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  7. Bid’ah in Islam: The Debate Over Bid’ah Hasanah and Bid’ah Sayyiah

Bid’ah in Islam: The Debate Over Bid’ah Hasanah and Bid’ah Sayyiah

Bid'ah in Islam
Understanding the distinction between Sunnah and Bid’ah is crucial, as it helps maintain the integrity of Islamic practices by adhering closely to the holy Prophet’s example and avoiding unfounded religious alterations.

Concept of Bid’ah:

The concept of Bid’ah in Islam refers to any innovation in religious belief, practice, or ritual that does not follow the authentic teachings of Islam as outlined in the Quran and the Hadith (Sunnah). This includes actions or beliefs that were not practiced by the Prophet Muhammad (saw), his companions (Sahaabah-e-Kiraam), the succeeding generation (Taabieen), and the generation after them (Tabe Taabieen). The term Bid’ah is derived from the Arabic root word “bada’a,” which means to innovate or introduce something new. 


We are encouraged to seek guidance from the Quran, the word of Allah (swt), to avoid religious confusion and ensure adherence to authentic Islamic teachings. 


Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran:

Quranic Verse on the concept of Bid'ah in Islam
This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. (Surah Al-Ma’idah Ayat 3)

This verse emphasizes the completeness and perfection of Islam as a religion. It signifies that with the revelation of the Quran and the guidance of Hazrat Muhammad (saw), Allah (swt) has provided comprehensive guidance for all aspects of life. The phrase “perfected your religion” indicates that there is no need for additional innovations or amendments to the core teachings of Islam.


At the same time, while this definition is connected with religious inventions or innovations, Islam encourages innovation in worldly matters such as science, technology, arts, and culture. Muslims are urged to seek knowledge and excel in different fields, as long as their innovations do not conflict with Islamic principles. These innovations should aim to benefit both humanity and Muslims themselves. 


Bid’ah in Hadith

The Hadith literature further elaborates on the concept of Bid’ah. For instance, Sahih al-Bukhari (2697) records a narration from Hazrat Aisha (ra) that: 

Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “If somebody innovates something that is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected.” 

Sahih al-Bukhari 2697

Hazrat Kathir bin’ Abdullah (ra) narrated from his father, that his grandfather said:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah (swt) say: ‘Whoever revives a Sunnah of mine that dies out after I am gone, he will have a reward equivalent to that of those among the people who act upon it, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. Whoever introduces an innovation (Bid’ah) with which Allah (swt) and his Messenger are not pleased, he will have a (burden of) sin equivalent to that of those among the people who act upon it, without that detracting from their sins in the slightest.'” 

Sunan Ibn Majah 210

Jabir b. Abdullah said:

When Allah’s Messenger (saw) delivered the sermon, his eyes became red, his voice rose, and his anger increased so that he was like one giving a warning against the enemy and saying: The enemy has made a morning attack on you and in the evening too. He would also say: The Last Hour, and I have been sent like these two. And he would join his forefinger and middle finger; and would further say: The best of the speech is embodied in the Book of Allah, and the best of the guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad. And the most evil affairs are their innovations, and every innovation is an error. He would further say: I am more dear to a Muslim even than his self; and he who left behind property that is for his family; and he who dies under debt or leaves children (in helplessness), the responsibility (of paying his debt and bringing up his children) lies on me. 

Sahih Muslim: 2005

These Hadiths, among others, serve as reminders to us, Muslims, of the stance of Prophet Muhammad (saw) on Bid’ah and the importance of preserving the authenticity of Islamic practices. They caution against introducing new elements into our religion and stress the need for us to adhere closely to the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah to avoid deviation from the true path of Islam. 


Types of Bid’ah in Islam

Some Scholars have categorized Bid’ah into two primary categories: Bid’ah Hasanah (commendable innovation) and Bid’ah Sayyiah (blameworthy innovation), each determined by its alignment with the principles of Islam.


Bid’ah Hasanah 

According to some Islamic scholars, Bid’ah Hasanah is a term used to describe a new and beneficial addition to the practices of worship within the Islamic faith. This positive addition to Islamic traditions can potentially enhance or improve the practice of the faith. 


It is important to note that Bid’ah Hasanah is still considered Bid’ah. 


Though, It’s true that Islam encourages people who start good traditions, but this is only limited to acts that complement the holy Quran and Sunnah.  


Let’s say a person donates something to charity, and upon seeing this act, multiple others are inspired to do the same. We all know that the holy Quran and Sunnah encourage the Muslim Ummah for Sadaqah, Zakat, and Charities. So, the first person’s act will be considered a Start of Good Tradition


Remember, this can not be categorized as Bid’ah Hasanah or even a Bid’ah, as they have simply followed what we already have been taught by the Quran and Sunnah. 


