15 Characteristics of the Khawarij

THE FOLLOWING ARE a few of the characteristics of the earlier Khawarij, including those who lived at the time of the Companions of the Prophet, as well as those at the time of the Ummayad and Abbasid Caliphates and all other ages, including the present.

The aim of this article is to compare the characteristics of the earlier Khawarij with those of the Khawarij succeeding them, including those who call themselves “Al Qaedah” and “ISIS” or the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” or “Daesh,” and the likes of them who have manipulated and twisted the teachings of Islam, the proper Islamic concept of Jihad, and the noble act of Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice (Al-Amr bi Al-Ma‘ruf wa Al-Nahi ‘an Al-Munkar) to carry out their own twisted purposes and evil desires.

My decision to write this article was occasioned by the doubt common among some of the Muslims who deny that these organizations and sects are the latter-day Khawarij, and their refusal to identify them as such. I have written this article to help the unprejudiced, fair-minded Muslims to judge with reason and knowledge. Consider the following concerning our latter-day Khawarij:

Lloyd Gunton, 17, armed himself with a hammer and knife and wrote a so-called martyrdom letter as part of his plan to attack and kill “non-believers” on the streets of Cardiff.

1.They are mostly young in age.

The Messenger of Allah said:

At the end of time (meaning: the last days of the world), there will appear some people among you who are young in age, immature and senseless; they will use the best of the speech of the people in their claims, and they will leave Islam just as the arrow pierces the body of the game and then abandons it. Their faith will not go past their throats, so wherever you see them, kill them; for their killing will be recompensed and rewarded on the Day of Judgement. (Bukhari)

This characteristic is apparent in these organizations. Similarly, the people who implicate themselves in situations of fitan, turmoil, and confusion are also mostly young.

Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza at an al-Muhajiroun rally in London, 2002. 

2.They are immature.

This is evident in the members of these organizations—in what they preach and how they defend themselves. In fact, those who have left these groups after having been members confess that their judgement had been clouded (when they were part of these organizations).

An undated video released by Islamic State (IS) allegedly showing Abdelhamid Abaaoud posing with a Koran and the ISIS flag at an undisclosed location. According to French officials, Belgian-born Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

3.They quote the Quran and Hadith to their perverted purposes.

As is pointed out in the aforementioned hadith, they use the Quran, the Sunnah, and scholarly statements to support their claims, despite the fact that all of these evidences and proofs are against them and not for them.They recite the Quran, thinking that it is for them (i.e. supporting their claims) while it is against them. (Muslim)

4.They do not have a deep understanding of Islam.

The Prophet said: They recite the Quran but it does not go past their throats, meaning that the teachings of the Quran do not enter their hearts, nor do they understand or comprehend them.This characteristic is very discernible in the Khawarij, as they possess no true knowledge nor do they strive to attain it. They are not known to accompany the scholars or attend their study circles; instead, their main occupation is being updated on the latest news, rumors, and snippets of information that has no benefit in terms of Islamic learning.

They consider the most intelligent amongst them to be the one who has spent the most time in acquiring the most recent events and views. As for the Quran, the Sunnah and the teachings of scholars, they have no interest in them nor do they invest time in pursuing them.

Abu Hamza al-Masri addresses followers during Friday prayer on a busy road in near Finsbury Park mosque in north London, in this 26 March 2004.

5. They show unnecessary excessiveness in their acts of worship.

The Messenger of Allah said: Your prayer does not compare to their prayer, nor does your fasting compare to their fasting, nor does your recitation compare to their recitation (Muslim). And in another narration, he said: You will slight your prayers in comparison to theirs (Bukhari and Muslim).This characteristic is not very apparent in the Khawarij of our times, but it was manifested in the earlier Khawarij. For many of the Khawarij of today are morally corrupt and foulmouthed, and have no concern for acts of worship.

As for the ones from amongst them who are concerned with worship, they are extremely arrogant and boastful about it. Their outward religiosity, however, prompts some Muslims to defend them and to try to find excuses for their arrogant behavior. But this defense is untenable, for soundness of intention is not the only condition for an act of devotion to be accepted; there is another important requirement: following the normative Sunnah of the Prophet and that of his Companions.

