Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

From Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani’s “200 Years of New Kharijism and the Ongoing Revision of Islam”, his introduction to Sayyid Yusuf al-Rifa`i’s Advice to Our Brothers the Scholars of Najd (Nasiha li Ikhwanina `Ulama’ Najd – Complete) & Sayyid Alawi ibn Ahmad al-Haddad’s Refutation of the Innovator from Najd (Misbah al-Anam fi Radd Shubah al-Najdi al-Bid`i al-Lati Adalla biha al-`Awamm – Introduction) lxxxvi p. + 393 p. Translation, notes, and appendices by GF Haddad ©.
(This text is also online here).

All praise belongs to Allah Most High Who guards His Religion from tampering through the watchful Righteous in every succeeding generation, who carry this knowledge in turn, repealing from it the distortions of the extremists, the misinterpretations of the ignorant, and the pretenses of the liars, as He declared: {And say: Truth has come and falsehood perished. Lo! falsehood is ever bound to perish} (17:81). May Allah send blessings and greetings of peace on our Master Muhammad the Seal of Prophets, who said: “Halaka al-mutanatti`ûn – Extremists shall most certainly perish,” repeating it three times. [Sahih Muslim]

To proceed: We live in a time when the enemies of Islam are attempting to destroy if from within in the guise of a purist leadership advocating the ways of extremism. The unwary observer is fooled by this image of Islam eagerly picked up by the media, when, in fact, its proponents are on the margins or, rather, outside true Islam. “The Religion of Allah,” al-Khatib said, “lies between the extremist and the laxist.”1

The criteria for leadership and characteristics exhibited by these extremists were actually detailed for us by way of warning in the authentic narrations of our Master Muhammad and his Family and Companions .

Among the signs of the Hour mentioned by the Noble Messenger of Allah in the well-known hadith of Gibril in Sahih al-Bukhari is “when the destitute camelherds compete in building tall structures.” Another version in al-Bukhari has: “when the barefoot and the naked are the heads of the people.” In Muslim: “you shall see the barefoot, naked, indigent shepherds compete in building tall structures.” Another version in Muslim says: “when the naked and barefoot are the top leaders of the people.” A third version in Muslim has: “when you see that the barefoot and naked, the deaf and dumb are the kings of the earth.”

Ibn Hajar said in commenting this passage of the hadith in Fath al-Bari:

It was said that “barefoot and naked,” “deaf and dumb” are their attributes by way of hyperbole, showing how coarse they are. That is, they did not use their hearing or sight in anything concerning their Religion even though they are of perfectly sound senses. The Prophet’s words : “The heads of the people” means the kings of the earth. Abu Farwa’s narration names the kings explicitly. What is meant by them is the people of the desert country, as was made explicit in Sulayman al-Taymi’s and other narrations: “Who are the barefoot and naked?” He answered: “The Bedouin Arabs.” Al-Tabarani relates through Abu Hamza, on the authority of Ibn `Abbas from the Prophet , that “one of the signs of the change of the Religion is the affectation of eloquence by the rabble and their betaking to palaces in big cities.” Al-Qurtubi said: “What is meant here is the prediction of a reversal in society whereby the people of the desert country will take over the conduct of affairs and rule every region by force. They will become extremely rich and their primary concern will be to erect tall buildings and take pride in them. We have witnessed this in our time as well as the import of the hadith: ‘The Hour will not rise until the happiest man will be the depraved son of a depraved father (lukka` ibn lukka`),’ and ‘if the leadership is entrusted to those unfit for it, expect the Hour,’ both in the authentic collections.”

As a consequence of this reversal of values in the perfect society which true Islam is designed to create, we now see wars of exclusion being waged everywhere in the name of Islam – doctrinal, political, and physical wars. For violence is the most harmful legacy of this school to society while skepticism is its legacy to the individual.

