The religion of Islam was transmitted to the world through
Prophet Muhammad (sws) in its entirety. However, an above-the-ground view shows
that certain new practices have been added to the corpus of Islam that were not
present at the time of the Prophet (sws). People give various arguments for and
against these practices. The term Bid‘ah and its implications have been
discussed below in some detail. We hope that the readers will benefit from this
Muneeb: Any new innovation is Bid‘ah if it goes
against the Qur’ān and demolishes Sunnah. A Hadīth in Mishkāt quotes: ‘whosoever
introduces a new belief in religion that contradicts it should be rejected.
Beware of innovations, for every innovation (kullu Bid‘ah) is misguidance’.
However, another narrative in the same book quotes: ‘He, who sets a good
precedent in Islam, there is reward for him for this (act of goodness) and a
reward for him who follows the act subsequently, without any deduction from the
reward of the initiator. And he, who sets an evil precedent in Islam, bears its
burden along with the burden of he who acts upon it subsequently, without any
deduction from the burden of the follower.’
If we presume that every new act introduced in Islam is
Bid‘ah, would the following also fall under the same category: compilation of
the Qur’ān after the death of Muhammad (sws), congregational Tarāwīh prayer
introduced by ‘Umar (rta), calling Iqāmah introduced by ‘Uthmān (rta)?
Razi Allah: In the corpus of Hadīth and Athār
attributed to the Prophet (sws) and his companions (rta), Bid‘ah has been used
to denote both the literal as well as the terminological sense of the word. When
used as a term, we have such Ahādīth as you have quoted in the first part of
your post. But it has also been used in its literal sense which implies
‘beginning’ or ‘initiation’ of something. Hence, the Ahādīth which talk of
reward for a good precedence. The use of the term Bid‘ah today has become rather
loose in that most issues which should not be given any religious semblance have
been dragged within the ambit of Bid‘ah. As for the compilation of the Qur’ān
and Tarāwīh prayers, there is precedence for these in the Prophet’s (sws) life.
The addition of a second Ādhān by ‘Uthman (rta) was to achieve the purpose of
Ādhān more effectively. Quite similar is our use of loud speakers today to
amplify the voice of the Mu’adhin, which is not a Bid‘ah but a means to achieve
the end effectively.
Amatullahi: The word Bid‘ah is misinterpreted many a
times. According to most scholars, there is no such thing as good Bid‘ah. The
Arabic grammar scholars assert that when the word ‘kullu’ comes before a
‘Nakira’ (i.e. an indefinite article) as in this report; ‘kullu Bid‘atin’ it
means that there is no exception to it. ‘Kullu’ envelopes everything in toto.
The Bid‘ah referred to by the Prophet (sws) is the one
introduced in worship only. Anything new that makes life easier like riding a
car, traveling by air, eating using cutlery, using microphones, and listening to
radio, etc, cannot be termed as Bid‘ah. It is indeed innovation but not the one
Muneeb: From the discussion above, I gather that
Bid‘ah is not misguidance as long as it is employed for the propagation of Islam
and is misguidance when it is introduced in worship only.
Razi Allah: When any belief, action or concept is
added to the corpus of Islam, without any basis for it in the teachings or
actions of the Prophet (sws), such an addition is Bid‘ah. Clearly this
definition is not just limited to acts of worship. There are many other ideas
that we form and many actions we undertake which have no religious sacredness
per se and no one considers them obligatory parts of or additions to the corpus
of Islam. These ideas and actions may very well be for the propagation of Islam
such as starting an Islamic website or initiating a forum for discussion on
Islamic issues but are not and cannot be deemed additions to Islam.
Muneeb: Scholars have classified the term Bid‘ah
into two categories: Bid‘ah-i-hasanah and Bid‘ah-i-siyyah. The former is defined
as not being contrary to the tenets of Islam while the latter is defined as
being opposite to the basic tenets of Islam. Please explain further.
Razi Allah: When Bid‘ah is used as a term, implying
an unauthorized addition to the corpus of Islam, it is an innovation in religion
which is totally unacceptable be it good or bad. Someone can posit that in view
of the general decadence of Muslims, let’s add ten more fasts to the normal
course of Ramadān for further spiritual nourishment and call it
Bid‘ah-i-Hassanah. Clearly, it is an atrocious idea, one that opens the door for
altering the contents of our belief system; the door which has been closed with
the culmination of the institution of prophethood. Thus Bid‘ah as a term is
always unacceptable. On the other hand, Bid‘ah in its literal sense can be good
or bad. As for the Scholar’s categorization of the term, it may simply have
been an error in understanding a statement referred to ‘Umar (rta) wherein he
has used the term Bid‘ah to praise the initiation of Tarāwīh prayer in
Safia: Would you kindly shed some light on the
incident from ‘Umar’s (rta) life referred to in the last part of your comment
concerning Tarāwīh Prayer?
Razi Allah: Let us take a look at the summary of the
information provided in Mu’attā of Imam Malik regarding the initiation and
development of Tarāwīh prayer in its congregational form.
The Prophet (sws) never offered the Tarāwīh prayer.
However, one night the Prophet (sws) came out of his room (at the time of the
Tahajjud prayer) and offered his prayers in the mosque. People gathered behind
and joined him in his prayer. The same thing happened on the night that
followed, with a greater number of people joining the Prophet (sws). On the
third or the fourth night, people gathered in anticipation of joining the
Prophet (sws) in his prayer again, but the Prophet (sws) did not come out. In
the morning, the Prophet (sws) told the Muslims that he had not come out of his
chamber to offer his Tahajjud with the Muslims due to the concern that the
Muslims may consider this to be an obligatory prayer.
The first time, that the night prayer was organized at a
mass congregational level, was during the caliphate of ‘Umar (rta). One night,
when ‘Umar (rta) came into the mosque after the ‘Ishā’ prayer, he saw that
people had gathered in a number of various groups and were offering their
prayers behind various imams (leaders of prayers). This situation was creating a
chaotic scene. The recitation of one imam could not be clearly distinguished
from that of another. After observing this scene, ‘Umar (rta) suggested that
those who want to offer their night prayer in congregation should all join
behind one imam, so that the Qur’ān is clearly audible. He also appointed Ubayī
ibn Ka‘b as the leader of this prayer, because of his good style of recitation.
The next day, when ‘Umar (rta) came to the mosque, he was satisfied with the
development in the situation. However, ‘Umar (rta) himself never joined this
congregational prayer and is reported to have commented that the prayer being
substituted is far superior to its substitute.
It is evident that, if required, congregations can be
organized for supererogatory prayers. This is substantiated by some incidents
during the time of the prophet (sws). Hence ‘Umar’s (rta) organization of the
prayer is not unauthenticated.
Courtesy Studying Islam: