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Defining Bidaa - Understanding “Bid^atu Dalalah” and “Bid^atu Huda”

Praise be to Allah. I humbly ask Allah to raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad, his Al and Companions, and to protect his nation from that which he fears for it. I ask Allah to teach us that which we have forgotten, to add to our knowledge, and to grant us the sincere intentions. I humbly ask Allah to facilitate for us the routes of goodness and to protect us from the routes that lead to Hellfire. Thereafter:

Imam Muslim related from the route of Jarir Ibn ^Abdullah, that the Prophet said:
«من سنَّ في الإسلام سنة حسنة فله أجرها وأجر من عمل بها إلى يوم القيامة، لا ينقص من أجورهم شىء ومن سنَّ فِى الإسلام سنة سيئة فعليه وزرها ووزر من عمل بها إلى يوم القيامة لا ينقص من أوزارهم شىء»

This hadith of the Prophet means: <<The one who innovates a good innovation in Islam has its reward and a reward similar to those who follow him in it--until the Day of Judgment--without lessening their reward. The one who innovates an innovation of misguidance would be sinful for it and has sins similar to those who follow him in it--until the Day of Judgment--without lessening their sins.>>

This hadith, which is confirmed and of the sahih classification, is a foundation for proving the validity of the good innovations in Islam. The good innovation is called the 'liked innovation'. The saying of the Prophet in the hadith refers to the good innovation as opposed to the bad innovation signifying that it includes those innovations that comply with the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Every innovation innovated by the people of knowledge that complies with the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet is a good innovation, as indicated by the above-mentioned hadith of the Prophet: <<The one who innovates a good innovation in Islam has its reward and the reward of those who practice it until the Day of Judgement, without lessening the rewards of those who practice it>>.

The Prophet mentioned this hadith in relation to a specific incident which occurred when a group of very poor people came to the Prophet. They were so poor that they could not afford an article of clothing for both the upper and lower part of their bodies. Out of their poverty, they covered their bodies by wearing a sheet of material with an opening cut in it for the head. These people were not inhabitants of al-Madinah, though they had come there out of their love and desire to meet the Prophet. When the Prophet saw their state of poverty, the expression on his face changed to sadness. The Prophet urged the Muslims to contribute and pay in charity to those needy people what would be enough to lift their sadness and their need. One man stood up, came forward, and put something between the hands of the Prophet as a contribution to those people. Another came forward with a contribution, then a third, and a fourth. One brought food and another clothing--until a large quantity gathered between the hands of the Prophet. At that time, the face of the Prophet expressed happiness, and he said: <<The one who innovates a good innovation in Islam has its reward and the reward of those who practice it until the Day of Judgement, without lessening the rewards of those who practice it>>.

Although the Prophet stated this hadith at that specific incident, the meaning is general and covers the general cases. It is not permissible to claim that this hadith applies only to charity because the Prophet used a general term in this hadith. He did not specify the reward to 'He who spends in charity,' rather he said: 'He who innovates a good innovation.' The Prophet used a general term in this hadith, even though it was revealed for a specific incident. It is the rule among the scholars that if an ayah or hadith was revealed for a specific incident or a specific reason yet a general term was used in that ayah or hadith, then the criterion would be in the general meaning of the term and not by the specificity of the incident.

Any Muslim who knows of an innovation innovated by the pious Muslim scholars which complies with the Qur'an and the hadith, let him step forward and apply it. All such innovations which comply with the Qur'an and the hadith are covered and included by the aforementioned hadith of the Prophet. Hence this hadith is a foundation to affirm and confirm the validity of the good innovation in Islam. Moreover, the practices of the Companions and what we have witnessed from the pious Muslims stand as more proof of the validity of the good innovations.

Some people falsely claim that anything that was innovated after the Prophet is an innovation of misguidance. Their statement contradicts the saying of the Prophet previously mentioned; and it contradicts the doings of the Companions and their followers. One example of a good innovation is that which was done by Yahya Ibn Ya^mar--adding the dots above and below some of the Arabic letters in the Qur'an. Those who wrote down the Revelation that came down on the Prophet wrote the ayat of the Qur'an without the dots that are present today in the Arabic letters. For example, the letter

ba' (ب) was written without a dot underneath;
the letter ta’ (ت) was written without two dots on top;
and the letter tha' (ث) was written without three dots above.

