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The word bidah is defined as any invented way in the religion that is aimed at worshipping or drawing closer to Allah. This means anything that is not referring specifically to sharee’ah, and for which there is no evidence in the Quran or Sunnah, and which was not known at the time of the Prophet (saw) and his Companions (ra). It should be noted that religious innovations does not include worldly innovations, such as cars, planes, washing machines etc.

There are some misguided people who believe in something called bidah hasanah (good innovation) as the action or statement they are doing is perceived to be ‘good’, based on their intellects and understanding without confirming it with the Quran and Sunnah. These people resort to saying things like it must be good as we are doing it to please Allah.

Our response to that is that there is nothing good in innovation. The Prophet (saw) said:

Whoever innovates anything in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam), that is not part of it will have it rejected [Narrated by al-Bukhaari, no. 2697; al-Fath, 5/355]

Every innovation is a going astray [narrated by Ahmad, 4/126; al-Tirmidhi, no. 2676)

The ruling on innovations is that they are all misguidance, but this baseless argument suggests that not every bidah is a going astray, rather there are good innovations.

Al-Haafiz ibn Rajab said in (Sharh al-Arba’een): "The words of the Prophet (saw), ‘every innovation is a going astray’, is a concise but comprehensive comment which includes everything; it is one of the most important principles of religion. It is like his words ‘Whoever innovates anything in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam), that is not part of it will have it rejected’ *Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3/167, no. 2697; al-Fath, 5/355].

Whoever innovates anything and attributes it to Islam when it has no basis in the religion, this is a going astray and is nothing to do with Islam, whether that has to do with matters of belief (‘aqeedah) or outward and inward words and deeds.” (Jaami’ al-‘Uloom wa’l-Hakam, p. 233)

The Prophet (saw) stated repeatedly that: "Every newly-invented thing is a bid'ah (innovation), every bid'ah is a going astray, and every going astray will be in the Fire." (Reported by al-Nisaa'i in al-Sunan, Salaat al-'Eedayn, Baab kayfa al-Khutbah. Reports with the same meaning were narrated via Jaabir (ra) by Ahmad, via al-'Irbaad ibn Saariyah by Abu Dawud and via Ibn Mas'ood (ra) by Ibn Maajah)

The Prophet (saw) used to say, when beginning a khutbah (sermon): "… The best of speech is the Book of Allaah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The worst of things are those which are newly-invented, and every innovation is a going astray…" (reported by Muslim, no. 867)

If every bidah is a going astray, how can some people then say that there is such a thing in Islam as ‘bidah hasanah’? By Allaah, this is an obvious contradiction of the statement and warning of the Prophet (saw).

The Prophet (saw) stated that whoever innovates something new in the deen will have his deed rejected, and Allaah will not accept it, as is stated in the hadeeth narrated by Aa'ishah (ra), who said: “The Messenger of Allaah (saw) said: 'Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours that is not a part of it will have it rejected.'" (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath al-Baari, no. 2697 and similar one in Muslim 1718).

Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Sharh Muslim (12/16): What this means is that such deeds are invalid and do not count. This hadeeth represents an important principle of Islam, and it is an example of the concise speech of the Prophet (saw). It is a clear rejection of every innovation. This hadeeth should be memorized and used to demonstrate the invalidity of reprehensible actions and should be propagated as evidence against all innovations.

Based on this how can anybody then say that bidah is acceptable and it is permitted to follow it?

When a person innovates something and adds to the deen something that does not belong to it, he is implying a number of bad things, each worse than the last, for example:

That the religion is lacking, that Allaah did not complete and perfect it, and that there is room for improvement. This clearly contradicts the statement in the Qur'aan:

"… This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion…" *al-Maa'idah 5:3]

That the religion remained imperfect from the time of the Prophet (saw) until the time when this innovator came along and completed it with his own ideas.

That the Prophet (saw) was "guilty" of either of two things: either he was ignorant of this "good innovation," or he knew about it but concealed it, thus letting his ummah down by not conveying it.

That the Prophet (saw, his Companions and the righteous salaf (early generations) missed out on the reward of this "good innovation" - until this innovator came along and earned it for himself, despite the fact that he should’ve realised that if it was truly good then the early generations would have been the first to do it!

Opening the door to bid'ah leads to changing the deen and opens the way for personal whims and opinions, because every innovator implies that what he is introducing is something good, so whose opinion are we supposed to follow, and which of them should we take as a leader?

Following bidah leads to the cancelling out of sunnah practices and the ways of the salaf.

Real life bears witness that whenever a bidah is followed, a sunnah practice dies out; the reverse is also true.

The people that endorse this false idea of ‘good bidah’ have no proofs except for the words of ‘Umar (ra) concerning Taraaweeh prayers, What a good innovation this is[Saheeh al- Bukhaari, 2/252, no. 2010 mu’allaqan; al-Fath 4/294].

They also say that things were innovated which were not denounced by the salaf, such as compiling the Qur’aan into one volume and writing and compiling the hadeeth.

The response to that is that these matters had a basis in Islam, so they were not newly- invented.

‘Umar said: “What a good bid’ah” meaning innovation in the linguistic sense, not in the shar’i sense. Whatever has a basis in Islam, if it is described as an innovation, is an innovation in the linguistic sense, not in the shar’i sense, because innovation in the shar’i sense means that which has no basis in Islam. Compiling the Qur’aan into one book has a basis in Islam, because the Prophet (saw) had commanded that the Qur’aan be written down, but it was scattered, so the Sahaabah compiled it in one volume as to protect and preserve it.

The Prophet (saw) led his companions in praying Taraaweeh for a while, then he stopped doing that, lest that become obligatory on them. The Sahaabah (ra) continued to pray it separately during the life of the Prophet (saw) and after his death, until ‘Umar ibn al- Khattaab (ra) gathered them behind one imaam as they used to pray behind the Prophet (saw). This was not an innovation introduced into the religion, rather it was a revival.

Writing down the hadeeth also has a basis in Islam. The Prophet (saw) ordered that some ahaadeeth should be written down for some of his companions when they asked him for that. In general terms writing it down during his lifetime was not allowed, for fear that the Qur’aan might be mixed with things that were not part of it.

When the Prophet (saw) died, this fear was no longer a factor, because the Qur’aan had been completed and arranged in order before he died. The Muslims compiled the Sunnah after that in order to preserve it and keep it from being lost.

May Allaah reward them with good on behalf of Islam and the Muslims, because they preserved the Book of their Lord and the Sunnah of their Prophet (saw) from being lost or being tampered with.