Wahhabism and Kharijism 5:
Highlighting the Parallels
(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.)
As we mentioned previously, the movement of the Khawarij did not appear suddenly in the middle of the Battle of Siffin, right about when Imam Ali was about to regain control and be victorious. Many years prior to this incident, there was a man named Harqus, who objected to the manner in which Prophet Muhammad was dividing some items between the companions. The Prophet told his companions after the man left that there will be a people who will come out of him and who will follow him, and they will be the ones who exit religion as the arrow exits a bow (or how an arrow pierces through the body of an animal and exits it from the other side), and that he would fight them himself if he saw them. This narration is an indication that the seeds for this type of objectionist thought already existed in the time of Prophet Muhammad, that he was already aware of it, and that he warned his companions that they will reappear and cause mischief later so fight them and do not let them hijack religion.
But when the Prophet got angry with the man’s objection, the man left and was not punished. [This is the because Prophet Muhammad was kind and just, and he refused to punish anyone without giving them all the chances or waiting for them to commit the crime first. In this case, the man had not carried a sword yet, so the tool of confrontation could only be discourse and reason.] Years later, the second Caliph Umar made this same man Harqus an “Amir”, a prince or ruler over a group in the region of Ahwaz (as mentioned by Al Daynuri in Al Akhbar Al Tiwal p. 204)! A few years later, this same man became the leader of the opposition against the 3rd caliph Uthman who got killed as a result. He remained in Ahwaz until the battle Siffin, when he returned from Ahwaz, and then instigated the battle of Nahrawan during which he was killed as we saw. One truly wonders what overcame Umar to appoint someone like that as a governor over Ahwaz, when he was clearly present according to all historical accounts when the incident with the Prophet took place, and after which a Qur’anic verse was revealed clearly stating that this man was a hypocrite:
“There are some of them who blame you regarding the distribution of the charities: if they are given from them, they are pleased, but if they are not given from them, behold, they are displeased. It would have been better if they had been pleased with what Allah and His messenger gave them, and had said: ‘Allah is sufficient for us; Allah will give us out of His grace, and His messenger. Indeed to Allah do we eagerly turn.’” [9:58-59]
When a man like that is given such a status and position after he insulted the Prophet and objected to him openly (which is akin to objecting to God and Islam), what would ever prevent him from doing as he pleases afterwards? And thus, the door was opened to him to oppose the Prophet, then oppose Uthman, then oppose Imam Ali before he was killed. And in every case, he gathered men around him and waged wars, and this opened the door before the Khawarij to reek havoc on Islam for 150 years as a denomination, and for centuries later until today as a source of influence.
It is truly unfortunate that every time the likes of this man appeared, we find some Muslims who will reward them and use them despite their complete lack of understanding of religion. And it is only a matter of time before their mischief reappears to the surface, often causing irreparable damage (we can say the same thing about Mu’awyia as we will see in future posts, and how the second caliph Umar also appointed him as governor).
The Umayyad tribe, who had been attempting to get rid of Muhammad and his religion since he announced his mission, and who were now in power, were also the enemy of the Khawarij. But they were able to use the stupidity of the Khawarij to their advantage by gaining the support of the masses against them and appearing as though they are the defenders of Islam in the face of this internal enemy. Otherwise, the Umayyad were no less misguided and devious, but they knew how to give the appearance of being Islamic rulers so that people do not revolt against them, while the Khawarij got nothing but hatred from the rest of the Muslims.
The Wahhabis are the true heirs of the Khawarij. They are the biological descendants of the same tribes, and they still live in the same region geographically. They suffer from the same complexes of lacking leniency and civility as did their early Bedouin forefathers. And just like the region of Nejd (or Najd) produced the likes of Harqus, the head of the Khawarij, and many of the followers of Musaylama al Kathab (Musaylama the liar), the false prophet, so did similar social, tribal and cultural conditions produce Muhammad bin abd al Wahhab. This cannot be considered as a mere coincidence. The people of Nejd have always been proud of these traits because they consider them the secret to their independence and survival throughout the centuries.
Islam was revealed in a very tribal atmosphere. But as the new Muslims accepted Islam, its values progressively replaced the tribal mentality and customs for the most part, and this is what enabled Islam to be communicable to other peoples on earth. But this did not happen everywhere, and some Bedouin Arabs refused the Islamic values and maintained their pre-Islamic customs, which can be considered as a reflection of the harsh habitat and life in the desert. Their tribal outlook on life is the framework through which they interpreted everything, including this new religion called Islam, and which they eventually accepted.
