By Dr. Shadee Elmasry
The Khawarij were a group of Muslims who thought they were so pious, they rode right off the cliff. Their zeal was mingled with ego, and they failed to decipher one from the other. They cut themselves off from any cure when their ego moved them to deny the teachings and understandings of the Companions themselves. They deemed Sayyidna Ali and Ibn Abbas to be wrong, and to be heretics, and even out of Islam altogether.
Part of their ignorance was that they didn't differentiate between the following:
- Muslims they differed with - Muslims who made mistakes or sins - Muslims with major creedal errors (heretics) - Pagans.
They lumped all of these together as one. This led them to even kill some Companions, such as Sayyidna Ali himself who was stabbed in the head in Ramadan by the Kharijite Abd al-Rahman ibn Muljam. He was a man who died making dhikr, imagining that his deed would please Allah. This is an example of "their evil deeds were made to look good to them."
The Quran says be rough with the enemies of faith. Fight them. Anger them. Unnerve them. Because when your enemy gets irrational, they make mistakes, and you can defeat them.
The Kharijite movements throughout history treated Muslims like this, whereas the Quran in numerous verses evokes mercy and gentleness in reference to the treatment of one's fellow Muslims.
For sure, there are legitimate disputes between Muslims all the time. Thankfully, the Prophet ﷺ gave us a sign that would help us differentiate if our struggle is guided or misguided.
"No group goes astray after guidance they were upon except that they are given [as punishment] argumentation." There is a good debate and then there's argumentation. The sign of argumentation is the heatedness of the heart and it's filling with rage. What used to be friendly, cordial relationships are now frayed and fraught with hatred and name-calling. When you see this, run the other way; it is the tell-tale sign of misguidance.
The problem with extremism is that the extremist rarely finds their way back to the middle because their perspective is so skewed. Therefore, when they leave one extreme, they often pendulum over to the opposite extreme.
The middle, "the clear, trodden path" is that which the mainstream of Muslims and their scholars (contemporary and historical) are upon, even if amongst their imams are those who have some errors or differed on matters. This is why the Prophet ﷺ described his path to be reflected in "the Jama'a" the large group, and hence the name Ahl Sunna wal-Jama'a. If the majority of scholars were wrong all along, then that means the texts of Quran and Hadith were not crystal clear, which means Allah did not convey the message properly; an impossibility.