Our opponents also try to take undue advantage of Hazrat Ali’s fighting the Khawaraj; but that does not help them either. To begin with, the preponderant opinion of the divines has been that the Khawaraj were not apostates, but were a Muslim sect who had raised the standard of rebellion against Hazrat Ali. It is recorded in Fatehal Bari, Vol. XII, p.267: Khattabi states that the Muslim divines are agreed that the Khawaraj, despite their error, are one of the sects of Islam. Inter-marriage is lawful with them and they cannot be held to be disbelievers so long as they adhere basically to Islam. At page 268 of the same book it is recorded: Ibn Batal has said that a consensus of the divines holds that the Khawaraj are not outside Islam.
The Tafsir Kabeer of Imam Razi records at page 614 of Vol. III: An apostate is one who repudiates the Islamic law. People who opposed Hazrat Ali had not given up following the Islamic law. No one has said that Hazrat Ali fought them because they had repudiated Islam, nor did Hazrat Ali call them apostates.
At pages 61 and 62 of Vol. II of Minhajus Sunnah, one of the books of Sheikh Ibn Taimiyyah, it is recorded: Ashari has said that though the Khawaraj were all agreed that Hazrat Ali was a disbeliever, yet Hazrat Ali declared clearly that they were Muslims and not disbelievers or hypocrites…One reason for holding that the Companions did not consider the Khawaraj disbelievers is that they joined them in the salat and met them and mingled with them and addressed them as Muslims…The Muslims also treated them in the same way and did not consider them apostates as those against whom Hazrat Abu Bakr had fought…The Companions and those who followed them did not consider them apostates nor transgressed against them in any way by word or deed, but treated them righteously with justice.
It is well established that Hazrat Ali’s fighting the Khawaraj was for the purpose of suppressing rebellion and disorder and not on account of any difference of doctrine. This is clear from the following:
Hazrat Ali spoke to the leaders of the Khawaraj and undertook that the Khawaraj would not be denied admission to mosques, would be given their share out of war booty and would not be fought against unless they started disorders. They left him in parties and held a caucus at Madaen. Hazrat Ali sent an emissary to them asking them to return, but they declined and they said they would not return unless he confessed that having agreed to arbitration he had become a disbeliever, and unless he repented. Thereupon Hazrat Ali sent to them a second time but they persisted in their refusal to return and were at one time inclined to put his emissary to death. In the end, they declared that whoever differed from their doctrine was a disbeliever and that it was lawful to kill him and the members of his family and to take possession of his property. They began to act in accordance with their declarations and stopped people who passed near them and put them to death. It so happened that Abdullah bin Khabab, who was Hazrat Ali’s governor in their region, who was accompanied by a female slave who was pregnant, came upon them. They killed both of them. When Hazrat Ali was apprised of this atrocity, he advanced upon them in force and attacked them at Nahrawan (Fatehal Bari, Vol. XII, p.251).
Another account says: The Khawaraj made Abdullah bin Khabab lie down and slaughtered him, and his blood flowed into the water. Then they turned to the woman who accompanied him, and she said to them: I am but a woman. Will you not fear God? Yet they cut her open and also killed three women of Bani Tai. They also killed Umm Sanan Saidaviah. When Hazrat Ali heard that they had killed Abdullah bin Khabab and that they stopped people and killed them, he sent Alharath bin Marrah Abadi to them to investigate and report back to him how far the report that had reached him was true. But they killed him also. When Hazrat Ali arrived at the head of his forces he demanded that they should surrender to him those who had been guilty of killing his people, but they refused and said they had all been guilty of their slaughter and that they considered it lawful to kill them and to kill Hazrat Ali and those who supported him (Tarikhal Kamel, Vol.l11, p.148).
These accounts leave no doubt that Hazrat Ali did not fight the Khawaraj on account of any doctrinal difference, but because they created disorder in the land and killed Muslim men and women and they killed the governor appointed by him and his female slave and also Hazrat Ali’s emissary. When he called upon them to surrender those who had been responsible for these atrocities, they replied that they were all responsible for the killings as they considered it lawful to kill Hazrat Ali and all those who supported him.
Our opponents also cite a case that Hazrat Ali had directed the burning alive of some of the Zindeeqs who called him god, but their authority for this statement is utterly unreliable and the horror attributed by them to Hazrat Ali cannot possibly be accepted as a fact. It is well known that the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, had forbidden anyone being tormented by fire. It is, therefore, impossible to give credence to the allegation that Hazrat Ali resorted to this horror in contravention of the express direction of the Holy Prophet. The narrator of this alleged occurrence has been condemned by everyone as utterly unreliable and given to imposture, so much so that when he died no one said funeral prayers over his dead body.
The people who called Ali god were the followers of one Abdullah bin Sabah who had been a Jew. He was the one who was at the back of the group who subsequently murdered Hazrat Usman, the fourth Khalifa. Hazrat Ali had exiled him to Madaen, but he and his followers continued their nefarious activities.
Thus, there is not a single instance that the immediate Successors of the Holy Prophet put anyone to death on account of simple apostacy or on account of doctrinal differences.