Question: 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]
“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).
Allah tortures those who torture the people in this life (Muslim)
“Do as I say and not as I do” if ever there was a mantra for the US and its allies in the ‘War on Terror’ then surely this would be it. After over a decade of pursuing “the terrorists” as George W Bush coined them, the CIA, the American administration and any moral authority the Western world claimed to have had, has been destroyed by the latest Senate report into interrogation techniques used by the CIA.
The some 500 pages of several thousand that were released show a systematic, deliberate and prolonged torture of prisoners by the CIA held in secret locations across the world. This was no ordinary maltreatment of prisoners in order to gain confessions or extract information. What the CIA’s ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ (EIT) did was truly medieval and barbaric. Developed in a post 9/11 world when the US administration and its agencies felt they had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted with the Muslim world and Muslim suspects, EIT was used as a frontline tool against those abducted and rendered around the world for torture. The Senate report highlights shocking cases of repeated waterboarding, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded some 182 times, he was made to sleep in a coffin and often confined to a box too small for his body size It was also reported that more than one detainee almost drowned from repeated waterboarding. Other prisoners were subjected to severe sleep deprivation not being allowed to sleep for days on end. Of the most shocking techniques was the forced rectal feeding and hydration of prisoners for no apparent reason but the enjoyment of the perpetrators.
Some of the other techniques included: being stripped naked and dragged through filthy corridors, sexual threats to prisoners and their families, beatings, slapping, psychological torture and being kept in stress positions for hours. There is one case in which a prisoner was chained to a cold concrete fall overnight and died of possible hypothermia. All this is taken from what has been revealed in the report, the mind finds it difficult to comprehend what has been hidden from public consumption!
Torture a historical precedence
Many commentators have suggested that this is the “never again” moment for the CIA and the American administration. They have commended the bravery of those who had the moral courage to come out and reveal these findings. However we have been here before and this is not the first time the CIA has been implicated in the torture and killing of people to facilitate the political interests of the government in power.
The CIA has been developing the kind of torture techniques described in the Senate report for many decades. The kind of extreme sensory deprivation that is seen at Guantanamo Bay and other more secret prisons around the world is based upon the work of Ewen Cameron’s CIA sponsored MKULTRA mind control program in the 1950’s. A technique based upon depriving the subject of any kind of sensory input so severe that the subjects would in theory be more susceptible to their integrators. These techniques were included in the CIA’s KUBARK interrogation manual, a manual used widely by dictatorial regimes throughout Latin America in the 1960’s to torture and silence their political opponents. A manual which many decades later surfaced at both Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
The idea that the CIA acted in a post 9/11, post apocalyptic setting in which maybe lines were crossed inadvertently does not stand up to scrutiny. The CIA has both history and form in the kind of torture perpetrated during the “War on Terror”.
What is unique about the Senate report is that on the surface it seems that the CIA have been exposed as having made mistakes. The supposed reaction of the world is meant to be one of gratitude for such transparency. After all there are not many other Intelligence agencies in the world would come clean about its torture techniques, so the theory goes.
However this act of transparency is nothing more than a game of smokes and mirrors a way to hide the real truth about the extent, global complicity and barbarity of the abuse carried out on Muslims kidnapped and then sent around the world for torture. This is no different to the Abu Ghraib scandal where only a fraction of the actual material depicting the barbaric treatment of inmates was released, all further efforts to release more material have been repeatedly blocked.
The Senate report describes how at points the torture was so bad it brought hardened CIA operatives to tears. Yet these operatives still continued to follow orders and none of them blew the whistle on the torture tactics. The excuses being made for those involved in torture sound very much like those made by the SS and Gestapo that they were simply following orders.
Coalition of the willing
The US did not only torture its enemies, it garnered the support of its global partners in the “War on Terror” to lend it a hand. With over 50 countries implicated in the report the US had a coalition of the willing, ready at its beck and call to torture suspects. Some of these are amongst the most repressive regimes in the world, the likes of Syria, Uzbekistan and Egypt. Countries and dictators who the America would want to distance itself from publicly were doing their bidding in private. This gave America legal cover and immunity from prosecution as the torture was carried out by a third party, even though CIA operatives were involved in the actual torture.
One of the countries known to have applied pressure to have its name removed from the report is the UK. Known for its rendition tactics the UK has previously admitted sending the likes of Abdelhakim Belhadj to Libya to be tortured by their then friend Muammar Gaddafi.
Just like the the US, the UK has a history of being implicated in the torture of its geo-political opponents. The recent Brazilian truth commission report which looked into the systematic torture by the military regime which ruled between 1964 to 1985 found that both the US and UK trained Brazilians in the dark arts of torture.
‘The rules of the game are changing’
Tony Blair after the 7/7 attacks declared, “Let no one be in any doubt that the rules of the game are changing.”His statement echoed an earlier statement by Senior British diplomat Robert Cooper who in 2002 stated, “Among ourselves, we keep the law but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle.”Rendition, enhanced interrogation techniques, black sites, assassination programmes were not simply the product of a intelligence agency gone rogue. It was argued that the “normal rules” no longer applied, those things that were perhaps unthinkable were now the acceptable norm when it came to the Muslims and the Muslim world.
