The evils of innovation in religion
By Abu Rumaysah
Allah says: â€œThis day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religionâ€ (Surah Al-Maâ€™idah 5:4)
This verse embodies a clear statement that the religion has been completed and so has no need of addition and deletion, and Allahâ€™s Messenger (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) said: â€œThere is nothing that Allah ordered you with except that I have ordered you with it, and there is nothing that Allah forbade you from except that I have forbidden you from itâ€ (Al-Bayhaqee and others)
And he (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) said: â€œThere is nothing that will take you closer to paradise but that I have enjoined it upon you, and there is nothing that will take you closer to hell but that I have warned you from itâ€ (Musnad ash-Shaafiâ€™ee and others).
So the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) fulfilled the trust placed upon him by Allah completely, explaining the religion to the people in its inward and outward form, making clear the lawful from the prohibited, the encouraged from the discouraged, even to the extent that he taught us the manners of going to the toilet.
Allah says in His Book,
â€œAnd We have revealed to you a Book explaining everythingâ€ (Surah An-Nahl 16:89),
and He says, â€œWe have neglected nothing in the Bookâ€ (Surah Al-Anâ€™am 6:37).
So in the Qurâ€™an are explained the principles of the religion, tawheed in all its various categories, even to the extent that it teaches us the manners of sitting in circles, visiting other peoples houses, the correct clothing etc.
The Importance of Sticking to the Sunnah:
Allah says: â€œIndeed you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example for the one who hopes in Allah and looks to the Last Day.â€ (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:21)
He also says: â€œSo if you obey him (i.e. Muhammad), then you will be guidedâ€ (Surah Al-Furqan 25:54) The Messenger of Allah said: â€œI have left behind me two things, if you cling to them you will never go astray. They are the Book of Allah and my Sunnahâ€ (al-Haakim)
And he (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) also said: â€œAnd you will live to see great difference, so cling to my Sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs after me, even if it be with your teethâ€ (Bukhari). The Taabiâ€™ee, the Imaam, az-Zuhree commented, â€œclinging to the sunnah is to be saved, as Imaam Maalik said, â€˜like the Ark of Noahâ€™, he who embarked upon it was saved, and he who did not was destroyed.â€ (ad-Daarimee)
In these narrations is clear evidence that the way of salvation and safety is to closely follow the Sunnah of our Prophet (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam), and not to deviate from his path, not accepting the guidance of another individual, nor accepting a corrupted form of the Sunnah. Allah says: â€œAnd whosoever contends with the Messenger after guidance has been made clear to him, and follows a way other than the way of the believers, We shall leave him in the path he has chosen, and land him in Hell, what an evil destination!â€
The people will attempt to corrupt the Sunnah:
We are taught in the revelation that the Sunnah shall become corrupted and this corruption would become the norm, so much so that the people who follow the Sunnah would become as strangers, and those that call to purifying the Sunnah would be slandered and reviled. The Prophet (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) said, â€œIslam began as something strange, and it shall return as something strange as it began. So Tooba (a tree in paradise) to the strangers.â€ It was asked, â€œwho are the strangers?â€ He replied, â€œthose that purify and correct what the people have corrupted of my Sunnahâ€ (Tabaraanee in al-Kabeer [6/202])
And what is this corruption? It is none other than innovation, introducing into the pure religion of Allah new ways of worshipping Him that He has not taught, blemishing His religion with our whims and desires, something that Allah Himself condemns,
â€œor do they have partners that legislate some religion which Allah has not given permission for?â€ (Surah Ash-Shura 42:21)
The Companion, Abdullaah ibn Masâ€™ud, laments, â€œhow will it be when the trials overcome you, in which the young grow old and the old grow senile. And the people take the bidâ€™ah as the Sunnah, and when it changes they say: the Sunnah has changed. It was said: when will this be O Abu Abdurrahmaan? He replied: when your speakers are many and your scholars are few, and the wealthy ones are plenty and the trustworthy ones are few.â€ (ad-Daarimee)
How true this statement is today, that the innovations have become so widespread in the religion that the people have taken them to be the Sunnah. And when the true scholar speaks out against these innovations he is labeled as a â€˜wahhabiâ€™ by the people because to them it seems that he is changing the Sunnah. To Allah we complain of the ignorance of our times!
