, singular خارجي
), also called the al-Shurat (Arabic: الشراة,
), were an Islamic sect that appeared in the first century of Islam during the First Muslim Civil War
, the crisis of leadership after the murder of the third caliph Uthman
. Some members of the army of the fourth caliph Ali
seceded after he agreed to arbitration with his rival, Mu'awiya I
, to decide the succession to the caliphate
following the Battle of Siffin
in July 657. They asserted that "judgment belongs to God alone" and that leaving the matter to the judgment of humans was in violation of the injunctions of the Qur'an
which commanded that rebels must be fought and overcome. Ali was unsuccessful in winning back their loyalty and after their insurgent activities attacked and defeated them in the Battle of Nahrawan
in July 658. Nevertheless, the Kharijites were far from eliminated and their insurrection against the caliphate continued. Ali himself fell in January 661 to a Kharijite assassin seeking revenge for Nahrawan.
After the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate
by Mu'awiya I in 661, his governors kept the Kharijites in check, but after the death of the second Umayyad caliph Yazid
in 683 and the subsequent Second Civil War
, the resulting power vacuum caused the resumption of the Kharijites' anti-government activities. Internal disputes and fragmentation weakened them considerably before their defeat by the Umayyad governor Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
in 696–699. In 740s, during the last days of the Umayyad Caliphate, large scale Kharijite rebellions erupted again in several parts of the caliphate, but all of them were eventually put down. Although the Kharijite revolts continued into the Abbasid
period, the most militant Kharijite groups were gradually eliminated, and were replaced by the non-activist Ibadiyya
, who survive to this day in Oman and some parts of Africa. They, however, deny any links with the Kharijites of the Second Civil War and beyond, condemning them as extremists.
The Kharijites believed that any Muslim, irrespective of his descent or ethnicity, could become the caliph, if he was morally irreproachable. If the leader sinned, it was the duty of Muslims to rebel against and depose him. Most Kharijite groups branded as unbelievers any Muslims who had comitted a grave sin, and the most militant of them went on to declare killing of such unbelievers licit, unless they would repent and reenter the faith. Traditional Muslim historical sources and mainstream Muslims have viewed the Kharijites as religious extremists and having gone out of the Muslim community. Many modern Muslim extremist groups have been compared to the Kharijites for their radical ideology and militancy. On the other hand, some modern Arab historians have stressed the egalitarian and proto-democratic tendencies of the Kharijites.
The term al-Khariji
was used as an exonym
by their opponents from the fact that they left Ali's army. The name comes from the Arabic root خ ر ج
, which has the primary meaning "to leave" or "to get out",
as in the basic word خرج
, "to go out".
However, the group called themselves al-Shurat
(the Exchangers), which they understood within the context of Islamic scripture (Quran 2:207
) and philosophy to mean "those who have traded the mortal life (al-Dunya
) for the other life [with God] (al-Akhirah
Primary and classical sources
Almost no primary Kharijite sources are in existence, except for Ibadi works, and excerpts in non-Kharijite sources.
Notable among the surviving Ibadi works is the eighth century heresiographical
writing of Salim ibn Dhakwan.
It distinguishes Ibadism from other Kharijite groups which it treats as extremists.
Twelfth century work of Al-Qalhati is another example of Ibadi heresiographies, which discusses the origins of the Kharijites and splitting within the Kharijite movement.
Non-Kharijite sources include historiographical
works such as the History of al-Tabari
(d. 923), Ansab al-Ashraf
(d. 892), al-Kamil
(d. 899), and Muruj al-Dhahab
These have extensive detail on the Kharijite revolts against the caliphate. Others notable sources include the histories of Ibn Athir
(d. 1233), and Ibn Kathir
(d. 1373), but these have drawn most of their material from al-Tabari.
The core of the information in these historiographical sources is based on the works of earlier historians like Abu Mikhnaf
(d. 773) and al-Mada'ini
These histories were written significantly later than the actual events, and many of the theological and political disputes had been settled by then. As representatives of the emerging orthodoxy, the authors of these works looked upon the original events through the lens of this orthodox viewpoint.
Other than histories, a wealth of information is found in the heresiographical works of al-Ash'ari
(d. 935), al-Baghdadi
(d. 1037), Ibn Hazm
(d. 1064), al-Shahrastani
(d. 1153) and others. These sources are outright polemical, as the authors of these works tend to portray their own sect as the true representative of original Islam and are consequently hostile to the Kharijites.
Al-Shahrastani, for example, compared the Kharijite slogan of tahkim
to the traditional Islamic account of Iblis
refusing God's command, for Islam demanded obedience to the ruler and by rebelling against the ruler they rebelled against God.
