The Khawarij[needs IPA] (Arabic: الخوارج‎, al-Khawārij, singular خارجي, khāriji), Kharijites, or the ash-Shurah (Arabic: الشراة‎, romanizedash-Shurāh "the Exchangers") were members of a school of thought that appeared in the first century of Islam during the First Fitna, the crisis of leadership after the death of Muhammad.[1] It broke into revolt against the authority of the Caliph Ali after he agreed to arbitration with his rival, Muawiyah I, to decide the succession to the Caliphate following the Battle of Siffin (657).[2] A Khariji later assassinated Ali, and for hundreds of years, the Khawarij were a source of insurrection against the Caliphate.[3]

The Khawarij opposed arbitration as a means to choose a new ruler on the grounds that "judgement belongs to God alone". They considered arbitration a means for people to make decisions[2] while the victor in a battle was determined by God.[2] They believed that any Muslim—even one who was not a Quraysh or even an Arab—could be the Imam, the leader of the community, if he was morally irreproachable. If the leader sinned, it was the duty of Muslims to oppose and depose him.[3][4]


The term al-Khariji was used as an exonym by their opponents from the fact that they left Ali's army. The name comes from the Arabic root خ ر ج, which has the primary meaning "to leave" or "to get out",[5] as in the basic word خرج "to go out", "to walk out", "to come out", etc.[6]

However, these groups called themselves ash-Shurah "the Exchangers", which they understood within the context of Islamic scripture (2:207) and philosophy to mean "those who have traded the mortal life (al-Dunya) for the other life [with God] (al-Akhirah)".[3][7][8]