Category Archives: Principles of Fiqh

The Difference between Bid`ah-e-Hasanah & Bid`ah-e-Sayyiah

[By Maulana Sarfaraz Khan Safdar (rahimahullah)]

It is imperative that we differentiate and explain Bid`ah-e-Hasanah and Bid`ah-e-Sayyiah so as to clarify the issue with those who are unaware of the difference and so that they are not left in trepidation regarding the two.

There are two types of Bid`ah – lexicographic Bid`ah and Shar`i Bid`ah. Lexicographic Bid`ah is the term given to all things which are newly invented, which came into being after the demise of Nabi ﷺ. This includes Ibaadat and Aadat (habitual things). These are divided into five categories: Waajib, Mandoob, Haraam, Makrooh and Mubaah.

Shar`i Bid`ah includes all those innovations which came into being after the three best eras and upon which there is no consent from Nabi ﷺ by way of word, action, clearly or by indication. This is that Bid`ah which is classified under Bid`ah-e-Dhalaalah, Bid`ah-e-Qabeehah and Bid`ah-e-Sayyiah. The Ulama have dilated upon this.

“Bid`ah is of two types: one is a lexicographic Bid`ah and the other is a Shar`i Bid`ah. Lexicographically, Bid`ah is every new invention which includes Ibaadaat and Aadaat. This Bid`ah is further divided into five categories. The second type is that Bid`ah which increases (or decreases) in any revealed Deeni matter after the passing of the three best  era. This increase is devoid of consent from Nabi ﷺ. There  is no consent from Nabi ﷺ on these actions, neither by way of word, action, explicit or by indication. This is the meaning of Bid`ah-e-Dhalaalat” [Tarweejul  Jinaan/Junna page 161]

For a more detailed explanation on Bid`ah-e-Hasanah and Bid`ah-e-Sayyiah refer to Irshaadus Saari, vol.3, page 344, Umdatul Qaari, page 356, vol.5, Nawawi Sharah Muslim, page 285, vol.1 and  Mudkhal, page 257, vol.2.

Haafidh Ibn Hajar (rahmatullahi alaihi) writes:

“The crux of the matter is this that if Bid`ah has an acceptable proof in the Shariah, then it would be classified as a Bid`ah-e-Hasanah. If the Bid`ah has an unacceptable proof then it would be classified as Bid`ah-e-Qabeehah. Otherwise it would be Mubaah. Bid`ah is divided into five categories.” [Fathul Baari, page 219, vol.4]

A similar explanation is given in Allamah Aini’s Umdatul Qaari. Refer to page 356, vol.5.

Now this much remains to be explained, that what is acceptable in the Shariah and what is unacceptable in the Shariah. Hadhrat Imaam Shaafi (rahmatullahi alaihi) states:

“Bid`ah is of two types. That Bid`ah which contradicts the Kitaab (Qur`aan Majeed), Sunnah, Ijma or Athar of a Sahaabi. This is Bid`ah-e-Dhalaalah. That Bid`ah which does not contradict anything of these, this is a Hasan Bid`ah, in accordance to the words of Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu):‘This is a good Bid`ah’” [Minhaajus Sunnah, page 128, vol.2]

That action which Nabi ﷺ left out notwithstanding the conditions and ability being in existence during his era and that the Sahaabah-e-Kiraam (radhiyallahu anhum) and Taabieen also left out is undoubtedly a Bid`ah and deviation. This is so because it is in contradiction to the Kitaab, Sunnat, Ijma of the best of eras and Qiyaas. If there exists a little proof for it, then sometimes it may be a good action, whereupon reward is due and sometimes it is merely a permissible action which warrants neither reward nor sin.

The summary of the discussion of Qiyaas in Majaalis-e-Abrar and the above-mentioned texts, results in the definition of Bid`ah-e-Hasanah and Bid`ah-e-Sayyiah is as follows:

Bid`ah-e-Hasanah is that action whose prevention was removed after the demise of Nabi ﷺ. Or its conditions and ability  of execution came into existence after Nabi ﷺ. Some proof for its execution can be found in Kitaabullaah, Sunnat, Ijma or Qiyaas. This is known as Bid`ah-e-Hasanah or in other words it is also regarded as lexicographic Bid`ah, which is not rejected or accursed. The texts of Allaamah Ibn Rajab etc. has already been quoted which adds more light on the subject.

As for that action, which could have been executed during the era of Nabi ﷺ but he did not carry it out and the Sahaabah-e-Kiraam, Taabieen and Tabe Taabieen, notwithstanding their extreme love and affection for Nabi ﷺ also did not carry out this action, then such actions are called Bid`ah-e-Qabeeha, Bid`ah-e-Sayyia and Bid`ah-e-Shar`iah.   Besides this, the Ijtihaad of a non-Mujtahid, especially in our times, is definitely not classified as Bid`ah-e-Hasanah. In this regard the Fuqahaa-e-Kiraam (rahmatullahi alaihim) have stated:

“It is stated in Nisaabul Fiqh that Bid`ah-e-Hasanah are those actions which the Aimmah-e-Mujtahiddeen have classified as Bid`ah-e-Hasanah. If any person in our era classifies anything as Bid`ah-e-Hasanah then this is contrary to the Haqq, because it is stated in Musaffa that all Bid`ah in our era are deviation.” [Fatawaa Jaamiur Riwaayat and Junna, page 60]

From this text we clearly see that Bid`ah-e-Hasanah is only that which the Aimmah-e-Mujtahiddeen have classified as such. Ijtihaad and Qiyaas are only permissible in those issues and Masaa`il regarding which no Qur`aanic or Ahaadith texts exist, and the conditions and possibility of their execution did not exist during the time of Nabi ﷺ and the best of eras, in fact, it (conditions and possibilities of execution) came into existence only after these eras. If any person in this present age classifies any new action as a Bid`ah-e-Hasanah, then his claim would be totally rejected and discounted.

This is that Bid`ah regarding which Mujaddid Alfe Thaani (rahmatullahi alaihi) stated:

“How can those things which are rejected ever be regarded as Hasan and good?”



[Based on Al-I‘tisam by Imam Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi  (d. 790 H)
Translated by Mawlana Zameelur Rahman]

The  notion  of  “bid‘ah”  in  Islam  is  one  that  is  confusing  to  many.  There  are  a  number  of reasons  for  this  which  are  not  the  concern  of  this  paper,  but  suffice  it  to  say,  there  is  very  little  clarity  presented  on  the  more  nuanced  aspects  of  this  concept,  and  unfortunately  there  are  few  works  in  English,  if  any,  that  attempt  to  tackle  the  concept  of  bid‘ah  accurately  and  with  serious  depth.  Fortunately,  however,  we  have  an  excellent  and  well-researched  work  on  the  subject  in  Arabic  by  the  eminent  pre-modern  scholar,  Imam  Abu  Ishaq  Ibrahim  ibn  Musa  ibn Muhammad  al-Lakhmi  al-Shatibi  (d.  790 H),  called  al-I‘tisam. 

Abu  Ishaq  al-Shatibi  was  a Maliki  Ash‘ari  jurist  and  scholar,  particularly  known  for  his  contributions  in  the  fields  of  usul  al-fiqh  (principles  of  jurisprudence)  and  fiqh  (jurisprudence).  He  is  the  author  of  al-Muwafaqat,  an  authoritative  work  on  the  subject  of  usul  al-fiqh.  

This  paper  is  primarily  based  on  Imam  al-Shatibi’s  definitive  study  of  bid‘ah  in  his  seminal  work,  al-I‘tisam,  but  will  also  draw  on  other  sources  to  support  some  of  his conclusions.  The  aim  is  to  present  a  coherent  and  satisfactory  examination  of  the  concept  of  bid‘ah,  with  a  treatment  of  all  its  important  aspects,  while  keeping  it  as  short  and  digestible  as  possible. 

A  note  about  methodology:  In  most  cases  when  bid‘ah  is  discussed,  a  taqlidi  (imitative)  approach  is  taken,  in  which  scholars  are  haphazardly  quoted  with  no  real  effort  to  reconcile  apparent  inconsistencies  or  base  the  statements  on  scriptural  proofs.  Al-Shatibi’s  approach  is  tahqiqi  (critical)  in  which  a  serious  effort  is  made  to  appreciate  the  reality  of  the  concept  with  integrity  and  care,  and  to  understand  the  issue  in  light  of  the  available  evidence  and  the  statements  of  the  authorities  with  full  academic  rigour.

There  are  two  aspects  to  the  study  of  bid‘ah:  its  usul  (principles)  and  its  furu‘ (peripherals).  Study  of  its  usul  deals  with  the  formulation  of  a theoretical  framework  or  criteria by  which  to  determine  what  constitutes  bid‘ah  and  what  does  not.  Study  of  its  furu‘  deals  with  examples  of  bid‘ah,  determined  by  the  principles  from  its  usul.

Imam  al-Shatibi’s  book  stands  out  as  the  only  work  that  takes  a  serious  and  in-depth look  at  the  subject  of  usul  al-bid‘ah,  of  which  he  was  acutely  aware.  He  mentions  towards the  beginning  of  al-I‘tisam:

“Rarely  has  a  work  been  compiled  on  it  [i.e.  bid‘ah],  and  whatever  has  been  compiled  on  it  is  inadequate  in  these  areas  [i.e.  of  usul  al-bid‘ah].” [al-I’tisam 1:29]

Towards  the  end  of  his  lengthy  work,  he  mentions  two  such  books,  one  by  Muhammad  ibn  Waddah  (d.  287  H)  called  al-Bida‘  wa l-Nahy  ‘anha  and  another  by  Abu  Bakr  al-Turtushi  (d.  520  H),  called  Kitab  al-Hawadith  wa l-Bida‘.  

He  writes:  “I  saw  that  the  topic  of  bid‘ah  was  greatly  neglected  in  the  speech  of  the ‘ulama’,  except  for  brief  transmissions  as  done  by  Ibn  Waddah,  or  side  issues  are produced  that  will  not  satisfy  the  thirsty.  Rather,  complete  understanding  of  it  as  is required,  I did  not  find,  despite  my  intense  search  for  it,  besides  what  Abu  Bakr  al-Turtushi  wrote  about  it,  but  it  is  meagre  in  proportion  to  what  is  required  with  respect  to  it;  and  besides  what  the  people  [i.e.  scholars]  wrote  with  respect  to  the  seventy  two  sects  which  is  [only]  one  section  from  the  sections  of  the  topic  and  a  part  of  its  parts.  Thus,  I  took  up  the  task  myself  to  pay  the  attention  to  it  [that  it  deserves],  that  perhaps  Allah  will  bring  benefit  thereby  to  its  writer,  its  reader,  its  distributer,  its  copyist,  the  one  seeking  benefit  from  it  and  all  Muslims.”  [Ibid 3:17]

It  is  hoped  the  following  study  of  bid‘ah,  which  aims  to  tackle  the  concept  primarily  from  a theoretical  perspective,  will  serve  as  a  useful  and  comprehensive  treatment  of  this  important  subject,  and  will  help  to  bring  clarity  to  readers  struggling  to  understand  it.  I have  attempted  to  simplify  technical  discussions  as  far  as  possible.

Lexical  and  Shar‘i  Meanings  of  Bid‘ah
There  are  many  words  commonly  used  by  Muslims  which  were  originally  designated  by  the  Arabs  for  a  certain  meaning  and  were  then,  with  the  advent  of  Islam  and  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him),  appropriated  by  the  Shari‘ah  for  other  meanings,  which  then  became  the  popular  meanings  of  those  words  amongst  the  Muslim  scholars and  masses.  Examples  include  commonly  used  words  like  salah,  zakah,  sawm,  jihad  and hajj.  For  instance,  “sawm”  in  the  Arabic  language  means  “restraint”  (imsak),  but  was appropriated  by  Islam  to  mean:  “avoiding  food,  drink  and  conjugal  relations  from  dawn to  dusk  with  the  intention  of  fasting,”  and  this  eventually  became  its  popular  and  well-known  meaning  amongst Muslims. 

It  is  important  to  appreciate  this  distinction  in  our  discussion  on  bid‘ah,  as  bid‘ah  too,  like  many  other  words  employed  in  the  Shari‘ah,  has  both  a  lexical  meaning  –  assigned  by  the  Arabs  –  and  a  Shar‘i  definition  –  coined  by  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  popularised  by  the  early  Muslims.  Without  understanding  this  distinction,  it  would  be  difficult  to  make  sense  of  the  term  in  its  early  usage,  as  will  be  explained  later.

For  further  clarity  on  this  dual  nature  of  many  words  used  in  the  Shari‘ah,  consider  the following  illustration:  

The  word  kufr  as  co-opted  and  popularised  by  the  Shari‘ah  means:  “Denial  of  what  the Messenger  (Allah  bless  him  and  grant  him peace)  brought,”  [Imdad al-Fatawa (6:83)], 

and  this  is  borne  out  by  many  texts  of  the  Shari‘ah.  For  example,  in  a  hadith  recorded  in  Sahih  Muslim,  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon him)  asks  Umm  Ma‘bad:  “Who  planted  this  tree,  a  Muslim  or  a  Kafir?”  She  said:  “A  Muslim.”  He  said:  “No  Muslim  plants  a  tree,  which  a  human  being  or  an  animal  or  a  bird  then  eats  from,  except  that  it  will  be  charity  for  him  till  the  Day  of  Resurrection.”  [Sahih  Muslim,    2:15] 

This  hadith  shows  a  person  is  identified  as  either  a  Muslim  or  a  Kafir,  the  latter  being  one who  does  not  affirm  the  message  of  Islam,  and   is  how most  learned  and  lay  Muslims understand  the  word  kufr.  Literally,  however,  kufr  can  have  a  number  of  other meanings,  including  rejection,  ungratefulness  and  concealment.  Thus,  in  one  place  of  the  Qur’an,  a  derivative  of  the  word  kufr  is  in  fact  used  positively,  where  Allah  says: 

“Whoever  rejects  (yakfur)  false  deities  and  believes  in  Allah,  he  has  indeed  grasped  the firmest  hand.”  [Qur’an  2:256]

Hence,  although  “kufr”  is  never  used  positively  in  its  Shar‘i  meaning,  when  used  in  its literal  sense  as  in  this  verse,  it  can  have  both  positive  and  negative  connotations.  It  will be  shown  that  the  same  is  the  case  with  bid‘ah.

The Linguistic Meaning of Bid‘ah
Linguistically,  bid‘ah  means:  “an  invention  without  a  past precedent”  [Al-I‘tisam, 1:41]

For example, in the following verse of the Qur’an it is used in its linguistic meaning:

“Say:  I  am  not  something  unprecedented  (bid‘)  amongst the  messengers.”   [Qur’an 46:11]

Imam  Ibn  Jarir  al-Tabari  (d.  310 H)  explains  this  as  follows: “Meaning,  I  am  not  the  first  of  the  messengers  of  Allah  which  He  sent  to  His  creation.  Before  me  there  were  many messengers  from  Him  sent  to  nations  before  you.”  [Tafsir al-Tabari, 21:119]

Thus,  according  to  this  linguistic  definition,  anything  that  came  into  existence  without  precedence  in  the  time  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  is  bid‘ah  in  relation  to  him.  Hence,  cars,  computers,  calculators,  microphones,  spectacles,  and  so  on,  are  all  bid‘ah  in  the  linguistic  sense.  It  is  already  clear  that  according  to  the  linguistic meaning,  bid‘ah  is  not  necessarily  unfavourable  and  blameworthy.

The Shar‘i Meaning of Bid‘ah According  to  the  Shari‘ah  –  which  is  determined  by  its  usage  in  the  recorded  sayings  of the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  the  early  Muslims  –  bid‘ah  is  best defined  as:  

“Adopting  as  religion  (deen)  that  which  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  his  companions  did  not  adopt  as  religion.”
A  similar  definition  given  by  some  scholars  is:

“Adding  or  subtracting  from  the  religion  (deen)  after  the  time  of  the  Sahabah.” [Shaykh Muhammad ibn Pir ‘Ali al-Birgivi, al-Tariqat al-Muhammadiyyah, p. 9] 

The  most  important  aspect  of  this  definition  is  that  it  is  restricted  to  innovations  in religion.  With  this  definition,  which  is  its  dominant  meaning  in  the  usage  of  the  Prophet (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  the  early  Muslims,  bid‘ah  is,  in  its  entirety, reprehensible,  blameworthy  and  sinful,  and  cannot  be  described  as  good  under  any circumstance.  Moreover,  as  al-Shatibi  explains,  bid‘ah  in  its  Shar‘i  usage  includes religious  innovations  in  four  different  areas:  actions  (af‘al),  omissions  (turuk),  statements  (aqwal)  and  beliefs  (‘aqa’id).  [Al-I‘tisam, 1:55]

Before  supplying  proof  for  this  meaning  of  bid‘ah,  and  demonstrating  that  the  distinction  between  the  lexical  and  Shar‘i  meanings  of  the  term  is  a  necessary  distinction,  I  will  first elaborate  somewhat  on  the  Shar‘i  definition.

Two  Types  of  Proscriptions  in  the  Shari‘ah
Imam  al-Shatibi  explains  that  those  things  that  are  prohibited  or  discouraged  in  the  Shari‘ah  are  of  two  types:

1.  Direct  violations  (mukhalafah  khassah):  these  are  actions,  beliefs,  omissions  or  statements  that  violate  clear  injunctions  of  the  Shari‘ah.  These  can  be  either  haraam  (unlawful)  or  makruh  (undesirable).  Examples  of  haraam  are  murder  and injustice,  and  an  example  of  makruh  is  overspending  (israf)  in  decorating  masjids.  Even  if  these  actions  are  done  in  inventive  ways,  though  they  may  be  regarded  as  “bid‘ah”  linguistically,  according  to  the  Shari‘ah  they  will  fall  under  the  general  prohibition  of  those  acts,  and  will  not  necessarily  be  classed  as  “bid‘ah.”

2.  Opposition  to  the  Shari‘ah  by  introducing  something  new  into  the  religion  which  is  not  from  it.  This  is  what  is  known  customarily  and  legally  as  bid‘ah.  [Ibid. 1:42]

It  is  clear  from  this  distinction  that  bid‘ah  is  different  from  direct  violations.  Thus  it  may happen  that  there  is  no  opposition  to  a  clear  injunction  of  the  Shari‘ah  in  a  certain  matter,  but  merely  because  it  is  something  new  that  is  introduced  into  the  religion,  it  is  classed  as  bid‘ah.  Proscriptions  of  the  first  category  are  not  necessarily  bid‘ah  because,  as  al-Shatibi,  says:  “Violations  –  in  their  capacity  as  violations  –  are  not  instituted  by  anyone  as  paths  which  are  permanently  adopted  in  a  manner  resembling  legislation” (Ibid. 1:76)  which  is  the  nature  of  bid‘ah  in  the  Shari‘ah

However,  these  two  categories  are  not  mutually  exclusive.  Thus,  it  may  be  that  something  is  a  direct  violation  and  is  also  categorised  as  bid‘ah  because  it  is  adopted  as religion.  An  example  given  by  al-Shatibi  is  the  use  of  chandeliers  (thurayya)  in  masjids,  which  is  regarded  as  overspending  (israf)  and  thus,  makruh.  If  someone  was  to  purchase  a  chandelier  specifically  for  the  purpose  of  it  being  installed  in  a  masjid,  believing  it  to  be  spending  in  Allah’s  path  (infaq  fi  sabil   Allah),  this  will  constitute  bid‘ah  (as  it  is  akin  to believing  that  spending  on  a  cause  detested  by  Islam  is  spending  in  Allah’s  path). However,  importantly,  this  is  not  because  of  the  initial  undesirability  of  this  practice,  but  because  of  the  belief  attached  to  it. [Ibid. 2:418] 

Another  example  is  the  bid‘ah  of  the  Qadariyyah  who  rejected  Allah’s  foreordainment  (qadr),  as,  although  this  opposes  the  clear  injunctions  in  the  Qur’an  and  Sunnah  which  obligate  belief  in  Allah’s  foreordainment, since  it  is  adopted  as  religion,  not  only  is  it  a  direct  violation,  but  also  a  bid‘ah.

Ritualistic (ta‘abbudi) and Non-Ritualistic (‘adi) Matters
The  most  important  element  in  the  Shar‘i  definition  of  bid‘ah  is  that  it  is  an  innovation  “in religion.”  In  order  to  understand  the  definition,  therefore,  Imam  al-Shaibi  explores  this aspect  a  little  further.  His  discussion  can  be  summarised  in  the  following  points:  

☆  There  are  two  types  of  matters  related  to  the  Shari‘ah:  umur  ta‘abbudiyyah  (ritualistic  matters)  and  umur  ‘adiyyah  (non-ritualistic  matters). 

☆  In  ta‘abbudi  (ritualistic)  matters,  the  reason  and  purpose  behind  them  is  not understood  (ghayr  ma‘qul  al-ma‘na)  i.e.  they  are  carried  out  ritualistically;  while  in  ‘adi  (non-ritualistic/explicable)  matters,  the  opposite  is  the  case:  the  purpose  and  reason  are  understood  (ma‘qul al-ma‘na).

☆  Ta‘abbudi  laws  dominate  in  a  category  of  affairs  known  as  ‘ibadiyyat  or  “religious  matters,”  that  is  those  things  which  are  essentially  part  of  religion;  they  generally  comprise  of  ritual  acts  of  worship  like  prayer,  fasting,  hajj,  etc.  and  articles  of  faith,  like  belief  in  Allah,  the  afterlife,  and  so  on. 

☆  ‘Adi  laws  dominate  in  a  category  of  affairs  known  as  ‘adiyyat  or  “mundane  matters”  which  are  not  intrinsically  part  of  religion,  but  originally  part  of  the  world,  like  marriage,  buying  and  selling,  eating  and  drinking  etc. [Al-I‘tisam, 2:401]

The  primary  distinction  between  ‘ibadiyyat  or  “religious  matters”  and  ‘adiyyat  or  “mundane matters”  is  that  in  the  latter,  even  if  they  are  performed  in  total  compliance  with  the  Shari‘ah,  unless  there  is  an  intention  of  “complying  with  the  command  of  Allah”  (imtithal  li  amr  Allah),  they bring  no  reward  (thawab);  whereas,  ‘ibadiyyat  are  intrinsically  rewarding.  [al-I‘tisam, 2:218]

Although  this  is  a  general  observation,  it  is  not  a  hard-and-fast  rule.  Thus,  at  times  non-ritualistic  rules  are  found  in  religious  matters  and  ritualistic  rules  are  found  in  mundane  matters.  For  example,  the  number  of  rak‘at  of  salah,  the  period  of  fasting,  the  number  of  rounds  of  tawaf,  the  value  of  Zakat  and  so  on  are  all  ta‘abbudi  laws  within  ‘ibadiyyat;  the  laws  of  inheritance  where  specific  shares  are  stipulated  for  the  heirs  of  the  deceased  are  examples  of  ta‘abbudi  laws within  ‘adiyyat.  The  command  to  spread  Islam,  preserve  its  texts  and  laws,  teach  and  learn,  and  so  on  are  examples  of  ‘adi  (non-ritualistic/explicable)  laws  within  ‘ibadiyyat;  and  the  condition  of  consent  in  monetary transactions  and  marriage  and  the  laws  of  cleaning  one’s  garments  and  body  are examples  of  ‘adi  laws  within  ‘adiyyat

The  reason  for  mentioning  this  distinction  is  that  bid‘ah  only  arises  in  ritualistic  or  ritualised  (ta‘abbudi)  matters,  as  these  are  what  constitutes  religious  innovations;  whereas,  innovations  in  non-ritualistic,  mundane  or  explicable  (‘adi)  matters,  although  they  may  be  sinful,  they  will  not  be  classed  as  bid‘ah  in  its  Shar‘i  usage  so  long  as  they are  not  ritualised  (meaning,  adopted  in  a  religious  way).

