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A BRIEFF CLARIFICATION ON THE CONCEPT OF BID'AH (INNOVATION)




By
Ibn 'Abdillah As-sudaisiy

Initiatives geared towards reviving the Sunnah in the society are laudable. They are not to be mistaken with acts of bid'ah that Allaah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم have warned strongly against. Scholars have discussed a lot on great initiatives that are in conformity with the objectives of propagating and reviving the Sunnah from one generation to another. But the people of bid'ah would not stop creating confusions around this matter in order to mislead unsuspecting members of the Muslim Community. By this, they tend to make an act of bid'ah look like a Sunnah, and Sunnah act look like a bid'ah to many people.

For instance, if someone in his wisdom dedicates a fund for the purpose of printing beneficial Jum'at Khutbah for distribution to worshippers and for proper understanding of topics being treated on the minbar on weekly basis, is that not a great initiative that would assist in the da'wah of Sunnah? If the Khutbah is printed and distributed, it can be given to women who hardly go to masjid for them to read and digest. This is indeed a wonderful initiative. When Sheikh Fawzaan حفظه الله was refuting those who wrongly divide bid'ah based on the five (5) rulings of the shari'ah, he said the people of bid'ah mix up the linguistic definition of bid'ah with its shari'ah definition. He said and i quote: 

والبدعة اللغوية مباحة,مثل بناء المدارس وبناء الأربطة لطلبة العلم ومثل نقط المصاحف ونحوها سموها بدعا حسنة وهذه ليست بدعا, هذه تابعة للسنن, وإحياء للسنن

Innovation in its linguistic sense is permissible, like building of schools and hostels for students of knowledge, and the like of putting mark (point) on words of the Qur'an, and its likes named as good innovations. But these are not innovations, they are in line with the sunnah, and ways of reviving the Sunnah. [Explanation of Point No. 6 in Sharh us Sunnah, pg 38]

Consequently, to use initiatives that would promote the Sunnah is not bid'ah. Someone who ensures the passing of messages contained in jumaat khutbahs beyond the four walls of the masjid would have the same reward with the Imam who gave the khutbah in the first place.   This is in line with the hadith of Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه where he said the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

((من دعا إلى هدى كان له من الأجر مثل أجور من تبعه لا ينقص ذلك من أجورهم شيئا ومن دعا إلى ضلالة كان عليه من الإثم مثل آثام من تبعه لا ينقص ذلك من آثامهم شيئا))

“Whosoever calls (others) to guidance will have a reward like the rewards of those who follow him, without that detracting from their rewards in the slightest. And whosoever calls (others) to misguidance will bear a burden of sin like the sins of those who follow him, without that detracting from their sins in the slightest" [Sahih Muslim]

In fact Abu Mas‘ud Al-Ansary رضي الله عنه narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

“One who guides to something good shall have a reward similar to that of its doer.” [Related by Muslim in his Sahih]

It is also important to poing out that invention in worldy affairs are not part of the bid'ah the shari'ah forbids. They are also bid'ah in linguistic term and the use of them are allowed in Islaam in as much as it doesn't offend any shari'ah injunction. In fact, some aspects of technology are aiding us in acts of worship. They make acts of worship convenient for us. If an invention does not involve sining against Allaah, it should be encouraged. An example of an invention that aids 'ibaadah is manufacturing of microphone and speakers to assist in calling to prayer. The use of watch to determine time of prayers is also a good invention. Travelling to Hajj by air or sea with aeroplanes and ships respectively are inventions that aid the worship of Allaah. Some of our salaf رضي الله عنهم had to travel by sea to spread Islaam. 

It is however unfortunate that the Ahlul Bid'ah would always mention the technological or scientific inventions to justify their bid'ah. They would say for instance, "if it is proper to use microphone to call the prayer, why can't we hold congregational prayer (fidau) for the dead"? These are two different things? All the things mantioned above and many more are not innovations in the deen. They are inventions in worldy affairs, and products of knowledgeable (science and technology) bestowed by Allaah as mercy upon Children of Adam.  Allaah says in a verse:

وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلًا

And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference [Q17:70]

On the mistake of categorizing inventions in technology and science as bid'ah, Sheikh Fawzaan حفظه الله said:

كل محدثة فهي بدعة, والمراد ((محدثة)) في الدين, أما المحدثات في أمور العادات والمنافع والمآكل والمشارب والملابس, فهذه بدع لغوية ليست بدعا شرعية لكن المحدثات في الدين هي البدع المحرمة

"Every newly invented matter is innovation. What this means is that "newly invented" in religious affairs. But the newly invented matters in cultures, useful things, foods, drinks, clothes, all these are linguistic innovations. They are not innovation in the legal term. As for newly invented matters in affairs of religion, they are the prohibited innovations". [Explanation of Point No. 6 in Sharh us Sunnah, pg 38]

This statement is very clear and self explanatory. It is helpful in understanding the concept of bid'ah and clarifying the confusions created by the people of bid'ah around it. 

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