Q&A-The Nature of Bid’ah
During one of our meetings, we discussed the word “Bid’ah.” Some of us said that it refers to everything that contravenes the command of The Legislator (Al-Shaari’), and others said that it refers only to contravening the command of The Legislator in matters of ‘Ibadaat (acts of worship). Could you please clarify this issue? Jazakum Allahu Khairan.
1- The commands of The Legislator are two types: The first type is in Seeghat Al-Amr (the form of a command) and accompanied with the explanation of the method to complete this command (i.e. the practical steps to implement it from start to finish). For example, Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
“And perform Salat” [Al-Baqara, 2:43]
this is in Seeghat Al-Amr, but it was not left to man to pray however he pleases, but rather other texts were revealed that explain exactly how prayer is performed, including the intention, standing, recitation, Rukoo’, Sujood, etc. Equally, Allah سبحانه وتعالى revealed:
وَلِلّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ
“And Hajj to the House (Ka’ba) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah” [Al-Imran, 3:97],
and this is also in Seeghat Al-Amr, but in the form of “news in the context of a command,” and this is also accompanied by texts explaining how this command to perform Hajj is to be completed from start to finish.
The second type is also in Seeghat Al-Amr, but is general (‘Aam) or unrestricted (Mutlaq), and is not accompanied by the method to complete the command (the practical steps to implement it). For example, the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“Whoever (loaned something or sold something on credit), then the measure must be known, the weight must be known, and the period (until payment is made) must be known” [Bukhari];
here, the command with relation to selling something on credit is in Seeghat Al-Jumla Al-Shartiyyah (the form of a conditional sentence), ordering us to know the measure, weight and payment period, but The Legislator did not explain the specific steps to complete the contract, such as, for example, having the two contractors stand before each other, one of them recite something from the Qur’an, then each of them take a step forward, then they hug each other, then they discuss the credit contract, followed by an offer and an acceptance, etc.
Another example is the Ahadith of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم:
“Gold (traded for) gold is Riba, except when (it is exchanged immediately in the same meeting)” [Bukhari] and
“Gold (traded) for gold, likeness to likeness, and paper (traded) for paper, likeness to likeness” [Bukhari and Muslim].
These Ahadith are “a command in the form of news,” but the specific steps to complete the trading were not given, as explained in the previous examples.
In another example, it was narrated to us through authentic Ahadith that the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم would stand up when a funeral procession would pass him. It was narrated in Sahih Muslim:
“If you see a funeral procession, then stand up for it…”
and the actions of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم are a form of a Talab (request or command), but he صلى الله عليه وسلم did not show us exactly how to perform the exact steps related to this command, as demonstrated in the first example.
Hence, there are commands from The Legislator that were accompanied by texts detailing the practical steps for implementation, and there are commands from The Legislator that are general (‘Aam) or unrestricted (Mutlaq) that were not accompanied by detailed practical steps for implementation.
2- The expression (Istilaah) “Bid’ah” applies when a command of The Legislator, with which texts detailing the practical steps for implementation were also revealed, are contravened. This is because the command was not implemented exactly as instructed by The Legislator.
The linguistic (Lughawi) meaning of the word “Bid’ah,” as explained in Lisaan Al-Arab: “The Mubtadi’ (person who carries out a Bid’ah) is the person who brings forth something in a manner that is different than was known previously […] and if you (Abda’t) something, it means that you invented it and it is unique.”
The above definition also applies to the Istilaahi meaning of the word “Bid’ah,” i.e. contravening the Shar’iee method, as detailed by Islamic legislation, to complete a Shar’iee matter. This is what the Hadith,
“Whoever performs an act that is not upon our command, it is rejected” [Bukhari and Muslim]
is referring to. Thus, whoever performs three Sujood (prostrations) instead of two during his Salat has committed a Bid’ah, and whoever throws eight stones at the Jamrat of Mina instead of seven has committed a Bid’ah. Every Bid’ah is a misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire (i.e. he is sinful for the action).
3- Contravening a command of The Legislator that was not accompanied by the practical steps for implementation falls under the classification of Hukum Shari’ee, and is defined as Haram, Makruh or Mubah if the address was Khitaab Takleef (prescriptive address), and Baatil (invalid) or Faasid (corrupt) if the address was Khitaab Wadh’ (descriptive address). This, in turn, is dependent on the form of the Qareena (conjunctive evidence) that accompanies the command, whether in the form of Jazm (decisive), Tarjeeh (outweighing), or Takhyeer (choice).
So, going back to our first example, if someone sells something on credit (i.e. completed the contract of sale) in contravention to the command of The Legislator (i.e. without knowing the measure, or the weight, or the deadline when payment will be made), it cannot be said that he has committed a Bid’ah, but rather it is said that this contract contravenes the command of The Legislator and is Baatil or Faasid depending on the type of contravention.
And in the second example, if a person traded gold for gold in contravention to the command:
“Gold (traded for) gold is Riba, except when (it is exchanged immediately in the same meeting)” and “…likeness to likeness,” (i.e. not exchanged immediately and not likeness to likeness),
it cannot be said that he has committed a Bid’ah by contravening the command, but rather it is said that he committed Haram by being involved in a Riba contract.
And failure to stand up when a funeral procession passes, choosing to remain seated, cannot be called a Bid’ah, but rather is called Mubah (permissible) because Islamic texts have been narrated for both cases. It was reported by Muslim of Ali Bin Abi Taalib (ra) who said:
“The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم stood up then sat down” [Muslim].
This also applies to the command of The Legislator,
“…seek (the wife) with (strong) Deen, otherwise you will (lose)” [Bukhari],
where contravening this command cannot be called a Bid’ah, but rather the Islamic ruling regarding marrying a woman who does not have a strong Deen should be researched. This is because the practical steps for choosing a wife have not been given, where, for example, the man might stand before the woman and recites Ayat ul-Kursi, then he takes one step forward and recites the two Mu’awithaat, then he takes one step forward and says Bismillah, then he extends his right arm forward and proposes marriage, and so on.
This also applies to the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم to the tradesmen,
“O tradesmen, this buying and selling (or market) is attended by Laghw (false speech) and swearing oaths, so fill it with charity” [Abu Dawood and Ahmed],
due to their excessive swearing of oaths during trade. But The Legislator did not clarify specific steps to implement the command “…so fill it” and therefore it cannot be said that if someone sold something and swore an oath, but then did not give charity, that he come with a Bid’ah; rather, the Islamic ruling regarding a tradesman not giving charity after swearing oaths should be researched on its own.
This applies to all contraventions of the commands of The Legislator that were not accompanied with specific steps for implementation.
4- By looking more deeply (Istiqraa’) into the Islamic legal texts, we find that only the majority of the ‘Ibadaat (acts of worship) are accompanied by exact, practical steps for implementing the commands of The Legislator, and therefore Bid’ah does not occur outside of the ‘Ibadaat.
We say “the majority of the ‘Ibadaat” here because some of them were not accompanied by practical steps for implementation. One example of this is Jihad. Even though it is an act of ‘Ibaada, but the commands related to it came unrestricted (Mutlaq) or general (‘Aam), such as the verse:
قَاتِلُواْ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَكُم مِّنَ الْكُفَّارِ
“Fight those of the disbelievers that are close to you” [At-Tawba, 9:123]
and the verse:
جَاهِدِ الْكُفَّارَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَاغْلُظْ عَلَيْهِمْ
“Fight (Jaahiduu) against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be harsh against them” [At-Tawba, 9:73]
These commands are not accompanied with Islamic texts to detail the exact steps to implement them, such as how to fight: if you would recite an Ayah, then shoot a bullet, then take a step forward, then shoot another bullet, then take a step to the right, and so on.
Hence, a person that does not perform Jihad when it is prescribed upon him is not said to have come forth with a Bid’ah, but rather he has committed a Haram for his neglecting Jihad.
5- In conclusion, contravening a command of The Legislator that was accompanied by an exact explanation of the steps required to complete the command is a Bid’ah. And contravening an unrestricted (Mutlaq) or general (‘Aam) command of The Legislator that is not accompanied by an exact explanation of the steps required to complete the command is a contravention of the Ahkam Shar’iee: Haram, Makruh, or Mubah if it is in a Khitaab Takleef (prescriptive address), and Baatil or Faasid if in a Khitaab Wadh’ (descriptive address).
And by looking more deeply (Istiqraa’), we find that the majority of ‘Ibadaat were accompanied by the exact steps for implementation, and therefore contravening these laws falls under the classification of Bid’ah.
6- As for the evidences regarding Mu’amalaat (transactions) and Jihad, these were revealed in an unrestricted (Mutlaq) and general (‘Aam) fashion, and therefore contravening these commands falls under the classification of Ahkam Shar’iee: Haram, Makruh, or Mubah if it is in a Khitaab Takleef (prescriptive address), and Baatil or Faasid if in a Khitaab Wadh’ (descriptive address).