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Thursday, January 22, 2015

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Linguistically, Bidah in Arabic means “unprecedented origination.” In the Glorious Quran, we read:

بَدِيعُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَإِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

“Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.”

[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:117]

قُلْ مَا كُنتُ بِدْعًا مِّنَ الرُّسُلِ

“Say, I am not something original among the messengers…”

[Surah Al-Ahqaf 46:9]

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) according to this verse, is not the first unprecedented Messenger of Allah to humanity. He was preceded by many Messengers.
Origination or innovation is of two categories:

It may be practices in people’s customs such as the newly advanced inventions. This category is undoubtedly permissible for the basic ruling regarding customs is permissibility.
By contrast, innovation in religion is prohibited since the main principle governing our religions practices is to directly and completely receive them intact through Divine Revelation.
The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is reported to have said:

مَنْ أَحْدَثَ فِي أَمْرِنَا هَذَا مَا لَيْسَ فِيهِ فَهُوَ رَدٌّ

“If somebody innovates something which is not in conformity with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected.”

[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 49, Number 861]

According to another narration, he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is reported to have said:

“He who does any act which does not conform to the principles of our religion, that act is rejected.”

Categories of Religious Bidah

In matters of religion, Bidah are of two types:

Verbal (beliefs), such as the convictions retained by Al-Jahmiyyah (nullifiers of Allah’s Attributes), Al-Mu’tazillah (rationalists), Ar-Rafidah (rejecters of the Companions) and other deviant sects.
Ritual Practices, such as initiating religious practices not ordained or originated by Allah. Such a category includes a number of examples: A) Initiating a ritual act of worship which was not originally enjoined by Allah such as offering further prayers not enjoined by Allah or recommended by His Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), observing fasting, or celebrating feasts not legislated in Islam. B) Adding to an already prescribed ritual act, such as offering five rak’ah (units of prayer) when observing Thuhur (noon) prayer instead of four. C) Offering a religious ritual in a way different from that offered and recommended by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), such as melodiously singing Allah’s praises in congregation after offering the obligatory prayers, or excessively offering too many acts of worship without following the Sunnah of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). D) Observing a religious ordinance at a time which was not originally assigned by Allah. For example, some people observe fasting particularly on the fifteenth day of Sha’ban or offer prayers during its eve. Although fasting and night vigil supererogatory prayers are ordained by Allah, their due and proper time should be substantiated by proof from the Quran and Sunnah.
Legal Ruling on Bidah in Religious Ordinances

Every Bidah is prohibited according to the Prophetic Hadith in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

شَرُّ الأُمُورِ مُحْدَثَاتُهَا وَكُلُّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلاَلَةٌ

“The worst affairs are newly invented matters and every Bidah is misguidance.”

[Sahih Muslim, Book 4, Number 1885]

These Prophetic Hadith and others indicate that every innovative affair in religious ordinances is regarded as Bidah and every Bidah is deemed as a rejected falsehood.

Therefore, all Bidah in rituals and beliefs are prohibited but in various degrees. Some of these Bidah are tantamount to disbelief such as performing Tawaf (circumambulating) around tombs to solicit the blessing of its dwellers, sacrificing animals and offering vows to the dwellers of such tombs and soliciting their refuge. Such Bidah also include the false convictions of Al-Jahmiyyah and Al-Mu’tazillah. Some Bidah may be classified as preludes to disbelief such as establishing tombs and offering prayers there.

Some Bidah may be regarded as false beliefs such as the convictions of Al-Kharijiyyah (violent rebels) and Al-Murjiah (nullifiers of the necessity of good works) whose beliefs contradict with the established proofs of the Sharia. Other Bidah may be regarded as sins such as celibacy, observing fast when standing all the time in the intense heat of the sun, and castration with the intent of getting rid of sexual desire.

It might be worth mentioning here that those who classify Bidah into good and bad are mistaken. Their view contradicts the Prophetic Hadith in which he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) says, “Every Bidah is misguidance.” Hence, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) deems every Bidah as a deviation.

In his Sharh Al-Arba’in, the Commentary on Imam An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith, Al-Hafiz Ibn Rajab said:

“The Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying, ‘Every Bidah is misguidance’ is among the precisely meaningful expressions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). It is also held as one of the fundamental principles of religion. It is very similar to the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying, ‘He who does any act which does not conform to the principles of our religion, that acts is rejected.’ Therefore, every innovated matter in religion which is unjustifiably attached to Islam without any proof will be held as false. Our religion renounces such an innovative matter whatever it may be even if it includes beliefs, apparent deeds, explicit or implicit sayings.”

Those who classify Bidah into good and bad substantiate their view with the saying of Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), “What a good innovation!” He said this on the occasion of performing Tarawih (night prayers in Ramadan).

They further substantiate their view by arguing that our Salaf (righteous predecessors) did not reject some innovated matters such as the compiling of the Glorious Quran in a book and writing down the Prophetic Hadith.

To this, we may say that all these matters have a basis in the Sharia and are not, thus, held as Bidah.

As for the saying of Umar ibn Al-Khattab, he meant the linguistic connotation of the word Bidah rather than the legal connotation. Therefore, he meant that offering Tarawih in congregation is something new, yet substantiated by legal proofs.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) occasionally offered the Tarawih some nights. He abandoned observing it in congregation during the last nights of Ramadan lest it should be turned into an obligatory act of worship. The Companions offered it solitarily during the lifetime of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and after his death. They congregated upon the command of Umar ibn Al-Khattab, under the leadership of one Imam as they used to do during the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) who used to be their Imam.

Collecting the Glorious Quran in one book has a founded proof in the Sharia, since the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) commanded the Companions to write down the Quran. However, it was written on scattered materials, the Companions only collected it in one codex to preserve its content.

As for recording the Prophetic Hadith, it has its origins in the Sharia. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) commanded some of his Hadith to be written down for some of his Companions when asked to do so. The Prophetic Hadith were not collectively recorded during the lifetime lest it should be mixed with the Quranic text. When the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) died, the Quran was completely preserved and safeguarded and thus Muslims recorded the Prophetic Hadith to safeguard them from omission and deletion.

[Excerpt from Fawzān, S. F. (2009). Guide to sound creed: A book on Muslim creed and faith. Riyadh: Al-Maiman Publishing House]