The precursors of Fitna-i Takfeer (Mischief of calling Muslims as kaafir or non-believers) started in the Muslim World by a group called the “Kharijites.” This group were the first deviant group in the Islamic World that presented the most devastating interpretation of faith. Prophet Muhammad (sawa) had foreseen the formation and emergence of the Kharijites long before they existed when he said:
“They will leave the religion of Islam as fast as an arrow leaves the bow.”
The Kharijites exited Islam and took a different path after the Battle of Siffin following the incident of arbitration between Imam Ali (a.s) and Muawiyya. Though they were considered only a deviant political party at first, they gradually adopted certain ideological principles to justify their abominable and anomalous acts and behaviour.
Notwithstanding the Kharijites’ various ideologies, the single most significant cause of the formation of the Kharijites’ ideological principles was their extremist interpretation of the concept of faith, in reaction to which many other Kharijite sects later evolved.
Through their radical interpretation of faith, the Kharijites accused all Muslims of heresy, and were thus indeed the first group in the Islamic World to excommunicate other Muslims.
The ideological principles of the Kharijites were first formed after “al-Mahkama al-Ulaa” in the time of a group called “Azaareqah”, and the most important of their principles was their belief in the “concomitance of faith and practice.” According to the Kharijites, faith had three components:
- Confession with the tongue;
- Belief with the heart; and
Based on this definition, if for instance someone believed in God in his words and in his heart, but he committed sins in practice, such a person would lose his faith in God and become a non-believer!
Based on this principle the Kharijites believed in the following:
- Anyone who opposed them was not only a non-believer but also a pagan;
- The Qaidin i.e. those of the Kharijites who did not take part in their battles were also non-believers;
- The land on which their opponents lived was non-Muslim land (daarul kufr); and
- It was obligatory to kill the pagans; it was also permissible to kill the women and children of the pagans and the children of the pagans were believed to dwell in the Hell Fire eternally.
The Kharijites tested everyone who came to join them in a special way – they gave the newcomer a captive and ordered him to kill the captive. If the newcomer did as ordered and killed the captive, they would welcome him to their rank; but if he refused to do so, they would call him a hypocrite and a pagan and kill him!
They assassinated and martyred the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (a.s) under the pretext that he had become an apostate because of accepting the arbitration and thus deserved to be killed.
Such beliefs led this group to disregard the life, honour and property of Muslims and call all Muslim countries the lands of the non-believers.
It was at a time when they adhered to the outward aspects of Islam. Many of them were constantly fasting during the day and engaging in prayers at night. However, as Prophet Muhammad (sawa) had predicted, they exited the religion of Islam through their deviant stance on the concept of faith.