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In Islam, bidʿah (Arabic: بدعة [ˈbɪdʕæ], lit.'innovation') refers to innovation in religious matters.[1] Linguistically, the term means "innovation, novelty, heretical doctrine, heresy".[2] Despite its common use in Muslim texts, the term is not found in the Qur'an.

In classical Arabic literature (adab), it has been used as a form of praise for outstanding compositions of prose and poetry.[3]

Traditional view[edit]

In early Islamic history, bid'ah referred primarily to heterodox doctrines. In Islamic law, when used without qualification, bid'ah denotes any newly invented matter that is without precedent and is in opposition to the Quran and Sunnah.[4]

Scholars generally have divided bid'ah into two types: innovations in worldly matters and that of in religious matters.[5][page needed][need quotation to verify] Some have additionally divided bid'ah into lawful and unlawful innovations, the details of which are discussed below.[6]

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.[7][page needed]

In worldly matters[edit]

Sunni Muslim scholars have divided bid'ah in worldly matters into two types:[5]

  1. Good worldly innovations such as using technology to propagate the faith of Islam.[citation needed]
  2. Innovations that are purely evil—these are forbidden under Islamic law. Examples of this type of bid'ah include alcohol,[8][non-primary source needed] or, in modern times, the discovery and synthesis of new intoxicants.[9]

In religious matters[edit]

Arguments against bid'ah[edit]

Ali ibn Abi 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."[14][15][non-primary source needed] Abdullah ibn Umar said: "Every innovation is misguidance, even if the people see it as something good."[16][non-primary source needed]

Abd Allah ibn Abbas, a companion of Muhammad and early Islamic scholar also said: "Indeed the most detestable of things to Allah are the innovations."[17][non-primary source needed] 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."[18][non-primary source needed] He also said, "Whoever listens to an innovator has left the protection of Allāh and is entrusted with the innovation."[19][non-primary source needed]

A person once sent salaam to Abdullah ibn Umar who replied: "I do not accept his salaam, as this person has innovated by becoming Qadariyah (A sect which does not believe in destiny.")[20][non-primary source needed]

Al-Fudayl ibn 'Iyad is reputed to have said: "I met the best of people, all of them people of the Sunnah, and they used to forbid from accompanying the people of innovation."[21][22][non-primary source needed] Hasan al-Basri mentions: "Do not sit with the people of innovation and desires, nor argue with them, nor listen to them".[23] Ibraaheem ibn Maysarah mentions: "Whoever honours an innovator has aided in the destruction of Islam."[24][non-primary source needed]

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."[25][non-primary source needed] Abu Haatim said: "A sign of the people of innovation is their battling against the people of Narrations."[26][non-primary source needed] Abu Uthman al-Sabuni 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."[27][non-primary source needed]

Ahmad Sirhindi has explained about Bid'ah in his letter, that according to his view, Bid'ah are the opposite of Sunnah or Hadith traditions of Muhammad.[28]

Various views differentiating good and bad bid'ah[edit]

Jabir ibn Abd Allah said that Muhammad said that those who introduced a good precedent in Islam which others followed (by people) would be rewarded as would those who followed it, and someone who introduced a bad precedent which others followed would be punished, as would the followers.[29][30][31]

Anas ibn Malik said "I heard the Prophet say: 'My nation will not unite on misguidance, so if you see them differing, follow the great majority.' (The grade of the Hadith is da'eef)"[32][non-primary source needed]

Abu Hurairah said that Muhammad said, "Whoever prayed at night the whole month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven." After Muhammad's death the people continued observing that (i.e. Nawafil offered individually, not in congregation), and it remained as it was during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr and in the early days of Umar ibn Al-Khattab's Caliphate. During Ramadan upon seeing people praying in different groups, Umar ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b to lead the people in congregational prayer. On this Umar said: 'What an excellent Bida (i.e. innovation in religion at that time from an earlier time) this is; but the prayer which they do not perform, but sleep at its time is better than the one they are offering.'[33][34][35][36]

Salman al-Farsi said that when Muhammad was asked, by some of the companions, about the permissibility and prohibition of certain items, he said "Halal is that which Allah has made Halal in His book, Haram is that which Allah has made Haram in His book and about which he has remained silent is all forgiven."[37][non-primary source needed]

Abu Hurairah said that at the time of the Fajr prayer Muhammad asked Bilal ibn al-Harith, "Tell me of the best deed you did after embracing Islam, for I heard your footsteps in front of me in Paradise." Bilal replied, "I did not do anything worth mentioning except that whenever I performed ablution during the day or night, I prayed after that ablution as much as was written for me."[38] Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani says in Fath al-Bari that "the hadith shows it is permissible to use personal reasoning (ijtihad) in choosing times for acts of worship, for Bilal reached the conclusion he mentioned by his own inference and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed him therein."[39] Similar to this, Khubayb ibn Adiy asked to pray two rak’as before being executed by idolators in Mecca, and was hence the first to establish the sunna of two rak'as for those who are steadfast in going to their death.[39][40]

