Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bid'ah Hasanah?

By: Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Uthaymeen rahimahullaah
From 'Bid'ah - The Unique Nature of the Perfection found in Islaam and the Grave Danger of Innovating in to it', pp: 11-20


And you should be amazed at a people who recognise the words of Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, "Beware of the newly-invented matters, for every such matter is a bid'ah and every bid'ah leads astray, and everything that leads astray is in the Fire," [Reported by Aboo Daawood, Tirmidhee and others, no. 2549 in Saheehul-Jaami' without, "... every thing that leads astray is in the Fire ...", and hadith no.28 in an-Nawawees Forty Hadith] and they know that his words, "...every bid'ah..." are complete, comprehensive and universal, being encompassed by the strongest grammatical particle used to make a noun universal and all-encompassing, i.e., kullu (which means everything), and (they know that) the one who used this word, may Allaah's salawaat and salaam be upon him, knew what this word indicated and he was the most eloquent of all (in the Arabic language) and he was the sincerest of the creation towards the creation. Hence he would not use a word unless its meaning was that which he intended. Hence (they know that) when the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "... every Bid'ah leads astray ..." he knew what he was saying and he knew its meaning and this saying of his eminated as a result of complete sincerity and concern for the Ummah.

(They know that) when these three characteristics were all present in his words, i.e., complete sincerity and good wishes, complete clarity and eloquence and complete knowledge and understanding -then it is clear that what he said was what he wanted to say in order to convey his desired meaning. So (you should be amazed, that such a people, after recognising all this) think that bid'ah can be of three or five categories? Can this be correct? Never! And what some scholars do claim is that there exists the good innovation. But if this is so, then they can only be referring to two cases:

(i) that it is not an innovation but they do consider it to be one, or

(ii) it is an innovation, and hence it is something evil, but they do not know of its evil.

(And these are the only two possibilities, bearing in mind that the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "... every bid'ah leads astray ...")


So for everything that is used to claim that there exists a good bid'ah, then the answer for it is all the above. Thus there can be no room for the People of Innovation to claim that their innovations are good while we have in our hand the sharp sword that Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam gave us - i.e., his saying that "... every innovation leads astray." Indeed, this sharp sword was forged in the steel-works of Prophethood and Messengership. It was not forged in some second rate iron-mill, rather in the steelworks of the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam and he sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam forged it so eloquently, that anyone who has the likes of this sharp sword in his hand would never be dumb-founded by someone claiming that bid'ah is good, for the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said that, "...every bid'ah leads astray."


Now I can sense that there is in your hearts a creeping doubt saying, 'But what about the words of the Chief of the Believers 'Umar bin al-Khattab radiallaahu 'anhu who succeeded in achieving something good when he ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tameem ad-Daaree to lead the people in prayer during Ramadaan. Hence he left having united the people behind a (single) Imaam, and so said, "I am happy with this innovation, but the part of the night they used to sleep through is better than the part they use to pray in." [Reported by al-Bukhaaree, (Eng. trans. vol. 3, p. 126, no.227).]

The reply to this is from two angles. Firstly, it is not permitted for anyone to oppose the saying of the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam by preferring the opinion of any other -be it the opinion of Abu Bakr who is better than anyone else in this ummah after its Prophet, or that of 'Umar who is the second best after its Prophet, or 'Uthmaan who is the third best after its Prophet, or 'Alee who is the fourth best after its Prophet or that of anyone else. As Allah, the Most High, says:

"So let those who oppose his (Muhammad's sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) command beware that they will be afflicted with a trial or a painful punishment." (24: 63)

Imaam Ahmad rahimahullaah said, 'Do you know what the trial mentioned here is? The trial is shirk - perhaps when someone opposes the Prophet's saying, some deviation may affect his heart such that he will be destroyed.' And Ibn Abbaas radiallaahu 'anhu said, 'Stones are about to be sent down from the sky! I say that, 'Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said so and so ...' while you reply with what Aboo Bakr and 'Umar said!'

Secondly, we know for certain that 'Umar ibn al-Khattab radiallaahu 'anhu was one of the strongest in glorifying the Words of Allaah and His Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam and he was famous for halting short of the limits laid down by Allaah, the Most High. To the extent that he was attributed with being a warden and safe-guard of the Speech of Allaah, the Most High.

And what about the story of that woman who opposed him, (assuming it is authentic), when he wanted to limit the dowries, by an unknown amount? Then a woman opposed him using the Saying of Allaah, the Most High:

"And (even if) you gave one of them a huge amount (of gold)." [4:20]

Hence 'Umar abandoned his wish to limit the dowries. However, the authenticity of this story needs to be looked into. But the point is clear - that 'Umar would safeguard the limits laid down by Allaah, the Most High, and would not transgress them. So it would not be befitting for 'Umar radiallaahu 'anhu being who he was, to oppose the words of the best of mankind, Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam by saying 'What a pleasing innovation about any bid'ah. So can this innovation be that which Allaah's Messenger was referring to when he said that "... every innovation leads astray ..."? No. Rather it can be said with certainity that this innovation about which 'Umar said, 'I am pleased with this innovation ...' falls outside what was intended by Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam when he said, "... every bid'ah leads astray." Thus when 'Umar said, 'I am pleased with this innovation ...' he was referring to the effect - that the people had gathered together behind one Imaam while before that, they were (praying) in separate groups. And this praying (behind a single Imaam) during Ramadhan had its origin from the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, as is proven from that which is reported by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim from 'Aa'ishah, may Allaah be pleased with her, that the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam led the people in prayer for three nights and then hesitated doing so on the fourth night, saying, "Indeed I feared that it would become obligatory upon you, but you would not be able to cope with that." [Reported by Bukhaaree (Eng. trans. vol.1, no.696) and Muslim (Eng. trans. vol.1, no.1666].