The following Hadith further clarifies the above concept: 


Mundhir b. Jarir reported on the authority of his father:

While we were in the company of the Messenger of Allah (saw) in the early hours of the morning, some people came there (who) were barefooted, naked, wearing striped woollen clothes, or cloaks, with their swords hung (around their necks). Most of them, nay, all of them, belonged to the group of Mudar. The colour of the face of the Messenger of Allah (saw) underwent a change when he saw them in poverty. He then entered (his house) and came out and commanded Bilal (to pronounce Adhan). He pronounced Adhan and Iqima, and he (the Holy Prophet) observed prayer (along with his Companion) and then addressed (them reciting verses of the Holy Qur’an): ‘” 0 people, fear your Lord, Who created you from a single being” to the end of the verse,” Allah is ever a Watcher over you” (iv. 1). (He then recited) a verse of Sura Hashr:” Fear Allah. and let every soul consider that which it sends forth for the morrow and fear Allah” (lix. 18). (Then the audience began to vie with one another in giving charity.) Some donated a dinar, others a dirham, still others clothes, some donated a sa’ of wheat, some a sa’ of dates; till he (the Holy Prophet) said: (Bring) even if it is half a date. Then a person from among the Ansar came there with a money bag which his hands could scarcely lift; in fact, they could not (lift). Then the people followed continuously, till I saw two heaps of eatables and clothes, and I saw the face of the Messenger (saw) glistening, like gold (on account of joy). The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: He who sets a good precedent in Islam, there is a reward for him for this (act of goodness) and reward of that also who acted according to it subsequently, without any deduction from their rewards; and he who sets in Islam an evil precedent, there is upon him the burden of that, and the burden of him also who acted upon it subsequently, without any deduction from their burden. 

(Sahih Muslim:1017a)

The Hadith underscores the principle that starting a beneficial tradition, such as acts of charity or kindness, is highly regarded in the Islamic faith. It does not, however, endorse the introduction of new religious practices that contradict established Islamic teachings.


If you want to learn more about the concepts of Sadaqah, Zakat, and other charitable acts, you can take a look at our blog posts below:


  1. Islamic Charity: Sadaqah, Zakat, and More
  2. Acts of Sadaqah Jariyah in Islam
  3. Unbelievable Benefits of Sadaqah

Bid’ah Sayyiah

Bid’ah Sayyiah encompasses practices within Islam that are considered innovative and lack support from essential Islamic texts, such as the Quran and Hadith. These practices are labeled blameworthy because they stray from established teachings and could lead to misguidance. 


As mentioned above, even Bid’ah Hasanah, which introduces beneficial practices to Islamic worship, can fall under Bid’ah Sayyiah if it deviates from Islam’s core teachings and misleads the faithful. Scholars typically reject such innovations for introducing unsupported practices or beliefs.


Common Bid’ah Practices in Islam

The examples of common bid’ah practices vary across different cultural and geographical contexts. However, some examples include:


  • Celebrating Shabe-ba’rat (15th of Shaban)
  • Celebrating the night of ascension (Isra and Mi’raj – 27th of Rajab)
  • Celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday (Mawlid)
  • Using prayer beads for dhikr (remembrance of God)
  • Making group dua after each Salah. (There is no reference in which the Prophet made dua after each Salah, with the Sahaba repeating “Ameen” after him. However, post-Salah dhikr and individual duas are found in authentic narrations.)
  • Celebrating Urs (Yearly festivals) of saints.
  • Sacrificing animals in the name of saints.
  • Reciting the Azan at the grave after burying the deceased and maintaining the belief that seeking intercession from the deceased makes it easier for them to respond to inquiries.

Please note that not all Islamic scholars endorse these practices and should be approached with caution. As such, we are encouraged to adhere closely to the Quran and the Sunnah and to seek guidance from qualified scholars when evaluating religious practices and beliefs.


The Difference Between Sunnah and Bid’ah

Sunnah refers to the practices, teachings, and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), which are considered exemplary and are followed by Muslims around the world. These are well-documented and authenticated through hadiths, which are records of the holy Prophet’s words and actions.


For further insight, one might explore the Sihah Sitta – 6 Authentic Hadith Books, which are among the most respected collections of hadiths. 


Learn More: Nubuwwah in Islam: Prophethood of Muhammad (SAW)


Conversely, as discussed above, Bid’ah refers to any innovation in religious practices that lacks foundation in either the Quran or the Sunnah. Such innovations are generally viewed with disfavor, as they may introduce changes that stray from Islam’s foundational teachings. 


Concluding Thoughts: Avoiding Bid’ah

In conclusion, Bid’ah in Islam is all about understanding what’s okay and what’s not when it comes to new things in our religion. Islam was made perfect by Allah and shown to us by Prophet Muhammad (saw), so we don’t need to add new religious practices. We’ve learned from the Quran and Hadith that we should stick to what Prophet Muhammad (saw) taught us and not make up new ways of practicing our faith.


There’s a big discussion about Bid’ah Hasanah and Bid’ah Sayyiah – basically, good innovations and bad ones. While Islam encourages the initiation of positive traditions that align with its teachings, such as acts of charity, it firmly discourages innovations in religious rituals that lack a basis in the Quran and Sunnah.


It’s important to know the difference between doing good things in our community and changing our religious practices. We should always go back to the Quran and Hadith to check if something new is okay. And when we’re not sure, it’s best to ask someone who knows a lot about Islam.


So, let’s keep our faith pure by following what’s been taught in the Quran and by Prophet Muhammad (saw). This way, we stay on the right path and keep our connection with Allah strong.

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