These two phenomena: depraved leadership and exclusionism, are therefore the mainstays of New Kharijism in our time. What clearer proof of this than what took place in Makka on November 20, 1979, when hundreds of armed men seized the Mosque under the 36-year old Juhayman ibn Muhammad ibn Sayf al-`Utaybi and proclaimed him as the new leader of the country. They held it for two weeks during which they practiced worse than zinâ with the women they held captive and those they had brought with them! The New York Times wrote, “There were hundreds of casualties on both sides before Saudi forces were able to drag out the last remnant of what by then was a bunch of filthy, bedraggled young men.” Al-`Utaybi and sixty-three of the captured were later executed by public beheading without any protest from anyone. Who taught these wild young people their ways? As Sayyid Yusuf al-Rifa`i said, addressing the followers of Ibn Baz: “Your teacher was [their] teacher.”

But before we speak of the modern phenomenon of New Kharijism it is important to define the principal constituents of Khariji doctrines.

The sect of the Kharijis or Khawârij lived in the time of the Successors of the Companions. They were a large group of several tens of thousands of Muslims comprising mostly Qur’an memorizers and devoted worshippers who prayed and fasted above the norm. They declared the totality of the Companions of the Prophet and whoever of the Muslims were with them to be apostate disbelievers and took up arms against them. Consequently, some of the Ulema of Ahl al-Sunna argued that the Khawarij themselves had left Islam for committing such acts.

Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi said in the beginning of his al-Farq Bayn al-Firaq (p. 11):

The Khawarij are considered legally to belong to the Umma in certain rulings such as burial in Muslim cemetaries, share in the spoils of war, praying in the masjids; and they are outside the Umma in other rulings, such as not being prayed upon after death, nor does one pray behind them in life,2 their dhabîha is harâm not halâl, their marriage with a Sunni woman is invalid, and a Sunni man is forbidden from marrying one of their women if she adheres to their doctrines. `Ali ibn Abi Talib said to the Khawarij: “Our responsibility towards you is threefold: we shall not initiate fighting with you; we will not prevent you from praying in the mosques of Allah in which His name is remembered; we do not prevent you from your share in the spoils (fay’) as long as you fight with us.” And Allah knows best.

Al-Shawkani in Nayl al-Awtar (7:167-268) reports that there is disagreement whether the Khawarij are disbelievers or Muslims. Ibn al-`Arabi al-Maliki said that the correct position is they are disbelievers on the basis of the hadiths of the Prophet : “They shall leave the Religion” and “I would kill them [if I met them] like the people of `Ad,” while al-Khattabi said they remain a Muslim sect (firqa) despite their misguidance (dalâla) and that it is permitted to intermarry with them and eat their dhâbiha, and that they are not declared kâfir “as long as they adhere to the foundation of Islam.” Ibn Hajar related the above in Fath al-Bari (12:253).

It is known that Ibn `Umar prayed behind the Khawarij. However, Taqi al-Din al-Subki said in his Fatawa: “It has been argued that the Khawarij and the extremists among the Rawâfid were disbelievers because of their takfîr of the eminent Companions, since such an act entails disbelief of the Prophet’s testimony that they are bound for Paradise, and I consider this position the sound one.” And Allah knows best.

The practices of declaring the Muslims apostate (takfîr / tashrîk) and armed action (baghî) against the central Muslim authority – the Caliphate – became and continue to remain the hallmark of the Khawarij past and present. In our time, this baghî and takfîr took place in Northeastern Arabia at the turn of the 19th Century CE as mentioned by the scholars of Islam:

The name of Khawârij is applied to those who part ways with the Muslims and declare them disbelievers, as took place in our time with the followers of Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab who came out of Najd and attacked the Two Noble Sanctuaries.3

The Khawârij altered the interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunna, on the strength of which they declared it lawful to kill and take the property of Muslims as may now be seen in their modern counterparts, namely, a sect in the Hijaz called Wahhabis.4

The above excerpts are nothing new. The categorization of the Wahhabis as Kharijis has been a leitmotiv of Sunni heresiography for the past 200 years. Only now, has it become politically incorrect among the Ulema.

