A Few Notes on the Evils of Innovation.
by Brother Abû Rumaysah
The Deen is complete
"this day have I perfected your religion for you, completed
my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islaam as your religion"
This verse embodies a clear statement that the religion has been completed and so has no need of addition and deletion, and our noble Messenger (SAW) said, "there is nothing that Allaah ordered you with except that I have ordered you with it, and there is nothing that Allaah forbade you from except that I have forbidden you from it" (al-Bayhaqee and others)
And he (SAW) said,
"there is nothing that will take you closer to paradise but
that I have enjoined it upon you, and there is nothing that will take you
closer to hell but that I have warned you from it"
So the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) fulfilled the trust placed upon him by Allaah
completely, explaining the religion to the people in it's inward and outward
form, making clear the lawful from the prohibited, the encouraged from the
discouraged, even to the extent that he taught us the manners of going to the
toilet, the manners of having sex with our partners etc.
Allaah says in His Book,
"and We have revealed to you a Book explaining everything"
and He says,
"We have neglected nothing in the Book"
So in the Qur'aan is explained the principles of the religion, tawheed in
all it's various categories, even to the extent that it teaches us the manners
of sitting in circles, visiting other peoples houses, the correct clothing
The Importance of Sticking to the Sunnah
Allaah says, "indeed you have in the Messenger of Allaah an
excellent example for the one who hopes in Allaah and looks to the Last
He also says,
"so if you obey him (i.e. Muhammad), then you will be guided"
The Messenger of Allaah said,
"I have left behind me two things, if you cling to them you
will never go astray. They are the Book of Allaah and my Sunnah"
And he (SAW) also said,
"…and you will live to see great difference, so cling to my
sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs after me, even if it be
with your teeth"
The Taabi'ee, the Imaam, az-Zuhree commented,
"clinging to the sunnah is to be saved, as Imaam Maalik said, 'like the Ark
of Noah', he who embarked upon it was saved, and he who did not was
In these narrations is clear evidence that the way of salvation and safety
is to closely follow the Sunnah of our Prophet (SAW), and not to deviate from
his path, not accepting the guidance of another individual, nor accepting a
corrupted form of the Sunnah. Allaah says, "and whosoever contends with the
Messenger after guidance has been made clear to him, and follows a way other
than the way of the believers, We shall leave in the path he has chosen, and
land him in Hell, what an evil destination!"
The Sunnah shall become corrupted
We are taught in the revelation that the Sunnah shall
become corrupted and this corruption would become the norm, so much so that
the people who follow the Sunnah would become as strangers, and those that
call to purifying the sunnah would be slandered and reviled.
The Prophet (SAW) said, "Islaam began as something strange,
and it shall return as something strange as it began. So Tooba (a tree in
paradise) to the strangers." It was asked, "who are the strangers?" He
replied, "those that purify and correct what the people have corrupted of my
And what is this corruption, it is none other than innovation, introducing
into the pure religion of Allaah new ways of worshipping Him that He has not
taught, blemishing His religion with our whims and desires, something that
Allaah Himself condemns,
"or do they have partners that legislate some religion which
Allaah has not given permission for?"
The Companion, Abdullaah ibn Mas'ud laments,
"how will it be when the trials overcome you, in which the
young grow old and the old grow senile. And the people take the bid'ah as
the sunnah, and when it changes they say: the sunnah has changed. It was
said: when will this be O Abu Abdurrahmaan? He replied: when your speakers
are many and your scholars are few, and the wealthy ones are plenty and the
trustworthy ones are few."
How true this statement is today, that the innovations have become so
widespread in the religion that the people have taken then to be the Sunnah.
And when the true scholar speaks out against these innovations he is labelled
as a 'wahhabi' by the people because to them it seems that he is changing the
sunnah. To Allah we complain of the ignorance of our times!
