Hadith 5. Innovations Part B

On the authority of the mother of the faithful Um Abdillah A’isha (radiyaAllahu ‘anha) who said that the Messenger of Allah (sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:

“He who innovates something in this matter of ours [i.e. Islam] that which is not of it will have it rejected [by Allah]”.

Reported by Bukhari and Muslim

In one narration by Muslim, it reads: “He who does an act which we have not commanded will have it rejected (by Allah)”.

Brief Commentary:

  • The shari’ah meaning for بدعة  is derived from the hadith and composes of 3 parts:
    • Newly invented (He who innovates)
    • Ascribed to the religion (in this matter of ours)
    • No basis in this religion (that which is not of it)
  • By saying “newly invented”, this excludes anything that has been established in the Qur’an and Sunnah, in terms of the act itself and the way it is performed. If both of these are established in the Qur’an and Sunnah, then the act cannot be called an innovation
  • By saying “ascribed to the religion”, this excludes actions which are not ascribed to the religion e.g. driving a car or using a mobile phone
  • By saying “no basis in the religion”, this excludes actions for which there is an Islamic proof for their correctness e.g. praying in jama’ah or fasting the white days
  • An innovation will always stem from three fundamental principles which are:
    • Bringing yourself closer to Allah by that which He has not legislated
    • Straying away from the main features of the religion
    • An act which leads to an innovation
  • Bringing yourself closer to Allah by that which He has not legislated can be by:
    • Using a fabricated hadith as evidence e.g. praying salah al-ragha’ib
    • An act of worship based upon mere opinion e.g. from a scholar, worshipper, dream, etc
    • An act of worship which the prophet (sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) did not do with no reason to prevent him from doing it e.g. pronouncing the intention
    • An act of worship which the sahaba or tabi’een didn’t do e.g. celebrating the prophet’s (sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) birthday
    • An act of worship which conflicts with the principles and higher objectives of Islamic law مقاصد الشريعة) ) e.g. calling the adhan for recommended prayers
    • Trying to bring oneself closer to Allah through customs and traditions which are not recognised by the shari’ah e.g. wearing wool to bring oneself closer to Allah
    • Trying to bring oneself closer to Allah by a haram action e.g. listening to music to boost your Iman
    • Extremism in worship, and increasing it to an unbearable limit e.g. fasting every day or praying for the whole night
    • Changing the way an act of worship is performed, when the act of worship was mentioned in a specific way e.g. changing the:
      • Time the action is performed e.g. fasting at night
      • Location the action is performed in e.g. doing I’tikaf on a mountain
      • The nature/category of the action e.g. sacrificing a horse in Eid-ul-Adha
      • The number of times the action is performed e.g. praying dhuhr twice, or with 3 rak’at
      • The method the action is performed by e.g. praying with your hands behind your back, or starting the wudhu by washing the feet
  • Straying away from the main features of the religion can be:
    • Beliefs, principles, and rulings which go against the Qur’an, Sunnah, and the consensus of the scholars of this ummah e.g. saying that we should use our intellect to determine law which has already been determined in the Qur’an and Sunnah
    • Beliefs which cannot be found in the Qur’an and Sunnah nor taken up by the sahaba and tabi’een e.g . sufi tariqas
    • Delving into speculative arguments and debates e.g. delving into the topic of fate, or how does Allah rise above the throne
    • Enforcing habits and traditions onto the people and making them like Islamic laws that must not be changed e.g. keeping positions of leadership restricted within a certain family
    • Changing established rulings and changing established principles e.g. changing the punishment of the thief
    • Imitating the kuffar in their acts ofworship e.g. celebrating christmas or not eating fat
    • Imitating the kuffar in their customs e.g. celebrating mother’s day or valentine’s day
    • Doing the deeds of jahiliyah which were not legislated in Islam e.g. hosting meals for male new-borns only
  • An act which leads to an innovation can be:
    • If you do an act which is legislated in the shari’ah, but you do it in a way which makes it go against how it should be done e.g. praying nafl salah in congregation
    • Doing permissible actions in a way which makes them seem recommended or obligatory e.g. decorating the mosques nowadays is seen as recommended
    • A sin committed by the people but no one speaks out against it which makes it seem as if it is permissible e.g. shaving the beard
    • Permissible actions held as part of an innovation e.g. the food served during innovated festivals
  • Things which are not recognised as conditions for an action to be an innovation i.e. if it doesn’t have this, it can still be an innovation:
    • For it to have no benefit e.g. making du’aa in unison after salah is good as you make du’aa but the evil in that it is an innovation outweighs this good
    • For it to be carried out on a continuous basis e.g. seeking closeness to Allah by sins can be done once but is still an innovation
    • For it to be done with the intention of seeking closeness to Allah e.g. imitating the kuffar in their customs
    • For the person doing it to have a bad intention e.g. most innovators think they are doing good
    • For it to be completely baseless in the religion e.g. dhikr is prescribed in the religion, but doing it in unison isn’t , so we can’t do it in unison although part of what we are doing (dhikr) is actually prescribed in the religion. This is because we have done the action in a way other than it was prescribed as
  • Imam Al-Nawawi also put another narration of the hadith with similar wordings to show us that it is not just the person who starts the innovation who is wrong, but the person who follows him in doing so is also wrong (whether they are blameworthy or not depends on their knowledge and only Allah can judge that). This is because someone may read the first narration and think that only the person who starts an innovation is in the wrong.


Benefits and action points:

  • Understand the meaning of an innovation from the wording of the hadith
  • Understand the branches and sub-branches that stem from the definition of an innovation
  • Remember that this religion is comprehensive and had something been good for us, then the prophet (sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) and his companions would have been the first to do it, so if you come across something which they haven’t done, and it falls under the category of an innovation, then please stay away from it and stick to what they used to do and you will be safe insha’Allah. Even if others tell you it is not an innovation, but you have a bit of doubt in your heart, then stay away from it because the acts of worship which the prophet (sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) taught us are many and sufficient for us to help us enter Jannah, so stick to them and you will be successful insha’Allah.

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