In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise is due to Allah, and peace be on His Prophets and Messengers that He has chosen above the rest of the people.
It is said in Lisaan Al-‘Arab: “Sann Al-Shayi’ (the root word of Sunnah)” (linguistically) means to sharpen something and to polish it. And the “Sunnah of Allah” means His laws, His commands and His prohibitions (this is the opinion of Al-Lihyaani). And the meaning of “Sannah Allah Lil Naas” means “Allah has clarified it for the people”. And the meaning of “Sanna Allah Sunnatann” means “Allah has clarified the correct method for something”. Allah (swt) states in the Qur’an “It was a practice (Sunnah of Allah) approved by Allah amongst those of old who have passed away” [TMQ Al-Ahzaab: 33]. So the words “Sunnat Allah” have been established on the verb implication, thus the verse means “Allah has approved the practice of killing those who were hypocritical with the Prophets and fought them”.
And “Sananntuha Sannann” and “Astanantuha”, means “I followed it” and “I have established a path for you to follow, so follow it”. And in the Hadith: “Whoever establishes a good Sunnah (Sanna Sunnatann), then he will have its reward and the reward of those who act upon it, and whoever establishes a bad Sunnah…”, is regarding an action that people can follow. And when a person starts an action and a people acted based on it, it is said about that person: “He is the one who established it (Sannah)”.
The word “Sunnah” was mentioned many times in the Ahadith, and the default meaning is “the method and life-path”. And if the word “Sunnah” was used in an Islamic legislative context, then the meaning of the word is “whatever the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) has commanded, forbade, and recommended in word or action, from what was not mentioned in the Qur’an”. Hence, the terms “Qur’an and Sunnah (Ahadith)” were used as the sources of legislation.
And it was mentioned in Al-TaTHheeb: “Al-Sunnah is the praised, guided path”, and therefore it was said “so-and-so is from the Ahl Al-Sunnah”, meaning “so-and-so is from those who follow the praised, guided path”, which is taken from “Al-Sanani” (the path)”.
And the saying “Continue on your on Sanan” means “Continue on your intended goal and direction”. And paths have different “Sanan”. So, “The Sanan/Sunnah/Sinnah/Sunutuh of the path” all mean “its tactics”, where it is said “The Sanan and the Sunnah of the path has fooled you” (end)
Most Islamic scholars today, when discussing the Ahadith, speak of reviving the Sunnahs and the extraneous deeds, but overlook the words speaking of the “Islamic method for life”. They take the Sunnah in its Fiqhi meaning, or by its technical meaning with the Muhadditheen, and do not link it to its original meaning that ties these two meanings together fundamentally, and around which the Islamic way of life revolves.
The technical meaning of “the Sunnah”, according to the Muhadditheen, is: “What is attributed to the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) of actions, words, silence, physical description, and manners, or was attributed to a Sahabi or a Tabi’ee where there is no possibility of difference of opinion of it.
The technical meaning of “the Sunnah”, according to the Fuqahaa, is: “The Mandoob, the Mustahabb, or the Nafila, all of which are defined as: The request of the legislator in a non-decisive (non-obligatory) manner, where the one who does it is rewarded, and the one who does not do it is not punished”.
And upon closer inspection, it is clear to see in the saying of the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam): “The Shaytan has given up on his being worshipped on your land, but is content to be obeyed in lesser than that, which lower the value of your good deeds. So beware. I have left amongst you that, which if you held on to, you will never go astray: the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet”, it is clear to see that the Qur’an and the Sunnah were revealed to legislate for mankind a specific way of life, for them to measure their actions according to Hukum Shar’iee, i.e. they refer all their words and actions to Allah and His Messenger. In other words, Islam is the legislator in all the actions of mankind. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says: “Oh you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority over you, and if you dispute in any matter, then refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you truly believe in Allah and the Last Day. This is best and most suitable for final determination” [TMQ Al-Nisaa’: 59].
It was narrated in Sahih Al-Bukhari: Of Al-Zuhri, he said: “Hamza narrated to me from his father that the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: ‘While I was asleep I drank (meaning milk) until I saw my nail, or he said nails, were irrigated, then I passed it on to Umar.’ They asked: ‘And what was (the milk’s) interpretation in the dream?’ He replied: ‘Knowledge (Al-‘Ilm)’”. Al-HaafiTH stated in Al-Fat-h: “What is meant by “Al-‘Ilm” is knowledge in organizing the people’s politics according to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam)”.
