The Greatest and Noblest Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has said: ‘مَنْ أحْدِثَ فِیْ أمْرِنَا هَذَا مَا لَيْسَ فِيْهِ فَهُوَ رَدٌّ’ (One who innovates such a thing in our religion which is not based on this religion of ours, so that is rejected). (Sahih Bukhari, vol. 2, pp. 211, Hadees 2697)
This blessed Hadees is one of the fundamental pillars and principles of Islamic Shari’ah. Imam Yahya Bin Sharaf Nawavi (who passed away in 676 AH) stated: ‘هذا الحديث قاعدة عظيمة من قواعد الإسلام’ This blessed Hadees is one of the greatest principles of Islam. (Sharh-un-Nawavi, vol. 6, pp. 16)
If an innovation, which is deemed to be an act of worship, contradicts any principle of blessed Shari’ah or any Sunnah or Hadees, then it is rejected and is wrong. However, it is noteworthy that anything which is proved by Shari’ah or which is not contrary to the principles of Islam is neither rejected nor included in the rejection declared by the above Hadees. Commenting on this Hadees, ‘Allamah ‘Abdur Rauf Munaawi رَحْمَةُ اللّٰەِ عَلَيْه (who passed away in 1031 AH) stated:
أما ما عضده عاضد منه بأن شهد له من أدلة الشرع أو قواعده
فليس برد بل مقبول كبناء نحو ربط و مدارس وتصنيف علم وغيرها
Translation: Anything that turns to be a help in religion and is also based on any Islamic law or principle is not rejected but rather it is accepted. For example, constructing forts for the protection of frontiers, constructing Madaris, writing books on Islamic knowledge, etc. (Fayz-ul-Qadeer, vol. 6, pp. 47, Taht-al-Hadees: 8333)
Types of innovation
Basically, there are two types of innovation:
1 Bid’at-e-Hasanah i.e. a good innovation which is not in contradiction with Quran and Sunnah and which is deemed to be good by Muslims. This innovation is neither rejected nor is it wrong. For instance, constructing forts for the protection of Islamic frontiers, constructing Madaris, writing books on Islamic knowledge, etc.
2 Bid’at-e-Sayyi`ah [سَیِّئَة] i.e. such a bad innovation in religion which contradicts Quran and Hadees. The Hadees mentioned in the beginning points to the same type of innovation. For instance, delivering a Khutbah or Azan in the Urdu language instead of Arabic, etc. Categorizing innovations, ‘Allamah Badruddin ‘Ayni رَحْمَةُ اللّٰەِ عَلَيْه (who passed away in 855 AH) stated:
ثم البدعة علی نوعین: ان کانت مما تندرج تحت مستحسن فی الشرع
فھی حسنة و ان کانت مما تندرج تحت مستقبح فی الشرع فھی مستقبحة
Translation: There are two types of innovation (1) If any innovation is based on something liked by Shari’ah, it will be called Bid’at-e-Hasanah (i.e. good innovation). (2) On the contrary, if any innovation is based on something disliked by Shari’ah, it will be called Bid’at-e-Sayyi`ah (i.e. bad innovation). (‘Umda-tul-Qari, vol. 8, pp. 245, Taht-al-Hadees: 2010)
Similarly, ‘Allamah Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalani رَحْمَةُ اللّٰەِ عَلَيْه (who passed away in 852 AH) stated:
قال الشافعی البدعة بدعتان محمودۃ ومذمومة فما وافق السنة فھو محمودۃ وما خالفھا فھو مذموم
Translation: Imam Shaafi’i رَحْمَةُ اللّٰەِ عَلَيْه stated: There are two types of innovation. (1) Bid’at-e-Mahmoodah (i.e. the innovation which has been appreciated or declared good) and Bid’at-e-Mazmoomah (i.e. the innovation which has been condemned or declared bad). Any innovation which conforms to Sunnah is appreciated and declared good; and any innovation which contradicts Sunnah is condemned and declared bad. (Fath-ul-Baari, vol. 14, pp. 216, Taht-al-Hadees: 7277)
These two types of innovation have actually been derived from a saying of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. He صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has said:
مَنْ سَنَّ فِی الْاِسْلَامِ سُنَّةً حَسَنَةً فَعُمِلَ بِھَا بَعْدَہُ کُتِبَ لَەُ مِثْلُ اَجْرِ مَنْ عَمِلَ بِھَا وَلَا یَنْقُصُ مِنْ اُجُوْرِھِمْ شَیْء وَمَنْ سَنَّ فِی الْاِسْلَامِ سُنَّةً سَیِّئَةً فَعُمِلَ بِھَا بَعْدَہُ کُتِبَ عَلَیْەِ مِثْلُ وِزْرِ مَنْ عَمِلَ بِھَا وَلَا یَنْقُصُ مِنْ اَوْزَارِھِمْ شَیْء
Translation: If someone introduces a good practice in Islam and, after him, if it is acted upon, he will be granted reward like those acting upon it and there will be no reduction in their reward. And if anyone introduces a bad practice in Islam and, after him, if it is acted upon, he will have the sin like those acting upon it and there will be no reduction in their sin. (Sahih Muslim, pp. 394, Hadees 2351)
A sign of bad innovation
The Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has said:
مَا اِبْتَدَعَ قَوْم بِدْعَةً فِی دِیْنِھِمْ اِلَّا نَزَعَ اللّٰەُ مِنْ سُنَّتِھِمْ مِثْلَھَا
Translation: If a nation introduces an innovation, Allah removes Sunnah similar to that.
(Mishkat-ul-Masabih, vol. 1, pp. 56, Hadees 188)
Commenting on the word ‘بدعت’ mentioned in this Hadees, a leading scholar of Hadees ‘Allamah ‘Ali Qari رَحْمَةُ اللّٰەِ عَلَيْه (who passed away in 1014 AH) stated: ‘ای سیئة مزاحمة لسنة’ i.e. this refers to bad innovation which is in contradiction to any Sunnah. (Mirqat-ul-Mafatih, vol. 1, pp. 433, Taht-al-Hadees: 188)
Likewise, commenting on the words of the Hadees ‘لَیْسَ مِنْەُ’, a great thinker of Ummah Mufti Ahmad Yar Khan Na’eemi رَحْمَةُ اللّٰەِ عَلَيْه stated: ‘لَیْسَ مِنْەُ’ refers to that thing which contradicts Quran and Hadees. In other words, in religion, if a person innovates such practices which contradict religion, i.e. Quran and Sunnah and which remove Sunnah; then the innovator is rejected and those practices are also wrong. For example, delivering the Khutbah or offering Salah in Urdu instead of Arabic, calling Azan in Persian, etc. (Mirat-ul-Manajih, vol. 1, pp. 146)
Some examples of good innovation
There are many examples of good innovations that do not contradict Shari’ah. Mentioned here some of them.
1 Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُ gathered the Holy Quran and this was completed during the reign of Sayyiduna ‘Usman-e-Ghani رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُ.
2 Sayyiduna ‘Umar Farooq رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُ introduced the Jama’at of Taraweeh Salah.
3 The second Azan of Salat-ul-Jumu’ah was introduced in the reign of Sayyiduna ‘Usman-e-Ghani رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُ.
4 Diacritical marks and dots were put in the Holy Quran in the reign of Hajjaj Bin Yusuf.
5 During the reign of Waleed Marwani, Sayyiduna ‘Umar Bin ‘Abdul ‘Azeez رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُ got an arch constructed in the Masjid for the Imam to stand underneath it. He رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُ did so for the first time in Islamic history.
In addition to above examples, there are so many such actions that did not use to exist in the blessed visible lifetime of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم as well as in the eras of his blessed companions رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُم but rather they were introduced later on. Are all of these actions rejected and wrong? Not, at all. May Merciful Allah bless us with excellent wisdom and proper understanding of religion!
اٰمِيۡن بِجَاهِ النَّبِيِّ الۡاَمِيۡن صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيۡهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم