“Every Bid’ah is misguidance and every path of misguidance goes to hell” Prophet (SAW)
The issue of innovations in religion Islam is a hotly debated one in current times. The terms bid’ah (innovation), ijtihad (critical legal thinking), kufur (disbelief or denial), and shirk (avoid or neglect in the Oneness of Allah) are routine topics of discussion.It has been argued, in every matter ignoring time, we have to follow Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and his companions. It has been the opinion of the vast majority of the Ulama throughout the ages that there is Bid’ah which is of two types, that which is permissible, and that which is not. The purpose of writing this articles is to understand the concept of Bidah as every innovation (Bidah) is misguidance, and every path misguidance goes to Hellfire. Bidah is an Arabic word that comes from the root Al-Bada’ meaning to create something without precedence. In English we would use the word “innovation”. Before discussing bidah in any depth we must distinguish between two types of bidah. The first type is innovation in the matter of things pertaining to our worldly life. Things like technology, electricity and transport would come under this category. These things are permissible and in many cases could even be called desirable. The second type of innovation pertains to matters of the deen. In matters of religion bidah is not permissible and it can be dangerous to introduce new things in our religion. Because of the danger there are many quotations and traditions from the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that point this out. “Whoever innovates into this affair of ours something that we have not commanded, it is to be rejected” Linguistically bid’ah (innovation) means ‘a newly invented matter’. The Sharee’ah definition of bid’ah is: “A newly invented way [beliefs or action] in the religion, in imitation of the Sharee’ah (prescribed Law), by which nearness to Allaah is sought, [but] not being supported by any authentic proof – neither in its foundations, nor in the manner in which it is performed. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuH) states, “The best speech is that which is embodied in the Book of Allah, the Al Quran; and the best guidance is the guidance given by me, Mohamed. The most evil affairs are the innovations (bid’ah), and every innovation (bid’ah) is an error” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]. The reference to bid’ah here is relating to the creation of statements that oppose what has already been clarified in the Quran and explained by the Prophet (pbuH). The Messenger of Allaah (PBUH) said: “Every innovation is misguidance and going astray” Reported by Abu Daawood (no. 4607), at-Tirmidhee (no. 2676) and it is saheeh. Ibn Hajr authenticated it Takhreej Ahaadeeth Ibn ul-Haajib (1/137). And he (PBUH) also said: “
and every innovation is misguidance and all misguidance is in the Hellfire.” Reported by an-Nasaa’ee (1/224) from Jaabir bin Abdullaah and it is saheeh as declared by Shaikh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah in Majmoo’ ul-Fataawaa (3/58). The Messenger (PBUH) also warned against the People of Innovation, from befriending, supporting or taking from them saying: “Whoever innovates or accommodates an innovator then upon him is the curse of Allaah, His Angels and the whole of mankind.” Reported by Bukhaaree (12/41) and Muslim (9/140) And in his footsteps, we find the Noble Companions and the Taabi’een after them warning from the danger of innovations upon the Ummah, its people and their unity, since it is innovations which have divided the Ummah and split it asunder.
Ibn Abbaas (d. 68H) said: “Indeed the most detestable of things to Allaah are the innovations.” Reported by al-Bayhaqee in as-Sunan al-Kubraa (4/316)
Ibn Umar (d. 84H) said: “Every innovation is misguidance, even if the people see it as something good.” Reported by Abu Shaamah (no. 39)
One of the issues that Muslims struggle with today is drawing the line between innovation (Bidaa’) and that what is lawful from an Islamic standpoint. All Muslims know the strict prohibition of the prophet against innovating things into religion.Allah chose earth as a test bed for Adam, Eve and their descendants to live their life, earn their livelihood and die. Quran addresses this fact in many places such as:-
And We said: O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and eat ye freely (of the fruits) thereof where ye will; but come not nigh this tree lest ye become wrong-doers. But Satan caused them to deflect there from and expelled them from the (happy) state in which they were; and We said: Fall down, one of you a foe unto the other! There shall be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a time” (Quran: Chapter 2, 35-36). The ultimate goal for the humans is to worship Allah as the Quran states:
I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. I seek no livelihood from them, nor do I ask that they should feed Me.” (Quran: Chapter 51, 56-57)
How do we know if an act of worship is really an act of bidah? On many occasions you will hear it said that Islam is a religion of informed knowledge. This implies that believers do not take things on face value. A believer takes the time to learn and understand the details of the deen and he learns to question actions or sayings that are not presented with clear evidence. If he takes the time to learn Islam a person is able to recognise what is a Sunnah action and what is bidah.
The following are six ways to distinguish between a Sunnah and a bidah:
1. An act of worship related to a cause or reason that has not been legislated: It is not permissible to link an act of worship to a cause or reason that has not been legislated in the Quran or the authentic Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). An example of this would be waking up to pray at night during the seventh day of the Islamic month of Rajab with the belief that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ascended to the heavens on this night. The act of praying in the night is something that is legislated in Islam with sufficient evidence from the Quran and Sunnah, however when it is linked to this reason it becomes a bidah because it is based and constructed upon a reason which is not established from the Shariah.
2. Type of worship: It is also essential that the act of worship agrees with the Shariah in its type. If a person was to worship Allah with an act of worship whose type or mode has not been legislated, it would not be accepted. For example it is not ok to sacrifice a horse. This is something that would be a bidah, something new added to the deen. Sacrifice is limited by the shariah of Islam to lamb, cattle, sheep and camels.