It was narrated by Ahmed of Rabee’a bin Naajid that Ali bin Abi Talib (radhiAllahu ‘anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, called for me, and said to me ‘In you is an example similar to that of ‘Isa; the Jews hated him until they falsely slandered his mother, and the Christians loved him until they gave him the status they gave him that he does not merit”. Ali said “truly two people are destroyed though me: someone who loves me so much that he gives me more credit than I deserve, and someone who hates me so much that he falsely slanders me. Truly, I am not a prophet, nor do I receive revelation, rather I act on and implement the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, as much as I am able to, and whatever I order you to do of obedience to Allah is your duty to obey me whether you like it or hate it”.
Acting based on and implementing the Book of Allah and the Sunnah is the basis of the matter, and this means implementing it in such a manner that one’s lifestyle becomes Islamic. If the Islamic law within the Sunnah reach past the level of the Mandoob and the Nafila to the level of the Fard (obligation) and the Haram (forbidden), then it becomes more comprehensive than the Sunnah, in the meaning of a Nafila, with the Fuqahaa (scholars). This is what we mean by the Sunnah when we say: The Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger.
There is also a more comprehensive meaning that is derived from the sum of the Ahadith of the Messenger (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam), by the meaning of “The Islamic Method for Life”. To elaborate further:
There is absolutely no doubt in the fact that the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) left for us his Sunnah to follow. It was narrated by Ibn Maaja: Al-‘Arbadh bin Saariyah said: “The Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, advised us with advice that made the eyes cry and the hearts shudder, and we said: “Oh Messenger of Allah, this is advice of someone who is departing, so what do you instruct us?” and he replied: “I have left you on the white (path), its day is the same as its night, no one deviates from it after me except that he is destroyed. Whoever lives from amongst you, you will see great disagreement, and your duty is to stay on that which you know of my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khulafaa’ after me; bite down onto it with your teeth (stay patient in following it). And you must obey (those in authority over you) even if he is an Ethiopian slave, for the Believer is like the obedient camel, wherever he is led, he proceeds.”
And in another narration: “…and whoever amongst you lives after me, you will see great disagreement, and your duty is to stay on that which you know of my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khulafaa’ after me; bite down onto it with your teeth (stay patient in following it). And beware of new inventions, for every new invention is a Bid’ah”.
Therefore it is clear to see that the beloved Messenger (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam), when he used the word Sunnah, was referring to his method of living and the method of the rightly guided Khulafaa’ after him.
If we think a little about the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khulafaa’ after the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) – who ordered us to obey them – there is no doubt that their Sunnah was one of implementing the Book of Allah and the Sunnah via the Islamic State that enforces Islam and implements it as a way of life. Think about the statement of the Prophet: “…and whoever amongst you lives after me, you will see great disagreement” and link this to his statement: “I have left you on the white (path)…no one deviates (Yazeeghu) from it after me except that he is destroyed” and it is stated in Lisaan Al-Arab (Arabic language dictionary) that “Yazeeghu” or “Zaygh” means to “incline away from”, such as the verse in the Qur’an, “oh our Lord, do not make our hearts incline away (Tuzigh) after You have guided us”, meaning do not cause our hearts to incline away from the guidance, the right path, and do not cause us to become misguided. It is also said of the meaning of this verse “do not cause us to become preoccupied with that which would cause the straying of our hearts”. It is said “he has strayed (Zaagha/Yazeeghu) from the path” if he has veered off it. And in the narration of Abu Bakr (radhi Allahu ‘anhu) “I fear that if I leave even one thing of his orders that I will go astray (Azeeghu), and stray from the (correct) path”.
And then link this to the protective solution for such a straying away from the Qur’an and Sunnah: “stay on that which you know of my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khulafaa’ after me” meaning implementation of the concepts, criteria, and convictions upon you, which was planted in them by your Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) and that you lived upon.
The second interesting point is in what was said in the famous Hadith narrated by Muslim and others, on the authority of Jareer bin Abdillah Al-Bajli (radhi Allahu ‘anhu), where he said: “The Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said: “Whoever establishes a good Sunnah (Sanna Sunnatann), then he will have its reward and the reward of every person who act upon it, until the Day of Judgment, without that decreasing from their reward in any way. And whoever establishes a bad Sunnah, then upon him is the sin of it, and the sin of every person who acts upon it, until the Day of Judgment, without that decreasing from their recompense in any way”.
