CALLING TO ALLAH (daʿwah) was the way of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, premier among the messengers. It is also, by divine definition, the way of his followers:

Say [to them, O Prophet]: This is my way. I call to Allah based on clear [revealed] proof—I and whoever follows me. So most highly exalted be Allah, for I am not of those who associate gods with Allah. [Sûrat Yûsuf, 12:108]

Daʿwah is the means to dispel the darkness of ḍalâl (deprivation of divine guidance) —and how the world is shrouded in darkness, save for a glimmer here and there that holds the brilliant light of the call of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, wherein it has restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and guidance to the perplexed!

Daʿwah to Allah is a collective wâjib, or obligation (wâjib kifâ’î), as Imâm Ibn Taymiyyah put it:

Daʿwah to Allah is incumbent on the followers of the Prophet ﷺ, that is, upon his community. They are obliged to call to Allah as he did. They should enjoin what he enjoined, forbid what he forbade, and pass on the knowledge he conveyed to them. Daʿwah, then, is an obligation upon Muslims, and although the obligation to give daʿwah is a collective one, it can become an individual responsibility (wâjib ʿaynî) on one when no other in his area undertakes it. (MajmûʿAl-Fatâwa, 15:165-66)

Our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ encouraged and commended giving daʿwah and extending good counsel (nu ṣ ḥ) to Allah’s creation. The Prophet ﷺ said in one ḥadîth:

By Allah! If Allah guides aright through you a single person, it is more valuable to you than possessing the best breed of camels. (Bukhâri)

In the Company of the Companions

Being the best of Muslim generations ever—and on account of their superiority over us in knowledge (ʿilm), understanding the application of Revelation (fiqh), and righteousness ( ṣalâ ḥ)—the Ṣa ḥâbah l (the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ) responded positively to this critical, prophetic counsel. The Companion Abû Mûsa Al-Ashʿarî g said:

Even after the death of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, we fought, and prayed, and fasted, and did abundant good deeds—and many are the people who have accepted Islam at our hands. Thus our hope, indeed, is to be rewarded for all of this. (Bukhâr)

The Prophet’s Companions l not only honored the obligation of daʿwah, they were keen to discharge it in the way the Quran and the Sunnah have delineated it. Thus it happened that during the tumultuous reign of the Caliph ʿAlî ibn Abî >âlib g, vicious tribulations (fitan) and reckless whim (ahwâ’) reared their demonic heads. Of these, the most malicious and lethal was the tribulation of the Khâwarij.

The heretical, rebellious sect of the Khawârij was one of the bitter products of the tragic and violent contention between ʿAlî and Muʿâwiyah k for the Muslim Caliphate. The Khawârij were initially supportive of ʿAlî’s claim to the caliphate. But when ʿAlî agreed to what came to be known in Islamic history as the Incident of Ta ḥkîm (lit. arbitration, or the judgment of agreed upon representatives, as a means to solving the conflict over the caliphal office), a group of fighters from ʿAlî’s camp protested the procedure. They claimed arbitration was an act of unbelief (kufr) because it substituted men’s judgment for Allah’s.

Initially, the Khawârij’s position was no more than a passionate, spontaneous reaction to an arrangement which they rushed to judge as incongruous with the teachings of the Quran. However, later they sought to develop their initial opinion into a complete doctrinal and moral system that consisted of a number of aberrant doctrines. They held, for instance, that all other Muslims who did not share belief in their doctrines were kuffâr, unbelievers, and that it was the Khawârij’s utmost duty to fight them in order to bring them back to the “correct” Islamic beliefs, namely, the Khawârij’s doctrines. They believed also that a Muslim who committed one or more of the kabâ’ir (enormities or grave sins) was a kâfir (an unbeliever) and fated to burn in Hellfire for eternity, should he die unrepentant.

Now, in order to defend their positions against the arguments of the Muslims of the Sunnah, who dismissed the Khawârij’s pronouncements as heretical, the Khawârij searched for Scriptural support for their views, particularly in the Quran. But most of their arguments were nothing more than expressions of their grossly inadequate and flawed understanding of the Quran, augmented by a total disregard of the Sunnah.

