Making Sense of Wahhabism – 8

Wahhabism and Kharijism 4

Muslim scholars linking Wahhabism to Kharijism (part 2)

This is the second part of the previous entry Muslim Scholars Linking Wahhabism to Kharijim. I wanted to emphasize that, in addition to the Muslim scholars themselves who consider Wahhabis as Khawarij (previous entry) the Salafists, Wahhabis, and Khawarij themselves call each other Khawarij! I remind you that these entries are part of the series entitled Making Sense of Wahhabism. The links to all the articles in the series are provided at the bottom of this page.

A word on excommunication, or takfir

We saw how the practice of takfir or excommunication was one of the distinguishing features of the khawarij, how they considered anyone whose Islam does not correspond to their own as a non-believer (and the result of being considered a disbeliever is clearly stated in the above quotes).

From a theological perspective, all Muslims are in agreement that falsely charging a Muslim with disbelief is a major sin. But beyond this spiritual consideration, and looking at more practical considerations, this is very significant as well, because the disbelief of a Muslim is the argument used to justify killing someone by death penalty, confiscating all of their possessions and wealth, and annulling their marriage.

[The topic of excommunication in Islam deserves its own entries, so that it is understood in detail as a principle, and also how it is often used in places like Saudi Arabia officially by the state to get rid of anything and anyone as they wish… Generally speaking, there is disagreement among scholars whether anyone beyond the prophet has the responsibility to excommunicate. Those who believe that it is legitimate to establish Islamic states, and who believe that the state is a legitimate representative of and delegate to the prophet may believe that the state can also play the role of excommunication and determining the penalty. Some others grant this role to the qualified scholars/judges. Conveniently, the Khawarij believed that anyone who commits a sin – as defined by them – is no longer a Muslim and can be punished by anyone…]

Of course, when the Khawarij excommunicated both Imam Ali as well as his enemy Muawyiah, chaos and dissent ensued, and Muslims have always abhorred and feared this type of situation ever since. Even if you are in a society that wants to be entirely ruled by Islamic law, when you let the clueless, uneducated mobs and masses determine who is Muslim and who isn’t, and what their punishment should be, you expose the entire society to the disaster of complete implosion. Of course, when you add the political dimension into the equation (i.e. we all know that rulers will use any dirty trick in the book to remain on the throne…) you can quickly see how dangerous of a practice excommunication can be in an Islamic environment. Some scholars even tried putting some limitations in place so that excommunication isn’t generalized beyond a specific person against whom there is clear evidence, to an entire group or community, as is often done today against Sufis or Shi’a and entire sections (tens of millions) of Sunnis by the Wahhabis, who have turned the argument around, stating the not identifying disbelief is itself an act of disbelief…

How Wahhabis and Salafis themselves refer to each other…

  • A prominent Salafi scholar, Muhammad Surur, writes that when scholars are employed by rulers:

“They redefine the forbidden and the permissible. They accuse all those who disagree with them. They call his opponents Kharijites, innovators, radicals and terrorists.” (al-Sunna Journal (1418H) 47, p. 93)

[I don’t think that I need to emphasize the relationship between Wahhabi scholars and the Saudi regime specifically, in addition to their full embedding in many other governments such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Pakistan, etc. See Parts 1, 2 and 3 to have a better appreciation of the significance of Surur’s statement.]

  • In Saudi Arabia, there is a group of Wahhabi scholars (whose activities really started in the 1990s) who started rebelling against the Saudi regime and the Saudi-Wahhabism that was now running things. Of course, the majority of the Wahhabi scholars are absolutely loyal to the Saud family. As for their dissenters and those who criticize them, the official Saudi discourse often refers to them as Kharijites, those who are misguided and those who have gone astray (al fi’a al dhalla