Imam  al-Shatibi  writes: 

“As  for  matters  that  are  ta‘abbudi  in  nature,  their  desired  objective  is  pure  submission,  without  any  addition  or  subtraction.”

He  also  supplies  some  evidence  for  this  from  the  Sunnah. Thus,  all  ta‘abbudi  laws  must  be  adhered  to  as  they  are  without  any  changes.  

In  al-I‘tisam,  after  listing  several  examples  of  laws  that  are  ta‘abbudi  in  acts  of  worship,  al-Shatibi  concludes:

“You  know  from  the  intention  of  the  Lawgiver  that  He  has  not  entrusted  any  ta‘abbudi  law  to  the  opinions  of  [His] slaves,  so  nothing  is  left besides  stopping  at  the  limit  He  has  set,  and  adding  to  it  is  bid‘ah  just  as  subtracting  from  it  is  bid‘ah.” [Al-I‘tisam 3:58]

Thus,  in  the  ta‘abbudi  aspects  of  ‘ibadiyyat  –  matters  intrinsic  to  religion  –  any  addition  or  subtraction  is  inescapably  a bid‘ah.  Innovations  in  these  matters  are  therefore  bid‘ah  in  themselves. 

In  ‘adiyyat  and  ‘adi  aspects  of  ‘ibadiyyat,  however,  since  these  are  not  originally  part  of religion  or  are  not  ritualistic  elements  of  religion,  innovations  in  them  will  only  be  classed  as  bid‘ah  when  regarded  as  religious  or  when  they  are  ritualised.  For  example,  ‘aqiqah  is  a  celebration  established  in  the  religion  for  expressing  joy  at the  birth  of  a  child.  Thus,  it is  performed  for  this  ‘adi  reason,  but  is  also  performed  ritualistically,  as  part  of  religion,  since  it  is  established  in  the  Sunnah.  If  someone  decided  to  express  joy  by  another  form  of  celebration,  this  would  be  an  innovation  in  ‘adiyyat.  Such  an  innovation  would  not,  however,  be  regarded  as  bid‘ah,  for  the  very  reason  that  this  would  not be  an  innovation  in  religion  but  in  worldly  affairs.  However,  if  it  is  accompanied  by  the  belief  that  it  is  part of  religion,  in  just  the  same  way  as  ‘aqiqah,  that  is,  it  is  ritualised,  it  will  also  be  deemed  bid‘ah.  Thus,  al-Shatibi  says: 

“‘Adiyyat  in  their  capacity  as  mundane  (or  non-ritualistic) affairs  contain  no  bid‘ah  in them;  but  bid‘ah  enters  into  them  when  they  are  ritualised  or  assigned  a  ritualistic function.” [Ibid. 2:461]

This  is  why,  al-Shatibi  suggests,  the  Sahabah  would  not  abolish  the  customs  and  cultures  of  the  non-Arab  converts  to  Islam,  unless  they  violated  the  laws  of  the  Shari‘ah.  However,  with  respect to  matters  of  worship  and  ritual,  they  were  extremely  careful  that  no  innovation  infiltrates  them.  In  sum,  if  something  does  not  have  a  comprehensible  purpose  (ghayr  ma‘qul  al-ma‘na),  it  cannot  be  added  to,  subtracted  from  or  changed  in  any  way.  If  something  has  a  comprehensible  purpose,  based  on  that  purpose,  there  can  be  developments  and  changes.  For  example,  the  purpose  of  sadaqah  or  charity  is  to alleviate  the  suffering  of  needy  people,  which  is  a  comprehensible  objective.  Thus,  this  can  be  accomplished  in  a number  of  different  ways  that  achieve  that  objective.  On  the other  hand,  the  purpose  of  praying  two  rak‘ahs  in  Fajr  is  incomprehensible  so  to  create changes  in  that,  by,  for  example,  changing  it  to  three  rak‘at,  is  an  example  of  bid‘ah.
By  “incomprehensible”  is  meant  that  a  detailed  understanding  of  its  purpose  is  unavailable  to  us,  such  that  it  is  not  possible  to  make  any  deductions  or  analogies  based  on  it.  It  is  not  meant  that  a  general  objective  or  purpose  cannot  be  discerned.

Means  or  Wasa’il
“Means”  or  wasa’il  only  arise  in  matters  which  are  not  ta‘abbudi,  as  the  cause  and  reason  behind  something  that  is  adopted  as  a  means  is,  by  definition,  understood.  Imam  al-Shatibi  explains  this  rule,  and  illustrates  it  with  the  following  example:

“If  there  was  someone  who  journeyed  towards  the  obligation  of  hajj  by  flying  in  the  air  or  walking  on  water,  he  will  not  be  regarded  as  a  person  of  bid‘ah  by  his  movement  in  this  way,  because  the  objective  is  only  to  arrive  at  Makkah  in  order  to  fulfil  the  obligation.” [Ibid. 1:331-2]

Thus,  the  aspect  of  “travel”  in  hajj  is  ‘adi  (non-ritualistic/explicable)  as  it  has  the objective  of  arrival  at  Makkah.  Therefore,  this  can  be  done  in  various  ways  that  are  used  to  achieve  this  underlying  goal,  and  will  not  be  regarded  as  bid‘ah.  Means  are,  thus,  in principle,  non-ritualistic.  Hence,  something  that  is  consciously  adopted  as  a  means  is  not classed  as  bid‘ah,  although  depending  on  its  nature  and  objective,  it  may  be  sinful  or blameworthy. 

An Example
As  a  simple  illustration  of  bid‘ah  in  ‘adiyyat,  al-Shatibi  discusses  the  following  example: 

If  someone  were  to  avoid  a  particular  lawful  food  item,  it  may  be  for  a  number  of reasons.  It  may  be  for  medical  purposes  or  due  to  personal  dislike  or  unavailability;  or  it may  be  that  there  is  some  doubt  over  its  lawfulness,  so  out  of  scrupulousness,  the person  chooses  to  avoid  it.  All  of  these  reasons  are  valid  because  they  are  either  worldly –  ‘adi  –  reasons  or  a  legitimate  Shar‘i  reason.

However,  if  the  person  were  to  avoid  it  ritualistically  or  religiously,  meaning,  for  no  other  reason  but  because  he  believed  that  by  avoiding  that  particular  food  item,  he  would  draw  closer  to  Allah  or  it  will  bring  him  reward  or  it  will  be  beneficial  for  his  afterlife  and  so  forth,  this  will  make  it  bid‘ah.  As al-Shatibi  says:  “If  the  omission  is  carried  out religiously,  that  is  innovation  in  religion.”  And  then  he  says reiterating  the  central  definition  of  bid‘ah  in  the  Shari‘ah:

“The  one  who  practises  something  besides  the  Sunnah religiously,  that  is  precisely  [the definition  of]  one  who  practises  bid‘ah .” [Al-I‘tisam, 1:54]

The  above  explanation  conveys  the  basic  understanding  of  bid‘ah.  What  remain  are  the proofs  for  this  conception  of  bid‘ah,  and  some  further  details.

Proofs  for  the  Definition  of  Bid‘ah
Imam  al-Shatibi  provides  extensive  textual  documentation  from  the  Qur’an,  Sunnah  and  sayings  of  the  early  Muslims  as  evidence  of  the  blameworthy  character  of  this  definition  of  bid‘ah  in  the  second  chapter  of  his  book,  but  I  will  suffice  with  a  small  selection  of  clear  texts  in  this  section  to  demonstrate  that  what  is  described  above  is  indeed  the  definition  of  bid‘ah.

Hadith  One
In  a  hadith  recorded  by  both  al-Bukhari  and  Muslim  in  their  Sahihs,  the  Prophet  (peace and  blessings  be  upon  him)  said: 

“Whoever  introduces  into  this  matter  of  ours  what  is  not  from it,  it  is  rejected.”  

Ibn  Rajab  al-Hanbali  wrote  in  his  commentary  of  al-Nawawi’s  collection  of  forty  hadiths, Jami‘  al-‘Ulum wa l-Hikam,  under  the  explanation  of  this  hadith:

“And  in  some  of  its  wordings,  ‘Whoever  introduces  into  this  religion  of  ours  what  is  not from  it,  it  is  rejected.’” [Jami‘  al-‘Ulum wa l-Hikam, p. 155] 

Thus,  the  meaning  of  “matter”  in  the  narration  is  “religion.”  Worldly  innovations,  therefore,  like  new  cities,  technologies  and  crafts  are  excluded,  as  these  are  mundane  activities  (‘adiyyat)  which  are  also  essentially  part  of  the  world.  It  is  this  that  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  referred  to  in  his  famous  statement  recorded  in  the Sahih  of  Imam  Muslim:  “You  are  more  learned  of  the  matters  of  your  world”,  which, based  on  the  context  in  which this  statement  was  said,  means:  in  those  things  that  are  permissible  (mubah)  in  the  religion,  which  are  based  on  experiment  and  experience,  like  medicine,  industry,  and  so  forth,  you  are  free  to  select  and  innovate  your  own  methods,  and  are  not  restricted  by  my  example. [al-Tariqat  al-Muhammadiyyah, p. 9]

Also  excluded  from  what  this  hadith  describes  are  new  acts  of  sin  which  are  in  clear violation  of  the  laws  prescribed  in  the  Shari‘ah,  like  theft  in  a new  way  (e.g.  credit  card  fraud);  as  these  fall  not  under  “innovations  in  religion”  but  direct  acts  of  violation,  unless they  are  consciously  adopted  as  religion.  Thus,  what  this  hadith  declares  as  “rejected”  is precisely  the  Shar‘i  definition  of  bid‘ah  described  earlier.

Hadith  Two
In  another  hadith,  narrated  with  an  authentic  chain  by  al-Tirmidhi,  Abu  Dawud  and others,  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  said:

“Hold  fast  to  my  Sunnah  and  the  Sunnah  of  the  rightly-guided  caliphs.  Bite  onto  them with  the  molar  teeth.  And  beware  of  newly  introduced  matters,  for  verily,  every  newly introduced  matter  is  bid‘ah  and  every  bid‘ah  is  misguidance.”  

“Matters”  in  this  narration  is  contrasted  with  the  Sunnah  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and blessings  be  upon  him)  and  his  successors,  Abu  Bakr,  ‘Umar,  ‘Uthman  and  ‘Ali  (may Allah  be  pleased  with  them  all).  “Sunnah”  in  its  Shar‘i  usage  means  “a path  adopted  in  the  religion”,  in  particular,  that  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon him)  and  his  righteous  successors,  Abu  Bakr,  ‘Umar,  ‘Uthman  and  ‘Ali  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  them all). [Mulla Jiwan al-Siddiqi, Nur al-Anwar, 1:474-5]

Hence,  in  this  hadith  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  defined  bid‘ah  as  all  matters  of  religion  not  found  in  the  Sunnah,  precisely  the  Shar‘i  definition  explained  above.  Moreover,  in  this  hadith  he  censured  all  bid‘ahs,  without making  any  exception.

Statement  of  Imam  Malik
Imam al-Shatibi narrates in his book: 

Ibn  Habib  al-Maliki  (d.  238)  narrated:  Ibn  al-Majishun  (d.  214)  said:  I  heard  [Imam] Malik  (d.  179)  say:  “Whoever  innovates  into  Islam  a  bid‘ah  (innovation),  deeming  it  good ,  then  verily  he  has  claimed  that  Muhammad  (Allah  bless  him and  grant  him peace)  betrayed  the  role  of  Messenger,  because  Allah  says:  ‘Today  I  have  completed  for  you  your  religion.’  (5:3)  Thus,  whatever  was  not  religion  at  that  time,  is  not  religion  today .” [Al-I‘tisam 1:64]

Ibn  Habib  and  Ibn  al-Majishun  are  both  well-known  authorities  and  transmitters  of  the  Maliki  school.

In  another  version  of  this  statement,  Imam  Malik  begins  with:  “Whoever  innovates  into this  ummah  something  that  its  predecessors  were  not upon…” [Ibid. 2:306 ] 

As  clear  from  the  context  and   time  in  which  this  was  said,  “predecessors”  refers  to  the  Sahabah.  Thus,  all  religious  matters  innovated  after  the  Sahabah  are,  in  Malik’s  usage,  bid‘ah,  and  none  of  them  can  be  described  as  good.  Hence,  we  are  provided  with  a  very  clear  early  formulation  of  the  definition  of  bid‘ah.

Statement  of  Hudhayfah  ibn  al-Yaman
It  is  reported  from  the  Sahabi,  Hudhayfah  ibn  al-Yaman  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him):

“Every  ritual  the  companions  of  the  Messenger  of  Allah  (Allah  bless  him and  grant  him peace)  did  not  render  in  worship  [to  Allah],  do  not  render  it  in  worship  [to  Allah]  –  or  do not  innovate  it  –  for,  verily,  the  early  ones  did  not leave  any  voice  for  the  latter ones…Adopt  the  path  of  those  who  came  before  you.”  [Ibid. 3:53]

Statement  of  ‘Abd  Allah  ibn  Mas‘ud
Ibn  Mas‘ud  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him)  said:

“Follow,  and  do  not  innovate,  for  verily,  you  have  been  sufficed.”  [Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 1:434]

In  some  versions  there  is  the  addition,  “follow  our  footsteps” [Al-Bida‘ wa l-Nahy ‘anha, p. 17] 

Similar  pronouncements  can  be  found  in  Muhammad  ibn  Waddah’s  al-Bida‘  wa l-Nahy ‘anha  and  al-Shatibi’s  al-I‘tisam.

The  rationale  behind  the  latter  two  statements  is  the  following.  The  Sahabah  superseded  the  ummah  in  the  acquisition  of  virtue  and  reward.  Thus,  in  the  words  of  Ibn  Mas‘ud  their  example  is  sufficient  for  us.  Furthermore,  any  accretion  would  be  regarded  as  bid‘ah  as  it  would  be  to  claim  that  non-Sahabah  are  more  aware  of  religious  virtue  and  more  desirous  of  acting  upon  it  than  the  best  of  generations,  that  of  the  Sahabah.  This  is  why  Imam  Malik  is  reported  to  have  said  in  condemnation  of  bid‘ah:  “Do  you  think  the  people  today  are   more  desirous  of  virtue  than  those  who  have  passed?!”  [Al-I‘tisam, 2:276]

The  pious  ruler,  widely  regarded  as  the  reviver  of  the  first  Islamic  century,  ‘Umar ibn  ‘Abd  al-‘Aziz,  also  said  something  to  this  effect  in  a  statement  which  will  be  quoted  a  little  later.

Al-Shatibi’s  contemporary,  Hafiz  Ibn  Kathir  (d.  774),  expressed  this  principle  under  his explanation  of  verse  46:11  of  his  Qur’anic  commentary  as  follows: 

“As  for  the  Ahl  al-Sunnah  wal-Jama‘ah,  they  say  with  respect to  every  action  and  statement  [which  is  adopted  as  religion  or  is  ritualised],  not  established  from  the  Sahabah   (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  them),  ‘It  is  bid‘ah,’  because  had  it  been  virtuous,  they  would  have  beaten  us  to  it,  since  they  did  not  leave  a  trait  from  the  traits  of  virtue  except  they  hastened  towards  it.”  [Tafsir  al-Qur’an  al-‘Azim, p.  1703] 

There  are,  thus,  a  number  of  clear  statements  from  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him),  the  Sahabah  and  the  early  Muslims  that  any  innovation  into  the  religion  after  the  Sahabah  equates  to  bid‘ah,  which  is  precisely  the  definition  of  bid‘ah  outlined  above.

Proofs for the Detestability of  Bid‘ah
There  are  many  strong  and  unequivocal  condemnations  of  bid‘ah  found  in  the  hadiths  and  statements  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  the  early  Muslims.  

Hadith  One
In  a  hadith  recorded  by  al-Bukhari  and  Muslim  in  their  Sahihs,  the  Prophet  (peace  and blessings  be  upon  him)  said: 

“Whoever  introduces  therein  an  innovation  or  shelters  an  innovator,  upon  him  is  the curse  of  Allah,  the  Angels  and  all  of  mankind.  Allah  will  accept  neither  a  compulsory  nor  a  voluntary  deed  from  him  on  the  Day  of  Resurrection.”  

Hadith  Two
In  a  hadith  recorded  in  Sahih  Muslim,  Jabir  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him)  narrates  that the  Prophet  (Allah  bless  him and  grant  him peace)  would  say in  his  sermons: 

“The  best  speech  is  the  Book  of  Allah  and  the  best  example  is  the  example  of  Muhammad.  The  worst  of  affairs  are  their  newly-invented  ones,  and  every  bid‘ah  is  misguidance.”  

In  imitation  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him),  Muslim  leaders  from  both early  and  later  times  repeat  this  formula  in  their  sermons.  

Statements  from the  Early  Muslims
Al-Lalaka’i,  Muhammad  ibn  Nasr  and  al-Bayhaqi  transmit  with  an  authentic  chain  from  ‘Abd  Allah  ibn  ‘Umar  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him):

“Every  bid‘ah  is  misguidance,  even  if  people  deem it  good.”  [Jalal  al-Din  al-Suyuti,  al-Amr  bi  l-Ittiba‘ wa l-Nahy ‘an al-Ibtida‘, p. 64]

This  shows  that  in  the  usage  of  Ibn  ‘Umar  there  is  no  situation  in  which  bid‘ah  can  be  good.  Hence,  whenever  it  is  conclusively  proven  that  a  certain  matter  described  as “bid‘ah”  is  good,  this  is  according  to  a  different  usage  of  the  term.

Al-Darimi  narrates  with  an  authentic  chain  from  the  eminent  Tabi‘i,  Hassan  ibn  ‘Atiyyah (d. 130):

“No  people  innovate  a  bid‘ah  into  their  religion,  except  Allah  removes  from  their  sunnahs  the  like  of  it,  and  then  He  will  not  return  it  to  them  till  the  Day  of  Resurrection.”

Note  the  explicit  usage  of  the  phrase  “in  their  religion,”  and  the  absence  of  any  exception,  supporting  the  conclusion  that  bid‘ah  in  the  Shari‘ah  refers  exclusively  to  religious  innovations  and  that  they  are  all  blameworthy  with  no  exception.

It  is  reported  from  the  famous  ascetic,  Fudayl  ibn  ‘Iyad  (107  –  187): 

“Whoever  sits  with  a  champion  of  bid‘ah,  he  will  not  be  given  wisdom.” [Al-I‘tisam 1:149]

It  is  clear  from  these  statements  that  bid‘ah  was  invariably  used  negatively  by  the  early  Muslims,  as  were  its  derivatives,  “ahl  al-bid‘ah,”  (people  of  bid‘ah)  “sahib  al-bid‘ah” (champion  of  bid‘ah)  and  “mubtadi‘”  (innovator).  Even  those  Muslims  today  who mistakenly  defend  the  view  that  bid‘ah  in  its  conventional  and  Shar‘i  usage  can  be  both praiseworthy  and  blameworthy  do  not  use  these  terms  positively.  This  is  a  clear  proof that  in  the  Muslim  conscience,  bid‘ah  has  always  been  thought  of  as  a  negative  principle  and  never  a  positive  one,  when  used  in  its  normal  context.  Whenever  bid‘ah  was  mentioned  by  the  early  Muslims  without  any  qualification,  it  was  the  Shar‘i  meaning  that  was intended.

Imam  al-Shatibi  collected  all  the  negative  consequences  of  bid‘ah  documented  in  the hadiths  and  statements  of  the  early  Muslims  with  their  original  references.  Some  of  these consequences  are  as  follows:  No  worship  will  be  of  benefit  for  the  practitioner  of  bid‘ah;  protection  is  removed  from  his  gatherings;  respect  for  him  helps  in  destroying  Islam;  he  is  cursed  by  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him);  he  grows  distant  from  Allah;  it  prevents  prophetic  intercession;  it  lifts  and  removes  the  blessed  sunnahs;  the  innovator  incurs  the  sin  of  those  who  imitate  him;  it  is  feared  that  he  will  be  deprived  of  repentance;  he  will  be  disgraced  and  incur  the  wrath  of  Allah;  he  will  be  removed  from  the  fountain  on  the  Day  of  Resurrection;  it  is  feared  he  will  be  counted  amongst  the  disbelievers  and  die  a  disbeliever;  his  face  will  be  blackened  on  the  Day  of  Resurrection and  he  will  be  punished  in  the  Fire;  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  disassociated  himself  from  him;  it  is  feared  he  will  be  punished  even  in  this  world,  let  alone  the  afterlife. [Ibid. 1:183]

All  this  –  and  more  –  is  clear  proof  that  bid‘ah,  in  its  popular,  generic,  Shar‘i  usage,  is  always  blameworthy,  and  as  the  statements  of  Ibn  ‘Umar  and  Imam  Malik  clearly  show, there  can  be  no  good  in  it.  Al-Shatibi  lists  several  principles  why  the  condemnations  of bid‘ah  must  be  understood  as  general  and  inclusive  without  any  exceptions.  Some  of  these  principles  are  as  follows:

1.  The  hadiths  condemning  bid‘ah  in  its  totality  are  frequent,  explicit  and  make  no exception.  When  explicit  and  general  texts  are  recurrent  in  this  manner,  a  principle  of  jurisprudence  states  that  it  must  be  accepted  at  face  value  and  may  not  be  restricted  or  qualified.

2.  The  early  Muslims  invariably  used  the  term  negatively,  as  they  did  “ahl  al-bid‘ah,”  “sahib  al-bid‘ah”  and  “mubtadi‘,”  which shows  that  these  terms  were  never  conceived  in  the  Muslim  conscience  as  having  any  goodness  in  them.  In  fact,  the prominent  Maliki  scholar,  al-Qarafi,  related  consensus  on  the  condemnation  of  bid‘ahs,  quoting  from  Ibn  Abi  Zayd  al-Qayranawi  and  others. [Al-I’tisam 1:313] 

Thus,  bid‘ah,  in  its  conventional usage,  must  be  blameworthy  in  totality  with  no  exception.

3.  In  its  conception,  bid‘ah  is  to  deem  something  good  in  religion  which  was  non-existent  in  the  early  period,  while  goodness  and  virtue  in  religion  is  only determined  by  revelation  to  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him),  and was  practised  and  observed  most  fervently  by  his  companions,  so  even  on  this rational  basis  alone,  no  bid‘ah  –  that  is,  religious  innovation  –  can  possibly  be  good.  

‘Umar  ibn  ‘Abd  al-‘Aziz  expressed  this  principle  as  follows,  as  transmitted  by  Ibn  Waddah:

“You  must  adhere  to  the  Sunnah,  because  it  is  a protection  for  you  by  the  permission  of  Allah.  And  know that  the  people  did  not innovate  a  bid‘ah  except  there  has  passed  before  it  that  which  is  a  proof  against  it  and  an  admonition  therein,  for  verily,  the  Sunnah  was  only  instituted  by  one  who  knew what  is  in  variation  from  it  of  error,  slip,  stupidity  and extremism.  So  be  content  for  yourself  with  what  the  people  [i.e.  the  Sahabah]  were  content  with  for  themselves,  for  they  are  the  foremost (Qur’an  9:110)…For,  if  guidance  was what  you  are  upon  then  you  have  beaten  them to  it …Whereas,  verily,  they  are  the foremost .  Indeed  they  have  spoken  on  it  with  what  suffices.” [I‘tisam 1:63-4]

Proofs for the Distinction between the Lexical and Shar‘i  Meanings of Bid‘ah
One  of  the  reasons  for  confusion  over  the  concept  of  bid‘ah  is  that  sometimes  bid‘ah  was  used  in  its  linguistic  meaning  by  the  early  Muslims.  I  will  present  two  well-known examples  of  this,  and  then  demonstrate  that  these  statements  must  be  understood unconventionally  and  linguistically.