Thus performing the night prayer in Ramadaan as a single Jamaa'ah is from the Sunnah of the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and 'Umar radiallaahu 'anhu referred to it as a 'bid'ah' considering the fact that after the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam had left leading the prayer, the people became separated such that one person would be praying alone, and elsewhere two would be praying together, and somewhere else three would be praying in Jamaa'ah. So throughout the mosque there were people praying alone and in groups, so 'Umar, the chief of the Believers, had the idea - and this idea was perfectly correct - to gather the people to pray behind a single Imaam. So this action was an innovation in the sense that it was new and different to how the people were before, i.e., praying in separate groups. Hence this bid'ah was relative and subjective - not original and absolute, being set up by Umar radiallaahu 'anhu, as this sunnah was there during the time of the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam So it indeed was a Sunnah (not a bid'ah), which had been abandoned since the time of the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, until Umar radiallaahu 'anhu revived it.

As a result of all this, it should never be possible for the People of Innovation to use this saying of 'Umar as a way to condone their bid'ah.


Now someone could say: There are a number of innovated things that the Muslims have approved of and acted upon that were not known of during the time of the Prophet ~ Such as religious schools, compiling books and the like. These innovations have been condoned by the Muslims and they have acted upon them and considered them to be some of the most excellent ideas. So how can you harmonise this - where the Muslims are almost unanimous in considering these things to be good - with that saying of the Leader and Prophet of all the Muslims, the Messenger of the Lord of the Worlds (Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, where he sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "..every bid'ah leads astray."?

So in reply, we say that these things in these circumstances are not innovations, rather they are a means towards achieving that which is already from the sharee'ah. And these means will differ according to the location and the time, but there are established rules for them. One such rule is that their permissibility depends on the goal, i.e., those means that are used to achieve a prescribed matter are themselves prescribed; those means that are used to achieve something that is not ordained are themselves not ordained; and those means used to achieve the forbidden are themselves forbidden. Even something good maybe evil and forbidden if it necessarily leads to evil. Listen to Allaah, the Mighty and Glorious, when He says:

"Do not insult those whom they call upon, instead of calling upon Allah, for they may insult Allaah out of hostility and ignorance" [6:108]

Yet cursing the gods of the mushriks is not wrong, rather it is correct and quite proper. However cursing the Lord of all the Worlds is indeed wrong, improper, hostile and a transgression. Therefore, where this praiseworthy insulting of the gods of the mushriks is a cause that leads to Allaah being insulted, then it becomes prohibited and forbidden. I have put this forward to show that the means are according to their related goal. Hence regarding schools, writing down knowledge and compiling books, then even though they are innovations, in the sense that they were not found during the time of Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam nevertheless they are not goals in themselves, but are means, and the means are according to their goals. So, for example, if someone were to set up a school to teach forbidden matters, then this act of setting up the school woudld be forbidden. If a person were to set up a school in order to teach knowledge of the sharee'ah, then this act would be good and sanctioned by Islaam.


What if someone asks: How do you respond to what the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said i.e., "Whoever enacts a good sunnah into Islam, he will get the reward of it and of all those who act upon it up to the Day of Judgement," with the verb Sanna (i.e., 'enact') meaning Shara'a i.e., to introduce or to prescribe?

The reply to this is: Who is the one who said, "Whoever enacts a good sunnah into Islaam ... ?" He is the same one who also said, "... every bid'ah leads astray." It is not possible for a phrase to eminate from someone who is truthful and proven to be truthful, such that it would deny and negate another phrase of his, and it is absolutely impossible for any speech of Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam to be self-contradictory, nor is it possible to refute any particular meaning by claiming it to be contradictory. Whoever thinks that the words of Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam are self-contradictory, then let him look again, for indeed this kind of thought eminates from a person possessing thoughts that are either deficient or limited. Indeed it is completely impossible that one would find a contradiction in the words of Allaah, the Most High, or that of His Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

If this is so, then it should be clear that the hadith, "... every innovation leads astray ..." does not contradict the hadith "Whoever enacts a good sunnah into Islaam ..." for the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "Whoever enacts a good sunnah into Islaam...," while innovations are not from Islaam. And he sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said "... a good sunnah ..." while innovation is not good. So he sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam made a distinction between enacting a Sunnah on the one hand and enacting an innovation on the other.

In any case, there is a reply that no one should have a problem with - that the meaning of, "Whoever enacts a sunnah ..." is, 'Whoever revives a sunnah that was present and then was lost.' Therefore it means that a matter has been revived, and thus in this way "... enacting a sunnah ..."is relative and secondary just as (in the case of 'Umar, where his use of) the word bid'ah (innovation) was relative and secondary in the sense that it involved the revival of a sunnah that had been abandoned.

There is even a second reply that can be given: That is the background of the whole hadith, for it is a story concerning the tribe that came to see the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam while being in exceptionally difficult circumstances. So the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam urged that donations be given to them, and hence one man form the Ansaar came forward with a bag of silver in his hand which was almost too heavy for him to carry. He placed it down before the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. This made the face of the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam glow with joy and happiness and so he said, "Whoever enacts a good sunnnah into Islaam will have the reward of it and the reward of oil those who act upon it until the Day of Resurrection." So we have here that the meaning of " ... enacting a sunnah ..." means to enact an action in the sense of implementing it and not in the sense of setting up a new thing into the sharee'ah. Hence the meaning of his sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam saying, "Whoever enacts a good sunnah into Islaam ..." turns out to be, 'Whoever acts upon a good sunnah in the sense of implementing it as opposed to introducing a new thing in the sharee'ah,' for that would be prohibited as he sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "... every bid'ah leads astray."

Good Innovations
by Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan hafidhahullaah
Translation and Footnotes by Maaz Qureshi

Whoever divides innovation [in the religion] into good innovation (bid'ah hasanah), and sinful innovation (bid'ah sayyi'ah), then he has committed wrong, and has opposed his sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam statement, "Every innovation is a misguidance", [1] because the Messenger sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam ruled that innovation - all of it - is misguidance, [2] and this says that not all innovation is misguidance, rather there is good innovation. Al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab said in his commentary to al Arba'een: 'So his sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam statement, "Every innovation is misguidance" is from the all encompassing word, not excluding from it anything. And it is the greatest principle from the principles of the Religion. And it is associated with his sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam statement, "Whoever invents in this affair of ours, what is not from it, then it is rejected" So whoever invents things and attributes them to the religion, and it does not have an origin in the religion to return to, then it is misguidance, and the Religion is free from those things. And equal to that are matters of beliefs, or actions, or statements whether hidden, or manifest.' [end] [Jaami'ul 'Uloom Wal Hikam, p. 233] [3]

And there is not a proof for them that there is good innovation, except for the statement of 'Umar radiallaahu 'anhu regarding the taraaweeh prayer, "What a good innovation this is!" (ni'imatul bida'atu hadhihi).

And they also say, 'Verily there were things invented, and they were not objected to by the Salaf, like the collection of the Qur`aan into one book, and the writing of the Hadeeth, and recording them.' So the answer to these is that these are matters which have an origin in the law (shar'), so they are not newly invented. And the statement of 'Umar radiallaahu 'anhu "What a good innovation", he desires the linguistic innovation, and not the religious innovation (al bida'atush Shar'iyyah). So whatever has an origin in the law, returns to it. If it is said that it is an innovation, then it is an innovation in language, and not in Islaamic Law. So the religious innovation is what does not have an origin for it to return to. So the collecting of the Qur`an into one book has for it an origin in the law to return to, because the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam had commanded the recording of the Qur`aan, but it was written scattered so the Companions collected it into one book for it's protection. Indeed the Prophet prayed taraaweeh with his Companions radiallaahu 'anhum nightly, and they had preferable fear about it in the appointment [of an Imaam], and the continuing of the Companions radiallaahu 'anhum in praying in separate groups in the lifetime of the Prophet and after his sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam passing, up until 'Umar Ibnul Khattaab united them on one Imaam like how they used to be behind the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and this is not an innovation in the Religion. And the writing of the Hadeeth also has an origin for it in the Law. Indeed the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam commanded the writing of some hadeeths for some of his Companions radiallaahu 'anhu, so as to study that from it. [4]

And there was warning against writing it on regular paper according to his sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam advice fearing that there would get mixed with the Qur`aan, that which was not from it. So when the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam passed away, this warning was done away with - because the Qur`aan was completed, and vowelized before his sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam passing. So the Muslims recorded the hadeeth after that, preserving it from destruction. And may Allah reward Islaam and the Muslims with good when they preserve the Book of their Lord, and the Sunnah of their Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam from destruction, and the mockery of the scornful. [5]


