What is Bid'ah?

In order to understand the meaning of Bid'ah, we must know what Sunnah implies. Imam Ibn Rajab, may Allah have mercy on him, said: 'Sunnah is a followed path; it includes what the Prophet and his rightly-guided Caliphs adhered to from creedal beliefs, observance of practices, and sayings…this is the complete Sunnah.' Observing and adhering to the Sunnah, whether in creedal beliefs, actions or sayings is incumbent, Allah says: (Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.) (33:21)

The Prophet also stressed the importance of observing his Sunnah. He 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 shall witness many differences, so adhere to my Sunnah, and to the Sunnah of the rightly guided Caliphs who come after me. Adhere strictly to it. Bite on it with your molars. Beware of innovations. Every (religious) innovation is a deviation and every deviation leads to Hell-Fire.' (Ibn Hibban #5)

Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, said: Muhammad was sent to man and Jinn at large, to clarify matters that pertain to Deen, such as creedal beliefs, aims of Shari'ah and the like. No Aqeedah (creedal belief) would be accepted except his Aqeedah, and no Shari'ah would be accepted, except his Shari'ah. No one would attain nearness to Allah, His pleasure, and Jannah, except by submitting and completely following him in his sayings, actions, and creedal beliefs, while believing in matters that pertain to the unseen world, and observing acts of worship and abstaining from sinful acts.' Allah, the Exalted, says: (No doubt! Verily, the Auliya' of Allah [i.e. those who believe in the Oneness of Allah and fear Allah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which he has forbidden) and love Allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)] no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve.) (10:62) (Fatawa al-Kubra pg. 178-179)

Allah, the Exalted, says: (O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious).] Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All- Aware.) (49:13)

Taqwa (i.e. piety) is achieved when man observes acts of worship, in accordance to the Sunnah, while hoping for the reward of Allah, and renounces disobedience to Allah in accordance to the Sunnah, and is fearful of Allah's punishment. A Wali (pious person) would not attain nearness to Allah unless he observes the Fard (compulsory) acts and duties, and also observes the Nafl (supererogatory) acts. Allah says: 'The most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me, is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (supererogatory acts) till I love him…' (Bukhari)

Bid'ah: (linguistically) refers to an innovation, novelty; anything originated, or innovated which did not exist before. Allah, the Exalted, says: (The Ba'dee of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it: "Be!" - And it is.) (2:117)

Sheik Abdurrahmaan as-Sa'di, may Allah have mercy on him, said: '(Ba'dee) i.e. its Originator and Creator, such that He created them perfectly.' Allah also says: (Say (O Muhammad): "I am no new Messenger.”) (46:9)

Meaning: I am not the first who came with a message from Allah to mankind; rather, I am preceded by many Messengers. And when it is said: ‘So and so innovated a Bid’ah’, it means that he has initiated a method preceded by none before.

Bid'ah can be categorized into two categories:

  • 1st Category: Religious Bid'ah (innovation). This includes innovations in the Deen of Allah, which belie the guidance of our Prophet and the path of the Pious Predecessors, whether it concerns creedal issues, or acts of worship. This type of Bid'ah is deemed unlawful by Qur'anic texts. Allah says: (And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger (Muhammad) after the right path has been shown clearly to him and follows other than the believers' way. We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell - what an evil destination!) (4:115)

    The Prophet said: 'All of my Ummah would enter Jannah, except him who refuses to enter it.' It was said: 'Who would refuse to enter it?' He said: 'Whoever obeys me would enter Jannah, and whoever disobeys me has refused to enter it.' (Bukhari #6851)

    Sheik Islam b. Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, said: 'That is why Allah, the Exalted, has ordered us to say in each prayer: 'O Allah guide us to the Straight Path. The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the path) of those who earned Your Anger nor of those who went astray. Those who earned the anger of Allah are the ones who know the truth and oppose it, and those who went astray are those who worship Allah without knowledge, while knowing that it opposes the Book of Allah and the Sunnah.'
  • 2nd Category: Worldly innovations, which have no relation to the Deen Read More

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 ...

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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.'