Hadith / Islamic Law

“A Bayan on Bidah…”

BID`A

(‘UNWARRANTED RELIGIOUS INNOVATION’)

***

The noble Shaykh `Ata’ b. Khalil (may Allah protect him) states in his response to a question on the topic of bid`a:

أوامر الشارع نوعان: نوع وردت فيه صيغة الأمر مع بيان كيفية أداء هذا الأمر، أي الإجراءات العملية للتنفيذ، مثلاً يقول الله سبحانه {وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ}، فهذه صيغة أمر، ولكنه لم يُترك للإنسان أن يصلي كما يريد، بل جاءت نصوص أخرى فبينت كيفية الأداء من إحرام وقيام وقراءة وركوع وسجود…، وكذلك قال سبحانه {وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ} وهذه صيغة أمر بالحج “خبر في معنى الطلب”، ثم وردت نصوص تبين كيفية أداء هذا الأمر بالحج

“The commands (awamir) of The Legislator (al-shari`) are of two [general] types: [1] The first type comes in the imperative form (sighat al-amr) along with clarification of the manner (kayfiyya) in which to fulfil this command, i.e. the practical steps to implement it. For example, Allah (Glorified is He!) says: {…and establish the prayer}.[1] Although this is in the imperative form, human beings have not been left to pray as they wish. Rather, other texts have come explaining the manner for performing [its integrals] such as making the intention, standing, recitation, bowing and prostrating…Similarly, Allah Glorified is He also says: {…And Hajj to the House is a duty human beings owe to Allah}”.[2] This is in the imperative form but through a report that carries a legal request (khabr fi ma`na al-talab). Then there are texts that clarify the manner in which this command to fulfil the Hajj is to be made.”[3]

ونوع ثانٍ وردت فيه صيغة الأمر عامة أو مطلقة دون بيان كيفية الأداء، أي دون بيان الإجراءات العملية للتنفيذ، فمثلا قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم «مَنْ أَسْلَفَ فِي شَيْءٍ فَفِي كَيْلٍ مَعْلُومٍ وَوَزْنٍ مَعْلُومٍ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مَعْلُومٍ» [أخرجه البخاري]، فهنا أمر بالسلم “السلف” بصيغة الجملة الشرطية، فقد أمر أن يكون السلم في كيل معلوم ووزن معلوم وأجل معلوم، ولكن لم يبين الشارع كيفية إجراءات الأداء، كأن يقف العاقدان أمام بعضهما، ويقرءا شيئاً من القرآن، ثم يتقدمان خطوة إلى الأمام، ويتعانقان ثم يتخاطبان في موضوع السلم… وبعد ذلك يتم الإيجاب والقبول…

“[2] The second type of command that is found is the general imperative (sighat al-amr `amma) form or the unrestricted imperative form (mutlaqa) without any clarification on the manner of fulfilling the command. In other words, there is no clarification for practical steps to implement it. An example is his (Allah bless him and give him peace) statement: ‘whoever loaned something or sold something on credit, then the measure must be known, the weight must be known, and the period must be known’[4]…” Here, the command to make a credit sale is in the form of a conditional sentence. The command has come to know the measure, weight and period but the Legislator has not clarified the practical steps to fulfil the command like for example whether both contractual parties should be facing each other, or to read something from the Qur’an, or to approach each other step by step, or to embrace each other or to begin addressing matters pertaining to the contract and then conclude with an offer and acceptance…”[5]

Therefore, there are actions within the Shari`a that have a specified modality for their implementation, i.e. the steps are shown and are clear whereas others do not. There are too many examples to mention for each. The above few serve as sufficient examples to illustrate the distinction. Therefore:

وهكذا فهناك أوامر للشارع وردت معها إجراءات عملية للأداء، وهناك أوامر للشارع وردت مطلقة أو عامة دون إجراءات عملية تفصيلية لكيفية الأداء

“…in this way, there are commands from the Legislator that have come with practical steps to fulfil it [and implement it] and others commands from the Legislator that are unrestricted and general without any detailed practical steps showing the manner in which they are to be fulfilled…”[6]

The meaning of ‘bid`a: This distinction now helps us to understand the technical and linguistic meaning of the word ‘bid`a’:

مخالفة أمر الشارع الذي وردت له كيفية أداء تسمى اصطلاحاً بدعة لأنها ليست على الكيفية التي بينها الشارع، فالبدعة لغة كما في لسان العرب: المبتدع الّذي يأتي أمراً على شبهٍ لم يكن…، وأبدعت الشّيء: اخترعته لا على مثالٍ

“The word ‘bid`a’ is technically (istilahan) applied when a command of the Legislator that has a specific manner in which it is implemented is contravened. This is because it is not implemented according to the manner in which the Legislator clarified it to be. The word ‘bid`a’ linguistically (lughatan) as mentioned in the Lisan al-`Arab[7] is: ‘The one who commits bid`a (mubtadi`) is one who comes brings a new matter that was never known previously’…thus, the phrase ‘abda`at al-shay’’ (‘to newly bring something’) means: ‘inventing something without precedent’ (ikhtara`at-hu la `ala mithal)…”[8]

To be more specific then, the term bid`a will be applied to a matter or something when:

وهي في الاصطلاح كذلك، أي مخالفة كيفية شرعية بيَّنها الشرع لأداء أمر شرعي

“…it contravenes the legal manner (shar`i kayfiyya) clarified and explained by the Legislator in order to correctly fulfil a legal command…”[9]

            Knowing this definition and application of bid`a will allow us to understand the statement of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace): “whoever does an action not based on our commands will be rejected”:[10]

« وَمَنْ عَمِلَ عَمَلًا لَيْسَ عَلَيْهِ أَمْرُنَا فَهُوَ رَدٌّ »  

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795/1393) explains this hadith as follows:

فهذا الحديث يدل بمنطوقه على أن كل عمل ليس عليه أمر الشارع فهو مردود، ويدل بمفهومه على أن كل عمل عليه أمره فهو غير مردود

“This hadith indicates in its wording that any and every action that is not based on the command of the Legislator is rejected. It also indicates in its implied meaning that every action based on the commands of the Legislator is not rejected…”[11]

Thus, whoever contravenes the designated modality by which a command – in the acts of devotion (`ibadat) – is to be fulfilled by restricting, generalising, augmenting (adding), altering, (changing), etc. would be committing a bid`a. Thus:

وهكذا فإن من سجد ثلاثاً في صلاته بدل اثنتين فقد جاء ببدعة، ومن رمى ثماني حصيات بدلاً من سبع على جمرات منى فقد جاء ببدعة… وكل بدعة ضلالة، وكل ضلالة في النار، أي أنه يأثم بفعلته تلك.

“If one performs three [separate acts] of prostration instead of two has committed a bid`a; if someone throws 8 stones instead of 7 when at Jamarat has committed bid`a…and every bid`a is misguidance and every misguidance leads to the Hellfire, i.e. the person doing the act will be punished for it.”[12]

However, and importantly, when it comes to actions that do not have a specific modality for its implementation, the term bid`a is not applied:

مخالفة أمر الشارع الذي لم ترد له كيفية أداء، فهي تقع في الأحكام الشرعية، فيقال عنها حرام، أو مكروه، أو مباح إن كان خطاب تكليف، أو يقال باطل أو فاسد… إن كان خطاب وضع، وذلك حسب القرينة المصاحبة للأمر من حيث الجزم أو الترجيح أو التخيير

“Contravening a command of the Legislator that does not have a specified manner in which to fulfil it, falls under the area of ahkam shar`iyya (‘legal rulings’) which can be haram or makruh or mubah if it is a khitab taklifi (‘prescriptive legal communications’) or batil or fasid if it is a khitab wad`i (‘descriptive legal communications’) This depends on the contextual indications (qara’in) whether in the form of a decisive command (jazm), preferential command (tarjih) or optional command (takhyir)…”[13]

