Religious Innovations

Religious Innovations can be categorized into three categories:

  • Bid'ah which is tantamount to disbelief which would take one out of the folds of Islam; such Bid'ah pertains to creedal issues, such as one who offers sacrificial animals to other than Allah, and one who circumambulates a grave, and one who beseeches and seeks help of other than Allah in matters that they cannot help. Allah says: (Say (O Muhammad): "Verily, my Salah (Prayer) my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Rubb of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).) (6:162)
  • Bid'ah which is not tantamount to disbelief but leads to disbelief; such as building structures on graves, and praying and making Du'aa (supplication) near it. That is why the Prophet forbade his Ummah to frequently visit his grave, for the fear that it would be worshipped to the exclusion of Allah. The Prophet said: 'Do not make your homes like graves (by not offering acts of worship in them) and do not frequently visit my grave and (do not burden yourselves by visiting me; rather) exalt my mention, for it would reach me wherever you are.' (Abu Dawood #2042)
  • Bid'ah which are equal to sinful acts such as celibacy, i.e. to avoid marriage and to fast the days continuously and to pray throughout the nights. Anas, with whom Allah is pleased, reported that the Prophet said: 'Three people came to the houses of the Prophet's wives and asked about his worship. When they were told, they considered it as too little, and said: 'We are unlike the Messenger of Allah; Allah has forgiven his past and future sins! One of them said: 'As for me, I shall never marry.' The other said: 'I shall fast and not break my fast.' The other said: 'I shall pray the night prayer continuously.' When the Prophet heard this, he called them and said: 'Are you the ones who said this? Indeed I am the most god-fearing of you and pious, but I pray and sleep, fast and break it, and marry women, so whoever does not want my Sunnah, he is not from me.' (Bukhari #4776)

From this it is clear that whoever worships Allah in a manner that is not legalized by Allah or His Messenger or practiced by the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, then this person is an innovator, for the Prophet said: 'I advise you to fear Allah, and to listen and obey, even if an Abyssinian slave has authority over you, for indeed those of you who live long shall witness great variance, so adhere to my Sunnah, and to the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs who came after me. Adhere to it strictly. Beware of innovations for every (religious) innovation is a deviation and every deviation leads to Hell-Fire.' (Ibn Hibban #5)

  • 2nd Category:
  • Worldly innovations, which have no relation to the Deen, such as inventions and the like. It is not called 'Bid'ah', even though it is considered as such from a linguistic perspective. The Prophet did not warn and caution people from this type of 'Bid'ah'. All customs, worldly affairs and transactions are lawful, as long as there are no proofs that point to its prohibition. This category is not considered a 'religious innovation' because they are not considered as acts of worship.

The Stance of Shari'ah regarding Religious Innovations

One should know that the second Testimony of Faith, 'Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah', requires the person to obey him, and believe in what he has informed us about and to stay away from that which he has forbidden. It also requires that a person worship Allah in the allowed and sanctioned manner, not in a way he desires or wishes. ...

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Statements of Scholars who condemned Bid'ah practices

Umar b. al-Khat'taab, with whom Allah is pleased, said: 'Beware of people who stick to their opinions (and disregard textual proofs) for they are the enemies of the Sunnah; they could not learn, memorize and understand the Hadeeth, so they stuck to their opinions, and lead themselves and others astray.' ...

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Proofs used by some to support their devious practices

1st Proof:
Some who have little knowledge in Shari'ah claim that the words of the Prophet:
من سن في الإسلام سنة حسنة فله أجرها وأجر من عمل بها بعده من غير أن ينقص من أجورهم شيء، ومن سن في الإسلام سنة سيئة كان عليه وزرها ووزر من عمل بها من بعده من غير أن ينقص من أوزارهم شيء
Meaning: Whoever revives a good Sunnah in Islam, he would receive its reward and the reward of those who practice it; while the rewards of those who practice it would not be lessened. Whoever innovates a practice in Islam, he would receive its sin and the sin of those who practice it, while the sins of those who practice it would not be lessened.' (Muslim #1017)