The entire Qur'an was written without these dots over or under the letters. Adding the dots took place after the death of the Prophet by a certain period of time.

Yahya Ibn Ya^mar was the first to innovate the convention of using dots on the Arabic letters. He was among the pious and trustworthy tabi^in. His action of applying the dots on the letters is included in the hadith of the Prophet referring to the one who innovates a good innovation in Islam. When the Companions witnessed this innovation, they did not disagree with him; they did not blame him and say, "You have done something that the Prophet did not do." They did not tell him, "The Prophet was not explicit about doing such a thing, how dare you do it?" On the contrary, they found this to be a good action on his part, because it has a great benefit for the nation.

When the Companions wrote the Qur'an, they did so without writing the dots for a certain wisdom. This was because the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet with different methods of recitation. In some of the recitations, the word would be recited with the letter ta' and in other recitations, it would be recited with the letter ya'.

The ta' (تـ) and the ya' (يـ) are written in the same shape or format, however, they differ in the placement of the dots on them, i.e., the ta' (تـ) has two dots on top and the ya' (تـ) has two dots underneath.

Writing the format of the word without the dots would allow for either the ta' or the ya' to be read. As such, one Book compiling the letters and the words (without the dots) would be sufficient for more than one recitation. However, if one applies the dots, then this is restricted. That flexibility of reading the different recitations in one Book is eliminated, and if one wanted to recite according to a different recitation, one would need to rewrite the words with the dots placed differently to suit that recitation. For that wisdom, the Companions did not innovate the dots before this time.

When the benefit of this innovation became apparent at the time of Yahya Ibn Ya^mar, the Companions kept silent. At that time, many of the non-Arabs had embraced Islam and reading the Qur'an without the dots without making errors and mistakes constituted a hardship for these Muslims. To reduce the difficulty, Yahya applied the dots to the Qur'an. The Companions found that to be a good action on his part. This innovation of Yahya Ibn Ya^mar is included and covered by the hadith of the Prophet: <<The one who innovatesa good innovation in Islam has its reward...>>

There are some who falsely claim: "Everything that was not done at the time of the Prophet and done later on--is an innovation of misguidance." If one followed this faulty reasoning, he would have to remove all of the dots from all of the texts of the Qur'anthat are available today, before he started raising other points falsely. Had the claim of such a person been true, it would have been an obligation to remove the dots on all of the texts that are available today. Yet, the Companions did not do that, and they did not order it to be done. All those who came after them, from the scholars and the lay people--until the present day--read Qur'an in texts that include the dots.

Those who denied the good innovation--namely the Wahhabis--originated in the location of Najd in Saudi Arabia. The Prophet dispraised Najd, as related by al-Bukhariyy: His saying:

"منها الفتن والزلازل". رواه البخاري.

This hadith means: <<From this spot, [which is called Najd] the tribulations and the sedition will emerge.>> The Prophet conveyed the truth. Many tribulations and sedition have occurred from that region. Among the most recent was this man by the name of Muhammad Ibn ^Abdul-Wahhab. Muhammad Ibn ^Abdul-Wahhab followed Ahmad Ibn Taymiyah in the aforementioned case and in other cases as well. He started repeating the false statement of Ibn Taymiyah that it is not permissible for one to ask Allah for things except by he who is alive and present. This rule has no foundation whatsoever in the Religion of Allah. Rather, this rule and this statement were innovated by Ahmad Ibn Taymiyah­­ an innovation of misguidance.