So:

ففي مثالنا الأول من أسلف “أي عقد عقد السلم”، بخلاف أمر الشارع أي دون كيل معلوم ووزن معلوم وأجل معلوم، فلا يقال إنه جاء ببدعة، وإنما يقال إن هذا العقد المخالف لأمر الشارع هو باطل أو فاسد وفق نوع المخالفة وهكذا بالنسبة لمخالفة جميع الأوامر التي لم يأت الشارع لها بكيفية تفصيلية للأداء

“In our first example, if someone sells something on credit, i.e. he actually completes the contract of sale contravening the command of the Legislator, i.e. without knowing the measure, weight, or the time, it cannot be said that he has committed a bid`a, rather it is said that this contract contravenes the command of the Legislator and is either batil or fasid depending on the type of contravention […] and this is the case with contraventions made in all commands that have not come with a detailed manner in which they are to be fulfilled…”[14]

            Thus, from the above outlines, where the term bid`a applies is in areas of `ibadat where a specific method of practically implementing a command is given and then that method is explicitly contravened. Through an induction of the Shari`a rulings (ahkam), it becomes evident that bid`a applies to most acts of `ibadat and not acts pertaining to civil and commercial transactions (mu`amalat):

باستقراء النصوص الشرعية وجد أنه فقط في غالب العبادات وردت كيفيات لأداء أمر الشارع، أي إجراءات عملية لتنفيذ أمر الشارع، ولذلك فلا تقع البدعة في غير العبادات، لأنها هي التي وردت فيها إجراءات عملية لتنفيذ أمر الشارع ونقول غالب العبادات، لأن بعضها لم يرد فيها إجراءات عملية للتنفيذ

“Through an inductive survey (istiqra’) of the legal texts, it is found that most acts of `ibadat have come with a manner in which to fulfil the command of the Legislator, i.e. practical steps to implement this command. Therefore, bid`a cannot be said to occur in other than acts of `ibadat because it alone has come with detailed practical steps for its implementation […] we say ‘most’ acts of `ibadat because some have not come with detailed steps for practically implementing it…”[15]

An example would be jihad where there are no specified practical steps to implement although it is an act of worship. Thus, there are no detailed elucidations on how to actually engage in combat (e.g. to stand and fight, or crouch, run…), what exactly to do while in combat (talk, shout, remain silent…), what tactic and strategy to employ (ambush, raid, etc.), etc.

 

Notes

Why is knowing about bid`a important? For a number of reasons. Two are given below:

[1] It is sinful: to engage in deliberate bid`a opposes the Qur’an and sunna. Thus, we must be warned about it so that we can avoid it and its harm. Yahya b. Mu`adh (d. 258/872) warns that:

اختلاف الناس كلّهم يرجع إلى ثلاثة أصول، فلكل واحد منها ضد فمن سقط عنه وقع في ضده: التوحيد وضده الشرك، والسنة وضدها البدعة، والطاعة وضدها المعصية.

“The disagreements amongst the people return to three sources: each has its contrary so whoever is silent over any one of them falls prey to its contrary: [1] Tawhid and its contrary which is shirk; [2] sunna and its contrary which is bid`a and [3] obedience and its contrary, disobedience…”[16]

And Mujahid (d. 104/722), the early commentator and famous tabi`i writes regarding the meaning of the verse {…and do not follow the ways…} means do not follow bid`a and vain desires…”[17]

وقوله: {وَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ السُّبُلَ}: هي البدع والشهوات