So, we see here that the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) informed us that good Sunnahs are conversely opposed by bad Sunnahs that take the one performing it away from the correct method and throws him into the lap of Bid’ah (innovation); or in other words, takes that person away from the Sunnah that was left for the Muslims by the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam), that he called the “white (path)”, where its day is the same as its night, where there is not one person who strays from it except he is destroyed, or lets go of it except he is misguided. The sum of these “good Sunnahs” form the Islamic way of life that we have been commanded to abide by and live by, biting down on everything in it.
Islam came as a complete system for life. Whoever leaves its boundaries commits Bid’ah, and whoever commits Bid’ah has gone astray:
This Hadith regarding starting good Sunnahs is actually speaking of those who open the path to a Shar’iee (legislated) Sunnah, since the only possible way for us to know the difference between a good Sunnah and a bad Sunnah is through the Shari’ (Islamic legislation) and not the human mind. It is unacceptable of someone with even a drop of Iman in his heart to think that he can define good and evil based on his own desires. The meaning of the word “Sunnah” in Islamic legislation encompasses all Ahkam Shari’ee, for it is the way of life that the beloved Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) followed, and this is understood from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
And in the book “Sunann Al-Daarimi”, in the Introduction: On the authority of Abi Abdul-Rahman, Abdullah said: “Follow and do not commit Bid’ah (innovate in Islamic legislation), for what you have been given (of legislation) is sufficient for you”. And there is no doubt that “following” is referring to the specific way of life that was described as the “white (path)”.
It was narrated on the authority of Katheer bin Abdullah, from his father, from his grandfather, of the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam), that he said to Bilal bin Haarith: “Know”, and Bilal replied “What should I know, oh Messenger of Allah?”, and he (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said “Know, oh Bilal”, and Bilal replied “What should I know, oh Messenger of Allah?”, and he answered, “That whoever revives a Sunnah from my Sunnah that has been abandoned after me, then he will have an equal reward of all people who acts upon it, without that decreasing from their reward in any way. And whoever innovates a Bid’ah of misguidance that does not please Allah and His Messenger, then he will have an equal sin of all the people who act upon it without decreasing from the sin of the people in any way”. This narration was deemed as “Hasan” by Abu ‘Isa, Al-Tirmithi, and Ibn Maja. Al-Sindi said in the explanation of Ibn Maja: “What is meant here by “Sunnah” is what the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) established of Ahkam (legislation). This could come in the form of a Fard (obligation), such as Zakat ul-Fitr, or not a Fard, such as the Salat of ‘Eid, prayer in congregation, reading Qur’an outside of Salat, seeking knowledge, and so on. And reviving (the Sunnah) means to act upon it, and to motivate and push the people to act upon it”.
And it was narrated by Al-Tirmithi of Sa’eed bin Al-Musayyab, of Anas bin Maalik, who said: The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said to me: “My son, if you are capable of waking up and going to sleep without having in your heart any fraud on people, then do so”. Then he said: “My son, this is my Sunnah, and whoever revives my Sunnah he has loved me, and whoever loves me is in Jannah with me”.
In this Hadith is a long story, and Abu ‘Isa says regarding it that it is a Hasan Ghareeb Hadith from this perspective. And it was narrated in some copies of Al-Tirmithi saying: “…he has revived me, and whoever revives me…”.
And in the beginning of Musnad Al-Koofiyeen, it was narrated by Ahmed of Al-Baraa’ bin ‘Aazib that the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) stoned a Jew, and said “Oh Allah, I make You my witness that I am the first to revive a Sunnah that they have abandoned”.
Therefore, reviving a Sunnah is acting upon it and implementing it as a way of life. From this we see that the Sunnah of Islam is the Islamic way of life, submitting to Islam and its legislation, taking it as one’s lifestyle. And “whoever revives my Sunnah” means whoever revives my way of life that I have outlined for the Muslims, which is the methodology chosen by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) for us to live by, and to organize our relationship with ourselves, with others around us, and with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) upon its basis.
This way of life is our intellectual leadership, which we are responsible for carrying it and calling the world to it. It is the intellectual basis, upon which every thought must be build, as well as every method, which is clarification of how to implement the solutions established by the Shari’a for man’s problems, clarification of how to protect the Aqeeda, and clarification of how to carry the Da’wa to the ideology of Islam. This is the same intellectual basis from which emanates every solution that solves all life’s problems, and, based on it, man’s viewpoint and outlook on life is established.
So let us work to revive the Sunnah, the Islamic way of life. We call you to this in order to achieve the good of this world and the good of the Akhirah.
Bid’ah: Every action that contradicts Islamic legislation
Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him, has based all laws in Islam on three principles: Al-HaafiTH Ibn Hajar said in Al-Fat-h, in the explanation of the Hadith “All actions are based on intentions”: “And the words of Imam Ahmed indicate that it (the Hadith) being a third of all knowledge is referring to one of the three principles that all laws in Islam are based on, which are (also): “Whoever performs an action that is not based on Our command, then it is rejected” and “Halal is clear and Haram is clear…”.
So, by following all of “…Our command(s)…” and since there is no doubt that “Halal is clear and Haram is clear…” in it, the Muslim is able to live his life in complete submission and obedience to the Ahkam Shar’ia (Islamic legislation). This is because Hukum Shar’iee is “the address (commands) of the legislator regarding the actions of the slaves, either by a command of obligation, prohibition, or choice whether to do the action or not. Every action of man must be organized based on the principle, “(Every) action that is not based on Our command…is rejected”. Therefore, every action that contradicts the Sharee’a (Islamic legislation) is Bid’ah and is rejected. Hence, the Muslim lives according to the method of Islam for life, which is the Sunnah, and fundamentally is the Wahi (revelation):
“Say: if you love Allah, then follow me, and Allah will love you and forgive your sins, and Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. Say: obey Allah and the Messenger, and if they turn away, Allah does not love the disbelievers” [TMQ Aal-‘Imran: 31-32]
“And this is My Path, leading straight, so follow it, and do not follow (other paths): they will scatter you about from His (great) Path; this is what He has commanded you, so that you may have Taqwa” [TMQ Al-An’aam: 153]
“Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah you have the best example to follow (Uswatann Hasana), for any of you whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the praise of Allah” [TMQ Al-Ahzaab: 21]
“…and whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you from doing, abstain from it. And fear Allah; Allah is severe in punishment” [TMQ Al-Hashr: 7]
It was stated in Al-Lisaan: “Al-Uswa and Al-Iswa mean Al-Qudwa (the leadership)”. And it is said: “I’tasi by him means follow him and be like him”. Al-Layth said: “Someone Ya’tasi in someone else means he is pleased for himself what pleases the other, and he follows him, and is like him”. And “The people are an Uswa in the matter means that they are united/are alike in the matter”.
Every matter than is invented (from one’s own mind) in one’s way of living is at the expense of a legislated matter in Islam.
It was narrated by Ahmed through a good chain of narrators, on the authority of Dha’eef bin Al-Haarith: “Abdul-Malik bin Marwan called for me and said: ‘We have united people on raising their hands on the Minbar (meaning the Khateeb) during Jum’ah (prayers) (in du’a), and on stories after morning prayers and ‘Asr prayers.’ Then he said: ‘These are your most prominent of your Bid’ah in my sight, and I will not approve of any of them, because the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said: “No people invent a Bid’ah except that the same amount of the Sunnah will be removed;” So, remaining steadfast on a Sunnah is better than inventing a Bid’ah.’”.
If this was the answer of this Sahabi regarding actions that have a basis in the Sunnah, then what of the actions that have no basis in the Sunnah, or even contradict it?
A man wrote to Umar bin Abdul-Aziz asking him about Al-Qadar, so he replied: “I advise you to fear Allah, and to have discretion in His matter, and to follow the Sunnah of His Prophet, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, and to leave all the inventions (in the Deen) invented by people, after the Sunnah has come to you and you do not need other than it (Kufoo Mu’natah). So you must hold on to the Sunnah, for it is – by the Will of Allah – a protection for you, and know that there has not been one nation that invents a Bid’ah except that there is an evidence against it, for the Sunnah has been established by one who already knows all that contradicts it” [Sunan Abi Dawood: The Chapter of Luzoom Al-Sunnah].
It was said in ‘Awn Al-Ma’bood: “His saying “Kufoo” comes from the word “sufficient”. And “Mu’natah” is “its weight”. It is said “Kafaa Fulaanann Mu’natah” means he undertook the action without needing it, and thus did not need to do it. Therefore, the meaning of “Kufoo Mu’natah” is that Allah has made them above needing the weight of inventing matters in the Deen and committing Bid’ah, for Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has completed for His slaves their Deen, and has perfected His blessings upon them, and is pleased with Islam as their Deen; so, the slaves have no need to invent anything in their Deen, meaning to add anything to it or take anything away from it.