Since the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, the only manifestation of Kharijism to remain is the declaring of Muslims apostate. The exercise of takfîr and tashrîk are therefore the chief marks by which neo-Kharijis can be recognized in our time. They are those who address the Muslims with the shouts and libels of kâfir! mushrik! kufr! bid`a! shirk! harâm! (“apostate,” “polytheist,” “unbelief,” “innovation,” “idolatry,” “forbidden”) without proof nor justification other than their own vain lusts – and without solution other than exclusionism and violence against anyone that disagrees with them.

They satisfy their consciences that such charges may carry capital punishment in Islam and so make light of the sanctity of life and the honor of their brethren. As Shaykh al-Islam said: “Extremists are fanatic zealots who exceed bounds in words and deeds” and “bigots.”5

So, to perpetrate takfîr of the Muslims today makes one a Khariji, regardless whether one calls oneself Sunni, “Salafi,” Ash`ari, Shi`i, Sufi, or Ibadi.

The chief brand of New Kharijism distinguishes itself by three main principles which we may call their Usul al-Thalatha `inda al-Khawarij al-Jadida:

1.) Tajsîm al-Ma`bûd: Attributing a body to the object of Islamic worship, i.e. anthropomorphism of the Deity.

2.) Adhâ al-Mustafâ: Harming the Prophet through disrespect of his noble person, Mosque, grave, vestiges, Family and Companions, those who visit, love, and praise him; and disparaging or disdaining his intercessor-status.

3.) Tafkîk Madhâhib al-A’imma: Dismantlement of the Schools and methods of the Sunni Imams of the Muslims past and present including:

(a) The Imams of Sunni doctrine (`aqîda): al-Ash`ari and al-Maturidi, and their Schools. (b) The Imams of Sunni jurisprudence (fiqh): Abu Hanifa, Malik, al-Shafi`i, Ahmad, and their Schools or madhâhib, sing. madhhab. (c) The Imams of Sunni morals (akhlâq) known as the Poles (aqtâb, sing. qutb) of the science of soul-purification (tasawwuf): al-Junayd, al-Gilani, al-Shadhili, al-Rifa`i, al-Jishti, al-Suhrawardi, Shah Naqshband, al-Tijani, and their Schools, known as Paths (turuq, sing. tarîqa).

Since all sincere Muslims are “People Who Hold That Allah is Transcendent” (Ahl al-Tanzîh) and are people who love their Prophet , it follows that this third principle – dismantlement of Sunni Schools – is by far the most harmful tenet of New Kharijism in our time and its most devastating achievement.

This dismantlement has polluted pure belief with nagging doubts in our pious Muslim Predecessors (al-Salaf al-Sâlih) and a general arrogant rejection of Islamic authority resulting in libeling whoever follows a madhhab a “blind follower” (muqallid a`mâ), whoever adheres to the Sunni Ash`ari creed a “Jahmi nullifier of the Divine Attributes” (mu`attil), and whoever follows a Sufi path, a “shaykh-worshipping grave-lover” (turuqî qubûrî)!

These despicable labels are all the more ironic in light of the fact that it is usually those who apply them who are more aptly characterized by what they pretend to blame. Thus, they accuse us of blind-following but are themselves immersed up to their necks in the blind-following of innovators such as al-Albani who confessed not having memorized the Book of Allah nor a single book of hadith; Ibn Baz the mufti of flip-flops, al-Jaza’iri who decided who goes to Paradise and who goes to Hell, and countless others of those the Prophet warned us about in the hadith of “the minor scoundrels”!6

They accuse us of worshipping Shaykhs but they themselves enthrone as their “Shaykh al-Islam” Ibn Taymiyya who believed, like Jahm ibn Safwan, that Hellfire would come to an end – as revealed by his close student Ibn al-Qayyim7 – in absolute contradiction to the Imams of the Salaf! Who, then, is the real “Shaykh-worshipper”?

