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What is a Bid’ah ?

Bid'ah in Arabic is taken from ‘Al-Bada', that is to create something without precedence. Allah says in the Qur'aan, which translated means:

“Badei' (the Originator) of the heavens and the earth.” [Soorah Baqarah (2): 117]

This means that Allah created the heavens and the earth without precedence. He also said: “Say (O Muhammad (sallallhu alahi wa-sallam): I am not Bid'an (a new thing) among the Messengers.” [Soorah Ahqaf (46): 9]

This means: 'I am not the first of Allah's Prophets to His slaves, many (Prophets) preceded me.’ When it is said that a person has performed a Bid'ah, this means that he has innovated a new thing without precedence.

Bid'ahs in the matters of life, like the new scientific inventions are permissible because originally, what is a matter of life or habit is permissible. The prohibited Bid'ah is to innovate in the religion. This is because the religion is 'Tawqifiyah' which means that religion can only be revealed by Allah and He has completely revealed His religion. Consequently, there is no room for any innovation. As will be manifest and clear from the following text.

Allaah Alone has the right to tell us how to worship Him.

Allah says: “Follow what has been sent down to you from your Lord (the Qur'aan and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhaamd (sallallhu alahi wa-sallam) and follow not any Auliya (protectors, or helper etc. who order you to associate partners in worship with Allah), besides Him (Allah)…” [Soorah Al-Aa’raf (7): 3]

From the Tafseer (explanation) of this verse, we learn that this verse is a definite statement, explaining the right of Allaah Alone; to reveal and command His slaves, the manners of worshipping Him. And how could it be otherwise, when the true meaning of 'Ibaadah' is to worship Allaah in the way, which pleases Him, not following one's own desires. As is known from the following verse: "And who is more astray then one who follows his own lust (desires) without the guidance from Allah (revelation)" [Soorah Al-Qasas (28): 50]

In regards to this Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) said: "I warn you of the newly invented matters (in the religion), and every newly invented matter is an innovation, and every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire" [An-Nasa'ee]

And he (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) used to declare at the beginning of his lectures, "….and the best speech is the Speech of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (sallallhu alahi wa-sallam), and the worst of all affairs are the newly invented matters (in the religion)" [Saheeh Muslim]

And he (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) also commanded us, to reject everything, which has no basis in the religion saying:  “Whosoever does an action, which we have not commanded then it must be rejected."  [Saheeh Muslim]

"Whosoever introduces into this religion of ours that which is not a part of it then it must be rejected”  [Ahmad]

In this hadeeth is a clear evidence that every action which is not legislated in the sharee'ah must be rejected’ [Jaami al-Ulum of ibn Rajab 1/120]

Consequently, every Bid'ah, that is introduced in the religion has to be rejected as for the reason that only Allaah and His Messenger (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) have the right to legislate in the Sharee'ah.

 The Deen is complete

Allaah says in the Qur'aan: "this day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islaam as your religion" [Soorah Maidah (5): 4]

This verse embodies a clear statement that the religion has been completed and so has no need of addition and deletion, and our noble Messenger (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) said:

"There is nothing that Allaah ordered you with except that I have ordered you with it, and there is nothing that Allaah forbade you from except that I have forbidden you from it" [al-Bayhaqee and others]

And he (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) said, "There is nothing that will take you closer to Paradise but that I have enjoined it upon you, and there is nothing that will take you closer to Hell but that I have warned you from it” [Musnad ash-Shafi'e and others]

So, Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) fulfilled the trust placed upon him by Allaah completely, explaining the religion to the people in it's inward and outward form, making clear the lawful from the prohibited, the encouraged from the discouraged, even to the extent that he (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) taught us the manners of going to the toilet, the manners of having sex with our partners etc.

Allaah also says in His Book, "and We have sent down to you Book (the Qur'aan) as an exposition (explanation) of everything, a guidance, a mercy and a glad tiding for those who have submitted themselves (to Allah).” [Soorah al-Maidah (16): 89]

Hence, Qur'aan contains the explanation of the entire religious principles, tawheed in all it's various categories, even to the extent that it teaches us the manners of sitting in circles, visiting other people’s houses, the correct clothing etc. …

 In the light of what has preceded we can now give the formal Sharee'ah definition of bid'ah... "A newly invented way (in beliefs and actions) in the religion, in imitation of the Sharee'ah, by which nearness to Allaah is sought, not being supported by any authentic proof, neither in it's foundations nor in the manner in which it is performed." [al-I'tisaam 1/231 of ash-Shaatibee]

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