Statement  of  ‘Umar
Al-Bukhari  narrates  in  his  Sahih  from  ‘Abd  al-Rahman  ibn  ‘Abd  al-Qari  that  he  said:  “I  went  out  with  ‘Umar  ibn  al-Khattab  (Allah  be  pleased  with  him)  on  a  night  of  Ramadan  to  the  mosque,  when  behold,  the  people  were  in  isolated  groups,  one  man  praying  on  his  own  and  another  leading  a  group  in  prayer.  So  ‘Umar  said:  ‘I  think  it  would  be  better  if  these  [separate  groups]  were  gathered  under  one  reciter.’  Then  he  made  a  resolve,  so  he gathered  them  under  Ubayy  ibn  Ka‘b.  Then  I came  out  with  him on  another  night,  while  their  reciter  led  the  people  in  prayer.  ‘Umar  said:  ‘A  blessed  bid‘ah  this  is!’.” [Fath  al-Bari 4:317-8]

To  understand  ‘Umar’s  usage  of  bid‘ah  in  this  sentence,  it  is  necessary  to  know  a  little  about  the  history  of  this  prayer.  Imam  al-Shatibi  quotes  from  Abu  Dawud’s  Sunan  from Abu  Dharr  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him)  that  he  said:  “We  fasted  with  the  Messenger of  Allah  (Allah  bless  him and  grant  him  peace)  during  Ramadan,  but  he  did  not  stand with  us  [in  prayer]  in  any  part  of  the  month  until  seven  [nights]  remained.  Then  he  stood  with  us  until  a third  of  the  night  had  passed.  When  the  sixth  [remaining  night]  came,  he  did  not  stand  with  us.  When  the  fifth  [remaining  night]  came,  he  stood  with  us  until  a  half  of  the  night  passed.  So  we  said,  ‘We  wish you  had  led  us  in  supererogatory  prayers  during  the  whole  of  tonight.’  He  said,  ‘When  a  man  prays  with  an  imam  until  he  leaves, he  is  reckoned  as  having  spent  a  whole  night  in  prayer.’  When  the  fourth  [remaining  night]  came  he  did  not  stand  with  us.  When  the  third  [remaining  night]  came,  he  gathered  his  family,  his  wives,  and  the  people  and  prayed  with  us  until  we  were  afraid  we  would  miss  success  (falah)  [meaning,  the  pre-dawn  meal  or  suhur].” [Al-I‘tisam, 1:324]  

Al-Shatibi  then  states:  “However,  when  he  (Allah  bless  him  and  grant  him  peace)  feared  it  would  become  obligatory  on  the  ummah  he  withheld  from  it.  Thus,  in  the  Sahih  [it  is  narrated]  from  ‘A’ishah  (Allah  be  pleased  with  her)  that  one  night  Allah’s  Messenger  (Allah  bless  him  and  grant  him  peace)  prayed  in  the  mosque  and  the  people  followed  him  in  prayer.  The  next  night  he  also  prayed  and  the  people  increased.  On  the  third  or  fourth  night  they  gathered,  but  Allah’s  Messenger  (Allah  bless  him  and  grant  him  peace)  did  not  come  out  to  them.  When  morning  came  he  said,  ‘I  saw  what  you  were  doing  and  nothing  but  the  fear  that  it  might  be  enjoined  on  you,  stopped  me  from  coming.’  And  that  was  in  the  month  of  Ramadan.” [Ibid. 1:324-5]

Al-Shatibi  goes  on  to  explain  that,  therefore,  the  reason  the  Prophet  (peace  and blessings  be  upon  him)  abstained  from  the  continued  practice  of  this  special  night  prayer  in  Ramadan  was  for  fear  that  revelation  will  make  it  incumbent  on  the  Muslims  if  they  were  to  observe  it  continuously.  With  the  demise  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be upon  him),  this  barrier  no  longer  remained  as  revelation  had  come  to  an  end.  Hence,  the  original  ruling  of  the  desirability  of  Tarawih  throughout  the  month  returned,  which  was  only  hampered  in  the  time  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  for  a  temporary  fear  that  ended  with  his  death.  Abu  Bakr  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him)  probably  did  not  attend  to  reviving  this  prayer  due  to  his  other  commitments  and  the  short  period  of  his  caliphate.  ‘Umar  referred  to  it  as  bid’ah  “by  consideration  of  the apparent  situation”,  from  the  perspective  that  Allah’s  Messenger  (Allah  bless  him  and   grant  him  peace)  eventually  left  it  out  and  it  so  happened  that  it  was  not  revived  as  a  continuous  practice  in  the  time  of  Abu  Bakr  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him),  not  that  it  is  bid’ah  in  the  real  sense. [Ibid. 1:326-7] 

This  is  therefore  an  example  of  bid‘ah  being  used  in  its  linguistic  meaning,  not  in  its  Shar‘i  meaning  of  an  actual  innovation  in  religion. Furthermore,  the  practices  of  the  righteous  caliphs  form  part  of  the  Sunnah  as  explicitly mentioned  in  hadith,  so  by  definition,  it  cannot  be  bid‘ah  in  its  Shar‘i  meaning.

Statement  of  al-Shafi‘i
Ibn  Rajab  al-Hanbali  writes  in  his  Jami‘  al-‘Ulum wa l-Hikam:

“Hafiz  Abu  Nu‘aym  narrated  with  his  chain  from  Ibrahim  ibn  Junayd:  Harmalah  ibn  Yahya narrated  to  us,  he  said:  I  heard  al-Shafi‘i  (Allah  have  mercy  on  him)  say:  ‘Bid‘ah  is  two  bid‘ahs:  praiseworthy  bid‘ah  and  blameworthy  bid‘ah.  Thus,  whatever  agrees  with  the Sunnah,  it  is  praiseworthy  and  whatever  conflicts  with  the  Sunnah,  it  is  blameworthy.’  And  he  adduced  as  evidence  the  statement  of  ‘Umar:  ‘What  an  excellent  bid‘ah  this  is!’” [Jami‘ al-‘Ulum wa l-Hikam, p. 600]

It  should,  firstly,  be  noted  that  this  statement  of  Imam al-Shafi‘i  is  irreconcilable  with Imam  Malik’s  earlier  statement  that  there  can  be  no  good  in  bid‘ah  if  we  suppose  they meant  the  same  thing  by  the  word  “bid‘ah.”  (Imam  Malik  was senior  to  al-Shafi‘i,  and amongst  his  teachers.)  It  must,  therefore,  be  the  case  that  they  used  bid‘ah  in  different ways.  Al-Shafi‘i  used  it  linguistically  as  proven  by  his  citation  of  the  statement  of  ‘Umar  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him).  His  usage  of  bid‘ah  here  was  linguistic,  and  inclusive  of  religious  and  worldly  innovations;  whereas,  Malik  used  it  in  its  Shar‘i  usage.  It  is  due  to  this  irreconcilability  if  a  uniform  meaning  of  the  word  “bid‘ah”  is  assumed  that  the  distinction  between  a  lexical  and  Shar‘i  definition  of  bid‘ah  is  necessary.  Without  this distinction,  it  would  not  be  possible  to  reconcile  such  apparently  conflicting  statements.

Moreover,  it  is  clear  from  al-Shafi‘i’s  methodology  that  he  disallows  innovation  in  religion. Thus,  bid‘ah  in  its  Shar‘i  meaning,  i.e.  innovations  introduced  into  religion  (even  if  there  is  no  direct  opposition  to  the  Sunnah)  is  unanimously  rejected.  Ibn  Hajar  al-‘Asqalani wrote: 

“Al-Shafi‘i  replied  to  the  statement  of  the  one  who  says  nothing  of  the  House  is abandoned  [so  we  ought  to  salute  all  four  corners  of  the  Ka‘bah]  that  we  do  not  omit salutation  of  the  two  corners  in  abandonment  of  the  house  –  and  how  is  it  being  abandoned  when  the  Tawaf  includes  them?  –  but  we  follow the  Sunnah,  both  in  performance  and  in  omission …” [Fath al-Bari, 3:599]

It  is  clear  from  this  statement  that  al-Shafi‘i  did  not  allow accretions  of  a  religious  nature to  what  is  established  in  the  Sunnah. 

Statements of Major Scholars Major  pre-modern  scholars  besides  al-Shatibi  explained  the  distinction  between  the  lexical  and  Shar‘i  meanings  of  bid‘ah.  Three  of  them  are  quoted  below.

Ibn  Kathir  (d.  774  H)  wrote  in  his  commentary  of  verse  2:117  of  the  Qur’an: 

“Bid‘ah  is  of  two  types:  sometimes  it  is  Shar‘i  bid‘ah,  like  his  (Allah  bless  him  and  grant  him  peace)  statement:  ‘For  indeed  every  innovation  is  bid‘ah  and  every  bid‘ah  is misguidance,’  and  sometimes  it  is  linguistic  bid‘ah  like  the  statement  of  the  Commander of  the  Believers,  ‘Umar  ibn  al-Khattab  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him),  about  his  unification  of  them  on  the  Tarawih  prayer  and  their  continuous  [practice  of  it]:  ‘An  excellent  bid‘ah  this  is!’” [Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Azim, p. 191]

Ibn  Hajar  al-‘Asqalani  (d.  852  H)  said: 

“As  for  ‘bida‘,’  it  is  the  plural  of  ‘bid‘ah,’  which  is  everything  that  has  no  precedent  that came  before  [it].  Thus,  linguistically,  it  includes  that  which  is  praised  and  dispraised.  And in  the  convention  of  the  Shari‘ah  it  is  specified  to  what  is  dispraised;  and  if  it  is  used  in  a  praiseworthy  matter,  that  is  according  to  its  linguistic  meaning.” [Fath al-Bari, 13:340]

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795 H) said: 

“Thus,  all  who  innovate  something  and  attribute  it  to  the  religion,  and  it  has  no  basis  in the  religion  to  which it  is  referred,  it  is  misguidance,  and  the  religion  is  free  from  it.  The  matters  of  belief,  actions  and  outward  and  inward  speech  are  equal  in  this.  As  for  what  has  occurred  in  the  speech  of  [some  of  the]  Salaf  in  deeming  some  ‘bid‘ahs’  good,  that  is  only  linguistic  bid‘ahs  not  Shar‘i  bid‘ah” [Jami‘ al-‘Ulum wa l-Hikam, p. 597]

Similar  statements  distinguishing  the  lexical  and  Shar‘i  meanings  of  bid‘ah  can  be  found  in  the  writings  of  Muhammad  al-Birgivi  (d.  981  H),  Ibn  Hajar  al-Haythami  (d.  974 H)  and  many  scholars  of  the  later  period.  Al-Shatibi’s  extensive  scholarly  treatment  of  the  texts  of  the  Shari‘ah  and  the  usage  of  the  term  by  the  early  Muslims  conclusively demonstrates  the  true  nature  of  bid‘ah  in  the  Shari‘ah,  so  if  used  otherwise  it  is  either  as  a metaphor  or  due  to  ignorance  of  the  reality  of  bid‘ah. [Al-I‘tisam, 1:45]

Answering Objections
Some  people  contend  that  the  condemnation  of  religious  innovations  is  restricted  to those  innovations  that  directly  clash  with  the  Shari‘ah.  Otherwise,  they  are  not blameworthy,  and  in  fact  may be  permissible  or  even  recommended.  Al-Shatibi  answers  their  doubts  in  the  third  chapter  of  his  book.  Three  of  their  most  commonly  used  evidences  will  be  presented  below  followed  by  their  replies: 

Hadith  of  Jarir  ibn  ‘Abd  Allah  al-Bajali
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said as recorded in Sahih Muslim: 

“Whoever  institutes  a  good  sunnah,  he  will  have  its  reward  and  the  reward  of  those  who practise  it,  and  that  will  not  decrease  from  their  rewards  in  the  least.  And  whoever institutes  a  bad  sunnah,  he  will  have  its  sin  and  the  sins  of  those  who  practise  it,  and  that  will  not  decrease  from  their  sins  in  the  least.”  

The  proponents  of  the  view that  innovations  in  religion  need  not  be  blameworthy  or discouraged  argue  that  this  hadith  proves  that  not  only  can  a  new  practice  that  is introduced  into  religion  be  good  but  may  also  be  the  cause  of  an  immense  amount  of  reward.

The  reply  to  this  argument  is  that  this  conclusion  is  contradicted  by  the  context  in  which  this  statement  was  said. [Ibid. 1:304] 

The  full  context  as  narrated  by  Jarir  ibn  ‘Abd  Allah  al-Bajali  is that  a  group  of  people  came  to  the  Prophet  (Allah  bless  him and  grant  him  peace)  dressed  in  wool,  and  they  were  desperately  in  need.  He,  therefore,  invited  the  people  to spend  in  charity,  upon  which  a man  emptied  a  purse  of  silver  and  others  followed  suit.  It  was  then  that  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  made  this  statement.

Sadaqah  (charity)  is  established  in  the  Shari‘ah  and  from  the  Sunnah,  but  one  particular aspect  of  it  was  not  being  practised.  Furthermore,  voluntary  charity  is  not  restricted  to  any  ritualistic  (ta‘abbudi)  law,  as  its  purpose  –  which  is  to  alleviate  suffering  –  is  understood  and  is  comprehensible.  Hence,  the  hadith  does  not  refer  to  inventing  something  new  into  the  religion,  but  about  applying  an  ‘adi  law  to  a  situation  that demanded  it.  Mufti  Taqi  Usmani  writes  in  his  commentary  of  this  hadith:  

“This  is  with  respect  to  what  is  established  as  being  good  from  the  Qur’an  and  Sunnah, but  the  people  have  left  it  or  they  have  not  attended  to  one  of  its  aspects,  as  has  occurred  here,  since  the  virtue  of  charity  is  established  from  the  Qur’an  and  Sunnah,  but  the  one  who  attended  to  this  particular  cause  and  produced  charity  first,  inviting  others  to  it,  attained  this  virtue.  As  for  what  is  not  established  as  a righteous  deed  from  the  Qur’an  or  the  Sunnah,  inventing  such  a  deed  is  innovation  that  has  no  connection  to  this  hadith.” [Takmilah Fath al-Mulhim, 5:407]

Furthermore,  it  should  be  noted  that  “sunnah”  in  this  hadith  is  used  in  its  linguistic meaning  of  “path,”  “way”  and  “method,”  which  can  be  both  good  and  bad  as  described  in the  hadith.  However,  according  to  its  Shar‘i  meaning  –  which  is  its  dominant  usage  amongst Muslims  –  it  refers  to  the  religious  example  set  for  us  by  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  his  closest  companions,  and  thus  can  only  be  positive.

The Innovations of the Early Muslims
The  proponents  of  the  view that  religious  innovations  may  be  good  contend,  secondly,  that  the  Sahabah  and  early  Muslims  introduced  many  innovations  in  religion,  including  the  compilation  of  the  Qur’an  and  writing  down  knowledge.  Thus,  they  argue,  if  inventing  new  practices  in  religion  is  for  a  good  purpose,  it  is  praiseworthy.

The  answer  to  this  is  that  these  are  not  bid‘ah,  as  they  are  innovations  in  ‘adi  matters. These  particular  examples  fall  under  what  al-Shatibi  refers  to  as  al-masalih  al-mursalah (unspecified  benefits).  There  are  two  major  differences  between  these  acts  introduced  by the  Sahabah  and  the  early  Muslims  and  what  is  regarded  as  bid‘ah  in  the  Shari‘ah:

1.  The  basis  of  these  innovations  is  understood  and  comprehensible.  In  other  words  they  are  ma‘qul al-ma‘na  or  ‘adi, and  are  not  ta‘abbudi.

2.  They  are  adopted  as  means  and  not  as  ends,  based  on  the  principle  that  “whatever  an  obligation  is  not  complete  without,  that  itself  is  obligatory.”  

A  group  of  the  Sahabah  compiled  the  Qur’an  into  one  volume  in  the  time  of  Abu  Bakr (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him)  for  fear  that  the  Qur’an  will  be  lost  if  left  to  oral  transmission  alone  as  many  of  the  memorisers  of  the  Qur’an  died  in  battle.  Thus,  for  the  purpose  of  hifz al-shar‘  (preserving  the  Shari‘ah),  the  Sahabah  undertook  this  action.  Hifz al-shar‘  is  something  the  purpose  of  which  can  be  comprehended,  and  it  can  be  practised  in  a  variety  of  different  ways,  depending  on  the  situation  and  on  the  resources  that  are  available.  Furthermore,  its  basis  can  also  be  traced  to  tabligh  al-shar‘ (conveying  the  Shari‘ah),  which  is  from  the  established  teachings  of  the  Qur’an  and  Sunnah.  This  is  also  a  non-ritualistic  (‘adi)  instruction,  as  its  purpose  –  that  is,  to  facilitate  the  message  reaching  others  –  is  understood.  The  same  reasoning  also  applies  to  compiling  knowledge. [al-I‘tisam 3:12-7]

In  sum,  these  “innovations”  were  not  in  ta‘abbudi  matters,  and  therefore  do  not  fall  under  the  meaning  of  bid‘ah  as  intended  in  the  Shari‘ah.  A  clear  indication  of  this  is  that  they  were  adopted  as  means  (wasa’il)  and  not  as  ends  in  themselves  which  is  the  nature of  bid‘ah.

The Scholars’ Division of Bid‘ah into Good and Bad
A  third  proof  presented  by  the  proponents  of  the  view  that  religious  innovation  may  be good  is  that  certain  major  scholars  divided  bid‘ah  into  the  five  juridical  categories,  namely,  fard,  mustahabb/mandub,  mubah,  makruh and  haram.  Al-Shatibi  discusses  the  statements  of  two  prominent  scholars:  al-Qarafi  (d.  684)  and  his  teacher  ‘Izz  al-Din  ibn ‘Abd  al-Salam  (d.  660),  as  both  were  major  scholars  of  usul  al-fiqh.  He  demonstrates  that  there  is  clear  inconsistency  in  their  exposition  of  bid‘ah  which  comes  down  to  a  conflation  of  the  literal  and  Shar‘i  meanings  of  the  word.  I  will  summarise  some  of  his  conclusions  below.

It  should  be  noted  that  al-Qarafi  imitated  ‘Izz  al-Din  ibn  ‘Abd  al-Salam  in  this categorisation,  and  it  is  clear  al-Qarafi  did  not  make  any  distinction  between  a  literal definition  of  bid‘ah  and  a  Shar‘i  definition.  It  appears  that  to  him  they  are  both  the  same. 

Both  al-Qarafi  and  al-‘Izz  state  that  the  method  of  identifying  the  ruling  of  an  innovation (bid‘ah)  is  to  subject  it  to  the  laws  and  principles  of  the  Shari‘ah.  [Al-I‘tisam 1:319] 

Thus,  if  the  laws  prove  that  an  innovation  is  wajib  it  is  wajib,  or  if  they  prove  that  it  is  haraam  it  is  haraam  and  so  forth.  Al-Shatibi’s  first  point  in  response  is  that  if  something  is  proven  to  be  makruh  or  haraam,  they  are  classed  as  direct  violations  and  not  bid‘ah  in  religion.

More  importantly  however,  al-Qarafi,  one  of  the  major  scholars  who  promoted  this  view,  falls  into  a  contradiction  when  he  says:  “The  scholars  (al-ashab)  as  far  as  I  have  seen  are agreed  on  condemning  bid‘ah.” [Al-I‘tisam 1:313] 

Quoting  Ibn  Abi  Zayd  (d.  386), the  prominent  Maliki  jurist,  and  others,  but  then  says:  “The  truth  is  that  it  is  divided  into  five  types,” [ibid]  which  if  taken  literally  would  imply  al-Qarafi  is  openly  violating  the  consensus he  himself  transmitted!  Al-Shatibi  takes  al-Qarafi  to  task  for  this  and  states  he  clearly  “violated  consensus.” [Ibid. 1:322]

A  second  inconsistency  in  al-Qarafi’s  discussion  on  bid‘ah  is  where  he  states:  “If  it  [i.e. bid‘ah]  is  considered  in  a  general  sense,  in  terms  of  it  being  an  innovation  (bid‘ah),  and  ignoring  anything  that  requires  it,  it  is  detested;  for  verily,  all  good  is  in  imitation  and  all  evil  in  innovation ” [Ibid.  1:319] 

Al-Shatibi  points  out  that  this  is  incongruent  with  his  earlier  exposition  as  it  would  imply  a combination  of  two  conflicting  rulings  in  some  matters,  that  of  detestability  and of  obligation.  However,  this  difficulty  is  avoided  if  we  simply  make  the  distinction between  the  lexical  and  Shar‘i  meanings  of  bid‘ah  as  outlined  earlier.

In  examining  ‘Izz  al-Din  ibn  ‘Abd  al-Salam’s  statement,  al-Shatibi  observes  that  the examples  of  “obligatory”  innovations  he  produced  fall  under  the  category  of  al-masalih al-mursalah  explained  above,  which,  he  states,  al-‘Izz  mistook  as  bid‘ah  because  of  their  absence  in  those  specific  forms  in  the  earlier  period.  Al-Shatibi  also  inspects  some  of  the  other  examples  he  uses.  I  will  look  at  a  few  representative  examples  below.

In  the  examples  of  mandub,  al-‘Izz  includes  the  Tarawih  prayer  which  was  examined  earlier  in  the  discussion  of  ‘Umar’s  statement,  “An  excellent  bid‘ah  this  is!”

Al-‘Izz  also  refers  to  Islamic  schools  (madrasahs)  as  an  example  of  mandub  bid‘ahs.  The  reply  to  this  is  that  building  madrasahs  is  not  based  on  a  ta‘abbudi  (ritualistic)  rule,  and is  therefore  not  bid‘ah.  Madrasahs  are  built  with  the  objective  of  conveying  knowledge,  an  important  injunction  of  the  Shari‘ah.  Conveying  knowledge  has  a  comprehensible  purpose  which  is  to  pass  on  the  inherited  sciences  of  the  religion  to  those  who  are  ignorant  of  them,  hence  this  is  an ‘adi  ruling.  It  is  known  that  in  order  to  convey  knowledge  it  is  more  effective  to  have  the  equipments,  books,  instruction  manuals,  instructors  and  students  in  one  place.  And  since  a  madrasah  facilitates  the  interaction  of  all  of  these  things,  it  follows  that  it  is  sensible  to  build  one.  Al-Shatibi  does  however  make  a  caveat,  that  madrasahs  would  be  bid‘ah  in  one  of  two  situations:  

It  would  be  bid‘ah  if  transferring  knowledge  in  the  time  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and blessings  be  upon  him)  and  his  illustrious  companions  was restricted  ritualistically  to  one place.  But  this  is  not  so,  as  we  find  examples  in  their  lifetimes,  of  knowledge  being  taught  in  houses,  markets,  mosques,  during  a  journey  etc.  