These heinous crimes were perpetrated under supervision of Western Governments. The CIA in defence of their operations have stated George W Bush was fully aware of the use of torture being employed. Similarly the British Government had given approval for the UK to be used as transit routes for the extraordinary rendition programme.
Therefore it is clear that there are no limits for the US and its allies in the pursuit of their ideological and political interests. When it comes to the Muslim world, ideas such as Human rights, right to a fair trial and innocent until proven guilty mean nothing. The very values they espouse to be the cornerstones of their foreign policy are nothing more than political spin for domestic consumption.
Behind closed doors those holding out an olive branch of peace and justice become the very monsters they claim to be fighting against. It seems to be something inherent in the values of the Western powers that their attitude towards anyone who opposes their political hegemony is that of master and slave. They believe they have the unalienable, god given right to torture, maim and kill anyone who dares get in their way.
Despite calls for the prosecution of those involved in the use of EIT it is unlikely these will ever come to fruition. America’s guilt doesn’t seem to go beyond simply holding it hands up and admitting there may have been some wrongdoings by a few individuals.
This attitude was summed up in the words of former Vice President Dick Cheney when he was asked about the Senate report he replied “The report’s full of crap”.
Those who wish the Ummah to accept submission before US hegemony have sought to amend Islam so that it does not exceed the boundaries set by Blair and Bush. They carry the old call of “modernism”. They would have us accept the Western way of life because the West is strong. Such a call is in fact just one part of the crusade against Islam that is being waged under the guise of a “war against terrorism”. The modernisers who sit in the courts of Blair and Bush and at the feet of the tyrant rulers in the Muslim countries suggest that Islam can change from time to time, and from place to place.
The consequence of this concept is that certain rules of Islam, would not apply, due to the new environment they live in, and that we live in a new time and age. So rules regarding riba, marriage, social interaction, international law, ruling systems, would need to be updated, according to the said principle. The proponents of this understanding use the example of Imam Shafi to legitimise their viewpoint.
Salam Al-Maryati, a Muslim academic from Iraq, addressing the US State Department on “Moderation in Islam” stated at the end of January 2002, “In fact, Shafi had two schools of thought, one when he resided in Iraq and one when he moved to Egypt, and when asked why there were two, he said because they were for two different peoples. If place is a variable in Islamic thinking, then time can also be a factor. ”
In order to address this point, we need to look to the life of the great Imam, and see what he was exposed to, in terms of ideas, and the different methodologies.
Muhammad ibn Idris ibn al-`Abbas, al-Imam al-Shafi`i, Abu `Abd Allah al-Shafi`i al-Hijazi al-Qurashi al-Hashimi al-Muttalibi (d. 204AH), from the House of the Prophet, the unequalled one of the great mujtahid imams and jurisprudent par excellence, was born in Gaza in 150AH, the year of Imam Abu Hanifa’s death. He moved to Mecca at the age of two, following his father’s death, where he grew up. He took to learning Arabic language and poetry until he gave himself to fiqh, beginning with hadith. He studied under two great scholars, Muslim Bin Khalid al Zingi, the Mufti of Mecca and Sufiyan Bin Uyaynah, may Allah be pleased with them. He memorised the Qur’an at the age of seven, then Imam Malik’s Muwatta’ at the age of ten, at which time his teacher would deputise him to teach in his absence.
At aged thirteen, he moved to Madinah, where he went to see Imam Malik, who was impressed by his memory and intelligence. While there he was exposed to Imam Malik’s (who belonged to the school of hadith) methodology of extraction. Imam Shafi then moved to Baghdad where he met scholars from the Hanafi school of Thought such as the great Imam Mohammad Bin al-Hasan al-Shaybani. Here he was exposed to the Hanafi school of Fiqh, which was known for being part of the Ra’ee tradition.
There he refined his legal thinking in constant debates with the Hanafi jurists where he took Malik’s position in defence of tradition. This experience had a tremendous impact in moulding his own legal thinking since it brought to light the weaknesses in the Maliki school of thought. After moving back to Mecca for a short time he then returned to Baghdad. While in Baghdad, he wrote the old edition the tremendous al-Risala, a book containing the methodology of Usul al fiqh. This old edition is not available to us, but it is quoted by some of the Scholars, like al-Fakhr al-Razi. But he finally decided to leave for Egypt where he could finally settle down to do more work in Fiqh and its methodology.
While there, he was exposed to the methodology of Imam Laith ibn Saad. Imam Laith was an exceptionally knowledgeable Mujtahid. Shafi is quoted as saying “Laith was a greater faqih than Malik but his students wasted him (through not preserving his teachings).” (Siyar i`lam al-nubala’, 8/156)
In Egypt, he wrote his new edition of Risala after this new experience. So, this tells us he became more matured in his understanding, in Usul al Fiqh.