If a sound intention were the only condition for the acceptability of an act of worship, then there would be no argument against the people of innovation! Because proponents of innovations are almost always driven by good intentions (combined, of course, with their ignorance of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah).

Imam Al-Ajurri (d. 360 h.) said:

“If you see a group of people lead an armed rebellion against the ruler—just or otherwise—in which they spill Muslims’ blood indiscriminately and without batting an eye, you should not doubt for a second that they are wretched deviants—no matter how beautifully they recite the Quran, or how meticulous they are in their Salah, or how persistent in their fasting, or how attractive their discourse is. (Kitab Al Shari’ah, 1/345)”

6.They kill the believers and spare the idolaters.

The Messenger of Allah said: They kill the Muslims and spare the idolaters. If I live to see them I will kill them like the killing of (the people of ‘Aad). (Bukhari and Muslim).

This has occurred in our present time in that there has not been a single catastrophe or calamity that befell the Muslims except that these people used it to divide Muslims, to mass-murder them, and to charge them with apostasy. They say: “We will kill the apostates before killing the idolaters and disbelievers,” while it has never been documented that the Khawarij have fought the disbelievers! They fight primarily against Muslims, a fact attested by the situation in Syria and other Muslim countries.

7.They go to the extreme in religion until they abandon it.

The Prophet said about the ideological progenitor of the Khawarij, Dhul Khuwaisirah: Leave him, for there will issue from his loins (progeny) a people who will go to the extreme in religion until they abandon it altogether, just as the arrow pierces the body of the game and then abandons it. (Ahmad)

The Khawarij’s extremism and harshness in religion is well-known. A group of scholars who hold that the Khawarij are disbelievers and apostates adduce the Prophet’s statement: “until they abandon it” as proof for their position. Think about the deviation and misguidedness of this sect whose depravity gets to a point where the scholars differ as to whether they are Muslims or not! (The scholars are agreed that the Khawarij do not belong in the category of Ahl Al Sunnah wal Jama’ah: “orthodox Muslims.”) Despite this, the Khawarij believe that they are upon the truth and treading the path of the true religion and Shari’ah.

Say (O Muhammad): “Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds! [Sûrat Al-Kahf, 18:103-104]

It is reported that a man from the Khawarij asked ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib about this verse and the latter replied: “It is alluding to you, O people of Harura’.” (Harura’ was a town which the Khawarij occupied and made the seat of their government.) (Tafsir Al-Tabari)

8.They insult and defame Muslim leaders, declaring them to be misguided.

In this, they tread in the footsteps of their ideological ancestor, Dhu Al-Khuwaisirah, who said to the Messenger of Allah as he was distributing the war booty: O Muhammad, be just [in your distribution of the booty], for this is not the distribution of a man who seeks Allah’s pleasure. (Ibn Majah) For this reason, the scholars have considered Dhul Khuwaysarah to be the progenitor of the Khawarij.

Similarly, the Khawarij agitated the people against caliphs ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan and ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib in their respective reigns so much so that the people saw them in a negative light and repelled against them. Imam Tabari mentioned in his Tarikh the message which the arch agitator against ‘Uthman—‘Abdullah ibn Sabâ’—gave to his followers on how to deal with ‘Uthman.

He said: “March forth fervently in pursuit of this goal, and begin with defaming the leaders while feigning the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Attract the people and make them incline towards you while calling them to this matter (of disunity and rebellion against the leaders.)”

Al-Tabari said: “So he (Ibn Sabâ’) sent his missionaries, and kept close contact with those who shared his evil motives and designs in other Muslim lands. They advocated their opinions secretly while feigning to uphold the Islamic principle of Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice. They wrote letters to the various Muslim regions and localities, defaming the leaders. They kept each other updated on the events of their countries, so that they encompassed the entire region with their connections and circulation of news. They did all of this while hiding their true intentions.” (Tabari’s Tarikh Al-Umam wa Al-Muluk, 4/340)

This has continued to be the method of the Khawarij ever since their movement reared its hideous head up until the present time, as they are active participants in gossipy gatherings on the Internet. Such has become their main concern and occupation.

9.They appear in times of disunity and strife (mentioned in a hadith reported by Bukhari and Muslim).