The sources, whether Ibadi, historiographical or heresiographical, thus do not necessarily report what actually happened. Rather, what their authors wanted their intended readers to believe what would have happened.
The Kharijites were the first sect to arise in Islam.
They originated during the First Fitna
, the struggle for political leadership over the Muslim community, following the assassination in 656 of the third caliph Uthman
The latter years of Uthman's reign saw growing discontent from various quarters. Not only was his favoritism towards and enrichment of his Umayyad
relatives frowned upon by the Muslim elite,[a]
a number of other factors such as his interference in the provincial matters,[b]
overcrowding of garrison towns in the conquered lands, in particular Kufa
in Iraq and Egypt respectively, by continuous influx from Arabia, diminishing revenue from the conquests, and growing influence of the pre-Islamic tribal nobility, were seen by the early Muslim settlers of these lands as threatening their status.
Opposition by the Iraqi early-comers, who became known as the qurra
(which probably means the Qur'an reciters), and the Egyptians turned into open rebellion in 656. Encouraged by the disaffected Medinese elite, the rebels marched on Medina killing Uthman in June 656.
The murder of the caliph threw the caliphate into civil war.
The caliphal office now fell to Muhammad
's cousin and son-in-law Ali
, but he soon had to face opposition, first from Talha ibn Ubayd Allah
, Zubayr ibn al-Awam
and Muhammad's widow A'isha
, whom he was able to defeat (November 656),
and later from Mu'awiya I
, the governor of Syria
and cousin of Uthman. Ali and Mu'awiya faced each other at the Battle of Siffin
in July 657. On the verge of defeat, Mu'awiya ordered his soldiers to hoist leaves of the Qur'an (masahif
) on their lances; a signal to stop the fight and negotiate peace. The pious group of the Qur'an readers in Ali's army were moved by the gesture,
which they interpreted as an appeal to the Book of God,
and demanded that Ali stop the fight immediately. Although unwilling, he had to yield under pressure and threats of violence against him.
An arbitration committee was set up with representatives from both Ali's and Mu'awiya's side, with a mandate to settle the dispute in the light of the Qur'an.
While most of Ali's army accepted the agreement, one group, which included many people from the tribe of Tamim
, vehemently objected to the arbitration and raised the slogan "judgment belongs to God alone".
As Ali marched back to Kufa, his capital, resentment against the arbitration became widespread in his army. Reportedly, as many as 12,000 dissenters seceded from the army and went to Harura, a place near Kufa. They thus became known as the Harurites.
They held that Uthman had deserved his death because of his faults, and that Ali was the legitimate caliph, while Mu'awiya was a rebel.
They believed that the Qur'an clearly stated that as a rebel Mu'awiya was not entitled to arbitration, but rather should be fought until he repented, pointing to the verse:
If two parties of the faithful fight each other, then conciliate them. Yet if one is rebellious to the other, then fight the insolent one until it returns to God 's command. (Qur'an 49:9)
They held that in agreeing to arbitration Ali committed the grave sin of rejecting God's judgment (hukm
) and attempted to substitute human judgment for God's clear injunction, which prompted their motto "judgement belongs to God alone" (la hukma illa li-llah
From this expression, which they were the first to use as a motto, they became known as Muhakkima
Ali, after some time, visited the Harura camp and in order to win back their support argued that it was them who forced him to accept arbitration proposal despite his warnings against it. They acknowledged that they had sinned but argued that they had repented and asked him to do the same, which he did in very general and ambiguous terms. They subsequently offered back their allegiance to him and returned to Kufa on the condition that war against Mu'awiya be resumed within six months.
The arbitration proceedings continued nonetheless. Ali refused to denounce the arbitration and in March 658 sent his arbitration delegation headed by Abu Musa Ash'ari
to carry out the talks.
The Kharijites now denounced Ali's caliphate and elected Abd Allah ibn Wahb al-Rasibi
their caliph. In order to avoid being detected, they moved out of Kufa in small groups and went to a place called Nahrawan on the east bank of the Tigris
. Some five hundred of their Basran
comrades were informed and they too joined them in Nahrawan, amounting supposedly to a total of 4,000 men.
Following this exodus, they were called Khawarij
; the term is anglicized to "Kharijites".
They declared Ali and his followers apostates and are said to have killed several people who did not share their views.
In the meantime, arbitrators declared that Uthman had been killed unjustly by the rebels. Other than that, however, they could not agree on anything substantial and the process collapsed. Ali now denounced the arbitrators and called on his supporters for renewed war against Mu'awiya.
He invited the Kharijites to join him as before. They refused to do so unless he would acknowledge that he had gone astray and repent. Ali consequently decided to depart for Syria without them.
On the way, however, he received news of the Kharijites' murdering various people, and was urged by his followers, who feared for their families and property in Kufa, to deal with the Kharijites first.
