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Bid’ah (Innovation)

Author: Various Mashaykh

Source: Various

Published: Saturday 15th August, 2015

Question: What is and what is not a Bid’ah (Innovation)?

Answer: 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 (صلى الله علیه وسلم) or his rightly guided successors (al-Khulafaa ar-Raashidoon).’

The first definition is taken from the aayah,

“Or have they partners with Allaah (false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allaah has not ordained?” [Soorah Ash-Shooraa (42):21]

The second definition is taken from the hadeeth of the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم), who said,

“I urge you to adhere to my way (Sunnah) and the way of the rightly-guided successors (al-Khulafaa ar-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 (صلى الله علیه وسلم) or his rightly-guided successors (al-Khulafaa ar-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 Islaam, 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 (صلى الله علیه وسلم) was warning us against.

And there is no such thing in Islaam as bid’ah hasanah (good innovation).

[Majmoo Fataawa of Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen, vol. 2, p. 291]

Question: What are the types of Bid’ah?

Answer: Bid’ah may be divided into two categories:

  1. Bid'ah which constitutes kufr (disbelief)
  2. Bid’ah which does not constitute kufr (disbelief)

Question: What is the definition of bid’ah which constitutes kufr and that which does not constitute kufr?

Answer: Shaykh Haafidh al-Hakamee - (رحمه الله) - 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 (صلى الله علیه وسلم) 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 (صلى الله علیه وسلم).

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.

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]

Question: What is the ruling on one who commits Bid’ah? Is he a Kaafir (disbeliever) or not?

Answer:The answer is that it depends.

If the bid’ah constitutes kufr, then the person is one of the following two types:

  1. Either it is known that his intention is to destroy the foundations of Islaam and make the Muslims doubt it. Such a person is definitely a kaafir; indeed, he is a stranger to Islaam and is one of the enemies of the faith.

  2. 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.

Question: How do we deal with those who commit bid’ah?

Answer: Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-Uthaymeen - (رحمه الله) - 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,

“And insult not those whom they (disbeliever's) worship besides Allaah, lest they insult Allaah wrongfully without knowledge.” [Soorah 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 (صلى الله علیه وسلم) 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]