Thursday, January 5, 2012

Khawarij Political Theory

The palace of the Sultan of Oman in Old Muscat. The dynasty
is supposed to belong to the Khawarijite sect.

This is the sixth part of Iqbal's paper 'Political Thought in Islam' (1908). Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 were presented earlier.

3. The Khawarij Republicanism

I shall be very brief in my account of the Khawarij, since the history of their opinions is yet to be worked out. The first Muslims who were so called were the notorious 12,000 who revolted against Ali after they had fought under him at the battle of Siffin. They were offended at his submitting the decision of his right to the Caliphate to the arbitration of men when, in their opinion, it ought to have been submitted to the law of God - the Qur’an.

“The nation,” they said to Ali, “calls us to the book of God; you call us to the sword”. Shahrastani divides them into twenty-four sects, differing slightly from one another in legal and constitutional opinion, e.g., that the ignorance of the law is a valid excuse; that the adulterer should not be stoned, for the Quran nowhere mentions this punishment; that the hiding of one’s religious opinions is illegal; that the Caliph should not be called the Commander of the faithful, that there is nothing illegal in having two or more Caliphs in one and the same time. In East Africa and Mazab-South Algeria-they still maintain the simplicity of their republican ideal. Broadly speaking, the Khawarij can be divided into three classes:
  1. Those who hold that there must be an elected Caliph but it is not necessary that he should belong to a particular family or tribe. A woman or even slave could be elected as Caliph provided he or she is a good Muslim ruler. Whenever they found themselves in power, they purposely elected their Caliph from among the socially lowest members of their community.
  2. Those who hold that there is no need of a Caliph, the Muslim congregation can govern themselves.
  3. Those who do not believe in Government at all - the anarchists of Islam. To them Caliph Ali is reported to have said: “You do not believe any Government, but there must be some Government, good or bad”.

To be continued tomorrow


  1. I just have a small query, what you have written above are the wordings or compositions of Allama Iqbal? Am i right??