The Differences between Ibadhis and Khawarij
Written by: Sheikh (Abu Is’haq) Ibrahim Attfayish1
Khawarij [Kharijites]2 were groups of people who appeared at the time of A ’Taabi ’een3 and those who came after them. Their leaders were Naﬁ’a bin Alazraq, Najdah bin Aamir, Abdul-Allah bin Alasfer and their followers. They were given this name because of their radical approach of accusing others of unbelief, which set them apart from the truth and the Muslim community. For Khawarij, a sinner was a heretic whom it was permissible to kill and whose properties could be despoiled. This false accusation was all based on their misinterpretation of the A1mighty’s words: “If you were to obey them, you would indeed be heretics”, AlAn’am 6:121. They claimed that this verse meant if you obey heretics in eating carrion4, you will be deemed one of them. However, the correct understanding of this verse is that those who make carrion lawful are heretics5.
When their news reached Imam A’Rabi bin Habeeb bin Amr AlBasri AlFarahidi AlIbadhi6, the author of AlMusnad A’Sahih7, may Allah have mercy on him, he said: “leave them until they apply what they say. If they do so, we will apply Allah’s ruling on them”. Thus, when their wrong innovations [bid’ah] became apparent and they applied their wrong dangerous doctrines, killing Muslims, Ibadhis declared their dissociation from them, expelled them from their meetings and fought them in different places. Ibadhis announced, based on clear and assertive verses from the Qur’an, that Khawarij were Kufaar [unbelievers] for they permitted what Allah forbade.
Omanis, for example, stood with AlMuhalab in the face of Khawarij’s armies. (For more information see AlKamil written by AlMubarad)8. The famous Ummayad Azdi Omani warrior, AlMuhallab bin Abi Sufrah, took the responsibility of suppressing this group and motivating people to ﬁght them. However, to give a stronger motive for ﬁghting Khawarij, AlMuhallab started creating wrong hadiths9 against Khawarij. This doubled the crisis of the Khawarij as not only many Muslims were killed, but also, wrong hadiths were made up. Because these groups of Khawarij were against arbitration10, Ibadhis who were against it as well were falsely and unjustly attached to them. However, this unjust attachment can be refuted as follows:
First, Ibadhis do not approve of the ruling of tyrant kings. For them, it is a must that the Caliph should follow the steps of the rightly guided Caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar11. This was clearly stated by the Prophet, peace be upon him, as he said in an authentic hadith, agreed upon, “Fol1ow the examples of those who come after me, Abu Baker and Umar”12. When this hadith was narrated about Ammar bin Yasir13, may Allah have mercy on him, “you'll be killed by the transgressor party”, it was used by the opponents of arbitration as well as the other party. Although its authenticity was conﬁrmed by both parties, Mu’awiyah’s group interpreted it in a way that twists the reality in their favor14.
Second, driven by their desires, many people claim that the people of A’Nahrwan15 rebelled against Ali16. This is an unsound claim, for Ibadhis had insisted that Ali should stay as the Caliph of the Muslims. However, when he accepted arbitration, they freed themselves from the allegiance because they didn’t see any point in negotiating his right as an elected Caliph by Muslims. His concession to the arbitration with Mu’awiyah’s group means that his election was questioned; therefore, they elected their own Caliph, amongst the most pious companions of the Prophet, Abdul-Allah bin Wahab A’Rasbi AlAzdi17. When Wahab was elected, Ibadhis asked their brothers, including Imam Ali, to give allegiance to the newly chosen Imam. However, Ali bin Abi Talib saw that the allegiance was given to Azdi18 not Qurashi19, so he fought them before getting stronger and thus Quraish would lose the Imamate. This was the only reason for the Battle of A’Nahrawan20.
In Dawmat AlJandel21, Mu’awiyah took the Caliphate after the negotiation of the two arbitrators, Amr bin Alas and Abu Musa Al’Ash’ari. Consequently, Ali debated and asked Wahab’s group to ﬁght Mu’awiyah and his followers, but it was too late as they were free from their allegiance to him. Ibadhis didn't elect a new Caliph, until the result of arbitration appeared. What they warned against happened, for arbitration was wangled by Al’Ash’ath bin Qais who was put into Ali’s group by Mu’awiyah.
Thus, it is not as claimed by falsiﬁers of history and extreme sectarians that the Battle of A’Nahrawan happened because of a rebellion against Ali. On the contrary, they did not leave his group when his allegiance was valid. Therefore, people looking for the truth should be aware of making a mistake in this regard as it is apparent that desires are pervasive amongst such people22.
