First Theological split : The Khawarij

During the Caliphate of Ali Ibn Abu Talib (ع) there were several challenges to his rule, these were not minor skirmishes, but caused more deaths than all the previous battles against the non muslims put together.

 

One of the battles was the battle of Siffin (657), this battle was between the Muslim mainstream led by Ali Ibn Abu Talib (ع) and Muawiya’s rebel  forces, these battles led to the deaths of approx 70,000 Muslims (1). The battle was going against Muawiyah, and in desperation his deputy Amr ibn al-‘As instructed his forces to attach pages from the Quran on their shields and horses, and demanding that the fighting stop, hoping the Muslim army would not attack them. Some of the Muslim army became confused and stopped fighting, the leaders of the Muslim army told the soldiers to continue fighting until the enemy surrender, however a group felt the enemies calls to the Quran were too attractive to ignore. Once Ali Ibn Abu Talib (ع) realised his forces were being deceived and they stopped fighting, he was left with no choice but to agree to arbitration. This group within the Muslims felt that the Quran should be the judge between them, however Mu’awiya had no intention of arbitrating using the Quran, and the group among the Muslims realised this and become hostile to both the Muslim army led by Ali Ibn Abu Talib and the Syrian army led by Mu’awiya. This group did not include any known companions of the Prophet SAW and were to become the first theological split from the mainstream Muslims, because of this they were called the Khawarij, which means “Those that went out”. 

 

Ideology of the Khawarij

 

 

The Khawarij were the first sect in Islam to split from the way of the Prophet and his Companions. In the time of the Prophet (alayhis salaam) a man called Dhul-Khuwaisarah at-Tamimi questioned the integrity of the Prophet (alayhis salaam) in distributing booty and said to him, “O Muhammad be just!”. The Prophet mentioned that from the offspring of this man, the Khawarij will arise, and he mentioned their characteristics. From them,

  • That they will depart from the people of Islaam,
  • That they will have little understanding of the religion, being young and foolish-minded,
  • That they are the “Dogs of Hellfire“, and
  • That they will emerge in every age and era until the Dajjal appears amongst them (see here), and
  • That if the Prophet (alayhis salaam) was to reach them, he would slaughter them like the slaughtering of Aad

And other such affairs which have come in the Authentic Sunnah.

As prophesied, the Khawarij emerged during the Caliphate of Ali (ع), revolting against them after declaring him to be a disbeliever for having made arbitration between himself of Mu’aawiyah. They considered this to be major disbelief because, as they chanted, “Judgement is for none but Allaah“, a verse from the Qur’an, which they made their slogan.

 

1. Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Ch. L, Page 98. New York: Fred de Fau and Co. Publishers (1906)

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