Only Allaah (SWT) has the right to tell us how to worship Him
"follow that which has been revealed to you from your Lord,
and do not follow as Friends and Protectors other than Him"
From the tafseer of this verse we learn that this verse is a categorical
statement that the privilege to tell people how to worship Allaah belongs to
Allaah Alone. And how could it be otherwise when the true meaning of ibaadah
is to worship Allaah in a way which He is Pleased with and not according to
"and who is more astray then the one who follows his own
whims and desires devoid of revelation"
In this regard the Prophet (SAW) said,
"I warn you of the newly invented matters (in the
religion),and every newly invented matter is an innovation, and every
innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire"
And he (SAW) used to say at the beginning of his lectures,
"….and the best speech is the Speech of Allah, and the best
guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (SAW), and the worst of all affairs are
the newly invented matters (in the religion)"
And he (SAW) commanded us,
"whosoever does an action which we have not commanded then it
must be rejected."
"whosoever introduces into this religion of ours that which
is not part of it then it must be rejects"
'And in this hadeeth is a clear evidence that every action which is not
legislated in the sharee'ah must be rejected' [Jaami al-Ulum of ibn Rajab
So every bid'ah that is introduced in the religion has to be rejected because only Allaah and His Messenger (SAW) have the right to legislate in the sharee'ah of Islaam.
Hence in the light of what has preceded we can now give the formal Sharee'ah definition of bid'ah:
"a newly invented way (in beliefs and actions) in the religion, in imitation of the Sharee'ah, by which nearness to Allaah is sought, not being supported by any authentic proof, neither in it's foundations nor in the manner in which it is performed." [al-I'tisaam 1/231 of ash-Shaatibee]
And in what has preceded is ample evidence for any fairminded Muslim that all bid'ah is blameworthy, and in fact a major sin. But unfortunately the Muslims are in such a state today that the words of Allaah and His Messenger (SAW) are no longer enough to convince them and certain groups of people have come up with belief that has very frail grounds in the Sunnah. The belief of 'bid'ah hasanah', i.e. a good bid'ah, meaning that a scholar can introduce a new action of worship in Islaam which can be considered to be good as long it does not contradict any of the principles of Islaam. So we resort to the sayings of the Companions and the Imaams to illuminate the road ahead of these people.
The sayings of the Companions
Abdullaah ibn Umar (RA) states,
"every innovation is misguidance, even if the people regard it as good."
This narration is enough to demolish the concept of 'a good bid'ah', for
you have amongst the most knowledgeable companions of Muhammad (SAW) saying
the exact opposite. So who do you choose to follow, ibn Umar or these modern
day Shaykhs and Mullahs who are Imaams of their own whims and desires.
Abdullaah ibn Abbaas (RA) said,
not sit with the people of innovation, for verily their sittings are a
sickness for the hearts"
Mu'aadh bin Jabal (RA) used to say, whenever he sat in a circle of
"…and I warn you of what is innovated, for all that is innovated is
Abdullaah ibn Mas'ud (RA) said,
"follow the sunnah of Muhammad and do not innovate, for what you have been
commanded is enough for you."
Hudhayfah bin al-Yaman said,
"every act of worship that the Companions did not do, do not do it"
Is this not enough? That the Companions tell us to follow the way of
Muhammad (SAW) and not to make up new ways of worship? "whomsoever Allaah guides to the
truth, none can misguide him, and whomsoever Allaah misguides, none can
The sayings of the Second and Third generation scholars
Hasan al-Basree said,
not sit with the people of innovation, do not debate with them or listen to
Abul Aaliyah said,
"learn Islaam. Then when you have learned Islaam, do not turn away from it
to the right or to the left. But be upon the Straight Path and be upon the
Sunnah of your Prophet and that which his companions were upon…And beware of
these innovations because they cause enmity and hatred amongst you, but
stick to the original state of affairs that was there before they divided."
"innovations are more beloved to Satan than sin. Since a sin mat be repented
from but an innovation is not repented from"
This is because the innovator believes that he is doing something good and
therefore sees no need to repent.
He also said, "…so cling to the original state of affairs" [al-Hilya
6/376] meaning stick to the Way of Muhammad (SAW) and his Companions.