Secondly,  if  it  is  believed  madrasahs  are  the  only  place  where  knowledge  can  be  acquired  as  a  religious  conviction,  and  they  are  ritualistically  adopted  in  this  way,  that  would  then  make  them  bid‘ah.  However,  it  is  generally  the  case  that  people  are  not  susceptible  to  the  misunderstanding  that  madrasahs  are  literally  something  that  originates  in  the  example  of  the  early  generations,  because  the  reason  for  constructing  them  (i.e.  the  facilitation  of  instruction)  is  understood  and  comprehensible  to  the  general  mind.  Therefore  it  is  a completely  ‘adi  –  non-ritualistic  –  matter,  and  there  is  little  danger  of  it  becoming  ta‘abbudi  in  the  minds  of  some.  (The  issue  of  a  fear  of  something  being  interpreted  by  the  common  people  as  a  ta‘abbudi  restriction  will  be  discussed  later.)

Al-‘Izz  also  mentioned  “every  act  of  kindness  without  precedent  in  the  first  era.”  as  an  example  of  a  bid‘ah  that  is  mandub.  Al-Shatibi  replies  that  this example  requires  making  the  following  distinctions:

1.  If  the  “act  of  kindness”  is  limited  by  a  ta‘abbudi  restriction,  as  for  example  in Zakah  and  Sadaqat al-Fitr,  a  change  will  certainly  constitute  bid‘ah.

2.  If  there  is  no  ta‘abbudi  restriction  in  “the  act  of  kindness,”  it  would  fall  under  the  general  order  in  the  Qur’an  and  Sunnah  to  be  good  and  kind  to  others.  And  since “kindness”  and  “being  charitable”  is  a  principle  that  is  comprehensible  and explicable,  this  command  can  be  enacted  in  unprecedented  ways.  However,  al-Shatibi  says,  there  are  two  conditions  to  this:  First,  the  normal  rules  of  the  Shari‘ah  apply,  that  the  wealth  is  lawful,  the  charity  is  not  followed  up  by  injury (adha)  and  so  on;  second,  that  there  is  no  insistence  on  a  specific  form  that  gives  the  impression  that  particular  form  is  established  from  the  Sunnah,  for  example,  always  giving  charity  publicly  on  a  particular  day  with  no  ‘adi  reason.  Since  this  gives  the  impression  of  an  innovated  ta‘abbudi  restriction,  it  would  be  cautioned  against  due  to  imitation  of  bid‘ah.  This  will  be  discussed  in  more  detail  below  under  the section  of  relative  bid‘ah.  Of  course,  if  there  is  an  actual  belief  of  a  ta‘abbudi restriction,  that  would  fall  under  the  literal  definition  of  bid‘ah. [Al-I‘tisam 1:347-8]

As  an  example  of  bid‘ah  that  is  mubah,  al-Izz  cites  handshaking  after  Fajr  and  ‘Asr,  which  was  a  common  practice  in  his  time.  Al-Shatibi  replies  that  if  handshaking  after  these  two  prayers  is  not  done  with  the  intention  that  there  is  a  religious  connection  between  handshaking  and  those  prayers  it  will  certainly  not  be  a  “true  bid‘ah”  in  the  way  described  above.  However,  with  persistence  on  it  will  become  a  type  of  bid‘ah  referred  to  as  “relative  bid‘ah,”  that  is,  a  practice  in  which  there  is  a  fear  that  by  persistence  on  it,  it  will  eventually  be  added  to  the  prayers,  the  reason  being  that there  is  no  overtly ‘adi  reason  for  this  specific  practice.  This  principle  will  be  discussed  below  under  the  section  of  relative  bid‘ah.

Moreover,  this  is  an  example  of  where  ‘Izz  al-Din  ibn  ‘Abd  al-Salam  contradicts  himself.  When  he  was  asked  specifically  about  this  practice,  of  shaking  hands  after  Fajr  and  ‘Asr,  he  said  in  his  Fatawa:  “Shaking  hands  after  Fajr  and  ‘Asr  is  from  the  bid‘ahs,  except  for  one  who  arrives  [from  a  journey  at  that  time]…”.  He  goes  on  to  explain  that  this  is  not  from  the  example  of  the  Prophet  (Allah  bless  him  and  grant  him  peace)  and  “all  good  is  in  imitation  of  the  Messenger.” [Kitab al-Fatawa, p. 46-7]

The  Nature  of  the  Evidences  Furnished  by  the  People  of  Bid‘ah
People  who  engage  in  bid‘ah  do  not  recognise  what  they  do  as  bid‘ah.  On  the  contrary,  by  definition,  the  practitioner  of  bidah  believes  what  he  is  engaged  in  to  be  praiseworthy and  established  in  the  religion.  Thus,  they  will  invariably  furnish  “proofs”  for  their  bid‘ahs  from  the  sources  of  the  Shari‘ah.  Al-Shatibi  devotes  an  entire  chapter  to  explaining  the  kinds  of  proof  presented  by  the  people  of  bid‘ah.  He  shows  that  there  is  always  a progression  from  personal  whim and  opinion  to  seeking  out  the  evidence,  as  opposed  to allowing  the  evidences  to  explain  themselves  based  on  the  understanding  of  the  earlier generations.  The  primary  distinguishing  characteristic  of  the  evidences  they  supply  is that  they  are  always  unclear  (mutashabih).  An  example  he  gives  is  the  bid‘ah  of  the Mu‘tazilah  of  their  belief  that  the  Qur’an  is  created,  as  opposed  to  the  belief  of  the  Ahl  al-Sunnah  that  it  is  uncreated.  They  quote  the  verse,  “Allah  is  the  Creator  of  all  things,” (39:62)  as  proof  of  this  claim,  which  is  an  unclear  form  of  evidence.  [Al-I‘tsam 2:44]

Al-Shatibi  explains  that  on  such  shaky  grounds,  anyone  can  support  any  conclusion  they  like  from  the  scriptural  texts.  For  example,  a  Christian  can  take  support  from  the  verse, “And  His  word  that  He  cast upon  Maryam,”  (4:100)  as  proof  that  ‘Isa  (peace  be  upon him)  is  a  partner  with  Allah  (Great  and  Glorious  is  He). [Al-I‘tsam 2:124] 

He  further  says:  “Likewise,  it  is possible  for  every  person  who  follows  the  ambiguous  evidences  or  distorts  the applications  [of  the  evidences]  or  interprets  verses  in  a  way they  were  not  understood  by the  pious  Salaf  or  holds  fast  to  weak  hadiths  or  takes  evidences  on  face  value  to  draw  support  for  every  action,  statement  or  belief  that  agrees  with  his  objective  from  a  verse or  hadith  that  did  not  intend  that  at all.  The  proof  for  this  is  that  every  sect  that  has become  famous  for  its  heresy  (bid‘ah)  draws  support  from verses  or  hadiths.” [Ibid. 2:125]  

I  will  take  a  look  at  some  of  these  invalid  arguments  which are  used  by  the  people  of bid‘ah  in  the  section  on  “examples”  below.

True Bid‘ah and Relative Bid‘ah
In  the  fifth  chapter  of  al-I‘tisam,  al-Shatibi  discusses  an  important  categorisation  of bid‘ah  which  was  alluded  to  earlier.  Bid‘ah  –  in  its  Shar‘i  usage  –  divides  into  two  types: bid‘ah  haqiqiyyah  and bid‘ah  idafiyyahBid‘ah  haqiqiyyah  (true  bid‘ah)  is  bid‘ah  as explained  above.

Bid‘ah  idafiyyah  (relative  bid‘ah)  is  a  kind  of  innovation  that  was  also  regarded  as  “bid‘ah”  by  the  early  Muslims.  In  its  basic  conception,  it  is  a  matter  that  consists  of  two  elements:  one  that  is  established  in  the  Shari‘ah  and  a  second  element  that  is  innovation.  That  is,  its  specific  procedure,  conditions,  details  and  times  are  not proven  in  the  Shari‘ah,  though  they  are  required  as  these  specifications  are  performed  in  such  a  way  as  to  give  the  impression  that  they  are  part  of  religion.  This  is  best  demonstrated  by  means  of  examples:

Voluntary  (nafl)  practices  like  dhikr,  optional  prayer  and  optional  fasts  are  recommended and  praiseworthy,  and  these  voluntary  acts  of  worship  have  the  inherent  property  of “flexibility”  (tawsi‘ah).  If  one  performs  voluntary  worship  (i.e.  recitation  of  Qur’an,  dhikr, supplication,  fasting  and  prayers)  with  a  sequence  or  number  that  is  not  exactly established  from  the  Sunnah,  even  with  continuity  (dawam),  that  individual  is  acting  within  the  remits  of  the  flexibility  allowed  for  by  the  voluntary  nature  of  these  acts  of  worship.  This  is  as  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  said  in  a  hadith  recorded  by  al-Bukhari  and  Muslim  in  their  Sahihs: “You  should  do  [voluntary]  deeds  as  much  as   you  are  able”  which  he  said  specifically  in  the  context  of voluntary  prayer  performed  by  an  individual  with  continuity.  This  is  of  course  with  the condition  that  this  prayer  does  not  adversely  affect  one’s  self  or  his  responsibilities  to  others,  as  explicitly  mentioned  in  the  hadiths.

Voluntary  worship  was  originally  intended  to  be  performed  in  isolation,  not  in  public.  Thus,  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  said:  “The  best  of  your  prayer  is  in your  homes  except  the  prescribed  prayers.”  Thus,  in  the  early  period,  voluntary  worship  was  not  done  publicly  except  rarely,  unlike  wajib  and  sunnah prayers  (e.g.  ‘Id  and  Tarawih  prayers).  If,  however,  a particular  form  of  optional  worship  is  done  with  insistence  (iltizam)  and  continuity  (mudawamah)  publicly,  it  will  become  what  is  known  as  “bid‘ah  idafiyyah”  (relative  bid‘ah),  even  if  the  person  doing  it  does  not  have  the  intention  of  specifying  that  act  to  that  form  and  time.  The  reason  for  this  is  that  those  acts  that  are  performed  in  this  way  –  i.e.  specific  forms  of  worship  done  in  public  –  are  precisely  how  the  early  Muslims would  practise  sunnah  and  wajib  acts.  Thus,  an  impression  may  easily  be  created  that  the  voluntary  act  is  sunnah  or  wajib,  which  if  in  fact  believed  would  make  it  a  “true  bid‘ah”  (bid‘ah  haqiqiyyah);  but  if  only  the  impression  is  created  and  the  public  are  made  susceptible  to  that  belief,  it  would  be  counted  as bid‘ah  idafiyyah. [ibid. 2:232-5 ]

This  is  why  the  Sahabah  left out  acts  that  are  originally  permissible  for  fear  of  it  being treated  as  sunnah.  For  example,  ‘Umar  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him)  forbade  the  people  from  following  the  traces  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and searching  for  places  where  he  prayed,  as  recorded  in  the  Musannaf  of  ‘Abd  al-Razzaq. [Ibid. 2:236]

However,  if  one  were  to  do  this  merely  as  an  expression  of  love  or  longing  for  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him),  and  not  as  a  sunnah  act,  it  would  certainly  be  permissible  and  not  bid‘ah.  But  ‘Umar  forbade  it  for  fear  of  it  being  treated  as  a  sunnah.  After  listing  a  number  of  other  examples,  al-Shatibi  states: “And  all  of  this  is  a  path  to  not treating  what  is  not  sunnah  as  sunnah.”  [Ibid. 2:237]

An  example  from  the  teachings  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  is  the hadith  recorded  in  the  Sahihs  of  al-Bukhari  and  Muslim:   

“None  of  you  should  fast  one  or  two  days  before  Ramadan.”

One  of  the  reasons  given  for  this  by  the  commentators  is  that  there  is  a  fear  of  such voluntary  fasts  being  joined  to  the  obligatory  fast,  so  people  may  begin  to  believe  that  these  voluntary  fasts  are  also  obligatory. 

After  explaining  a  number  of  examples,  al-Shatibi  puts  down  a  basic  statement  defining  this  principle: 

“Every  action  the  basis  of  which  is  established  in  the  Shari‘ah  but  in  publicising  its practice  or  maintaining  continuity  therein  is  feared  that  it  will  be  believed  that  it  is sunnah,  it  is  required  that  it  be  totally  abandoned  as  a  path  to  blocking  the  means.” [Ibid. 2:333]

From the  definition,  it  is  clear  that  the  principle  is  subjective,  as  it  is  contingent  on  a  “fear.”  If  what  is  feared  is  actualised  in  some  of  the  common  people,  there  is  no  doubt the  bid‘ah  would  be  true  bid‘ah  (bid‘ah  haqiqiyyah)  for  those  individuals,  and  bid‘ah  idafiyyah  for  those  who  persist  on  it  without  that  belief.  Additional  specifications  in  the performance  of  a  voluntary  act,  like  doing  so  in  congregation,  out  in  public,  with  continuity,  and  under  people  who  are  followed  as  religious  authorities,  combine  to  make  a  voluntary  action  bid‘ah  idafiyyah,  unless  there  is  a  very  clear  ‘adi  reason  for  doing  so  (As  discussed  earlier  in  the  example  of  madrasah).

The  reason  is  that  it  is  easy  to  see  how  laypeople  will  begin  to  believe  what  is  not  sunnah  or  wajib  as  being  sunnah  or  wajib. In  sum,  “bid‘ah  idafiyyah”  can  be  understood  as  behaving  in  the  way  a  person  advocating  “true  bid‘ah”  would  behave,  as  an  individual  normally  will  only  insist  and  persist  publicly  on  a  non-sunnah  act  in  a  very  specific  way  if  he  believes  it  to  be  sunnah.

Below  I  will  look  at  a  few examples  where  bid‘ah  idafiyyah  was  censured  by  the  early  Muslims  and  in  the  statements  of  later  jurists. 

Ibn  Waddah  narrates  from  al-Sha‘bi  that  ‘Umar  ibn  al-Khattab  would  beat  those  who  openly  fasted  the  entire  month  of  Rajab.  Ibn  Waddah  explained:  “Its  purpose  is  for  fear that  they  would  adopt  it  as  a  sunnah  just  like  Ramadan.” [Ibn Waddah, p. 51]

If  a  person  fasts  the  entire  month  of  Rajab  as  his  private  practice,  that  would  fall  under the  general  recommendation  of  optional  fasts  (unless  it  adversely  affects  his  other obligations).  However,  if  a group  did  this  publicly,  there  is  an  imminent  fear  of  it  being treated  as  sunnah.  Since  this  group  fasted  the  entire  month  of  Rajab  openly  (and  the narration  mentions  that  they  were  known  by  the  collective  title  “Rajabiyyun”),  ‘Umar  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him)  forbade  them  from  doing  so  as  it  may  lead  to  true  bid‘ah.

Ibn  Waddah  narrates  from Khalid  al-Ashajj:

“We  were  in  the  mosque  of  Madinah  and  a  storyteller  told  us  tales,  and  he  began  to select  the  verses  of  prostration  from  the  Qur’an  and  prostrate  and  we  prostrated  with  him. Then  an  old  man  emerged  and  he  opposed  us,  saying:  ‘If  you  are  on  something,  verily  you  are  superior  to  the  companions  of  the  Messenger  of  Allah  (Allah  bless  him  and  grant  him peace).’  We  inquired  about  him, and  we  said,  ‘Who  is  this  old  man?’  They  said,  ‘It  is  ‘Abd  Allah  ibn  ‘Umar.’” [Ibid. p. 29]

Reading  the  verses  of  prostration  and  prostrating  upon  doing  so  is  established  in  the  Sunnah.  However,  specifying  them  for  recitation  and  then  doing  that  in  congregation  creates  the  impression  that  this  procedure  is  sunnah,  even  if  it  is  not  believed  so.  Hence, the  act  is  not  “true  bid‘ah”  but  “relative  bid‘ah”  and  was  condemned  by  Ibn  ‘Umar  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him).

Al-Darimi  narrates  in  his  Sunan  with  a  good  chain  that  a  group  of  Muslims  would  perform  dhikr  in  a  particular  way,  with  the  head  of  the  circle  instructing  the  people  to  recite  certain  numbers  of  different  forms  of  dhikr.  Ibn  Mas‘ud  condemned  them, saying:

“These  are  the  companions  of  your  Prophet  widely-available…By  the  One  in  Whose  hand  is  my  soul,  indeed  you  are  on  a  religion  which  is  more  guided  than  the  religion  of  Muhammad  or  you  have  opened  the  door  to  misguidance  [by  practising  innovation].”  [Sunan  al-Darimi, 1:287]

Reciting  any  number  of  dhikr  is  to  be  commended,  but  when  it  is  done  openly  and  in congregation  under  the  guidance  of  one  who  is  regarded  as  a  religious  authority,  that  particular  number  and  form  may  be  conceived  by  the  ignorant  as  being  sunnah.  Hence,  Ibn  Mas‘ud  condemned  it  as  bid‘ah.
In  all  of  these  examples,  although  it  cannot  be  ascertained  with  certainty  that  the  people  practising  these  acts  did  so  with  the  belief  that  they  are  specifically  part  of  the  Sunnah,  but  because  they  imitated  or  resembled  the  way  a  person  who  does  believe  this  would  behave,  the  Sahabah  forbade  them  from practising  them.

The  prominent  early  Hanafi  jurist  and  muhaddith,  Abu  Bakr  al-Jassas  al-Razi  (305  –  370 H),  comments  on  a  ruling  transmitted  from  the  founders  of  the  Hanafi  madhhab,  that  it  is  prohibited  to  fix  a  particular  chapter  of  the  Qur’an  to  a  particular  rak‘ah  of  prayer.  Since  his  explanation  is  both  lucid  and  instructive,  I  will  quote  its  translation: 

“Abu  Ja‘far  [al-Tahawi]  said:  It  is  makruh  (prohibitively  disliked)  to  adopt  a  part  of  the  Qur’an  for  a  specific  part  of  the  prayers.

“And  that  is  because  if  that  was  to  be  permitted,  it  would  not  be  assured  that  with  the passage  of  time  people  will  believe  it  is  sunnah  or  wajib ;  as  has  occurred  today  in  the understanding  of  many  of  the  ignorant  people  in  the  like  of  it,  so  when  the  recitation  of Surat  al-Jumu‘ah  is  left  out  on  the  night  of  Friday,  and  Alif  Lam  Mim  Tanzil  al-Sajdah  [is left  out]  on  the  day  of  Friday,  they  find  it  strange.  Thus,  the  people  of  knowledge  intended  to  preserve  the  religion  and  protect  it  from  adding  to  it  what  is  not  from  it .

“[This  is]  just  as  was  narrated  from  some  of  the  Salaf  [their]  hatred  of  fasting  six  days  of Shawwal  [consecutively,  immediately  after  Ramadan]  despite  what  is  narrated  in  hadith [of  its  desirability],  for  fear  that  persistence  on  it  will  be  a  cause  for  it  being  appended  to  the  obligatory  [fast  of  Ramadan].

“[And  it  is]  just  as  was  narrated  from  the  Prophet  (Allah  bless  him  and  grant  him peace)  that  it  is  prohibited  to  fast  on  Friday,  unless  [one  keeps  a  fast]  the  day  before  it,  and  unless  it  coincides  with  a day  one  of  us  used  to  fast  [anyway].” [Sharh Mukhtasar  al-Tahawi, 8:525-6]

Imam  al-Nawawi  was  asked  about  the  persistent  practice  of  some  people  of  reading Surat  al-An‘am  in  the  last  rak‘ah  of  Tarawih  on  the  seventh  night  of  Ramadan.  He replied:

“This  is  not  a  sunnah  but  a  detestable  bid‘ah  and  for  its  detestability  are  reasons:  from them  is  the  impression  of  it  being  sunnah …Thus,  every  worshipper  should  refrain  from this  practice  and  should  relay  its  condemnation,  for  indeed  it  is  established  in  authentic hadiths  that  newly-invented  matters  are  prohibited  and  that  every  bid‘ah  is  misguidance,  and  this  practice  has  not  been  transmitted  from  any  of  the  Salaf .” [Fatawa l-Imam al-Nawawi, 1:25-6]

In  this  section,  I  will  take  a  brief  look  –  in  light  of  the  principles  of  bid‘ah  outlined  above –  at  some  common  practices  about  which  people  are  unsure  whether  they  constitute  bid‘ah  or  not.  I hope  that  in  the  course  of  analysing  these  examples,  further  light  is  shed  on  some  important  principles  relating  to  bid‘ah,  specifically,  and  the  method  of  drawing  proof  from  the  Shari‘ah,  generally.  The  first  two  practices  are  examples  that  al-Shatibi  himself  addressed  in  quite  some  detail.  Although,  he  briefly  makes  mention  of  the  third  example,  he  does  not  elaborate  on  it  as  he  does  the  first  two.

Example One: Loud Group Dhikr in Unison
Al-Shatibi  discusses  the  practice  of  “loud  group  dhikr  in  unison”  which  is  basically  a congregational  recital  of  dhikr  in  one  voice.  Some  people  do  this  as  a  specific  ritual  practice,  i.e.  in  a  ta‘abbudi  way,  to  attain  reward  and  closeness  to  Allah.  My  purpose  here  is  not  to  give  an  unequivocal  ruling  on  this  practice  but  to  use  it  as  an  example  to  illustrate  faulty,  ambiguous  (mutashabih),  evidences  used  by  people  of  bid‘ah.

Some  argue  that  this  is  included  in  the  general  evidences  recommending  dhikr.  For example,  the  Qur’an  says:

“O  you  who  believe,  make  mention  of  Allah,  with  excessive  dhikr”  (33:41)   

“And  make  mention  of  Allah  much  so  that  you  are  successful.”  (8:45)

However,  al-Shatibi  explains  that  this  is  based  on  the  mistaken  assumption  that  the generality  of  a  word  implies  the  permissibility  of  everything  that  can  be  imagined  to  occur  from  its  meaning.  However,  this  is  not  the  case  in  matters  of  ritual.  In  brief,  this  form  of  evidence  attempts  to  put  in  practice  absolute  statements  (mutlaqat)  before  examining  their  restricted  application  as established  from  the  early  Muslims  (muqayyidat). [Al-I‘tisam 2:62]  

To  understand  the  invalidity  of  such  an  argument,  consider  the  following  example.  A  verse  of  the  Qur’an  states:

“O  you  who  believe!  Bow  down  in  ruku‘  and  in  prostration  and  worship  your  Lord.” (22:77)

Based  on  the  command  in  this  verse  to  bow  down,  can  one  deduce  the  recommendation  or  obligation  of  performing  stand-alone  ruku‘s  outside  of  Salah,  as  the  verse  gives  a  general  command  to  bow?  The  answer  is  that  this  is  precisely  the  mistaken  type  of  reasoning  explained  above,  as  in  such  ritualistic  matters  one  must  take  into  consideration  the  restricted  application  first before  applying  the  generalities.  Furthermore,  if  a  stand-alone  ruku‘  was  a  valid  interpretation  and  application  of  the  general  command  in  the  verse,  would  not  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  the  Sahabah  be  the  first  to  have  comprehended  this  meaning  and  acted  upon  it?  If  we  were  to  take  this  invalid  form  of  argumentation  to  its  extreme,  one  may  just  as  well  deduce  from the words  “worship  your  Lord”  any  form  of  ritual  worship,  like  yoga,  believing  that  this  a  fulfilment  of  this  command!  But,  of  course,  all  Muslims  recognise  that  this  is  incorrect.  The  reason  is  that  it  is  based  on  this  faulty  reasoning.

Thus,  in  ritual  acts,  it  is  wrong  to  approach  general  evidences  to  prove  specific  practices.  It  is  necessary  to  find  specific  evidence.  Hence,  in  this  case,  group  dhikr  in  unison  would not  be  bid‘ah  if  the  Prophet  (Allah  bless  him and  grant  him peace)  and  Sahabah  performed  dhikr  in  this  way.  

