What Is Praiseworthy Innovation (Bidʿa Hasana), and Does Mawlid Come under It?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question

What is the concept of a “praiseworthy innovation” (bidʿa hasana)? How can innovation be praiseworthy? Is the mawlid from this?

Answer

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

The concept of “praiseworthy innovation” (bidʿa hasana) is basically a specific form of applying a general sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), in a manner not contrary to the principles of Prophetic guidance.

Thus, for example, having an annual conference or religious event on specific dates (for reasons of practicality, without deeming this specification religiously expected) is a specific way of applying the general sunna of spreading religious guidance.

The same applies to approved-of forms of group dhikr (which is considered permitted or praiseworthy by a large body of mainstream scholarship): the general sunna of group dhikr (understood from a large number of Prophetic hadiths) is being applied in a specific way. And so on.

However, the scholars look carefully at the soundness of the basis for such actions; the component parts; and the implications of the action, direct and indirect.

Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be upon Him)

In terms of the celebrating the Prophet’s birth (Allah bless him and give him peace), the basis of this is of two types:

  • Specific, from the sunna itself: the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) celebrated the day of the week in which he was born by fasting on Mondays–so why would celebrating the date of his birth, in permitted & sound ways, be wrong?
  • General, from the call in the Quran and Sunna to express thankfulness and rejoicing in the blessing and gift from Allah that is our Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him and his folk).

Again, if we follow the recourse that Allah Most High has given us: returning matters we’re not clear of to the people of knowledge, then we see that the mawlid, for example, has been carefully considered and generally approved of right across the four schools of mainstream Islamic law.

If someone doesn’t feel comfortable with that, it is fine, but condemning a mainstream action approved by mainstream Islamic scholarship is the basis of division, and contrary to established principles. “There is no condemnation in matters of genuine difference.” (la inkara fi masa’il al-khilaf)

Related:
The Concept of Bidʿa in the Islamic Shari’a
Sunna and Bid`a – Talk & Article by Shaykh Nuh Keller
Excessive Praise of the Prophet? Understanding the Meaning of Praise
Joy at the Birth of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace): The Narration Concerning Abu Lahab
Exaggerated Praise of the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)

And Allah alone gives success.
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.