UNIT TEN – AVOIDING INNOVATION

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It is related that Aisha, may Allah be well pleased with her, said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said: “Anyone who introduces an innovation in this affair of ours which is not part of it, that will be rejected.” One version in Muslim reads: “He who does an act which we have not commanded, will have it rejected [by Allah].” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Sulh, 5; Sahih Muslim, Aqdiyya, 17, 18. See also: Sunan ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 2).

 

NARRATOR

Aisha

1. Aisha was a very intelligent woman who learned how to read and write at a very young age. She never forgot anything that she had learned and memorized.

2. The most important point in relation to the Prophet’s marriage to Aisha was its being contracted through the direct commandment of Allah.

3. The Messenger of Allah loved Aisha greatly. When he was asked, “Who do you love most?” he replied, “Aisha.” When he was then asked, “(What about) from among the men?” he said, “Her father.”

4. Aisha was born nine years before the Emigration, in the city of Mecca. She passed away on the seventeenth day of Ramadan (676 CE), on a Tuesday, in Medina.

 

EXPLANATION

An innovation in religion is referred to in Islam as bid’a.

1. Allah declares the following in relevant Qur’anic verses: “…What is there, after the truth, but error?” (Yunus 10:32). This verse demonstrates that there is no connection between truth and being on the wrong path. What behooves the human being is to be on the side of and in the way of truth. All kinds of innovation in religion and every fabricated thing that does not have its basis in Islam is deviation. Deviation of all kinds has been deemed unacceptable.

“…We have neglected nothing in the Book…” (al-An’am 6:38).

Some scholars have asserted that implied in “the Book” is the Qur’an. This is because none of the proofs and obligations necessary for human beings has been omitted therein.

“…And if you are to dispute among yourselves about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger” (an-Nisa 4:59).

Solutions contravening the criteria espoused by Allah and His Messenger and which violate the truths of the Qur’an and the Sunnah lead the human being and society to an impasse. Individuals and even broader society come to believe, at times, that the most perfect solution lies in their self-discovered and tried paths, methods and systems. They can even convince others of this also. Finding the resolutions to such great issues, however, is only possible through appeal to Allah and His Messenger, and through putting the Qur’an and the Sunnah into practice, without oversight, and freed from any innovations. This hadith constitutes one of the most important foundations of Islam. Anything that does not rest upon the Book and the Sunnah cannot be accepted. Such a thing cannot be considered to be part of religion. Those who disregard the worship and deeds befitting the Qur’an and the Sunnah, lessen or alter them and who thus manipulate (corrupt or distort) religion are also innovators in religion. Their deeds too are rejected and are on no account accepted. Innovation (in religion) is that which does not have a basis in and which cannot be reconciled with the Qur’an or Sunnah and which has no application in the Muslim community. Here, however, it is used to mean the fabrications put forward in religion without an authoritative source. Rendering inactive the Qur’an and Sunnah or neglecting them breeds innovation and gives rise to their fostering and thriving. In that case, the sole way of preventing innovations in religion is to spread the culture of the Qur’an and Sunnah and to prepare the grounds for these to become a way of life. That being the case, how must innovations be understood? According to Imam Shafi’i, innovation is of two kinds: “Anything that contravenes the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the learned consensus, and the way of the Companions is a deviatory and evil innovation; those things and good practices that do not contradict these are good innovations.” This is the reason behind the use of the terms bid’a hasana (good innovation) and bid’a sayyi’a (evil innovation). Shafi’i substantiates this with the words of Umar who responded to a group of Companions performing the Tarawih Prayer particular to Ramadan in congregation, remarking, “What a good innovation this is!”

2. The Messenger of Allah said the following in relation to good and evil innovation: “Whoever introduces a good practice that is followed after him, will have the reward for that and the equivalent of their reward, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. Whoever introduces an evil practice that is followed after him, will bear the burden of sin for that and the equivalent of their burden of sin, without that detracting from their burden in the slightest.” Sahih Muslim, Zakah, 69. See also: Sunan an- Nasa’i, Zakah, 64.

The Companions undertook a great many things that were not in question during the time of the Prophet, and reached unanimous consensus regarding their acceptance and legitimacy. The Qur’an’s being compiled into book form during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and duplicated and distributed to various regions during the caliphate of Uthman are the most known examples in this regard. Efforts in later periods to record, in full, texts of Arabic grammar, the religiously obligatory, accounts, Qur’anic commentary, and hadith constitute further such examples. Even if these are to be termed innovations, they cannot be said to be wrong, as this is precisely how knowledge was preserved, spread and transferred to succeeding generations. This needs to be considered thus with respect to our time and mass media organs, modern printing and publication houses, the Internet, and military and social developments. Those who do not keep pace with such advancements would have no chance of survival in such a world.

3. The sources of Islamic jurisprudence are clearly defined:

a. The Qur’an: The leading source in Islamic jurisprudence. The religion of Islam is learned first and foremost from the Qur’an. “The best among you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.”

b. The Sunnah: The words and actions of the Prophet. Constitutes the second primary source in Islamic jurisprudence. The Sunnah is applied to in the absence of clear injunctions in the Qur’an. In the same way that the Prophet has instructed adherence to his Sunnah, he has also enjoined adherence to the practice of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs as well as his Companions. Such innovations as the supererogatory Prayer during Ramadan performed in congregation during the caliphate of Umar and the establishment of the Call to Prayer inside the mosque for the Friday Prayer during Uthman’s caliphate, constitute the practice of the Companions and must be followed.

c. Ijma al-Umma (Consensus of Scholars): Ijma is the term employed to refer to the consensus of Muslim jurists on a theological matter in a given era. The consensus of scholars on a matter is a source of legislation in Islam and is appealed to when a matter is not found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. For instance, the Tarawih Prayer performed in congregation during Umar’s caliphate.

d. Qiyas al-Fuqaha (Analytical Reasoning of the Scholars): The term qiyas literally means measuring two things with each other and drawing comparisons between them. Umar is known to have advised Abu Musa al-Ash’ari to “Identify similar and analogous cases, carefully examine their causes, and then use qiyas (analytical deduction).”

 

WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED

1. This hadith constitutes one of the cornerstones of Islam. 2. That which does not abrogate or contradict the Qur’an and Sunnah is accepted (The compilation of the Qur’an in book form, commemoration of the Noble Birth, and the like). 3. Innovation (bid’a) is categorized into good (hasana) and evil (sayyi’a) innovation. 4. Muslim scholars have considered innovation in five parts: necessary (wajib), recommended (mandub), permitted (mubah), unlawful (haram), and disliked (makruh). The discovery of weapons of warfare and the readying of forces suitable for the conditions of the time is necessary. Establishing universities and institutes and publishing scholarly works, spreading knowledge, teaching it to others, building schools and the like are recommended and accepted. Eating and drinking of the lawful is permissible, while the unlawful and disliked have been clearly defined and determined in Islam. 5. Both the one who sets an evil precedent (in evil innovation) and the one who follows in their path are equally wrongdoers.

 

EVALUATION

1. What was the distinguishing factor of the Prophet’s marriage to Aisha?

2. What is bid’a and what are its types?

3. What is good and evil innovation according to Imam Shafi’i?

4. What was the Prophet’s response to a group of people who said that they would not recognize any source other than the Qur’an?

5. How has the Prophet enjoined following the practices of the Caliphs and Companions?

6. Provide some examples of good innovations in the time of the Caliphs.

7. What are the qualities that Muslim jurists must possess, in general?

 

 

Tekines, Ayhan. “An Introduction to Hadith” Tughra Books Press. January 2013.