They accuse us of Jahmism but follow the exact way of Jahmis literally and step-by-step as described by their own idol al-Barbahari in his Sharh Kitab al-Sunna in that they “consider licit the use of the sword against the Community of the Prophet ; contrave all those who came before them; investigate people with matters the Prophet never said nor any of his Companions; try to close mosques, humiliate Islam, and get rid of jihad; strive toward disunity; contradict the narrations of the Prophet and the Companions; argue on the basis of abrogated texts; use ambiguous texts as proofs; instill doubt in people over their Religion; and argue concerning their Lord [i.e. His Attributes]!8

Therefore, not only are they the Jahmis and not we, but also, as Sayyid Yusuf pointed out, they are the Mu`tazila because they “concur with them in denying sainthood and saints.”9 Al-Qushayri defined the walî as “One whose obedience attains permanence without interference of sin; whom Allah Most High preserves and guards, in permanent fashion, from the failures of sin through the power of acts of obedience.”10 These are present in the Umma until the end of time, as stated by the Prophet in his mass-transmitted (mutawatir) narration on the Victorious Group. Yet the New Kharijis in our time deny that they can be known!

They also accuse us of worshipping graves only because we insist on the Sunna of visiting the graves just as our Prophet insisted on it due to their reminder of the Hereafter. It is an honor, therefore, to be taken to task for doing something which the Prophet loved to do and insisted upon. Here we wish to ask our critics a question: When His Highness King Sa`ud ibn `Abd al-`Aziz intervened with the Syrian government in the fifties to preserve the tombs of Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Kathir from obliteration at the time the University of Damascus was being built, why did no-one call him a qubûrî grave-lover?

Another consequence of the dismantlement of the Sunni Schools is the execration of fathers by sons as apostates (takfîr al-âbâ’) and its hideous consequence on the fabric of traditional societies. Africans tell the story of a young man sent to study Shari`a at great expense by his Sunni Muslim parents. Upon his return a few years later he refused to eat a chicken slaughtered in his honor by his father on the grounds that “my father is a mushrik.”

What perverse trick or brain-washing is this, that turns a traditional Sunni Muslim sent by his pious parents to the fountainhead of Islam and the abode of the Last Prophet only for him to return as one who hates and despises his own parents – the greatest sin after polytheism? Hardly anything can be uglier than a Muslim son declaring his Muslim father apostate after spending two or three years supposedly studying the Qur’an and the Sunna, which are Light upon Light brought to humanity by the Mercy to the worlds !

Yet, uglier still is the further consequence of violence at the societal level wreaked by extremists on the Muslims of Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Afghanistan, Daghistan, Chechnya, and within the Indian Subcontinent. The perpetrators are the graduates of Wahhabi thinkers such as the Egyptian ex-Socialist Sayyid Qutb, who considered that a Muslim is either a “revolutionist” (thawrî) or a disbeliever,11 and went so far as to declare all of the Islamic societies of his time apostate and fit to be overthrown before turning to the annihilation of non-Muslim states: “Islam is a force that runs to give freedom to all people on the earth with no regard to the variety of their religious beliefs. When this force meets with aberrant forces, it is its duty to struggle and annihilate them.”12 In all this, no differences are tolerated for “Islam is a whole: its separated parts should be united and the differences removed,”13 just like the Kharijis of old.

Today his spiritual children – such as the followers of Taqi al-Din al-Nabahani, who are outlawed in most Muslim countries – tell us not to participate in government, not to sit on jury duty, nor vote, nor sit on interfaith terms, nor recite remembrance of Allah Most High in collective gatherings of dhikr, nor commemorate the birthday of our Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – (mawlid) nor recite poetry in his honor, nor wear turbans and revive the vestimentary Sunna of the Prophet and the early Salaf, nor be strong and thoughtful Muslims in the society, but to stay alone in our corner and plan destruction and hatred of all that is other than us.