Rifaa ibn Rafi narrated: When we were praying behind the Prophet and he raised his head from bowing and said, "Allah hears whoever praises Him," a man behind him said, "Our Lord, Yours is the praise, abundantly, wholesomely, and blessedly."When he rose to leave, the Prophet asked who said it, and when the man replied that it was he, the Prophet said, "I saw thirty-odd angel each striving to be the one to write it."[41] Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani comments in Fath al-Bari that the hadith "indicates the permissibility of initiation new expression of dhikr in the prayer other than the ones related through hadith texts (even though this is still reported in the hadiths), as long as they do not contradict those conveyed by the hadith. It is clear that this is since the above were a mere enhancement and addendum to the know, sunna dhikr."[39][non-primary source needed]

Imam Shafi'i gave the following advice, "An innovation which contradicts the Qurʼan, Sunnah, an Athar or Ijma is a heretical bid'a: if however something new is introduced which is not evil in itself and does not contradict the above mentioned authorities of religious life, then it is a praiseworthy, unobjectional bid'a." This can infer worldly bid'a or technology.[33][42][43][44][45]

Modern discourse[edit]

The criterion that qualifies a particular action as a bid'ah in the religion is a debate amongst Sunni scholars. Scholars affiliated to the Salafi and Wahhabi sects argue for an exclusive, literal definition that entails anything not specifically performed or confirmed by Muhammad.[46]

Practitioners of Sufism, in contrast, argue for an inclusive, holistic definition. 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[47]

In Shia Islam[edit]

According to Shia Islam the definition of bidʻah is anything that is introduced to Islam as either being fard (mandatory), mustahabb (recommended), halal (permissible), makruh (reprehensible) or haram (forbidden) that contradicts the Qurʼan or hadith. Any new good practice introduced that does not contradict the Qurʼan or hadith is permissible. However, it is not permissible to say that a new good practice (that does not contradict the Qurʼan or hadith) is obligatory, highly recommended or "sunnah" proper. Hence, the Shiʻa stance mirrors the body of Sunni scholars who proffer the idea of "bidʻah hasana". As a general rule in Shiʻa jurisprudence, anything is permissible except whatever is prohibited through divine revelation (i.e. the Qurʼan or hadith).[48]

Mohammad Baqir Majlisi in the definition of heresy says:

What is presented after the Prophet as a religious belief or practice, while no specific statement has been made about it and it is not considered as an example of a general rule or that practice is explicitly forbidden.

This definition means that innovation must be done in the name of religion to be considered heresy.


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[49] and conditional acceptance[50] of the celebration with the former insisting it is a bidʻah 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 bidʻah.

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."[51] This interpretation changed even for very conservative jurists such as Ibn Taymiyyah who wrote dozens of books. Ibn Taymiyyah however considered mathematics, a 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 use in determining the beginning of lunar months.[52] Very conservative Wahhabis allow the broadcast of television but Indian Deobandi forbid their followers from watching it,[53] but make use of the more recent invention the internet to issue fatwas.[53]

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,[54][55] 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" whereas isolated individuals were immune.[54] 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."[56]

In his Book of Knowledge Al-Ghazali observed that many phenomena once thought bidʻah 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 Quran 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.[57]

