Bid‘ah

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This article is about the Arabic term. For the city, see Bida, Nigeria.

In Islam, Bid‘ah (Arabic: بدعة‎) refers to any innovations in religious matters. Linguistically the term means "innovation, novelty, heretical doctrine, heresy".[1] In contrast to the English term "innovation", the word bid'ah in Arabic generally carries a negative connotation, but it can also have positive implications. It has also been used in classical Arabic literature (adab) as a form of praise for outstanding compositions of prose and poetry.[2]

Any innovations in worldly matters – such as science, medicine and technology – are generally acceptable and encouraged; but bid'ah within the religious practice is generally considered a sin.

According to Sunni Islam[edit]

In early Islamic history, bid'ah referred primarily to heterodox doctrines (as evidenced below). However, in Islamic law, when used without qualification, bid'ah denotes any newly invented matter that is without precedent and is in opposition to the Qur'an and Sunna.[3]

Scholars (most prominent of which is Imam Shafi) generally have divided bid'ah into two types: innovations in worldly matters and innovations in religious matters.[4] Some have additionally divided bid'ah into lawful and unlawful innovations, the details of which are discussed below.[5]

Introducing and acting upon a bid‘ah in religious matters is a sin and considered one of the enormities in Islam that is obligatory to immediately desist and repent from.[6]

In worldly matters[edit]

Some Sunni Muslim scholars have divided bid‘ah in worldly matters into two types:[citation needed]

  1. Innovations that are purely good - these are permissible under Islamic law. This can include anything from inventions such as watches, to customs and culture, given they don't violate Sharia.
  2. Innovations that are purely evil - these are forbidden under Islamic law. Examples of this type of bid'ah include alcohol,[7] or, in modern times, the discovery and synthesis of new intoxicants.

In religious matters[edit]

Traditional view[edit]

Religious innovation means inventing a new way of worshipping God that was not originally included in the message revealed to and propagated by Prophet Muhammad, and that opposes established forms. There is much criticism of bid'ah in the Quran[citation needed] and Sunnah, according to Sunni Islam.

Ali ibn Abu Talib said; "He who innovates or gives protection to an innovator, there is a curse of Allah and that of His angels and that of the whole humanity upon him."[8][9] `Abd Allah ibn `Umar said: "Every innovation is misguidance, even if the people see it as something good.[10]"

Ibn Abbas also said: "Indeed the most detestable of things to Allaah are the innovations."[11] Sufyan Al-Thawri mentions: "Innovation is more beloved to Iblees than sin, since a sin may be repented for but innovation is not repented for[12]". He also said, "Whoever listens to an innovator has left the protection of Allaah and is entrusted with the innovation[13]".

Al-Fudayl bin 'Iyaad mentions: "I met the best of people, all of them people of the Sunnah and they used to forbid from accompanying the people of innovation[14]". Hasan al-Basri mentions: "Do not sit with the people of innovation and desires, nor argue with them, nor listen to them".[15] Ibraaheem ibn Maysarah mentions: "Whoever honours an innovator has aided in the destruction of Islam."[16]

Al-Hasan ibn 'Ali al-Barbahari mentions: "The innovators are like scorpions. They bury their heads and bodies in the sand and leave their tails out. When they get the chance they sting; the same with the innovators who conceal themselves amongst the people, when they are able, they do what they desire."[17] Abu Haatim said: "A sign of the people of innovation is their battling against the people of Narrations."[18] Abu 'Uthmaan as-Saaboonee said: "The signs of the people of innovation are clear and obvious. The most apparent of their signs is their severe enmity for those who carry the reports of the Prophet."[19] Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen, a prominent modern-day scholar, wrote: "And there is no such thing in Islam as bid’ah hasanah (good innovation)."[20]

When a religious innovation is implemented, it is generally felt[who?] that the innovator is assuming that the Sunnah is not good enough, that he must resort to something "better." Even though this statement would be an admission of disbelief [21] - there are some innovations that contain shirk and there are some which allow someone to remain a Muslim, while his action is rejected (regardless of any sincerity it might have had).[22]

Modern discourse[edit]

The criterion that qualifies a particular action as a bid`ah in the religion is a debate amongst Sunni scholars. There are some who argue for a definition that entails anything not specifically performed or confirmed by Muhammad. Arguing for this position, Muhammad ibn Salih al-Munajjid, a famous Saudi Arabia scholar declares:

[H]ow can there be any such thing as bid’ah hasanah (“good innovation”) when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every bid’ah is a going astray and every going astray is in Hell-fire”. So, if anyone says that there is such a thing as bid’ah hasanah, he can only be insisting on going against the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).... It (referring to a spontaneous form of dhikr in the prayer by a Companion recorded in the hadith literature) was not even considered to have been a correct action until after the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had approved it, and not before. But how on earth could this innovator obtain the approval of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) after he has passed away?"

—Muhammad ibn Salih al-Munajjid, Islam-QA: "There is no such thing as bid'ah hasana in Islam"[23]

Calls within Sunni Islam in the modern era have been made for a reassessment of the traditional view, especially by practitioners of Sufism. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah writes:

[B]id‘a could take on various shades of meaning. When used without qualifying adjectives, it tended to be condemnatory, as, for example, in the statement, “bid‘a must be avoided.” Nevertheless, bid‘a was not always something bad. In certain contexts, especially when qualified by adjectives, bid‘a could cover a wide range of meanings from what was praiseworthy to what was completely wrong, as, for example, in the caliph ‘Umar’s statement below, “what an excellent bid‘a is this!”

—Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, Innovation and Creativity in Islam, 2

Despite the general understanding of standing scholarly disagreements (ikhtilaf), the notion of lawful innovation is a polarizing issue in the Islamic world. A practical example of this is the debate over the permissibility of the mawlid or commemoration of Muhammad's birthday. All scholars agree that such celebrations did not exist in the early period of Islamic history, and yet mawalid commemorations are a common element in Muslim societies around the world. Even so, Sunnis scholars are divided between emphatic unconditional condemnation[24] and conditional acceptance[25] of the celebration with the former insisting it is a bid'ah and thus automatically unlawful, while the latter argues it nonetheless is contextually permissible.

According to Shia Islam[edit]

According to Shia Islam the definition of bid'ah is anything that is introduced to Islam as either being fard, mustahabb, makruh or haram that contradicts the Qur'an or hadith. Any new good practice introduced that does not contradict the Qur'an or hadith is permissible. However, it is not permissible to say that a new good practice (that does not contradict the Qur'an or hadith) is obligatory, highly recommended or "sunnah" proper. Hence, the Shi`a stance mirrors the body of Sunni scholars who proffer the idea of "bid'ah hasana". As a general rule in Shi'a jurisprudence, anything is permissible except whatever is prohibited through divine revelation (i.e. the Qur'an or hadith).[26]

Sectarianism[edit]

Scholars representing the two main bodies of Islam, Sunni Islam and the Shi'a Islam, have at times regarded the other as heretical.

Ahmadiyya[edit]

Both the Ahmadiyya and the Nation of Islam are regarded by many Muslim Ulema as being apostate, but in the case of the Ahmadiyya movement, attitudes towards designating the sect apostatical, heretical or Islamic differ depending on region or Islamic schools of thought. In Pakistan, where many Ahmadis live, the state considers the group to be apostatical; whereas in the neighbouring state of Iran, the same group is considered to fall within the bounds of Islamic belief.

Another example concerning the Ahmadiyya movement is the Al-Azhar Islamic University in Egypt, which accepts a certain Ahmadi belief concerning the nature of prophethood in Islam, considered by other schools as being heretical, to fall within Islamic jurisdiction.

Smaller sects[edit]

Groups like the Khawarij are most often seen as extremely heretical, while the Ismailis, the Alawites, the Hurufis, the Bektashis and even the Sufis and Salafis, have also been regarded as heretical by various groups.

Faiths like Druze, Bábísm, Azalis and Bahá'ís although now separate religions, have their roots in Islam and were considered by some Muslims to be heresies when they first appeared, since they emerged as alternative currents in Islamic culture, and were founded by people who were considered to be Muslims, much as Christianity is viewed by some to be a Jewish heresy, or Islam a Christian heresy.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wehr, Hans (1994). Arabic-English Dictionary. Spoken Language Services, Inc. p. 57. 
  2. ^ Al-Shatibi, Ibrahim ibn Musa. al-I`itsam. pp. 1:49. 
  3. ^ al-Masri, Jamaluddin ibn al-Manzur. Lisan al-‘Arab. pp. 8:6. 
  4. ^ Al-Qawaa'id wal-Usool al-Jaami'ah wal-Furooq wat-Taqaaseem al-Badee'ah an-Naafi'ah by Abd ar-Rahman ibn Naasir as-Sa'di
  5. ^ al-Nawawi, Yahya ibn Sharif. Tahzib al-Asma’ wal-Lughaat. pp. 1:22–23. 
  6. ^ al-Dhahabi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad. Kitab al-Kaba'ir. 
  7. ^ Fat-hul Baari by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (vol.2, p. 443)
  8. ^ Sahih Muslim, 9:3601
  9. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:80:8747
  10. ^ Abu Shaamah (no. 39)
  11. ^ al-Bayhaqee in as-Sunan al-Kubraa (4/316)
  12. ^ al-Laalikaa'ee - Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (no. 238)
  13. ^ Abu Nu'aym in al-Hilyah (7/26) and Ibn Battah (no.444)
  14. ^ al-Laalikaa'ee - Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (no.267)
  15. ^ Sunan ad-Daarimee (1/121)
  16. ^ al-Laalikaa'ee - Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (1/139)
  17. ^ Tabaqaatul-Hanaabilah - Volume 2, Page 44
  18. ^ Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah - al-Laalikaa'ee - Volume 1, Page 179
  19. ^ Abu 'Uthmaan as-Saaboonee, The 'Aqeedah of the (Pious) Predecessors - Page 101
  20. ^ Al Muttaqoon -> Question And Answers On Bid’ah (Innovation)
  21. ^ Microsoft Word - Explanation of The Nullifiers of Islaam.doc[dead link]
  22. ^ Islam Question and Answer - Does a good intention intercede for one?
  23. ^ http://islamqa.com/en/ref/205
  24. ^ Bin Baz, Abd al-Aziz. "Warning Against Bid'ahs: Ruling on Celebrating the Prophet's Mawlid and Other Events". Fatawa Bin Baz. Retrieved 30 September 2011. [dead link]
  25. ^ Bin Bayyah, Abdullah. "On Celebrating the Prophet's Birthday". 
  26. ^ Answering-Ansar.org :: Bidah (Innovation)[dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Abdullah, 'Umar Faruq, "Heaven", in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God (2 vols.), Edited by C. Fitzpatrick and A. Walker, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2014, Vol I, pp. 251-254.

External links[edit]

Sunni view[edit]

Shi'a view[edit]