By Way of the Quran:  ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas

One of the main people to stand up to the heretical innovation (bidʿah) of the Khawârij was the learned Companion Ibn ʿAbbâs g, who did his best to convince the followers of this heretical sect to adhere to the Sunnah. He engaged their leaders for this purpose in well-known and memorable debates, in the aftermath of one of which thousands of the deluded adherents to Khârijism reportedly renounced their wayward beliefs and returned to the fold of Islam (Ḥiliat Al-Awliyâ’, 1:318).

ʿAbdullah ibn ʿAbbâs was lenient with the Khawârij. He overlooked their rudeness, for example, when they labeled him “deviously argumentative.” They supported this wicked calumny against him by invoking Allah’s harsh statement in the Quran—They are an utterly contentious people—which Allah had directed at the inveterate idolaters of the Quraysh. For in derision of the Prophet ﷺ, the Quraysh had defended their polytheism against the divine statement that their idols would be in Hellfire in the Hereafter by claiming their idols would have the same standing as Jesus, according to the Quran, for the Christians also took him as an associate-god (Sûrat Al-Zukhruf, 43:58).

Ibn ʿAbbâs ignored this. Then he commenced the debate with the Khawârij with a statement in which he laid down a forceful methodological premise.

He said: “I came to you from the Companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, to whose circle none of you belong, and upon whom the Quran came down, and who are more knowledgeable of its proper interpretation than you are” (JâmiʿBayân Al-ʿIlm, 2:104).

Indeed, the Khawârij did not base their doctrinal positions on the guidance of the Prophetic Sunnah. Nor were they rooted in the understanding and practice of the noble Ṣa ḥâbah. The Companions were the most pious, as well as the most knowledgeable, generation in the Muslim Ummah. They were present when the Quran came down. They knew which passages of it were of general implication and which were of particular reference. And owing to that privileged position, they were far better equipped and much more qualified to pronounce authoritatively on the Quran’s interpretation and its intent than any others.

In fact, the debate between the Companion Ibn ʿAbbas and the leaders of the Khawârij laid bare the latter’s gross ignorance and misunderstanding of the Book of Allah. One of Ibn ʿAbbas’ rejoinders in that debate is particularly instructive:

As for your claim that arbitration (ta ḥkîm) is an act of unbelief because it subordinates the religion of Allah to the judgment of men, it could be answered thus: Allah has said:

O you who believe! Do not kill any game while you are in [the state of] pilgrim sanctity. And whoever among you kills any [game therein] deliberately, then the recompense [for him] shall be the like of what he has killed in [a charitable sacrifice of] cattle—as two just men from among you shall so judge. [Sûrat Al-Mâ’idah, 5:95]

 In another ayah alluding to conjugal conflicts between husbands and wives, Allah said:

Moreover, if you [believers] fear a split between the two of them, then send for an arbitrator from his people and another arbitrator from her people.… [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:35]

Now, I adjure you by Allah to answer me honestly: Which of the following two things is more justified: To use arbitration (ta ḥkîm) to solve critical matters related to life and death and peaceful living, or to use it to judge in a dispute over a rabbit that’s worth a quarter dirham [analogous here to a dollar]?

The Khawârij said: “Indeed, using arbitration to settle conflicts over matters of life and death and peaceful living is more justified.”

Ibn ʿAbbâs said: “Now, did I answer this specific objection of yours?”

The Khawârij said: “Yes”

So the Khawârij had claimed that the arbitration device which the two contenders of the office of Caliph (͑ʿAlî and Muʿâwiyah) accepted as a solution to the bloody conflict was an act of disbelief because, they argued, it went against the statement of Allah:

Judgment belongs to none but Allah. [Sûrat Al-Anʿâm, 6:57]

Ibn ʿAbbâs countered that in two other places in the Quran (Sûrat Al-Mâ’idah, 5:95 and Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:35, quoted above) where Allah allowed Muslims to employ arbitration (seeking men’s judgment, or ta ḥkîm) to solve marital conflicts or to determine legal compensations and fines.

To be continued, Inshâ’Allah, in Part 2…

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