Imaam al-Awzaa'ee said,
"patiently restrict yourselves to the sunnah, stop where the people stopped,
say what they said, avoid what they avoided. Take to the path of the salaf,
for indeed what was sufficient for them was sufficient for you."
Ibraaheem al-Masayrah said,
who honours an innovator has assisted in the demolition of Islaam"
The sayings of the Later Imaams
Imaam Abu Haneefah said,
"stick to the narrations and the way of the salaf, and beware of the newly
invented matters for all of it is innovation"
Imaam Maalik said,
who innovates an innovation in Islaam regarding it as something good, has
claimed that Muhammad (SAW) has betrayed his trust to deliver the message as
Allaah says, 'this day have I perfected for you your religion'. And
whatsoever was not part of the religion then, is not part of the religion
He also said,
evil are the People of Innovation, we do not give them salaam"
Imaam Ahmad said,
fundamental principles of the sunnah with us are:….avoiding innovations and
every innovation is misguidance"
As for the narrations from Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee in which he categorises
bid'ah into two, then it is weak as all of it's chains of narrations depend
upon unknown narrators. [al-Bid'ah of Shaykh Saleem al-Hilaalee, al-Masaabeeh
fee Salaatit Taraaweeh of as-Suyutee with Alee Hasans footnotes] and even if
it were authentic then it would be understood in the linguistic sense as
explained by ibn Rajab and others.
Imaam Bukhaaree said,
have met more than a thousand scholars….(then he mentioned the names of the
more prominent in each of the lands that he travelled in)…and I found that
they all agreed on the following points:…they all used to prohibit bid'ah -
that which the Prophet and his Companions were not upon, because of the
saying of Allaah, 'and hold fast to the rope of Allaah and do not separate'"
What I have narrated here is just a small number of the many narrations
that I have in front of me from various books, I have tried to quote as best
to my ability only authentic narrations, and Allaah knows best. It is good to
know that the early Imaams were prolific in writing and warning against
bid'ah, and even today we have a number of books from them dealing just with
this topic. Amongst them: al-Bid'ah of al-Qarnushi, al-Bid'ah of ibn Waddah,
al-I'tisaam of ash-Shaatibee and many more. So once this topic becomes clear,
a truth that none can deny, then know that all these innovations in the
religions are a clear denial of the above mentioned verses and ahaadeeth, for
none were done by the Companions.
So I leave you with the hadeeth of the Prophet (SAW), "….so he follows my sunnah has
been guided, and he who follows the innovations has been destroyed."
The arguments of the misguided
Know that every example that the misguided bring from the actions of the
companions to prove their belief of a 'good innovation', is invalid and it
just shows their weak understanding of the Sunnah of Muhammad (SAW), for all
of these examples have a clear basis in the Sharee'ah, or occurred due to
necessity, or from ijtihaad. Insha'allaah I will mention a few of their
When Umar (RA) was caliph, he collected the Muslims to pray in congregation
for taraaweeh prayers and said, "what a good bid'ah this is" (Bukhaaree),
Evidence is derived from this for 'bid'ah hasanah' but of course they have
misunderstood the true intent of Umar which can be clearly understood if one
were to quote the context of this narration.
When the Prophet (SAW) first prayed taraaweeh, the Muslims used to pray
taraaweeh individually or in small groups, and then for three nights they
prayed in one congregation behind the Prophet (SAW), and after this he stopped
them doing so by saying, "I feared that it would become obligatory upon you."
So after this again, the Muslims would pray individually or in small groups,
and they remained like this throughout the rule of Abu Bakr and the beginning
of the rule of Umar. Then Umar came to the Mosque and saw the Muslims praying
in small groups and so gathered them as one jamaa'ah to pray behind Ubayy bin
Ka'b and Tameem ad-Daaree and stated the above phrase. This context is
reported in Bukhaaree, the Muwatta and others.
how can the action of Umar be considered to be new when the Prophet (SAW) did
it in his lifetime. Not only that but the Muslims were also in the habit of
praying in small groups as well. Hence the praying of taraaweeh in jamaa'ah
was well established in the sunnah and the practice of the sahaabah?