After Bin Laden was put under house arrest secretly left Saudi Arabia and saw his citizenship stripped, he started leading attacks in Saudi Arabia (which were blamed on Shi’a). Once in Afghanistan, he was openly excommunicating the Saudi regime in a focused manner. In a 2004 speech, he demonizes the Saudi rulers, exposes their conspiracies against Muslims, and defends the violence committed against them even if Muslims have to die as well in the process. He explained why he and his group rebelled against the ruler when this is explicitly forbidden by Wahhabism, stating that the rulers of Saudi Arabia had committed treason against religion and people. Then addressing the scholars, he asks them to think who is the Kharijite, him and his group, or the family of Saud? He replies that it is in fact the family of Saud who are the Kharijites, because they were the ones who rebelled against the Ottoman empire early in the 20th century; he reminds them how they rebelled against each other (further indication that they are willing to rebel against the ruler, which is forbidden according to Wahhabism which does not accept advising the ruler publicly…); how they gave orders to their soldiers in some of their internal battles for the Arabian Peninsula to kill everyone because they were not Muslims…

[if we wanted to be technical here, we would explain the nuances between Saudi-Wahhabism and Wahhabism in general… and how he was against the first, but definitely part of the second.]

The point I am trying to make here is that Wahhabis and Salafis are calling other Wahhabis and Salafis Khawarij…

Quite reminiscent of the behavior and attitude of the Khawarij, the Wahhabis are described in the following manner by Madawi Al-Rasheed in Contesting the Saudi State: Islamic Voices from a New Generation (p.45):

“It is ironic that the call for jihad (with the tongue, heart and sword) was historically launched against fellow Muslims whose Islam was seen as corrupt or misguided, a situation that puts such Muslims in a category worse than the polytheists of Quraysh. It is a historical fact that most Wahhabi violence has targeted other Muslims rather than non-Muslims. This is not surprising, given that Wahhabi discourse continued to denounce Muslims whose Islam deviated from the true path as ahl al- dhalal (those who have gone astray). Punishing errant Muslims should be harsher, according to Wahhabi interpretations. And resisting foreign occupation – for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq – is regarded by official Wahhabi scholars as illegitimate violence. ”

a word of caution

These entries should be sufficient to underline the Kharijite roots and inspirations of Wahhabism. This said, there is a weakness in fixating too much on the commonalities at the expense of some nuances. First, theoretically, as we mentioned time and again, there are clear distinctions to be made at the theologically level, but in which we will not delving deeper, as these are irrelevant to understanding the roots of Wahhabism. But moreover, do not forget that the Saudi regime has officially used this analogy to refer to the movement of resurgence and reform that sprang against it from within Wahhabism itself. To say that they are one and the same is therefore not only misleading theologically and historically, but it may also be used to the advantage of the Saudi regime’s rhetoric. For instance, while the Khawarij and Wahhabis do share some similarities in ideology and behavior, God knows that the Saudi regime cannot be likened to the rule of Imam Ali in any way shape or form, although this is what they are sometimes trying to imply through their propaganda.

But in places like Saudi Arabia, understanding the past is not a matter of history but of theology. These are minds that only know how to live in the glory of ancient times, and would love nothing more than to replicate the life that existed 14 centuries ago in every detail. Anyone who wishes to move on, to adapt and modernize to live in the present while looking towards the future is already committing blasphemy according to this mentality.



What do other Khawarij (Ibadhis) say about Wahhabis


Ja‘id ibn Khamis al-Kharuṣi (1734/5-1822), was the top Ibadhi scholar of Oman in his time. We explained in a previous post that Ibadhis are a branch of Kharijism, although many of them deny it today. Out of fear of a Wahhabi incursion into Oman, Ja’id wrote a treatise as a reply to a question he received, which is now known as The Approach of the Divine Scholar Abi Nabhan Ja’id Bin Khamis al-Kharusi al-Umani, Concerning the Innovations of the Wahhabis … (سيرة الشيخ العالم الرباني أبي نبهان جاعد بن خميس الخروصي العماني , فيما أبدعته الوهابية) in which he described the Wahhabis as the sect that is most dangerous to Islam because they declare non-Wahhabi Muslims idolaters, they kill them, they enslave their women and children, and they plunder their wealth, they distort and destroy Islam and cause corruption and discord on earth…  In the end Ja’id characterized the Wahhabis as a unique combination of Azraqi Kharijism [one of the most violent forms of Kharijism as we saw in the previous and earlier entries] and Hanbalism, forming an entirely new sect, which, from his point of view, was un-Islamic and posed a very grave danger to Muslims everywhere.(in future posts, we will delve deeper and Hanbalism and its foundational role for Wahhabism.)