Only Allah subhanahu wa taâ€™ala has the right to tell us how to worship Him:
â€œFollow that which has been revealed to you from your Lord, and do not follow as Friends and Protectors other than Himâ€ (Surah Al-Aâ€™raaf 7:3)
From the tafseer of this verse we learn that this verse embodies a categorical statement that the privilege to tell people how to worship Allah belongs to Allah Alone. And how could it be otherwise when the true meaning of ibaadah is to worship Allah in a way which He is Pleased with and not according to our desires,
â€œAnd who is more astray than the one who follows his own whims and desires devoid of revelationâ€ (Surah Al-Qasas 28:50)
In this regard the Prophet (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) said, â€œI warn you of the newly invented matters (in the religion) ,and every newly invented matter is an innovation, and every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfireâ€ (an-Nasaaâ€™ee)
And he (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) used to say at the beginning of his lectures, â€œand the best speech is the Speech of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad, and the worst of all affairs are the newly invented matters (in the religion).â€ (Muslim)
And he (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) commanded us, â€œwhosoever does an action which we have not commanded then it must be rejected.â€ (Muslim)
And again, â€œwhosoever introduces into this religion of ours that which is not part of it then it must be rejectedâ€ (Ahmad). â€˜And in this hadith is a clear evidence that every action which is not legislated in the Shariâ€™ah must be rejectedâ€™ [Jaami al-Ulum of ibn Rajab 1/120]
So every bidâ€™ah that is introduced in the religion has to be rejected because only Allah and His Messenger (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) have the right to legislate in the Shariâ€™ah of Islam.
Hence in the light of what has preceded we can now give the formal Shariâ€™ah definition of bidâ€™ah:
â€œA newly invented way (in beliefs and actions) in the religion, in imitation of the Shariâ€™ah, by which nearness to Allah is sought, not being supported by any authentic proof, neither in its foundations nor in the manner in which it is performed.â€ [al-Iâ€™tisaam 1/231 of ash-Shaatibee]
And in what has preceded is ample evidence for any fair-minded Muslim that all bidâ€™ah is blameworthy, and in fact a major sin. But unfortunately the Muslims are in such a state today that the words of Allah and His Messenger (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) are no longer enough to convince them. And certain groups of people have come up with a new belief to assist them with the destruction of Islam. The belief of â€˜bidâ€™ah hasanahâ€™, i.e. a good bidâ€™ah, meaning that a scholar can introduce a new action of worship in Islam which can be considered to be good as long it does not contradict any of the principles of Islam; a belief that has absolutely no foundation in Islam at all. So we resort to the sayings of the Companions and the Imaams to illuminate the road ahead of these people.
The sayings of the Companions:
Abdullaah ibn Umar (RA) states, â€œevery innovation is misguidance, even if the people regard it as good.â€ (ad-Daarimee)
This narration is enough to demolish the concept of â€˜a good bidâ€™ahâ€™, for you have amongst the most knowledgeable companions of Muhammad (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) saying the exact opposite. So who do you choose to follow, ibn Umar or these modern day Shaykhs and Mullahs who are Imaams of their own whims and desires.
Abdullaah ibn Abbaas (RA) said, â€œdo not sit with the people of innovation, for verily their sittings are a sickness for the heartsâ€ [ash-shariâ€™ah pg 65 of al-Aajurree (d.360)]
Muâ€™aadh bin Jabal (RA) used to say, whenever he sat in a circle of knowledge, â€œand I warn you of what is innovated, for all that is innovated is misguidanceâ€ [ash-shariâ€™ah pg.55, also Abu Dawood with similar wording]
Abdullaah ibn Masâ€™ud (RA) said, â€œfollow the Sunnah of Muhammad and do not innovate, for what you have been commanded is enough for you.â€ [ad-Daarimee]
Hudhayfah bin al-Yaman said, â€œevery act of worship that the Companions did not do, do not do itâ€ [Abu Dawood]
Is this not enough? That the Companions tell us to follow the way of Muhammad (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) and not to make up new ways of worship? â€œWhomsoever Allah guides to the truth, none can misguide him, and whomsoever Allah misguides, none can guideâ€ ! [Muslim]
The sayings of the Second and Third generation scholars: Hasan al-Basree said, â€œdo not sit with the people of innovation, do not debate with them or listen to themâ€ [ad-Daarimee 1/121]
Abu Aaliyah said, â€œlearn Islam. Then when you have learned Islam, do not turn away from it to the right or to the left. But be upon the Straight Path and be upon the Sunnah of your Prophet and that which his companions were upon and beware of these innovations because they cause enmity and hatred amongst you, but stick to the original state of affairs that was there before they divided.â€ [al-Hilya of Abu Nuâ€™aym 2/218]
Sufyaan ath-Thawree, â€œinnovations are more beloved to Satan than sin. Since a sin may be repented from but an innovation is not repented fromâ€ [Sharh Usul Iâ€™tiqaad of al-Laalikaaâ€™ee (d.414) no.238]. This is because the innovator believes that he is doing something good and therefore sees no need to repent. He also said, â€œso cling to the original state of affairsâ€ [al-Hilya 6/376] meaning stick to the Way of Muhammad (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) and his Companions.
