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Daily Archives: August 12, 2014

Kharijism in Islamic North Africa (700-900): A Summary Overview

In the traditional framework of Islamic historiography, the Kharijites are constructed within the broader narrative as the very antithesis of a centralizing Islamic polity and an increasingly “orthodox” (Sunnī) religious establishment in the early period. The classical sources often represent the Kharijites solely as violent rebels, strongly opposed to centralized political authority, whose coming was foretold by the Prophet as inaugurating an era of unprecedented discord and destruction, thereby guaranteeing for themselves the enmity of God and the Muslim community and were thus destined for eternal punishment in Hell.[1] Most of these early texts seek to depict the Kharijites as a radical, fringe movement which was both theologically deviant and destabilizing to the proper political and social order. These sources were written during the emergence and consolidation of a Sunnī theological and historical narrative in the ninth and tenth centuries, and as such, consciously portrayed the Kharijites—in addition to other “heretical” sects—as violating “orthodox” Islamic beliefs and practices.  As Jeffrey Kenney has noted, the Kharijites, in particular, were represented as a “negative paradigm” and served as a symbol for everything that “orthodox/true” Islam stood against.[2]  (more…)