1. Many of the people of innovation say that the word 'kullu' in the hadeeth about innovated matters does not mean everything, al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab al-Hanbalee says in Jaami'ul Uloom Wal Hikam (2/89) in commentary to the part of the hadeeth, "and beware of the newly invented matter." "His saying, 'and beware of the newly invented matters, and every bid'ah is a misguidance' contains a warning to the ummah from following the newly invented innovations, and he stresed this by saying, 'and every innovation is a misguidance'. And the meaning of bid'ah is everything that is newly invented that has no basis in the share'ah that would prove it. As for that which has a basis in the share'ah that would prove it then this is not a bid'ah in the sharee'ah even if it be a bid'ah according to the language. And in the saheeh of Muslim from Jabir (radiyallahu 'anhu) from the Prophet that he used to say in his sermons, 'the best speech is the Book of Allaah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad, and the worst of matters are the newly invented matters and every bid'ah is a misguidance.'.And Imaam Ahmad reports from the report of Ghadeef Ibnul Haarith ash-Shimaalee, 'Abdul Malk Ibn Marwaan sent (someone) to me and he said: Indeed we gather the people for two matters: raising the hands (for supplication) upon the minbar on the day of Jumu'ah and giving exhortations after the fajr and 'asr prayers. So he said: As for these two matters, then they are examples of your innovations in my opinion and I will not accept anything of them from you because the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, 'A people do not introduce an innovation except that the likes of it is raised from the sunnah (ie. forgotten and neglected) and sticking to the sunnah is better than innovatig an innovation.' And something similar is reported from Ibn 'Umar. And as for what has occurred from some of the Salaf in their declaring some bid'ahs to be good then this is regards to bid'ah in it's linguistic meaning not it's sharee'ah meaning, and from these is the saying of 'Umar radiallaahu 'anhu when he gathered the people for the standing of Ramadhaan behind one Imaam. He gives reasons as to why this is so, but these have already been mentioned in other articles, and some of them above, so I will not repeat them] And from them: the adhaan for jumu'ah that was increased on by 'Uthmaan due to the need of the people. and it is reported from ibn Umar that he said this was a bid'ah. And maybe he meant what his father meant concerning the standing during the month of Ramadhaan. And from them: collecting the mushaf as one book and the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam used to command that the revelation be written and there is no difference in this between writing separately or as one collection, rather one collection has more benefit...[mentioning more examples]... And Abu Nu'aym reports with a chain of narration from Ibraaheem Ibn Junayd who said: I heard ash-Shaafi'ee saying: 'bid'ah is of two types..' And he depended upon the saying of 'Umar radiallaahu 'anhu, 'what a good bid'ah this is' and the meaning of ash-Shaafi'ee (rahimahullaah) is as we have mentioned previously: that the foundation for the blameworthy bid'ah is that which does not have a basis in the sharee'ah that can be referred to - and this is a bid'ah in the convention of the sharee'ah. As for the praiseworthy bid'ah then that is what agrees with the sunnah - meaning that is has a basis in the sunnah that can be referred to, and this is a 'bid'ah' in it's linguistic meaning not in it's sharee'ah meaning due to it's conforming with the sunnah. And another statement has been reported from ash-Shaafi'ee that explains this, and that is: 'newly invented matters are of two types.'" [end] So every innovation is a misguidance, contrary to what some may have you believe.

2. The alleged statement of Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee is another ploy used by the people of bid'ah to try to legislate their innovations into the complete and perfected Religion of Allaah.

3. The shaykh, Saalih al-Fawzaan quoted from al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab, so it would be useful to quote the full discussion: al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab said in commentary of the hadeeth, whosoever introduces something in this affair of ours which is not part of it then it must be rejected.' And the hadeeth, 'whosoever does an action which we have not commanded must be rejected': "This hadeeth contains a great principle from amongst the principles of Islaam, for just as the hadeeth 'indeed actions are by intentions' is the scale (to judge the action in) it's inward form this hadeeth is the scale (to the action in) it's outward form. Just as any action that is not done seeking the Face of Allaah the Exalted does not bestow any reward upon the actor, similarly any action that has not been commanded by Allaah and His Messenger is rejected. And everyone that innovates in the religion that which Allaah and His Messenger have not given permission for, then it is nothing in the religion... And this hadeeth in it's wording indicates that every action that has not been commanded by the Legislator is rejected, and it's understanding indicates that every action that has been commanded is not rejected. And the meaning of 'his command' here is 'his religion and law' as is the meaning of his saying in the other narration, 'whosoever introduces something in this affair of ours which is not part of it must be rejected.' Therefore the meaning is that whosoevers action is outside the sharee'ah and not bound by the sharee'ah, is rejected. And his saying, 'which we have not commanded' indicates it is necessary for the actions of the actors to fall under the rules and regulations of the sharee'ah and that the rules of the Sharee'ah be the judge to command them or forbid them. So whosoevers action falls under the rules and regulations of the sharee'ah, in agreement with them, then his action is accepted, and otherwise it is rejected...and whosoever seeks to draw close to Allaah with an action that Allaah and His Messenger sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam have not appointed as a means of drawing close to Allaah then his action is false and rejected... And the Messenger sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam saw a person standing in the sun, and so he inquired about him and it was said in reply, 'he has taken an oath to stand and not to sit or take shade, and to fast.' So the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam ordered him to sit and seek the shade and to complete his fast. [Bukhaaree] So he sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam did not make his standing and exposure to the sun a means of getting close (to Allaah) such that it would require fulfilling the oath. And it is reported that this event occurred on the day of jumu'ah at time of hearing the khutbah of the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam while he was on the minbar. So this man made the oath to stand and not sit or seek the shade for as long as the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) gave his sermon, in glorification/respect of listening to the sermon of the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and yet the Messenger sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam did not make this a means of getting close to Allaah that would require fulfillment of his oath. Despite the fact that standing is worship in other places such as prayer and adhaan and offering du'aa on 'Arafah. And exposure to the sun is a means of getting closer to Allaah for the one in ihraam, so this indicates that everything that is a means of getting close to Allaah on a particular occasion is not a means of getting close on every occasion, rather one follows what occurs in the Sharee'ah in it's correct place for everything." [it is known in the sharee'ah that an oath which involves disobedience to Allaah does not require fulfillment]