Why did Imam Shafi Change his Methodology?
Imam Shafi’ did not change his methodology because of geographically moving from one place to another. This can be clearly seen. The change in the methodology has nothing to do with the change of environment. Changing the methodology is related to the change in the way of thinking, which characterises Imam Shafi’s change.
Imam Shafi had defined his Usul and wrote it in his old Risala that was written in Iraq before he arrived and settled in Egypt. Shafi began writing his Usul before the end of the second century. Reports tell us also that he started writing his Usul at early age and he kept reviewing his writings, changing some of what he wrote, making some modifications until he was able to re-write the new Risala in Egypt.
As it is clear from his life, prior to Egypt, Imam Shafi’ was exposed to two schools of Fiqh. He wrote his first edition of Al Risalah and later, matured in his thinking and settled on the second edition of Al Risalah.
Dr. Muhammad Baltaaji in his book Manahij ul Tashri al Islaami fil Qarn al Thani al Hijri (The Methodologies of Islamic Legislation During the Second Century Hijri), states ” Shafi was criticised because of this continuous change. But, he responded to that criticism. Ibn Abi Hatim reported that Shafi once asked Amr Bin Sawad al-Serhi: ‘why do you not copy my books?” the man remained quiet. Then a third person said to Shafi: “he claims that you wrote, then, you changed, then you wrote and after that you changed” The man means that this continuous change is the reason why al-Sehri was not copying Shafi’s books. Then Shafi answered: “now, it is matured” (Vol. 1 p.65).
Also, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was once asked by Mohammad Bin Muslim ar-Razi to tell him which books of Shafi he should choose. Ahmad answered: “Choose books which were written in Egypt. The books he wrote in Iraq were not well done. Then he went to Egypt where he wrote his books in more profound way.” (The Methodologies of Islamic Legislation During the Second Century Hijri Vol.1 p.31)
In Egypt, Imam Shafi’ was exposed to the Fiqh of Imam Laith Bin Sad. Imam Laith died in 175 A.H. He was in Egypt but he travelled to Baghdad in which he met Abu Hanifa himself and had a chance to meet Ibn Shihab al Zuhri, Nafi’ and others. Imam ibn Hajr says that: “The knowledge of the Tabi’een ended with Laith”.
Imam Laith also had the chance to meet Imam Malik. In fact, Laith was the Shaykh of Imam Malik himself. Thus, in Egypt, Imam Shafi had a chance to be exposed to the Fiqh of Laith. Shafi’ came to Egypt fourteen years after the death of Imam Laith. This means that the influence of Imam Laith was still strong in Egypt. Thus, one can say that this exposure matured Imam Shafi’ and thus, his entire method underwent change.
So asserting that the environment changed Imam Shafi’ is very vague and baseless. What is meant be the environment? Is it the soil of Egypt? Is it its Nile? Is it the way of life? The physical environment has nothing to do with all of this. The way of life both in Egypt, Baghdad, Medina, Mecca were the same. All were living the Islamic way of life in the same era. The differences in some customs practiced in one area, do not make the environment different. A new custom in a new area, may oblige a Mujtahid to study and arrive at a new rule for a certain custom, since he never faced that custom before. However, a rule for an issue, which is facing the people in Baghdad and the Hukm applied for the people in Baghdad should be exactly the same for the people in Egypt or the Hijaz, or in the UK, or US. Riba is haram in both Egypt and Baghdad, and the UK, or Lahore. The change in the environment does not make Riba allowed in Egypt while it was prohibited in Baghdad.
In order to create impact in the minds of the people, those who propose that a change of place changes the methodology say that Shafi moved from One State to another. The fact of the matter is that both Baghdad and Egypt, were part of ONE State, they were not two states. There was no visible difference between Baghdad and Egypt at that time. The only difference is the existence of Imam Laith in Egypt who was by himself affected by many schools of Fiqh. Imam Shafi before arriving in Egypt was exposed to the School of Madinah and the School of Kufah (In Iraq). But in Egypt he had a chance to get exposed to another school of Laith. This affected the maturity of Imam Shafi’.
An issue such as a British woman accepting Islam while her husband remains a non-Muslim is not a new issue. This problem occurred at the time of the Prophet (SAW) when his (SAW) daughter Zaynab (RA) accepted Islam while her husband remained a non-Muslim. Therefore, in order to solve this problem today, we need to go back to the legal texts and study them in order to acquire the Islamic ruling. This applies to all other issues as well.
This is a misunderstanding in the nature, of Islam, and the dynamism of the Islamic Jurisprudence. So with regards With regards to issues involving adoption, wills, inheritance, and burial, these have rules that are discussed extensively in Islam and cannot be changed. As for the new problems, this requires a Mujtahid to extract rulings whether the problem happens in the East or the West. So the need to change Islam from place to place and time to time, using Imam Shafi, as an example is mistaken.