BID’AH (INNOVATION) IN ISLAM
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger
Definition: The word bid`ah means something new or innovative. The general definition of bid`ah is any new belief or action for which there is no sanction or authorization in religion. Bid`ah could be in beliefs and it could be in practices. As Muslims, we are required to follow Allah and His Messenger. Almighty Allah says: “And this is a Book which We have revealed as a blessing: so follow it and be righteous, that you may receive mercy.” (Al-An`am 6: 155) “Then We put you on the (right) Way of Religion: so follow that (Way), and follow not the desires of those who know not.” (Al-Jathiyah 45:18) “Say: Obey Allah and His Messenger: but if they turn back, Allah loves not those who reject Faith.” (Aal `Imran 3:32) We must follow, obey and submit to Allah and His rules. There are, however, matters in Islam in which we are allowed to innovate, learn and change. In most of our worldly matters, the Shari`ah leaves us to make our own decisions. It is for this reason that the scholars say that the basic rule for all customs and habits is that of permissibility unless a legal evidence prohibits any of them. In other words, anything that is not expressly prohibited in the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah, is permissible. For example in the acts of worship, we have restrictions. Thus, when we do any prayer or do any act of worship we must have a proof from the Qur’an and Sunnah indicating that this type of prayer or worship is permissible. Similarly, when we say that something is forbidden (haram) or obligatory (fard) we must have a clear proof from the Shari`ah. However, there are many habits, customs and cultural ways of the past, present or future that are acceptable in the Shari`ah as long as they do not violate the clear texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah and the universal principles and objectives of Islamic law. All those customs and traditions that contain elements of unlawful beliefs and practices are forbidden in Islam. Also, those customs and habits are forbidden that are part of other religions, because in observing them one may resemble the people of other religions. The customs and traditions that are common, non-religious and non-sectarian are not forbidden in Islam. Graduation ceremonies, anniversaries, birthdays, national days etc. come in the permissible category of customs and habits. It is not forbidden to observe them, but one should also not make them compulsory because there is no sanction or authorization for such action.
Importance of avoiding Bid’ah as mentioned by our Prophet (pbuh )in his last sermon: O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O people, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray.
The Dangers of Bid’ah: Jaabir (R) narrated that Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) said, “: The best speech is the Book of Allah and the best guidance and example is that of Muhammad, and the worse of all things are the newly invented things (in the religion), for every innovation is a error and a misguidance.” (Muslim) “…Every innovation is a going astray and every going astray is in the fire.” (Tirmidhi) We can also see another consequence of falling into bid’ah by the following hadith, prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Verily I shall proceed you to the Fountain (Al-Kawthar). Whosoever will pass by me shall drink (from it) and never get thirsty. People whom I know and who will know me will certainly come to me for a drink but there will be a barrier between them and me. Then I will say, “Verily they are of me.’ It will be said, ‘You certainly do not know what bid’ah (innovation) they made after you.’ Then I shall say, “Be off those who made bid’ah after me.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
Importance of Knowledge to avoid falling into Bid’ah: Knowing what is in the Qur’an and Sunnah helps us from falling into bid’ah. Our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) warned us about what will happen when we do not have knowledge. He (pbuh) said, “Allah does not erase knowledge by erasing the knowledge from slaves. Rather He erases knowledge through the death of scholars. When He leaves (the earth) without scholars, people will take the ignorant as leaders. They will be asked and then give religious rulings without knowledge. Then they will be led, and will lead (others) astray.” (Ahmad)
Finally, I request you to please examine your beliefs and practices and bring them in accordance with the Qur’an and sunnah in order to be successful in this life and the hereafter.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Source: Excerpted, with some modification, from an article by Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, President Fiqh Council of North America