The majority of Muslims – from all of our theological persuasions and different legal schools of thought – know very well from the authentic narrations of our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ how to recognise the khawārij and similar extremists.
Yet governments and security agencies around the worlds couldn’t make a greater omnishambles of its approach to stopping fanatical extremists if it tried. They instead insist on a nonsensical theory that normative “conservative” practice of Islam (what they call “non-violent extremism”) is the conveyor belt to violent extremism where the likes of ISIS et al hold court.
There is of course no doubt – and many Muslims would do well to stop insisting that there are no “internal” causes from the religion itself and just blame others – that Muslims themselves need to look at their interpretation and application of divine texts which are abused by those who go astray and end up as fanatics. That is our role, nay our obligatory responsibility. We need to educate, refute and guide those that wilfully choose to cherry pick and mutilate divine sources to create their own murderous ideologies.
The authorities on the other hand should focus on what they can do best; so whether that’s reviewing their catastrophic foreign and domestic policies involving Muslims, or the amount of people being killed abroad with such little concern, or their demonising of Muslims just in general which has been so shamefully witnessed in recent years, or even just recognising that Muslims have mentally disturbed criminals too just like so many other non-Muslim criminals especially when white privilege is used.
In any case, as a favour to our governments, and because it is also good to also warn those Muslims who are unaware to be careful of letting these characteristics develop in yourself or others, and thus save yourself from divine punishment, this a short and quick list of Prophetic signs (and not necessarily current, modern, socio-political ones which would need another article frankly) to look for which will help, God willing. No other sect in history has been warned against as much as the khawārij or their modern day violent extremist manifestation such as ISIS, with over twenty authentic or fair-strength hadith on the matter. Here are some of those signs:
- Young aged: the majority of violent religious fanatics are relatively young – Islamically speaking, one is considered young or immature in thought before the age of 40 – and one struggles to find many older scholarly figures amongst them, or those with great experience and age. The Prophet ﷺ said about them:
“Young in age”
- Confused and foolish: the majority of the khawārij are dominated by those who are not very intelligent, reckless and immature, often hasty and extremely passionate and not in control of their emotions. Imām al-Nawawi said, “One can see (from these hadith) that proper stability and complete encompassing of an issue only come when one is fully mature, with full intellect and lots of experience.”
Thus the Prophet ﷺ said about them:
“Weak in intellect”
- Arrogance and deluded: the khawārij are known for their arrogance and pride compared to the normal servants of Allah, being very impressed with their selves and their actions. They often boast about their achievements. This deluded state leads them to claim great knowledge for themselves, attacking the scholars, and reckless thinking and actions.
إِنَّ فِيكُمْ قَوْمًا يَعْبُدُونَ وَيَدْأَبُونَ، حَتَّى يُعْجَبَ بِهِمُ النَّاسُ، وَتُعْجِبَهُمْ نُفُوسُهُمْ
“There will be amongst you a people who will worship and be very strict in that, so that the people will be amazed by them, and they will even be impressed with themselves.”
(Ahmad, 12886, with an authentic chain)
- What apparently seems as huge levels of worship: on the outside, and in public, they display their prayers, fasting, charity etc to significantly high quality levels which can cause many to doubt their evil and emptiness inside.
If the Companions of the Messenger ﷺ thought that their worship was nothing compared to theirs, then what about ours?! That is why ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Abbās (radhyAllāhu ‘anhumā) said when he met them, “I never saw anyone strive so much (in their worship); their hands were all rough, and their faces imprinted with marks from their prostrations.” (Musannaf ‘Abd’l-Razzāq).
Like the Prophet ﷺ said about them:
ليْسَ قِرَاءَتُكُمْ إِلى قِرَاءَتِهِمْ بِشَىْءٍ، وَلا صَلاتُكُمْ إِلى صَلاتِهِمْ بَشَىْءٍ، وَلا صِيَامُكُمْ إِلى صِيَامِهِمْ بِشَىْءٍ
“Your recitation compared to their recitation is like nothing, your prayers compared to their prayers are like nothing, and your fasting compared to their fasting is like nothing.”
- Poor understanding of the Qur’ān: they will read the Qur’ān a lot and often try to use it to establish evidences but without knowledge or deep understanding. They will apply verses out of context and that is why they were described in the hadith:
يَقْرَءُونَ الْقُرْآنَ يَحْسِبُونَ أَنَّهُ لَهُمْ وَهُوَ عَلَيْهِمْ
“They will recite the Qur’ān and think that it is supporting them, but rather it is against them.”
يَقْرَءُونَ القُرْآنَ لاَ يُجَاوِزُ تَرَاقِيَهُمْ
“They will recite the Qur’ān but it will not go further than their throats.”
Imām al-Nawawi said in commentary to Sahīh Muslim, “Their share of the Qur’ān is only what the tongue passes by on for it does not pass their throats to reach their heart. The objective is not just to recite, but for one to think about it, reflect on it, and let it penetrate the heart.”
Shaykh’l-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah in al-Majmū‘ said, “The original innovations in the religion were like that of the khawārij, misunderstanding the Qur’ān; they never intended to oppose it but they took it from it what was never there in the first place.”
Ibn Hajr said in al-Fath, “They used to be called the Qurrā’ (“the Reciters”) because of their excellence in recitation and worship, except that would interpret the Qur’ān in ways other than it was intended to be, and then became very obstinate in their opinions.”
- Apparently eloquent speech: their statements will be of oratory excellence, mentioning those affairs that affect all Muslims and seem to be in their favour, full of rhetoric and style, calling to the Sharī‘ah etc but their actions are opposite to it. Thus the Prophet ﷺ said:
يُحْسِنُونَ الْقِيلَ وَيُسِيئُونَ الْفِعْلَ
“They are excellent in their statements, but are catastrophic in their actions.”
(Abu Dāwūd, 4765, Sahīh)
Imām al-Sindi said in Hāshiyah to the Sunan al-Nasā’ī, “They speak with a language which represents the best of things to say – or at least it seems – such as “the Hukm is for Allah” etc and calling to the Book of Allāh.”
- Excommunication and shedding blood: this is probably their defining characteristic and certainly the most serious, one which makes them almost unique. They make takfīr (excommunicate) without due right, and murder those who differ with them, as the hadith states:
يَقْتُلُونَ أَهْلَ الْإِسْلَامِ
“And they murder the people of Islam.”
The reason they murder the Muslims is because they excommunicate them first. Ibn Taymiyyah said, “They declare as disbelievers those who differ with them in their innovations, and then declare their blood and wealth to be permissible to take.”
Their takfīr is of different types: for committing a major sin, or sometimes even for something that isn’t a sin at all, or over an issue which has difference in it, or over issues that are doubtful in nature, or those issues which they have not ascertained the facts, of they do not give the benefit of the doubt or use ignorance as an excuse to try and avoid killing unnecessarily, and they will often be vigilante in their acts with no court process or discussion or proper conditions applied.
There potential danger when they are able to mete out their violence, is unmatched. As Ibn Hajr said, “The khawārij are the most evil of all the innovated sects in the Nation of Muhammad ﷺ.”
This is why the only solution for them when it comes to this is as the hadith states:
هُمْ شَرُّ الْخَلْقِ وَالْخَلِيقَةِ طُوبَى لِمَنْ قَتَلَهُمْ وَقَتَلُوهُ
“They are the most evil of all creation. Well done to the one who kills them, and/or is killed by them.”
(Ahmad, 13338, Sahih)
Indeed, for whoever is killed by them is undoubtedly a martyr.
And Allah knows best.
(based on an original work by Sh ‘Ammār al-Sayāsanah)