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What is Bida’h or Bida’t (بدعة)?

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What is Bida’h or Bida’t (بدعة)?

Questions:

Q1. What is Bida’h or Bida’t (بدعة)? How many types are of Bida’h ? Is all types of Bida’h prohibited in Islam ?

Q2. What is “Bid’ah Hasana”? Is it Permissible?

Q3. A new thing introduced by Khulfa-e-Rashideen like 20 Rakah of Taraweeh, 2nd Azan of Jumah etc is also Bida’h? If not Why?


Answers:

Wa Alaikum As Salaam,

The scholars of the Ummah have given the definition of Bid’ah in many different ways, however the gist and summary is the same. Some of these definitions are:

1) Imam Nawawi writes: ‘Bid’ah is any invented thing that was not present at the time of the Messenger of Allah (S.A).’ (Mirqaat)

2) Hafiz Ibn Hajar Asqalani writes: ‘Bid’ah is that which is newly invented and there is no origin for it in the Shariah.’ (Fathul Baari)

3) Imam Shafi (A.R) has stated: ‘Bid’ah is any newly invented thing which opposes the Book of Allah or the Sunnah or the traditions or Ijma, then this is Bid’ah Dhalaal (innovation of misguidance)’. (Fathul Baari)

4) Hafiz Ibn Rajab Hanbali writes: ‘The meaning of Bid’ah is any new thing which has no origin indicating towards it in the Shariah. As for that which there is an origin indicating towards it from the Shariah, then it is not a Bid’ah even though it is a Bid’ah literally. (Jamiul Uloom Wal Hikam).

5) Hafiz Badrudeen Aini has written: ‘Bid’ah in reality means the act of bringing about something which was not present at the time of the Prophet (S.A)’. (Umadatul Qaari).

6) Allama Abu Ishaq Shatbi writes: ‘Bid’ah is a path in religion which has been invented, and seeks a resemblance to the Sacred Shariah. The purpose for practicing upon it is the same purpose one will have in practicing the Shariah itself’. (Al Hisaam)

From all these definitions it is established that Bid’ah is such a newly created, invented and innovated religious act which has no Shar’i evidence or source. The Quran, Hadith, Ijma and Shar’i Qiyas give no indication to it. That which has not been evident expressively or indicatively from the Prophet (S.A) through his words, actions approvals or disapprovals is not Deen and it cannot be evident in the Shariah.

Those things, the allowance of which has been granted through the words of the Prophet (S.A), his actions, approvals and disapprovals, and its presence was found during the time of the Prophet (S.A) or the period of the first three generations is not Bid’ah.

The meaning of Bid’ah which has been explained so far is the Shar’i technical meaning and in the Ahadith the word Bid’ah carries the above Shar’i meanings. However, during the first generation (i.e. the Sahabahs) and Tabieen times, sometimes, every new act (thing) was called Bid’ah (using its literal meaning) whether the act was evident in Shariah or not, eg. Umar (R.A) said about Taraweeh, ‘What a good Bid’ah this is’.

The usage of the word ‘bid’ah’ in these cases was only based on its literal meaning which is more general than the Shar’i meaning (for Bid’ah). Due to its literal meaning, and giving consideration to the word Bid’ah from a literal meaning point of view, Imam Shafi has explained that Bid’ah is of two types: 1) Mahmooda – (Good) 2) Mazmooma – (Bad)

Imam Shafi says: Bid’ah is of two types, good and bad. Whatever is in conformity to the Sunnah then it is good and whatever opposes it (the Sunnah) then it is bad. (Fathul Baari)

Similarly, Allama Izzudeen bin Abdis Salaam, giving consideration to its general meaning has divided Bid’ah into five types.

1) Waajib

2) Haram

3) Mandoob

4) Makrooh

5) Mubah

The gist of it is that Bid’ah with respect to its literal definition and implication, is sometimes good and sometimes bad. But with respect to the Shar’i technical meaning of Bid’ah it is never good, it is always bad.

Shar’i Bid’ah is of two types:

1) Bid’ah Itiqaadi (Bid’ah in beliefs)

2) Bid’ah Amali (Bid’ah in actions)

1) Bid’ah Itiqaadi is that a person or group chooses/adopts certain beliefs and ideologies which are opposing to the beliefs and ideologies of the Prophet (S.A) and the pious predecessors e.g. To believe that the Prophet (S.A) is Alimul Ghaib (knower of the unseen), or Hazir and Nazir (present everywhere and looking everywhere) or Mukhtar Kul (having full power and control).

