Notes

1. See the sources given in notes 2/1,2/6.

2. The views expressed in this chapter are formulated with greater detail in my previous writings: 'Shi'ism under the Umayyads', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, i960, 158-72; 'Kharijite Thought in the Umayyad Period', Der Islam, xxxvi (1961), 215-31; 'The Conception of the Charismatic Community in Islam', Nvmen, vii (i960), 77-90; Islam and the Integration of Society, London 1961, 94-114. These works are summarized and supplemented in my Formative Period, 9-59.

Chapter Two THE KHARIJITES

Mu'awiya reigned as universally recognized caliph from 661 to 680. His power rested chiefly on the army composed of the Arabs settled in Syria, and he made Damascus his capital. In the practice of the nomadic Arabs a chief was usually succeeded by the best qualified member of his family,- primogeniture and even sonship gave no special rights. This gave little guidance in arranging for the succession to the caliphate. Mu'awiya tried to have his son Yazid acknowledged as successor before his own death, but even so there were some who did not accept Yazid. The opposition led to a catastrophic civil war when Yazid died in 683, leaving only a minor son. 'Abd-Allah ibn-az-Zubayr (or, more simply, Ibn-az-Zubayr), who had defied Yazid from Mecca, now gained control of much of Iraq as well as of the region of Mecca and Medina. There was widespread confusion, and vast tracts of the caliphate were under the effective control of neither the Umayyads nor Ibn-az-Zubayr. Under the leadership of a member of another branch of the family the Umayyads fought back; in 691 they completed the recovery of Iraq, and before the end of 692 extinguished the last flames of revolt in Mecca.

The expansion of the caliphate, which had continued under Mu'awiya but had been stopped by the civil war, was now resumed. In the east the Muslims extended their sway to Central Asia and northwest India,- while in north Africa they pressed westwards into Morocco, and in 711 crossed the straits into Spain. To the north there were frequent expeditions against the Byzantines, but no permanent occupation of territory proved possible. The vastness of the territories ruled led to ever-increasing internal tensions, and the clumsy administrative machine lumbered along with creaks and groans. From about 730 or 73 5 it must have been clear to acute observers that the empire was slowly breaking up, and some of these observers attempted, by staging a revolt, to create an alternative government. None was successful, however, though they played a part in weakening the Umayyads, until eventually in 750 the armies of the 'Abba-

sid movement from the east swept into Iraq, liquidated the Umayyad regime, and established the new dynasty of the 'Abbasids.

Two Kharijite movements which greatly stimulated theological development sprang up and grew to a considerable size during the civil war of Ibn-az-Zubayr.1 The first of these is the sub-sect of the Azraqites | Azariqa), so named from their original leader, Nafi' ibn-al-Azraq.2 Some of the Kharijites from Basra had sympathized with Ibn-az-Zubayr (as an opponent of the Umayyads) and had given him active help. In time, however, they seem to have realized that, even if successful, he would not rule according to their ideas. When Basra went over to him in 684, the Azraqites took to the mountains eastwards. Though their leader was killed in the following year, they were able to increase and maintain their strength, so that for a time (about 691) they were a threat to Basra. After the end of the civil war the Umayyad armies were able to exterminate them (but there are some mysterious references to isolated Azraqites in the eastern parts of the caliphate at later dates).

The Azraqites stimulated theological thinking because, with a fair measure of logic, they worked out the Kharijite position to an extreme conclusion. The basic principle, which had been formulated in Quranic words by some of 'All's followers who disagreed with him, was: 'no decision but God's' (id hukma ilia li-llah), that is, 'the decision is God's alone'; by this was meant that judgement was to be given in accordance with the Qur an. This further implied that all who had committed a grave sin were destined for Hell and belonged to the 'people of Hell', since in the Kharijite view this was clearly stated in the Quran. In addition it was held that Uthman had sinned in not inflicting a punishment prescribed in the Quran.

The Azraqites now went still further, on the ground that the existing authorities had also sinned, and asserted that those who did not join their band in fighting the existing authorities were sinners. The members of their band were the true Muslims; their camp alone was the 'house of Islam' (dar al-lslam) where Islam was truly observed. Those who 'sat still' at home and did not make the hijra or 'migration' to their camp were sinners and unbelievers, outside the community of Islam. This migration, of course, was parallel to the hijra of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 62a. By thus excluding from the Islamic community even those Muslims who did not agree with them in every detail, they made it lawful to kill such persons, and also their wives and children; for according to old Arab usage there was no wrong in killing someone not a member of one's tribe or an allied tribe, though it would be unwise to do so if the victim's tribe was strong. This puritanical theology became a justification for sheer terrorism, and the Azraqites became noted and feared for their widespread massacres. It is said that when a man went to them and said he wanted to join their band he was given a prisoner to kill; if, as is likely, it was a prisoner from the man's tribe, the killing would break his ties with his tribe and attach him irrevocably to the Aziaqites. Doubtless this happened sometimes, but whether it was a regular practice we cannot be certain.