The  above  was  an  analysis  of  what  would  not  count  as  proof  for  the  validity  of  this  practice.  If  it  was  established  that  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  Sahabah  did  engage  in  this  practice  of  performing  loud  group  dhikr  in  unison,  that  would  be  a  valid  support  for  believing  that  it  is  sunnah  and  not  bid‘ah.  There  are  some  authentic  hadiths  which  do  suggest  that  groups  of  Sahabah  did  dhikr.  A  hadith  in  Sahih  Muslim  for  example  states  that  angels  convey  the  news  of  “gatherings  of  dhikr”  in  which  the  people  are  saying  Allahu  akbar  and  subhan  Allah.  
However,  al-Shatibi  argues  that  this  hadith  and  those  like  it  are  ambiguous  as  they  do  not  clarify  whether  this  was  done  audibly  or  quietly,  in  unison  or  individually.  Thus,  it  may  easily  apply  to  what  was  known  to  be  a  common  practice  amongst the  Sahabah,  of  gathering  in  one  place  while  each  of  them  performed  individual  worship,  whether  recitation  of  Qur’an,  recitation  of  dhikr,  or  optional  prayer. [Al-I‘tisam 2:94-5]

Some  scholars  have,  however,  understood  the  meaning  of  loud  group  dhikr  in  unison  from this  hadith,  for  example  ‘Abd  al-Haqq  Muhaddith  Dihlawi. [See:  ‘Abd  al-Hayy  al-Laknawi,  Sibahat  al-Fikr  fi  l-Jahr  bi  l-Dhikr,  ed.  ‘Abd  al-Fattah  Abu Ghuddah, Dar al-Salam, pp. 63-66]

However,  for  lay  Muslims  it  is  advisable  to  follow  the  most  cautious  path,  based  on  the prophetic  advice:

“Leave  that  which  causes  you  to  doubt  for  that  which  does  not  cause  you  to  doubt.”

There  are  many  forms  of  dhikr  established  in  the  Sunnah,  like  reciting  tahlil,  takbir, tasbih,  tahmid,  hawqalah  and  other  litanies  which  may  be  practised  privately  and  inaudibly,  and  there  is  no  doubt  in  the  sunnah-status  of  this  practice. This  accepted  sunnah  can  easily  replace  the  forms  of  dhikr  in  which  there  is  doubt. [For  a  comprehensive  collection  of  dhikrs  established  from  the  Sunnah,  see  al-Adhkar  min  Kalam Sayyid al-Abrar  by  Muhyi al-Din al-Nawawi]

Because  the  flipside  of  the  benefit  attained  from  performing  this  doubtful  form  of  dhikr  is  that  one  would  be  engaging  in  bid‘ah  haqiqiyyah  in  the  situation  that  this  was in  reality  not  a  practice  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  the  Sahabah,  the  danger  in  practising  it  far  outweighs  the  benefits  of  performing  it. 

It  should  be  noted  that  the  above  discussion  applies  only  to  the  situation  in  which  loud  group  dhikr  in  unison  is  done  ritually  (ta‘abbudan),  as  a  formal  form  of  dhikr.  However,  some  Muslim  scholars  and  teachers  use  it  as  a  means  of  instruction,  as  loudly  reciting  some  forms  of  dhikr  together  is  a  useful  way  to  make  people  learn  certain  formulae.  If  done  in  this  way  there  is  no  harm  as  this  has  a  comprehensible  purpose  (ma‘qul  al-ma‘na)  and  is  adopted  as  a means.  Furthermore,  many  Sufi  disciplinarians  justify  their  use  of  this  practice  by  stating  that  it  is  a  means  to  improve  concentration  in  the  heart  of the  spiritual  novice,  so  as  to  achieve  a  state  of  remembrance  that  came  naturally  to  the  Sahabah  merely  by  accompanying  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him).  In  order  to  compensate  for  the  loss  of  the  effect  of  that  companionship,  the  Sufi  teachers  prescribe  these  practices,  only  as  a  means. [Tasawwuf kiya hey pp. 17-26]

In  this  case,  too,  since  it  is  not  performed  ritualistically  but  as  a  means,  it  cannot  be  regarded  as  bid‘ah.  

Example  Two:  Audible  Group  Du‘a  after  Salah
Another  practice  al-Shatibi  discusses  is  the  continuous  practice  of  group  du‘a  after  the obligatory  prayers.  In  the  case  of  group  du‘a  itself,  where  one  person  leads  the  congregation  in  du‘a  by  reciting  the  supplications  audibly  and  the  others  say  “amin,”  we  don’t  have  the  immediate  problem that  we  did  with  audible  group  dhikr  in  unison.  With  the  latter  there  is  a  question  over  its  very  existence  in  the  early  period.  However,  audible  group  du‘a  is  established  from  the  Salaf.  The  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  said:

“A  group  does  not  congregate,  one  of  them  supplicating  and  the  rest  of  them saying amin,  except  Allah  answers  them.” [Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 10:267]

Shaykh  Muhammad  Yusuf  al-Kandhlewi  has  a  section  in  his  celebrated  Hayat  al-Sahabah devoted  to  the  instances  where  the  Sahabah  performed  group  du‘a. [see: Hayat  al-Sahabah,  Shaykh  Muhammad  Yusuf  Kandhlewi,  ed.  Bashshar  ‘Awwad  Ma‘ruf, Mu’assasat al-Risalah, 4:443-6]

Al-Shatibi  also  accepts  that  group  du‘a  in  general  is  approved.  [Al-I‘tisam 2:313]

The  issue  here,  however,  is  doing  it  perpetually  after  the  congregational  Salahs,  such  that  an  impression  is  created  that  it  is  sunnah  at  that  time  and  that  it  is  attached  to  these  prayers.  The  evidence  from  the  example  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be upon  him)  and  his  companions  shows  that  there  is  flexibility  (tawsi‘ah)  in  the  practice  of  group  du‘a.  Thus,  if  done  on  some  occasions  in  a  manner  that  does  not  give  the impression  of  it  being  restricted  to  a  specific  time  or  place,  this  would  faithfully  represent  an  adherence  to  the  evidence  of  this  flexibility.  However,  when  it  is  insisted  on  at  one  particular  time  without  proof,  the  general  evidence  does  not  support  the  practice.  Rather,  the  opposite  is  true  because  “insisting  on  matters  that  are  not  insisted  on  in  the  Shari‘ah,  its  nature  is  that  legislation  will  be  understood,  especially  with  those  taken  as  authorities  [i.e.  imams]  and  in  the  places  where  people  gather  like  masjids”  [Ibid. 2:59-60] 

Thus,  drawing  on  the  general  proofs  encouraging  group  du‘a  for  practising  it  specifically  after  Salah  is  a  type  of  faulty evidence  which  al-Shatibi  says  is  an  example  “distorting  the  proofs  from  their  places.”  [Ibid] 

The  general  encouragement  towards  group  du‘a  has  a particular  application  of  flexibility.  But  if  acted  upon  at  a  specific  time  and  place,  in  conjunction  with  a  particular  worship,  sticking  fervently  to  it  so  it  appears  as  if  a  desired  goal  in  the  Shari‘ah  (maqsud  bi  al-shar‘),  then  the  general  evidence  does  not  support  it.  This  is  what  al-Shatibi  says  is known  as  “two  different  applications”  (ikhtilaf  al-manatayn),  where  the  application  of  the  evidence  is  flexibility,  and  what  the  claimant  is  attempting  to  prove  –  i.e.  adopting  du‘a  after  Salah  audibly  for  the  attendees  always  just  as  sunnahs  are  performed  is  restricted  and  specified.  Thus,  the  evidence  is invalid.  This  practice  would  therefore  be  an  example  of  “relative  bid‘ah.” [Ibid.  2:262]

One  person  in  al-Shatibi’s  time  who  was  in  favour  of  perpetual  group  du‘a  after  the  obligatory  prayers  argued  that  there  is  no  prohibition  of  group  du‘a,  and  there  is  general  encouragement  towards  it,  and  the  omission  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  Sahabah  of  this  practice  specifically  after  the  prayers  is  not  a  proof  of  its  detestability.  Al-Shatibi  replies  that  the  person  is  right  that  there  is  no  prohibition  of  group  du‘a  and  there  is  general  encouragement  towards  it,  which is  why  he  says  if  done  occasionally  after  the  obligatory  prayers  there  is  no  problem  as  this  would  fall  under  the  general  recommendation.  But  if  done  perpetually  it  will  give  the  impression  to  laypeople  that  it  is  a  sunnah  at that  particular  time  which  is  a  ritualistic  (ta‘abbudi)  restriction.  Thus,  it  falls  under  bid‘ah  idafiyyah.

Furthermore,  with  respect  to  the  omission  of  the  early  generations,  al-Shatibi  explains that  there  is  detail  to  this  with  respect  to  ritualistic  matters  that  were  omitted  by  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  Sahabah.  In  such  scenarios,  there  are  two  possibilities:

1.  There  was  no  stimulant  (ma‘na muqtadi  lahu)  in  the  time  of  the  Prophet  (peace  be upon  him)  for  determining  that  ritualistic  ruling.  For  example,  as  was  mentioned  earlier  the  shares  of  inheritance  fixed  for  the  heirs  of  the  deceased  are  ritualistic  (ta‘abbudi)  in  Islam.  However,  there  is  a  particular  scenario  in  which  only  the grandfather  of  the  deceased  and  his  brothers  remain,  which  was  not  addressed  by  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  because  there  was  no  need  to  address  this  scenario  at  the  time.  Thus,  the  Sahabah  and  the  later  scholars  issued  a  ruling  on  this  scenario  based  on  the  general  patterns  they  saw  in  the  rules  of  inheritance.  Such  an  innovation  in  ritualistic  matters  is  allowed  as  it  is  based  on  a  new  circumstance  which  the  Shari‘ah  needs  to  address.

2.  The  stimulant  was  present,  yet  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  and  the  Sahabah  did  not  endorse  it  or  practise  it.  This  is  equivalent  to  the  Shari‘ah  purposely  choosing  to  restrict  that  action  within  those  limits.  Thus  any  change  would  be  bid‘ah. [Al-I‘tisam, 2:263-5]

It  is  in  this  vein  that  al-Shafi‘i  said,  as  mentioned  earlier,  “we  follow  the  sunnah,  both  in performance  and  in  omission.”  Similarly,  Mulla  ‘Ali  al-Qari  said:   

“Adherence  –  just  as  it  is  in  performance,  it  is  in  omission  too  –  so  whoever  persists [ritualistically]  on  a  practice  the  lawgiver  did  not do,  he  is  an  innovator.”  [Mirqat al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih, 1:94-5]

For  example,  some  people  in  the  time  of  al-Shatibi  argued  that  group  du‘a  is  more  likely to  be  accepted  as  mentioned  in  hadith,  and  this  can  be  combined  with  the  general recommendation  of  du‘a  after  Salah,  and  thus  it  is  argued  group  du‘a  should  be  practised after  Salah.  It  is  precisely  this  thinking  in  ritualistic  matters  that  makes  it  bid‘ah  as  this reason  was  present  in  the  early  period  and  the  Sahabah  would  be  more  deserving  of comprehending  it  and  being  the  first to  act  upon  it. [Al-I‘tisam 2, p. 267 & 274]

Example Three: The Annual  Mawlid Celebration on Rabi‘  al-Awwal
Al-Shatibi  discusses  many  examples  of  bid‘ah  idafiyyah  that  he  says  are  close  to  bid‘ah  haqiqiyya,  like  inventing  an  Adhan  and  Iqamah  for  the  ‘Id  prayers.  He  also  answers  the  question  of  ‘Uthman’s  (may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him)  introduction  of  a  second  Adhan  for  Jumu‘ah.  The  basic  reply  is  that  before  ‘Uthman’s  time,  the  Adhan  was  called  immediately  before  the  sermon.  Although  this  was  sufficient  when  the  Muslims  were  small  in  number,  as  the  population  grew  in  ‘Uthman’s  time,  an  earlier  call  to  prayer  was  required.  Thus  he  patterned  Jumu‘ah  after  the  normal  prayers  where  Adhan  was  called  at  its  start  time,  and  maintained  the  later  Adhan  established  from  the  Sunnah.  Thus,  this  was  an  addition  due  to  changing  circumstances  that  called  for  a  reasoned  response. Furthermore,  the  practices  of  the  early  caliphs  form  part  of  the  Sunnah  as  explicitly mentioned  in  hadith,  so  by  definition,  it  cannot  be  bid‘ah  in  its  Shar‘i  meaning.  [Al-I‘tisam 2:305]

Another  type  of  bid‘ah  idafiyyah  al-Shatibi  discusses  is  what  is  called  taqyid  al-mutlaq (restricting  the  absolute).  For  example,  a  person  selects  a  day  of  the  week,  say  Wednesday,  or  a  date  of  the  month,  like  the  23rd,  which  has  not  been  specified  in  the  Shari‘ah,  and  then  begins  to  always  fast  on  those  days,  not  because  the  person  has  more  energy  (nashat)  or  free-time  (faragh)  or  due  to  convenience  (wifaq),  but  only  due  to  resolve,  planning  and  determination  (tasmim).  This  is  different  from a  person  who  has  a  daily  habit  of  awrad  or  optional  worship,  as  this  is  based  on  convenience,  and  not  ultimately  on  determination  and  planning.  Taqyid  al-mutlaq  is  a form  of  relative  bid‘ah. [Ibid. 2:293-4]

Although  al-Shatibi  does  not  present  it  as  an  example  of  this  particular  principle,  the annual  mawlid  celebration  performed  in  the  month  of  Rabi‘  al-Awwal  is  an  example  of taqyid  al-mutlaq.  Remembering  the  birth  of  the  Prophet  (peace  and  blessings  be  upon  him)  just  as  remembering  any  aspect  of  his  life  is  praiseworthy  and  beneficial,  but  when  it  is  done  permanently  on  a  particular  day of  the  year  without  any  non-ritualistic  or  comprehensible  (‘adi)  basis,  it  very  easily  creates  the  impression  that  that  particular  day  is  superior  for  this  practice,  but  there  is  no  proof  for  this  from  the  sources  of  the  Shari‘ah  or  the  example  of  the  early  generations.  Thus,  if  it  is  performed  in  this  way  without  any  particular  belief  attached  to  it,  it  would  be  a  relative  bid‘ah  (bid‘ah  idafiyyah).  However,  in  the  case  of  the  annual  mawlid  celebration,  the  fear  of  it  being  ritualised  has  actually  been  realised,  and  many  Muslims  in  fact  believe  that  a  particular  day  or  month  of  the  year  is  religiously  superior  to  any  other  time  for  that  remembrance.  Many  Muslims  adopt  it  literally  as  a  formal  religious  festival  or  “‘Id,”  which  is  why  al-Shatibi  included  “adopting the  day  of  the  prophetic  birth  as  an  ‘Id”  amongst  a  number  of  actions  he  listed  as  examples  of  bid‘ah  in  al-I‘tisam. [see: al-I‘tisam 1:46] 

He  also  said  in  his  collection  of  fatwas: 

“Establishing  the  mawlid  in  the  way  that  is  customary  amongst the  people  is  an  innovated  bid‘ah  and  every  bid‘ah  is  misguidance.” [Al-Mi‘yar  al-Mu‘rib, 7:102-3]

The  reason  he  adds  “in  the  way  that  is  customary  amongst the  people”  is  that  if  the restrictions  customarily  bound  to  the  mawlid  celebration,  like  the  date,  were  removed,  and  it  consisted  only  of  a remembrance  of  the  prophetic  biography  or  the  prophetic  birth,  this  would  certainly  not  be  an  innovation  in  religion.  Many  Muslims  actually  believe  that  since  he  was  born  on  a  particular  day  of  Rabi‘  al-Awwal,  it  is  better  and  preferable  to  do  this  remembrance  on  this  day of  Rabi‘.  This  would  make  the  act  for  those  Muslims  bid‘ah haqiqiyyah  as  the  stimulant  for  this  practice  (ma‘na muqtadi  lahu)  was  present  in  the time  of  the  Sahabah.  Thus  the  implication  of  this  reasoning  is  that  the  Sahabah  failed  to recognise  the  virtue  of  that  day,  and  the  reward  of  recollecting  the  birth  on  that  date,  and  the  later  people  were  able  to  comprehend  that  virtue.  And  this  is  absurd.  

I  will  end  with  a  quote  on  this  issue  from a  Maliki  contemporary  of  al-Shatibi,  Abu  ‘Abd Allah  al-Haffar  (d.  811  H).  As  the  passage  is  long,  I will  avoid  quoting  the  Arabic  text.  At  one  point  in  his  statement,  al-Haffar  errs  in  his  reasoning,  which  I  hope  readers  will  now be  able  to  appreciate.  (I  will  highlight  the  error  in  an  end-note.)  Al-Haffar  writes:

“The  pious  predecessors,  and  they  are  the  companions  of  the  Messenger  of  Allah  (Allah bless  him  and  grant  him  peace)  and  their  successors,  would  not  congregate  on  the  night  of  mawlid  for  worship,  and  they  would  not  practise  more  therein  than  the  rest of  the nights  of  the  year  because  the  Prophet  (Allah  bless  him  and  grant  him  peace)  is  not  to  be venerated  except  in  a  way  his  veneration  has  been  legislated. [This  is  where  al-Haffar  slips,  as  “veneration”  or  “respect”  is  a  comprehensible  (‘adi)  matter,  and  is  not  ritualistic  (ta‘abbudi).  People  may  demonstrate  their  respect,  adoration  and  love  for  the  Prophet  (peace  be  upon  him)  in  different  ways.  Yes,  if  this  matter  is  performed  in  such  a  way  that  a  ritualistic  restriction  is  clearly  understood  or  a  ritualistic  restriction  is  actually  believed,  as  is  the  case  with  the  annual  mawlid  celebration,  that  is  when  it  is  no  longer  ‘adi  and  becomes  an  addition  into  religion.  This  is  similar  to  the  example  of  sadaqah  discussed  earlier.  The  valid  points  to  take   from  al-Haffar’s  statement  are  what  he  continues  to  say,  “The  proof  that  the  Salaf…”] 

His  veneration  is  from  the  greatest  of  nearing  acts  to  Allah,  but  nearness  is  sought  to  Allah  (Great  is  His  Majesty)  only  by  what  is  legislated.  The  proof  that  the  Salaf  would  not add  therein  anything  extra  to  the  rest of  the  nights  is  that  they  differed  over  it  [i.e.  the  date  of  his  birth].  It  was  said  that  he  (Allah  bless  him and  grant  him peace)  was  born  in  Ramadan  and  it  was  said  in  Rabi‘,  and  the  day  [of  Rabi‘]  in  which  he  was  born  has  been  disputed  according  to  four  opinions.  Hence,  if  worship  was  established  in  the  night  of  the  day  in  which  he  was  born  due  to  the  birth  of  the  best  of  creation  (Allah  bless  him and  grant  him peace),  that  would  indeed  be  known  and  famous,  and  no  disagreement  would  arise  therein.  However,  an  excess  in  veneration  has  not  been  legislated.  Do  you  not  see  that  Friday  is  the  best day  on  which  the  sun  rose,  and  the  best  that  is  done  on  a  virtuous  day  is  fasting,  yet  the  Prophet  (Allah  bless  him and  grant  him  peace)  forbade  fasting  on  Friday  despite  its  great  excellence?  This  proves  that  no  worship  is  to  be  established  in  a  time  or  place  unless  it  is  legislated  and  what  is  not  legislated  is  not  to  be  done,  since  the  latter  part  of  this  ummah  will  not  bring  greater  guidance  than  what  the  first part  of  it  brought.  And  if  this  door  was  to  be  opened,  a  group  will  indeed  come  and  say  the  day  of  his  migration  to  Madinah  was  a  day  in  which  Allah  honoured  Islam  so  congregate  in  it  and  worship,  and  others  will  say  the  night  in  which  he  was  taken  on  a  night  journey  he  acquired  glory  the  extent  of  which  cannot  be  imagined  so  worship  is  to  be  established  therein.  This  will  not  stop  at  a limit.  All  good  is  in  following  the  pious  Salaf,  for  which  Allah  chose  them.  Thus,  what  they  did,  we  do,  and  what  they  left,  we  leave.  Once  this  is  established,  it  is  apparent  that  to  congregate  on  this  night  is  not  required  in  the  Shari‘ah. Rather,  one  is  ordered  to  leave  it.”  [Al-Mi‘yar  al-Mu‘rib,  7:99-100]

Also Read: The Concept of Bid’ah – Between the Two Extremes

Imam Abu Hanifa’s View on Six Fasts of Shawwal & the Mufta Bihi Position of the Hanafi Madh-hab

A  senior  Mufti  says  that  the  6  Shawwaal  Fasts  are  Makrooh.  He  cites  Imaam  Abu  Hanifah  (Rahmatullah  alayh)  as  proof  for  this  view.  Please  comment.

Answer (Mujlisul Ulama): 
The  senior  Mufti  Sahib  is  short-sighted.  His  Ilm  is  superficial,  hence  he  could  muster  up  the  audacity  to  decry  a  practice  which  is entrenched  in  the  Math-hab  since  fourteen  centuries.  He  did  not  stop to  reflect  on  the  fact  that  it  is  the practice  of    all  our  Akaabireen  and  of  all Math-habs.

Secondly,  every  ruling  of  the Hanafi  Math-hab  is  not    necessarily  the  view  of  Imaam  Abu  Hanifah (Rahmatullah  alayh).  There  are  many  issues    on  which  Imaam  Abu  Hanifah  has  a  contrary  view  to  the Mufta  Bihi  version  which  could  be  the  view  of  Imaam  Abu  Yusuf  (Rahmatullah  alayh)  or  of  Imaam  Muhammad  (Rahmatullah  alayh)  or  of  both.  For  example,  Aqeeqah, according  to  Imaam  Abu  Hanifah (Rahmatullah  alayh),  the  Qur’baani  has  displaced  Aqeeqah.  However,  this  is  not  the  Fatwa  of  the  Math-hab.

Thirdly,  Imaam  Abu  Hanifah  stated  the  Makrooh  view  for  the six  fasts  at  a  time  when  it  was  being  considered  Waajib.  

What is Mufta Bihi??

The literal meaning of Mufta bihi is ‘the view in which fatwaa is given on’.

Basically, in every Madh-hab we have countless Fuqaha. At times, those who reached the status of Ijtihaad within a Madh-hab differ from others. For example, in the Hanafi Madh-hab, we have an elite student of Imam Abu Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with him) – (Imam Muhammad, for example) – differing with him. Since the student too is a Mujtahid, there are times when a Mufti will pass verdict in accordance to the view of that student. That view becomes the Mufta Bihi (the view upon which verdict is given). If the verdict is passed on the view of Imam Abu Hanifa, then that is Mufta Bihi.

On a side note, this proves that a Madh-hab is not the work of one individual, rather it is the combined effort of thousands of scholars.

Frameworks for issuing a ruling in the Hanafi Madh-hab

The Hanafi Fiqh is mainly based on the masā’il rendered to us by Imam Abu Hanifah and his two students, Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad (also known al-sāhibayn). What will the fatwa be based on in masā’il, wherein there is disagreement between Imam Abu Hanifah and his two students (Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad)?

There are two opinions expressed:

Opinion. 1
The opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah will ALWAYS be given preference over that of his two students. ’Allama Siraj al-Dīn writes in Fatāwa Sirajiyyah:

“The ruling unconditionally is given upon the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah, then of sāhibayn (when both students have agreed upon something), then of Imam Abu Yusuf, then of Imam Muhammad, then Imam Zufar and then of Hasan bin Ziyad. It has been assumed that if a disagreement is between Imam Abu Hanifah on one side and the two students (together) on the other side, then the Mufti will have an option. HOWEVER, THE FIRST OPINION (of preference to Imam Abu Hanifah) IS MORE CORRECT.

