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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. One tradition holds that the Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, told a companion to "avoid novelties, for every novelty is an innovation, and every innovation is an error”.[2][3] Another more dire hadith holds, “Every bid’ah is a going astray and every going astray is in Hell-fire”.[4]

In classical Arabic literature (adab), it has been used as a form of praise for outstanding compositions of prose and poetry.[5]

In 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 Sunnah.[6]

Islam Question and Answer (supervised by Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid), defines bid'ah as "anything that is not referred to specifically in Shariah, and for which there is no evidence (daleel) in the Qur'an or Sunnah, and which was not known at the time of the Prophet ... and his Companions."[7] It further elaborates that bid'ah suggests that Islam is not complete and perfect, has room for improvement or is otherwise lacking in some way.[7]

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.[8] Some have additionally divided bid'ah into lawful and unlawful innovations, the details of which are discussed below.[9]

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.[10]

In worldly matters[edit]

Some Sunni Muslim scholars have divided bid‘ah in worldly matters into two types:[8]

  1. Good innovations such as using technology to propagate the faith of Islam.[11]
  2. Innovations that are purely evil - these are forbidden under Islamic law. Examples of this type of bid'ah include alcohol,[12] or, in modern times, the discovery and synthesis of new intoxicants.

In religious matters[edit]

Traditional view[edit]

There are a number of definitions of Bid‘ah.

  • "carrying out actions which displease Allah ta`ala and his messenger" Muhammad. (Muhammad ibn Isa at-Tirmidhi)[13][14]
  • Good and bad innovation:
    • Bid'ah Say'iah, "a new thing" which "opposes the Qur’an and Sunnah" or is "against Islam"[14][15] or "vies with the sharia" (Muhammad Ramzaan[16]), and is forbidden; and
    • Bid'ah Hasana, a new thing that is not against the Shari'ah (Islamic law). (according to scholars such as Qadi Shawkani, Imam Nawawi, and Hafidhh Asqalani)[14][17] An example of Bid'ah Hasana is the development of the study of Hadeeth, Fiqh, Tafsir, which did not exist at the time of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.[18]
  • "new things that have no basis in the Qur'an or Sunnah". (Hafidhh ibn Rajjab) [14][19]
  • bid'ah is always bad but if a new thing has origins in the Qur'an and Sunnah it is to be called Bid'ah Logaviyya (innovation verbally). (Ibn Taymiyyah)[14][20]
Scriptural basis

The Quranic verse, “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (Quran 5:4), is considered by at least some Muslim to be against bid'ah in religion. The Sunnah has many more prohibitions against innovation in religion.

Ali ibn Abu Talib, of the Rashidun (rightly guided Caliphs), 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." ([21][22] `Abd Allah ibn `Umar said: "Every innovation is misguidance, even if the people see it as something good.[23]"

Abd Allah ibn Abbas, a companion of the Prophet and early Islamic scholar also said: "Indeed the most detestable of things to Allaah are the innovations."[24] Sufyan Al-Thawri, a tabi'i Islamic scholar, Hafiz and jurist, mentions: "Innovation is more beloved to Iblees than sin, since a sin may be repented for but innovation is not repented for[25]". He also said, "Whoever listens to an innovator has left the protection of Allaah and is entrusted with the innovation[26]".

Salafi source provide many condemnations of bid'ah. Al-Fuḍayl ibn ‘Iyāḍ is reputed to have said: "I met the best of people, all of them Salafi and they used to forbid from accompanying the people of innovation[27][28]". Hasan al-Basri mentions: "Do not sit with the people of innovation and desires, nor argue with them, nor listen to them".[29] Ibraaheem ibn Maysarah mentions: "Whoever honours an innovator has aided in the destruction of Islam."[30]

The 10th century Islamic scholar 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."[31] Abu Haatim said: "A sign of the people of innovation is their battling against the people of Narrations."[32] 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."[33] Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen, a prominent modern-day scholar, wrote: "And there is no such thing in Islam as bid’ah hasanah (good innovation)."[34]

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 [35] - 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).[36]

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"[37]

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

In 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).[38]


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[39] and conditional acceptance[40] 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.

British historian Sadakat Kadri has noted the change over time in what is considered bid'ah.

Hadith were not written down until the 9th century, at least in part because "traditionists such as Ibn Hanbal considered human literature to be an unholy innovation."[41] This interpretation changed even for very conservative jurists such as Ibn Taymiyya who wrote dozens of books. Ibn Taymiyya however considered mathematics bidah a false form of knowledge that "does not bring perfection to the human soul, nor save man from castigation of God, nor lead him to a happy life", and forbade its used in determining the beginning of lunar months.[42] Very conservative Wahhabis allow the broadcast of television but Indian Deobandi forbid their followers from watching it,[43] but make use of the more recent invention the internet to issue fatwas.[43]

Traditionally who died of plague and who did not was explained as simply the will of God based on al-Bukhari’s al-Sahih hadith,[44][45] but studying the progress of the Black Death (bubonic plague) in the 14th century, scholar Ibn al-Khatib noted those who died had the plague transmitted to them from "garments, vessels, ear-rings; ... persons ... by infection of a healthy sea-port by an arrival from an infected land" where as isolated individuals were immune.[44] In the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun defends the science of medicine from suggestions that it is an innovation going against the Sunna. "The medicine mentioned in religious tradition ... is in no way part of the divine revelation." It was simply part of "Arab custom and happened to be mentioned in connection with the circumstances of the Prophet, like other things that were customary in his generation." But was "not mentioned in order to imply that [it] is stipulated by the religious law."[46]

In his Book of Knowledge Al-Ghazali noted observed that many phenomena once thought bid'ah but had come to be though legally unobjectionable.

