During the time of the first four khalifas, a group arose called the Khawarij. They were ultra purists who believed that Islam required perfection of deeds at all time. They believed that anyone who did a sin was an unbeliever who could be killed. They were especially enraged by the struggle for power between Ali and Muawiya I and they organized forces to oppose both men, trying to assassinate both, but succeeding with only 'Ali. (r)
Thereafter they continued to cause trouble, killing Muslims, robbing, destroying political order and generally being brutes. This movement lasted for centuries. Ibn Kathir wrote about them also, saying, "If they ever gained strength, they would surely corrupt the whole of the Earth, Iraq and Syria – they would not leave a baby, male or female, neither a man or a woman, because as far as they are concerned the people have caused corruption, a corruption that cannot be rectified except by mass killing."
Is such extremism allowed? Yusair ibn Amr, from a hadith in Bukhari said, "I asked Sahl bin Hunaif, 'Did you hear the Prophet saying anything about Al-Khawarij?' He said, 'I heard him saying while pointing his hand towards Iraq. "There will appear in it (i.e, Iraq) some people who will recite the Quran but it will not go beyond their throats, and they will go out from (leave) Islam as an arrow darts through the game's body.' "
So the Prophet (p) forewarned us that merely being religious is not a sign of truth. Some people can say the right things but then do all the wrong things. We all know this to be true, and we all know people in our lives who are hypocrites like that, or who even believe their evil is good.
Many Muslims today are pointing to ISIS and its ideology and seeing a lot of patterns that would point back to the Prophet's (p) prediction of the rise of extremists liek the khawarij. Some have even said that ISIS is nothing more than a modern version of the type of extremism the Prophet warned us against.
I am not learned enough to make a judgment on this and am always hesitant to make definitive pronouncements out of fear of God. I can say, as a person who has paid attention for many years, that actions beget actions and too many people and nations take actions without thinking of the long term consequences. Innocents pay the price, sadly.
Western powers have (for decades) stirred up a hornet's nest in the Middle East with arbitrary border-drawing, foreign adventurism, supporting dictators, and have largely acted on behalf of one particular and influential group with its own objectives.
Now we have an extremist group (supported by some legitimate grievances) in Iraq and Syria striking back at those who have attacked then first (The U.S. and France attacked ISIS first, without provocation, don't forget that) but ISIS is doing things in a manner that many say goes out of bounds in Islamic teachings.
What are we to do when we are blamed by non-Muslims as if we are all the same? Police officers are saying that they are all being unfairly blamed for a few bad cops who kill innocent black men. Welcome to the club! We also say you cannot blame us for a few bad apples. We know the media has an agenda. We suffer the brunt of it, everyday.
We the ordinary, God-fearing Muslims who seek to be the best example for humanity get caught in the middle and our families are made to feel shame for no good reason. May Allah give us strength to stand up to the extremes of every side.
There is a cure for extremism, but the medicine is strong.
The first rule of medicine is to do no harm. Western nations need to stop bombing Muslims all over the world. Reign in the CIA. Stop supporting dictators for financial and strategic gain. Got that?
The second rule is to diagnose the patient. The Muslim world suffers from poverty largely due to bad leadership. Leave us alone to try and fix that. When a Muslim party won elections in Algeria, France supported a military coup. When Muslims won the government in Egypt, again a military coup. When Iran threw out the Shah, Saddam was egged on by Western powers to invade. The list goes on and on.
The last rule of medicine is to give the medicine time. Don't invade Afghanistan or Iraq and expect Jeffersonian democracy overnight, especially when you support corrupt elites at the same time.
So the cure that the West could do would simply be to get out of the Muslim world, stop supporting evil rulers and let it evolve, rather than keeping it off balance with bombs and CIA-engineered coups. Why all the tit-for-tat? Why do we have to let this foolishness go on?
May Allah bring sanity back to the world, and make us a force for peace and improvement. Ameen.