the results of intellection and religiousness separation, in khawarij

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In the assessment of most people, the most serious misfortunes that have befallen the world of ~Islam~ have been the spiritual blows which have fallen on the Muslims. The ~Quran~ established the foundation of the call to Islam on true understanding and thinking, and itself recommends the way of striving after understanding (ijtihad) and intellective perception:

"But why should not a party of' every section of them go forth to acquire understanding (yatafaqqahu) in religion?" (at-Tawbah, 9:122)

"~tafaqqaha~" (to acquire understanding) is not used for easy understanding, but it is rather understanding through exercising effort and perspicacity.

"If you fear Allah, He will grant you a distinguishing (light)." (al-Anfal, 8:29)

"But those who struggle in Our cause, surely We shall guide them in Our ways." (al-Ankabut, 29:69)

The ~Khawarij~ started an inflexibility and stagnation that was completely opposed to this way of teaching of the Qur'an which wanted Islamic knowledge (fiqh) to remain for ever moving and alive. They conceived Islamic education as something deadening and motion less and dragged solid forms and shapes into Islam.

Islam has never been concerned just with forms, shapes and the outward manifestations of life; Islamic teachings are all directed to the spirit and meaning and the way in which man can reach that goal and these meanings. Islam has taken as part of its domain these goals and meanings and the guidance to the way to reach these goals, while it leaves man free in what is other than this, and thus it steers clear of any clash with the development of civilisation and true culture.

No material means or outward form can occur in Islam with a "sacred" side which Muslims could regard it their duty to preserve. And this avoidance of collision with the outward forms of scientific or cultural development is one reason why the conformity of the religion of Islam with the requirements of the times has been made easy, and any great obstacle to its continuing survival removed.

It is this very mixture of intellection and religiosity which has, on the one hand, been taken as the foundation, and which, on the other hand, divorces this latter from forms. It gives us universal considerations, and these universalities can take on a number of different outward manifestations without the changing of these manifestations causing any change in the truth.

However the harmonisation of the truth with its outward manifestations and referrents is not such an easy matter that anyone can do it, for it needs penetrating perception and genuine understanding. The Khawarij were people congealed in their thinking, distant from what they heard, and lacking the ability to understand. Thus when ~Amir al-muminin~ sent ~Ibn Abbas~ to argue with them, he said to him:

"Do not reason with them by the Qur'an, because the Qur'an has many sides to it: you will speak and they will speak. But reason with them by the sunnah, because they cannot find any escape from that." (Nahju 'l-balaghah, Letter no. 77)

He meant by this that the Qur'an is concerned with universalities, and in disputation one side will take one thing as its referrent and reason according to that, while another Side will take another thing and use that in arguing and disputing; this will naturally give no result. The Khawarij, he wanted to say, did not have enough understanding that they could perceive something true in the Qur'an and harmonise it with its real applications. Thus he advised Ibn `Abbas to speak with them following the sunnah which is particular, and has pointed out the applications. Ali pointed here to the inflexibility and mental ossification in their religiosity which showed their inability to harmonise intellection and religion.

The Khawarij were just a growth of ignorance and stagnation. They had no power to examine and analyse, and they were unable to differentiate between the universal and its application; they imagined that since the arbitration had gone wrong in this instance, its whole foundation must have been null and void, even though there existed the possibility that it would have been well-established and firm, only its application in this instance being incorrect.

Arbitration stages in the battle of Siffin
Thus we see three stages in the story of this arbitration:

i) On historical evidence, Ali was not happy to have arbitration; he knew the proposal of ~Muawiyah~'s companions to be a trick and a deception, He strongly insisted on this point and refused to be moved.

ii) He said, once it had been decided to form an arbitration council, that ~Abu Musa~ was a man without foresight and had no competence for the job; a competent man had to be chosen, and he himself recommended Ibn `Abbas or Malik al-Ashtar.

iii) The basis of arbitration is correct and is not dangerous. Ali also insisted on this point.

In ~al-Kamil fi l-lughah wa l-adab~, the author, ~Abu l-Abbas al -Mubarrad~ writes (Egyptian ed., vol.2, p.134):

" Ali had personally pleaded with the Khawarij, and had said to them: By God, were any of you, like me, against arbitration? By God, they replied, you are witness that none of us were! Did you not encourage me, he said, to accept? By God, they replied, you are witness that we did! So why, he continued, are you against me now, and why have you ostracised me? We have committed a great sin, they went on, and we must repent. We have repented, and you must repent. Hereupon Ali said: astaghfiru llah min kulli dhanbin - O God, I ask your forgiveness for every wrong-doing. Then these people, who were about six thousand, returned and said that Ali had repented and that they were ready for his order to march on ~Damascus~. ~al-Ashath ibn Qays~ al-Kind! came to Ali and said: The people say that you recognise arbitration to be an error, and keeping to it to be disbelief in Islam. Ali went up on the minbar and delivered a speech in which he said: Anyone who imagines that I have gone back on the arbitration imagines mistakenly, and anyone who thinks that arbitration is an error is himself in greater error. Then the Khawarij left the mosque and once again rebelled against Ali.

Ali had said that in this case there had been a mistake, in the sense that Muawiyah and his companions had wished to resort to deceit, and in the sense that Abu Musa had been inefficient even though Ali had from the beginning said that he should not have been chosen. But that was not to be taken to mean that the basis of arbitration was void.


attraction and repulsion of Imam Ali p.b.u.h- pages: 150to153


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