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Khariji

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

    Khariji

    The Khariji movement began in 656 when Ali ibn Abi Talib , Muhammad's son-in-law and the fourth caliph of Sunni Islam, agreed to negotiate rather than continue a long, drawn-out battle with Mu'awiyah, a rebellious general. Believing that negotiation constituted a rejection of the Qur'an, several of Ali's followers broke away and became known as Kharijis (seceders). Ali engaged in battle against the newly formed group and was later assassinated by a Khariji seeking revenge.

    The early Khariji movement attracted many Bedouins and southern Arabian tribesmen, but non-Arabs also joined the movement. Initially, Khariji centers included Basra (Iraq), South Arabia, and upper Mesopotamia. Arab armies also carried the Khariji doctrine to North Africa where many Berbers adopted its teachings. At one time, more than 20 different Khariji sects existed in the Islamic world.

    Kharijis typically rejected compromise and were steadfast in their faith. Their world consisted of two groups—believers and nonbelievers. Nonbelievers were all considered sinners and could include Muslims who did not accept the Khariji philosophy, as well as non-Muslims. Sinners, including imams and caliphs, were subject to exile or death unless they repented. Khariji beliefs have influenced modern extremist movements, such as al-Qaeda, that promote the violent overthrow of Islamic leaders who accept Western ideals.

    A small but significant minority of Muslims still belong to the sect. There are about one million Kharijis, now known as Ibadis, primarily in Oman and North Africa. See also Ali ibn Abi Talib ; Qaeda, al-.

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