The Kharijites refused to surrender the murderers and consequently Ali's men attacked them in their camp, inflicting a heavy defeat on them at the Battle of Nahrawan
(July 658), killing Ibn Wahb and most of his supporters.
Some 1200 of them, however, surrendered and were spared.
This bloodshed sealed the split of the Kharijites from Ali's followers, and the Kharijite calls for revenge ultimately led to Ali's assassination
by the Kharijite Abd al-Rahman ibn Muljam
As Ali was leading the prayers on the morning of 26 January 661 in the Kufa mosque
, Ibn Muljam fatally struck him on his head with a poison-coated sword.
Modern scholarly views on the split
At Siffin those who supported arbitration were the same people who later vehemently objected to it and seceded from Ali’s army. The question as to what caused such a radical change in the same group of people has been discussed by various historians.
According to Rudolf Ernst Brünnow
, the qurra
supported the proposal because as pious believers in the Qur'an, they felt obliged to respond to the call of making the Qur'an the arbitrator. The people who objected to the treaty were, in Brünnow's view, Bedouin Arabs who had settled in Kufa and Basra following the wars of conquest. In his view, they had devoted themselves to the cause of Islam and perceived the arbitration by two people as an acute religious injustice, which drove them into secession and later into open rebellion. As such, he regards the qurra
and the Kharijites as separate groups. Julius Wellhausen
has criticized Brünnow's hypothesis because all Basran and Kufan inhabitants were Bedouins, including qurra
, and since Brünnow regards these Bedouins as pious people anyway, it makes them little different from the qurra
in this regard. Wellhausen argues that the group that first favored and then rejected the arbitration was the same group. According to him, their contrasting behavior is not illogical from their point of view. They accepted arbitration of the Qur'an but some of them later realized, based on religious grounds, that it was their mistake, acknowledged it as such, repented and demanded the same from Ali and other people in his army. In his view, the Kharijites thus emanated from the qurra
regards the Kharijites and the qurra
as the same group. In his view, they supported the arbitration because they assumed it would bring an end to the war but Ali would remain caliph and would return to Medina, leaving the administration of Iraq in the hands of the local population including themselves. They denounced it once they discovered that Ali was not recognized as caliph in the document and that the arbiters could also use their own judgment in addition to the Qur'anic principles.
M. A. Shaban, although asserting that the qurra
and the Kharijites were the same group, does not recognize the qurra
as the Qur'an readers. According to him they were villagers who had gained status in Iraq during the caliphate of Umar, were dissatisfied with the economic policies of Uthman and saw Ali's caliphate as a means of restoring their status. When he agreed to talks with Mu'awiya they felt their status threatened and consequently rebelled. According to him, the main role in forcing Ali to accept the arbitration was not of the qurra
, but of the tribal chiefs under the leadership of Ash'ath ibn Qays
, as the latter group had benefited from the policies of Uthman. They were not enthusiastic supporters of Ali and considered the prospect of continued war not in their interests.
According to Fred Donner
, one of the reasons may have been the contents of the treaty. When the agreement was drawn up, it stipulated that the arbitrators would decide on whether Uthman had been killed unjustly. The qurra
, who had been involved in the murder of Uthman, feared the treaty could result in them being held accountable for the act.
The Kharijites continued to be a source of insurrection against the caliphate for decades to come. Five small Kharijite revolts following Nahrawan, involving about 200 men each, were defeated during the caliphate of Ali.
The accession of Mu'awiya, the original enemy of the Kharijites, to the caliphate in August 661 provided the new occasion for Kharijite rebellions. Those Kharijites at Nahrawan who had been unwilling to fight Ali and had left the battlefield, now rose up in rebellion. Under the leadership of Farwa ibn Nawfal al-Ashja'i, some 500 of them attacked Mu'awiya's camp at Nukhayla (a place outside Kufa) where he was taking Kufans' oath of allegiance. In the ensuing battle, the Kharijites repelled the initial attack but were eventually defeated and most of them were killed.
Seven more Kufan Kharijite uprisings, with rebel numbers in individual revolts varying between 20 to 400, were defeated by the governor Mughira ibn Shu'ba
The most famous of these revolts is that of Mustawrid ibn Ullafa who was recognized caliph by the Kufan Kharijites in 663. With about 300 followers he left Kufa and moved to Behrasir
. There he confronted the deputy governor Simak ibn Ubayd al-Absi and offered him peace on the condition of denouncing Uthman and Ali "who made innovations in the religion and denied the holy book". Simak refused this and Mustawrid, instead of engaging him directly, decided to exhaust and fragment Simak's forces by forcing them into pursuit. Moving onto to Madhar near Basra, he was overtaken by a 300-strong advance party of Simak's forces. Although Mustawrid was able to withstand this small force, he fled again towards Kufa area when the main body of the opponent forces, under the command of Ma'qil ibn Qays, arrived. Eluding Ma'qil's advance guard of 600, Mustawrid led a surprise attack on Ma'qil's main force, destroying it. The advance guard returned in the meantime and attacked the Kharijites from behind. They were slain almost to a man.
