BID’AH – Between the Two Extremes

DEFINITION OF BID’AH

At the outset, it is important to distinguish between the linguistic and legal definitions of bid’ah. Linguistically, bid’ah refers to anything new without prior precedent, regardless of its merit and its connection to religion. Legally, bid’ah refers specifically to innovation in the religion, which is always reprehensible by consensus. The distinction is very important. By applying the statements of fuqaha regarding linguistic bid’ah onto legal bid’ah, many of the Ahl al-bid’ah attempt to justify innovation in the religion.

The following comprehensive statement from the great ottoman scholar al-Birgivi summarises the usage of the two definitions of bid’ah by the classical scholars:

“If it is asked how is his (upon him be blessings and peace) statement ‘every bid’ah is misguidance’ reconciled with the statement of the fuqaha that bid’ah is occasionally permissible (mubah) like using a sieve and the perpetuity of eating the wheat kernel and being satiated thereby; occasionally preferable (mustahabb) like erecting minarets, schools and the compilation of literary works; rather it sometimes becomes obligatory (wajib) like the furnishing of proofs to refute the doubts of the heretics and their like?

“We say: bid’ah has a linguistic general sense irrespective of it [being related to] custom or worship, because it is a noun [derived] from ibtida’ with the meaning of innovation…This is the categorisation in the vernacular of the fuqaha. They mean by it anything introduced after the first period…

“And [bid’ah] has a legal qualified sense which is to increase in the religion or decrease from it after the Companions without the permission of the Lawgiver, neither verbally nor in practice, and neither explicitly nor allusively. So it does not in principle include customs, rather it is restricted to beliefs…and certain forms of worship. This is his (Allah bless him and grant him peace) intent in his statement ‘every bid’ah is misguidance.’ [That legal bid’ah does not include customs is proven] by the indication of his (Allah bless him and grant him peace) statement ‘adhere to my sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs’, ‘you are more knowledgeable in your worldly matters’ and ‘whoever innovates anything into this matter of ours shall be rejected’” (Al-Tariqat al-Muhammadiyyah, Vol. 1 p. 120)

 

LEGAL BID’AH

“And [bid’ah] has a legal qualified sense which is to increase in the religion or decrease from it after the Companions without the permission of the Lawgiver.”

Legal bid’ah is forbidden by consensus. This is the bid’ah that is referred to in the narrations such as:

Ibn Umar (d. 84H) said: “Every innovation is misguidance, even if the people see it as something good.” (ad-Daarimi, Abu Shaamah)

The permission to increase or decrease from the religion ended after the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Thus during the age of the Taabieen, when certain people innovated zikr and gatherings of Allah’s remembrance that did not constitute of any Haram elements, consisted purely of words of zikr approved in the Sunnah, and seemed very beneficial, the Sahabah did not hesitate in branding them as bidatis. The desperate attempts of some of the Ahl al-bid’ah to cast doubt on the authenticity of such narrations is inconsequential in light of the fact that countless fuqaha from the time of the Salaf have authenticated and accepted them as bases for principles in the Deen:

The following hadith is recorded in Sunan Daarimi:

“Al-Hakam Bin Mubaarak narrated to us that Amr Bin Yahya said: ‘I heard my father narrating from his father who said: ‘We were seated at the door of Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood before the evening Salaat. When he would come out, we would walk with him to the Musjid. Then (while we were waiting), Abu Musa Ash’ari (A Sahaabi) came and said: ‘Has Abu Abdur Rahmaan (i.e. Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ood) emerged?’ We said: ‘No.’ Then he sat with us until he (Ibn Mas’ood) came out. When he emerged, we all stood up. Abu Musa said: ‘O Aba Abdir Rahmaan! I have just now seen in the Musjid an act which is displeasing to me, (but) Alhamdulillaah, I did not see anything but goodness.’ He (Ibn Mas’ud) said: ‘And what is that?’ Abu Musa said: ‘You shall soon see. I saw some groups in the Musjid sitting in a halqah (circle) waiting for the Salaat. In every halqah there is a man, and in their hands are pebbles. (i.e. in each group-leader’s hand is a pebble). He says: ‘Recite takbeer 100 times. Then they will recite takbeer 100 times. Then he says: Recite tahleel 100 times. Then they recite tahleel 100 times. Then he says: Recite Tasbeeh 100 times. Then they recite Tasbeeh 100 times.’ Ibn Mas’ood said: ‘What did you say to them?’ Abu Musa Ash’ari said: ‘I said nothing to them in anticipation of your opinion or your command.’ Ibn Mas’ood said: ‘Why did you not command them to count their sins (with the pebbles), and assure them that their virtues would not be ruined (by counting their sins instead of making Thikr in this way)?’