[someone typed the treatise in question in Arabic here. I did not find it anywhere else on the Internet. If you have a better link, please share it.]


Ironic… concluding remarks

The literal meaning of Khawarij is: those who have left or who are leaving. As explained in previous posts, this is based on prophecies from Prophet Muhammad, where he would have said decades before their appearance, that this man will be of those who will leave or exit religion. In addition to what we have said so far, there is a lot of emphasis from scholars on a specific trait of the Khawarij, namely, that it takes almost nothing for them to consider another Muslim a non believer (takfir, or excommunication). In fact, some scholars think that their reason behind their leaving religion is because of this false charge that they are so quick to throw against their fellow Muslims. In other words, falsely charging other Muslims of being disbelievers, is enough to consider Wahhabis as having left or exited Islam, as their name implies.

Interestingly enough, this is also the opinion of the only scholar the Wahhabis respect and follow, Ibn Taymiyya – who himself had waged an ideological war against other Muslims, which would be taken up by Ibn Abdul Wahhab in a military fashion and continued in present-day Wahhabism. The irony of this is striking… Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

“Since they [Khawarij] were armed and inclined to fight, their opposition to the community manifested when they started killing the people. However, as for today, most people [due to the Khawarij’s religious garb and appearance] do not know of them[…] [A]nd their ‘passing through the religion’ is their leaving it because of having declared lawful the blood and wealth of Muslims.” [Ibn Taymiyya, al-Nubuwwat, p. 564 in this version, or 138 in this one]

Ibn Taymiyya elsewhere also confirms the emergence of the Khawarij movement during the end of times:

“And these Khawarij are not only the armed group that was known in history [during the caliphate of ‘Ali]; rather, they are the ones who will appear time and time again until the time of the anti-Christ. The Prophet’s particular mention of the group that appeared during the time of ‘Ali b. Abi Talib was due to the many traits found in them. Anyone in whom these traits are found is counted amongst them, for the particular mention of them [by the Prophet (peace be upon him)] was not because the ruling applied to them alone, but rather it was because those who were addressed during the Prophet’s time needed to fix the identity in the times to come.” [Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu’ al-fatawa, 28:495-496]



For the next couple of entries, I will be adding more nuances and details related to the rise of the Wahhabis to further highlight their similarities to the Khawarij. We will then be ready to explore the next major source of inspiration of the Wahhabis, namely the Umayyad Dynasty. stay tuned!



Some references: Not that I agree with everything you will find in the following resources, but you’ll find some good info to make up your own mind…

the Azariqa and Violence among the Khawarij, Nathan Spannaus

The Kharijite Legacy, Seraj Hendricks

Morocco, From Kharijism to Wahhabism: The Quest for Religious Pluralism (Volumes I and II)


see all the articles of Making Sense of Wahhabism series:

Are Wahhabis Sunnis? Chechnya Conference and Saudi Anger

Making Sense of Wahhabism – 1: Links between the House of Saud and Wahhabism

Making Sense of Wahhabism – 2: Roots of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab

Making Sense of Wahhabism – 3: History of the House of Saud

Making Sense of Wahhabism – 4: Wahhabism and Kharijism 1

Making Sense of Wahhabism – 5: Wahhabism and Kharijism 2

Making Sense of Wahhabism – 6: Québec City Shooting

Making Sense of Wahhabism – 7: Wahhabism and Kharijism 3

Making Sense of Wahhabism – 8: Wahhabism and Kharijism 4


8 thoughts on “Making Sense of Wahhabism – 8

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