[A]mong the accepted practices of our time are decorating and furnishing the mosques, and expending great sums of money on their ornate construction and fine rugs which were then considered innovations. These were introduced by the pilgrims, since the early Muslims seldom placed anything on the ground during prayer. Similarly disputation and debate are among the most honoured disciples of the day and are numbered among the best meritorious works (qarubat): nevertheless they were among the taboos at the time of the Companions. The same is true of the chanting (talhiri) of the Qur'an and the call for prayer, going to excess in matters of cleanliness and being over fastidious in matters of ceremonial purity, ruling clothes unclean on petty and far-fetched grounds, and, at the same time, being lax in ruling foods lawful and unlawful as well as many other like things.[47]

He quoted Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman approvingly: "Strange as it may seem, accepted practices of today are the taboos of a day gone by. ... And the taboos of today are the accepted practices of a day yet to come."[47]


  1. ^ Wehr, Hans (1994). Arabic-English Dictionary. Spoken Language Services, Inc. p. 57. 
  2. ^ "Partial Translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud, Kitab Al-Sunnah, Book 40. Number 4590:". USC, Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Bid’ah ( with citations from the Qur’an and hadith)". Islamic Research Foundation International. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Al-Shatibi, Ibrahim ibn Musa. al-I`itsam. pp. 1:49. 
  6. ^ al-Masri, Jamaluddin ibn al-Manzur. Lisan al-‘Arab. pp. 8:6. 
  7. ^ a b "864: Bid'ah Hasanah". Islam Question and Answer. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  8. ^ a b 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
  9. ^ al-Nawawi, Yahya ibn Sharif. Tahzib al-Asma’ wal-Lughaat. pp. 1:22–23. 
  10. ^ al-Dhahabi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad. Kitab al-Kaba'ir. 
  11. ^ Al-Bahith ,, Yahya (February 27, 2012). "What is the meaning of Bida’a? Is using modern technology in Dawah considered as Bida’a?". Islam Q & A. Retrieved 26 June 2015. Innovation and discoveries related to our daily life is encouraged in Islam, as long as it does not contradict Islamic teachings and principles. Using modern technology in Dawah is required as means to convoy the message of Islam. 
  12. ^ Fat-hul Baari by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (vol.2, p. 443)
  13. ^ [Tirmizi chapter Il
  14. ^ a b c d e from: "Concept of Bidah in Islam". INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC WEBSITE. Retrieved 31 August 2015. 
  15. ^ (Fathul Bari chap on Taravi by Hafidhh Asqalani)
  16. ^ Bin Ramzaan Al Haajiree, Muhammad (2013). The Guidance of the Companions With Regards To The People Of Innovation (Salafi). MPUBS. p. 8. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  17. ^ Qadi Shawkani speaking in his chapter Salaah Al Taravee of Nayl-ul-Autaar
  18. ^ Tahzeeb al Asma wal lughaat word Bid’ah by Imam Nawawi
  19. ^ (Jaami' Al Uloom Al Hukkam page 252 by Hafidhh ibn Rajjab).
  20. ^ (Iqtidah al Sirat al Mustaqeem chap on Bid'ah by Hafidhh ibn Taymiyya)
  21. ^ Sahih Muslim, 9:3601
  22. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:80:8747
  23. ^ Abu Shaamah (no. 39)
  24. ^ al-Bayhaqee in as-Sunan al-Kubraa (4/316)
  25. ^ al-Laalikaa'ee - Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (no. 238)
  26. ^ Abu Nu'aym in al-Hilyah (7/26) and Ibn Battah (no.444)
  27. ^ Abu 'Iyaad as-Salafi. "Warning Against the Innovators". salafi publications. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  28. ^ al-Laalikaa'ee - Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (no.267)
  29. ^ Sunan ad-Daarimee (1/121)
  30. ^ al-Laalikaa'ee - Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (1/139)
  31. ^ Tabaqaatul-Hanaabilah - Volume 2, Page 44
  32. ^ Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah - al-Laalikaa'ee - Volume 1, Page 179
  33. ^ Abu 'Uthmaan as-Saaboonee, The 'Aqeedah of the (Pious) Predecessors - Page 101
  34. ^ Al Muttaqoon -> Question And Answers On Bid’ah (Innovation)
  35. ^ Microsoft Word - Explanation of The Nullifiers of Islaam.doc[dead link]
  36. ^ Islam Question and Answer - Does a good intention intercede for one?
  37. ^ 205: There is no such thing as bid’ah hasanah in Islam Islam Question and Answer. Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
  38. ^ :: Bidah (Innovation)[dead link]
  39. ^ 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]
  40. ^ Bin Bayyah, Abdullah. "On Celebrating the Prophet's Birthday". 
  41. ^ Kadri, Heaven on Earth, 2012: p.187
  42. ^ see Nurcholish Madjid, `Ibn Taymiyya on Kalam and Falsafa: A Problem of Reason and Revelation in Islam` (Ph.D. dissertation., University of Chicago, 1984), pp.235-36.
  43. ^ a b Kadri, Heaven on Earth, 2012: p.190
  44. ^ a b Kadri, Heaven on Earth, 2012: p.185
  45. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:56:680
  46. ^ Ibn Khaldun (1967). The Muqaddimah : an introduction to history ; in three volumes. 1. Princeton University Press. p. 387. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  47. ^ a b Al-Ghazali, Book of Knowledge, p.206

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]