Who Were The Khawarij?
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.
We have summed up all their characteristics in the end; the readers can go directly to them while we would be narrating the entire hadiths that state from where all this started.
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: 0 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]
Lets sum up all the hadiths:
They would recite the Quran but it won’t go down their throats.
They will exit the Deen like an arrow does from the prey.
Their Salat and fasting would seem better then others.
They would talk (in such a manner) as if their words are the best among the creatures.
They would have shaven heads.
They will appear from the east.
Amongst the Khawarij there would be a black man whose shoulder will be like that of a woman’s breast.
The Khawarij raised this slogan, There is no command but that of Allah, which was correct but used for a wrong cause.
Ali (may Allah be pleased be with them) fought the Khawarij and killed them.
Killing the Khawarij would be rewarded on the day of judgment.
Abdullah b. Wahb al-Rasibi was at the head of the Khawarij when they fought the Muslimeen.
The Khawarij would emerge when the there is dissension amongst the Muslimeen.
What admonition do we receive from all of this?
That we shouldn’t try to be more pious then our Prophet SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam, we should have blind faith on him, that no matter how pious someone might seem we should only take proof from Quran and Sunnah, and that mere raising of correct slogans doesn’t mean someone is on the right path.