Meaning of KHARIJITE in English


Arabic Khawarij, the earliest Islamic sect, which traces its beginning to a religio-political controversy over the Caliphate. After the murder of the third caliph, 'Uthman, and the succession of 'Ali (Muhammad's son-in-law) as the fourth caliph, Mu'awiyah, the governor of Syria, sought to avenge the murder of 'Uthman. After fighting the indecisive Battle of Siffin (July 657) against Mu'awiyah's forces, 'Ali was forced to agree to arbitration by umpires. This concession aroused the anger of a large group of 'Ali's followers, who protested that judgment belongs to God alone (Qur'an 6:57) and believed that arbitration would be a repudiation of the Qur'anic dictum If one party rebels against the other, fight against that which rebels (49:9). A small number of these pietists withdrew (kharaju) to the village of Harura' under the leadership of Ibn Wahb and, when arbitration proved disastrous to 'Ali, were joined near Nahrawan by a larger group. These Kharijites, as they came to be known, were opposed equally to 'Ali's claims and to those of Mu'awiyah. Repudiating not only the existing caliphal candidates but all Muslims who did not accept their views, the Kharijites engaged in campaigns of harassment and terror. In the Battle of Nahrawan (July 658) Ibn Wahb and most of his followers were killed by 'Ali, but the Kharijite movement persisted in a series of uprisings that plagued both 'Ali (whom they assassinated) and Mu'awiyah (who succeeded 'Ali as caliph). In the period of civil war (fitnah) following the death of the caliph Yazid I (683), the Kharijites were the source of serious disruptions within the Umayyad domain and in Arabia. Subdued through the intensive campaigning of al-Hajjaj, the Kharijites did not stir again until the collapse of the Umayyads, and then their two major rebellions, in Iraq and Arabia, ended in defeat. The Kharijites' constant harassment of the various Muslim governments was less a matter of personal enmity than a practical exercise of their religious beliefs. They held that the judgment of God could only be expressed through the free choice of the entire Muslim community. They insisted that anyone, even a black slave, could be elected caliph (that is, head of the Muslim community) if he possessed the necessary qualifications, chiefly religious piety and moral purity. A caliph may be deposed upon the commission of any major sin. The Kharijites thus set themselves against the legitimist claims (to the Caliphate) of the tribe of Quraysh (among the Sunnites) and of 'Ali's descendants (among the Shi'ites). As proponents of the democratic principle, the Kh arijites drew to themselves many who were dissatisfied with the existing political and religious authorities. Besides their democratic theory of the Caliphate, the Kharijites were known for their puritanism and fanaticism. Any Muslim who committed a major sin was considered an apostate. Luxury, music, games, and concubinage without the consent of wives were forbidden. Intermarriage and relations with other Muslims were strongly discouraged. The doctrine of justification by faith without works was rejected, and literal interpretation of the Qur'an was insisted upon. Within the Kharijite movement the Azariqah of Basra were the most extreme subsect, separating themselves from the Muslim community and declaring death to all sinners and their families. The more moderate subsect of the Ibadiyah, however, survived into the 20th century in North Africa, Oman, and Zanzibar, with about 500,000 members.

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