Praise be to Allaah.
This issue may be explained into three topics:
- Definition of bid’ah
- Categories of bid’ah
- Bid’ah Hasanah(“Good Innovations”)
- Rulings on one who commits bid’ah – does that make him a kaafir or not?
- Few Advices Of our Pious Predecessors concerning Sunnah and Bidah:
1. Definition of bid’ah.
The root of the word bid’ah in Arabic means initiating something without any precedent. For example, Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“The Originator of the heavens and the earth…” [al-Baqarah 2:117]
In the terminology of sharee’ah, bid’ah means something that has been introduced into the religion of a that has no general or specific basis to support it.
“bid’ah” means according to Islamic teaching.
It is defined as: any invented way in religion that is aimed at worshipping or drawing closer to Allaah. This means anything that is not referred to specifically in Sharee’ah, and for which there is no evidence (daleel) in the Qur’aan or Sunnah, and which was not known at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and his Companions. At the same time, it is quite obvious that this definition of religious inventions or innovations, which are condemned, does not include worldly inventions [such as cars and washing machines, etc. there is a principle in Islamic Sharee’ah which is clearly differentiates between both, it is stated that: “lbaadaat(worship) should not be established unless approved by Allaah or His Prophet, while Mu’aamalaat should not be forbidden unless forbidden by Allaah or His Prophet.”
Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “According to sharee’ah, the definition is ‘Worshipping Allaah in ways that Allaah has not prescribed.’ If you wish you may say, ‘Worshipping Allaah in ways that are not those of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) or his rightly guided successors (al-khulafaa’ al-raashidoon).’”
The first definition is taken from the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“Or have they partners with Allaah (false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allaah has not ordained?” [al-Shooraa 42:21]
The second definition is taken from the hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who said:
“I urge you to adhere to my way (Sunnah) and the way of the rightly-guided successors (al-khulafa’ al-raashidoon) who come after me. Hold fast to it and bite onto it with your eyeteeth [i.e., cling firmly to it], and beware of newly-invented matters.”
So everyone who worships Allaah in a manner that Allaah has not prescribed or in a manner that is not in accordance with the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) or his rightly-guided successors (al-khulafa’ al-raashidoon), is an innovator, whether that innovated worship has to do with the names and attributes of Allaah, or to do with His rulings and laws.
With regard to ordinary matters of habit and custom, these are not called bid’ah (innovation) in Islam, even though they may be described as such in linguistic terms. But they are not innovations in the religious sense, and these are not the things that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was warning us against.
And there is no such thing in Islam as bid’ah hasanah (good innovation).”
(Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, vol. 2, p. 291)
Ash-Shatibi (may Allah have mercy on him) said, discussing the “innovation by addition”: The word bid‘ah refers to an invented way of doing something in Islam that is similar to what is prescribed, of which the intention is to go to extremes in worshipping Allah, may He be glorified.
That includes regularly adhering to certain manners and forms of worship, such as reciting dhikr (remembrance of Allah) together in unison, taking the birthday of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) as an Eid (festival), and so on.
It also includes adhering to specific acts of worship at specific times that were not defined as such in sharee‘ah (Islamic law), such as always fasting on the fifteenth of Sha‘ban (an-nusf min Sha‘ban) and spending that night in prayer (qiyam).
End quote from al-I‘tisam, 1/37-39
2. Categories of bid’ah
Bid’ah may be divided into two categories:
(A) bid’ah which constitutes kufr
(B) bid’ah which does not constitute kufr
(A). Shaykh Haafiz al-Hukami (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The kind of bid’ah which constitutes kufr is when one denies a matter on which there is scholarly consensus, which widely-known, and which no Muslim can have any excuse for not knowing, such as denying something that is obligatory, making something obligatory that is not obligatory, or making something haraam halaal, or making something halaal haraam; or believing some notion about Allaah, His Messenger and His Book when they are far above that, whether in terms of denial of affirmation – because that means disbelieving in the Qur’aan and in the message with which Allaah sent His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
Examples include the bid’ah of the Jahamiyyah, who denied the attributes of Allaah; or the notion that the Qur’aan was created; or the notion that some of the attributes of Allaah were created; or the bid’ah of the Qadariyyah who denied the knowledge and actions of Allaah; or the bid’ah of the Mujassimah who likened Allaah to His creation… etc.