There are other examples of innovations unanimously agreed upon among all the scholars of the hadith. The scholars of hadith innovated something not done by the Prophet or by the Companions. The practice that the scholars of hadith did together was to have a session where they would relate the hadith of the Prophet with a continuous chain of narration back to the Prophet for the people to attend and listen. This particular session has specific rules that the scholars of hadith know. They said that it is liked for the session to commence with saying "Bismillah," then "al­Hamdulillah," then "as-Salatu ^ala an-Nabiyy", and then someone with good recitation would recite from the Qur'an. The one who conveys to the people from the speaker addresses the scholar of hadith by asking, "What do you have to say? May Allah endow mercy on you." At that point, the scholar of hadith would start narrating his chain, i.e., for example: X narrated to us from the route of Y, from the route of Z, and so on, all the way back to the Prophet. Such a session used to include thousands of people. In some sessions more than 30,000 people gathered. The scholar of hadith would not be able to make everyone in such a large session hear his voice so there were 'conveyers,' people who would convey that which they heard to those around them.

This methodology did not prevail at the time of the Prophet, nor at the time of the Sahabah ;Abu Bakr did not do that, nor ^Umar, nor ^Uthman, nor ^Abdullah Ibn Abbas, nor Abu Sa^id al-Khudriyy, nor ^Abdullah Ibn Mas^ud, nor Abu Hurayrah, nor ^Abdullah Ibn ^Umar, nor other than those mentioned among the Companions. Despite this, all the scholars of the hadith unanimously agreed their practice was a good innovation, and they mentioned that in their books. Abu ^Amr Ibn as-Salah mentioned this in his book, Al­Muqaddimah, (The Introduction to the Knowledge of Hadith) as well as al-Hafidh as-Suyutiyy in his book, Tadrib ar-Rawi. Others mentioned this as well.

Those who falsely claim that this is an innovation of misguidance claim they are followers of the scholars of hadith. Yet, the scholars of hadith unanimously agree on that matter, and as such, considered it a good innovation. This clearly signifies that the scholars of Islam are on one path and those false claimers are in a totally different direction.

Those perverters, the Wahhabis, commit many innovations that are ugly and disliked. Some of their leaders, after writing the name of the Prophet in their books, write the letter sad (ص) alone to signify, in their minds, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam. Yet, it is documented in the books of the scholars of hadith that this is a disliked practice.

Furthermore, some of those Wahhabis claim that it is haram for the mu'adhdhin to say as-salatu ^ala an­Nabiyy in a loud voice after finishing the adhan. One of them, in the past, mentioned that this practice is so haram that it is similar to the one who fornicates with his own mother. This is an indication of the illness in his heart--otherwise such words would not come out of him. Saying as-salatu ^ala an-Nabiyy is a good practice--whether said before or after the adhan, with a loud or soft voice--because the Prophet said:

"من ذكرني فليصلِّ عليّ "

Which means: <<He who mentions me, let him say as-Salah for me.>> Saying as-Salah for the Prophet means to say "sallallahu ^alayhi wasallam" or its Arabic equivalent. It means: may Allah raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad and protect his nation from that which he fears for it.

In the adhan the mu'adhdhin mentions the name of the Prophet. When he utters the Two Professions, he mentions the name of the Prophet. Hence, it is sunnah for him to say as-salat on the Prophet. In doing so, he is complying with the hadith of the Prophet. The Prophet did not say, "Let him say as-salat for me in a whisper or softly." Nor did the Prophet say, "Let him say as-salat on me in a loud voice." The Prophet said--in a general term: <<Let him say as-Salah for me.>> This includes saying it aloud and in a whisper, such that he who says as-salat on the Prophet with a loud voice or a soft voice, is included in the hadith, i.e., he is complying with the hadith. Where is the entitlement for them to render this forbidden? They are not entitled, and they do not have any grounds to say this was not done at the time of the Prophet. The Prophet was explicit in his hadith, i.e., related by Imam Muslim, i.e., <<The one who innovates a good innovation in Islam has its reward.>> Moreover, the Prophet ordered the one who mentions him to say as-salat^ala an­Nabiyy. Hence, they are not entitled to render saying as­salat^ala an-Nabiyy in a loud voice as haram.

If those people think that this is a valid rule, than anything which was not done at the time of the Prophet would be an innovation of misguidance. Proceeding with this faulty reasoning would render haram the celebration of the birth of the Prophet and the mu'adhdhin saying as­salat on the Prophet after the adhan, and would require those perverters to remove those dots from all the copies of the masahif. However, their rule has no foundation in the Religion and they are left with false claims. Those people themselves fell in the trap of committing unliked or disliked innovations--including writing the sad (ص) or sal^am (صلعم) after the name of the Prophet--among other things which are classified as disliked practices. Those people are committing these things and then try to deny the Muslims the right and the reward of innovating innovations that are good in Islam.