The Kufan Kharijism died off around the year 663,[e]
and Basra became the center of the Kharijite disturbance. Ziyad ibn Abihi
and Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad
, who successively became governors of all Iraq, dealt with the Kharijites with a heavy hand and five Kharijite revolts, usually involving around 70 men, were suppressed.
Notable among these revolts is that of cousins Qarib ibn Murra al-Azdi and Zuhhaff ibn Zahr al-Ta'i. In 672/73 they rebelled in Basra with a band of around 70. They are reported to have involved in random killing (isti'rad
) of people in the streets and mosques of Basra before being cornered in a house, where they were eventually killed. Their bodies were crucified. Following this rebellion, Ziyad is reported to have severely persecuted them.
His son Ibn Ziyad, who became governor after Ziyad's death, jailed any Kharijite whom he suspected of being dangerous and executed several Kharijite sympathizers who had publicly spoken against him.
Ziyad and Ibn Ziyad are said to have killed 13,000 Kharijites in total. As a result of these repressive measures, some of the Kharijites abandoned military action, adopting political quietism and concealing religious beliefs.
Of the quietists, the most famous is Abu Bilal Mirdas ibn Udayya al-Tamimi
. One of the earliest Kharijites who had seceded at Siffin, he was held in the highest esteem by the Basran quietists. Provoked by the torture and murder of a Kharijite woman by Ibn Ziyad, Abu Bilal abandoned Basra and revolted in 680/81 with forty men. Deafeating a reportedly 2,000-strong Basran force in Ahwaz
, he fell shortly afterwards to a larger army of 3,000 or 4,000 in Tawwaj
in southern Persia.
After the death of Mu'awiya in 680, the empire fell to civil war over the question of leadership. The people of Hejaz (where Mecca and Medina are located) rebelled against the new caliph Yazid
. Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr
, a son of Muhammad's companion Zubayr ibn al-Awwam
, was the most prominent Hejazi opponent of Yazid, and was based in Mecca.
When Yazid sent an army to end the Hejazi rebellion in 683 and Mecca was besieged
, some Kharijites of Basra came to Ibn al-Zubayr's aid.
However, Yazid died in November 683 and Ibn al-Zubayr proclaimed himself caliph. The Kharijites, after discovering that Ibn al-Zubayr had proclaimed caliphate and did not share their view of Uthman and condemned his murder, abandoned him.
Some of them went to Yamama
, in central Arabia, under the leadership of Abu Talut Salim ibn Matar, whereas the majority went to Basra. In the meantime, Basran tribal chiefs expelled Ibn Ziyad and the city fell to tribal warfare. The Kharijites returning from Arabia took over the city, killed the deputy appointed by Ibn Ziyad and broke 140 of their comrades free from Ibn Ziyad's prison.
Soon afterwards, the Basrans recognized Ibn al-Zubayr and he appointed Umar ibn Ubayd Allah ibn Ma'mar his governor there. Umar drove the Kharijites out of Basra and they escaped to Ahwaz
Doctrinal differences led to a split between the two of their leaders: Najda ibn Amir al-Hanafi
and Nafi ibn al-Azraq
From the Ahwaz area, Ibn Azraq, after whom his band became known as the Azariqa
, raided Basran suburbs. These are described in the sources to be the most fanatic of all the Kharijite groups for they approved of the doctrine of isti'rad
: indiscriminate killing of the non-Kharijite Muslims including their women and children. An army sent against them by the Zubayrid governor of Basra in early 685 defeated the Azariqa and Ibn Azraq was killed. However, they chose Ubayd Allah ibn Mahuz as the new Emir, regrouped and forced the Zubayrid army to retreat and ransacking resumed. After a few more defeats, Ibn al-Zubayr sent Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra
against them. Muhallab defeated them at the battle of Sillabra in May 686 and killed Ibn Mahuz. They subsequently retreated to Fars. However, in late 686, Muhallab had to discontinue his campaign against the Azariqa as he was sent against the pro-Alid Mukhtar and later appointed governor of Mosul
to defend against possible Umayyad attack. The Azariqa, now under the command of Ubady Allah ibn Mahuz's brother Zubayr, returned to Iraq and attacked al-Mada'in, in the neighborhood of Kufa, ravaged the town and after pursuit fled again to Iran where they besieged Isfahan. They were driven away and, Zubayr ibn Mahuz being slain, fled to Fars
and latter to Kirman
. Reinvigorated by their new leader Qatari ibn al-Fuja'a
, the Azariqa returned to Basra area soon afterwards and Muhallab had to be sent against them. For a long time, the Azariqa held Fars and Kirman although Muhallab prevented them from advancing to Iraq. In the meantime, Umayyads recaptured Iraq from the Zubayrids in 691. Umayyad princes took over the command from Muhallab but suffered severe defeats at the hands of the Azariqa. In 694 Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
, a Thaqafite
, was made governor of Iraq and he reinstated Muhallab to lead the fight against the Azariqa. After a series of attacks, he pushed them back into Kirman. There they split into two groups and were subsequently destroyed in 698–699.