4. As for the deception of the people of bid'ah in saying that the collection of the ahaadeeth of the Messenger sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam as an innovation, then this is simply not true. From Abu Qabeel who said: We were with 'Abdullaah Ibn 'Amr Ibnul 'Aas and he was asked which city will be conquered first Constantinople or Rome? So 'Abdullaah called for a sealed trunk and he said: Take out a book from it. Then 'Abdullaah said: Whilst we were with the Messenger of Allaah sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam writing. The Messenger of Allaah sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam was asked: Which city will be conquered first, constantinople or Rome? So Allaah's Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "The city of Heraclius will be conquered first" meaning Constantinople. [Related by Ahmad (2/176), ad-Daarimee (1/126) and al Haakim (3/422)] So this narration shows that some of the Companions did write the hadeeths of the Messenger sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam in his presence.

5. Ibn Hajar on bid'ah as in 'Fath (13/314+) Kitaabul-I'tisaam, Chapter: Following The Sunan of The Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. "His saying, 'and the worst of matters are the newly invented matters.', and muhadathaat means the newly invented matters that have no basis in the sharee'ah, and the are called according to the convention of the sharee'ah 'bid'ah', and that which has a basis in the sharee'ah that would prove it then it is not a bid'ah. So bid'ah in the convention of the sharee'ah is blameworthy in contravention to the language, for linguistically every thing that is newly invented, be it blameworthy or praiseworthy, is called bid'ah...and ash-Shaafi'ee said, 'bid'ah is of two types..' Reported by Abu Nu'aym via the route of Ibraaheem Ibn Junayd, and there occurs from ash-Shaafi'ee also what is reported by al-Bayhaqee in his 'Manaaqib', 'the newly invented matters are of two types.' end. And some of the scholars divided bid'ah into the five categories of ahkaam and this is clear. And it is established from Ibn Mas'ood that he said, 'indeed you have matured upon the fitrah, but indeed you shall innovate, and things shall be innovated for you, so when you see the innovations then stick to the original guidance'...And Imaam Ahmad reported with a good sanad from Ghadeef Ibnul-Haarith who said, 'al-Malik Ibn Marwaan sent (someone) to me and he said: indeed we gather the people for two matters: raising the hands (for du'aa) upon the minbar on the day of jumu'ah, and giving exhortations after the fajr and 'asr prayers. So he said: as for these two, then they are examples of your innovations in my opinion and I will not accept anything of them from you because the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, 'a people do not introduce an innovation except that a sunnah the likes of it is raised (i.e. forgotten and neglected)' and sticking to the sunnah is better then introducing a bid'ah' so if this was the answer of this sahaabee concerning a matter that has a basis in the religion, then what do you think the case would be concerning a matter that has no basis in the religion? And how about when it includes things that contradict the sunnah?..and this matter (of giving exhortations) was present during the time of the Prophet sallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam but it was not done constantly like the jumu'ah khutbah rather it was done as the need dictated. And as for his saying in the hadeeth of al-Irbaadh, 'indeed every bid'ah is a misguidance' after saying, 'and beware of the newly invented matters' proves that newly invented matters are called bid'ah. And his saying, 'and indeed every bid'ah is misguidance' is a complete sharee'ah principle both in wording and understanding. As for in wording then it is as if it is said, 'the ruling of such and such is that it is a bid'ah and every bid'ah is a misguidance' and so it would not be from the sharee'ah because the sharee'ah, in it's totality, is guidance...and the meaning of his words 'every bid'ah is a misguidance' is that which has been introduced that has no evidence in either a specific or general way...Ibn 'Abdis Salaam said at the end of 'al-Qawaa'id': bid'ah is of five classifications [mentioning the five and some examples of them]" [End of Ibn Hajar's words] There are some points to be recognized here:

1. Ibn Hajars quoting from Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee after making clear that in the language bid'ah is of two types but in the Sharee'ah it is only one.

2. Indicating that he understands the statement 'praiseworthy bid'ah' in the linguistic sense as did Ibn Rajab.

3. His quoting Ibn 'Abdis Salaam in his classifying bid'ah into 5 categories but he himself saying, 'and the meaning of his words 'every bid'ah is a misguidance' is that which has been introduced that has no evidence in either a specific or general way' and other similar statements.

And Verily Allaah the Exalted Knows Best.

