ignorance and lack of islamic teaching in khawarij

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When we refer back to the life of the Prophet, we see that in the whole of the thirteen year ~Meccan~ period he never gave permission for jihad or even for defensive warfare to anyone, to the point that the Muslims really got into straits, and, with the Prophet's permission, a group emigrated to ~Abyssinia~. However the rest remained and suffered persecution; it was only in the second year in ~Medina~ that permission was given for jihad.

In the Meccan period the Muslims saw the teachings; they became acquainted with the spirit of Islam. The Islamic way of life penetrated into the depths of their spirits, with the result that after their entering Medina each one of them was a true emissary for Islam, and the Prophet of Islam, who sent them all over the region, was able to employ them to advantage. Also, when they were sent to do jihad, they knew what they were fighting for. In the words of ~Amir al-muminin~ (as):

"They linked their profound understanding with their swords".

Their swords were thus tempered and the men so well instructed that they could accomplish their mission within the limits set by Islam. When we read history and see what these men said who, till a few years previously, had known nothing but the sword and the camel, we are overwhelmed and amazed by their lofty ideas and their profound practice of Islam.

~In the time of the caliphs~, most regretfully, more attention was directed towards conquests, ignoring the fact that, along with opening wide the gates of Islam towards others, and pointing them in the direction of Islam, when anyhow they were attracted by the monotheism of Islam and its justice and equality towards Arab and non-Arab, it was necessary to teach Islamic culture and its way of life and make people thoroughly aware of the spirit of Islam.

The Khawarij were mostly Arabs, although there were also several non-Arabs; but all of them, Arab or not, were ignorant of the principles, and unacquainted with the culture, of Islam. They wanted to redress all their shortcomings by emphasis on prostration. 'Ali (as) described their morale in these words:

People who are crude, lacking lofty ideas or subtle feelings; people who are feeble, like slaves, rogues assembled from every corner, come together from all quarters. They are people who should first of all be instructed, taught Islamic behaviour, and who should acquire skill in how to live as true Muslims. A guardian should rule over them and take them by the hand, they should not be left free, to keep swords in their hands, and to voice their opinions about Islam. They are neither émigrés (from Mecca) who have fled from their homes for Islam nor Ansar (of Medina) who welcomed the émigrés among themselves.

The appearance of an ignorant stratum of the community with beliefs affecting false piety, of which the Khawarij were a part, was to Islam's great cost. Forgetting, for the moment, the Khawarij, who, with All their drawbacks, were endowed with the virtues of bravery and self-sacrifice, another group came into existence from this pietistic trend who did not have these virtues. These people pulled Islam towards monasticism and retreat from the world, they were responsible for the widespread occurrence of pretension and sanctimoniousness. Since they did not possess the above virtues with which they could wield the steel sword against those in power, they wielded the sword of words against those who possessed learning. They made it a custom to call the learned unbelievers, immoralists and irreligious.

At any rate, one of the most evident distinguishing features of the Khawarij was their ignorance and lack of knowledge, and one of the manifestations of their ignorance was their inability to distinguish between the outward nature of the Qur'an, that is, its writing and binding, and its meaning, and thus it was that they fell for the trick of the easy ruse of ~Muawiyah~ and ~Amr ibn al-As~.

The bond of ignorance and worship in khawarij
With these people, ignorance and worship went hand in hand. 'Ali wanted to fight against their ignorance, but how could he separate the ascetic, pious and devotional side of them from their aspect of ignorance, since their devotion was the very same as their ignorance? For 'Ali, whose acquaintance with Islam was of the first degree, worship hand in hand with ignorance was of absolutely no value. Therefore he destroyed them, and they could not use their asceticism, piety and devotion as a shield between themselves and 'Ali.

The danger of the ignorance of this kind of people, and the more so of this kind of group, is the way in which they become tools and instruments in the hands of the cunning, and a barrier to the way which is in the higher interests of Islam. Irreligious hypocrites can always incite simple pietists against the interests of Islam; they become swords in these people's hands, and arrows in their bows.

Ali explained this characteristic of theirs in a very sublime and subtle way, when he said:

Thus you are the worst of people; you are arrows in the hand of Satan which he uses to strike his target, and through you he casts people into confusion and doubt.


attraction and repulsion of Imam Ali p.b.u.h- pages: 140to144


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