The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “The most evil of matters are the invented ones”.
It was stated in Tuhfat Al-AhwaTHi bi-Sharh Jaami’ Al-Tirmithi: “Al-HaafiTH ibn Rajab said in Kitab Jaami’ Al-‘Uloom: ‘And the ruling in (this Hadith) is a warning to the Ummah from following invented matters, and this is reaffirmed in his saying: “Every Bid’ah (invented matter) is misguidance”, and what is meant by Bid’ah here is anything invented in the Deen that has no basis in the Sharee’ah to support it. As for the invented matters that do have a basis in the Sharee’ah to support it, they are not a Bid’ah, in a legislative context, even though it is a Bid’ah linguistically. So the saying of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) “Every Bid’ah is misguidance” is an all-encompassing statement with no exceptions, and it is one of the greatest fundamental principles in Usool Al-Deen. As for what has been narrated from our predecessors (the Salaf) regarding seeing some good in some Bid’ahs, this is only regarding those matters that are Bid’ah linguistically, and not Shar’iee (legislatively). Amongst the examples of this is the saying of Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, regarding Taraweeh prayers: “If this is a Bid’ah, then what a good Bid’ah it is”. Other examples include the first ATHan to Jum’ah prayers, which was added by Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him due to the people’s need for it, and this was confirmed by Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, and the Muslims continued acting upon it. And it was narrated of Ibn Umar that he said it was a Bid’ah, which seems that he meant the same thing as his father meant regarding Taraweeh prayers (the linguistic meaning of the word, not the legislative meaning)”.
Al-HaafiTH Ibn Hajar said in Al-Fat-h: “And ‘Al-Muhdathaat’ is the plural of ‘Muhdatha’, which means ‘that which took place recently’. A ‘Muhdatha’ that has no basis for it in the Shari’ is known in the field of Islamic legislation as ‘Bid’ah’, and a ‘Muhdatha’ that has a basis as indicated by an evidence (from Qur’an and Sunnah) is not a Bid’ah. This is because a Bid’ah, in a legislative context, is condemned, whereas in the linguistic context a Bid’ah is considered every new thing that is unique, regardless whether it is commended or condemned. The same applies to the words “Muhdatha” and “Al-Amr Al-Muhdath” mentioned in the Hadith of A’isha of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam): “Whoever starts a Muhdatha in our matter that is not from it, it is rejected”, which has been explained previously, and deeply analyzed in the book “Kitaab Al-Ahkam”, as well as in the Hadith of Jabir: “…and every Bid’ah is a misguidance”, and the Hadith of Al-‘Arbaadh bin Saariya: “Beware of Muhdathaat Al-Umoor, for every Bid’ah is a misguidance”, and this Hadith is very close in meaning to the one narrated by A’isha, both of which are considered all-encompassing Ahadith (Jaami’ Al-Kalim).
Imam Al-Shafi’i said: “Bid’ah is two types: commended and rejected. That which is in-line with the Sunnah is commended, and that which contradicts the Sunnah is condemned.” [Narrated by Abu Na’eem from Ibrahim bin Al-Junaid of Al-Shafi’i]. It was also narrated of Al-Shafi’i from Al-Bayhaqi that he said: “Al-Muhdathaat are two types: The type that contradicts the Book, or the Sunnah, or narrations of the Sahaba, or consensus of the Sahaba, are Bid’ahs of misguidance. As for the type that is good, and does not contradict any of the above mentioned sources, is a Muhdatha that is not condemned”.
And it was narrated of Ibn Mas’ood that he said: “You have awoken on the Fitrah, and you will invent (Tuhdithoon) and others will invent for you. So, if you see a Muhdatha, then you must remain steadfast to the primary guidance”.
And the core of all this is what was narrated by Muslim, may Allah be pleased with him, of Jareer bin Abdullah, that he said: “Some people from the Arabs came to the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, with .…. on them, and the Prophet saw that they were in need of help, so he called upon the people to give them charity, but they were slow to do so until you could see the effect of that on the Messenger’s face. Then a man from the Ansar came with a .…. made of paper, then another came, and they kept coming, until you could see the happiness on the Prophet’s face. Then the Prophet, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said: ‘Whoever initiates within Islam a good Sunnah, and the people acted upon it after him, written for him will be reward equal to all those who act upon it, without decreasing from their reward in any way. And whoever initiates within Islam a bad Sunnah, and the people acted upon it after him, written for him will be sins equal to the sins of all those who act upon it, without decreasing from their sins in any way.’”.