Then he went and we accompanied him until we came to one of the halqahs. He stood by them and said: ‘What is this that I am seeing you do?’ They said: ‘O Aba Abdillaah! These are pebbles with which we count the takbeer, tahleel and tasbeeh.’ Ibn Mas’ood said: ‘Then count your sins. I assure you that your good deeds will not be destroyed in the least bit (by counting your sins with the pebbles). Alas, O Ummah of Muhammad! How swiftly have you been ruined? These are the Sahaabah of your Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), who are still numerous among you. These are his clothes which have as yet not become old. These are his utensils which are not yet broken. (By this he indicated the close proximity to the age of Rasulullah – sallallahu alayhi wasallam). I take oath by That Being in Whose Hand is my life! Are you perhaps on a way which is more guided than the Millat of Muhammad? Or have you opened a doorway to deviation (dhalaalah)?’ They said: ‘Wallaah! O Aba Abdir Rahmaan! We intended nothing but goodness.”

Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood said: ‘There were many who intended goodness which they never attained. Verily, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said to us: “Verily, there will be people who will recite the Qur’aan, but it will not go beyond their throats.” By Allah, I do not know if perhaps most of you are from among them.’ Then he turned away from them. Amr Bin Salmah said: ‘I saw most of the people of these halqahs fighting against us (the Sahaabah) on the day of the Battle of Nahrawaan with the Khawaarij.”

Shaikhul Islam Ibn Daqeeq presents the riwaayat as follows:

“I am Ibn Mas’ood. So, whoever knows me, knows who I am. Whoever does not know me, then know that I am Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood. Do you think that you are more guided than Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and his Ashaab? Verily, you have innovated a dark bid’ah, or you have acquired greater status in knowledge than the Ashaab of Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).” Ibn Mas’ood has refuted this act notwithstanding the probability of it coming within the scope of Thikr in general.” (Ahkaamul Ahkaam)

The Hadith is found in Musannaf Abdur Razzaaq and Tabaraani who narrated it with several chains. Many of the early fuqaha authenticated and validated this narration with the statement: “Verily the narration from Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu) is Saheeh.” The narration’s authenticity has been accepted and used in refutation of bid’ah in authoritative books such as Fatawa Bazaziyyah, Fatawa Qadhi Khan, Fatawa Shaami, Al-Madkhal, Az-Zuhd Li Ibn al-Hanbal, Talbees Iblees, Al-I’tisaam, and many others.

The following two narrations have been reported regarding Hadhrat Ali (radhiyallahu anhu):

“A man intended to perform some (nafl) Salaat on the day of Eid, prior to the Eid Salaat (at the Eid Gah). Hadhrat Ali (radhiyallahu anhu) prevented him.The man said, ‘O Ameerul Mumineen, I am indeed aware that Allaah Ta`ala does not punish for (performing) Salaat!

Hadhrat Ali (radhiyallahu anhu) retorted by saying, ‘And indeed I am aware that Allaah Ta`ala does not reward for any action unless it was executed by Rasulullaah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) or which He has ordained or encouraged. (Therefore) Your Salaat is futile and futility is Haraam. It is very possible that Allaah Ta`ala will punish you for it, because you have acted contrary to (the Sunnat of) Rasulullaah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).’” [Sharah Majma’ Bahrain, Junna, Nazmul Bayaan]

Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh) states in Sharah Muhazzab:

“It has been reported that Hadhrat Ali (radhiyallahu anhu) once saw a Muat-thin making Tathweeb (i.e. calling out ‘Salaat, Salaat’, thereby calling the people to Salaat) in Esha Salaat, and he exclaimed, ‘Remove this bidati from the Masjid!’”
[Bahrur Raa`iq, page 261, vol. 1]

The following narrations were reported regarding Hadhrat Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu):

Hadhrat Mujaahid (rahmatullah alayh) states that he and Hadhrat Urwah bin Zubair (radhiyallahu anhu) entered the Masjid, when Abdullaah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) was sitting by the room of Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) and the people were performing Salaatud Duhaa in the Masjid. We asked him regarding their Salaat, to which he replied, ‘(It is a) Bid’ah’.” [Bukhaari, Muslim]

Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh) states,

“The meaning of this (Ibn Umar’s statement) is because of their making it apparent in the Masjid and in congregation. This is a bid’ah, not that the Salaatud Duhaa itself is bid’ah.”
[Sharah Muslim, vol. 1, page 409]

Hadhrat Naafi’ (rahmatullah alayh) narrates:

“A man sneezed nearby Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) and said, ‘Alhamdulillahi wa Salaamu ala Rasulillaah.’ Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) commented, ‘I also accept ‘Alhamdulillaah’ (that all praise is due to Allaah Ta`ala) and ‘Salaam ala Rasulillaah’ (Peace upon Rasulullaah), but this is not the way Nabi (Allah bless him and grant him peace) taught us. On this occasion (of sneezing) he taught us to say, ‘Alhamdulillaahi ala kulli Haal.’” [Tirmidhi, Mishkaat]

