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 Home   Imam's Corner   Friday Speeches 

Bid’ah (Innovation) (1)

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

(Friday Speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on September 17, 1999)

In an authentic hadith reported by Imams At-Tirmithi, Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Al-Hakim the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "...So follow my sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly guided Khalifahs. Bite down on it with your molars, and watch out for the innovations for every bid'ah (innovation) is a deviation."

Imam Muslim reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "...The worst thing is any addition for every addition is a bid'ah (an innovation)."

And in another authentic narration reported by Imam An-Nasa'i the prophet (S.A.W.) said: "And every bid'ah (innovation) is a misguidance and every misguidance is in the Fire."

Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) also said: "Whoever introduces a new matter into our deen, which is not originally part of it, will have it rejected."

After all those authentic ahadith, we know how dangerous the bid'ah (innovation) in the deen is. We should learn more about it and we should learn what the scholars of Islam have said. We should also give it special attention and be more cautious about it.

Definition, what does Bid’ah mean?

Linguistically, Bid’ah is a new thing that is innovated has no previous precedence.

Islamically, "Bid’ah is the innovated method or way in the deen, that emulates the Islamic shara’h legislation, that is intended to get closer to Allah, and that is not based on authentic evidence at all." {This definition is taken from the book of Al’I’tissam by Imam Ash-Shatibi, 1/37}

We find in this definition clear specifications that define the meaning of innovation:

  • The specification that is mentioned in this definition "method or way" includes every action, belief, saying or act. In this context, the method or way may involve doing something or not doing it. So, the innovation falls into one of two categories:
    • An innovation that involves adding something to the deen.
    • And an innovation that involves leaving something that has been proven to be established on evidence so that the person may get closer to Allah (S.W.T.). An example of that is a person who will not get married to get closer to Allah (S.W.T.).
  • The other specification is that mentioned in this definition "innovated in the deen" restricts the innovation intended here in the context of the deen only. So, things like means of transportation such as cars, planes are not included in this definition of innovation. On the contrary, these things may be commendable to acquire. Actually, acquiring these types of inventions may be permissible (mubah) or it may even be mandatory (wajib) to a certain extent.
  • The other specification that is mentioned in this definition "intended to get closer to Allah" leaves out everything that is innovated in the deen with no intention to get closer to Allah (S.W.T.). Like someone who fasts Tuesdays because it is his day off, not because he believes that Tuesday has a special divine significance and not because he intends to get closer to Allah (S.W.T.). So, this act is not an innovation but it is permissible. Or, like someone who laughs in his salah knowing that he is laughing, not intending to get closer to Allah (S.W.T.). Then, this act is not an innovation, but it is prohibited (haram).
  • The other specification that is mentioned in this definition "not based on authentic evidence" leaves out all the legislative issues on which scholars have differed amongst themselves due to the variation in their understanding and interpretation of some of the divine evidence and their differences in extracting rules from them. This variation includes that of the companions (R.A.).

The levels of innovations:

Imam Ash-Shatibi mentions that "innovations are not at the same level, rather they are of different levels that vary from a clear kufr to disputed kufr to various types of major sins and minor ones.

  • The one that is a clear kufr, like the innovation of Jahiliyah which the Qur'an mentioned in surat Al-An'am, (verse 136), what can be translated as, "And they assign to Allah a share of the wealth and cattle which He has created, and they say: This is for Allah according to their pretending, and this for our partners." And the same surah, (verse 139), Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, "And they say: What is in the bellies of such and such cattle (milk or fetus) is for our males alone, and forbidden to our females, but if it is born dead, then all have shares therein." And in surat Al-Mai’dah, (verse 103) what can be translated as, "Allah has not instituted things like Bahirah or Sa’bah or Wasilah or Ham."
  • Also, some innovations can be sins that are not kufr or it may be a disputed kufr, like the innovation of Al-Khawarij, Al-Qadariyah, Al-Murji'ah and other similar groups.
  • Some innovations can be sins but not kufr, like leaving this worldly life for the sake of worship, fasting in the sun, and castrate on for the sake of terminating the sexual desire.
  • Some innovations are disliked (makroh), like congregating in the night of Arafah for supplication, and mentioning rulers during the Friday prayer according to Ibn AbduSsalam Ash-shaffi'i." {See the book of Al’I’tissam by Imam Ash-Shatibi, 2/37}

Innovations in the matters of deen are rejected for the following reasons:

  • Allah (S.W.T.) has perfected His deen. So we do not need to add any things new to it. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Mai’dah, (verse 3) what can be translated as, " ..This day, I have perfected your deen for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your deen."
  • The messenger Muhammad (S.A.W.) conveyed Islam completely. The prophet (S.A.W.) says: "I have not left anything that Allah (S.W.T.) ordered you to do, but I had already ordered you to do, nor a thing that Allah (S.W.T.) forbade you from doing, but I had already forbidden you to do."
  • The legislation is exclusively the right of Allah (S.W.T.).

In sha'Allah, next week, will continue on the same subject to cover more information about innovation which is worse than sin and more dangerous. What is considered innovation and what is not? The rule of an action may vary from one situation to another. The most important reasons that lead to innovations. How do we confront innovations and deal with innovators?

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