The Kharijites

Despite Umayyad success, opposition continued. All three of the groups which had been eclipsed during the First Civil War (656-61) continued to exist and to promote their opposition. All three contended again with the Umayyads during the Second Civil War (680-92), which proved longer and more disastrous than the first. In this period, each of the three oppositions underwent further ideological development. The most confrontational was the radical Khawarij, who initially rejected any compromise with the caliphate, insisting that the sins of the caliphs not only destroyed their legitimacy but imposed a duty of resistance to them upon every individual Muslim. The revulsion felt by the Khaarijites against the caliphs was such that they held that the committing of major sins negated faith, and thus placed the sinner outside Islam. Adopting the slogan La hukma illa li'Llah (judgement is God's alone; cf. Qur'an 6:57; 12:40, 67; 18:26), the Kharijites appeared to vest authority directly in the text of the Qur'an as the primary manifestation of God's will; human political authority was de-emphasised and undermined in consequence.

Nevertheless, any radical Kharijite faction which ''came out'' to fight the Umayyads would typically elect one of its number as commander, adopting a caliphal title. Those who refused to submit would be considered sinners and apostates, and could legitimately be robbed and killed. Unlike the Shl'a, who insisted that a leader must be a descendant of the Prophet, and the proto-Sunnis, who required that the caliphs be of Quraysh, the Khaarijites elected whomever seemed best for the office, with the condition that his moral character be exemplary. Sometimes this is read as a democratic principle, despite the exercise by the commander of absolute authority on condition that he eschewed major sins. Such groups, however, proved unstable, because of the possibility of undermining or disqualifying a leader by accusing him of sin; and in consequence, the Kharijites were unable to effect any positive political programme. Moreover, their incessant violence against fellow Muslims made them unpopular among the general public, and the government was generally able to marginalise and suppress them.

The Second Civil War also saw the emergence of a more moderate trend among the Kharijites, including groups such as the Sufriyya and the Ibadiyya, neither of whom required immediate revolution against illicit rulers. The Ibadiyya not only preached a patient waiting for the right circumstances, but also declined to regard sinners as apostates, preferring to qualify them as ingrates towards God's blessings (kuffar bi'l-ni'am) rather than as polytheists (mushrikUn). This offered some scope for peaceful coexistence with other Muslims, and this in turn helped the Ibaadiyya to maintain an existence as a small but distinctive Muslim sect, which survives to this day in communities in Oman, Libya and Algeria. In time, the Ibadis participated in and influenced the evolution of kalaam theology, notably through their continuing severe strictures against sin, which helped to maintain the focus of discussion on that issue. The Khaarijite focus on sin also implied that human beings were responsible for it (Qur'an 4:79), and this led naturally to a doctrine of free will, which clashed with the more deterministic belief that may have been held by some pre-Islamic Arabs, and by the larger number of early Muslims (4:78). On the issue of free will they thus appear to parallel or to anticipate the position of later alignments such as the Qadaris and the Mu'tazilites, whom they also resemble in asserting the belief in the created status of the qur'anic text.

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