They did not appear in Syria, Iraq, and other war-torn countries except when there was disunity and discord in these lands. Similarly, the earlier Khawarij movement intensified after the murder of caliph ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, an incident that stirred up disruption and disagreement among the Prophet’s Companions.

10.The Khawarij do not hold the scholars and people of knowledge in high esteem if their opinions do not conform with theirs.

They consider themselves more knowledgeable than ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, Ibn ‘Abbas, and the rest of the Companions. Consequently, they have caused the Companions a great deal of trouble and harm.Moreover, they treated the scholars from the generation after the Companions in a similar manner. For example, they criticized Al-Hasan Al-Basri when he opposed the followers of Ibn Al-Ash’ath as they attempted to rebel against the tyrannical ruler, Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi. When the Khawarij perceived Al-Hasan Al-Basri’s disagreement with their misguidance and falsehood, they slandered him by saying: “Should we obey this infidel?” Furthermore, they accused him of being a loyal subject to the oppressive ruler. In the end, their fate was that some of them were killed while some suffered increased dictatorship at the hands of Al-Hajjaj.  (Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d 7/163).

The present day Khawarij have a similar attitude towards contemporary scholars, such as Shaikh Ibn Baz, Shaikh Ibn Uthaymin and others, whom they dismiss as: “scholars subservient to kings,” “the scholars of menses and postpartum bleeding,” “they do not possess knowledge of reality,” and “they are indifferent.”

All of this malicious gossip and defamation from the Khawarij was because of the fact that those scholars opposed their religious opinions and attitudes.

11.They quote verses about fighting the idolaters to justify their fight against the believers.

Ibn ‘Umar said: “They (the Khawarij) took verses about the disbelievers and used them against the believers.”(Bukhari)

12.The Khawarij accuse of apostasy the people who oppose their opinion and stance, and consider it legal (halal) to kill them.

Al-Safirini said concerning the opinions of Nafi’ ibn ‘Abdullah Al-Azraq (the ideological founder of Al Azâriqa sect of the Khawarij), “He accuses those who disagree with him of apostasy and considers it legal (halal) to kill them.” (Lawami’ Al-Anwar, 1/86)This is manifest in the way that they murdered the noble Companion ‘Abdullah ibn Khabbab, while he was travelling with his wife. They confronted him and blocked his path, challenging him, they asked, “Who are you?” He replied, “I am ‘Abdullah ibn Khabbab, a Companion of the Messenger of Allah.”

When they knew his identity, they asked him to narrate something to them from the Messenger of Allah and he did. They proceeded to question him about Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, and he mentioned them with a great deal of praise and admiration.

Next, they asked: “And what do you say about ‘Uthman in the beginning of his Caliphate and at the end of it?” He replied: “Uthman was a truthful man in the beginning of his Caliphate and at the end of it.”

Finally, they asked him about ‘Ali before and after his Caliphate, to which Khabbab replied: “Indeed, he is more knowledgeable than you, stronger in his religion and wiser.” That enraged them and they said: “You follow nothing but whims and are merely loyal to men because of their names (their fame), not because of their deeds. We swear by Allah that we will kill you in a manner that we have never killed anyone before.”

They struck at him and murdered him until his blood flowed into the water (of a river nearby). Then they turned to his pregnant wife who got frightened and pleaded, “Truly, I am a woman, will you not fear Allah (and spare me)?” Nevertheless, they killed her and tore out her womb. (Tabari’s Tareekh 5/82)

13.The Khawarij advocate violent opposition of oppressive Muslim leaders.

Despite the abundance of ahadith recommending patient endurance with tyrannical leaders [if carrying arms against them will be counterproductive. And this of course does not mean neglecting the duty of alamr bi al-ma‘ruf wa al-nahi ‘an al-munkar towards these rulers in a wise and peaceful manner.]The Khawarij advocate the obligation of assassinating such leaders and all those who are pleased with their rule or support and help them. This is why they legalize and justify the killing of police and security guards, whom they consider to be the soldiers and helpers of oppressive leaders.

14.They disagree amongst each other to the point of dividing into several sects and attacking each other.

Their sects include the Azâriqa, the Ibadhiyah, Al-Najdât and several others. That’s how the Khawarij are seen today: killing and accusing each other of apostasy.