of the Azariqa leader Qatari ibn al-Fuja'a
struck circa 694–695 with the Kharijite slogan la hukma illa li-llah
on the margin
Najda, with his followers, moved to Yamama and the faction became known as Najdat
There he took over, in 685, the Kharijite faction of Abu Talut, whose followers were impressed by Najda's leadership abilities and deposed the former to appoint Najda as their chief. Najda started raiding towns in Ibn al-Zubayr's domains
and soon extended his control to the entirety of Yamama and Bahrain
and defeated a 14,000-strong Zubayrid army that was sent against him. Thereafter he went on to seize Hadhramawt
in 687 and later captured Taif
, a town close to Ibn al-Zubayr's capital Mecca, leaving the latter cornered in Hejaz; Najda controlled much of Arabia. Not long after, his followers became disillusioned with him for his alleged correspondence with the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan
, uneven pay of the soldiers, his refusal to punish a soldier who had consumed wine, and him safely returning a captive granddaughter of the murdered Caliph Uthman. He was deposed for having gone astray and subsequently executed in 691.
Abu Fudayk Abd Allah ibn Thawr took over the leadership and defeated several Zubayrid and later Umayyad attacks. He was finally killed along with 6,000 followers in 692 by Umayyad forces in Bahrain.
Politically exterminated, Najdat retreated into obscurity and disappeared around the tenth century.
According to the heresiographers' account, the Sufriyya emerged during the Second Fitna. Those who disagreed with the activist Azariqa and Najdat regarding militant activity against the non-Kharijites were called Sufriyya. Their leader is said to have been Abd Allah ibn Saffar (or Asfar). Disagreements between Ibn Saffar and Abd Allah ibn Ibad, another of their leaders, resulted in another split and the formation of the fourth principal group, the Ibadiyya, in 683–684. However, modern historians consider Ibn Saffar to be a legendary figure,
and assert that the Sufriyya sect at this stage is probably ahistorical. The heresiographers, whose aim was to categorize the divergent beliefs of the Kharijites, invented the Sufriyya to accommodate those groups who did not fit neatly anywhere else.[f]
During the entire period of the Second Fitna, the Sufriyya remained idle. However, in the mid-690s they also started militant activities in response to persecution by Hajjaj.
The first of their revolts was led in 695 by the ascetic Salih ibn Musarrih, which was defeated and Ibn Musarrih was killed.
It was after his death, however, that they became a serious threat to Kufa and its suburbs. The group was taken over by Shabib ibn Yazid al-Shaybani. With a small army of a few hundred warriors, he defeated on multiple occasions (in 695 and 696) Umayyad armies several-thousands-strong, looted the treasury of Kufa and occupied al-Mada'in.
From the base in al-Mada'in, he prepared to capture Kufa. Hajjaj had already requested Syrian troops from Caliph Abd al-Malik, who sent 4,000-strong army which succeeded in defeating Shabib just outside Kufa and he drowned during flight.
His band was destroyed, but the Sufriyya continued to exist in the Mosul area.
Late Umayyad and Abbasid periods
Although small Sufriyya insurrections continued, all of them from Mosul area, it was during the last days of the Umayyad empire that a major Sufriyya revolt erupted (744).
It was at first led by a certain Said ibn Bahdal al-Shaybani, and after his death from plague, Dahhaq ibn Qays al-Shaybani
. Joined by many more Sufriyya from other parts of the empire, he advanced to Kufa and captured it in April 745 and later captured Wasit after a short siege. At this stage even Umayyad officials, including two sons of former Caliphs (Sulayman ibn Hisham
and Abd Allah ibn Umar II
), recognized him caliph and joined his ranks. Later he went on to capture Mosul but was killed by the forces of the Umayyad caliph Marwan II
in 746. His successor Shayban ibn Abd al-Aziz al-Yashkuri was driven out from Mosul by Marwan II and fled to Fars to join the Shi'ite leader Abd Allah ibn Mu'awiya
, who ruled there in opposition to the Umayyads. Attacked there by the Umayyads, they dispersed and Shayban fled to Oman where he was killed by the local leaders around 751.