So when the Holy Qur’an rejects any hierarchy in society based on anything such as gender, race or tribe, and says:
“O humankaind, indeed we created you from a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may know yourselves through one another. Indeed the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most pious among you. Indeed Allah is all-khowing, all-aware.” [49:13]
This did not sit well with all. And when Prophet Muhammad tells his followers that they must all support truth and justice, even at the expense of being against their own brothers or tribe members, many couldn’t accept it. And Islam rejects any form of superiority except based on piety, such as when the Prophet says: “All people are equal, like the teeth of a comb. You are all from Adam, and Adam was [created] from sand.” But this goes against the tribal values of the desert, where every tribe knows its place in the hierarchy, and Arabs spent their time bragging about the exploits of their ancestors. Such people were not able to fully accept Islam when it was first revealed, nor are they able to accept it today. That is why the Qur’an says:
“The Bedouins are more obdurate in unfaith and hypocrisy, and more apt to be ignorant of the precepts that Allah has sent down to his Messenger, and Allah is all-knowing, all-wise.” [9:97]
“The Bedouins say: ‘we have faith.’ Say: ‘you do not have faith yet; rather say: “ we have embraced Islam,” for faith has not entered into your hearts. Yet if you obey Allah and His messenger, He will not sting anything of the reward of your works.’ Indeed Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful.” [49:14]
Despite his relentless efforts, Prophet Muhammad only spent a little over nine years in Medina, where he only interacted with a limited number of inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. Uprooting the values and ingrained doxa of the masses requires time and constant work, and this was not possible given the short duration and limited means at his disposal. That is why the famous historian Ibn Khaldun says that the majority of the Arabs did not have any companions with the Prophet. That is why as soon as the Prophet passed away, those who had their own agenda, such as Mu’awyia, knew how to use the tribal values to get the masses to do as they pleased.
The leader of the khawarij and the majority of their followers were from the tribe of Tameem – a tribe with very large numbers – who were generally known as barbaric nomads, with no manners and no civility. They once came from the desert in large numbers, gathered around the house of the Prophet, and yelled from outside: “O Muhammad, come out so that we may see who among you and us has more honor.” This is when Allah revealed the verses:
“O you who have faith! Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet, and do not speak aloud to him as you shout to one another, lest your works should fail without your being aware. Indeed those who lower their voices in the presence of the Messengers of Allah – they are the ones whose hearts Allah has tested for piety. For them will be forgiveness and a great reward. Indeed those who call you from behind the apartments most of them do not reason. Had they been patient until you came out for them, it would have been better for them, and Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful.” [49:2-5]
(When God is saying that they do not reason, He is likening them to animals…)
And anyone who reads the history of Tabari, al Yaqubi and Ibn al Atheer, will notice that all of the original men leading the Khawarij and those who played important roles came from this same tribe of Tameem. Many of this tribe also later became the followers of the false prophet Musaylama and today, most of the Wahhabis are from this same tribe. The reason is probably because they are inhabitants of Nejd, which is secluded and in addition to which they have very strong and conservative tribal customs and values, including incessant wars and aggression.
These traits made them difficult to like by anyone else until today, and this is perhaps why a lot of their work was done in secrecy. Once they appeared on the Islamic scene (in the time of Imam Ali) they seemed stubbornly bent on refusing anything but war and blood. These traits combined with their superficiality and lack of sophistication and depth in their thought and analysis made them easy prey for anyone to direct them as they wish.
This is for instance what happened, when they forced Imam Ali to accept the arbitration in which Abu Musa betrayed the imam and removed him from caliphate while Amr nominated Mu’awyia… (which was a clear conspiracy against the Imam, although Abu Musa gave the impression that he had been duped like a ten year old boy…). The imam refused the results of the arbitration, which was only a trick, and decided to resume fighting Mu’awyia to end the battle once and for all, but the Khawarij rejected this and started killing innocent men, women and children wherever they found them. The Imam then tried to reason with them, and told them that he only accepted the arbitration because they had forced him to it in hopes of resolving the issues, and to expose the conspiracy of the two arbiters. While the argumentation of the Imam convinced many of them to surrender and leave, the others remained and stubbornly tried to convince him that he was now an apostate because he accepted the arbitration, which they now considered a mistake!
Throughout their entire existence, the Khawarij always believed that they were the only guided group in Islam, the only one worthy or leading the entire community of believers, always fighting all the others schools and opinions. Although they ceased to exist as a group under the heading of Khawarij, groups with these general traits continued to appear here and there in the Islamic world until today, when the Wahhabis made their appearance and became the best heirs to the movement of the Khawarij.
The Holy Qur’an teaches that in case of disagreement, or if you wish to preach, the approach can never be force, violence, or aggression:
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice and present your arguments to them in the best manner. Indeed your Lord knows best those who stray from His way, and He knows best those who are guided.” [16:125]
Instead, the Khawarij and their Wahhabi – who claim to be the only true followers of Islam – became notorious for their killing, torturing and enslaving others, mostly Muslims, and confiscating their wealth and belongings as they wish…
And as we said previously, the combination of senseless violence, stubbornness, and primitive thinking makes them the perfect soldiers and mercenaries for any end so long as one can frame that end in their line of thinking, which is not very hard to do… Anyone can use them to enflame a region, or fight an enemy by proxy, so long as it doesn’t require any logic or reasoning, in which they are afraid in engaging, as they are always reminding their followers never to dispute and argue for fear of being tricked…
If this is understood, then the ease with which they will agree to fight the Soviets under the heading of Taliban, or in Syria and Iraq under the heading of ISIS/ISIL, becomes much less surprising, and much easier to grasp.
see all the articles of Making Sense of Wahhabism series: