Member of the earliest Islamic sect, which emerged in the mid-7th century during conflicts over the succession of the caliphate (see caliph). The Kharijites (“separatists”) took sides against 'Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law (whose followers later made up the Shi'ite branch of Islam), and led a series of uprisings, assassinating 'Ali and harassing his rival Mu'awiyah. They later caused further disruptions for the Umayyad caliphs. Their constant attacks on Muslim governments were based on their belief that the caliph should be chosen by the entire Muslim community. They called for a literal interpretation of the Qur'an and were harsh and puritanical in the exercise of their religion. The movement's 'Ibadiyyah subsect survived into the 20th century in North Africa, Oman, and Zanzibar.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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