In “Osama’s godfathers” in Canada’s National Post (thanks to Waterdragon52), Salim Mansur identifies jihad terrorists as modern-day Kharijites — a heretical sect from the earliest days of Islam. Mansur did not originate this equation: go onto jihadist websites and you will find numerous articles refuting the assertion that Osama and Co. are Kharijites, and pointing to the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example to justify their actions. Mansur doesn’t address this, or the fact that jihad warfare has been pursued throughout Islamic history by many non-Kharijite Muslims. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to see even a partial acknowledgment of the fact that the problem lies within Islam — and from a Muslim. Will the mainstream media listen when Mansur says it?
Nine days after the London bombings of July 7, Tony Blair gave a clear-headed speech about the threat to the West. “What we are confronting here is an evil ideology,” he said. “This ideology and the violence that is inherent in it did not start a few years ago in response to a particular policy. Over the past 12 years, al-Qaeda and its associates have attacked 26 countries, killed thousands of people, many of them Muslims. Their cause is not founded on an injustice. It is founded on a belief, one whose fanaticism is such it can’t be moderated. It can’t be remedied. It has to be stood up to.”
What Blair did not say, however, is that al-Qaeda’s ideology is deeply entrenched in the Muslim tradition and reaches far back, into the earliest years of Islam.
Al-Qaeda’s terrorists are a throwback to those Muslims in the first decades of Islam who believed their faith was the purest, while doubting the belief of others around them, and approved of violence as the right way to advance their views of faith and power. They are known as khwarij (meaning those who secede) or Kharijites.
Muslims in general, fundamentalists in particular, hearken back to the founding years of Islam as the perfect age when the Prophet Muhammad and his companions instituted the divine plan on Earth. In this view, what followed was a regression from belief to unbelief. This picture of Islam’s early years is a myth that deprives most Muslims of a critical and rational perspective on history.
The reality, as documented by the earliest Arab-Muslim commentators on Islam’s founding decades — from Ibn Ishaq (d. 761) to Al-Tabari (d. 923) — was one of internecine strife, bloodshed and war. Immediately after the Prophet died in 632, wars were fought to compel Arabs of contemporary Saudi Arabia and Yemen to re-submit to Islam as the only permissible religion of the new empire. Three of the Prophet’s first four successors as rulers of the expanding realm of Islam — Umar, Uthman and Ali — were murdered as a result of grievances and factional strife. The Prophet’s immediate family were the most conspicuous massacre victims in these seventh-century conflicts. The wars of succession left permanent schisms within Islam.
Ever since those early blood-lettings, Muslims have been the primary victims of Muslim violence.
The Kharijites held the view that since a perfect religious and political order had been instituted, anything outside it was impure and corrupting. Any diminution of this pure system of worship and rule, and any compromise with the outside world, reflected a weakening of faith, a commission of sin and a departure into apostasy that had to be fought and annihilated. Consequently, any Muslim who differed from the impossibly rigid Kharijite view of faith and politics was to be hunted down.
Politically and militarily, Kharijites were systematically eliminated by Muslim rulers within their domain in the first century of Islam. But Kharijite ideas persisted, breeding an exclusive, militant and sectarian body of followers outside the mainstream of Muslim belief and practice. The Kharijite view would re-surface through the influence of Ibn Hanbal (780-855), a founder of one of the four legal schools in Sunni Islam, and in the work of Ibn Taimiyya (1263-1328), who in turn was influential in shaping the view of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-87), the founder of the Wahhabi sect that is the dominant school of Islamic thinking in Saudi Arabia.
Read it all.