Hadhrat Mujaahid (rahmatullah alayh) said that once he entered a Masjid together with Hadhrat Abdullaah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) in order to perform Salaat. The Athaan had already been given. A person began making Tathweeb (i.e. calling out ‘Salaat, Salaat’, thereby calling the people to Salaat). Hadhrat Abdullaah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) commented, ‘Are you mad? Was the call to Salaat which was incorporated in the Athaan insufficient?’ Hadhrat Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) said to Mujaahid (rahmatullah alayh), ‘Take me away from here, surely this is a bid’ah.’ [Abu Dawood]

It is reported in another narration that he said, ‘Take me away from this innovation.’ He did not perform his Salaat there, despite his old age and frailty at the time. [Tirmidhi]

Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani mentions the following:

“And Imaam Ahmad reported with a good sanad from Ghadeef Ibnul-Haarith who said, ‘al-Malik Ibn Marwaan sent (someone) to me and he said: indeed we gather the people for two matters: raising the hands (for du’aa) upon the minbar on the day of jumu’ah, and giving exhortations after the fajr and ‘asr prayers. So he said: as for these two, then they are examples of your innovations in my opinion and I will not accept anything of them from you because the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘a people do not introduce an innovation except that a sunnah the likes of it is raised (i.e. forgotten and neglected)’ and sticking to the sunnah is better then introducing a bid’ah’ so if this was the answer of this sahaabee concerning a matter that has a basis in the religion, then what do you think the case would be concerning a matter that has no basis in the religion?”
[Fath al-Bari (13/314)]

The above examples should suffice in demonstrating that a new form of ibadah, which is an innovation in the religion, can never be regarded as hasanah (good), no matter how beneficial and beautiful it may appear to be.

 

LINGUISTIC BID’AH

“Bid’ah has a linguistic general sense irrespective of it [being related to] custom or worship, because it is a noun [derived] from ibtida’ with the meaning of innovation…This is the categorisation in the vernacular of the fuqaha. They mean by it anything introduced after the first period…”

It is only in this linguistic sense that some of the fuqaha have divided bid’ah into several categories, and labelled some bid’ah as good.

Imam al-Shafi’i (rahmatullahi alayhi) said:

“Newly-invented matters are of two types: The first of them is what opposes [something from] the Book, or [something from] the Sunnah, or a narration [from the Companions], or [a matter of] consensus, this is the misguided innovation. And the second is what has been introduced of goodness and there is not a single scholar who opposes it. This is newly-introduced yet not blameworthy and Umar (radiallaahu anhu) had said about the qiyam (al-layl) in the month of Ramadan, “What an excellent innovation this is,” meaning, that it is newly-introduced and was not previously done.” (Manaqib al-Shafi’i)

Imam al-Shafi’i (rahmatullahi alayhi) explains that Hadrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) used word bid’ah carrying the meaning that which is “newly introduced and was not previously done.” This is the linguistic definition of the word.

This distinction between innovation in general i.e. bid’ah with its linguistic meaning, and innovation in the religion i.e. bid’ah with its legal meaning, has been made by countless fuqaha, including many of the great authorities from the Shafi’i madhab, who understood authentically the real import of Imam al-Shafi’is statement.

The great Shafi’i jurist, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani explicitly describes this distinction several times in Fath al-Bari. Just before quoting Imam Shafi’is statement he says:

“And “the newly invented matters” (المحدثات), with the fathah on the daal, is the plural of novelty (محدثة) and what is intended by it is what has been newly-introduced and does not have any basis in the legislation. It is referred to in the usage of the Shari’ah as innovation (بدعة). As for what has a basis indicated by the Shari’ah then it is not an innovation. For “innovation” in the usage of the Shari’ah is blameworthy as opposed to its usage (with its) linguistic (meaning), for everything that has been newly-invented without any prior example is named “bid’ah” irrespective of whether it is praiseworthy, or blameworthy. (Fath al-Bari, 13/253)

and at another place:

“As for innovations (البدع), it is the plural of innovation (بدعة) and it is everything which does not have any prior example. Linguistically, [the word] encompasses what is both praiseworthy and blameworthy. In the usage of the people of the legislation (i.e. legally) it is specifically for what is blameworthy and if it is used in connection to what is praiseworthy, then it is upon its linguistic meaning. (Fath al-Bari, 13/278)

and:

“Bid’ah in terms legal terms is blameworthy. This is different with the linguistic sense where everything which is innovated is either good or bad” (Fath al-Bari vol. 15, pg. 179)

Imam Nawawi also makes the distinction between “bid’ah in the language” and “bi’dah in religious law”:

“Innovation in religious law is disagreeable, unlike in the language where everything that has been originated without a previous pattern is called innovation regardless of whether it is good or bad.” (Sharh Sahih Muslim 6-21)

Another famous authority from the Shafi’i school, Ibn Kathir, mentions this distinction in his Tafsir of verse (2:117), and specifies that the type of bid’ah Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) referred was linguistic:

“And bidah is of two types. Sometimes it is a bidah shar’iyyah (with its legal meaning), such as his saying, ‘For every newly-invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance…’ and sometimes it is a bidah lughawiyyah (with its linguistic meaning), such as the saying of Amir al-Mu’minin Umar bin al-Khattaab regarding his uniting them together for the Tarawih prayer and making them maintain this practice, “What an excellent innovation this is…'”

Similarly, the Shafi’i jurist Taj al-Din al-Fakihani (743AH) makes the distinction between innovation in general, which can be categorised into various divisions, and innovation in the religion (legal bid’ah). Whilst discussing which of the different categories of bid’ah, the Mawlid could be assigned to, he explicitly differentiates this definition of bid’ah from ‘innovating in the religion.’ He clearly mentions that ‘innovating in the religion’, which is the definition of legal bid’ah as used by the early fuqaha, is blameworthy by consensus.