Under the Abbasids
, Sufriyya revolts in the eastern parts of the empire continued for almost two centuries although at small scale and were easily put down. However, revolts led by Abd al-Hamid al-Bajali in 866–877 and by Harun ibn Abd Allah Bajali in 880–896 seized control of northern Mesopotemia from the Abbasids for a while and collected taxes.
By the mid 8th century, the quietist Kharijites, appeared in North Africa. They were mostly of Berber
origin who were recruited through missionary activity. With the Ibadi-Sufri distinction emergent in this period, the groups with no Ibadi affiliation were associated with the Sufryya. Around 740, Sufriyya under the leadership of Maysara al-Matghari
revolted in Tangiers
and captured the city from the Umayyads. Defeating Umayyad armies, they marched onto the capital Kairouan
although were not able to capture it. Nevertheless, Sufriya disturbances in North Africa continued throughout the Umayyad period.
Around 750, the Sufriyya Midrarids
estbalished a dynasty in Sijilmasa
, in what is now Morroco. The dynastry survived until the Fatimid
capture of the city in 909. Nonetheless, the Midrarids continued governing the city under the Fatimid suzerainty until 976.
The North African Sufriyya were in subsequent times replaced by the Ibadiyya into whom the remnants of the Sufriyya were absorbed around 10th or 11th century.
This sect is attributed to Abd Allah ibn Ibad
(or Abad), who like Ibn Saffar, is supposed to have been a moderate Kharijite and having disagreed with and separated from the more extreme Azariqa and Najdat during the Second Fitna.
However, some historians, as discussed above, believe that all quietist Kharijites in the early 680s were called Sufriyya and the Ibadi-Sufri distinction arose only during the eighth century.
Ibn Ibad is said to have been the leader of the Basran moderates after the death of Abu Bilal. Ibn Ibad, or his successor Jabir ibn Zayd
, was in communication with Caliph Abd al-Malik and Jabir had friendly relations with Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq. Jabir, a respected scholar and traditionist, is considered as the real organizer of the Ibadiyya sect.
Following the death of Abd al-Malik, the relations between Ibadiyya leaders and Hajjaj deteriorated as the former became inclined towards activism (khuruj
). He consequently exiled some of them to Oman and imprisoned others. One of the imprisoned, Abu Ubayda Muslim ibn Abi Karima, who was released after the death of Hajjaj in 714, became next leader of the Ibadiyya. He at first attempted to win over the Umayyad caliphs to the Ibadi doctrine but was unsuccessful. He then sent missionaries to propagate the doctrine in different parts of the empire including Oman, Yemen, Hadramawt, Khurasan and North Africa. During the final years of the Umayyad Caliphate, the Ibadi propaganda movement caused several revolts in the periphery of the empire, although the leaders in Basra adopted the policy of kitman
; concealing beliefs so as to avoid persecution.
Southern and eastern Arabia
In 745, Abd Allah ibn Yahya al-Kindi established the first Ibadi state in Hadramawt and captured Yemen in 746. His lieutenant Abu Hamza Mukhtar ibn Aws al-Azdi later conquered Mecca and Medina. Umayyads defeated and killed Abu Hamza and Ibn Yahya in 748 and the first Ibadi state collapsed.
The majority of the Omani population had converted to Ibadism by the end of the 7th century as a result of missionary activity initiated by Abu Ubayda.
An Ibadi state was established in Oman in 750 after the fall of Abu Yahya but fell to the Abassids in 752. It was followed by the establishment of another Ibadi state in 793,
but it too collapsed after the Abbasid recapture of Oman in 893. Abbasid influence was only nominal though and Ibadi Imams continued to wield considerable power.
Ibadi Imamates were reestablished in subsequent centuries.
Ibadis form the majority of the Omani population to date.
Africa and elsewhere
Ibadi missionary activity met with considerable success in North Africa.
In 757 Ibadis seized Tripoli and captured Kairouan the next year. Driven out by the Abbasid army in 761, Ibadi leaders founded a state in Tahart
. It was overthrown in 909 by the Fatimids. Ibadi communities continue to exist in the Nafusa Mountains
in northwestern Libya, Djerba
island in Tunisia and M'zab
valley in Algeria.
In East Africa they are found in Zanzibar
Ibadi missionary activity also reached Persia, India, Egypt, Sudan, Spain and Sicily, although Ibadis communities in these regions ceased to exist.
Beliefs and practices
The Kharijites did not have a uniform and coherent set of doctrines. Different sects and even individuals held different views. Based on these divergent views, heresiographers have listed more than a dozen minor Kharijite sects in addition to the four main sects discussed above.
