IN the first part we discussed Bid’ah in matters of religion and its prohibition in Islam; the difference between Aadah and Ibadah, and that all types of Bid’ah are only prohibited in the category of Ibadah. In this part we will check the most common arguments that support ‘good innovations’ or ‘Bid’ah Hasana’ in the religion, though the evidence and proof cited earlier is in itself clear.
The reference people give for the validity of Bid’ah Hasana is usually Umar Ibn Al-Khattab’s statement on Taraweeh prayers. During his caliphate, Umar (may Allah pleased with him) saw people in the masjid praying Taraweeh separately or in different groups. He united them into one congregation under one Imam and said, “Ni’matu Bid’atu Hadhihi (What a good innovation this is!).” (Al-Bukhari, vol. 3, book 32, no. 228)
On the face of it, it does seem to be confusing a little. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has warned several times that all types of Bid’ah are prohibited, and the great Sahabi Umar says something different?
Firstly, what Umar did was not at all a Bid’ah; on the contrary, he revived a Sunnah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) led Taraweeh prayers for three nights during Ramadan. Each night the congregation increased in number. The fourth night, when many more had gathered, the Prophet (peace be upon him) intentionally did not come out to the masjid to lead the prayers. He explained following morning after Fajr prayer, “O people, by Allah, all praise is due to Him, I was not unaware of your presence last night, but I only feared that the night prayer (Qiyam) would become an obligation upon you, which you would be incapable of fulfilling.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) cited the reason: he feared that it may be made obligatory and then it would be difficult for his Ummah to fulfill it. That was the considerate nature of our Prophet (peace be upon him). However, after his death, this reason ceased to exist, as no more revelation would come down, the religion was complete and nothing else could be made obligatory or otherwise. So what Umar did was not an innovation, but a revival of the Sunnah.
Secondly, scholars have explained that Umar did not mean the Bid’ah in Shariah terminology; he was only saying it in a literal sense. Remember that the word Bid’ah doesn’t necessarily mean the Bid’ah in religion. It’s an Arabic word, it can be used in different contexts, and Arabs do use it in different contexts, and that’s how all languages are. So, Umar’s reference is purely linguistic, meaning something new, but not ‘innovation in religion.’ (Refer to “A clarification of doubts regarding innovation” by Sheikh Saleh Al-Fowzan, extracted from his book Kitab Al-Tawheed)
In conclusion, it is best to present some of the statements of our pious predecessors regarding Bid’ah, which makes the issue crystal clear:
u Al-Irbad Bin Saireyah narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I advise you to hear and obey, even if an African slave rules over you, and indeed whomsoever from you lives will see many differences, so hold firmly to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly-guided caliphs after me; hold on to it with your molar teeth and beware of newly invented matters (in the religion). Verily every newly invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is destined for the Fire.” (Sahih – Abu Dawood no. 4607, Al-Tirmidhi no. 2676, Ibn Majah no. 43-44, Ahmad 4/126)
u Abdullah Bin Mas’ood said: “Follow and do not innovate, for you have been given what is sufficient and every innovation is misguidance.” (Reported by Abu Khaithamah in Kitabul- ‘llm, Sahih)
u Abdullah Bin Umar said: “Every innovation is misguidance even if people regard it to be something good.” (Reported by Ad-Daarimee with an authentic transmission)
u Imam Sufyan Ath-Thawri said, “Innovation is more beloved to Iblees than sin, since a person makes repentance of sin but does not repent from innovations (because he thinks Bid’ah is from the religion).” (Al-Laalikaa’ee in As-Sunnah, no.238)
u Imam Malik said: “He who innovates something in Islam regarding it as something good has claimed that Muhammad has failed to deliver the Message which he was entrusted to do as Allah says:
Today I have Perfected your Deen for you. (Qur’an, 5:3)
Whatever was not Deen at the time of the Prophet cannot be considered to be a part of the Deen today.” (Reported by Ash-Shaatibee in AI-l’tisaam) – SG