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Prophetic Traditions on the Khārijite Renegades: Imām Muslim’s Insight into the Reality of the Khārijites and Their Worldly Motivations

Posted by Abu Iyaad on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 and filed under Prophetic Traditions

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There is an abundant mention of the Khārijites in the Prophetic traditions, which include prophecies regarding them, the timing of their appearance, their traits, their activities, their recurring appearance and so on. Imām Muslim (261H) collected many of these traditions and they are found under Kitāb al-Zakāh within his Ṣaḥīḥ. The inclusion of these ḥadīths within this book of charities is significant. It should be noted that the chapter headings are provided by the scholar who wrote a commentary on the Ṣaḥīḥ, Imām al-Nawawī. His intent being to explain the intent of Imām Muslim by way of these ḥadīths.

The actual chapter in which these ḥadīths are placed follows a series of chapters that relate to wealth, being content and not desiring the glitter of the world.

Chapter 38: The dislike of being eager for worldly gains.
Chapter 39: If the son of Ādam had two valleys, he would desire a third.
Chapter 40: Richness does not lie in many possessions.
Chapter 41: Exhortation against being deceived by worldly glitter.
Chapter 42: The virtue of refraining from asking and being patient.
Chapter 43: Sufficient provision and contentment.

Immediately after these chapters, are the following:

Chapter 44: Giving to the one who begs importunately.
Chapter 45: Giving to one whose faith one fears for.
Chapter 46: Giving to one whose hearts are inclined towards Islām.

The traditions therein indicate that the Prophet had certain objectives behind his decisions in giving wealth to some and not to others. Some of the Companions would object without understanding the objectives until explanation was given to them. For example, those who were well off but were inclinded to Islām or new to Islām or whose faith was feared for would be given and those who were poor but were strong in faith, were not given because they could bear patience. In the ḥadīth of Anas bin Mālik, the Prophet (ﷺ) addressed the Anṣār explaining to them that he was going to give wealth to the Quraysh because they had recently left disbelief and had been through material hardship:

The Quraysh have recently abandoned ignorance and have just been delivered from distress. I, therefore, intend to help them and conciliate them... Don’t you feel happy that the people should return with worldly riches and you return with the Messenger of Allāh to your houses? If the people were to tread a valley and the Anṣār tread a narrow path (in a mountain) I would tread the narrow path of the Anṣār.

He also said to them:

Certainly, after me you will encounter the selfishness [of the ruler] so have patience until you meet me at the drinking pool [on the day of resurrection].

Right at the end of this chapter, Imām Muslim includes two hādīths in which the presence of a certain discontent, revolutionary ideological current lurking among the Muslims was revealed. This current came to light on account of certain remarks made by its leaders. He narrates with his chain to ʿAbd Allāh who said:

On the day of Ḥunayn, the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) showed preference (to some) people in the distribution of the spoils. He bestowed on Aqraʿ bin Ḥabis one hundred camels, and bestowed an equal [number] upon ʿUyainah, and bestowed on people among the elites of Arabia, and preferred them [to others] on that day, in the distribution [of spoils]. Upon this a person said: ‘By Allāh, neither justice has been done in this distribution [of spoils], nor has the pleasure of Allah been sought in it.’ I (the narrator) said: By Allāh, I will certainly inform the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) about it. I came to him and informed him about what he had said. The colour of [the Prophet’s] face changed red like blood and he then said: ‘Who would do justice, if Allāh and His Messenger do not do justice?’ He further said: ‘May Allāh have mercy upon Moses; he was tormented more than this, but he showed patience’.

This ḥadīth ends the chapter and the very next chapter is:

Chapter 47: A mention of the Khārijites and their traits.

In this chapter Imām Muslim relates many traditions pertaining to the Khārijites and this is an indication that the grievance of those who revolt and abandon the main body of Muslims is that they are discontent about material affairs and find fault with the ruling authority in its decisions, means and methods of disposal of wealth. The Prophet also alluded to the Anṣār when he addressed them, that after him will appear rulers who will be selfish and not fulfill the material rights of their subjects and keep wealth to themselves. He advised them to be patient and many other traditions prohibit revolting against the sinful, oppressive, unjust ruler.

The next chapter included by Imām Muslim is:

Chapter 48: Incitement to kill the Khārijites.

In this chapter Imām Muslim brings numerous ḥadīths in which the killing of the Khārijites is encouraged and they are mentioned as “the most hated of Allāh’s creation to Him”.

The last chapter dealing with them is:

Chapter 49: The Khārijites are the most evil of creation.

Imām Muslim cites a number of traditions in which the Khārijites are described as “the most evil of creation”.

It is within this background and context that the ḥādiths of the Khārijites are related and the scholars explained that the Khārijites came out on the basis of the world. This is revealed in a letter of advice given by the great Islāmic scholar, Wahb bin Munabbih (d. 110H, early 8th century CE) to a man affected by the ideology of the Khārijites, A group of Khārijites came to this man from Ṣanʿā in Yemen and said to him that his zakāh (obligatory charity) given to the rulers does not fulfil his obligation because it is misused and thus, his wealth should be given directly to the Khārijites who will give it to the poor and needy as well as establishing the prescribed punishments. These are the same activities of the Khārijites of ISIS today whereby they collect wealth under the same pretences whilst using it to fortify their own position and power. Refer to Munāṣahah Wahb bin Munabbih (taḥqīq al-Burjis, 1423H), p. 19.

Ibn Kathīr, the Qurʾān commentator said:

For the first innovation to occur in Islām was the tribulation of the Khārijites and their (ideological) starting point was due to [a matter] of the world. [Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-Aẓīm (2/10)]

The matter being referred to was the distribution of wealth, they consider the ruling authorities to be unjust and astray in their disposal of wealth. Ibn Taymiyyah said:

The foundation of the misguidance of these [Khārijites] is their belief regarding the leaders of guidance and the body of the Muslims that they have departed from justice and are misguided. [Majmūʿ al-Fatāwā (28/497)]

Thus, the leaders of the Khārijites harbour resentment and are displeased with the activities of the rulers in matters of politics and economy, and they have a desire for material matters that the ruler is preventing them from. On these grounds, they accuse the rulers of injustice, which means not judging by Allāh’s law, and then that turns into an accusation of disbelief, and then things proceed from there in a step-wise fashion until the Khārijites, revolt, separate themselves from the main body, and then start elaborating upon their doctrines which eventually lead (by logical necessity) to generalised takfīr of Muslim societies and calls for jihād against them and against those who oppose their views.

20th century Khārijite movements culminating in the appearance of the Khārijites of ISIS have all appeared along the very same lines and one can see the clear patterns of similarity when you read their works which outline their central concepts.

Abu Iyāḍ. 17 Muḥarram 1438 / 18 October 2016

Some Prominent Khārijites of This Era. Learn More About Their Doctrines

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Takfīr (Excommunication)
Ḥākimiyyah (Lawgiving)
Khurūj (Revolution)
Walaʾ & Barāʾ (Loyalty and Disownment)
Jihād (War)
Imāmah & Khilāfah (Leadership & State)
Irhāb (Terrorism) & Plunder

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