Every Innovation is Misguidance, Even if the People Think it is Good
By Shaykh Saleem al-Hilaalee
[al-Istiqaamah Issue No.3]

The people of knowledge, from the Companions, the taabi’een (their followers) and the Imaams of the Muslim who followed in their footsteps; whose excellence has been testified to, are all agreed upon the blameworthiness of bid’ah (innovations) and their evil, and that one should be free from innovations and those connected to it. There was no doubt about this from any of them, nor any withholding from that. So here are some authentic sayings reported from them, as examples of their living and clear actions. So if we take some examples from the level of the Companions, we find that which brings delight to the heart of one who seeks to follow his Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), whilst also refuting the opinion of the innovators:

’Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood (radiyallaahu ’anhu) said, ‘‘Follow and do not innovate, for you have been given that which is sufficient [and every innovation is misguidance.]’’ [2] ’Abdullaah Ibn ’Umar (radiyallaahu ’anhu) said, ‘‘Every innovation is misguidance, even if the people consider it to be something good.’’ [3]

And if we look at their actions we will see that they were in total agreement with their sayings: So ’Amr Ibn Salamah narrated: We used to sit at the door of ’Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood before the morning Prayer, so that when he would come out we would walk with him to the mosque. One day Aboo Moosaa al-Ash’aree came to us and said: Has Aboo ’Abdur-Rahmaan (i.e. Ibn Mas’ood) come out yet? We replied: No! So he sat down with us until he came out. When he came out we all stood along with him, so Aboo Moosaa said to him: O Aboo ’Abdur-Rahmaan! I have just seen something in the mosque which I deemed to be evil, but - and all praise is for Allaah - I did not see anything except good. Ibn Mas’ood inquired, ‘‘What did you see?’’ Aboo Moosaa replied: ‘If you live, you too will see it. In the mosque I saw people sitting in circles awaiting the Prayer. In each circle they had pebbles in their hands and a man would say: repeat Allaahu Akbar (Allaah is greater) a hundred times. So they would repeat it a hundred times. Then he would say: repeat Laa ilaaha illallaah (There is none worthy of worship besides Allaah) a hundred times. So they would repeat it a hundred times. Then he would say: repeat Subhaanallaah (How free is Allaah from all imperfection) a hundred times. So they would say it a hundred times.’ Ibn Mas’ood then asked, ‘‘What did you say to them?’’ Aboo Moosaa said, ‘I did not say anything to them. Instead I waited to hear your view, or what you declared.’ Then we went along with him, until he came to one of these circles and stood up and said: ‘‘What is this I see you doing?’’ They replied, ‘O Aboo ’Abdur-Rahmaan! These are pebbles upon which we are counting takbeer, tahleel and tasbeeh.’ He said to them, ‘‘Rather, count up your evil deeds. For I assure you that none of your good deeds will be lost. Woe be to you O Ummah of Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)! How quickly you head into destruction! These are the Companions of your Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and who are widespread. There are his clothes which have not yet decayed, and his bowl which is unbroken. By Him in whose Hand is my soul! Either you are upon a religion better guided than the Religion of Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), or you are opening the doors of misguidance.’’ They said, ‘O Aboo ’Abdur-Rahmaan! By Allaah! We only intend good.’ He said to them, ‘‘How many there are who intend good, but do not achieve it. Indeed Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said to us, ‘‘A people will recite the Qur‘aan, but it will not pass beyond their throats.’’ By Allaah I do not know, but perhaps most of them are from you.’’ Then he left. ’Amr Ibn Salamah said, ‘We saw most of those people fighting against us on the day of Nahrawaan, alongside the Khawaarij.’ [4] So this excellent narration encompasses many great principles, which are not known except to those who follow the Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), those who do not put anything before Allaah and His Messenger, but rather say, ‘We hear and we obey.’ So from the principles are:

Firstly: That the One who prescribed the ends, did not Forget to prescribe the means. So when Allaah prescribed For His servants the dhikr (remembrance of Allaah), He did not forget to prescribe the means and the way to do this. So Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) used to count the tasbeeh (glorification of Allaah) upon his right hand [5] and he said that they (i.e., the fingers) will he questioned and would speak. [6]

Secondly: That al-bid’atul-idhaafiyyah is misguidance. And al-bid’ayul-idhaafiyyah is that type of innovation which is based upon a proof with regards to its foundation, but it has no proof with regards to the manner or the form. That is why it is called idhaafiyyah (something added on). And this type of innovation is, from one angle, directly against correct guidance, and from another angle, it is in agreement with it. So these people did not say something which is kufr (disbelief), nor did they do something which was in itself evil, rather they were remembering Allaah - and this is something which is prescribed by Revelation. However, the manner in which they performed this action went against the guidance laid down by Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), and so the Companions opposed them and told them to count this amongst their evil actions instead.

Thirdly: Allaah - the Most Perfect, the Most High - is not to be worshipped, except by what He prescribes. So He is not to be worshipped according to desires, customs or innovations.