“And it is not permissible that it (the Mawlid) should be mubah (i.e. from the permitted division of linguistic bid’ah), because innovating in the religion is not permissible by consensus of the Muslims.”

Another Muhaqqiq from the Shafi’i school, Shaykh Ibn Hajar al-Haythami , in response to a question regarding bid’ah, used the following answer:

“The statement of ‘Umar regarding Tarawih: “A brilliant bid‘ah, this is,” he meant linguistic bid‘ah, which is what was done without an exact precedent, as He, Most Exalted, said: “Say, “I am not something unprecedented (bid’a) among the messengers.” (46:9) It is not a legal bid‘ah, for legal bid‘ah is misguidance as he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said.

He [the scholar being quoted] said: Whoever divided it from the ‘ulama to good and not good, he only divided linguistic bid‘ah. And those who said every bid‘ah is misguidance, its meaning is legal bid‘ah.” (Fatawa Hadithiyyah)

Hafiz Ibn Rajab re-iterates the view of the Shafi’i authorities that the statements of Imam al-Shafi’i, Hadhrat Umar and others regarding good innovation, were in a purely linguistic sense:

“Whoever innovates a thing and relates it to the Deen, whilst it is not a part of the Deen, then this is clear deviation. The Deen is free from such innovations. It is irrelevant whether this innovation relates to beliefs, actions or statements. As for those things in the sayings of the right-acting first generations where they regard some innovations as good, that is only with respect to what are innovations in the linguistic sense, but not in the Shari’ah. An example of that is the saying of Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) when he had united people to stand in prayer (tarawih) in Ramadan behind a single Imam in the mosque, and then he came in behind them while they were praying and said, “What an excellent innovation this is!…

Another source is that he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) commanded us to follow the Sunnah of the khulafa who took the right way, and this has become the Sunnah of his khulafa who took the right way since people unanimously agreed about in the times of Umar, Uthman and Ali.

Another example of that is the first call to prayer on the Jumuah which Uthman added because of people’s need of it and which Ali affirmed, and which has become the continued practice of the Muslims. It has been narrated that Ibn Umar said, “It is an innovation,” but it is very likely that he meant the same as his father meant about standing for prayer in Ramadan [in jama’ah]….

(Whilst commenting on the statement of Imam al-Shafi’i):
As for praiseworthy innovation it is that which is in accordance with the Sunnah, meaning that which has a source in the Sunnah from which it is derived, and it is only an innovation in the linguistic sense rather than in the sense of the Shari’ah since it accords with the Sunnah.” [Jaamiul Uloom Wal Hikam]

Shaykh Abd al-Aziz Ibn Abd al-Salam was the first to introduce a five-fold division of bid’ah.The fact that he categorised the Taraweeh prayers with such “new innovations” as hospices, schools, and ‘every benevolent endeavor’, demonstrates clearly that he was using bid’ah in its linguistic definition, not bid’ah as “innovation in the religion.”

“For the recommended innovations are examples, from them: Setting up hospices and schools and every benevolent endeavour not present in the first era, and (also) from (the examples) is at-Tarawih”

Finally it is worth quoting Imam Malik (rahmatullahi alayhi) who mentions that any such labelling of “innovating in the religion” as good innovation is in effect a slur on the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace):

” Anyone who commits an innovation in Islam and say that it is a good innovation then truly he is stating that the Prophet has betrayed the Message (of Islam). The reason is God has said “Today I have perfected your religion”. Whatever was not part of the religion then, will not be a part of it today.”

 

THE SAHABAH (RADHIYALLAHU ANHUM) ARE THE CRITERIA BETWEEN SUNNAH AND BID’AH

In every issue, the Ummah tends towards one of two extremes. One group of Ahl al-bid’ah label the acts of ibadah introduced by the Khulafa Rashideen as bid’ah in its legal sense, effectively accusing the Sahabah of being complicit in a heinous crime by innovating, or by performing with rigid constancy a non-Sunnah specified form of ibadah – which is also bid’ah. This group brand the taraweeh prayers as a bid’ah, or relegate the exact form as practised with rigid constancy by the Sahabah, to below the level of a Sunnah.