So, the difference between a Muslim inventing a new way of giving Sadaqa and calling people to it – such as someone setting up a fridge at his front door to give water to thirsty people walking by in the summer, and people following his example in this – for him is the reward for such a good deed, as it is known that this type of action has a basis in Islamic legislation. Whereas, on the other hand, someone giving Zakat money to other than the specified eight types of people is a Bid’ah in the Deen, and is a Bid’ah of misguidance.
From this, it is clear that a Bid’ah is any action that is not from the Shari’ (Islamic legislation); in other words, a Bid’ah is any action that contradicts the Shari’, which is the address of the Legislator regarding that particular action. Exempted from this is actions that the Shari’ has given general evidences (permissions), such as studying chemistry and medicine, for these fall under the general evidences related to learning and knowledge.
So, not every action that is not specifically mentioned by the Shari’ is a Bid’ah, and not every action that did not take place during the time of the Messenger, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, is a Bid’ah, rather a Bid’ah is actions that contradict what has been revealed in the Shari’, and this does not apply to all actions, rather it only applies to actions that the Shari’ has defined for us how to undertake them. The Muslim is responsible for undertaking an action according to how the Legislator has revealed it must be done, and if someone contradicts this method, then this is a Bid’ah.
This is the meaning of Bid’ah, and from close research and scrutiny we can see that the Legislator has not specified exactly how particular actions are undertaken, except in ‘Ibadaat (acts of worship) not including Jihad. As for other than the ‘Ibadaat, and including Jihad from amongst the Ibadaat, the Legislator did not specify what actions must be taken, rather He established rules for conduct. And contradicting the rules of conduct is not considered Bid’ah, rather it is Haram or Makruh, depending on the evidence. As for contradicting the rule of the action, this is what is called a Bid’ah.
As for the commands that were revealed in a general manner with no restrictions related to the implementation of them, such as Dhikr and Du’a, a person is not accused of Bid’ah if he chooses how to do them. So, for example, if the Imam makes Du’a with a loud voice on the day of Eid in the Masjid or outside of the Masjid, or the Muslims shaking each other’s hands after the Salat saying “Taqabbal Allah” (may Allah accept your Salat), or a man saying to someone who just completed Wudhu, “From ZamZam”, or making the Minbar of the Masjid more than three steps, all of these things are not considered a Bid’ah, since they all fall under the subject of Dhikr and Du’a, and therefore are included with the Ayat and Ahadith that order us to make Dhikr and Du’a, because the method to implement Dhikr and Du’a were not specified in the texts. This also applies to all types of Dhikr, whether during a certain time, or a certain situation, if the texts did not forbid doing it at other times, nor is doing so at times other than the stated times a Bid’ah either. Hence, if we have been commanded to perform Tasbeeh (saying Allahu Akbar, Alhamdulillah, etc.) before sunrise and after Maghrib, this does not mean that doing Tasbeeh in the middle of the night, or mid-day is a Bid’ah.
What is important here is observing the Islamic way of living, which means that Islam has come with a number of concepts about life that form a particular viewpoint on life. These concepts have come in the form of broad guidelines – or general meanings – that solve all of man’s problems in life, by actually deriving the law that solves the problem from the texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Islam has based all this on the intellectual basis, from which all thoughts about life stem, and against which all consequent thoughts are compared. Islam has also established the Ahkam (laws), including solutions, thoughts and opinions that emanate from the ‘Aqeeda, to be derived from the broad guidelines.
Islam has defined for man the thoughts, and did not restrict the mind, but rather set it free, restricting only man’s actions in life according to specific thoughts. And we do not mean, in any shape or form, that the meaning of reviving the Sunnah – the Islamic way of life – is that Muslims do not progress in matters that make life easier, or harness science to serve the Ummah in their affairs, or to assist the Ummah in reaching the world with their thoughts, or to use electricity and appliances. Rather, we are specifically speaking of the thoughts that form the Hadhara (civilization) of this Ummah and its identity, making it distinct from other nations, which has been firmly established by the Shari’ (Islamic laws), where deviating from it will fall under “Whoever performs an action that is not based on Our command, then it is rejected”.
So, let us work to revive the Sunnah – the Islamic way of living – oh Muslims, so that you will achieve the good of both this world and the Akhirah.