(B). The second category, bid’ah which does not constitute kufr, is defined as that which does not imply rejection of the Qur’aan or of anything with which Allaah sent His Messengers.
Examples include the Marwaani bid’ahs (which were denounced by the greatest Sahaabah who did not approve of them, although they did not denounce them as kaafirs or refuse to give them bay’ah because of that), such as delaying some of the prayers until the end of the due times, doing the Eid khutbah before the Eid prayer, delivering the khutbah whilst sitting down on Fridays, etc.
(Ma’aarij al-Qubool, 2/503-504)
3. Bid’ah Hasanah(“Good Innovations”)
There is no such thing as bid’ah hasanah in Islam, how can there be bid’ah hasanah (“good innovation”) when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every bid’ah is a going astray and every going astray is in Hell-fire”. So, if anyone says that there is such a thing as bid’ah hasanah, he can only be insisting on going against the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
If your confusion has to do with an apparent contradiction between the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah and the hadeeth narrated by Jareer ibn ‘Abdullaah, then let us examine these two reports and find out what they mean:
Jareer ibn ‘Abdullaah al-Bajali (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever starts a good thing and is followed by others, will have his own reward and a reward equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their reward in any way. Whoever starts a bad thing and is followed by others, will bear the burden of his own sin and a burden equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their burden in any way.'” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2675. He said, This is a saheeh hasan hadeeth)
There is a story behind this hadeeth, which will explain what “whoever starts a good thing” means. Imaam Muslim reported this story from Jareer ibn ‘Abdullaah, who also narrated the hadeeth itself. He said: “Some people from the Bedouin came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), wearing woollen garments. He saw that they were in bad shape and in desperate need, so he urged the people to give them charity. They people were very slow to respond, and it could be seen in his face (that he was upset). Then a man of the Ansaar brought a package of silver, then another came, and another and another, and his face was filled with joy. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever starts a good thing in Islam, and others do likewise after him, there will be written for him a reward like that of those who followed him, without it detracting in the least from their reward. Whoever starts a bad thing in Islam, and others do likewise after him, there will be written for him a burden of sin like that of those who followed him, without it detracting in the least from their burden.'” (Reported by Muslim, no. 1017)
Further explanation may be found in a report recorded by al-Nisaa’i, also from Jareer ibn ‘Abdullah, may Allaah be pleased with him, who said: “We were with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) early one day, when some people who were almost naked (not dressed properly) and barefoot, with their swords by their sides, came to him. Most, if not all of them, were of (the tribe of) Mudar. The Messenger’s face changed when he saw how poor they were (i.e., he became upset). He went into (his house), then he came out and ordered Bilaal to give the call to prayer. He led the people in prayer, then he addressed them, saying: ‘O people, “be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person, and from him He created his wife, and from them both he created many men and women, and fear Allaah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship)” [al-Nisaa’ 4:1].
“Fear Allaah, and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow…” [al-Hashr 59:18].
Let a man give charity from his dinars, his dirhams, his clothing, his wheat or his dates – even if it is only half a date.’ A man from the Ansaar brought a package which he could hardly carry in his hand, then another and another came, until there were two piles, of food and clothing, and I saw the face of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) beaming with joy. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever starts a good thing in Islam will have his own reward and a reward equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting in the least from their reward, and whoever starts a bad thing in Islam will have to bear the burden of his own sin and a burden equal to that of those who followed him, without it detracting in the least from their burden. (Reported by al-Nisaa’i in al-Mujtaba: Kitaab al-Zakaat, Bab al-Tahreed ‘ala al-Sadaqah).