Another group of the Ahl al-bid’ah attach the word hasanah to bid’ah in its legal sense, in order to open the door for any innovation in the religion. They attempt to justify innovations by non-Sahaabah, on the basis of the introductions of the Sahaabah, and they describe Sunnah acts of ibaadat as being ‘bid’ah’ (in its legal meaning) on the faulty basis that such acts were not initially or directly ordered by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

Acts of ibaadat introduced by the Sahaabah and which Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) himself had approved directly in his lifetime, or after his lifetime, through the principle found in Ahadith such as, “Cling with your jaws to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of my rightly-guided Khulafa.”, cannot be described as bid’ah in its legal meaning. Rather they are all Sunnah.

‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Azeez statement here demonstrates this tendency of the Ummah to diverge towards two extremes with regards to the actions of the Sahabah:

“Stop where the people have stopped! For indeed, they stopped upon receiving knowledge. The clear evidences would suffice them, and they were the strongest at manifesting them. If there were any merit in something, then they would be the most deserving of it. So if you say: ‘It was introduced after them’ , then no one introduces something into it except that he has opposed their guidance, and desired other than their example. They have described it from what was sufficient, and they have spoken concerning it – what sufficed. What is above them is excessiveness, and what is below them is inadequacy. Some people have fallen short of them, and so they have drawn away. And others have transgressed them, so they have become extreme. But indeed they were between these two (extremes) upon a straight path.”

[Reported by Ibn Qudaamah in Al Burhaan li Bayaanil Qur’aan (p. 88-89), as a statement of ‘Abdul ‘Azeez Ibn Abil Maajishoon and then he said: He related it’s meaning back to ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Azeez. al Haafidh Ibnul Jawzee in Manaqibul Umar Ibn Abdul Azeez (p. 83-84). al Haafidh Ibn Rajab Fadhlul Ilmis Salaf (p. 36)]

An early authority from the Shafi’i school, Allamah al-Khattabi (rahmatullahi alayhi) (d.386), explains clearly the intent behind Hadhrat Umar’s use of the word bid’ah for the taraweeh, and that in reality it is a Sunnah:

“He (Umar (radhiyallahu anhu)) only called it Bid’ah because Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) did not prescribe it and nor was it (existent) in the era of Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu). He encouraged it (Taraweeh behind one Imaam) by him saying Ni’ma (how wonderful) to indicate upon its virtue and so that this term (Bid’ah) does not prevent from practicing upon it. And the standing of Ramadhaan is in actual fact Sunnat, not Bid’at because of the following saying of Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam): “Follow those two after me, Abu Bakr and Umar (radhiyallahu anhuma)”.

Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) states the fact that the 20 rakats taraweeh prayers are actually Sunnah, due to its explicit and implicit acceptance by the Muhajirun and the Ansars:

“It has been proven without doubt that Ubayy ibn Ka’b (Allah be pleased with him) used to lead the Companions, during Ramadan, for 20 rak’ahs and 3 rak’ahs of witr. Hence it is the principle (maslak) of most of the Ulama that this is the Sunnah, because Ubayy ibn Ka’b led 20 rak’ahs of prayer in the presence of the Muhajirin (the emigrants) and the Ansars (the helpers) and not a single Companion repudiated it!” (Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah)

And in Iqaamatud Deen:

“It is compulsory to follow the Ijma of the Sahaabah radhiyallahu anhum. In fact the Ijma of the Sahaabah radhiyallahu anhum is a very strong proof and precedes others.”
[Iqaamatud Deen, Vol 3]

And regarding the fact that the 20 rakat taraweeh prayer was called bid’ah only in a linguistic sense:

“With regard to qiyaam in Ramadaan, the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) introduced this to his ummah, and he led them in prayer for a number of nights, because at his time they used to pray in congregation and individually. But he did not persist in leading them in one congregation, lest that be made obligatory for them. When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) died, sharee’ah was established (and would not change after that). When ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) became caliph, he united them behind one imam, Ubayy ibn Ka’b, who united the people in one congregation on the orders of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him). ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) was one of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, of whom the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I urge you to adhere to my Sunnah and the way of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs after me; cling tightly to it.” So what he did was Sunnah but he said, “What a good innovation this is,” because it was an innovation in the linguistic sense, as they were doing something that they had not done during the life of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), i.e., gathering to do this, but it is Sunnah in the shar’i sense.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 22/234, 235)

Similarly, Imam Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi (d. 620) declared in his famous book of fiqh al-Mughni:

“There has been the Companion’s consensus (Ijma us-Sahabah) on 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh.”

