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Arguments of the Misguided

Know, O noble reader! The saying that some Bid'ahs are good and that not every Bid'ah is a sin, rather some Bid'ahs are good is a clear misguidance. Every example that these misguided bring from the actions of the companions (radhi allahu anhu) to prove their belief of a 'good innovation', is invalid and it just shows their weak understanding of the Sunnah of Muhammad (sallallhu alahi wa-sallam), for all of these examples have a clear basis in the Sharee'ah, or occurred due to necessity, or from ijtihaad. Insha'allaah, we will mention a few of their arguments:

Initially, know that  their saying is in opposition to the Hadeeth: “For every Bid'ah is a sin”  [Abu Dawood]

The Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) clearly stated that all Bid’ahs are sins.

Ibn Rajab says regarding this issue: “The Prophet's (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) saying: “every Bid'ah is a sin” is a unique way of speech that nothing (no Bid'ah) can escape. This is a major rule in this religion. It is similar to Prophet's (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) saying: “Whoever innovates, in this religion of ours, whatever is not of it, is rejected.”

Whoever innovates a matter that has no basis in Islam, and introduced it to the religion, has sinned. The religion disowns whoever does that. This rule applies to all matters of belief, action, and saying, both in public or in secrecy.”

 1.When Umar (radhi allahu anhu) was caliph, he collected the Muslims to pray in congregation for taraaweeh prayers and said, "what a good bid'ah this is"                                            [Saheeh Bukhaaree]

Evidence is derived from this for 'bid'ah hasanah' (i.e. Good Bid’ah), but of course they have misunderstood the true intent of Umar (radhi allahu anhu), which can be clearly understood if one were to quote the context of this narration.

 When the Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) first prayed taraaweeh, the Muslims used to pray taraaweeh individually or in small groups, and then for three nights they prayed in one congregation behind the Prophet (sallallhu alahi wa-sallam), and after this he (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) stopped them from doing so by saying:

“"I feared that it would become obligatory upon you." So after this again, the Muslims would pray individually or in small groups, and they remained like this throughout the rule of Abu Bakr (radhi allahu anhu) and the beginning of the rule of Umar (radhi allahu anhu). Then Umar (radhi allahu anhu) came to the Mosque and saw the Muslims praying in small groups and so gathered them as one jama'ah to pray behind Ubayy bin Ka'b (radhi allahu anhu) and Tameem ad-Daaree (radhi allahu anhu) and stated the above phrase. [Reported in Bukhaaree, the Muwatta and others]

Firstly: How can the action of Umar (radhi allahu anhu) be considered to be new when the Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) did it in his lifetime?  Not only this but the Muslims were also in the habit of praying in small groups as well. Hence, the praying of taraaweeh in jamaa'ah was well established in the sunnah and the practice of the Sahaabah (radhi allahu anhu).

 Secondly: The Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) gave the reason why he stopped the congregational prayer, for the revelation was still descending, and he feared that praying in obligation might become obligatory upon his nation, and that this might lead to be hard on them.

After the death of Muhammad (sallallhu alahi wa-sallam), the  revelation ceased, and this fear was no longer present. Hence, Umar (radhi allahu anhu) re-established the congregation during his rule because he knew his action could not be made obligatory upon the ummah.

Thirdly: All the companions agreed to this action of Umar (radhi allahu anhu), there was a consensus (ijmaa) on this. And the scholars of 'usul' have stated that a consensus cannot occur except when there is a clear text for it in the Sharee'ah.

Fourth: So how do we understand this statement of Umar (radhi allahu anhu), "what a good bid'ah this is" when the action that Umar (radhi allahu anhu) called a bid'ah was done by the Prophet r? Bid'ah here can only be understood in it's linguistic sense and not in it's Sharee'ah sense i.e. when Umar (radhi allahu anhu) said this, he did not mean it in the legal sense that we may understand it today. For how many are the words that mean one thing in the language, but another thing in the Sharee'ah! The linguistic sense is: something new, because praying in one congregation was not present in the rule of Abu Bakr (radhi allahu anhu) and the earlier period of his own rule.

