Are Human Actions, Bida’, and Shirk Related?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question Asslamu Alaykum

Some people argue that all human actions can be divided into two categories. These categories are:

1. Worship

2. Interactions and Transactions

In the first category no action is allowed unless it has been specifically sanctioned by Sacred Law. In the second category any action is allowed unless it has been specifically prohibited by Sacred Law.

The practical import of this categorisation implies that if one does an act of “worship” which has not been sanctioned by Sacred Law then he will be committing an act of “innovation” (Bid’ah). Another import of this categorisation has to do with “minor and major forms of shirk”.

Is this categorisation of actions an established principle (asl) of the religion?

Can our actions be “shirk”?

Is there a relationship between “bid’ah” and “shirk”?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam, thank you for your questions.

The understanding of human actions that you mentioned is not based on sound, traditional Islamic scholarship, and as a consequence, gives rise to your confusion on human actions, innovation and shirk.

This is unfortunately the result of an incorrect methodology which comprises of a mishmash of (what should be purely) legal issues, mixed with tenants of belief, and concepts of innovation and shirk. It is a dangerous approach, at the minimum for going against orthodox Islamic scholarship, and at worst, it often results in labeling a great many Muslims as being outside the fold of Islam.

Human actions

Generally speaking, human actions fall into one of five legal rulings, as stated in books of legal principles (Usul al Fiqh):

1. al Fard(obligatory): A fard act is that which God has made obligatory on a person, such as the five prayers. Its performance is rewarded and its non-performance is liable to punishment.

2. Al Mandoub (supererogatory): This is otherwise known as ‘mustahab’ or ‘sunna’. A Mandoub act is that which God desires us to perform but has not made obligatorily, such as the mid-morning prayer al Duha. Its performance is rewarded while it’s non-performance is not liable to punishment.

3. Al Mubah (permissible): This is also call al Ja’iz. A mubah act is that which God has given the choice for a person to perform it or not perform it, such as eating, drinking etc. One is not rewarded for doing it, or punished for not doing it.

4. Al Makrouh (disliked): A Makrouh act is that which God desires us to not do, but we are not prohibited from doing it. Examples are standing up when urinating etc. God rewards the non-performance of it, whilst the performance of it is not liable to punishment.

5. Al Haram (prohibited): A haram act is that which God has prohibited us from doing, whether outward acts, such as drinking alcohol, or inward traits, such as envy. Its performance is liable to punishment, while abandoning such acts carries reward.

All human acts fall into one of these categories. What makes our actions valid or invalid is the details of those actions, such as the conditions, integrals, and nullifier of the act, detailed in the books of sacred law (fiqh). There are 4 valid legal schools of law one may follow.

Innovation (Bida’)

Izz al Din bin Abdus Salam, who lived in the 6th-7th centuries after the Hijra, stated that there are five categories of innovation:

1. Obligatory

2. Unlawful

3. Recommended

4. Offensive

5. Permissible

These 5 categories have been accepted by the vast majority of great Islamic scholars ever since, including Imam al Nawawi and Al Hafiz Ibn Hajr. For a detail explanation on these categories and the concept of Bida’ in general, please refer to this article:

The Concept of Bid’a in the Islamic Shari’a


Shirk means ‘to associate others with Allah’. Shirk can relate to actions, beliefs, or both together.

Actions:: Given our 5 legal rulings that pertain to human actions, we simply look at the legal rulings of each action, is it obligatory, sunna, haram etc.?

Then, for an action to be considered an act of shirk (whether an innovation or not), there must be an element of associating others with Allah behind the action, such as prostrating to the sun. Similarly, one may state words which express shirk.

Belief: Shirk in belief is to associate other than Allah in one’s belief, such as believing that Jesus is the son of God, or believing that an amulet is the actual thing that is protecting or benefiting one and not God alone.

[al Luma’, al-Qawaid al Kubra, al Fatawa al Hadithiya]

You may also find taking a course in fiqh, usul al fiqh, and aqidah beneficial. Please refer to our course page.

I pray this clarifies your questions.

Warmest salams,

[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

Are Weekly Group Dhikr Gatherings a Reprehensible Innovation (Bid`a)?

Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

Question: Is it wrong to gather weekly, on a specific day, for a group dhikr including the sending of salat and salam on the Prophet, as some followers of some shaykh named Muhammad Zakariyya do? Is this not going against the sunna?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

What is a reprehensible innovation?

Firstly, what is a reprehensible and sinful innovation? It has two essential parts:

a) It was not done by the Prophet and the early generations; and, importantly,

b) It goes against the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunna, or is not based on a principle of the Prophetic message.

This is understood from the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), “Whoever inaugurates in our religion something contrary to our way shall have it rejected.” [Bukhari and Muslim from Sayyida `A’isha (Allah be pleased with her)]

The General Guidance of the Sunna

Second, a fundamental point regarding innovation (bid`a) must be clearly understood. If understood, then many of our queries will (insha Allah) be answered.

There are certain acts of worship which the Shariah has declared recommended (mandub) or highly encouraged (sunna), but without specifying a particular procedure or method for it.

Rewards have been promised for various types of worship, but the actual method of implementation has not been prescribed. This method of worship has been left to the convenience of the people.

In such acts of worship, it is necessary to leave the general permission given by the Shariah. If a particular method is fixed or considered to be superior to other methods, then this will be impermissible and classed as Bid`a. (Taken from Ibn Abidin’s Radd al-Muhtar Imam al-Barkawi’s al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, and the works of Imam al-Lakhnawi).

Some actions as an example

Let us look at some examples:

It is a great act of reward and merit to perform a good action and dedicate the reward to the soul of a dead person (isaal al-thawab). The one who performs this receives twofold reward, viz; one for carrying out this act of worship, and the other for showing consideration to a fellow Muslim who has passed away.

Now, the Shariah has not prescribed any particular method for performing this act, as in the reward can only be sent by the recitation of the Qur’an or by giving charity, and so forth. Rather, it has been left to the convenience of the individual. If one was to fix a particular method, such that no other method were considered suitable, or believed it to be necessarily superior to others, or if one believed that something that was not a specific Prophetic practice to be a specific Prophetic practice, then this will become an innovation. Of course, deeming something to be an innovation is a legal ruling, which can only be issued by deeply knowledgeable and god-fearing scholars.

However, if a method  was practised without thinking it to be specifically necessary, then it will be totally permissible, and not considered to be a reprehensible innovation, even if it was not prevalent in the time of the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace).

Sending reward as an example

Sending a reward to the soul of a beloved can be done in many different ways.

For example, if a person was to write a book for the benefit of Muslims with the intention of propagating Islam. After completing this work, they ask Allah to send the rewards of this work to the soul of such and such person, then this is a perfectly acceptable way of sending reward, even though the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) never performed this act, as he did not write a book.

Take the same example of writing a book. The Shariah has ordered us to propagate the message of Islam and its way of life (deen) to others. Now, there are many ways to carry out this propagation (da`wah) work and all of them will be permissible, accepted and rewarded, as long as no one method is deemed specifically necessary to the exclusion of others.

Among these different ways of carrying out the da`wah work is the compilation of a book. This can not be considered an innovation, even though the Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) did not write himself, for the simple reason that any permitted method chosen for the purpose of da`wah will be permissible, as long as it does not go against any other fundamental texts or principles of Islam.

Similarly, a scholar conducts daily Hadith or Fiqh lessons at a particular time; let’s say after the prayer of Isha. This is totally permissible, rather recommended, even though this may not be prevalent in the time Of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace).

However, if he was to say that this gathering of ours at this particular time, is the specific sunna way of preaching, and it is superior to all the other methods, and the one who fails to attend this lesson does not have any  desire to gain knowledge and so on, then this will become an innovation.

The Companions’ Implementation of the Sunna of the Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace)

There are a large number of hadiths, many from the rigorously authenticated (sahih) collections, showing that many of the prophetic Companions initiated new acts, forms of invocation (dhikr), supplications (dua), and so on, that our Beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had never done himself nor ordered to be done.

Rather, the Companions did them because of their reasoned deduction that such acts were part the general good that the Beloved of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) called towards and encouraged in general ways, as mentioned by Allah Most High in the Qur’an:

“And do the good, that haply you may succeed” (Qur’an 22:77)

The good, of course, is that which the Lawgiver (Allah Most High) has deemed good, either specifically, or in general terms.

The Difference Between Innovation and Following the Sunna

We can see from the foregoing, the delicate difference between the two ways. If a permissible act is performed without deeming it necessary for everyone to perform, then it is not an innovation. It becomes an innovation, however, if it is regarded as a specific Prophetic sunna (when it is not) or binding on all the Muslims, such that those who do not perform it are considered blameworthy.

By understanding this principle, many disputes of ours will no longer remain. It is very important, especially in this time of trials and tribulations that we learn to respect the opinions of others and strive towards establishing unity and love between Muslims, because we are all followers of the Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), whose message was based on mercy and love.

Your Specific Question

Coming to your question, this collective method of reciting Salat & Salam on the blessed Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) was initiated by one of the great Hadith and Tasawwuf scholars of India, who is widely respected across the Muslim world as a great authority in both sciences, Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandahlawi (Allah be pleased with him and the scholars of this Ummah). The late Shaykh, especially in the last few years of his life, stressed the importance of Tasawwuf, Dhikr of Allah, and generally the establishments of Zawiyas (khanqah).