Opinion. 2
The ruling is rendered upon the opinion of any (Imam Abu Hanifah or his students and not necessarily only upon that of Imam Abu Hanifah) as deemed appropriately (following the principles of Fiqh).

Response to the first opinion:

There are several masā’il wherein earlier jurists gave ruling upon the opinion of sāhibayn on the basis of their strong proofs. [Al-Hāwi al-Qudsi].

The fatwa was also sometimes given based on the opinion of the imam who was considered a greater authority than others in that particular area, such as, Imam Abu Yusuf in qadhā and shahadah, Imam Muhammad in inheritance (zawi al-arham) and Imam Zufar in 17 masā’il. [Radd al-Muhtār]

The opinion expressed by sāhibayn is, in fact, one of the opinions narrated by Imam Abu Hanifah himself. (Thus, the opinion of sahibayn does not also in any way contradict the taqleed of Imam Abu Hanifah) [Ibn ‘Abidin]

There are many fiqhi works which include disagreements in their books but have not clearly stated upon the opinion of whom is the ruling given. In such cases, what principle should be applied to give preference to one opinion over the other?

In principle, the fatwa must be given on that which is highlighted as ‘mufta bihi’ position (upon which fatwa is given) by accepted authorities (ashāb al-tarjih).

However, if no such expression is explicitly found in any of the reliable books, then the Mufti will consider many factors before rendering a fatwa on one of the valid opinions in the madh’hab: the difference in stage (tabaqah) among the jurists who may have differed in their preference, customary practice (‘urf), the state of the people, that which falls under the category of ‘need’, that which is the most practical for people, that which is stronger in proofs and other factors [Al-Durr al-Mukhtār].

And only Allah knows best
Mufti Hanif Patel

Elaboration of Naskh (Abrogation) – Its Terms & Conditions

[By Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ Usmani (rahmatullah alayh)]

Whenever  we  abrogate  a  verse  or  cause  it  to  be  forgotten,  We  bring  one  better  than  it  or  one  equal  to  it.  Do you  not  know  that  Allah  is  powerful  over  everything? Do  you  not  know  that  to  Allah  alone belongs  the  kingdom  of the  heavens  and  the  earth?  And,  you  have  none,  other than  Allah,  to  protect  or  help you.

[Surah Baqarah 106-107]

Verse  106  speaks  of  Allah  abrogating  certain  verses,  or  making  men  forget  certain  others.  The  first  phrase  of  the  verse,  thus  covers  all the  possible  forms  in  which  a  verse  of  the  Qur’an  can  be  abrogated. The  Arabic  word  in  the  text  is  Naskh,  which  has  two  lexical  meanings  –  (1) to  write,  and  (2)  to  abolish,  to  repeal.  According  to  the  consensus of  all  the  commentators,  the  word  has  been  employed  in  this  verse  in the  second  sense  —  that  is,  the  repeal  or  abrogation  of  an  injunction.  So,  in  the  terminology  of  the  Holy  Qur’an  and  the  Hadith,  Naskh  signifies  the  promulgation  of  an  injunction  in  place  of  another  —  whether  the  later  injunction  merely  consists  in  the  repeal  of  the  earlier  or,  substitutes  a  new  regulation  in  its  place.  The  other  form  of  Naskh  mentioned  in  this  verse  is  that  sometimes  Allah  made  the  Holy  Prophet   and  the  blessed  Companions  forget  a  certain  verse  altogether.  The  commentators  have  cited  several  instances  of  this  kind  of  Naskh,  and  the  purpose  in  such  cases  has  usually  been  to  repeal  a  certain  regulation.

The  Kinds  of  Abrogation

Making  laws  and  repealing  them  to  promulgate  new  ones  in  their  stead  is  a  regular  and  well-known  practice  in  human  governments  and institutions.  But  in  the  case  of  man-made  laws  abrogation  takes  place sometimes  because  the  law-makers  do  not  understand  the  situation  properly  while  making  a  certain  law,  and  have  to  change  it  when  they  realize  their  mistakes,  and  sometimes  because  when  a  law  is  promul- gated,  it  is  in  accord  with  the  prevailing  situation,  but  when  quite  unforeseen  changes  alter  the  situation,  the  law  too  has  to  be  changed.  But  these  two  forms  of  abrogation  are  out  of  the  question  in  the  case  of divine  injunctions.

There  is,  however,  a  third  form  too.  The  lawmaker  makes  a  law, knowing  fully  well  that  the  circumstances  are  going  to  change  in  such  a  way  that  the  law  will  no  longer  be  suitable  for  the  new  situation;  so, when  the  situation  changes  as  he  already  knew,  he  changes  the  law  too,  and  promulgates  a  new  one  which  he  had  thought  of  at  the  very  start.  For  example,  a  physician  prescribes  a  medicine  for  a  patient  in  view  of  his  present  conditions,  but  he  knows  that  when  the  patient  has  been  using  it  for  two  days,  his  condition  will  change  and  require  a  new medicine  —  with  this  realization,  he  prescribes  a  medicine  suitable  for  that  day,  but  two  days  later,  when  circumstances  have  changed,  he prescribes  a  new  one.  The  physician  can  easily  give  the  patient written  instructions  for  the  whole  course  of  the  treatment,  with  all  the  changes  in  the  medicines-duly  indicated.  But  this  would  be  putting  too  much  burden  on  the  already  feeble  patient,  and  there  would  also  be  the  danger  of  some  harm  through  a  possible  error  or misunderstanding. 

This  is  the  only  form  of  abrogation  which  can  occur,  and  has  been  occurring  in  divine  injunctions  and  in  divine  books.  Every  new  Shari’ah  and  every  new  revealed  Book  has  been  abrogating  many injunctions  of  the  earlier  Shari’ah  and  of  the  earlier  Book.  Similarly,  within  the  same  Shari’ah,  too,  it  has  always  happened  that  a  certain  law  was  in  force  for  a  time,  but  Divine  Wisdom  chose  to  abrogate  it  and  to  promulgate  another  in  its  place.  A  hadith  reported  by  Imam  Muslim  says:    “There  has  never  been  a  prophethood  which  did  not  abrogate  some  injunctions.”  This  is  a  principle  which  it  should  not  be  difficult  to  understand.  It  was  only  some  malicious  and  ignorant  Jews  who  confused  the  divine  abrogation  of  injunctions  with the  two  forms  of  the  repeal  of  man-made  laws,  and  began,  in  their  impudence,  to  taunt  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  in  reply  to  which,  as  we  have  said,  these  two  verses  were  revealed.  [Ibn Jarir, Ibn  Kathir]

As  for  the  Muslims,  it  was  probably  in  their  desire  to  avoid  giving  occasion  to  the  enemies  of  Islam  for  such  taunts  that  some  from  among the  Mu’tazilah  tried  to  explain  away  the  whole  question  of  Naskh.  Logically  speaking,  there  is  a  possibility  —  so  ran  their  argument  —  of  abrogation  in  the  case  of  divine  injunctions,  and  the  possibility  cannot  be  denied  on  any  rational  ground,  but  abrogation  has  not  actually  occurred  in  the  Holy  Qur’an,  and  there  is  no  verse  in  the  Holy  Book  which  abrogates  another  (Nasikh)  and  no  verse  which  has  been  abrogated  (Mansukh).  This  view  is  attributed  to  Abi  Muslim  al-Isfahani,  but  the  ‘Ulama’  in  general  have  always  rejected  this  opinion,  and  refuted  the  argument.  Thus,  we  read  in  Ruh  al-Ma’ani:

“The  people  belonging  to  all  the  Shari’ahs  are  unanimous  in accepting  the  validity  of  abrogation  and  its  actual  occurrence  both. Only  the  Jews  —  with  the  exception  of  their  ‘Isawiyyah  sect  have  denied  the  possibility  of  abrogation,  and  Abu  Muslim  al-Isfahani;  has  denied  its  occurrence, for  he  says  that  it  is  rationally  possible,  but  has  not  actually  taken  place.”

Imam  al-Qurtubi  says:

“It  is  essential  to  understand  the  question  of  abrogation,  and great  benefits  flow  from  such  an  understanding,  which  no scholar  can  dispense  with,  and  no  one  can  deny  abrogation  except  the  ignorant  and  the  dull-headed.”

In  this  connection,  al-Qurtubi has  related  a  very  illuminating incident.  The  fourth  Khalifah  Sayyidina  ‘AIi  (radhiyallahu  anhu)  saw  a  man  preaching  in  the  mosque.  He  asked  the  people  what  the  man  was doing.  On  being  told  that  he  was  preaching,  the  blessed  Khalifah  said:  “He  is  not  doing  anything  of  the  sort,  but  only  announcing  to  the  people  that  he  is  such  and  such  a  man  and  the  son  of  such  and  such, and  asking  them  to  recognize  and  remember  him.”  Calling  the  man  to  his  side,  he  asked:  “Do  you  know  the  injunctions  which  have  been  abrogated  and  those  which  have  abrogated  the  earlier  ones?”  When  he confessed  that  he  did  not,  the  Khalifah  turned  him  out  of  the  mosque, and  ordered  him  never  to  preach  there.

It  is  not  feasible  to  cite  here  all  the  sayings  of  the  blessed Companions  and  their  immediate  Successors  (Tabi’in) which  affirm  the  actual  occurrence  of  abrogation  in  the  case  of  injunctions  laid  down  by  the  Holy  Qur’an  and  the  Hadith.  Some  of  these  have  been  quoted,  along  with  the  evidence  for  the  authenticity  of  the  reports,  in  the  commentaries  of  Ibn  Jarir and  Ibn  Kathir etc.  and  in  Al-Durr al-Manthur. As  for  the  reports  less  strongly  authenticated,  they  are  just  innumerable.  That  is  why  there  has  always  been  a  total consensus  of  the  ‘Ulama  on  the  question  of  Naskh,  except  for  Abu Muslim  al-Isfahani  and  a  few  others  from  among  the  Mu’tazilah  who  have  denied  the  actual  occurrence  of  abrogation  —  but  Imam  Razi  has,  in  his  commentary, exposed  in  detail  the  hollowness  of  their  opinion.
The  Terminology  of  the  Naskh

It  is  also  essential  to  keep  in  mind  a  certain  distinction  in  the  use of  the  word  Naskh  as  a  technical  term  of  the  Shari’ah. The  technical  sense  of  the  word  implies  changing  an  injunction,  and  replacing  one injunction  by  another.  Now,  this  change  may  consist  in  repealing  an  injunction  altogether  and  replacing  it  by  another  (for  example,  fixing  the  Ka’bah  as  the  Qiblah  —  the  direction  towards  which  Muslims  turn  in  their  prayers  —  instead  of  the  Baytul-Maqdis); the  change  may  equally  consist  in  retaining  an  injunction  but  adding  certain  condition  and  provisions  to  it.  The  ‘Ulama  of  the  early  period  of  Islam  have used  the  word  Naskh  in  this  general  and  comprehensive  sense  which  includes  the  total  repeal  of  an  injunction  as  well  as  a  partial  change  in  an  injunction  with  the  addition  of  certain  conditions,  provisions  or exceptions.  That  is  why  the  ‘Ulama  of  the  earlier  period  have  indicated  some  five  hundred  verses  of  the  Holy  Qur’an  which,  according  to  them,  have  been  abrogated.

But,  according  to  the  ‘Ulama  of  a  later  period,  only  that  change  is  to  be  called  a  Naskh  which  cannot  in  any  way  be  brought  into  consonance  with  an  earlier  injunction.  Obviously,  this  approach  greatly  reduces  the  number  of  abrogated  verses.  For  example,  there are,  according  to  al-Suyuti,  only  twenty  such  verses.  Later  on,  Shah Waliullah,  seeking  to  bring  the  abrogated  injunctions  in  consonance  with  the  earlier  injunctions,  reduced  the  number  of  abrogated  verses  to  only  five  —  these  being  the  cases  where  later  injunctions  could  not  be  made  to  correspond  with  the  earlier  ones  without  far-fetched  interpretations.  This  effort  is  highly  commendable,  because  the  basic  postulate  behind  an  injunction  is  its  permanence,  while  abrogation  goes  against  this  postulate,  and  hence  it  is  not  proper  to  posit  abrogation  in  a  verse  laying  down  an  injunction  which  can,  in  some  justifiable  manner,  be  shown  to  be  still  valid.

But  this  effort  to  reduce  the  number  of  abrogated  verses  does  not,  and  cannot  in  the  least  imply  (as  the  ‘modernists’  have  been  all  too  impatient  to  believe.)  that  the  presence  of  abrogation  is  in  any  way  —  may  Allah  forgive  us  for  reproducing  a  blasphemy  —  a shortcoming  or  defect  in  the  Holy  Qur’an  or  Islam,  that  the  ‘Ulama  have  for  the  last  fourteen  hundred  years  been  trying  to  remove  it, that  the  ultimate  inspiration  came  to  Shah  Waliullah  whose  extraordinary  achievement  lies  in  having  reduced  the  number  of  abrogated  verses  to  five,  and  that  now  one  may  wait  for  a  few  geniuses  who  would  bring  the  number  down  to  zero.

To  adopt  such  an  approach  towards  the  question  of  “Naskh”  is  no  service  to  Islam  or  to  the  Holy  Qur’an (to  which  pretends  the  whole  tribe  of  self-styled  scholars,  researchers, “experts  in  Islamic  studies” and  “revivificateurs of  Islam.”),  nor  can  it  obliterate  the  profound  investigations  into  truth  of  the  matter  made  by  the  blessed  Companions,  their  Successors,  and  the  ‘Ulama  of  the  generations  that  followed  them  during  the  last  fourteen  hundred  years,  nor  can  it  stop  the  recriminations  of  the  enemies  of  Islam.  In  fact,  all  it  would  do  is  to  furnish  a  weapon  to  the  present-day  traducers  of  Islam  and  those  who  wish  to  rebel  against  Islam,  who  would  now  be  saying  that  what  the  ‘Ulama  of  the  Islamic  Ummah  have  been  maintaining  on  the  subject  for  the  last  fourteen  hundred  years  has  finally  proved  to  be  wrong. May  Allah  forbid  such  a  thing!  If  this  door  is  opened,  it  would  let  in  all  kinds  of  disorders,  and  all  the  injunctions  of  the  Shari’ah  would  come  under  suspicion.  Then,  is  there  any  guarantee  that  the  results  of  this  “modernistic”  research  would  not  turn  out  to  be  wrong  tomorrow! 

We  have  come  across  certain  recent  writings  in  which  an  attempt  has  been  made  to  revive  the  argument  of  Abu  Muslim  al-Isfahani.  Such  writers  begin  with  the  assumption  that  the  Arabic  word  ‘Ma’  in  verse  106  is  not  a  relative  or  adverbial  pronoun  signifying  “whenever”,  or  “whichever”  but  a  conjunction  implying  ‘if’  that  introduces  a  conditional  clause;  so,  they  translate  the  first  phrase  of  the  the  verse  not  as  “whichever   verse  We  abrogate”,  but  as   “if  We  abrogate  a  verse”,  and  say  that  the  statement   pertains  to  a  supposition  or  to  an  imaginary  situation  as  do  the  phrases  beginning  with  the  Arabic  word Laww  (if) —  for  example: “If  there  were  in  the  sky  and  the earth  another  god  beside  Allah” [21:22]  “If  the, All-Merciful  had  a  son” [43:81].  On  this  basis,  they  argue  that  abrogation  is  possible,  but  has  never  actually  occurred.  Such  writers,  we  are  afraid,  do  not  show  an  intimate  knowledge  of  Arabic  grammar,  for  there  is  a  great  deal  of  difference  between  a  condition  suggested  by  the  word  Ma  and  the  imaginary  situation  introduced  by  the conjunction  Laww.  Moreover,  it  is  on  the  basts  of  this  verse  itself  that the  blessed  Companions  have  affirmed  the  occurrence  of  abrogation,  and  have  even  cited  many  instances.  So  have  their  Successors  and  all  authentic  Commentators.  In  view  of  such  unanimity,  the  new-fangled  interpretation  cannot  be  acceptable.  Even  Shah  Waliullah, in  reducing  the  number  of  abrogated  verses,  has  never  thought  of denying  the  fact  of  abrogatim.  In  short,  all  the  authentic  and  authoritative  ‘Ulama,  from  the  days  of  the  blessed  Companions  down  to  our  own  day,  have  always  affirmed  not  only  the  possibility,  but  also  the  actual  occurrence  of  abrogation.  This  has  been  the  position  of  all  the  ‘Ulama  of  Deoband  too,  without  any  exception.

The Usul Of Talaqqi Bil Qubool – Ahaadith Authenticated By The Fuqaha

[Majlisul Ulama]

When the illustrious Fuqaha-e-Kiraam cite a Hadith as a Mustadal or adduce it in corroboration of  the view they expound, then the very citation of the Hadith is  the daleel for its saht (authenticity) regardless of any classification of the later  Muhadditheen. This is a well-known principle of Fiqh.

Mustadal (plural mustadallaat) is  the basis on which the Fuqaha  formulate a Shar’i hukm. Qur’aanicverses, Ahaadith, statements and  rulings of the Sahaabah and the  principles of Shar’i Qiyaas form  the Mustadallaat of the Fuqaha.  The Fuqaha do not operate  beyond the confines of these  Qur’aanic principles. Shaikh  Yusuf Bin Isma’eel An-Nibhaani  says in his Hujjatullaah Alal Aalameen:

“Whoever says that Sunnat is  only what is explicitly mentioned  in the Ahaadith, has in fact  rejected all the Math-habs of the  Mujtahideen. He has rejected Ijma’. The evil of his belief is not  hidden. We seek protection from  Allah Ta’ala (against such  deviation). 

It is mentioned in Al-Yaaqoot wal Jawaahir, and similarly it is  narrated in Al-Mizaanul  Khadriyyah (of Imaam Sha’raani)  that Shaikhul Islam Zakariyya (among the Shaafi’ Fuqaha) said:  ‘Alhamdulillaah, I  have searched for the proofs of the Mujtahideen  (i.e. for their  dalaa-il and mustadallaat). I have  not found even a single fara’ (a mas’alah which is not a principle) from among the Furoo’ of their Mathaahib except that it is  substantiated by a daleel, either  an Aayat from the Qur’aan or a  Hadith or an Athar (statement of  a Sahaabi) or Saheeh Qiyaas –  based on saheeh principles. ….All their statements are derived from  the rays of the Noor of the Shariah which is the foundation.  It is impossible to find a fara’ (of the Fuqaha) without a basis (in the Qur’aan and Sunnah).”

It should be clear to men of  knowledge that when a Muhaddith of the later eras  describing a Hadith says: “I do not recognize it.”, “I do not know it.”,  “There is no basis for it.”, “It is  weak.”, etc., he says so within the  limits of his knowledge and  investigation based on principles  which he or other Muhadditheen  have evolved. He never directs  such comments against the  Mustdallaat of the Fuqaha who  were the Asaatizah of the Asaatizah of the Muhadditheen.

On the contrary, it was the  practice of the Muhadditheen to set aside their own Saheeh  Ahaadith, if there was a conflict  with the practice (amal) and  ruling of the Fuqaha. Thus, they  would say:“The amal of the Ahl-e-Ilm is on this….”, and they would say this even if they had  classified the Ahaadith as weak (Dhaeef). Despite the Hadith  being Dhaeef  according to their classification, the Muhadditheen  would mention the amal of the Fuqaha.

Thus the Muhadditheen who had  compiled the Hadith books, would practise in accordance  with the Ahaadith which they themselves had classified as  Dhaeef because these ‘Dhaeef’ narrations constituted the  Mustadallaat of the Fuqaha. The principles and rules of Hadith  classification which the later Muhadditheen had formulated  did not apply to the Shariah’s laws or to the Hadith  mustadallaat of the Fuqaha-e-Mutaqaddimeen.

The Muhadditheen were not  among the Aimmah Mujtahideen.  They followed the Math-habs in  their practical life. They did not  formulate a different Math-hab  for themselves based on their  classification of Hadith.

In terms of this well-known principle of Talaqqi bil Qubool Hadith becomes valid for amal even if its isnaad is dhaeef. In this regard, Hafiz Ibn Hajar writes:

“One of the criteria for  acceptance of Hadith is the concurrence of the Ulama on  making amal (acting) on the Hadith. Such a Hadith (on which  there is the concurrence of the Fuqaha) will be incumbently accepted.”

In his Al-Ajwibatul Faadhilah,  Hadhrat Maulana Abdul Hayy, explaining the principle of Talaqqi Bil Qubool, says:

“Similarly (will a Hadith be  accepted) when the Ummah accepts a Dhaeef Hadith. (Ummahin this context does not include  the rank and file). According to  the authentic view such a Hadith  will be acted on. Allaamah  Muhaddith Faqeeh Shaikh Husain  Bin Muhsin Al-Ansaari Al-Yamani  was asked about the statement  of Imaam Tirmizi who says in his  Jaami’ when he narrates a Dhaeef Hadith:Amal (practical  adoption) on it is according to  the Ahl-e-Ilm (the Fuqaha).”  …….And it was also asked about  the established principle on  which there is the consensus of  the Muhadditheen that anything  other than a Saheeh or Hasan  Hadith will not be accepted in  the matter of (formulating)  ahkaam. But this Hadith (referringto a particular Hadith) is Dhaeef.  How is it then permissible for the  Ulama to act on it?

The Shaikh said in response: “MayAllah grant us and you taufeeq. A Dhaeef Hadith is one which lacks  a condition from among the  conditions of acceptance…..As-Suyuti said in Sharh Nazmid Durar (Al-Nahrul lazi Zakhar):  Qubool (Acceptance) is:

(1)  What the Ulama have  accorded Talaqqi bil Qubool i.e. the Fuqaha have accepted a  narration even though there is no  saheeh isnaad for it. Among the  group of Ulama who have narrated this is Ibn Abdul Barr.

(2)  Or it (the narration) has  become well-known to the Aimmah-e-Hadith. And As-Suyuti  has also said after mentioning  the Hadith: ‘Tirmizi said: ‘Amal  today is on this Hadith according  to the Ulama.’ With this  statement he indicated that a  Hadith is strengthened with the acceptance by the Fuqaha.”

Many authorities have explicitly  said that of the evidence for the authenticity of a Hadith is the  acceptance by the Ulama even if there is no reliable isnaad for it.  As-Suyuti has also said in Tadreebur Raawi: “Some of them  (the Authorities) said: ‘Hadith will  be accorded authenticity when  the People (i.e. the Fuqaha) have  accepted it as authentic even if  there is no saheeh isnaad for it.”  Ibn Abdul Barr said in Al-Istithkaar when it was narrated from Tirmizi that Bukhaari  authenticated the Hadith of the Ocean (that its water is pure),  while the Muhadditheen do not accredit this type of isnaad.  Nevertheless according to me the Hadith is Saheeh because the  Ulama have accorded it acceptance.”

It is mentioned in At-Tamheed:  ‘Jaabir narrated from Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam):‘A  dinaar is twenty four qeeraat.’ About this Hadith, he said: ‘In  terms of the statement of the Ulama and their Ijma’ regarding  its meaning, it is independent of isnaad (i.e. it is authentic without an isnaad).

Regarding the practice of Talqeen to the mayyit (according to the Hambali Math-hab). “A Dhaeef  Hadith is narrated on this issue. At-Tabraani records in his  Mu’jam the Hadith of Abu Umaamah..…..This Hadith is not  substantiated. However, the continuity of practice in this  regard in all the lands and ages without any rejection suffices for its practical adoption.”

