Dividing Bid`ah (innovation in religion) into five categories

Question 158: Please comment on the Hadeeth mentioned below, as it is controversial among the students of knowledge. I would like you to explain it in writing, so that they can all read the explanation and correct this misconception. The Hadeeth states:

Jaabir ibn `Abdullaah (may Allaah be pleased with him) narrated that Muslim, Saheeh, Book on Friday, no. 867; Al-Nasaa’ee, Sunan, Book on the two `Eed Prayers, no. 1578; Aboo Daawood, Sunan, Book on tribute, spoils, and rulership, no. 2954; Ibn Maajah, Sunan, Introduction, no. 45; Ahmad, Musnad, vol. 3, p. 311; and Al-Daarimee, Sunan, Introduction, p. 206.Whenever Allaah’s Messenger (peace he upon him) delivered a Khutbah (sermon), his eyes would become red, his tone loud, and his anger increased as if he were warning against an attacking army, saying: “The enemy is about to strike in the morning and is advancing against you in the evening.” He would also say: “The last Hour and I have been sent like these two”; he would join his forefinger and middle finger; and would further say: “The best of speech is embodied in the Book of Allaah, and the best of guidance is that given by Muhammad (peace be upon him). The most evil affairs are novelties; and every Bid`ah leads to misguidance.” Then, he would say: “I should be dearer to Muslims than themselves. If a person leaves behind property, it will be for their families. If a person dies while in debt or leaves children (in need), the responsibility (of paying their debt and bringing up their children) lies on me.” Narrated by Muslim. It is mentioned in the Hadeeth that every Bid`ah leads to misguidance. I oppose Bid`ah, and I refute it with the authentic Sunnah. Thus, I am asking that you explain this Hadeeth in order to clarify the linguistic and the Shar’ee definition of Bid`ah, so that I might not renounce something which is not a Bid`ah.

Some Fuqahaa’ (Muslim jurists) said that there are five rulings on Bid`ah. Is there any evidence for this? They claim that it may be Waajib (obligatory), Mubaah (permissible), Makrooh (disliked), Mandub (commendable), or Haraam (prohibited). Please, your honor, explain this in detail, as the students of knowledge have greatly disagreed on the meaning of “every Bid`ah leads to misguidance”. They say that the word “every” makes it all-inclusive, unless it is followed by an exception. Aboo Daawood and Al-Tirmidee also narrated a lengthy Hadeeth in which a part of it reads, Hold fast to my Sunnah and the examples of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs who will come after me. Adhere to them and hold to them fast. Avoid novelties (in religion), for every novelty is a Bid`ah, and every Bid`ah leads to misguidance. It is narrated in the exact wording: “every novelty is a Bid`ah”. I hope Your honor that you will settle this problematic issue for me, which no one else has been able to.

Answer: First, this Sharee`ah is fully established by Allaah, and needs no human to complete it, as Allaah states, This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islaam as your religion. (Soorah Al-Maa’idah, 5: 3). 

Second, the fundamental rule on the acts of ‘Ibadah (worship) is that it is Tawqeefiyyah (bound by a religious text and not subject to personal opinion). Whoever claims that an ‘Ibadah is legitimate should provide evidence to support it; otherwise, it is rejected. It is authentically reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) stated, Whoever introduces something into this affair of ours which is not of, it will be rejected. In another narration, Whoever performs any act which is not in accordance with our command, it is to be rejected.… read more here.

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