Fourthly: That innovations kill off the Sunnah. So this group of people innovated a new way of performing dhikr (remembering Allaah), which was not reported from Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). So in doing this, they killed off the guidance of Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). And this is a principle which, the Salafus-Saalih (Pious Predecessors) understood well, and they knew for certain that innovations and the Sunnah cannot unite together: Hassaan Ibn ’Atiyyah (d.120H) - rahimahullaah – said, ‘‘No people introduce an innovation into their religion, except that its like from the Sunnah is ripped away from them.’’ [7]

Fifthly: That innovations are the cause for destruction, since it leads to abandoning the Sunnah, and this causes tremendous misguidance. The noble Companion ’Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood (radiyallaahu ’anhu) said, ‘‘If you were to abandon the Sunnah of your Prophet then you would go astray.’’ [8] So if the Ummah goes astray then it is destroyed. Therefore ’Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood said to that group, ‘‘O Ummah of Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)! How quickly you head into destruction.’’ So the particular relevance of Ibn Mas’ood’s understanding is reflected in the context of the above narration. So Aboo Moosaa al-Ash’aree (radiyallaahu ’anhu) did not criticize them, rather he waited for the view or the order of ’Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood (radiyallaahu ’anhu). And this stance was not merely taken out of love or out of displaying false affection to Ibn Umm ’Abd (i.e. to Ibn Mas’ood). Rather, Aboo Moosaa was pleased for himself with what Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) was pleased with for his Ummah, since he (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘‘I am pleased for my Ummah with what Ibn Umm ’Abd is pleased with for it.’’ [9] Also in the narration is a proof that all of the Companions were agreed in opposing this action, since ’Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood (radiyallaahu ’anhu) used as a proof the fact that the Companions (radiyallaahu ’anhum) were wide spread (and therefore could easily be asked).

Sixthly: Innovations quickly lead to kufr (disbelief). This is because the innovator has set himself up as one who is able to legislate and prescribe things; and thus set himself up as a partner to Allaah, adding things to the rulings laid down by Allaah, thinking that he is on a religion of better guidance than the Religion of Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam).

Seventhly: That innovations open the doors widely for disagreements to occur, and this is a door to misguidance. So whosoever lays down an evil way in Islaam, then he bears the sin of it and the sin of those who act upon it, until the Day of Judgement, without their sin being reduced by anything. And this is because the one who guides to an evil action is like the one who does it.

Eighthly: Not giving importance to the matter of shunning innovations, leads to evil and sins. Do you not see that these people came to be amongst the ranks of the deviated group called the Khawaarij on the day of Nahrawaan, fighting against the Companions (radiyallaahu ’anhum), who were led by the Leader of the Believers ’Alee (radiyallaahu ’anhu), who cut-off this deviated group, on that memorable day. Imaam al-Barbahaaree (d.329H) - rahimahullaah – 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. May Allaah have mercy upon you! Examine carefully the speech of everyone you hear from, in your time particularly. So do not act in haste, nor enter into anything from it, until you ask and see: Did any of the Companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) speak about it, or any of the (early) Scholars? So if you find a narration from them about it, cling to it and do not go beyond it for anything, nor give precedence to anything over it and thus fall into the Fire.’’ [10]

Ninthly: 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. [11]

Finally: Adding to something good is not good, because addition in good is evil, and this is something that is witnessed in everything. Thus, a matter, when it goes beyond its limits, changes to its opposite. So bravery, when it is added to, turns into rashness, and if it is decreased from, then it becomes cowardice. And generosity, if its limits are exceeded, then it becomes wastefulness, and if it is fallen short of, then it becomes miserliness. So the best of the affairs are the justly-balanced ones. And ’Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood (radiyallaahu ’anhu) was not alone amongst the Companions in condemning innovations. So here we find ’Abdullaah Ibn ’Umar (radiyallaahu ’anhu), who was one of severest from the Companions in condemning innovations and abandoning the innovators. So once he heard a man sneezing and saying, ‘Praise be to Allaah and may the salaah and salaam (the praises of Allaah and blessings of peace) be upon Allaah's Messenger.’ So he said to him, ‘What is this? This is not what Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) taught us, rather he said, ‘‘When one of you sneezes then let him praise Allaah.’’ And he did not say: And also send salaah (blessings of peace) upon Allaah’s Messenger.’’ [12] Likewise was the practice of the taabi’een (those who met the Companions and clung to their way). So in this regard there is what is reported from Sa’eed Ibnul-Musayyib (d.90H) – rahimahullaah - that he saw a man praying after the appearance of dawn, more than two rak’ahs, making many rukoos (bowings) and sajdahs (prostrations), so he forbade him from this. So the man said, ‘O Aboo Muhammad (i.e. Ibn al-Musayyib)! Will Allaah punish me for my Prayer?’ So he said, ‘‘No! But He will punish you for opposing the Sunnah (Prophetic guidance).’’ [13] And these narrations contain many good points of benefit, so from them:

[i] The Companions rebutting everyone who went against the authentic Sunnah, sometimes being very severe in their rebuttal, even if it was against their own fathers and sons.