The Prophet (SAW) gave the reason why he stopped the congregational prayer,
for the revelation was still descending, and he feared that praying in
obligation might become obligatory upon his nation, and that this might lead
to be hard on them. After the death of Muhammad (SAW) revelation ceased so
this fear was no longer present. Hence Umar (RA) reinstated the congregation
during his rule because he knew his action could not be made obligatory upon
all the companions agreed to this action of Umar (RA), there was a consensus
(ijmaa) on this. And the scholars of usul have stated that a consensus cannot
occur except when there is a clear text for it in the Sharee'ah.
So how do we understand this statement of Umar, "what a good bid'ah this is"
when this action that Umar called a bid'ah was done by the Prophet (SAW)?
Bid'ah here can only be understood in it's linguistic sense and not in it's
Sharee'ah sense i.e. when Umar said this he did not mean it in the legal sense
that we may understand it today. For how many are the words that mean one
thing in the language, but another thing in the Sharee'ah! The linguistic
sense is: something new, because praying in one congregation was not present
in the rule of Abu Bakr and the earlier period of his own rule.
Hence Abu Yusuf said,
asked Abu Haneefah about the taraaweeh and what Umar did and he replied,
'the taraaweeh is a stressed sunnah, and Umar did not do that from his own
opinion, and neither was there in his action any innovation, and he did not
enjoin it except that there was a foundation for it with him and
authorisation from the Prophet…"
"whosoever starts in Islaam a good practice (sunnah), he gets the reward of
it and the reward of all those that act on it. And whosoever starts in
Islaam an evil practice (sunnah), he gets the evil of it and the evil of all
those that act on it."
The evidence they derive from this is that people can invent new practices
in Islaam that are either good or bad. But were they to take this hadeeth in
it's full context then it would not be possible to infer such a thing.
The context of the hadeeth states that a group of poor people came to the
Prophet (SAW) so he asked those around him to give charity, but no-one came
forward - so much so that signs of anger could be discerned on the face of
Muhammad (SAW), so one of the companions stepped forward and gave charity and
then the Prophet (SAW) mentioned the above statement.
the word sunnah used in the hadeeth must be understood in it's linguistic
sense (i.e. practice) not it's sharee'ah sense (i.e. the life example of
Muhammad (SAW)) because otherwise it would imply that there is something bad
in the sunnah.
This companion who gave charity, did not do anything new, for giving charity
had been legislated from the very early days of Islaam as the Makki Surahs
prove, rather he was simply implementing an already legislated matter. So the
statement of the Prophet (SAW), 'a good sunnah' was said at a time when the
people were reluctant to give charity, so one man gave it and then others
followed him - i.e. he RENEWED a sunnah that was being neglected - this is the
meaning of 'good practice' - renewing an already existing sunnah.
Hence we do not stick just to the specific occurrence in the hadeeth, but we generalise it's intent as it's wording is general as is established in usul. The intent of this hadeeth is renewing the Sunnah at a time that it has been neglected. This is why the early scholars of Islaam included this hadeeth under chapter heading such as, "the reward of the one who renews the sunnah" [as done by the 4th century Imaam al-Laalikaa'ee in his encyclopaedic work detailing the belief of Ahlus Sunnah, 'Sharh Usul I'tiqaad Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa'ah']
the meaning of 'bad sunnah' is to be understood in a similar vein, i.e. the
one who renews an evil act will get it's evil…. and the Prophet (SAW) gave the
example of the two sons of Adam one killing the other, so the one who killed
got the sin of that action and the sin of all those that would kill in the
future without their sins decreasing. And killing had been forbidden from the
time of the first Prophet (AS) to the last (SAW).
Fourthly: the hadeeth uses the terms 'good' and 'bad', and from what has preceded it is clear that Islaam has already defined in it's totality all that it is good and bad, and if we were to say otherwise we would then be accusing the religion of incompleteness and deficiency. This is why Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee rejected Istihsaan (declaring something to be good that was not already done so by the Sharee'ah) by saying, "whosoever declares something good has declared it part of the Sharee'ah"
courtesy of www.islaam.net)