The second sub-sect that became prominent about the same time was the Najdites (Najadat or Najdiyya).3 The nucleus consisted of Kharijites from central Arabia (from a district called the Yamama) who helped Ibn-az-Zubayr in Mecca, but later returned to their native region and established a form of autonomous rule. From 686 to 692 their leader was Najda; hence their name. For a time they ruled vast tracts of Arabia—more even than Ibn-az-Zubayr—including Bahrein and Oman (Uman) on the east coast, and parts of the Yemen and Hadramawt in the south and south-west. There were many quarrels about the leadership, and after the death of Najda in 692 the sect split up, and the parts either disappeared or were suppressed by the Umay-yad generals.

The Najdites originally held views similar to those of the Azraq-ites, but their responsibility for governing a large territory made them less rigorous in their interpretation. Those who 'sat still' and did not actively support them were not regarded as unbelievers (and so outside the community) but only as 'hypocrites' \munafiqun). It is also reported that they authorized members of their sub-sect who lived under non-Kharijite rule to conceal their true opinions—a practice known as taqiyya or 'prudent fear'. Such points show that the Najdites did not have the same clear line of demarcation between themselves and other Muslims as did the Azraqites. Much of the accounts of Najdite views is taken up with legal points of the kind that would naturally arise in the administration of a large state; for example, there were questions about the treatment of captured women by the leaders of an expedition, and about the punishment of isolated cases of theft and adultery.

In what is recorded of Najdite views on such matters we see the beginnings of a reconsideration of the Kharijite conception of the true Islamic community so as to make allowances for human imperfections. The strict Kharijite view, from which the Najdites presumably started, was that a man who commits a grave sin belongs to the 'people of Hell'. For the Azraqites living in a camp the man guilty of theft or adultery could easily be excluded from the camp; but it was not easy for the Najdites to banish every thief and adulterer from the entire region which they ruled. They may have thought that it was not even desirable. This was not due to any moral laxity, for they are said to have been strict about wine-drinking, but presumably to the realization that any normal community is bound to contain both good and bad.

It was necessary, however, to find a theoretical justification for the course of action that was practically desirable. This the Najdites did by making a distinction between fundamentals in religion and non-fundamentals. Among the latter they included novel legal points where no official decision had been given. Persistence in theft or adultery was regarded as 'idolatry' (shirk), presumably on the ground that it implied a false view of the nature of the community and its law or way-of-life. This would be one of the fundamentals, and like errors in the other fundamentals would involve exclusion from the community and inclusion in the 'people of Hell'. Isolated lapses into theft or adultery, however, were not regarded as affecting fundamentals. The common view that thieves and adulterers went to Hell had therefore to be modified. The Najdites allowed that God might punish them, but insisted that, if he did so, it would not be in Hell, and that he would eventually admit them to Paradise. Thus membership of the community and soundness on fundamentals led to salvation, to Paradise.

While the Azraqites and Najdites were facing the problems of autonomous Kharijite rule, there was a body of moderate Kharijites in Basra who were concerned rather with the problems of living under non-Kharijite Muslim rule. This body of pious men, with little direct interest in politics, seems to have been in existence throughout the reign of Mu awiya. Some of them helped Ibn-az-Zubayr in Mecca for a time,- after 684 they accepted, perhaps actively supported, his lieutenant in Basra, and in due course also accepted the Umayyad governor. Unfortunately our information about these people is slight. There appears to have been intense theological activity in Basra about this time, during which the foundations of most later Islamic theology were laid, but we have only tantalizing glimpses of it. It is possible, however, to say something about the chief questions discussed.

The main problem was how to justify the acceptance by Kharijites of a non-Kharijite government. It had been customary for Muslims to distinguish between the 'sphere of Islam' (dai al-islam) and the 'sphere of war' (dai al-haib); the former was where the sovereign ruled according to Islamic principles, the latter was where there was no such sovereign and where it was the duty of Muslims to fight if success seemed possible. Neither of these descriptions fitted the position of the moderate Kharijites in Basra. Some therefore spoke of themselves as being in the 'sphere of prudent fear', in which they had to conceal their true opinions. This was associated with the view that non-Kharijites were 'unbelievers' and 'idolaters' (kafirun, mushri-kun). As time went on, however, it began to seem paradoxical to apply the term 'idolaters' to upright God-fearing Muslims who differed from them on a few points. Some therefore allowed that these were at least 'monotheists' and that they themselves were living in the 'sphere of monotheism'. Yet others spoke of their sphere as that of 'mixing', and apparently held that, because the government is neither pagan nor strictly Islamic, some things cannot be precisely stated, and a measure of compromise, or rather of indefiniteness and indecision, is necessary.

One of the questions to which much attention was given was that of the marriage of believing women (that is, Kharijites) to 'unbelievers' (that is, non-Kharijites), or—what really amounted to the same thing—the sale of believing slave-girls to unbelievers. This raised in a serious form the problem of the relation of the small community of true believers (as they considered it) to the wider community of ordinary 'unbelieving' Muslims. According to the Quran a Muslim woman might not marry any but a Muslim man; in other words, her marriage had to be within the community. Since the purchaser of a slave-girl was entitled to have marital relations with her, the sale of a slave-girl to an 'unbeliever' made a breach of the Qur'anic rule likely. The story is told of a man called Ibrahim who was kept waiting by a slave-girl and vowed he would sell her to the bedouin. Another member of his sect challenged him, but the majority seems to have gone with Ibrahim. That is to say, they decided that they were in some sense members of the wider community. In making this decision they were coming near to abandoning the original Kharijite conception of a 'community of saints', which committed no grave sins and held all the right views.

