khawarij petrifaction and sanctimoniousness and Ali\'s sensitive struggle with them

فارسی English 1910 Views |

The ~Khawarij~ were strictly obedient to the laws and outward practices of Islam; they never put their hands to anything they considered a sin. They had their own principles and standards, and they never mixed these with principles against their own; they showed their disgust with anyone who was tainted with sin.

~Ziyad ibn Abih~ killed one of them and then sent for the man's slave and enquired of him what kind of a man he had been. The slave said that he had never brought food for him during the day, nor laid out his bedding at night; during the day he had fasted and he had spent the nights in prayer.

Wherever they placed their footsteps, they referred back to their beliefs and they were devout in all their actions. They would kill to forward their beliefs.

~Ali (as)~ said of them:

Do not kill any Khawarij after me, because one who seeks the truth and errs is not the same as one who seeks falsehood and finds it. [15]

He meant that they were different from those around Mu'awiyah, for they wanted truth, but had fallen into error, whereas those around Mu'awiyah were imposters from the start whose way was that of falsehood. Thus if they were to kill the Khawarij after `Ali had gone it would be to the advantage of Mu'awiyah who was worse and more dangerous than them.

It is necessary, before we go on to describe the other particularities of the Khawarij, to remember one point, since we are talking about their pretension to devotion, piety and asceticism. One of the wonderful, distinctive and extraordinary points in the history of the life of 'Ali, whose like cannot be found, is his courageous and brave stand when fighting against these fossilised and haughty pietists.

In front of people who clung to, and adorned themselves with, the externals of devotion, and whose faces affected truth, whose clothes were in tatters and who were professional worshippers, 'Ali drew his sword and subjected them Ali to its sharp edge. Surely, if we had been in the place of his companions and had seen the face of these people, our feelings would have been moved, and we would have remonstrated with 'Ali about drawing swords against such people.

This story of the Khawarij is one of the most edifying lessons for the history of Shi'ism in particular, and for the world of Islam in general. Ali was himself aware of the importance and the exceptional nature of what action he took in these circumstances, as he recounted when he said:

"I have put out the eye of revolt. No-one had the daring to do this except me when its gloom had surged up and its rabidity had become severe. [Nahju 'l-balaghah, Sermon no 92]

Amir al-mu'minin (as) gives two interesting expressions here:

One is its "gloom", which causes doubt and uncertainty. The manner of the external saintliness and piety of the Khawarij was such that every believer with strong faith became again uncertain; and in this sense a dark and vague atmosphere was created, a space which became filled with doubt and hesitation.

The other is that he likened the condition of these pietists to ~rabies~, that is to hydrophobia, the madness which exists in dogs so that they bite anyone they come across. Since such a dog is a carrier of an infectious microbial disease, when the fangs of the dog penetrate the body of any man or animal, and something enters the blood of the man or animal from its saliva, this man or animal after a short while becomes afflicted with this disease; he too becomes rabid and bites and makes others rabid. This is why wise people will immediately kill a rabid dog; so that at least they can save others from the danger of rabies.

'Ali said that they behaved like rabid dogs; they were not curable; they bit and infected and regularly added to the number of cases of rabies.

Alas, for the condition of the Muslim community of that time. A pietistic, one-geared, ignorant and uninformed group were walking around on one foot and falling on this soul or that. What power could stand up against these charmed snakes? Where was the strong and powerful spirit that would not waver before these ascetic and pious faces? Where was the hand which would raise itself to bring down a sword on their heads without trembling? This is what 'Ali meant when he said that no-one had the daring to do this except he. Apart from 'Ali and his insight and firm faith, no-one of the Muslims, who believed in God, the Prophet and the Resurrection dared to unsheath their swords against them. Only someone who did not believe in God and Islam could have dared to kill this kind of people, not the ordinary believer.

It was this that 'Ali mentioned as a kind of great honour for himself: It was I, and only I, who realised the great danger that was pointing from the direction of these piestists towards Islam. Neither their calloused foreheads, nor the ascetic-like clothes, nor their forever God-remembering tongues, nor even their strong and steadfast beliefs, could become an obstacle to my insight into them. It was I who understood that if they got a footing everyone would be afflicted with their blight, that the world of Islam would become inflexible, adhering to the external aspects, superficial and fossilised, that Islam's back would become bent. Is it not this that the Prophet mentioned: Two groups will break my back - those who know but act recklessly, and those who are ignorant but profess piety.

Ali wanted to say that if he had not fought against the Kharijite movement in the Islamic world, no other person would have come forward and dared to fight against them. Apart from him there was no-one who saw that those whose foreheads were calloused by excessive prostrations were pious and religious men but a barrier in the way of Islam, people who saw themselves as working to the advantage of Islam, but who were in fact the real enemies of Islam; there was no-one to fight against them and spill their blood. Only he could do that.

What Ali did smoothed the path for the subsequent caliphs and rulers so that they could fight against the Khawarij and kill them; so that the soldiers of Islam also would obey them without any why or wherefore; for `Ali had fought with them. In fact, 'Ali's conduct also opened the way for others so that they could, without fear, fight against any group that showed itself to be outwardly pious, to have pretentions to saintliness and to be religious, but who were really fools.


attraction and repulsion of Imam Ali p.b.u.h- pages: 136to140


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