The view common to all Kharijite groups was that any Muslim of whatever descent could become a caliph if he had credentials of belief and piety, and they rejected that Qurayshi descent or close kinship with Muhammad was necessary for the office, as was held by majority of the people at that time.
This differs from the position of both Sunnis, who later went on accept the leadership of those in power, and Shi'a, who were to assert that the leadership rightly belonged to Ali and his descendants.
The Kharijites held that the first four caliphs had not been elected for their Qurayshi descent or kinship with Muhammad, but because each of them was among the best of Muslims and most qualified for the post, and hence all of them were legitimate caliphs. In particular, they had a high regard for Abu Bakr
as, according to them, they governed justly.
Uthman, on the other hand, had deviated from the path of justice and truth in the latter half of his caliphate and hence was liable to be killed or displaced, whereas Ali committed a grave sin when he agreed to the arbitration with Mu'awiya.
In contrast to the Umayyad idea that their rule was ordained by God, the Kharijite idea of leadership lacked any divine sanctioning; only correct attitude and piety granted the leader authority over the community.
If the leader committed a sin and went off the right path or failed to manage Muslims' affairs with justice and consultation, he was obliged to acknowledge his mistake and repent, else he forfeited his right to rule and was subject to deposition.
In view of the Azariqa and Najdat, Muslims had the duty to revolt against such a ruler.
Almost all Kharijite groups considered the position of a leader (Imam) to be necessary. Many Kharijite leaders adopted the title of amir al-mu'minin
, which was usually reserved for caliphs.
An exception is the later Najdat; after their defeat in 692, they abandoned the necessity of war against the non-Kharijites in order to survive and rejected that Imamate was an obligatory institution.
Azariqa and Najdat held that since the Umayyad rulers, and all non-Kharijites in general, were infidels, it was unlawful to continue living under their domain (dar al-kufr
), for that was in itself an act of unbelief (kufr
). It was thus obligatory to emigrate, in emulation of Muhammad's hijra
to Medina, and establish a legitimate dominion of their own (dar al-hijra
). Sufriyya and Ibadiyya held that although establishment of a legitimate dominion was desirable, it was legal to continue living among the non-Kharijites if rebellion was not possible.
The Kharijites also asserted that faith without accompanying deeds is useless and anyone who goes against injunctions of religion is an unbeliever (kafir
) and must repent to restore the true faith. However, the Kharijite notion of kufr
differs from the mainstream Muslim one, which understands a kafir
as someone who is a non-Muslim, whereas the Kharijite accusation of kufr
implied that the accused was a defective or pseudo-Muslim who rejected the true Islam.
Azariqa held a more extreme position that such unbelievers were in fact polytheists and apostates who could not reenter Islam and could be killed along with their women and children. Azariqa also held non-activist Kharijites as unbelievers.
Of the moderates, Sufriyya and Bayhasiyya considered all non-Kharijite Muslims unbelievers but also abstained from taking up arms against them, unless necessary.
Ibadiyya, on the other hand, did not declare the non-Kharijites as polytheists rather as disbelievers of a lower degree: kuffar bil-nifaq
(hypocrites), or kuffar bil-ni'ma
(ungrateful for God's blessings).
They also permitted marriages outside their own sect.
The Kharijites also held the idea of equality of all Muslims regardless of ethnicity and advocated for equal status of the mawali
; non-Arab, freed Muslims of conquered lands especially Iraq and Persia) with the Arabs.
Najdat faction in fact chose a mawla
fruit seller as their Emir. This, however, did not go well with their ethnic feelings and they soon asked him to step down and choose an Arab Emir for them, which he did.
The leader of the Azariqa, Nafi ibn al-Azraq, is said to have been the son of a mawla
of Greek origin.
The Kharijites also advocated for equality of women.
On the basis of women fighting alongside Muhammad, the Kharijites viewed fighting jihad as a requirement for women. One famous example is the warrior and poet Layla bint Tarif
The Kharijites rejected the punishment of adultery
which is prescribed in other Islamic legal schools
. Although the Qur'an does not prescribe this penalty, Muslims of other sects hold that such a verse existed in the Qur'an, which was then abrogated
. A hadith is ascribed to Umar, asserting the existence of this verse in the Qur'an.
The Kharijites rejected the authenticity of such a verse.
One of the Kharijite groups also refused to recognize the Sura Yusuf
being part of the Qur'an for its contents were considered to be too worldly and frivolous.
Traditional Muslim view
The non-Kharijite Muslims attribute several hadiths
to the Islamic prophet Muhammad prophesying the emergence of the Kharijites.