Allamah al-Lakhnawi’s statement here adequately summarises the fact that taraweeh was not bid’ah in its legal sense, but rather Sunnah in its legal sense:

“Tarawih is not legal bid’ah so as to become misguidance and the opposite of sunnah, and ‘Umar only called it a bid’ah by consideration of its linguistic meaning because it is from that which he innovated after it was non-existent in the first era and the era of the first caliph. He alluded to this by the addition of the word ‘brilliant’, meaning that that which we innovated is not a legal bid’ah so as not to be good, rather it is a legal sunnah, although it is a linguistic bid’ah.” (Tuhfat al-Akhyar bi Ihya Sunnati Sayyid al-Abrar, p. 26)

Regarding the fact that forsaking the practices of Umar deserves punishment:, Allaamah Badrud Deen Ayni said:

“There is no doubt that one will be rewarded for acting on the practices of Hadhrat Umar and punished for forsaking them. This is so because we have been commanded to follow him due to the instruction of Rasulullaah which says, ‘Follow the two who are after me; Abu Bakr and Umar’. Since we have been commanded to follow the two of them, this will be compulsory and forsaking a compulsory act will necessitate punishment.” (Al Binaayah, as quoted in Fataawaa Qiyaamil Millat wad Deen Pg.378.)

The fact that Ijma’ of the Sahabah, and the best of generations, was enacted on twenty Rakaats, raises it to the level of an emphasised Sunnah, and signifies that the Ahadeeth narrating different number of rakaats are mansookh (abrogated) and any anomalous view will be simply set aside.

It is ironic that those who claim to follow the Salaf, and criticize taqleed, are so blinded by their own taqleed of the anomalous view, that the Sunnah form of taraweeh confirmed by the Ijma’ of the Sahabah and the Aimmah Mujtahideen, and the ta’ammul (continuous inherited practice) of the whole Ummah since the Salaf, has been discarded widely amongst them within a very short time-scale.

Numerous great Auliya had their own personal forms of Nafl ibaadat, athkaar and ashghaal. These practices were never incorporated into the Sunnah as were the introductions of the Sahaabah. Whilst it is an emphasised Sunnah to observe the 20 raka’ts Taraaweeh, it is not even Mustahab to observe any act of ibaadat introduced by any Wali. Any such individual actions raised to the level of Mustahab will render the act into a bid’ah.

Combining the constituents of good actions together into a new form of ibadah is legal bid’ah, unless it was approved directly by the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant peace), or through the acceptance of the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) as a whole. During the time of revelation, while the Deen was undergoing completion for the Ummah, there were many actions carried out by the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) which will never be permitted again for the Ummah, by consensus. Some of those actions were approved of, in which case it became part of Sunnah, and some were disapproved of, in which case it did not become part of Sunnah. Hafiz Ibn Rajab describes the following incident:

“And the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saw a person standing in the sun, and so he inquired about him and it was said in reply, ‘he has taken an oath to stand and not to sit or take shade, and to fast.’ So the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ordered him to sit and seek the shade and to complete his fast. [Bukhaaree] So he (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not make his standing and exposure to the sun a means of getting close (to Allaah) such that it would require fulfilling the oath. And it is reported that this event occurred on the day of jumu’ah at time of hearing the khutbah of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) while he was on the minbar.

So this man made the oath to stand and not sit or seek the shade for as long as the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) gave his sermon, in glorification/respect of listening to the sermon of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and yet the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not make this a means of getting close to Allaah that would require fulfillment of his oath.

Despite the fact that standing is worship in other places such as prayer and adhaan and offering du’aa on ‘Arafah. And exposure to the sun is a means of getting closer to Allaah for the one in ihraam, so this indicates that everything that is a means of getting close to Allaah on a particular occasion is not a means of getting close on every occasion, rather one follows what occurs in the Sharee’ah in it’s correct place for everything…”

The Sahaabah had a licence from Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), and the Ummah has been commanded explicitly by him (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to obey and follow that which was accepted by the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum). There are innumerable Ahadith and statements of the Salaf, and the early fuqaha, which delineate clearly that the Sunnah, in its legal sense, is restricted to the actions accepted and practised by the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum). The import of these Ahadith and statements are so clear that no further explanation is required:

The Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said:

“Indeed those of you who will live after me, will see many differences (of opinions). It will be binding upon you (at that time) to hold on fast to my Sunnat and the Sunnat of my rightly guided Khulafa-e- Raashideen. Hold onto to it with your canines. And save yourselves from innovations, because indeed every innovation is a Bid’ah and every Bid’ah is deviation.”

And he, sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said:

“The stars are the custodians for the sky, so when the stars pass away, that which has been decreed for the sky will come upon it. I am the custodian for my Companions, so when I pass away, there will come upon my Companions that which is decreed for them. And my Companions are the custodians for my Ummah, so when my Companions pass away, that which has been decreed upon my Ummah will come upon it.” (Muslim (16/82) and Ahmad (4/398))

And he, sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said:

“Indeed my Ummah will split-up into seventy-three. All of them are in the Fire accept one.” It was said: What is the one? He said“:That which I and my Companions are upon.” (at-Tirmidhî (no.2792) and al-Hâkim (l/128-129) and it is Hasan.)