Our answer is that Dhikr of Allah is the most excellent act of His servants and is stressed over a hundred times in the Holy Qur’an! It is the most praiseworthy work to earn His pleasure, the most effective weapon to overcome the enemy, and the most deserving of deeds in reward. It is the flag of Islam, the polish of hearts, the essence of the science of faith, the immunization against hypocrisy, the head of worship, and the key of all success. Nor are there any restrictions on the modality, frequency, or timing of dhikr whatsoever. The restrictions on modality pertain to certain specific obligatory acts which are not the issue here, such as Salât. The Shari`a is clear and everyone knows what they have to do! Indeed, the Prophet said that the People of Paradise will only regret one thing: not having made enough dhikr in the world! Are not those who are making up reasons to discourage others from making dhikr afraid of Allah in this tremendous matter?

They want to convince traditional, moderate Muslims that “celebrating Mawlid does not earn you any reward in the Religion, you should mount fundraisers or media action alerts.” But, as one sensible respondant said, Allah Most High has Himself promised to give us blessings for doing good works. This could mean difficult things like being kind to one’s enemies or those who hurt you, a moderately easy thing like presenting a happy countenance to one’s spouse at all times, or even the simplest things like removing an obstacle from the thoroughfare. In other words, all good deeds earn the doer blessings and merits from Allah Most High. Are you now saying that making du`â for the added honor of the Prophet , or commemorating his noble deeds and magnificent character in order to firm the hearts of the believers (as happens in most mawlid celebrations), ranks even lower than any of the examples I gave above? Glory to my Lord Most High! May Allah grant this Community respite from such extreme and narrow-minded folk.

1 In al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ (1997 ed. 13:598).

2 Or must repeat the prayer after praying behind them.

3 Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (3:309), Bab al-Bughat [Chapter on Rebels].

4 Al-Sawi, Hashiya `ala Tafsir al-Jalalayn (v. 58:18-19) in the Cairo, 1939 al-Mashhad al-Husayni edition (3:307-8) repr. Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-`Arabi in Beirut.

5 Al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim (16:220 and 7:214).

6 “Just before the Anti-Christ there will be years of great deception in which people will disbelieve one who tells the truth and believe the liar. They will distrust one who is trustworthy and trust one who is treacherous. And the ruwaybida will speak.” They asked: “What is the ruwaybida?” He said: “The minor scoundrel (al-fuwaysiq) who will have his say in general affairs.” Narrated from Anas by Ahmad (21:24-25 #13298) and Abu Ya`la (6:379) in their Musnads, the latter with a chain of trustworthy narrators according to Shaykh Husayn Asad; and from Abu Hurayra by Ibn Majah and Ahmad with al-tâfih (“the worthless man”) and al-safîh (“the impudent fool”) instead of fuwaysiq. Both narrations are fair (hasan) according to Shaykh Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut. Note that the term fuwaysiq also denotes the gecko, which the Prophet ordered to kill due to its harm.

7 In Hadi al-Arwah (p. 249 and 253).

8 Al-Barbahari in Sharh Kitab al-Sunna, as cited by Ibn Abi Ya`la in Tabaqat al-Hanabila (2:30).

9 Some condemn the rendering ‘sainthood’ and ‘saint’ for wilâya and walî as Christian imports. This is a specious objection as these are – like ‘Religion’ (dîn), `Believer’ (mu’min), ‘prayer’ (salât), etc. – generic terms for holiness and holy persons while there is no confusion, for Muslims, over their specific referents in Islam, namely: the reality of îmân with Godwariness and those who possess those qualities.

10 In Ibn `Abidin, Rasa’il (2:277).

11 In his book World’s Peace and Islam.

12 The Future is Islaam (p. 203).

13 Social Justice in Islam (p. 35).

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