Third, the name Khawarij didn't appear until the spread of Azariqah’s movement. Thus, the people of A’Nahrwan were not described as Khawarij. The ﬁrst use of this name was by Mu’awiyah against one of his visitors from the people of Mu’awiyah, Al’Ahnaf bin Qais23. He said to him, “Why do people like [admire] you knowing that you are from Khawarij?” Al’Ahnaf replied, “If people had found water bad, they wouldn’t have drunk it”. Mu’awiyah meant here those who refused to accept him as Caliph (see Al’Amali by Abdu Ali AlQali24).
Was Mu’awiyah's accusation of Al’Ahnaf as being Khariji25 because Al’Ahnaf was with the people fought by Ali in the Battle of A’Nahrwan? Or was it because he did not pledge the allegiance to Mu’awiyah? If it were because of the former reason, Mu’awiyah’s party would have been more eligible of this description as he was the one who fought against Ali on the Day of Siffeen and freed himself of Ali’s allegiance, knowing that he was given allegiance by prominent companions and his allegiance must be followed by all Muslims.
Fourth, Ibadhis have never fought against any monotheists [Muslims] even when AIHajaj and Ziyad bin Abeeh got tough on Muslims based on doubts. However, they were rebelled against by a group called A’Tawaboon headed by great scholars like Saeed bin Jubair and Ibrahim A’Nakh’i. Later, AlHajaj killed Saeed bin Jubair, who was a scholar in the interpretation of the Holy Qur’an. What was really surprising was that this big group of scholars who took up the sword against the horrible injustice done by AlHajaj was not called Khawarij, but they were called A’Tawaboon [the people of repentance]. They were all carriers of knowledge who died in the ﬁght except about three. Certainly, a mind is stunned because of such a tragedy, yet many readers overlook it.
However, those who scrutinize history objectively will ﬁnd out that the word Khawarij was unjustly given to Ibadhis because they only believed that the Imamate [Caliphate] should not be restricted to the tribe of Quraish. This position is the right of whoever is elected by Muslims to lead them because it is clearly unwise to accept that Allah places the leadership of all humankind in the hands of only one tribe irrespective of whether it does right or wrong. Common sense supports what Ibadhis believe on this issue, and how they have used this belief to interpret the hadith that “the Imams are from Quraish”. It is a kind of arrogance and avoidance of the truth to claim that leadership is restricted to Quraish. Even the supporters [Ansar] of the Prophet, peace be upon him, who understood his teachings, said to Abu Bakar, “A leader from us and a leader from you”. With the same token, the reply of Abu Bakr “leaders are from us, and ministers are from you as Arabs are subservient to this tribe” does not support the restriction of the Caliphate Quraish. He justiﬁed it with Arabs being subservient to Quraish but not for any other reason as claimed by people of political and sectarian desires. Would nations of different races accept being driven by a man from Quraish only because of his tribe?! It is unlikely.
Fifth: Ibadhis desire justice to disseminate the application of the Quran and Sunna, and to follow the political paradigm of rightly guided Caliphs whether the person in charge is Qurashi, Habashi [Ethiopian], Arab, or non-Arab, as it was narrated in sound hadiths. This is why they accepted the leadership of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz26, and they sent a group of six great Ibadhi scholars, J’afer bin A’Simak, Abu AlHur Ali bin AlHusain Al’Anbri, AlHattat bin Kateb, AlHabab bin Kulaib, Abu Suyan Qanber AlBasri, and Salim bin Thakwan among other unnamed scholars, but these were the names I came across, may Allah have his mercy upon them all. Non-Ibadhi historians mentioned these delegates to Umar bin Abdul-Aziz though they said with their usual insinuation: “The Khawarij sent him a delegation”. However, they did not mention what happened between them and the Caliph Umar and his acceptance of all their suggestions about spreading justice, and purging the country of the Umayyad tradition of cursing Ali from the pulpit. The Ibadhi delegation said to Umar, “Muslims are cursing from pulpits in mosques, so this evil tradition must be changed”. Thus, Umar replaced it with the words of Allah: “Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that you remember”, Anahl 16: 90.