Among the politically quiescent Kharijites of Basra is a small group called the Waqifites (Waqifiyya, Waqifa). Their name means 'those who suspend judgement'. They were not important in themselves, but they merit attention because they mark a transitional stage between the Kharijites and the Murji'ites (Murji'a), who will be described in chapter 4. It has been noticed above how some even of the morally stricter Kharijites, because they felt that a single lapse into theft or adultery did not deserve to be punished by exclusion from the community, were forced to say that the persons guilty of these crimes would not be punished in Hell. In a sense, then, they were playing down the importance of immoral or anti-social conduct. This was inevitable because of their rigid distinction between the 'people of Paradise' and the 'people of Hell'; and that distinction was part of the communalistic way of thinking natural to the Arabs. For the pre-Islamic Arab the courage of an individual man had not been simply his own, but also in a sense his tribe's it was only possible for him to be courageous because he came of courageous stock. The morality of the nomadic Arabs was dominated by loyalty to kin, that is, to one's tribe or clan or family,- on behalf of a kinsman almost anything was permitted. This communalistic way of thinking is finding expression in those Kharijites who emphasized the corporate unity of the 'people of Paradise' at the expense of certain points of individual morality. In so doing they were going against the more individualistic outlook of the Quran, according to which each man as an individual has to answer for his own sins on the Day of Judgement.

The distinctive position of the Waqifites was that they suspended judgement on such questions as whether slave-girls should be sold to 'unbelievers'. In effect they were saying that it is impossible for men to draw a clear dividing-line between the 'people of Paradise' and the 'people of Hell'. This further enabled them to insist that wrongdoers should be punished but not excluded from the community, on the ground that a human being was unable to know their ultimate fate and so had to suspend judgement on it. In this way they countered the tendency to minimize the seriousness of crime and wrongdoing. Thus the Waqifites and other Kharijites thinking along similar lines were preparing the way for the later Sunnite conception of the Islamic community. They managed to retain something of the old Arab communal outlook and communal feeling, and to attach to the Islamic community as a whole the values formerly attached by the nomad to his tribe. At the same time they made provision for the maintenance of law and order that was essential for the survival of a large civilized community. It is hardly possible to over-estimate the importance of the theological discussions in Basra in the period from about 690 to 730. It was here that the foundations of all later Islamic theology were laid. Why theology should have developed in Iraq, especially Basra, rather than in Syria, Egypt or even Medina, is not clear; but it is a fact, and it is worthy of being further pondered.

Perhaps the most important contribution of the Kharijites to the development of Islamic thought and Islamic civilization was their insistence that the life of the community and the decisions of its rulers must be based on the Qur'an. Presumably many Muslims agreed with this in theory, but the Kharijites were prepared to stand up to the governmental authorities in defence of their view. Had they not felt so strongly about this, the empire might well have gone back to pre-Islamic principles and developed into a secular Arab state. The point was eventually accepted by the whole community in the form of the doctrine that all social and political life must be based on the Shari'a or revealed divine law. To the Qur'an, however, as a source of our knowledge of the Shari'a, the main body added another, namely, Muhammad's sunna or standard practice as recorded in sound Had-lth, taking his acts and words to be based on the divine 'wisdom' (hikma) given to him according to several verses of the Qur'an.4

There continued to be manifestations of Kharijism of various kinds after 700. In the closing decades of Umayyad rule there were several risings involving larger numbers of men than the risings against Mu'awiya, but, though these were nominally attached to one or other of the more moderate sub-sects, none contributed appreciably to the development of theology. Kharijite doctrines also came to be held by various groups in the Arabian peninsula, North Africa and elsewhere.5 As a result more or less durable states were constituted in two regions, both based on the Ibadite form of Kharijism.6 From 777 to 909 the Rustamid dynasty united all the Ibadites of North Africa from a centre in western Algeria, while in 793 the Ibadites of Oman established a polity which has continued to exist to the present day, though not without some periods of eclipse. The existence of these states led to modifications of Ibadite doctrine, to make it a suitable basis for a permanent community, and not just for a rebel band; but their arguments had ceased to be of interest to the main body of Muslims. The small Ibadite states were thus able to preserve their form of life in almost complete isolation from the world around them, thanks to their professing a distinctive doctrine ,• and the doctrine, instead of being the basis for the life of the whole Islamic community, became the instrument of cohesion and distinctive identity for various small groups. Meanwhile the important doctrines which had characterized the earliest Kharijites—their conception of the true Islamic community and their insistence that its life should be based on the Qur' an—had, after being purged of unsatisfactory aspects, been taken up by other Muslims, while the main theological discussions had moved away from the topics to which other special Kharijite doctrines were relevant.

0 0

Post a comment