The Hanafi Muhaqqiq, Imaam Al-Kamaal Al-Humaam, says in  Fathul Qadeer (about the  weakness of a Hadith): “Among  the factors which authenticate  Hadith is the concurrence of the Ulama on its practice.”

Tirmizi said after narrating it:  ‘Hadithun Ghareebun’. (This Hadith is Ghareeb). But,  notwithstanding this, the amal  is on it according to the Ulama  among the Sahaabah of  Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam) and others besides  them (i.e. the Taabieen, etc.)’.

Imaam Maalik (rahmatullah alayh)  said: “The fame of a Hadith in  Madinah makes it independent  of a saheeh sanad.”

Haafiz As-Sakhaawi says in Fathul Mugeeth:  ‘When the Ummah accepts a Dhaeef Hadith, then according to the authentic view it will be  adopted (for amal). So much so, that it will attain the status of  Mutawaatir, and it will abrogate  Maqtoo’ (Ahaadith). It is for this  reason that Imaam Shaafi’  (rahmatullah alayh) said about  (the particular) Hadith: “There is  no bequest for an heir”, verily,  the Muhadditheen have not  substantiated it (i.e. it is not  authentic in terms of their criteria). Nevertheless, the Ummah has  accorded it acceptance for  practical adoption. In fact, they  (the Fuqaha) have affirmed it to  be Naasikh (i.e. it is an abrogater)  for the Qur’aanic aayat regarding  wasiyyat (bequest).”

Allaamah Saalih Bin Mahdi Al-Muqbeeli said: “Saheeh Hadith in  the specific meaning of the  Muta-akh-khireen (the later  Muhadditheen from about the  age of Bukhaari and Muslim), is  that which has been narrated by  an uprighteous Haafiz who inturn narrates from a similar narrator  without a defect. Saheeh Hadith  in the general meaning according  to the Mutaqaddimeen (the  authorities of the early era)  among the Muhadditheen, all the  Fuqaha and Usooliyyeen, is a  narration on which there is  practical adoption (ma’mool  bihi).” Thus, when a Muhaddith  among the Muta-akh-khireen  says:‘This Hadith is not Saheeh.’,  then while it negates the special  and restricted meaning of the  term, it does not negate the  general meaning of authenticity  according to the Mutaqaddimeen,  all the Fuqaha and Usooliyyeen.  Therefore, at this juncture there  is the possibility of a Hadith  being of the Hasan or Dhaeef or  Ghair Ma’mool category. On  account of this possibility, it is incumbent to probe the Hadith. If it is established that it is Hasan  or Dhaeef Ma’mool bihi (i.e. it  has been practically adopted by  the Fuqaha), then it will be  accepted. And, if it is Dhaeef  Ghair Ma’mool bihi (i.e. it has not  been adopted for amal by the  Fuqaha), then it will not be  accepted.” (End of Maulana Abdul Hayy’s dissertation.)

It is clear that the classified  Hadith categories of the later Muhadditheen do not apply to  the narrations accepted and adopted by the Fuqaha who  went before them. It should be simple to understand that after  the demise of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), Islam did not disappear as  Judaism and Christianity had  disappeared with the departure of their respective Nabis. Not a single  mas’alah of the Shariah  was lost after the demise of Nabi-e-Kareem (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

When the Muhadditheen  appeared on the scene two  centuries later, they found Islam  intact. They followed the Islam  into which they were born, and  they continued practising the Ahkaam without interpolation,  deletion and alteration in the light of their classification of  Hadith. The masaa-il of the Shariah which the Sahaabah and  their illustrious Students, the Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen had  evolved, were all based on the Qur’aan and Sunnah which did  not disappear. The Mujtahid Imaams were Muhadditheen of  the highest calibre. Only when a Hadith was Saheeh and beyond  reproach, would it constitute a valid Mustadal for extrapolation  of ahkaam. In the circles of Ilm it  is common knowledge that  acceptance of a Hadith as a Mustadal by the Fuqaha is the  daleel for the authenticity of that Hadith.

Any unbiased person with a little  understanding will readily understand that principles  formulated two centuries after  the age of the Fuqaha-e-Mutaqaddimeen cannot negate  the authenticity of the  narrations accredited by these  illustrious Fuqaha, who flourished in the age of the Sahaabah and  in close proximity to their era.

Maulana Abdul Hayy further says:  “Shaikh Ibraaheem Ath-Thabrahaiti Maaliki says in  Sharhul Arbaeen An-Nawwiyah: ‘The occasion for not adopting  Dhaeef Hadith in matters of Ahkaam, is when the Fuqaha have  not accepted it. If they have accepted it, then it is confirmed,  and it (the Dhaeef narration) becomes a proof which shall be  practically adopted in matters of ahkaam, etc. as Imaam Shaafi’  has said….. (This effectively debunks the enemies of Taqleed slandering Hanafi Dalaa’il to be based on weak Ahadith. They are NOT ‘weak’. They are solid GOLD.)

Haafiz Ibn Hajar says in Fathul  Baari: “None of the isnaad (of  narrations) is devoid of some  criticism. But on the whole the Hadith has a basis. In fact, Ash-Shaafi’ has explicitly stated in Al-Umm that the text of this  (Dhaeef) Hadith is Mutawaatir….” ……..

(Haafiz Bin Hajar commenting on  a certain Hadith said): ‘Bukhaari  said: “It is not Saheeh.” The  Compilers of the Four Sunan  narrated it, and Haakim narrated  it from the tareeq of Eesa Bin  Yoonus. Tirmizi said: ‘It is  Ghareeb.’ We do not recognize it  except from the narration of  ‘Eesa Bin Yoonus from Hishaam. I  (i.e. Imaam Tirmizi) asked Muhammad (i.e. Imaam Bukhaari) about  it. He said: ‘’I do not regard it to  be secure (i.e. its sanad).’ Ibn  Maajah and Haakim have narratedit from the avenue of Hafs Bin  Ghiyaath, and also from Hishaam.  Tirmizi said: ‘It has been narrated  in different ways from Abu  Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu). Its  isnaad is not saheeh.’ (However,  inspite of all this criticism), the  amal of the Ulama is on it. (i.e.  they have adopted it and the Ummah is practising accordingly).”

(Be it known that the Shariah as  we have it today, was transmitted down the long corridor of more than 14 centuries from the  Sahaabah. The Shariah  did not reach us from Imaam Bukhaari or from any of the other  Muhadditheen who appeared centuries after the Sahaabah. Thus the amal of the Fuqaha-e-Mutaqaddimeen override the  Hadith classifications of the Muhadditheen. Even if a Hadith is labelled ‘weak’ by the later Muhadditheen, it has absolutely  no effect on a Shar’i hukm which  was already Mutawaatir during  the age of the Sahaabah and Taabieen.)

Our Ustaadh, Allaamah Shaikh  Muhammad Badr-e-Aalam said in  the Ta’leeq (Annotation) on the  discussion of Imaamul Asr: “I  say: …..Verily, the Shaikh does  not intend with the aforegoing  discussion the abolition of the  application of Isnaad. How is  this possible? If it was not for  Isnaad, anyone would have said  whatever he desired. On the  contrary, the Shaikh intends to  convey that when a Hadith has  become authentic by way of  indications and it has become  obvious, then to discard it merely  on the basis of a weak narrator  is not correct. How can this be so  when continuity of practical  adoption of it is a stronger testification for its substantiation according to him?”

And, Shaikh Muhammad Yusuf  Binnuri said: “Verily, Shaikh Anwar (Hadhrat Anwar Shah Kashmiri)  would say: ‘The purpose of  Isnaad is to ensure that  something which is not Deen  does not creep into the Deen.  The purpose of Isnaad is not to  expunge from the Deen what has  been substantiated of it by the  practice (amal) of the Ahl-e-Isnaad (the Ulama whose Isnaad  links up with Rasulullah –  sallallahu alayhi wasallam)’”  –  End of Hadhrat Maulana Abdul Hayy’s dissertation

Wakee’ Bin Jarraah, the  renowned Muhaddith and expert in the field of examining  narrators said: “A Hadith which  is in circulation among the  Fuqaha is better than a Hadith in circulation among the Shuyookh of Hadith.”

In Shaami it is said: “When the  Mujtahid employs a Hadith as a  basis for formulation (of masaail), then (his istidlaal with it) is the accredition of that Hadith.”

In Imdaadul Fataawa, it is  mentioned: “Is the consensus of the Jamhoor not a sign for the  Hadith having a strong basis even if the factor of dhu’f (weakness)  has become attached to it by way of the sanad?”

In I’laaus Sunan, it is mentioned: “The fame (shuhrat)  of a mas’alah liberates us from (the need) of probing the asaneed.”

Ainul Hidaayah states: “Imaam  Shaafi’ has written in his Risaalah  that the Taabieen Ulama had  accepted it (referring to a  particular Hadith with no proven  isnaad) in view of the fact that it  was confirmed to them that it  was the instruction of Rasulullah  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Ibn  Abdul Barr said that this  instruction (referring to the  Hadith in question) is well-known  to the Ulama of history and the  Fuqaha, hence due to the resemblance with Mutawaatir, there is no need for its isnaad.”

Providing further insight on this  issue, Allaamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri explains in Fathul Baari:

“The Muhadditheen (i.e. the later  Hadith compilers) take into consideration only the state of  the isnaad. They do not consider Ta-aamul (uninterrupted practice  from generation to generation initiating from the age of the  Sahaabah). Hence, many a time a Hadith is authentic on the basis  of their criteria. However, they find that there is no amal on  that Saheeh Hadith. This  bewilders them. In this regard,  Tirmizi narrated in his Jaami’ two authentic narrations, valid for  practical adoption. Then he commented: ‘Verily, no one has  adopted it for amal. Inspite of the authenticity of the Isnaad no one is making amal on it.
In the same way the  Muhadditheen have classified as  Dhaeef a Hadith from the angle  of its Isnaad although the Hadith  is widely practised on it. (By the  Ummah) during their time. (i.e. it was ma’mool bihi). Thus there is  a disadvantage from a different  angle. It is therefore imperative  to consider Ta-aamul along with  the isnaad, for verily, the Shariah  revolves around Ta-aamul and  Tawaaruth.” (i.e. the permanent  practice from the time of the  Sahaabah.)

Let it be understood that the  Muhadditheen also have their  ‘math-habs’ in the science of Hadith classification. Different  Muhadditheen have their own  criteria. A Hadith which is dhaeef  to one Muhaddith, may be saheeh according to another one. There is considerable difference  of opinion on this issue. While  some Muhadditheen have  labelled these narrations dhaeef, others have described them as Saheeh.

It is a principle of the science of  Hadith that the cumulative effect  of a variety of narrations of  similar subject matter, but of variant versions in their  respective Isnaad, eliminates the  dhu’f (technical weakness), and  elevates the Hadith to a status of acceptable authenticity. 

Added to this, is the acceptance  of such weak narrations by the illustrious Fuqaha. This  acceptance (Talaqqi bil Qubool) is  the strongest evidence for the  authenticity of these Ahaadith.  The fact that the Fuqaha present  Ahaadith as Mustadallaat  or as corroboration, testifies  that their authenticity stems  from the era of the Sahaabah.  The immediate Asaatizah of the  first wrung of Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen in the Taabieen era. These Aimmah passed on their  Knowledge to their successors  who are the Leaders of the Math-habs, and from them this  knowledge pervaded the  successive ranks of Fuqaha.  These Fuqaha did not glean these Ahaadith or their Ilm in general  from kutub. Thus, this  Knowledge of Islam which we  have in our kutub of Fiqh in front  of us is not secondary and  tertiary acquired from book-study. It is the Ilm of Wahi which reached us via the noble Links in  an unbroken Golden Chain (Isnaad) which links up with  Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

In ascertaining the saht  (authenticity) of Ahaadith which constitute the Mustadallaat of  the Ahkaam of Fiqh, we are  totally independent of the  Hadith Books of Imaam Bukhaari, Imaam Muslim, etc., etc. The  presentation of a Hadith by the  Fuqaha is the strongest proof of  its authenticity. In the face of the accredition of the Fuqaha, the conflicting classification of the  Muhadditheen is devoid of  substance in the context of the  Ahkaam already formulated and finalized during the Khairul Quroon epoch.

In view of the clarity of the  exposition of the principle of Talaqqi bil Qubool by the  Authorities of the Shariah, the negation of the authenticity of  the Ahadith presented by the Fuqaha by the later day scholars is untenable. All attempts  made by some Ulama of the later  ages to assail the Ahadith & Dalaa’il of the 4 Math-habs are devoid of Shar’i substances. Their personal opinions have to be set aside as fallacious. The only motive underlying these  abortive attempts to dislodge the Dalaa’il of the 4 Math-habs is to extract support for their self-opinions with modernists leanings. The Fuqaha-e-Mutaqaddimeen had no such  agenda. They stated the  unadulterated Haqq to safeguard the pristine purity of the Sunnah.

We are dealing with a Hukm of  the Shariah which was concluded  by the illustrious Fuqaha long,  long before the age of the  Muhadditheen. There is,  therefore, no need to refer to  the later Muhadditheen for  ascertainment of the status of a Hadith which the Fuqaha had  authenticated by utilizing it as  their Mustadal or for  corroborating a fatwa which they  had issued. In short, these  Ahaadith authenticated by the Fuqaha are like GOLD.

The Concept of Sunnah & Bid’ah according to the Hanafi Madh-hab

[Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (rahimahullah)]

The definition of Sunnat

Sunnat is not only that which has been established from Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), in fact Sunnat is the predominant practice of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), be it in the form of a (clear) instruction or something  which is perceived (from his reactions). For example, Taraaweeh Salaat is classified as  Sunnat-e-Muakkadah, and ta’akkud (emphasis) implies  perpetuity. It is clear that there  was no perpetuity in this act (by  Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam),  rather it was a special temporary  act.  [Al-Ifaadhaat,  page 355, vol. 8]

A verbal declaration on any  matter from Nabi (sallallahu  alayhi wasallam) is not sufficient  to render it a Sunnat, in fact,  that which was his predominant  practice is a Sunnat, and not his  occasional practices.  [Ibid. page  300, vol. 2]

Types of Sunnat

Sunnat (according to its general definition) is that which Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)  carried out as a form of Ibaadat, besides this it would be classified  as a sunnan-e-zawaa’id (extra Sunnats). For example the hair-style of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was his personal habit  and not any act of Ibaadat, hence there is no doubt that keeping  this style of hair is preferable (for the Ummat), but to keep one’s hair in another way would not be classified as contrary to the Sunnat.  [Imdaadul  Fataawa,  page 224]

Sunnat is of two types – Sunnat-e-Ibaadat and Sunnat-e-‘Aadat.  The general usage of the word  ‘Sunnat’ would include only the  first type. Promises of reward  and encouragement to practice  implies to and refers to this type.  Practice on the second type  would be a source of blessings  and is a demonstration of one’s  love for Nabi (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam). This second type does  not form any essential part of  the Deen and if its practice  interferes with one’s Deen and  beliefs, then one should be  stopped therefrom.  [Ibid. page 229, vol. 4]

The ruling regarding Sunan-e-Zawaa’id  and mustahibbaat

The ruling regarding the ‘extra’  Sunnats (sunan-e-‘aadiya) and  the Mustahab acts is that their  performance warrants reward  and non-performance does not  attract sin. When one closely  studies the nusoos then it will be  noted that this is the ruling of  these two deeds before they are  performed, but after their  commencement, the ruling changes. One ruling will apply to  a specific application and another  is general, which is not specific  to its occasion of application. It is Makrooh to leave out and abandon that Mustahab act which has been made a perpetual habit, which one practices over a  period of time. This is borne out by a Hadith in Bukhaari Shareef which is reported by Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhuma) who reports from Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) that he said, “O Abdallah, don’t be like so and so, who used to stand up at nights (in Ibaadat) and then he abandoned it.” Nabi  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) had  displayed distaste and karaahat at this attitude of this person who used to regularly perform Tahajjud Salaat and then abandoned it. It  is  clear  that  after  inculcating  as a habit a Mustahab act it  should not be abandoned. This is  Makrooh. [badaa’i,  page  150]

The definition of reviving a Sunnat

Shah Abdul Qadir Sahib  (rahmatullah  alayh) once said to  an Aalim (Molvi Ismail Sahib) to  stop making rafa’ yadain (lifting  hands in various postures of  Takbeer in Salaat) because it is a  cause for unnecessary fitnah.  Molvi Ismail said that if the fitnah of the masses is to be  taken into account what then  would happen to (the import of)  the Hadith, “He who holds fast to my Sunnat at a time of fasaad in the Ummah will receive the reward of 100  martyrs.” Upon hearing  this  reply, Shah Abdul Qadir  (rahmatullah  alayh) replied, “We thought that Ismail had become an Aalim, but he  does not understand the  meaning of even one Hadith. The application of this Hadith is when there is some act which is (being  generally practiced) contrary to the Sunnat practice, whereas the topic we are discussing (i.e. not making rafa’ yadain) is not contrary to the Sunnat, in fact it is another  Sunnat. Just as rafa’ yadain is a  Sunnat, so too is irsaal (not  making  rafa’ yadain)  is  a  Sunnat.”  [Bawaadirun Nawaadir,  page 469, vol. 2]

An  appropriate and excellent  explanation of Sunnat and bid’ah 

It should be realised that  whatever acts were innovated  after the passing of the Khairul  Quroon (best of eras) are  categorised into two types: one  is that whose initiative is new  and some ma’moor bihi (essential  ordered act of the Shariah) is  dependant upon it, where  without this (innovation) this  faculty of Deen will not function  effectively. For example, the  compilation and authoring of Deeni subject matter in book-form, the establishment of  Madrasahs and khanqahs, etc.  These things were not resent  during the era of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), and their initiative is new, and some  essential part of the Deen  depends on (the initiation of)  these acts.

Everyone is well aware that it is an essential and necessary requirement upon every (Muslim) individual to protect and safeguard the Deen. One should  also remember that during the  best of  eras, such means (as  these innovations mentioned  above) did not exist, because  there was no need for it. That era  was permeating with blessings,  and the memories of the  Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum)  was so excellent that when they  heard or observed Nabi (sallallahu  alayhi wasallam) saying or doing  anything, it remained embedded  and etched in their minds. Their  understanding and intellect was  also such that there was no need  for formal classes wherein prescribed lessons in Deen needed to be taught.

Following those eras, others  followed wherein negligence and carelessness (in matters of Deen)  became the order of the day, memories were weaker, people of  deviated and personal views increased, etc., hence the Ulama  discerned the gradual  destruction of the edifices of the  Deen. The urgent need arose to  formulate methods to  administrate (and safeguard) the  structures of the Deen, together  with all its facets. In this regard  the Kitaabs of the Deen, Hadith,  Usool-e-Hadith, Usool-e-fiqh,  Aqaai’d, etc. needed to be compiled. Madrasah were  established in order to teach  these sciences of the Deen. In  similar vein, the mashaa’ikh saw  the need to establish khanqahs  to revive and nurture the desire  for nisbat and self-reformation.  Besides these, there was no  other means envisaged which would safeguard our Deen.

Hence these are such things  whose sabab (reasons  and  causes) are new, and these  sababs were not prevalent during  the khairul quroon. These are  also such matters upon which  the existence and preservation of  some essential Deeni matter  rests. Hence these things may  have the apparent hue and  definition of bid’ah, but in reality  they are not bid’ahs. In fact,  according to the ruling of Muqaddamatul Waajib Waajibun,  they are Waajib acts.

The second are category are  those things whose reason (sabab) is old. For example, the  sabab of  meelad, teeja, daswah,  etc. are all old. The reason for the  establishment of meelad is  expression of happiness at the  birth of Nabi (sallallahu  alayhi  wasallam). This very sabab and  reason was prevalent and also  existent during the era of Nabi  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and  the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu  anhum), but it was never  celebrated by any of them. Can  we claim that, Nauthubillah, the  minds of the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum) did not  discern this? If the sabab was  not present during their eras,  then at least we could have said  that they had no cause to do it. But since the reason for holding  meelad was also prevalent during  that time, and neither did Nabi  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) nor  his Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum) ever hold or encourage  such activities, can we safely aver  that this is a bid’ah – in word,  definition and practically. Since  these innovations fall under the  scope of the Hadith, “Whosoever  innovates anything into our  Deen, is not from amongst us.” That is, it is impermissible to participate and hold such gatherings. This is the general  ruling to recognise and  distinguish between Sunnat and  bid’ah. All corollary rulings can be  deduced herefrom. [Wa’azus  suroor, page 27]

The differences between Sunnat  and bid’ah and the method in which to distinguish between the two

1. There is one other  extraordinary difference between  these two, and that is that the  proposers and advancers of the  former are (essentially) the elite  (Ulama) and the awaam (masses) are not included (as the  initiators), whereas the  advancers and initiators of the  latter are the masses (who are  like sheep). And it is also they who always participate and  spend therein. The celebrations  and initiation of meelad was  originated by a king. He was from  the awaam and this practice  remains perpetuated by the  awwaam. [As-suroor, page 27]

2. I will show one way to  recognise a bid’ah and that it is if  the act is not established from  the Qur’aan Majeed, Sunnat, Ijma  or Qiyaas, and the participants  deem it an act of the Shariah,  then know that this is a bid’ah.  After noting this definition,  observe that urs fatiha, regarding  any particular day as blessed and  auspicious to make isaal-e-tahwaab, etc., etc. are not  established from any source of  the Deen. Are these acts not also  regarded as part of the Deen? [Wa’az Taqweem, page 29]

3. Another yardstick in  recognising that a bid’ah is evil is  to observed whether more of its  participants are Ulama or the  masses. The Bid’ati leader will not  spend of his own wealth. Yes he  will be present at the meals. Such  functions are more frequented by  the ignoramuses. There is no  prestige and honour of the bid’ah  in the hearts of the Bid’ati Ulama.

Those things which we hold in  esteem and deem desirable, we participate therein, even if it  means spending from our wealth,  like qurbaani. And then also we  should observe the masses (who  attend these functions) — how  many of them are Deeni-conscious and how many are  not? Very few may be pious, but  they do little, and the majority  are faasiq and faajir (open sinners  and transgressors).  [Hasnul Azeez, page 330, vol.  2]

Innovations for Deen or innovations in Deen?

The reality of bid’ah is that it is  such an act which is done  thinking it to be part of the  Deen. If it is done thinking it to  be a treatment (for some  spiritual ailment), then how can it  be called a bid’ah? Hence, the  one is an innovation for the  (benefit of) Deen and the other is  an innovation in (to the  detriment of) the Deen. The innovation for the Deen would be  classified a Sunnat and the innovation in the Deen a bid’ah.  [Al-Faadhaat, page 308, vol. 2]

A person levelled an objection  saying that the (concept of)  times and timetable which we  have scheduled and prepared  were not practiced during the khairul quroon, hence this will be classified as a bid’ah.

If bid’ah is to be classified as these people understand it that whatever did  not exist during the khairul quroon is a bid’ah, then during the khairul quroon he was also not yet in existence, hence he should be classified a bid’ah.  These poor souls do not  understand the definition of bid’ah.