From the context of the story, it is clear that what is meant by the words “whoever starts a good thing (sunnah hasanah) in Islam” means: Whoever revives a part of the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), or teaches it to others, or commands others to follow it, or acts according to it so that others see him or hear about it and follow his example. This is also indicated by the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah, may Allaah be pleased with him, who said: “A man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and he urged the people to give him charity. A man said: ‘I have such-and-such,’ and there was no person left in the gathering who did not give something in charity to him, whether it was a large amount or a little. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever starts something good, and others follow his lead, will have a complete reward and a reward like that of those who followed him, without it detracting in the least from their reward. Whoever starts something bad, and others follow his lead, will bear a complete burden of sin, and a burden like that of those who followed him, without it detracting in the least from their burden. (Reported by Ibn Maaajah in al-Sunan, no. 204)
It should be clear from the above, with no room for doubt, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was not allowing innovation in matters of deen (religion), nor was he opening the door to what some people call “bid’ah hasanah,” for the following reasons:
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stated repeatedly that: “Every newly-invented thing is a bid’ah (innovation), every bid’ah is a going astray, and every going astray will be in the Fire.” (Reported by al-Nisaa’i in al-Sunan, Salaat al-‘Eedayn, Baab kayfa al-Khutbah). Reports with the same meaning were narrated via Jaabir (may Allaah be pleased with him) by Ahmad, via al-‘Irbaad ibn Saariyah by Abu Dawud and via Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) by Ibn Maajah.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to say, when beginning a khutbah (sermon): “… The best of speech is the Book of Allaah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The worst of things are those which are newly-invented, and every innovation is a going astray…” (reported by Muslim, no. 867)
If every bid’ah is a going astray, how can some people then say that there is such a thing in Islam as “bid’ah hasanah”? By Allaah, this is an obvious contradiction of the statement and warning of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stated that whoever innovates something new in the deen (religion) will have his deed rejected, and Allaah will not accept it, as is stated in the hadeeth narrated by ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her), who said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours that is not a part of it will have it rejected.'” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath al-Baari, no. 2697). How can anybody then say that bid’ah is acceptable and it is permitted to follow it?
4- The ruling on one who commits bid’ah – is he regarded as a kaafir or not?
The answer is that it depends.
If the bid’ah constitutes kufr, then the person is one of the following two types:
(i) Either it is known that his intention is to destroy the foundations of Islam and make the Muslims doubt it. Such a person is definitely a kaafir; indeed, he is a stranger to Islam and is one of the enemies of the faith.
(ii) Or he is deceived and confused; he cannot be denounced as a kaafir until proof is established against him, fair and square.
If the bid’ah does not constitute kufr, then he should not be denounced as a kaafir. Rather, he remains a Muslim, but he has done a gravely evil action.
If you ask, how should we deal with those who commit bid’ah?
The answer is:
Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “In both cases, we have to call these people – who claim to be Muslim but who commit acts of bid’ah which may constitute kufr or may be less than that – to the truth, by explaining the truth without being hostile or condemning what they are doing. But once we know that they are too arrogant to accept the truth – for Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning), ‘And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides Allaah, lest they insult Allaah wrongfully without knowledge.’ [al-An’aam 6:108] – if we find out that they are stubborn and arrogant, then we should point out their falsehood, because then pointing out their falsehood becomes an obligation upon us.
With regard to boycotting them, that depends upon the bid’ah. If it is a bid’ah which constitutes kufr, then it is obligatory to boycott the person who does it. If it is of a lesser degree than that, then it is essential to examine the situation further. If something may be achieved by boycotting the person, then we do it; if no purpose will be served by it, or if it will only make him more disobedient and arrogant, then we should avoid doing that, because whatever serves no purpose, it is better not to do it. And also in principle it is haraam to boycott a believer, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘It is not permissible for a man to forsake [not speak to] his brother for more than three [days].’”
(Adapted from Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, vol. 2, p. 293)
Abu Qilaabah said: “Do not sit with those who follow their whims and desires and do not debate with them, for I cannot be sure that they will not tempt you into misguidance or confuse you about the religion as they are confused.”
Al-Fudayl ibn ‘Iyaad said: “Do not sit with a follower of innovation, for I fear that the curse may descend upon you.”
Abu Ishaaq al-Hamadaani said: “The one who shows respect to the follower of innovation has helped to destroy Islam.”
5. Few Advices Of our Pious Predecessors concerning Sunnah and Bidah:
Abdullah ibn Masud RA said “Follow (the Sunnah) and do not innovate, for you have been given that which is sufficient and every innovation is misguidance” [Kitabul Ilm No. 54 by Abu Khaythamah, Sahih by Albani.]
Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman RA said, “Every act of worship which the Companions did not do, do not do it.” [Al Itisaam by Al Shatibi 1/418 also Amr bil Ittiba wa nahi Al Ittiba by Suyuti 1/3, authenticated by Albani in Hujjat Nabi (1/100) and Manasik Hajj (1/44)]
Abdullah ibn Umar RA said “Every Innovation is Misguidance, even if the people consider it to be something good.” [Itiqaad Ahle Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah ” by Lalikai No. 126
Imaam Sufyaan Ath-Thawree said, “Innovation is more beloved to Iblees than sin, since a person makes repentance from sin but does not repent from innovations (because he thinks bid’ah is from the religion)”. [Itiqad Ahle Sunnah wal Jamah by Laalikai No. 238]
Imam Abu Hanifa said, “Cling firmly to the narrations and the way of the Salaf and beware of the newly invented affairs, for all of that is innovation” [Sawnul Mantaq wal kalam P.32 of Imam Suyuti.]
Imam Malik said: “Whosoever introduces into Islaam an innovation, which he deems is good, then he has claimed that Muhammad (saws) has betrayed (the trust of conveying) the Message. Read the saying of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic: ‘This day I have completed your Religion for you, and I have perfected My favor upon you, and I am pleased with Islaam as a Religion for you.’ [Surah Maa’idah: Ayah 3] So whatever was not (part of) the Religion on that day, is not (part of) the Religion on this day.[ Shatibi in AI-l’tisaam (1/29).]
Imam Malik said, “The last part of this ummah (nation) will not be rectified, except by that which rectified its first part.” [Majmu Fatawa (27/396) and Ighlaat ul Lahfaan (1/200)]
Imaam Maalik (d. 179H) said, ‘The Sunnah is like the Ark of Noah. Whoever embarks upon it reaches salvation and whoever refuses is drowned.’ [Quoted by Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah in Majmoo’ ul Fataawaa (4/57).]
Ahmad ibn Hanbal said, “The foundations of the Sunnah with us are: Clinging firmly to what the Companions of Messenger of Allah PBUH were upon, taking them as examples to be followed, abandoning innovations, since all innovations are misguidance”. [Itiqad Ahle Sunnah wal Jamah by Laalikai 1/156]
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said “Whoever rejects a hadith of the Messenger of Allah PBUH is on the brink of destruction.” [Tabaqaatul-Hanaabilah (2/15) and by Ibn battah in al-Ibanatul-Kubraa (1/97) also [Ibn al-Jawzi (p. 182)2)]
Imaam al-Barbahaari (d.329H) said, ‘‘Beware of small innovations, because they grow and become large. This was the case with every innovation introduced into this Ummah. It started as something small, bearing a resemblance to the truth, which is why those who entered into it were misled, and then were unable to leave it. So it grew and it became the religion which, they followed, so they deviated from the Straight Path and thus left Islaam”. [Sharah As Sunnah No. 7 (Arabic No.5), Tabqaat Hanbaliya (1/179) and authenticated by Albani in Hujjat Nabi (1/103) and Manasik Hajj wa Umrah (1/43) Tabqaat Hanbaliya (1/179)]
Ibn Qayyim said, “Righteous actions are only according to righteous intentions, and a good intention does not make something which is futile correct. This is because intentions alone cannot make an action correct, but rather complying with the Sharee’ah (Prescribed Laws) must be added to that”. [Madaarijus-Saalikeen (1/85) of Ibn al-Qayyim ]
End of quotes
Lastly, When a person innovates something and adds to the deen something that does not belong to it, he is implying a number of bad things, each worse than the last, for example:
That the religion is lacking, that Allaah did not complete and perfect it, and that there is room for improvement. This clearly contradicts the statement in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning): “… This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion…” [al-Maa’idah 5:3]
That the religion remained imperfect from the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) until the time when this innovator came along and completed it with his own ideas.
That the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was “guilty” of either of two things: either he was ignorant of this “good innovation,” or he knew about it but concealed it, thus letting his ummah down by not conveying it.
That the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), his Companions and the righteous salaf (early generations) missed out on the reward of this “good innovation” – until this innovator came along and earned it for himself, despite the fact that he should say to himself, “If it was truly good, they would have been the first to do it.”
Opening the door to bid’ah leads to changing the deen (religion) and opens the way for personal whims and opinions, because every innovator implies that what he is introducing is something good, so whose opinion are we supposed to follow, and which of them should we take as a leader?
Following bid’ah leads to the cancelling out of sunnah practices and the ways of the salaf. Real life bears witness that whenever a bid’ah is followed, a sunnah practice dies out; the reverse is also true.
We ask Allaah to save us from the misguidance of personal whims and from all trials whether they are open or secret.
And Allaah knows best.