After the demise of the Shaykh, his disciples carried on with this type of group and group recitation of peace and blessing on the Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). Many disciples of his conduct these kinds of gatherings around the world.

In light of the above explanation concerning innovation, it becomes clear that this particular method of group dhikr is permissible, but not regarded as a specific Prophetic sunna, though it is understood from the general sunna encouragement to perform dhikr both alone and in group, as long as there is no other reason of impermissibility (such as undue mixing between men and women).

The recitation of blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is very virtuous and increases love for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace). Love of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is something obligatory for every believer. He (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “None [truly] believes until they love me more than their child, parents, or all creation.” [Muslim and others] He also said (Allah bless him and give him peace), “By the One in whose Hand is my soul, none of you [truly] believe until I am more beloved than your parents or children.” [Ahmad and Bukhari]

However, no particular binding method has been prescribed for sending blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), to the exclusion of other ways. It may be recited individually or collectively. There is no harm in either, as both fall under the general command to send blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Yes, if one method was regarded specifically necessary for everyone or necessarily superior, it will become an innovation.

In conclusion, the weekly group dhikr mentioned is permissible, and would be considered an implementation of the general sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the Divine Command to send blessings on the Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). However, because it is not a specific sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), one should not believe it specifically binding nor deem those who do not attend to be doing something wrong or blameworthy. For this purpose, some scholars mention that if it is left out once or twice, it would be better, thought this is not in any ways necessary per se.

And Allah knows best, and He alone guides to all that is best in this world and the next.

Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, Leicester , UK

What is the Ruling on Having a Baby Shower?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: What is the ruling concerning having a Baby Shower?

Answer: Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

This is a social custom without any intrinsically reprehensible religious or moral connotations. As such, it is permissible if performed in a permissible manner, and without reprehensible meanings–such as wastefulness, extravagance, or undue social insistence (such that people who don’t participate or perform it are made to feel as if they’re doing something religiously-wrong).

Related Answers:

The Concept of Bid’a in the Islamic Shari’a

The Concept and Classification of Bid’a in Islam

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani

The Concept of Bid’a in the Islamic Shari’a

Answered by Shaykh Nuh Keller

Question: The Concept of Bid’a in the Islamic Shari’a

Answer: The following is the text of a talk given by Shaikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller at Nottingham and Trent University on Wednesday 25th January 1995.

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

There are few topics that generate as much controversy today in Islam as what is sunna and what is bida or reprehensible innovation, perhaps because of the times Muslims live in today and the challenges they face. Without a doubt, one of the greatest events in impact upon Muslims in the last thousand years is the end of the Islamic caliphate at the first of this century, an event that marked not only the passing of temporal, political authority, but in many respects the passing of the consensus of orthodox Sunni Islam as well. No one familiar with the classical literature in any of the Islamic legal sciences, whether Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir), hadith, or jurisprudence (fiqh), can fail to be struck by the fact that questions are asked today about basic fundamentals of Islamic Sacred Law (Sharia) and its ancillary disciplines that would not have been asked in the Islamic period not because Islamic scholars were not brilliant enough to produce the questions, but because they already knew the answers.

My talk tonight will aim to clarify some possible misunderstandings of the concept of innovation (bida) in Islam, in light of the prophetic hadith,

“Beware of matters newly begun, for every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell.”

The sources I use are traditional Islamic sources, and my discussion will centre on three points:

The first point is that scholars say that the above hadith does not refer to all new things without restriction, but only to those which nothing in Sacred Law attests to the validity of. The use of the word “every” in the hadith does not indicate an absolute generalization, for there are many examples of similar generalizations in the Qur’an and sunna that are not applicable without restriction, but rather are qualified by restrictions found in other primary textual evidence.

The second point is that the sunna and way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was to accept new acts initiated in Islam that were of the good and did not conflict with established principles of Sacred Law, and to reject things that were otherwise.

And our third and last point is that new matters in Islam may not be rejected merely because they did not exist in the first century, but must be evaluated and judged according to the comprehensive methodology of Sacred Law, by virtue of which it is and remains the final and universal moral code for all peoples until the end of time.

Our first point, that the hadith does not refer to all new things without restriction, but only to those which nothing in Sacred Law attests to the validity of, may at first seem strange, in view of the wording of the hadith, which says, “every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell.” Now the word “bida” or “innovation” linguistically means anything new, So our first question must be about the generalizability of the word every in the hadith: does it literally mean that everything new in the world is haram or unlawful? The answer is no. Why?