Hence, Abu Yusuf (rahimahullah) said, "I asked Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) about the taraaweeh and what Umar (radhi allahu anhu) did and he replied, 'the taraaweeh is a stressed sunnah, and Umar (radhi allahu anhu) did not do that from his own opinion, and neither was there in his action any innovation, and he did not enjoin it except that there was a foundation for it with him and authorization from the Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam)…" ['Sharh Mukhtaar' as quoted from in 'al-Ibdaa' (pg. 80) of Shaykh Alee Mahfooz]

2.The hadeeth: “Whosoever starts in Islaam a good practice (sunnah), he gets the reward of it and the reward of all those, who act on it. And whosoever starts in Islaam an evil practice (sunnah), he gets the evil of it and the evil of all those, who act on it."[Saheeh Muslim]

The evidence they derive from this hadeeth is that people can invent new practices in Islaam, either good or bad. But were they to take this hadeeth in it's full context then it would not be possible to infer such a thing.

Imaam Muslim(rahimahullah) reported this story from Jareer ibn 'Abdullaah (radhi allahu anhu) who also narrated: "Some people came to Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) wearing woollen garments. He (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) saw that they were in bad shape and in desperate need, so he (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) urged the people to give them charity. People were very slow to respond, and it could be seen on his face (that he was upset). Then a man of the Ansaar brought a package of silver, then another came, then after him another and  another, and his face was filled with joy. He  (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) said: 'Whoever starts a good thing in Islam, and others do likewise after him, there will be written for him a reward like that of those who followed him, without detracting it in the least from their reward. Whoever starts a bad thing in Islam, and others do likewise after him, there will be written for him a burden of sin like that of those who followed him, without detracting it in the least from their burden.” [Saheeh Muslim, no. 1017]

Firstly: The word ‘sunnah’ used in the hadeeth must be understood in it's linguistic sense (i.e. practice) not it's sharee'ah sense (i.e. the life example of Muhammad (sallallhu alahi wa-sallam) because otherwise it would imply that there is something bad in the sunnah.

Secondly: The Companion (radhi allahu anhu) who gave charity, did not do anything new, for giving charity had been legislated from the very early days of Islaam as the Makkan surahs prove, rather he was simply implementing a previously legislated matter. So, the statement of the Prophet (sallallhu alahi wa-sallam), 'a good sunnah' was said at a time when the people were reluctant to give charity, so one man gave it and then others followed him - i.e. he renewed a sunnah that was being neglected - this is the meaning of 'good practice' - renewing an existing sunnah.

Hence, we do not stick just to the specific occurrence in the hadeeth, but we generalize it's intent as it's wording is general and as is established in the 'usul'. The intent of this hadeeth is renewing the Sunnah when it has been neglected. This is why the early scholars of Islaam included this hadeeth under the chapter ‘The reward of the one who renews the sunnah" [as done by the 4th century Imaam al-Laalikaa'ee in his encyclopedic work detailing the belief of Ahlus Sunnah, 'Sharh Usul I'tiqaad Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa'ah']

Thirdly: The meaning of 'bad sunnah' is to be understood in the similar vein, i.e. the one who renews an evil act, will get it's evil… Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) gave the example of the two sons of Adam (alaihi as-salaam), one killing the other, one who killed got the sin of his action as well the sin of all those who follow hi in killing;  without their sins decreasing, an killing had been forbidden from the time of the first Prophet (alahi as-salaam) to the last r

Fourthly: The hadeeth uses the terms 'good' and 'bad', and from what has preceded, it is clear that Islaam has already defined in it's totality all that it is good and bad, and if we were to say otherwise, we would then be accusing the religion of incompleteness and deficiency

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