These time schedules and  tables are not part of any belief or ibaadat, hence their being or not being in the khairul quroon does not include it into the category of bid’ah. [Ibid. page 125, vol.2]

The necessity for any act to have  been present during the khairul quroon will be when the act is  one of Ibaadat. If the act is  merely one of administration or  regulation, then it will not be a  bid’ah (even if it was not existent  during the khairul quroon). One  such Hadith has been added in  Hayatul Muslimeen which was  taken from Shamaa’il Tirmidhi,  wherein regulation in the daily  life of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam) has been reported.  This Hadith appears in the eighth  part. [Ibid. page 134, vol. 2]

To exceed the limits in a non-Shar’i or mandoob act, or to  make takhsees or  ta’yeen would  also be included as a bid’ah

It has been narrated by Hadhrat  Hasan (radhiyallahu anhu) that Hadhrat Uthman bin Abi ‘Aas  (radhiyallahu anhu) was called to  the khatna (circumcision) of  someone, and he refused the invitation. When asked about it  he  replied that during the era of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) they would not attend a khatna neither were they called to it. This narration appears in Musnad Ahmad.

From this we realise that the  Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum) disliked the invitations to such  occasions which are not established from the Sunnat.  They even refused to attend such gatherings.

The secret to this is that an  invitation to any occasion places  some sort of importance or  significance to that which one is  invited to, because arrangements  are being prepared for it, and to  make special arrangements for  anything which the Shariah has  not, would be classified as an  innovation in the Deen. This is  the reason why when Hadhrat Ibn  Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) saw  that the people were gathering in  the Musjid to perform their  Chaasht (Duhaa) Salaat, he  criticised them and labelled this a  bid’ah. Based on this, the  Fuqahaa have said that it is  Makrooh to make Nafl Salaat in congregation. To regard and  believe an unimportant  matter  to  be important and place great  emphasis upon it, or to become  dogmatic and rigidly practice on  such matters, such that one  regards and accommodates it to  the level of Faraa’idh  and  Waajibaat or even more, and then  to censure and criticise those  who do not participate therein,  are all contemptible acts. Theses  are the essences of bid’ah. Allaah Ta’ala has stated that those people who exceed the limits placed by Him are the oppressors. 

Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood  (radhiyallahu anhu) stated that it  is necessary upon every person  that he not allocate a part of his  Salaat to shaitaan, by always  turning to his right side after  Fardh Salaat (i.e. deeming this to  be necessary). He says that he  saw Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) sometimes turn to his  left side. [Bukhaari/Muslim]

Teebi, the commentator of  Mishkaat Shareef has stated that  it is proven from this Hadith that  the person who persists and is dogmatic on a Mustahab act,  such that he deems it necessary  and binding and never practices  to its contrary, then such a  person has apportioned a share  of his ibaadat to shaitaan (i.e. he  has lost the blessings of his  ibaadat). What then can be said  of that person who persists and  rigidly practices on bid’ah, un-Islamic and detestable acts?

The author of Majma’ has stated  that it is proven from this Hadith that a mandoob act also  becomes Makrooh when there is  a fear that it is elevated in rank.  This is the reason why the Hanafi Fuqahaa have stated that it is  Makrooh to stipulate fixed  Surahs for Salaats, regardless of  whether this is done believing it  to be part of the Shariah or rigidly in practice.  [Tareeqah  Meelad Shareef, page 7 and 11]

How a Mustahab becomes a bid’ah

I do not say that Mustahab is  bid’ah. To regard it as necessary  and binding is bid’ah. If anyone  regards a Mustahab act as  Waajib, then is this not bid’ah?  Necessary, obligatory and Waajib  all have the same meaning. [Husnul Azeez, page 676, vol.1]

To deem an un-obligatory act as  obligatory is a deviated bid’ah. To  censure and rebuke those who  oppose or do not practice it, merely confirms its bid’ah status.  [Imdaadul  fataawa, page  340, vol. 5 / page 306, vol. 5]

To regard the distribution of  sweetmeats as necessary is a  bid’ah. The Fuqahaa have written  that if there is fasaad in a  Mustahab act, then it becomes  necessary to abandon that  Mustahab act.  [Husnul Azeez, page 676, vol.1]

Is it not a bid’ah to regard a non-Waajib as a Waajib? Does this not fall under the scope of the  definition of bid’ah?  [Al-Ifaadhaat Yawmia, page 116, vol. 8, part 1]

The four types of bid’ah and  Sunnat, and the explanation of  bid’ah-e-hasana, bid’ah-e-sayyi’a, haqeeqiya and sooriya

“It is stated in Raddul Muhtaar,  ‘The Sunnats of wudhu: That  thing upon which Rasulullah  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and  the Khulafa-e-Raashideen, after  him, were constant upon are  Sunnat, otherwise it is Mandoob.  It is reported in Durrul Mukhtaar  under the discussion of intention  (Niyyat) that verbal statement is Mustahab, that is the preferred  opinion, and it is said that this is Sunnat, i.e. the Salaf preferred this or it is a Sunnat of our Ulama, since it is reported from neither  Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum) nor the Tabieen…

“It is reported from Durrul  Mukhtaar: The Ahkaam of  Imaamat and the Mubtadi’u  (person who indulges in bid’ah),  that is (the one who) believes  contrary to the accepted (rulings)  of The Rasool, not in opposition  or resistance, rather with a type  of doubt…and Mandoob, like innovations similar to Madrasah…’”

From the above excerpts the following matters are clarified:

Firstly, there are numerous implications of Sunnat:

1. That which is reported from  Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)

2. That which is reported from  Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), the Khulafa-e-Raashideen, as is mentioned in  the ibaarat (text): “That thing  upon which Rasulullah (sallallahu  alayhi wasallam) and the Khulafa-e-Raashideen, after him, were constant upon are Sunnat

3. That which is reported from  Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), the Sahaabah  (radhiyallahu anhum) or the Taabieen, as is deduced from the  ibaarat: “since it is reported from  neither Nabi (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam), the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum) nor the Tabieen”

4. That which is reported from  the Ulama,  as is deduced from the ibaarat: “or it is a Sunnat of our Ulama.”

A few meanings of bid’ah have also been deduced from this texts:

1. That which is not reported from Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)

2. That which is not reported  from Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) or his Khulafaa-e-Raashideen

3. That which is not reported  from Rasulullah (sallallahu  alayhi wasallam), his Sahaabah  (radhiyallahu anhum) or the  Tabieen

4.  That which is not reported  from the Ulama.  [Bawaadirun Nawaadir,  page  778]

In reality there is only type of Sunnat and bid’ah

This multitude is merely on the  apparent, otherwise in reality  there is only one definition of  Sunnat, and that is: It is the  practicable path in Deen as  stated after the former ibaarat.  All these meaning incorporate  the definition of Sunnat. The  meaning of bid’ah is: Belief in  that which is contrary to the  accepted (well-known practices  of) Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam), not in opposition or  resistance, rather with a type of  doubt. (The practice which  opposes the nass, if it is done  with doubt and uncertainty (misinformation/ignorance), then  it is bid’ah, otherwise it is  clearcut fisq and transgression,  without any doubt). Or in other  words, That which has been innovated contrary to the Haqq which has been established  from  Rasulullah (sallallahu  alayhi  wasallam), in respect of  knowledge, practice  or  conditions…As it is stated in  Durrul Mukhtaar, and this is the  true meaning for bid’ah, as borne  out by the statement of Nabi  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), ‘He who innovates anything in our Deen, is not from amongst us.’”  

Hence Sunnat-e-Haqeeqi and  Bid’ah-e-Haqeeqi cannot be  combined or united. However,  Bid’ah-e-Sooriya can be coupled  with Sunnat-e-Haqeeqi. In this  regard, the verbal intention for  Salaat is also called a Sunnat.  There are some things which may  be contrary to the Sunnat, hence  they are called bid’ah but  regarded as hasan (good/desirable). There are some  examples of a clear combination between some types of bid’ah  and Sunnat-e-Haqeeqi, and this  is borne out by the statement of  Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu  anhu) when he once said, “What a good bid’ah!”

At this juncture we realise also  that the bid’ah-e-hasana which  some personalities have negated  is restricted to just a difference  and altercation in words and  definitions, because those who  have negated it have defined  bid’ah in its haqeeqi sense,  whereas the claimants (to the  validity of bid’ah-e-hasana) have  defined it in its general sense.

The limits of sunan-e-‘Aadiyah  and sunan-e-‘Ibaadiya

One person once asked if the  rearing of sheep/goats is Sunnat  or not? The reply was that yes it  is a Sunnat, but it is a Sunnat-e-‘Aadiya and not a Sunnat-e-Ibaadiya, and the object of   Sunnat is Ibaadat. Nevertheless,  the practicing of Sunnat-e-‘Aadiya, if it is executed with love  and affection (for Nabi – sallallahu  alayhi wasallam), then it is also worthy of rewards. There must  not be extremity and  excessiveness in sunan-e-‘aadiya,  where it is brought to the level of  an ibaadat. Some people exhaust  all the energies in researching  these issues – how big was the  ‘asaa (stick) of Nabi (sallallahu  alayhi wasallam), how long his  turban was, etc., etc. If a true  lover of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam) makes these enquiries  and his desire is the result of  pure love, then this is one thing,  but most people who are involved  in these types of issues are such  that they neglect the necessary requisites of the Deen and regard this as their main objective and aim. If this type of excessiveness continue then it will result in the destruction of  the Deen. Everything should be kept in its proper perspective.

The ruling regarding Sunnat-e-Ibaadat is that if there is a fear of  it causing fasaad in the beliefs of  the masses, then it becomes  Waajib to abandon a Mustahab  act. In this regard, it was the  blessed habit of Nabi (sallallahu  alayhi wasallam) to regularly  recite Surahs Alif Laam Meem  Sajdah and Dahar for the Fajr on  Jumu’ahs, but Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullah alayh) has decreed it Makrooh to recite these two Surahs (every) Friday Jumu’ah. For this reason many ignoramuses have levelled the criticism of Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullah alayh) acting contrary to the Sunnat.  [Al-Ifaadaat, page 98, vol. 19]

I ask: whatever food Nabi  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)  partook of as a habit, will it be  classified as ‘aadatan (a habit) or  ibaatatan (an act of ibaabat)? It  is clear that it was eaten as ibaatatan. Hence, to imitate the  habits of Nabi (sallallahu  alayhi  wasallam) is not Waajib in the Shariah, neither is leaving them out sinful.

One has the choice of  appeasing the taste in matters of  habit. Some of the noble habits  of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) are such that we will never be able to imitate or bear, therefore the Shariah has not made it incumbent to follow the  noble habit of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Yes, if someone has  the desire and good fortune of  being able to inculcate the noble  habits of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), then undoubtedly there is great virtue in that.  However, one does not have the  right to rebuke others for not  doing so.  [At-Tableegh, page 255, vol. 20]

The two types of Uswa’-e-Hasana (models/patterns of  Nabi – sallallahu alayhi wasallam) – verbal and practical

It is stated in the Qur’an Majeed,  “Indeed there is for you in the (lifestyle of the) Rasool of Allaah,  a beautiful model.” Allah Ta’ala is  indicating to us that He has placed an excellent example for us  to follow in the life of Nabi  (sallallahu  alayhi  wasallam).  What is the object of giving a  model? So that its likeliness may  be prepared. It is a further grace  of Allaah Ta’ala that there is no  difficulty and inhibition in this  model. Two types of model are  given – a practical and verbal  one. It is a pure mercy of Allaah  Ta’ala upon this Ummat that He has granted so much of latitude  and not the slightest bit of constriction.  

Objection: The examples set for  us by Nabi (sallallahu  alayhi wasallam) is to be followed to  the letter. For example, Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)  mostly partook of barley bread,  and he led a life of pure simplicity, where he never procured a home or kept (extra) money, whereas we neither eat like him nor suffer like him. We even don the best of clothing. We have lavish and spacious homes,  we save money,  etc. Yet the Ulama say that all  this is permissible. What is the  explanation to our following this  example and model of our  beloved Nabi (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam)?

Reply: The answer to this is that  there are two types of models – qowli and fi’lee. Fi’lee  is  of  a  particular form and qowli falls  within the ambit of the Shariah.  It is impermissible to go beyond  it. However, there is much  latitude within it. We were shown  the limits of the deeds of  obedience, which should not be  exceeded. We have also been  granted latitude to manoeuvre as  much as is permissibly possible.  This is Waajib and obligatory. The ush-shaaq (lovers of Nabi –  sallallahu alayhi wasallam), have  taken the practical model and  noted what Nabi (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam) ate, drank, how he led  his life, etc., etc. But for people  like us there is scope and latitude,  that we  can fulfil our needs  within the ambit of the Shariah. However, we also need to take note of the limits of the Shariah and not exceed them. In every act, we should take note of the  limits of the Shariah. As long as one remains within the limits of the Shariah, then it will be  deemed as also having followed  the model. [Huqooquz Zawjain, page 460]

The laws regarding leaving out  the sunan-e-‘aadiyah and sunan-e-ibaadiya and when they  become impermissible

The  sunan-e-‘aadiya, like simple  clothing, barley bread, and all other such habits of Nabi  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), if for  any reason due to them the  objective is lost (i.e. it interferes  with one’s ibaadat), then they  should be abandoned, because  the sunan-e-‘aadiya are not objectives in themselves.

In fact, there are even occasions where the sunan-e-ibaadat, are to be left out if they are the cause of some harm. For example, the Sunnat of Tahajjud is 8 rakaats, now if a person who gets up with difficulty and performs this eight Rakaats, but sleep overwhelms him such that he falls off to sleep and misses his Fajr Salaat with Jamaat, then to such a person it will be told that he only perform two Rakaats of Tahajjud and sleep away, so that he may awaken for Fajr in time. Since six to eight Rakaats are amongst the sunan-e-ibaadat for Tahajjud Salaat, but if a person exceeds this, then the  objective (other more important  ibaadat) is lost and it (this  excessiveness) should be abandoned.

This is the reason why if it is  known regarding the conditions  of a certain person, that if he  undertakes the journey of Hajj,  he will not be able to maintain  and be diligent in performing  Salaat, then he will be prevented  from going for Hajj. If there is an  overwhelming fear that even one  Fardh Salaat of a person will  become Qadha whilst on the  journey for a Nafl Hajj, then it will  not be permissible for him to  undertake that journey. When  the Hajj will be a cause for some Deeni harm, where another Fardh duty is neglected, then it is clear that instead of this Hajj  bringing  one closer to Allah Ta’ala, it takes him further away.

Another example is that if for  example a person has to eat  barley bread, which may cause his  stomach to pain. Then the love  which a person has for the  Sunnat of Nabi (sallallahu  alayhi  wasallam) will no longer remain  that, rather it may become a  dread, and there is a real fear  that (a person will think that) by  practicing upon an excellent  Sunnat causes stomach-ache.  Today, it is due to the mutashaddideen (those who  adhere doggedly to something),  that people have acquired a  dislike for and are being  distanced from the Sunnat and the Shariah

In summary, the sunan-e-‘aadiya  and ibaadiya are impermissible for that person to whom there may be harm caused to his (more important and primary) Deeni  duties.  [At-Tableegh,  page  74-8]
The two ways of following the Sunnat

The actions of Nabi (sallallahu  alayhi wasallam) are categorised  into two classes – one is his acts  of ibaadat and the other is  regarding his noble habit (aadat).  The former requires following  and not necessarily the latter. If  anyone does imitate the latter,  then it will be a display of affection and love.

There is a soori (in form) and  haqeeqi (real) way of obedience.  To bring the actual instruction  into practice, without  considering the illat is ittibaa’  (obedience/following) in soorat  and to practice upon it taking the  sabab and illat into consideration  is ittibaa’ in haqeeqat

These two ways of ittibaa’ were  also found in the Sahaabah (radhyiallahu anhum). During the  course of the expedition of the  Bani Quraidha, when Nabi  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was  seeing a group of the Sahaabah  (radhiyallahu anhum) off, he said  to them, “Perform your ‘Asr  Salaat when you reach there.” It  so happened that after much  effort the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu  anhum) could not make it to  reach their destination before  Asr Salaat. The time for Asr entered whilst they were still on  their journey. This led to the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum)  breaking up into two groups –  the one group performed their  Salaat on time and said that the  object of Nabi’s (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam) advice was that they  should perform their ‘Asr Salaat  at the destination if they reached  there on time, and not to  perform it (only) there regardless  of when they reached. The other  group said that they will follow  Nabi’s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) instruction to the letter and only perform their Salaat upon  reaching the destination. They  therefore performed their Salaat  upon reaching their destination  and not on the way. 

When Nabi (sallallahu alayhi  wasallam) was informed of this occurrence, he accepted both  views. In this incident, the first  group made haqeeqi ittibaa’ and  the second soorat ittibaa’.

The definitions of bid’ah-e-hasana and bid’ah-e-sayyi’a

The comprehensive ruling  regarding this is that any matter  which is neither in part or whole  from the Deen, and it is forced  onto the Deen based on some flimsy doubt, then it is a bid’ah

The proof of this is in the  authentic Hadith, “He who  innovates something into our  Deen, which is not part of it, is  rejected.”  The words (from) and   (in) are clear indicatives, and a  haqeeqi bid’ah always remain a  bid’ah-e-sayyi’a. A bid’ah-e-hasana is a bid’ah in outer form  (definition) only. Its reality, owing  to some (Shar’i) factor it can be  classified a Sunnat.  [Imdaadul  fataawa, page 285, vol. 5]

Related Article: The Concept of Bid’ah – Between the Two Extremes

Principles of Deobandi Fiqhi Approach

[Hazrat Mufti Syed Abdush Shakoor Tirmizi (rahimahullah)
(Khalifa of Mawlana Zafar Ahmed Usmani and Mufti Mohammad Shafi’)]


Firstly it is essential to reiterate the fact vividly obvious to anyone who studies the works of senior Deobandi scholars. That is, their beliefs and practices conform completely with the teachings of Quran, hadith and hanafi fiqh. Their sulook and tasawwuf is also exactly according to the Sunnah. They are staunch hanafi and high caliber ahle-sunnah. Neither any of their beliefs is against Qur’an and hadith, nor any of their fiqh ruling against Hanafi fiqh.

Deobandiyat is not a separate maslak (route). In our day and age it is synonymous with maslak of Ahlus Sunnah wal jama’ah.

Few guiding principles:

If the following essential principles are kept in mind the Shari’ah ruling regarding all the contemporary bid’at/innovations will be easy to know:

First Principle:

Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala says:

ولا تسبوالذین یدعون من دون اللیسبو الل عدوا بغیر علم

Commenting under the heading, Hakeemul Ummat Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanavi (rahimahullah) said:

“The defamation of idols (gods) is per se a mubah (permissible) act. However, if it becomes a cause of a prohibited act, that is, denigration of Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, it will become prohibited (منھی عن) and objectionable (قبیح).

This forms the proof of a fiqh ruling. That is, if a permissible act becomes the cause of a prohibited act that (mubah) act itself becomes haram.

[Bayanul Qur’an volume 1 page 119]

Second Principle

Although, numerous verses of Quran mention tawheed (Oneness of Allah Ta’ala), prophethood, negation of disbelief and polytheism and on various occasions’ infidels (kuffar) mocked at them and denigrated Allah and His Prophet (salallaahu alayhi wasallam). These incidents are well documented in various places. But there is no prohibition of discussing these things.

The reason for this variance is that the discussion of these subjects is essential (wajib) and required by Shariah. If some corruption happens secondary to their discussion even then they will not be abandoned.

This proves the second principle.

Both of these principles are treasure trove of knowledge. Orders and rulings regarding numerous peripheral issues can be found from them. In ‘Ruhul Ma’ani’ this difference has been documented from the answer of Abul-Mansoor (rahimahullah) with Ibn e Sireen (rahimahullahl agreeing  to it.

The net result of these two principles is that,

If a permissible act, and similarly mustebbat & Sunan za’idah become contaminated with prohibited acts, then it will be essential (wajib) to abandon that permissible act. In actions that are themselves essential (wajib) and required by Shari’ah if there is any contamination with prohibited acts then even they will not be abandoned. However, it will be necessary to rectify those wrong doings.

This is the very difference which if not kept in mind leads to propagation of innovations.

Third Principle

Allah Ta’ala says:

یاایھاالذین امنوالاتقولوا رعنا

From this order we come to know the ruling that if an individual’s own permissible act becomes a source/excuse for another individual to commit a prohibited action, then that act becomes impermissible for the first person (to start with).

For example, if a scholar’s act is used to justify an ignorant person’s prohibited action, then if that act is non essential it will become impermissible for the scholar also. [Bayanul Qur’an volume 1 page 57]

This is documented in ‘Durr mukhtar’ and its explanation ‘Raddul mukhtar’ under the discussion of “prostration of thankfulness:

وسجدۃ الشکر مستحبۃ بھ تی لکنھا تکر بعد الصلوۃ لان الجھلۃ یعتقدونھا سنۃ او واجبۃ وکل مباح یودی الیمکرو۔ وی الشرح: وحاصل ان ما لیس لھا سبب لا تکر ما لم یود علھا الی اعتقاد الجھلۃ سنیتھا کالتی یعلھا بعض الناس بعد الصلوۃ  [الشامی جلد 1 ص 731]

It is based on these principles derived from Qur’an, Hadith and ruling of Hanafi jurists, the Deobandi scholars have spoken regarding the contemporary rituals and polemic issues.

[Maqalat e Tirmizi  page 216-218, Darul Ishat, Karachi. 1426H]

Applications of these principles

Based on these well established principles they have said that appointing special dates and other specific requirements for rituals like mawlid shareef gatherings, customs of fathiha (esal-e-thawab),  third and tenth day (post-death) esal e thawab gatherings, etc. to be bid’at.
By fixing these specification and precise requirements belief of them being necessary was developing.  Even if the person performing them had correct beliefs the danger of corrupting the beliefs of less knowledgeable was arising.
It is an established fiqh principle that as important it is to save one’s self from a destruction essentially important is to save others from any loss. That is, as important it to preserve one’s own beliefs equally important is to save others beliefs also.
‘Allamah Shami (Ibn Abideen) rahimahullah has written this principle in the discussion of fixing recitation of particular Surah in Salah. That is, wherever there is possibility of distorting shari’ah rulings or misunderstanding of ignorants. He writes:

“واقول حاصل معنی کلام ھذا الشیخین بیان وج الکراۃ ی المداومۃ وھو انان رای ذالک حقا یکر حیث تغیر المشروع والا یکر من حیث ایھام الجاھل”
[شامی جلد 1 ص 508]

The reason to stop the general people is  تغیر المشروعand for elite is ایھام الجاھل.

A general principle established is that mubah should not exceed its limits (both in knowledge and practice) and mutlaq must not change from its itlaq, both in knowledge and practice and a muqqiyad must not change similarly. There are many verses and hadith to prove this. As this is an established principle I do not need to mention daleel. Just to remind forgetful I mention,
It is narrated in Muslim:
قال رسول الل صلی الل علی وسلم لا تختصوا لیلۃ الجمعۃ من بین اللیلی ولا تختصو یوم الجمعۃ لقیام من الایام الا ان یکون ی یصوم احدکم  (الحدیث)

As Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) had mention numerous merits of jumu’ah day and salatul jumu’ah there was a possibility that some will decide himself to specially select them for praying and fasting. For this Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) himself negated this thinking and reiterated that only those things that he had mentioned in this regard are recommendable and a Sunnah. If some one exceeds them then it will not be acceptable.
Imam Nawawi (rahimahullah) explains this principle:
احتج ب العلماء علی کراھۃ ھذ الصلوۃ المبتدعۃ التی تسمی الرغائب قاتل الل “واضعھا” و مخترعھا قھا بدعۃ منکر من البدع الضلال و الجھال
[Maqalat e Tirmizi pg 219-20]

The most striking thing we see in these days is that a mubah is given so much significance that people will easily ignore a person who does not pray salah or fast or makes ghiyba or lies but if a observant Muslim does not perform mawlid he is chastised, looked down upon and called names.
Is it not exceeding the mubah from its limits??