In summary, all which is innovated and is in compliance with the Qur'an,hadith, and 'ijma^ of the nation is classified as a good innovation. Imam ash­Shafi^iyy classified and said that the innovation is of two kinds: "Bid^atu Huda and Bid^atu Dalalah", which is an innovation of guidance, and the other is an innovation of misguidance. He said what complies with the Qur'an, thehadith, the ijma^, and the sayings of the Companions is an innovation of guidance, and that which contradicts the Qur'an, thehadith, the ijma^, and the sayings of the Companions is an innovation of misguidance.

He who knows that would understand the meaning of the innovation that the Prophet mentioned in another hadith:

"وكل بدعة ضلالة"
Which some people might translate it by saying: "Every innovation is misguidance."

The Prophet was referring to those innovations that contradict the Qur'an, contradict the hadith, contradict the ijma^, and contradict the sayings of the Companions. The true meaning of the hadith is: <<Most of the innovations are innovations of misguidance.>> This is the correct meaning of this hadith, because the Prophet himself said in a sahih hadith:

"من سنَّ في الإسلام سنة حسنة فله أجرها"
<<He who innovates a good innovation in Islam has its reward.>>

Both of the hadith mentioned are of the sahih classification. One was related by at-Tirmidhiyy, and the second was related by Muslim. It is not permissible to eliminate one of these two hadith. Rather, the correct methodology is to conform one meaning of the hadith to the other. Conforming between the meanings of these two hadith, one would know the proper definition of the innovation of guidance and the innovation of misguidance that has been stated.

Adhere and hold tightly to the definition of the good innovation and the innovation of misguidance from Imam ash-Shafi^iyy. It is known that Imam ash­Shafi^iyy is one of the great leaders of this honorable nation. This definition was followed by the scholars before Imam ash-Shafi^iyy and those who came after him. Many scholars mentioned this specific definition, including: Imam al-Bayhaqiyy and Imam an-Nawawiyy and ^Izzuddin Ibn ^Abdus-Salam, and Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-^Asqalaniyy, among others.


Supporting that classification of Imam ash­Shafi^iyy are two hadith among the hadith of the Prophet. The first is a hadith that was related by al­Bukhariyy and Muslim:
وهذا التقسيم مفهوم من حديث البخاري ومسلم عن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: "مَن أحدث في أمرنا هذا ما ليس منه فهو رد".

The hadith means: <<If anyone innovates in our Religion a matter which does not belong to it, then it is rejected.>> This means the innovation must conform to the Religion of Islam or else it must be rejected. The second hadith:

ورواه مسلم بلفظ ءاخر وهو: "من عمل عملا ليس عليه أمرنا فهو رد". فأفهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بقوله:"ما ليس منه" أن المحدَث إنما يكون ردًّا أي مردوداً إذا كان على خلاف الشريعة، وأن المحدَث الموافق للشريعة ليس مردودًا.

In meaning, both of the hadith are the same, yet the second hadith has a specific terminology that is used, and an understanding pertaining to that terminology. This terminology pertains to dispraising what is innovated in the Religion--specifically what contradicts the Religion. This clearly denotes that the things innovated which comply with the Religion are not dispraised, because the Prophet specifically said: "The one who innovates something that does not conform to the rules of our Religion." Hence, he who innovates an innovation which complies with the Qur'an, the hadith, the ijma^, and the sayings of the Companions belongs to the innovations of guidance. One should not be scared upon hearing one of their false claims, i.e., "Everything which the Prophet did not do is an innovation of misguidance," because, again, what was meant by the Prophet when he said: <> was every innovation that pertains to misguidance is misguidance. This is so because the other hadith of the Prophet confirms that any innovation which is innovated in compliance with the Qur'an, the hadith, the ijma^, and the sayings of the Companions is praised and rewardable.



Praise be to Allah and Allah knows best.

Allah knows best.