forth and use their pulpits to educate the masses. It is the duty of the media to give air time to those righteous scholars, media should also be careful the more coverage they provide to the Khawarij, the more strength they`ll gain because they use the magic of their eloquent speeches to turn minds.

The purpose of this article was to clarify some confusions regarding this group which has once again emerged in the world and spreading confusion amongst the rank of Muslims. Dealing with a problem becomes easy once it had been diagnosed, we should be clear in our minds that any group or person who wants to shed the blood of innocent Muslims and humans to establish the hold of Islam is definitely not taking the right cues.Islam did not spread via sword,it spread through the message of peace and love which was given by Holy Prophet[Peace and blessings be upon him].

Danial Ahmed
Team Operation Pakistan


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