The Great Debate of Ibn ‘Abbas with the Khawarij

Taken from al-Silsilah al-Sahihah (5/12-13) by al-Albani and Munazzarat a’immat al-Salaf, p.89-91.

Translator: Abbas Abu Yahya


Ibn ‘Abbas narrated:

When the Haruriyyah (the Khawarij) rebelled, they isolated themselves in a place. There were 6000 of them and they were united in rebelling against ‘Ali. Continuously people would come to ‘Ali and say, “Oh Leader of the Believers, verily these people are rebelling against you.”

He would reply, “Leave them, verily I will not fight them until they fight me and that is what they will do.”

So when it came to that day, I came to ‘Ali before the noon prayer and I said to him, “Oh Leader of the Believers, delay the prayer until it is cooler perhaps I will speak to these people.”

He said: “Verily, I fear for you.”

I said, “Never! I used to be known as a man of good manners, I never harmed anyone.”

He gave me permission to go. So, I put on a very nice garment, the best of what one could get from Yemen and I combed my hair. Then, I visited them at midday while they were eating.

I had entered upon a people, the likes of whom I had never seen with regards to their exertion in worship. Their foreheads were wounded due to (constant) prostration (in prayer) and their hands had become rough like camels’ feet, wearing recently washed, untidy shirts with very high raised clothing and with tired and worn out faces [due to not caring for themselves]. So, I greeted them and they said, “Welcome, oh son of Abbas! And what is this cloak you are wearing?”

I asked, “What deficiency do you see from me? Indeed, I saw the messenger of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) dressed in the best of what you can find in Yemeni clothing, then I recited this verse

Say, “Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has produced for His servants and the good things of provision?”
[Surah al-A’raf, 7:32]

Then they asked, “What has brought you here?”

I told them, “I have come to you from amongst the companions of the prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) – the Muhajirun and the Ansar and from the son of the uncle of the prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) (‘Ali), who is his son-in-law. And upon them descended the Quran; they are more knowledgeable about it than you and there is not one of them (the companions) amongst you. I have come to convey to you what they say, and to convey to them what you say.”

A group amongst them said, “Do not debate with the Quraysh because verily Allah, (Azza wa Jal) says:

Nay! But they are a quarrelsome people.
[Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:58]

Then a group of them turned towards me and two or three of them said: “Verily, we will speak to him.”

So I said, “Come forward, what is the grudge you have against the companions of the Allah’s messenger and the son of his uncle (‘Ali)?”

They answered, “Three points.”

I asked, “And what are they?”

They said, “One of the points is that he (‘Ali) had men judge in a matter of Allah while Allah says:

The judgment is for none but Allah.
[Surah al-Ana’m, 6:57 and Surah Yusuf, 12:40, 67]

“What have men got to do with the judgment?”

I said, “This is one point.”

They said, “As for the second point, then he fought and he did not take captives nor did he take the war booty. If they were disbelievers, then their captives are permissible for us and if they were believers then their captives are neither permissible to take nor was it allowed to fight them (in the first place).”

I said, “This is the second point, and what is the third point?” Or he said something similar.

They said, “He should remove the title of ‘Leader of the Believers’ (Amir al-Mu’minin) and if he is not the ‘Leader of the Believers’ then he is the ‘Leader of the Disbelievers’ (Amir al-Kafirin).”

I asked, “Do you have any points other than these?”

They replied, “These are sufficient for us.”

I said to them, “Do you understand that if I read to you from the book of Allah (Azza wa Jal) and from the Sunnah of His prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) that which refutes what you say, will you then return (back)?”

They said, “Yes.”

I said: “As for your statement that ‘Ali had men judge in a matter that was for Allah; then I will read to you from the book of Allah, where Allah has delegated His judgment to men regarding the eighth of a quarter of a dirham. Allah (Tabarak wa Ta’ala) commanded the people to judge in this matter.

Do you not understand the saying of Allah (Tabarak wa Ta’ala) :

Oh you who believe, do not kill the game while you are in a state of Ihram, and whosoever of you kills it intentionally, then the penalty is an offering equivalent to the one he killed, as judged by two just men among you.
[Surah al-Ma`idah, 5:95]

And it is from the judgment of Allah that He delegated men to judge in this matter. If Allah willed, He could have judged in this matter but He allowed men to judge.

I ask you by Allah, is it better that men judge in something regarding reconciliation in disputes and in preventing bloodshed or regarding the hunting of a rabbit?”

They said, “Of course, this is better.”

“And regarding a woman and her husband (Allah says):

If you fear a breach between the husband and wife, appoint two arbitrators: one from his family and the other from hers.
[Surah al-Nisa’, 4:35]

“Is not men judging in reconciling disputes and in the prevention of bloodshed better than men judging regarding the private parts of a woman? Have we finished with this point?”

They replied, “Yes.”

I said, “As for your statement, ‘He fought but did not take captives and did not take war booty,’ then would you take your mother (in Islam), A’ishah, as a captive, making her permissible for yourselves for that which you make permissible from other than her while she is your mother? If you say, ‘We make permissible from her that which we make permissible from other than her,’ then you have committed disbelief. And if you say, “She is not our mother,” then you have also committed disbelief:

The prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers.
[Surah al-Ahzab, 33:6]

“And so you are between the two ill judgments. So, which of them do you want to take? Have we finished with this point?”

They replied, “Yes.”

“As for ‘Ali removing the title of ‘Leader of Believers’, then I will give you something that will please you; verily, the prophet of Allah contracted an agreement with the Mushrikin (the disbelievers of Quraysh) on the Day of Hudaybiyyah, and the prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said to ‘Alī:

Write, oh ‘Ali: This is what Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, agrees with.

They, the Mushrikīn, said, ‘If we knew you to be the messenger of Allah, we would not have fought you.’ So the messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

Oh Allah, indeed You know that I am Your messenger. Erase it, ‘Ali, and write: This is what Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd Allah agrees upon.

“I swear by Allah that the messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is better than ‘Ali and even he erased his own name, and erasing his name does not erase his prophet-hood.
Have we finished with this point?”

They said, “Yes.”

So 2,000 of them came back while the rest of them rebelled and fought, based upon their misguidance, and the Muhajirun and Ansar fought them.

Recorded by ‘Abd al-Razzaq in his book: al-Mussannaf (18678), Aḥmad (1/243), al-Hakim (2/150-152), Ibn Abd al-Barr in his Jam’’ Bayan ‘Ulum (2/962-964/ 1834) and others.

The Reference for this Narration

Narrated by al-Darimi in his Sunan (1/68-69) and by Baḥshal in: Tarikh Wasit. This narration is reported on the authority of ‘Amr Ibn Salma and authenticated by al-Albani.

There are other narrations of this story. It has been narrated by:
1) Abd Allah Ibn Aḥmad in Zawa’id al-Zuhud, (p.428)
2) Abu Nai’m in Hilyat al-Awliyyat, (4/380-381).
3) al-Tabrani in al-Kabir, (9/125-126)
4) ‘Abd al-Razzaq in al-Mussannaf, (5409).
5) al-Haythami narrated it in Mu’jam al-Zawa`id, (1/181).

As for the narration of ‘Abd al-Razzaq and al-Tabrani, it has been authenticated by al-Haythami in: Mu’jam al-Zawa’id, (1/181).

The narration of Abu Nai’m in al-Hilyat was reported on the authority of Abu Za’ra.

This story has many other narrations in al-Kabir and some of them were authenticated by al-Haythami.


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The Qur'an and Sunnah upon the understanding of the Salafus-Saalih (Righteous Predecessors).
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