After the Battle of Hunayn
, a man named Dhu al-Khuwaysira is reported to have accused Muhammad of unjustly distributing the spoils. Umar reportedly asked for Muhammad's permission to kill the man, but the latter declined, saying:
Let him go, there will be people from him who will pray and fast so eagerly that your prayer and fasting will seem comparatively small to you; they plunge so deeply into the religion that they come out on the other side, like a sharp arrow through a target on which no trace of blood and flesh remains.
According to Wellhausen, the report is legendary and was invented retrospectively. Nevertheless, he describes the content of the hadith as an apt criticism of the Kharijites: "By tightening onto the principles of Islam, they are taken beyond Islam itself."
A similar hadith attributed to Muhammad says:
There will emerge from [Iraq
] a people who will recite the Qur'an but it will not go beyond their throats, and they will stray from Islam as an arrow strays from the animal.
Other hadiths with themes of "arrow through the target" or "the Qur'an not going beyond throats" are reported. Though the hadiths never name the Kharijites or any particular Kharijite individual, these are generally seen by the non-Kharijite Muslims to be referring to the Kharijites. Some hadiths of this sort encouraged other Muslims to eliminate them.
The Kharijites drew condemnation by traditional Muslim historians and heresiographers of subsequent centuries.
The term Khawarij
, which originally meant those who went out of Kufa to gather at Nahrawan during the time of Ali was subsequently understood as outsiders—those who went out of the fold of the Muslim community—
In the modern era, many of Muslim theologians and clerics have compared the beliefs and actions of the modern Islamic extremists, like ISIL
, Muslim Brotherhood
, and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
, to those of the Kharijites,
labeling them as modern or neo-Kharijites.
In particular, the groups are alleged to share the militant Kharijites' anarchist and radical approach whereby self-described Muslims are declared unbelievers and therefore deemed worthy of death. However, ISIL and Al-Qaeda preachers reject being compared to the Kharijites, instead calling themselves the true Muslims and their opponents lax Muslims.
The intended effect of these accusations is usually to deny the Islamists any widespread public support given the very unpopular image of the Kharijites among the Muslims.
The comparison is criticized by the modern historians who argue that the socio-political context and environment giving rise to the modern militants differs widely from that of the Kharijites to warrant any justifiable comparison between the two, and that such comparisons often result from a superifical understanding of the doctrines of either group.
Although most modern Arab historians have been critical of the Kharijites, some have presented a more favorable view. The latter group argue that the Kharijites rebelled against economic injustice and had valid grievances. They also compare the Kharijite ideals of ethinic and gender equality with the modern equivalents of these values.
scholars have attempted to soften the image of the Kharijites in order to reconcile the differences with rest of the Muslims. They assert that mainstream Muslim accounts of the Kharijite history are tempered and distorted and that Harurites did not rebel against Ali but only had a difference of opinion with him. It was not Ali, they asert, who fought them at Nahrawan but the Kufan nobleman Ash'ath ibn Qays.
They also protest against being labelled as a Kharijite sect.
- ^ He appointed his kinsmen to all important governorships and made monetary and land grants to his close relatives.
- ^ He demanded that the surplus revenue from the provinces be sent to Medina. He also asserted that the conquered agricultural lands in Iraq, which the second caliph Umar had declared state assets from whose revenue the fighters were paid, were state property which he, as the caliph, could use at his discretion.
- ^ G. R. Hawting has suggested that the use of the tahkim by the Kharijites to denounce the arbitration is a later reworking by the Muslim sources. In his view, the Kharijites originally espoused the slogan, amid the religious disputes among the Muslims over the scriptural authority, to reject the authority of the Sunna and the oral law in favor of the Qur'an.
- ^ According to Patricia Crone, the story of the dispute over the arbitration is inadequate and perhaps there was more to the dispute between Ali and the Kharijites.
- ^ An isolated revolt of surviving followers of Mustawrid occured in 678 and was easily put down.
- ^ In this scheme, then, there was only one moderate Kharijite current, which further split into the true Sufriyya and Ibadiyya only during the eighth century, with the main difference being probably tribal affiliations rather than doctrinal differences.
- ^ Gaiser 2010, pp. 1–2.
- ^ Kenney 2006, pp. 28–29.
- ^ Kenney 2006, pp. 29–30.
- ^ Donner 2010, pp. 152–153.
- ^ Donner 2010, pp. 148–149.
- ^ Donner 2010, pp. 148–154.
- ^ Donner 2010, pp. 157–159.
- ^ Madelung 1997, pp. 248–249.
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- ^ Madelung 1997, pp. 251–252.
- ^ a b c Levi Della Vida 1978, pp. 1074–1075.
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- ^ Wellhausen 1901, pp. 8–11.
- ^ Hinds 1971, pp. 363–365.
- ^ Shaban 1971, pp. 50–51, 70, 75–76.
- ^ Gaiser 2016, pp. 54–56.
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