[2] Incorrect understandings: People may begin objections to certain practices and actions thinking it is bid`a without first investigating whether it conforms with Shari`a evidences. Thus, a condemnation project begins with one Muslim group or organisation attacking and condemning another as heretical or of the ‘people of innovation’ (ahl al-bida`). In fact, sadly, for some persons (and groups) their sole task is to be ‘bid`a-mongerers’, i.e. those specifically preoccupying themselves with divisive discussions on areas of hukm shar`i where disagreements may arise (e.g. ijtihadat)[18] and distract Muslims from giving their attention to the greater matters affecting Muslims as an umma such as:

  1. Absence of the Shari`ah from all life’s affairs.
  2. Oppression and tyranny from Muslim rulers.
  3. Occupation of Muslim lands.
  4. Killing of Muslims.
  5. Squandering Muslim resources.
  6. Political hegemony over Muslim regions.
  7. Attacks on Islamic beliefs, values, ideas and laws.
  8. Modernisation (= secularisation) programme of Islam.
  9. Etc. 
  • We ask that Allah cause our actions to accord with His amr and that we avoid and warn against bid`a.

Amin.

And Peace and blessings upon

Our Beloved Master Muhammad,

Upon his family, Companions

And all those who follow them.

s.z.c.


[1] Q. 7:39.

[2] Q. 3:97.

[3] `Ata’ b. Khalil, Waqi` al-Bid`a. Q & A, 18 September, 2009.

[4] Bukhari, Sahih (#2907).

[5] `Ata’ b. Khalil, Waqi` al-Bid`a.

[6] `Ata’ b. Khalil, Waqi` al-Bid`a.

[7] See Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-`Arab, 2:8 s.v. and Ibn Faris, Mu`jam Maqayis al-Lugha, 1:209 and al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, 4:253 where he writes:

البدعة أصلها ما أحدث على غير مثال سابق…

“And bid`a [s: linguistically] means, in its origin, something that was invented (ma uhditha) without a precedent.”

[8] `Ata’ b. Khalil, Waqi` al-Bid`a..

[9] `Ata’ b. Khalil, Waqi` al-Bid`a.

[10] Bukhari, Sahih, 2:959 (#2550); Muslim, Sahih 3:1434 (#1718); Ahmad, al-Musnad 6/270 (#26372); al-Daraqutni, al-Sunan, 4:224 (#78) and Ibn Hibban, Sahih, 1:207 (#26). The qualification of “laysa `alayhi amruna”, “ma laysa minhu” or “ma laysa fihi” have been interpreted by the classical scholars to mean any new matter that contradicts the fundamental tenets of Islam (usul al-din) and not any new matter without qualification. Thus, Imam al-Ghazali comments:

ليس كل ما أبدع منهياً عنه، بل المنهي عنه بدعة تضاد سنة ثابتة، وترفع أمراً من الشرع مع بقاء علته

“Hence, not everything that is newly inaugurated is prohibited; rather what is prohibited as being bid`a is anything that contradicts the established sunna and opposes despite an abiding ratio of a command within the Law…” See Ihya’ `Ulum, al-Din, 2:3.

[11] Ibn Rajab, al-Jami` li-`Ulum wa ’l-Hikam, 1:177.

[12] `Ata’ b. Khalil, Waqi` al-Bid`a.

[13] `Ata’ b. Khalil, Waqi` al-Bid`a.

[14] `Ata’ b. Khalil, Waqi` al-Bid`a.

[15] `Ata’ b. Khalil, Waqi` al-Bid`a.

[16] al-Shatibi, Kitab al-I`tisam, 1:91.

[17] See al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 1:138.

[18] Cf. Imam al-Ghazali’s outlines on the conditions of commanding right and forbidding wrong (amr bi’l-ma`ruf wa ’l-nahy `an al-munkar) in his Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, 2:296-298 especially with regards to the subject-matter of what is considered wrong (munkar) which excludes areas of difference and ijtihadat:

أن يكون كونه منكرا معلوما بغير إجتهاد فكل ما هو محل الإجتهاد فلا حسبة فيه…

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