What is an Innovation? (Bid’ah)

An innovation, as mentioned by the master of maqaasid (aims and objectives) of the Shari’ah, is any act of worship which the Prophet (saw) and his (saw) companions could have done but did not do so.

Some say making du’a after finishing the Qur’an is an innovation, but Anas (ra) used to do this.

And sometimes a Sahaabi statement is taken as evidence when it’s about something which only the Prophet (saw) could know, like something from the unseen.

As for innovation, an action can fall into this in a number of different ways:

  • The way the action is done
  • The reason
  • The type
  • The time
  • The manner

And other examples.

We don’t call the person doing it an innovator unless we know that they know it’s an innovation, they’ve been told and they refuse to leave and a few other conditions too.

So praying 5 Rak’ah for dhuhr would be an innovation due to which type?

This would fall under “The way the action is done.”

How about making du’a after the fard prayer in congregation regularly?

This would fall under “The time.”

It could even be more than one category and it’s not narrated on the Sahaabah either.

As for things which are narrated on the Sahaabah then we can’t always follow that. It depends if it has some basis as sometimes the Sahaabah did ijtihaad (came to their individual conclusions).

They were qualified to do such a thing.

Another example is Abu Hurairah (ra), he would wash until near his shoulders and his knees in wudoo. This was his own judgement. This was not known on anyone else, not even the Prophet (saw). So we don’t follow him in that.

Why did Abu Hurairah (ra) do this?

Nu‘aym ibn Al-Mujmir narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah, may Allaah be pleased with him, that the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, said: “On the Day of Resurrection, my followers will be called “Al-Ghurr-ul-Muhajjaleen” from the trace of Wudoo’ (i.e. Ablution) and thus whoever can increase the area of his radiance should do so (i.e. by performing ablution regularly).”

In another wording, he said: “I saw Abu Hurairah, may Allaah be pleased with him, perform ablution. He washed his face and washed his hands up to the arms. He then washed his feet and reached up to the shanks and then said: ‘I heard the Messenger of Allaah, peace and blessing be upon him, say: ‘My people would come with bright faces and bright hands and feet on account of the marks of ablution, so he who can increase the luster of his forehead (and that of his hands and legs) should do so.”

In a third wording, reported by Imam Muslim, he (i.e. Abu Hurairah, may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “I have heard my Friend, peace and blessing be upon him, say: ‘In a believer adornment would reach the places where ablution reaches.”

So he understood it to mean washing further and some scholars do follow this view but we say this was his ijtihaad and we don’t know of anyone else doing this even though some scholars allow it.

What about prayer beads? Bid’ah , Sunnah or allowed?

A scholar has said:

ويباح استعمال السبحة ليعد بها الأذكار والتسبيحات من غير اعتقاد أن فيها فضيلة خاصة

“It is permissible to use prayer beads, to count Tasbeehaat and Adhkaar, as long as one doesn’t believe there is a special Fadhilah in doing it this way.”

A scholar of the past has said:

لا حرج فيها، لكن تكون في البيت، مع الناس بأصابعك في المسجد ومع الناس بأصابعك أفضل، في البيت في جلوسك في البيت أن تسبح بها، والأصابع أفضل في كل حال

“There is nothing wrong with prayer beads, but use them when you’re at home. When you’re with the people, when you’re in the Masjid, use your fingers. When you’re sitting at home, you can use the prayer beads. It’s always better with the fingers.”

Another scholar of the past was asked:

س 260: ما رأيكم في استخدام المسبحة في التسبيح ؟ جزاكم الله خيراً .

الجواب: استخدام السبحة جائز ، لكن الأفضل أن يسبح بالأنامل وبالأصابع

Question 260: “What do you think of counting Tasbeeh with prayer beads? May Allaah reward you with goodness.”

Answer: “Using prayer beads is permissible, but it’s better to count with your fingers.”

Narrated on some of the Sahaabah that they used to count their Adkhar on date stones and so on.

From this you must learn that Fiqh is very wide and also it’s important to take knowledge from its people, meaning Fiqh from a scholar of Fiqh, Hadith from its scholars and so on.

Be careful with labelling things. Things aren’t black and white.


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