Imaam al-Awzaaâ€™ee said, â€œpatiently restrict yourselves to the Sunnah, stop where the people stopped, say what they said, avoid what they avoided. Take to the path of the salaf, for indeed what was sufficient for them was sufficient for you.â€ [ash-shariâ€™ah pg. 58]
Ibraaheem al-Masayrah said, â€œhe who honours an innovator has assisted in the demolition of Islamâ€ [Sharh Usul Iâ€™tiqaad 1/139]
The sayings of the Later Imaams:
Imaam Abu Haneefah said, â€œstick to the narrations and the way of the salaf, and beware of the newly invented matters for all of it is innovationâ€ [Sawnul Muntaq of as-Suyutee pg.32]
Imaam Maalik said, â€œhe who innovates an innovation in Islam regarding it as something good, has claimed that Muhammad (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam) has betrayed his trust to deliver the message as Allah says, â€˜this day have I perfected for you your religionâ€™. And whatsoever was not part of the religion then, is not part of the religion today.â€ [al-Iâ€™tisaam]
He also said, â€œhow evil are the People of Innovation, we do not give them salaamâ€ [al-Ibaanah of ibn Battah (d.387) no.441]
Imaam Ahmad said, â€œthe fundamental principles of the Sunnah with us are: avoiding innovations and every innovation is misguidanceâ€ [Usul as-Sunnah of Imaam Ahmad pg.1]
As for the narrations from Imaam ash-Shaafiâ€™ee in which he categorises bidâ€™ah into two, then it is weak as all of its chains of narrations depend upon unknown narrators. [al-Bidâ€™ah of Shaykh Saleem al-Hilaalee, al-Masaabeeh fee Salaatit Taraaweeh of as-Suyutee with Alee Hasans footnotes]. Not only this but in his risalah he rejects the concept of istihsaan because â€˜the person doing so has legislated in the Shariâ€™ahâ€™ i.e. without permission from Allah.
Imaam Bukhari said, â€œI have met more than a thousand scholars (then he mentioned the names of the more prominent in each of the lands that he traveled to) and I found that they all agreed on the following points: they all used to prohibit bidâ€™ah â€“ that which the Prophet and his Companions were not upon, because of the saying of Allah, â€˜and hold fast to the rope of Allah and do not separateâ€™â€ [Imaam Bukhariâ€™s article on belief as quoted in Sharh Usul Iâ€™tiqaad 1/170. From amongst the scholars he met were: Ahmad bin Hanbal, Abu Ubaid al-Qaasim, ibn Maâ€™een, ibn Aasim, ibn Abee Shaybah.]
Whatâ€™s narrated here is just a small number of the many authentic narrations that are found in various books, and Allah knows best. It is good to know that the early Imaams were prolific in writing and warning against bidâ€™ah, and even today we have a number of books from them dealing just with this topic. Amongst them: Al-Bidâ€™ah of al-Qarnushi, Al-Bidâ€™ah of ibn Waddah, Al-Iâ€™tisaam of ash-Shaatibee and many more. So once this topic becomes clear, a truth that none can deny, then know that all these innovations in the religions are a clear denial of the abovementioned verses and ahadith, for none were done by the Companions.
So reflect on following the hadith of the Prophet (sallallaahu â€˜alaihi wa sallam): â€œSo he who follows my Sunnah has been guided, and he who follows the innovations has been destroyed.â€ (Ahmad)
And our Lord the Most High is the One that guides to attaining the truth.