In the same way the beliefs of the deviated sects (i.e. Shia, Khawarij, Mutazila, Qadriya, Jabriya etc) are all Bid’ah Itiqaadi. According to the Shar’i meaning of Bid’ah, they are all Ahlul Bid’ah (people of Bid’ah).

2) Bid’ah Amali (Bid’ah in actions) is that a person’s belief is correct but adopts certain practices which are not evident from the Prophet (S.A) or the pious predecessors e.g. building shrines over the grave, putting lights over the graves etc.

The 20 rakaah of Taraweeh is not known to be bid’ah in the Shariah, seeing that the idea of performing Taraweeh Salaat in Jamaat as well as performing 20 rakaats were already established during the life of the Prophet (SAS), and these were known to Umar (RA). What Umar (RA) referred to as Bid’ah was the fact that he gathered all the Muslims under one Imam for Taraweeh Salaah, instead of having them in small groups as they did before. This, he did in the presence of the Sahabahs and they all agreed to it. The other Khalifahs after him like Uthman (RA) and Ali (RA), as well as the other Sahabahs and Tabieen Scholars implemented this without hesitation and disapproval. Based on the explaination of ‘Bidah’ which I gave before, this act does not fall within the category of Bid’ah in Deen (religion). The usage of the word bid’ah by Umar (RA) was in its literal sense, which means that the manner in which he gathered all the Muslims under one Imam for Salaah at Taraweeh was not done in this way by the Prophet (SAS).

With respect to the 2nd Azan of Juma which was introduced by Uthman (RA), this also is not considered to be bidah in deen (religion). Uthman did this on account of a need at that time, and it was done in the presence of the great Sahabahs who approved it.

After the time of Uthman (RA), Ali (RA) and all the other Muslim leaders and great scholars implemented and practiced it without hesitation and disapproval. Here again, the definition which has been given for ‘bidah’ by the great scholars, show that this act of Uthman (RA) does not fall into the category of bid’ah in deen.

And Allah knows best,
Mufti Waseem Khan

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QUESTION

Could you kindly explain what is the correct opinion on the meaning and categories of bid’ah and whether according to the classical scholars a distinction was made between a good bida’h and an evil bida’h?

 

ANSWER

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

The word Bid’a (innovation) has two aspects to it, one being the linguistic definition, and the other, it’s meaning from a Shariah perspective.

Linguistically Bid’a means introducing something new, regardless of whether it is connected to religious affairs or other worldly matters, and regardless of whether one practices it considering it to be part of Deen or otherwise.

In the Shariah terminology, Bid’a means to introduce something in religion that was not done in the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), the rightly guided Khulafa (Allah be pleased with them all) and the early generations with the intention of gaining more reward, and despite being a need for it in the time of the Messenger of Allah and his Companions, it was not implemented verbally, practically, explicitly or implicitly. (Taken from Imam al-Barkawi’s al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, Imam Shatibi’s al-I’tisam and Imam al-Lakhnawi’s Iqamat al-Hujjah).

From the above definition of Bid’a, it becomes clear that new practices that are not considered to be part of Deen, rather they concern our worldly affairs, such as modern technology, cars, planes, etc… can not be considered as Bid’a, for the fact that they are not introduced with the intention of worship and gaining more reward. Innovations with regards to worldly matters do not fall into the category of reprehensible and sinful innovation, thus they are totally permissible as long as they don’t contradict any other ruling of Shariah.

Similarly, acts and practices that were carried out (verbally, practically, explicitly or implicitly) in the time of the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace), his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) and the early generation can also not be called an innovation.

Also, an act for which there was no apparent need in the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), his companions and the early generations, but later in order to attain a religious objective there rose a need to implement it, then this will also not fall within the definition of Bid’a. Examples of which are: building religious institutions, recording the research of Islamic schools of legal thought, writing books on beneficial subjects, establishing sciences in order to understand the Qur’an and Sunnah, using of modern weapons for Jihad, etc…

With the above definition of Bid’a, it also becomes clear that to innovate something in religion that had the same need in the early times, but was not carried out will be considered a Bid’a, thus unlawful.