In spite of this, many historians still do not admit the good that Ibadhis have done to this Ummah [Muslim nation]. Blindly, they overlook many incidents that prove how Ibadhis were always there defending justice and truth and ﬁghting injustice with words not swords as it was done by Abdul-Allah bin Ibadh27 with Abdul-Malik bin Marwan and Abu Bilal Mirdas bin Hudair28 with Ziyad bin Abeeh. They have never accepted that it is permissible to shed blood among Muslims or lawful to despoil their properties. Ibadhis have always believed in the freedom of choice and opinions as everyone is accountable for what he/ she has. They were unlike others who used the sword to establish their states or to force people to follow their sects. Ibadhis gave people the freedom of expression and the freedom to choose their sects, for there is no compulsion in religion. For Ibadhis, truth is acceptable from whoever brings it and falsehood is returned to whoever brings it. Thus, Ibadhism is the only sect that grants a slave freedom once he/ she agrees with his/her lord even if s/he does not pay the full price of his/her freedom. The remaining amount is a debt the slave has to pay later. This shows how Ibadhis were ahead of others in understanding the essence of Shari’ah [Islamic Law].
By mentioning Khawarij’s hideous actions, it has become clear that Ibadhis do not have any connection with Khawarij. These differences between Ibadhis and Khawarij have become clear for just those non-Ibadhi intellectuals who realized the truth and admitted it, for returning to the truth is an obligation and a great virtue.
Sixth, Ibadhis allow intermarriages between them and all other monotheists while Khawarij do not because the Khawarij see others as polytheists [heretics]- as explained before. Based on this, they also do not allow inheritance between them and those who disagree with them because heresy that prevents intermarriage prevents inheritance as well. So, did falsiﬁers of history turn a blind eye to these differences? That is what a person sees when turning the pages of history in the records and books of other Muslims [non-Ibadhis] who have not learned from what Allah says in the Holy Quran: “And those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, bear on themselves the crime of slander and plain sin”, AlAhzab 33: 58.
Allah says: “O you who believe! Stand out ﬁrmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do”, AlMa’idah 5: 8.
Indeed, a Muslim gets bewildered from those calumniators on the People of Truth and Straightness, lbadhis. How dare they say those things for no other reason than for their hidden desires. We seek refuge with Allah from following desires and denying the truth. Do they not know that they would meet Allah with this slander? Or is it their belief that leaving Hell Fire has eased everything for the sake of following desires?
Seventh, Ibadhis have turned their effort to serve Islam in knowledge and practice since the Fitnah29 started. They were the ﬁrst to write down the hadith of the Prophet; our Imam, Jabir bin Zaid was the ﬁrst to write down the hadith and the Prophet of the companions’ sayings in his Diwan [volumes of books] which was described to be as large as a load of a camel. Then after him, his students, carriers of knowledge to the east and the west, followed his steps.
The Khawarij practiced bloodshed, scared people and abolished the rulings of Islam. None of the Khawarij were known to have written a book and those who are attributing books to Khawarij mean Ibadhis. Undoubtedly, they want to distort the Ibadhis’ repute.
The same thing is said about the Sufriya, Azariqah, and Najdiyah30; they did not care about the narrations of the Prophet or writing down hadith except a narration by Najdah bin Amer31 who narrated one hadith and Nafe bin Alazraq32 who had questions to Ibn Abbas, yet this is not the place to mention them. Rather, the Khawarij were concerned about warring rather than the compilation and narration of knowledge. All those who were mentioned as scholars of Khawarij by other non-Ibadhi Muslims were Ibadhis scholars.
Our ancestors [Ibadhis] came with wonders in recording knowledge and they were well known for their piety, trustworthiness, and honesty to a status none but them attained. Therefore, some non-Ibadhi Muslim writers resorted to distorting the facts with false and promiscuous Propaganda when they were shocked by those blight lights33. They did not mix Ibadhis with Khawarij except to blur the lines of truth in envy.
How would a person who has taken distortions as his principles and whose insight has gone blind admit the truth?! You ﬁnd that those false writers would never -mention our companions [Ibadhis] with any good virtue even when they were to be mentioned. Rather, they would ignore their greatness in knowledge and religious perfection. Indeed, I have come across some books on history and literature in which there must have been a mention of our companions [Ibadhis] as to what they have contributed. Yet, with no piety, those authors ignored them as if they did not exist. This is a transgression and indulgence in blurring the truth that you never ﬁnd with our companions [Ibadhis]. Praise be to Allah, the Most High, the Most Great.
Eighth, when our Muslim brothers [non-Ibadhis] recorded history and they mentioned our companions [Ibadhis], they failed to tell the truth. Instead, they mixed Ibadhis with Khawarij. Sometimes, they attributed Ibadhis to Khawarij, while other times they attributed Khawarij to Ibadhis as done by many authors in Usul [the Fundamentals of Islamic Law] attribute the sayings of Mutazilah34 to Ibadhis and vice versa. This resulted in mixing things up and distortion because those authors who depended on copying from these sources fell in the same mistake. To me, they do not have any excuse, for the one who spreads the truth should request it from its source and not forge it as he wants.