[ii] That bid’ayut-tarkiyyah is misguidance: And this type of bid’ah (innovation) is one for which there is a proof to establish the action, except that the people deliberately leave the action, thinking that it is a part of the Religion, or something similar to it. For example, some of the Soofees who abandon marriage in order to emasculate themselves. The proof for this being misguidance is from Allaah - the Most High’s - saying:

‘‘O you who Believe! Do not make haraam (unlawful) the good things that Allaah has made halaal (lawful) to you, and do not transgress. Indeed Allaah does not love the transgressors. And eat of the things that Allaah has provided for you, lawful and good, and have taqwaa (fear and obedience) of Allaah in Whom you believe.’’[Sooratul-Maa‘idah 5:87-88]

So this aayah (verse) is concerned with a single meaning, which is: making forbidden that which Allaah has allowed from the good and pure things, and doing so as a matter of Religion. And Allaah has forbidden this, and considered it as going beyond the limits, since it is transgressing upon Allaah’s right, in that He alone has the right to prescribe and legislate. And Allaah does not love those who transgress the limits. Then Allaah affirmed the allowance of these things with an even greater emphasis by His saying,

‘‘And eat of the things that Allaah has provided for you, lawful and good, and have taqwaa (fear and obedience) of Allaah in Whom you believe.’’ [Sooratul-Maa'idah 5:87-88]

Then he ordered them to have taqwaa (piety and obedience to Him). So this shows that the forbiddance of what Allaah has made lawful, in any form, is outside the bounds of taqwaa. Therefore, the Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said to those three men who came to the houses of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), asking about his worship and then on being informed about it, considered their own worship to be very little, so they said, ‘What a great difference there is between us and the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), whose previous and latter sins have been forgiven by Allaah.’ So one of them said, ‘I will always Pray during the night.’ The other one said, ‘I will always fast during the day and not break my fast.’ And the third of them said, ‘I will keep away from women and never get married.’ Then Allaah’s Messenger came to them and said, ‘‘Are you the people who said such and such? By Allaah! I am the one who is the most knowledgeable about Allaah amongst you, and the one who has the most taqwaa of Him. Yet I fast and break my fast, I pray and I sleep, and I marry women. So whosoever turns away from my Sunnah (guidance) is not from me.’’ [14]

So if the Companions (radiallaahu ’anhum) left for us words of deep insight and which clearly enlighten the hearts, then men after them, who likewise attained the truth from this light, have also left for us words which are almost like the words of the Companions. And this is because they were those who very closely followed in the footsteps of the Companions - and the likes of their sayings have already preceded. However we add here a final example of their stance of truth:

Thus, a man came to Imaam Maalik (d.179H) - rahimahullaah - and said, ‘O Aboo ’Abdullaah! Where shall I enter the state of ihraam (the dress for one intending to do Pilgrimage)?’ So Imaam Maalik replied, ‘‘From Dhul-Hulayfah, where Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) entered the state of ihraam.’’ The man then said, ‘But I wish to enter the state of ihraam at the mosque by his grave.’ So Imaam Maalik said, ‘‘Do not do that, for I fear for you the fitnah (trial).’’ So the man said, ‘What fitnah are you referring to, since it is only a few extra miles.’ So Imaam Maalik said, ‘‘And what fitnah can be greater than for you to think that you have attained some virtue, which Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) fell short of. Have you not heard the saying of Allaah,

‘‘Let those beware who oppose the command of the Prophet, lest they are afflicted with fitnah (trial),or lest they are afflicted with a painful punishment.’’ [Sooratun-Noor 24:63].’’ [15]


[1] al-Bid’ah wa Atharuhas-Sayyi‘ah fil-Ummah (pp.22-36)
[2] Related by Wakee’ in az-Zuhd (no. 315) and Aboo Khaythamah in Kitaabul-’Ilm (no. 54), where al- Albaanee authenticated it. The addition is related by at-Tabaraanee in al-Kabeer (9/154) and it is authentic.
[3] Related by al-Bayhaqee in al-Madkhal ilas-Sunan (no. 191) and also Ibn Nasr in as-Sunnah (p. 24). Its isnaad (chain of narration) is as authentic as the sun!
[4] Related by ad-Daarimee in his Sunan (1/79), at-Tabaraanee in al-Kabeer (9/126) and Aboo Nu’aym in Hilyatul-Awliyaa (4/381). It was authenticated by al-Haythamee in Majma’uz-Zawaa‘id (1/181).
[5] Saheeh: Related by Aboo Daawood in his Sunan (no. 1502), from ’Abdullaah Ibn ’Amr (radiyallaahu ’anhu). It was authenticated by al-Albaanee in Saheeh Sunan Abee Daawood (1/280).
[6] Hasan: Related by Aboo Daawood in his Sunan (no.1501), from Yusayrah (radiyallaahu ’anhaa). It was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albaanee in Saheeh Sunan Abee Daawood (1/280).
[7] Related by ad-Daarimee (1/45) and it is authentic.
[8] Related by Muslim (5/156).
[9] Saheeh: Related by al-Haakim (3/317-318) and Ibn ’Asaakir in al-Majlis (no. 350). It was authenticated by al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no.1225).
[10] Sharhus-Sunnah (no. 8)
[11] Refer to Madaarijus-Saalikeen (1/85) of Ibn al-Qayyim
[12] Related by at-Tirmidhee (no. 2738) and al-Mizzee in Tahdheebul-Kamaal (no. 552-553). The isnaad is good.
[13] Related by al-Bayhaqee is as-Sunanul-Kubraa (2/466) and the isnaad is authentic.
[14] Related by al-Bukhaaree (9/104) and Muslim (9/175)
[15] Related by Imaam ash-Shaatibee in al-I’tisaam (1/132)

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