Another aspect to remember with regards to Bid’a is that there are certain acts of worship which the Shariah has declared to be recommended (mandub) or highly encouraged (sunnah), but without specifying a particular procedure or method for it. Rewards have been promised for various types of worship, but the actual method of implementation has not been prescribed. This method of worship has been left to the convenience of the individual.

In such acts of worship, it is necessary to leave the general permission given by the Shariah. If a particular method is fixed or considered to be superior to other methods, then this will be impermissible and classed as Bid’a.

(This has been explained in a previous answer with examples. See the archives on this website.

Classification of Bid’a

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Beware of matters newly begun, for every matter newly begun is innovation and every innovation is misguidance.” (recorded by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad 4/126-127, Imam Abu Dawud, Imam Tirmidhi & Imam Ibn Majah in their respective Sunan collections with an authentic chain of narrators).

Due to the above Hadith, scholars say that from a perspective of the Shariah definition of Bid’a, every type of Bid’a is reprehensible and sinful. When an act is determined to fall into the abovementioned Shariah definition of Bid’a, then it can never be termed as good or lawful. All innovations are reprehensible and misguidance, thus unlawful.

Imam Malik (Allah be pleased with him) said:

“Whosoever innovates an innovation believing it to be good (hasana) has indeed claimed that the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) breached the trust of Prophethood, because Allah Almighty says: “This day I have perfected your religion for you”. Anything that was not part of religion on that day, can not be a part of religion today.” (al-I’tisam, 1/48).

However, Bid’a can be divided into various categories when considering the linguistic definition. As mentioned earlier, linguistically, Bid’a means to introduce something, thus any thing that is introduced will (from a linguistic point of view) be termed as Bid’a.

These innovations may be obligatory, recommended and unlawful. When scholars categorize innovations, this is the aspect they are referring to.

Therefore, innovations such as the study of the disciplines of Arabic that are necessary to understand the Qur’an and sunnah (grammar, syntax, etc), Hadith classification to distinguish between genuine and spurious prophetic traditions, modern technology like electricity, car, plain, light, building of Islamic schools, etc… despite being considered a Bid’a linguistically, will not be considered a Bid’a with regards to the Shariah definition, thus they are lawful.

Imam al-Lakhnawi explains this by quoting from al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya of Imam al-Barkawi:

“If it is said that how can we reconcile between the Messenger of Allah’s statement “Every innovation is misguidance” and the Fuqaha’s classification of Bid’a into the lawful, recommended and the obligatory?

We will say: Bid’a has a linguistic meaning that is general, which is to introduce, regardless of whether it is considered worship or is related to personal habits. It (Bid’a) also has a Shariah definition that is more specific, which is to add or remove in religion in a way that it was not done in the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) and his Companions, verbally, practically, explicitly or implicitly. Therefore, (the Shar’i Bid’a) does not include habits (worldly matters), rather it is restricted to certain beliefs and practices” (Iqamat al-Hujjah, P. 21-22).

Therefore, the classification of Bid’a in various categories is from a linguistic point of view that does not include the Shar’i definition of Bid’a. It is from this, Sayyiduna Umar al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) said regarding the performance of Tarawih prayer in congregation “This is a good innovation.”

Also, practices that do not fall into the Shariah definition of Bid’a such as building of religious schools will still be considered a Bid’a linguistically, but not all linguistic innovations are reprehensible.

Finally, it should also be remembered that practices carried out in the time of the rightly guided Khalifas, other Companions and their followers (Allah be plesed with all) can not be considered a Bid’a. The great Hanafi jurist and Hadith scholar, Imam Abd al-Hay al-Lakhnawi dedicated a whole chapter in support of this in his famous treatise titled ‘Iqamat al-hujjah ala an al-ikthar fi al-ta’abbud laysa bid’a’.

He states:

“Practices that were carried out with the approval of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) but were not done in the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), such as the introducing of the first Adhan for Jumu’ah prayer, twenty Rak’ats of Tarawih prayer, etc…can not be considered a Shar’i Bid’a.

There are many evidences for this, just to mention a few:

1) The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Hold fast on to my ways and the ways of the rightly guided Caliphs.” (Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Tirmidhi and others with an authentic chain of narrators).

2) The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “follow in the footsteps of the two after me, Abu Bakr and Umar.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah with a sound chain of narrators).

(See for more details: Iqamat al-Hujjah by Imam al-Lakhnawi with notes by Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda, P.25-58).

And Allah Knows Best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

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