We ﬁnd those who claim that Abu Bilal bin Mirdas bin Hudair was among the Khawarij and Qatri bin Alfuja’a was among the Ibadhis! Yet, the reality is the opposite. Another confuses that Imam Talib AlHaq Abdu-Allah bin Yahya AlKindi was Imam Abdu-Allah bin Ibadh, but that was not right. Imam Abdul-Allah bin Ibadh died in the last days of Abdul-Malik bin Marwan, while Talib AlHaq Abdul-Allah bin Yahya appeared during the time of Marwan AlHimar [Marwan the donkey]35 in l30H. This is how those authors mix facts up to distort the Ibadhis’ repute. Looking at the history of Andalusia36, you will not see a mention of Ibadhis. The truth is that lbadhis have attained in Andalusia a great status in knowledge and wealth. Ibiza island in Andalusia was fully inhabited by Ibadhis until the sixth century, Hijri37, or even further until the fall of Andalusia.
When reading Tabakat Ibn S’ad38, there is no mention of Ibadhis except for Imam Jabir bin Zaid who had to be mentioned as he was too famous to be ignored.
The indisputable truth is that important ﬁgures are closer to [well known by] their people and history is better known by its people than others. Allah says the truth and He guides to the right path.
The innovations of Khawarij necessitated Islamic rules against them. Muslims said that there must be a distinction between major sins so Muslims do not fall in the crimes of Khawarij. Major sins are of two types: major sins of heresy [shirk] and major sin of hypocrisy [nifaq]. Major sins of heresy [shirk] include every sin that violates Islamic creed like allowing what Allah forbids, forbidding what Allah allows, rejecting what must be known about religion, or rejecting Islamic rulings such as stoning. The sins of hypocrisy are sins of ingratitude to Allah’s bounties. This is what scholars of hadith call a deviation without unbelief [kufr dona kufr]39; they are the major sins of corruption [ﬁsq] to non-lbadhis. These sins include committing adultery, anal intercourse, eating unlawful food, perjury, disobedience of parents, and other similar acts and deeds. More examples include ceasing the performance of obligatory orders of Allah without believing that they are non-obligatory. Ibadhis call all these sins major sins of hypocrisy [nifaq] and ingratitude to Allah’s bounties [kufr ne’mah]. When Ibadhis call a sin ‘kufr’, this would lead to the next question: does it affect the major belief [creed] or is it part of doing acts of worship or not? Accordingly, the type of disbelief [kufr] can be recognized whether it is kufr of hypocrisy or kufr of shirk. Our Ibadi companions do not call others kuffar [unbelievers]40 without a legitimate reason and they do not call the people of Qibla [Muslims] kuffar [disbelievers] as long as they are under the word of sincerity41 [ikhlas]. The truth is that they are distinguished by this method even if it is claimed by other Islamic schools of thought. If you realize this, you will know that there is a marked distinction between Ibadhis and Khawarij and nothing links them together except rejecting the arbitration which is the truth that is supported by Quran, Sunnah, the path of Omarein42 and the consensus of Muslims. So, hold ﬁrmly to the truth as who depends on Allah will be guided to the straight path.
Some of our scholars and other non-Ibadi scholars said that Khawarij deny stoning. According to me, this is not true unless we consider their ruling that a person who commits a major sin is an unbeliever whose blood is lawful. In this case, the one who commits adultery is killed because he is considered a non-believer not killed as a punishment for adultery; therefore, there is no need to deny stoning.
This matter, according to me, is not as many think; some non-Ibadi Muslims’ claim that Khawarij reject stoning has an insinuation. This claim backﬁres on them because they narrated a verse that states “if an old man and old woman commit adultery, stone them as a punishment from Allah and Allah is Almighty All-Wise” was recited in the Holy Quran in AlAhzab43 but was eaten by a goat. Based on this false narration, an imperfection has occurred in the Qur’an. This terrible error will always accompany them despite their claims that its recitation is being abrogated while its ruling remains in effect. However, our Ibadi scholars say that stoning is not prescribed in the Holy Qur’an but in the hadith. Imam AlHaﬁdh AlHujjah44 A’Rabi bin Habeeb narrated in his Sahih that Imam Jabir bin Zaid said, “Istinja45, circumcision witr46 and stoning are obligatory Sunnah47”.
Praise be to Allah Who has protected our companions48 from error and may Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad, his righteous family, followers and his companions.
Abu Is’haq Ibrahim Attfayish
1 This book hopes to clear out some misconceptions that many people hold about Ibadhis based on other inaccurate or biased sources written long time ago.