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."[57]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A.C. Brown, Jonathan (2009). Hadith: Muhammad's Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World (Foundations of Islam). Oneworld Publications. p. 277. ISBN 978-1851686636.
  2. ^ Wehr, Hans (1994). Arabic-English Dictionary. Spoken Language Services, Inc. p. 57.
  3. ^ Al-Shatibi, Ibrahim ibn Musa. al-I'itsam. pp. 1:49.
  4. ^ al-Masri, Jamaluddin ibn al-Manzur. Lisan al-'Arab. pp. 8:6.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ Nawawi, Al-. Tahzeeb al-Asma wal-Lugha. Vol. 2. pp. 22–23.
  7. ^ al-Dhahabi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad. Kitab al-Kaba'ir.
  8. ^ Fat-hul Baari by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (vol.2, page 443)
  9. ^ Oliver, Haneef James (2002). The Wahhabi myth : dispelling prevalent fallacies and the fictitious link with Bin Laden. Victoria, B.C.: Trafford. ISBN 1-55395-397-5. OCLC 51274504.
  10. ^ Al-I'tisaam of ash-Shaatibee (1/37)
  11. ^ [Tirmizi chapter Il
  12. ^ (Hafidhh ibn Rajjab, Jaami' Al Uloom Al Hukkam, p 252)
  13. ^ (Hafidh ibn Taymiyyah, Iqtidah al Sirat al Mustaqeem. chapter on bid'ah)
  14. ^ Sahih Muslim, 9:3601
  15. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:80:8747
  16. ^ Abu Shaamah (no. 39)
  17. ^ al-Bayhaqee in as-Sunan al-Kubraa (4/316)
  18. ^ al-Laalikaa'ee - Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (no. 238)
  19. ^ Abu Nu'aym in al-Hilyah (7/26) and Ibn Battah (no.444)
  20. ^ Kitaab-ul-Iman wa-al-Qadr, transmitted by Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah
  21. ^ Abu ‘Iyaad as-Salafi. "Warning Against the Innovators". salafi publications. Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  22. ^ al-Laalikaa'ee – Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (no.267)
  23. ^ Sunan ad-Daarimee (1/121)
  24. ^ al-Laalikaa'ee – Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah (1/139)
  25. ^ Tabaqaatul-Hanaabilah – Volume 2, Page 44
  26. ^ Sharh Usool I'tiqaad Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah – al-Laalikaa'ee – Volume 1, Page 179
  27. ^ Abu 'Uthmaan as-Saaboonee, The 'Aqeedah of the (Pious) Predecessors – Page 101
  28. ^ Ahmed Sirhindi Faruqi. "3". Maktubat Imam Rabbani (Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi) (in English and Punjabi). Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  29. ^ Sahih Muslim, 34:6466
  30. ^ Duderija, Adis (2015-10-14). The Sunna and Its Status in Islamic Law: The Search for a Sound Hadith. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 81. ISBN 9781137369925.
  31. ^ An-Na'im, Abdullahi Ahmed (1996-01-01). Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law. Syracuse University Press. p. 197. ISBN 9780815627067. This can be illustrated not only from usage of early Muslims but also from the usage of the Prophet (s) himself when he speaks of reward for any Muslim who establishes a good sunna and punishment for any Muslim who establishes a bad sunna.
  32. ^ Sunan ibn Majah 5:36:3950
  33. ^ a b Valentine, Simon Ross (2015-08-01). Force and Fanaticism: Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Beyond. Oxford University Press. p. 88. ISBN 9781849046152.
  34. ^ Sahih Bukhari, 3:32:227
  35. ^ Goldziher, Ignác (1973-01-01). Muslim Studies, Vol. 1. SUNY Press. p. 36. ISBN 9780873952347.
  36. ^ Shavit, Uriya (2015-11-12). Shari'a and Muslim Minorities: The wasati and salafi approaches to fiqh al-aqalliyyat al-Muslima. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191074448. It was accorded a second, positive connotation by the second Khalifa Umar, who said in regard to the prayer of Ramadan that it is a blessed innovation.
  37. ^ Ibn Majah, page 249
  38. ^ Sahih Bukhari, 2:21:250
  39. ^ a b c Keller, Nuh Ha Mim (1995). The Concept of Bid'a in the Islamic Shari'a. Muslim Academy Trust]. p. 5. ISBN 1-902350-02-2.
  40. ^ Sahih Bukhari, 4:52:281
  41. ^ Sahih Bukhari, 1:12:764
  42. ^ al-Bayhaqi, Manaqib al-Shafi'i, in Qastallani, X, p 342. Cf Muhammad al-Adbari, al-Madhkal (Alexandria, 1293), III, p 293.
  43. ^ Jokisch, Benjamin (2007-01-01). Islamic Imperial Law: Harun-Al-Rashid's Codification Project. Walter de Gruyter. p. 389. ISBN 9783110924343.
  44. ^ Böwering, Gerhard; Crone, Patricia (2013-01-01). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. Princeton University Press. p. 218. ISBN 978-0691134840.
  45. ^ Goldziher, Ignác (1973-01-01). Muslim Studies, Vol. 1. SUNY Press. pp. 36–37. ISBN 9780873952347.
  46. ^ Valentine, Simon Ross (2015-08-01). Force and Fanaticism: Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Beyond. Oxford University Press. p. 87. ISBN 9781849046152. Wahhabism, literal and narrow in its exegesis of the Quran and hadith regards bida as 'whatever religious practice or concept had come into being after the third century of the Islamic era', or as some ulema argue, those things introduced into society which were not known at the time of Prophet Muhammad (s)
  47. ^ Abd-Allah, Umar Faruq (2006). Innovation and Creativity In Islam (PDF). A Nawawi Foundation Paper. p. 2. ISBN 1-902350-02-2.
  48. ^ Answering-Ansar.org :: Bidah (Innovation) Archived March 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  49. ^ Bin Baz, Abd al-Aziz. "Warning Against Bidʻahs: Ruling on Celebrating the Prophet's Mawlid and Other Events". Fatawa Bin Baz. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  50. ^ Bin Bayyah, Abdullah. "On Celebrating the Prophet's Birthday". Archived from the original on 2011-09-29.
  51. ^ Kadri, Heaven on Earth, 2012: p.187
  52. ^ 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.
  53. ^ a b Kadri, Heaven on Earth, 2012: p.190
  54. ^ a b Kadri, Heaven on Earth, 2012: p.185
  55. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:56:680
  56. ^ Ibn Khaldun (1967). The Muqaddimah : an introduction to history ; in three volumes. 1. Princeton University Press. p. 387. ISBN 0691017549. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  57. ^ 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.
  • Keller, Nuh Ha Mim. (1995). The Concept of Bidʻa in the Islamic Shariʻa. Muslim Academy Trust. 1-902350-02-2.

External links[edit]

Sunni view[edit]

Shiʻa view[edit]