15.They abuse the Islamic principle of Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice (Al-Amr bi Al-Ma‘ruf wa Al-Nahi ‘an Al-Munkar) and manipulate the proofs in the Quran and Sunnah to justify recourse to violence.

Imam Al-Ajurri said:

“They emerged from various regions and united under the banner of Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice until they reached Madinah and assassinated Caliph ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan.”

Don’t be Misled by Today’s Khawarij

The preceding is a summarized compilation of the characteristics of the Khawarij that fully apply to the present day Khawarij. With this in mind, the intelligent Muslim will not doubt now that the aforementioned groups and individuals properly identify as the Khawarij of today, even if they claim to be Salafi, “the People of Tawhîd” or proclaim themselves defenders of the Sunnah. It is a lie, however much they may deny it.

The Muslim Ummah has not received any help or support from the Khawarij; rather, they have massacred the believers and helped the disbelievers, atheists, and hypocrites. This is the truth about them.

Know that the act of trying to convince, advise and deter the Khawarij is a noble act which reaps huge rewards and is a form of Jihad (struggling) for the sake of Allah, in addition to fighting them if needs be. Moreover, debating them and spreading awareness about the falsehood of their ideology is also encouraged. Narrations about the virtues of opposing them are plentiful in the ahadith of the Messenger of Allah, in the sayings of his Companions, and in the statements of those who followed their guidance.

The Messenger of Allah said:

So wherever you see them, kill them, for their killing will be recompensed and rewarded on the day of Judgement.

He also said:

If the army that is to encounter them (the Khawarij) were to know of the rewards that they have been promised, they would never turn back from this deed. (Muslim)

Those who have been killed by the Khawarij receive glad tidings, as the Messenger of Allah said:

The best people killed are those who are killed by them.

He also said:

Glad tidings for the one who kills them or is killed by them. (Graded Sahîh, narrated by Imam Ahmad)

Therefore, those who excuse the behavior of the Khawarij, deny those who oppose them, justify their stance, or consider them to be legitimate mujahidin, they should fear Allah.

I conclude with the saying of Imam Al-Ajurri:

Contemporary and classical scholars are unanimous that the Khawarij are an evil lot who disobey Allah and His Messenger, notwithstanding their prayers, fasting, and striving in worship. The Khawarij make a pretense of Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice but that will not benefit them either because they twist the meanings of the Quran to suit their whims and desires.

Allah, His Messenger, the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs, the Companions, and all those who follow their guidance have warned us about the Khawarij. They are evil, filthy, repugnant, and whosoever follows their perverted ways or advocates their ideology, whether in the past or the present, is one of them.

Their [ideological] ancestor was a man [Dhu Al-Khuwaisirah] who said to the Messenger of Allah as he was distributing war booty: “O Muhammed, be just (in your distribution) I do not see you acting justly.” The Messenger of Allah replied: “Woe to you! Who is just if I am not just?” Enraged by Dhu Al-Khuwaisirah’s insolence, ‘Umar said: “O Messenger of Allah, allow me to kill him!” But the Messenger of Allah did not permit ‘Omar to do so and said: You will slight your prayers and fasting in comparison to their prayers and fasting; and they will go to the extreme in the religion until they abandon it altogether.

In some ahadith, the Messenger of Allah enjoined killing the Khawarij.

During the reign of Caliph ‘Uthman, the Khawarij came forth from various regions, united under the guise of Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, until they stormed Madinah and assassinated that Rightly-guided Caliph. The Companions who were present in Madinah at the time tried to repel them, but they were overwhelmed by their enemy.

The Khawarij then rebelled against ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib branding him illegitimate caliph. Their mantra was: “There is no rule save that of Allah.” When ‘Ali heard this statement he remarked: “A truthful statement by which they intended falsehood.” ‘Ali. However, and with the help of the majority of the Companions, turned all his efforts and resources to fighting the Khawarij and warding off their evil. Thus, ‘Ali’s sword will remain a sword of truth in the fight against the Khawarij until the Day of Judgement.” (Kitab Al-Shari’ah 1/325)

Allah knows best.

From Al Jumuah Magazine by

Shaykh Abd al Majid al Arifi





Mohammed Abbasi


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