2 Two ways of spelling the same word.
3 Those who met the companions of the Prophet but did not see him.
4 Carrion means here a dead animal meat that is not slaughtered in the lawful way.
5 Once, while Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him, was reciting the above verse, ‘Adi bin Hatim said, “O Allah’s Prophet! They do not worship them (rabbis and monks).’ Allah’s Messenger said, “They certainly do. They (i.e. rabbis and monks) made legal things illegal, and illegal things legal, and they (i.e. Jews and Christians) followed them; and by doing so they really worshiped them”. Narrated by Ahmed, Attirmidhi, and Ibn Jarir. (Tafsai A’Ttabari, Vol. 10, p.114)
6 Died in 175H.
7 A book that has very authentic Prophet’s tradition because the narrators are described as golden chain.
8 This is the author’s note within the original text.
9 Hadiths: The Prophet’s traditions, his sayings and practices and sometimes called ‘the Sunnah of the Prophet’.
10 Arbitration was a trick used by Amr bin Alas, who was in Mu’awiyah’s side, to take the Caliphate from Ali during the Battle of Siffeen in 37H/ 657G.
11 They were the ﬁrst two successors after the Prophet peace be upon him.
12 An authentic hadith narrated by AlHakim, and A'Tirmidhi.
13 He was one of the loyal companions who accepted Islam early and was killed in Siffeen in 37H.
14 Mu’awiyah claimed that Ali killed Ammar because he brought him and threw him in Mu’awiyah’s lances (or swords (
15 A Place in Iraq, in the south east of Baghdad
16 The fourth Caliph elected by Muslims and the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet.
17 He was a companion of the Prophet described as a knowledgeable brave person and one of the reciters of the Qur’an. He supported Imam Ali in his battles and he participated in the conquest of Iraq with S’ad bin Abi Waqas. He died in 38AH.
18 Azdi is an attribution to a person who belongs a famous Arabic tribe called Azd.
l9 Qurashi is an attribution to a person who belongs a famous Arabic tribe called Quraish from Meccah.
20 Some Ibadhi scholars question the validity of this claim.
21 A place 1n the far north of current Saudi Arabia.
22 Falsiﬁers of history.
23 Died in 67H.
24 A note by the author.
25 Khariji: a singular form of the plural form of Khawarij.
26 An Umayyad Caliph who followed the way of the rightly guided Caliphs. He died in l0lH/ 720CE.
27 He was the political spokesman of a group of Muslims who were attributed to his name, Ibn Ibadh. He lived during the time of Umayyad.
28 He was with Imam Ali’s group then after the arbitration, he was one of the main leaders in A’Nahrawan and among the few who survived the Battle of A’Nahrawan. Later, he became the closet companion of Jabir bin Zaid and was killed in 61H.
29 Fitnah, an Arabic word, refers to the time when Muslims split into political groups and fought each other in 37H/ 657CE.
30 of Khawarij.
31 He was the founder of A’Najdat’s group, a group of Khawarij, and took over Bahrain during Umayyad’s era and he was killed in 73H.
32 He was the founder of Azariqah’s group.
33 A metaphor means great scholars.
34 A school of Islamic theology based on rational thought. It emerged in the Umayyad Era, and ﬂourished in the Abbasid period.
35 There are many explanations why he was called the donkey.
36 Alandalus was the old Arabic name for the land conquered by Arabs including Spain and Portugal.
37 Hijri refers to the Islamic calendar starting from the emigration of the Prophet from Mecca to Madinah in 622CE.
38 Ibn S’ad was born in 168 AH / 784CE and died in 230 AH/ 845CE. This book is an eight-volume work that included the biographies of outstanding Islamic personalities.
39 This is one level of disbelief. It means a person is insisting on committing sins but he is still a Muslim.
40 Unbeliever or non-believer is someone who is outside the faith, either by choice or because they haven’t been told. Disbeliever implies a deliberate and deﬁnite rejection of the belief, ideas, concepts in a religion.
41 The word of sincerity means that people witness that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger.
42 The ﬁrst two rightly guided Caliphs after the Prophet peace be upon him.
43 Chapter 33 in the Holy Qur’an.
44 These names are titles given to A’Rabi and many other great scholars as they are distinguished in their ﬁeld of knowledge.
45 Cleaning private parts by water.
46 An Islamic prayer performed at night after Isha’a (night-time prayer( or before Fajr (dawn prayer(
47 The sayings and practices prescribed by the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him.
48 Ibadhi scholars.
The Differences between Ibadhis and Khawarij, written by: Sheikh Ibrahim Attfayish, translation and commentary by: Muneer AlHadhrami and Abdullah AlRawahi.