In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
A very valid question arises when I advocate for a new term – the “neo-Kharijites” (pronounced kha-ree-jites) – to describe those murderous extremist Muslims who create havoc across our world today and try to cast themselves as “Muslim heroes.” Who exactly were the Kharijites? They were an early offshoot of Islam that developed during the civil war between the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin Ali (r) and the governor of Damascus Mu’awiyah (r). [Author note: (r) is an abbreviation for “May God be pleased with him”]
The Muslim state enjoyed relative stability under the caliphates of Abu Bakr (r) and Umar ibn Al Khattab (r). During the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan (r), the third Caliph, discord began to seep into the state. This discord ultimately resulted in the assassination of Uthman (r) by renegades. A dispute, then, arose over the succession of Uthman: some supported Ali (r), the Prophet’s cousin, and others supported Mu’awiyah (r), the governor of Damascus and Uthman’s relative.
This dispute culminated in the Battle of Siffin in 657. The initial battle went against Mu’awiayh (r). When he directed his forces to place copies of the Qur’an on their lances, indicating their desire to submit to binding arbitration “based on the Qur’an,” the forces of Ali refused to fight. Once the terms of the arbitration were set, a group of Muslims objected to the whole principle of arbitration and rebelled against both Ali (r) and Mu’awiyah (r). These were the Kharijites. They declared them infidels worthy of murder. Even though Ali (r) defeated most of them at the Battle of Nahrawan in 658, a group survived and ultimately assassinated Ali (r) in 661.
Kharijite belief is a form of radical fundamentalism. As noted in the Wikipedia entry, “They preached uncompromising adherence to the teachings of the Qur’an in defiance of corrupt authorities.” They also preached “absolute equality of the faithful” and maintained that “only the most pious should be caliph…even if he were an Abyssinian slave (the lowest social class of the era).” They spread their ideology violently, declaring anyone who does not believe as they do – even those who committed any major sins – as “infidels,” whose blood is allowed to be shed. They committed many atrocities against fellow Muslims, including the hacking to death of one of the governor’s of Ali (r) and his pregnant wife.
The radical and violent extremists of today act very much like the Kharijites of old. They claim to commit their evil in the name of God and doing righteousness, just like the Kharijites of old. They believe that those who do not espouse their radical views as “infidels” worthy of death, just like the Kharijites of old. They have committed – and continue to commit – horrific acts of violence against fellow Muslims, just like the Kharijites of old. Like I said before, the fit between the extremists of today and the Kharijites of old is very close indeed.
Therefore, I believe we should call these radicals “neo-Kharijites,” instead of “Islamofascists.” Their creed is radical fundamentalism, not “Islamic fascism.” And just like the Kharijites of old, they must be confronted, for the safety and security of all.