3. Quantity of worship: Another way to recognize the difference between a Sunnah and a bidah is based on the quantity of worship. If a person decided to pray five rakahs of prayer for the Dhuhr prayer this would be a bidah. We know that this prayer consists of four rakahs; this is what is legislated and to introduce an extra unit of prayer would be considered an innovation, a bidah.
4.Manner of performance of worship: Another way of distinguishing between something that originates in the Quran and the Sunnah and an innovation is to look at the manner of performance. That is, how do we perform the act of worship, is it in accordance with what the deen of Islam teaches, or have we overstepped the boundaries and added something to a religion that has already been perfected. An example of this is making ablution before prayer in an incorrect order, such as beginning with washing the feet instead of finishing with this.
5. Time of worship: The time we perform an act of worship is also important. If a worship is performed according to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and the specified time, then it does indeed please our Creator. However if a person takes it upon himself to change the specified time then that person has fallen into the sin of bidah. For example, sacrificing sheep in the month of Ramadan with the intention of seeking a reward similar to the reward for sacrificing on Eid ul-Adha then this would be considered an innovation.
6. Place of worship: The place in which the act of worship is performed should also be in accordance with what has been legislated. If, for example a person was to make itikaf in his home this would not be acceptable. The place for itikaf is the mosque, thus performing it in any other place would be considered a bidah.
The concept of worship in Islam is a comprehensive one that encompasses both the religious rituals as well as the daily activities. More specifically, Allah divided the humans’ obligation into two categories: 1) to the creator and 2) to the creation. These responsibilities in Islam are referred to as rituals of worship (Ibadaat) and daily dealings (Muamlat). The rule in Islam is that for the rituals of worship to be valid, they are to be decreed specifically by Allah and His messenger. In other words, any ritual of worship is not allowed unless clearly mandated by the Quran and/or the Sunnah. On the other hand, all the actions of daily life are permissible unless explicitly prohibited by the Quran and/or the Sunnah. As an example, the entry point to the religion is to declare the monotheism and the final prophet hood of Muhammad (PBUH) and to accept Islam as the only true religion. Submission to any other deity or to believe that another way of life is better than Islam takes a person out of the confines of Islam unless a person does so out of ignorance or forcefulness. Similarly, denying any of the prescribed pillars of Islam or introducing new acts of worship such as sixth mandatory prayer would violate the basic tenets of Islam. On the other hand, monetary dealings of all forms are allowed unless prohibited specifically such as dealing with usury. Similarly all types of food and drinks are permissible by default with few exceptions such as alcohol and pork which are prohibited specifically in Quran and Sunnah. Given the above, a Muslim should evaluate the action in the light of the two aforementioned categories. If the action falls under the category of rituals of worship (Ibadaat), then there has to be evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah for the act to be carried out. As an example, consider the act of praying all night or fasting on the day of Israa and Maraaj specifically with the belief that such actions will be rewarded. Since there is no evidence from Quran or Sunnah to support such a belief, the action is considered a Bidaa’ or innovation. The Prophet (PBUH) made clear all the rituals of worship whether mandatory or voluntary and Allah perfected this religion on the day Prophet (PBUH) performed Hajj – the fifth pillar of Islam – and instructed his followers to take the rituals from him as has been reported in many books of Ahadith. Lastly, a Muslim should recognize that for all the disputed actions, Allah has prescribed many alternatives. The person who is eager to perform extra prayers has ample opportunity to do so during his life. Praying during the last part of the night for example, is highly recommended while offering voluntary prayers on a particular night as Israa and Maraaj was never prescribed or reported. Therefore, a Muslim should take care in falling into such traps and follow the example of the Prophet (PBUH). Also, whenever in doubt, it is recommended to ask the scholars of Islam. However, the criteria should always be the basis on which such answers are given. If a scholar offers irrefutable evidence for a particular course of action, it should be followed. On the other hand, a ruling without any evidence should be discarded in the pursuit of the truth. In brief, one must try to avoid religious innovators and innovations. What are some of the ways through which one can avoid Bidah? Look in the holy Quran, To avoid any confusion in matters of religion, one must always look at the Quran and its teachings as what can be better than the word of Allah. In the Holy Quran, Allah says: “…This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as your religion…” (Quran 5:3). The Quran is a complete way of being and sheds light upon each aspect of life so as to avoid Bidah. Hence, it is the first place one should refer to, to clarify the questions of religion. “…There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book. By which Allah guides those who pursue His pleasure to the ways of peace and brings them out from darknesses into the light, by His permission, and guides them to a straight path” (Quran 5:15-16). The Quran says: “O People of the Scripture, there has come to you Our Messenger making clear to you much of what you used to conceal of the Scripture and overlooking much…” (Quran 5:15). The Sunnah and hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is also a great way to avoid Bidah – the actions, sayings and beliefs of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) add to the religion by the will of Allah and He trusted His messenger with His word. Hence the Sunnah and hadith best serve the matters of religion. If the Quran and hadith prove insufficient when it comes to matters of religion, then the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) should be our first choice. It is important to be aware of all aspects of religion from authentic sources and then make an informed decision. May Allah give us the ability to do the right thing (Aameen!).
(The authors write regularly on Islamic topics exclusively for the opinion page of “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own)