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The Danger of Bid’ah (Innovation) -

Shaad Ahmed

Bid’ah is taken from the word Al-Bada’ meaning to create something without precedence. One needs to distinguish between the two kinds of bid’ah. The first type is innovation in matters of the world in technology, medicine, computers, etc. This is allowed because it involves matters of life. The second kind of bid’ah is innovation in matters of religion, and this is the bid’ah which this article is focusing on.

‘Aisha(R) reported Muhammad(S) said: "Whoever innovates into this affair of ours something that we have not commanded it is to be rejected" (Bukhari and Muslim)

Jaabir (R) narrated Muhammad(S) said, "To proceed: 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)

This shows us there are no acceptable innovations in Islam. People often point to the statement of Umar (R) when talking about the tarawih prayer in Ramadan, "What a good bid’ah this is." We can see Umar (R) simply revived the praying of tarawih and it was not something which he did which was not done by Muhammad (S). We can not do something in Islam which was not done by Muhammad (S) and the Sahaba (companions of Prophet Muhammad (S)).

Allah says (what means):

"This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion" (Al-Maidah 5: 3)

Our religion is already perfect, so doing some deed which is not found in the Qur’an and Sunnah, one seems to think they have come up with a better version of Islam than Allah revealed did. May Allah keep us away from doing such deeds. For Allah tells us about doing something other than the way Muhammad (S) did:

"And let those who oppose the Messenger’s way beware, lest some conflict befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them." (Al-Noor 24:62)

Allah has warned us by telling us what happened to the people of the Book.

"Say, O people of the Book exceed not the bounds in your religion, trespassing beyond the truth. Nor follow the vain desires of people who went astray in times gone by, who mislead many and strayed from the even way. Curses were pronounced on those among the children of Israel who were disbelievers, by the tongue of David and of Jesus son of Mary, because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses." (Al-Maidah 5:77-78)

We can also see another consequence of falling into bid’ah by the following hadith, Muhammad (S) 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 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)

Abdullah Ibn Masood narrated, "The Messenger of Allah (S) drew a line for us and then said, ‘This is Allah’s Straight Path.’ Then he drew lines to its right and left, then he said, ‘These are paths, upon every one of them there is a devil calling towards it.’ (Ahmad)

Then he (Muhammad (S)) recited (from the Qur’an (what means)):

"Verily this is My Straight path, so follow it and follow not (other) paths, they   will separate you away from His path. This He has ordained for you that you may become pious." (Al-Anam 6:153)

We have been warned that our Muslim Ummah would be split as Prophet Muhammad (S) said:

"Those evils that befell the children of Israel shall befall my Ummah, so much that if there was one amongst them that openly committed fornication with his mother there would be one among my Ummah who would do that too. And the children of Israel split into seventy-two sects and my Ummah shall split into seventy-three sects all of them in the fire except one group." The Sahaba asked, ‘Which one is that O Messenger?’ He said, "It is the one to which I and my companions belong." (Tirmidhi)

The Sahaba’s Opinion Concerning Bid’ah

Amr ibn Yahya narrated his father told him, "We used to sit at Abdullah Ibn Masood’s house before Fajr prayer. If he exited we would follow him to the musjid. Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari then came to us and asked us, ‘Did Abu Abur-Rahman (Abdullah Ibn Masood) come out yet?’ We said, ‘No’, so he sat with us till he emerged. We all stood up when he exited. He (Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari) said, ‘O Abu Adur-Rahman, I just saw something which I did not recognize, and I did not see, all thanks to Allah, but good.’ He (Ibn Masood) said, ‘What is it?’ He (Abu Musa) said, ‘If you live you will see it. I saw in the musjid people sitting in circles waiting for the prayer. In each circle there is a leader, and they have stones in their hands. He (the leader) would say, ‘Say Takbir (Allahu Akbar) 100 times’, so they say Takbir 100 times. He (the leader) would then say, ‘Say Tahil (La Ilaha Illa Allah) 100 times’, so they say Tahil 100 times. He (the leader) would then say, ‘Say Tasbih (Subhana Allah) 100 times’, so they say Tasbih 100 times. Ibn Masood said, ‘Did you not order them to count their evil deeds, and guarantee them that none of their good deeds will be lost?’ Then he and us left till we reached one of the circles. Then he (Ibn Masood) stood next to the circle and said, ‘What are you doing?’ They said, ‘O Abu Abdur-Rahamn, (these are) stones that we count our Takbir, Tahil, tasbih, and Tah’mid (Alhumdu’lillah).’ Ibn Masood said, ‘Count your evil deeds, for I guarantee that none of your good deeds will be lost. What is the matter with you, O nation of Muhammad? How soon you come to your destruction! The companions (of Muhammad) are still many, these are his clothes still not worn out and his cookware did not break yet. By whom my soul is in His Hands, you are either following a religion better than Muhammad’s or followers of a way of evil.’ They said, ‘By Allah, O Abu Abdur-Rahman, we sought only what is good.’ Ibn Masood said, ‘Many people seek good, but they do not reach it. The Messenger told us some people who read the Qur’an will not have the Qur’an leave their throats (to their hearts). By Allah I do not know if most of you are from them.’ Then he left them. Amr Ibn Salamah said, ‘We saw most of those people fighting against us, in the battle of Nahrawan with the Khawarij.’" (Tirmidhi)

Once a man sneezed in the presence of Ibn Umar and said, "Praise be to Allah and peace be upon the Messenger.’ Ibn Umar chastised the man and said, "The Prophet has only taught us to say Alhumdu’lillah." (Tirmidhi)

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. Muhammad (S) warned us about what will happen when we do not have knowledge. He (S) 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)

Allah warns us about blindly following somebody.

"When it is said to them, ‘Follow what Allah has sent down.’ They say, ‘No! We shall follow what we found our fathers following. What! Even though their fathers were void of knowledge and guidance?’ (Al-Baqarah 2:170)

Allah also says (what means):

"If you were to follow most of them on earth they will lead you away from the way of Allah. They follow nothing but conjecture, they do nothing but lie." (Al-Anam 6:116)

So whenever we do an act pertaining to Islam, we should know why we are doing that act. We should know the proofs from the Qur’an and the Sunnah to save ourselves and to better educate people.

We might find people opposing us if we turn away from customary acts and other deeds (such as Mawlid (Milad), having 786 as Bismilllah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem, saying one’s intention out loud before prayer, etc.) which people have incorporated with Islam, but we know Muhammad (S) said the following: "Islam started as something strange, and it would go back to being strange, so good tidings for the strangers." (Muslim) and in another narration, "So give glad tidings to the strangers, those who put right what the people have corrupted of my Sunnah." (Tirmidhi)

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