And he, sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said:

“Indeed Allaah Ta`ala looked into the hearts of His servants and in accordance to His knowledge He chose Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and sent him with His Message, then He looked into the hearts the people after him and He chose for him his Companions, and made them helpers in His Deen and the ambassadors of His Nabi (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Whatever the Muslims deem good, it is good in the Sight of Allaah Ta`ala, and whatever they deem evil is likewise according
to Allaah Ta`ala.” [Tayaalisi]

An almost identical wording is found in Musnad Ahmad.

The Ahl al-bid’ah carry the trait of quoting and extracting a particular meaning from a hadith in isolation, conveniently ignoring other narrations that clarify unambiguously the real import of the Hadith. For example, they tend to quote only the following narrations of the previous two Ahadith, in order to gain leverage for superimposing their own interpretations:

“Indeed my Ummah will split-up into seventy-three. All of them are in the Fire accept one.” It was said: ‘What is the one?’ He said, “The Jama’ah”'(The Group)

And:

‘Whatever the Muslims regard as good, Allah Ta`ala also regards as good.’

The following Hadith is another example of one which is misused by quoting in isolation. No further explanation is required after reading all the other narrations:

“Whoever initiates in Islaam a virtuous act, and it is carried out after him (his demise), then it is recorded for him the reward of the executers, without their rewards being diminished in the least.” [Sahih Muslim]

Narrations of the same Hadith include the following wordings:

“He who holds on fast to my Sunnat…”(Mishkaat),

“Whoever livens a Sunnat from amongst my Sunnats, which has died after me…”
(Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi, Mishkaat),

“Whosoever livens a Sunnat from amongst my Sunnats, and the people practice
upon it…” (Ibn Majah) .

The Sahabah (radhiallahu anhum) themselves explained that their practice was the Sunnah of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

Confirming the fact that actions of the Khulafa Rashideen are actually Sunnah, Hadhrat Ali (radhiyallahu anhu) said,

“The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) (ordered that a drunkard) be whipped forty lashes, Abu Bakr (also gave the command) of forty. Whilst Umar gave the command of eighty. All of which are Sunnah.” (Muslim, Abu Daud, Ibn Majah)

Imaam Haakim records the statement of Hadhrat Ali with the following additional words:

“And Uthmaan also completed 80 lashes, and all this is Sunnat.”

Imam al-Nawawi commenting upon this Hadith stated,

“This narration is a manifest proof, that Ali radhiyallahu anhu honoured the actions and commandments of Umar and Abu Bakr radhiyallahu anhuma by acknowledging their actions as a Sunnah, contrary to the lies which the Shias ascribe to him.”

Hadhrat Abdullaah Ibn Mas`ood (radhiyallahu anhu) said:

‘Whosoever wishes to follow the Sunnat, then he should follow in the footsteps of those who had passed away, because those who are still alive are not immune from fitnahs. They (those whom you should follow) are the Companions of Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace), who were the most virtuous of this Ummat. Their hearts were the most pure, their knowledge most deep and they were most informal (free from excesses and pomp). Allaah Ta`ala had chosen them to be the companions of His Nabi (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and to establish His Deen. Recognise their virtue, follow in their footsteps and hold on, to the best of your ability, to their character and way of life. They were Straight Guided Path.” [Mishkaat]

He (radhiyallahu anhu) also commanded not to innovate and that the practice of the Sahabah is sufficient:

“Follow in our footsteps, and do not innovate (new things). Indeed, you have been sufficed.” [Al-I`tisaam, page 54, vol.1]

Hadhrat Huzaifah (radhiyallahu anhu) stated:

“Do not perform any act of worship that was not practiced by the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, for the earlier generation did not leave any room for the latter to add anything (to the religion). Fear Allah, O’ readers, seekers of knowledge, and follow the patho of those who came before you.” [Ibn Battah in al- Ibaanah].

and:

“Do not make any Ibaadat that the Sahaabah of Rasulullaah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not do!” [Abu Dawood, Al-I`tisaam]

The early fuqaha have explained that the Sunnah is limited what the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) accepted and performed, and that they are the benchmark between Sunnah and Bid’ah:

Hadhrat Umar bin Abdil Azeez (rahmatullah alayh) gave the following comprehensive advice:

“Amma Ba`ad, I advise you with fear for Allaah Ta’ala, moderation in executing deeds, following the Sunnat of His Nabi (Allah bless him and grant peace) , abandoning that which the innovators introduced after the Sunnat. What a felony is it not to introduce a bid`ah in the presence of a Sunnat?

Hold on firmly to the Sunnat, because it is a protection and fortress for you, by the order of Allaah Ta`ala. Know! No nation introduces any bid`ah except that a proof (against) or experience of it has passed before. Indeed the Sunnat was introduced by such a personality who discerned its opposite factors, considered them and opted against them.

You should also content yourself with those things which the nation (Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum) were pleased with, because they were aware and had insight. They stayed away from bidah. They were on the highest pedestal. Therefore if you believe that guidance lies in that which you practice, then it implies that you have surpassed them in excellence.”
[Abu Dawood, page 277, vol. 2]

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahmatullahu alayhi) said:

“The Fundamental Principles of the Sunnah with us are: Clinging to that which the Companions of Allâh’s Messenger sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam were upon, taking them as our example to be followed, avoiding Innovation; and every Innovation is misguidance. ” [lbn Battah in Al-Ibânah’an Usûlid-Diyâanah]

Imaam Bukhari said:

“I have met more than a thousand scholars.(then he mentioned the names of the more prominent in each of the lands that he travelled in) and I found that they all agreed on the following points: they all used to prohibit bid’ah – that which the Prophet and his Companions were not upon, because of the saying of Allaah, ‘and hold fast to the rope of Allaah and do not separate'” [Sharh Usul I’tiqaad]

Abu Ishaaq al-Fazaree reported that al-Awzaa’ee said,

“Patiently restrict yourself to the the Sunnah and do not go beyond the limits held by the decisions of the Sahaabah; hold their positions and avoid what they avoided, take the path of your righteous predecessors for verily what was sufficient for them is sufficient for you.” (Talbee Iblees)

Hadhrat Abu Aaliyah said,

“Learn Islam, then when you have learned Islam, do not turn away from it to the right or to the left. But be upon the Straight Path and be upon the Sunnah of your Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) and that which his companions were upon…

And beware of these innovations because they cause enmity and hatred amongst you, but stick to the original state of affairs that was there before they divided.” [al-Hilya of Abu Nu’aym]

Imâm al-Baghawî (d.516H) – rahimahullâh – said:

“The Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam informed about the splitting of this Ummah and the appearance of innovations, and he stated that those who followed his Sunnah and the way of his Companions – may Allâh be pleased with them all – would be saved. So the Muslim, when he sees a person zealously engaged in any of these innovations out of belief, or taking any of the Sunnah lightly – must avoid him and be free of him, and abandon him, whether alive or dead. So he does not give salâm to him when he meets him, nor reply to it if he says it first – until he abandons his innovation and returns to the truth. And the forbiddance of avoiding for more than three days between two people refers to things that happen between people – not what is done for the sake of the Dîn – since avoiding people of innovation continues until they leave their innovation.” [Sharhus-Sunnah]

Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazzālī H (d. 505 / 1111; Tūs) wrote whilst distinguishing between the righteous ulama from the evil worldly ones:

“And among them [that is, the qualities of the otherworldly ulama] is that he should guard assiduously against innovated/introduced matters [in religion] even if the vast majority of people have accepted them and that he should not be deluded by the people’s agreement [about the legitimacy] of something they introduced after the Companions(radhiyahllahu anhum) and that he should be avid in his enquiry about the state of the Companions and their behaviour and their deeds and about what the gave the greatest importance to.” (Iḥyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn, Kitābal-ʿIlm)

Haafidh Ibn Rajab Hanbali (rahmatullah alayh) describes the “perfect Sunnah” as:

“Sunnah is the term given to that path which is followed and adhered to, upon which Nabi (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and the Khulafa-e-Raashideen treaded. This includes the beliefs, actions and statements. This is the perfect Sunnah” [Jamiul Uloom wal Hikm, vol. 1, page 191]

Haafidh Ibn Katheer (rahmatullahi alaih):

“The Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat states that it is a Bid’ah to carry out whatever act and statement is not established from Rasulullaah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) by the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhu). Because if that act was a good one, then the Sahaabah would most definitely have carried it out first. Indeed if an act was a good one, then they would have surpassed us in it. They never left out any virtuous act from the virtuous acts, except that they would excel us in it.” [Tafseer Ibn Katheer]

Imaam Rabbani Hadhrat Mujaddid Alf Thaani writes,

“Rasulullaah has stated that this group can be recognised by the fact that they ‘follow the path on which my companions and I are on’. While it would have sufficed to say ‘the path on which I am’, Rasulullaah specifically mentioned the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) so that it may be known that the path the Sahabah radhiyallahu anhum follow is his (Allah bless him and grant him peace) path as well and that salvation can be attained by following the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum).” (Maktubaat Vol 1)

Thus, in relation to the Ummah, the 20 rakats Taraaweeh prayers, the additional Jumuah Athaan, Tahiyyatul Wudhu, the Salaat before being executed, the wording of the Athaan which a Sahaabi saw in a dream, the Tahmeed in Salaat, and other acts initiated by the Sahabah (radhiallahu anhum) are not bid’ah, as understood by one group of Ahl al-bid’ah, nor bid’ah hasanah, as understood by another group. They are all legal Sunnah.

Shah Abdul Haqq Muhaddith Dehlwi (rahmatullah alayh) describes this habit of the ‘deviated people’ in his famous commentary,

“If the Khulafaa-e-Rashideen issued a decree on any matter, even though their ruling may have been based on their Qiyaas or ijtihaad, it is also in accordance to (to be classified as) Sunnat. It can never be classified as Bid’ah, as some deviated people have said.” [Ash-atul Lam`aat, vol. 1, page 130]

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