In answer to this question, we may note that there are many similar generalities in the Qur’an and sunna, all of them admitting of some qualification, such as the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Najm,

“. . . A man can have nothing, except what he strives for” (Qur’an 53:39),

despite there being an overwhelming amount of evidence that a Muslim benefits from the spiritual works of others, for example, from his fellow Muslims, the prayers of angels for him, the funeral prayer over him, charity given by others in his name, and the supplications of believers for him;

Or consider the words of Allah to unbelievers in Surat al-Anbiya,

“Verily you and what you worship apart from Allah are the fuel of hell” (Qur’an 21:98),

“what you worship” being a general expression, while there is no doubt that Jesus, his mother, and the angels were all worshipped apart from Allah, but are not “the fuel of hell”, so are not what is meant by the verse; Or the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Anam about past nations who paid no heed to the warners who were sent to them,

“But when they forgot what they had been reminded of, We opened unto them the doors of everything” (Qur’an 6:44),

though the doors of mercy were not opened unto them; And the hadith related by Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

“No one who prays before sunrise and before sunset will enter hell”,

which is a generalised expression that definitely does not mean what its outward generality implies, for someone who prays the dawn and midafternoon prayers and neglects all other prayers and obligatory works is certainly not meant. It is rather a generalization whose intended referent is particular, or a generalization that is qualified by other texts, for when there are fully authenticated hadiths, it is obligatory to reach an accord between them, because they are in reality as a single hadith, the statements that appear without further qualification being qualified by those that furnish the qualification, that the combined implications of all of them may be utilized.

Let us look for a moment at bida or innovation in the light of the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) concerning new matters. Sunna and innovation (bida) are two opposed terms in the language of the Lawgiver (Allah bless him and give him peace), such that neither can be defined without reference to the other, meaning that they are opposites, and things are made clear by their opposites. Many writers have sought to define innovation (bida) without defining the sunna, while it is primary, and have thus fallen into inextricable difficulties and conflicts with the primary textual evidence that contradicts their definition of innovation, whereas if they had first defined the sunna, they would have produced a criterion free of shortcomings.

Sunna, in both the language of the Arabs and the Sacred Law, means way, as is illustrated by the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace),

“He who inaugurates a good sunna in Islam [dis: Reliance of the Traveller p58.1(2)] …And he who introduces a bad sunna in Islam…”, sunna meaning way or custom. The way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in giving guidance, accepting, and rejecting: this is the sunna. For “good sunna” and “bad sunna” mean a “good way” or “bad way”, and cannot possibly mean anything else. Thus, the meaning of “sunna” is not what most students, let alone ordinary people, understand; namely, that it is the prophetic hadith (as when sunna is contrasted with “Kitab”, i.e. Qur’an, in distinguishing textual sources), or the opposite of the obligatory (as when sunna, i.e. recommended, is contrasted with obligatory in legal contexts), since the former is a technical usage coined by hadith scholars, while the latter is a technical usage coined by legal scholars and specialists in fundamentals of jurisprudence. Both of these are usages of later origin that are not what is meant by sunna here. Rather, the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is his way of acting, ordering, accepting, and rejecting, and the way of his Rightly Guided Caliphs who followed his way acting, ordering, accepting, and rejecting. So practices that are newly begun must be examined in light of the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his way and path in acceptance or rejection.

Now, there are a great number of hadiths, most of them in the rigorously authenticated (sahih) collections, showing that many of the prophetic Companions initiated new acts, forms of invocation (dhikr), supplications (dua), and so on, that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had never previously done or ordered to be done. Rather, the Companions did them because of their inference and conviction that such acts were of the good that Islam and the Prophet of Islam came with and in general terms urged the like of to be done, in accordance with the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Hajj,

“And do the good, that haply you may succeed” (Qur’an 22:77),

and the hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace),

“He who inaugurates a good sunna in Islam earns the reward of it and all who perform it after him without diminishing their own rewards in the slightest.”

Though the original context of the hadith was giving charity, the interpretative principle established by the scholarly consensus (def: Reliance of the Traveller b7) of specialists in fundamentals of Sacred Law is that the point of primary texts lies in the generality of their lexical significance, not the specificity of their historical context, without this implying that just anyone may make provisions in the Sacred Law, for Islam is defined by principles and criteria, such that whatever one initiates as a sunna must be subject to its rules, strictures, and primary textual evidence.

From this investigative point of departure, one may observe that many of the prophetic Companions performed various acts through their own personal reasoning, (ijtihad), and that the sunna and way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was both to accept those that were acts of worship and good deeds conformable with what the Sacred Law had established and not in conflict with it; and to reject those which were otherwise. This was his sunna and way, upon which his caliphal successors and Companions proceeded, and from which Islamic scholars (Allah be well pleased with them) have established the rule that any new matter must be judged according to the principles and primary texts of Sacred Law: whatever is attested to by the law as being good is acknowledged as good, and whatever is attested to by the law as being a contravention and bad is rejected as a blameworthy innovation (bida). They sometimes term the former a good innovation (bida hasana) in view of it lexically being termed an innovation , but legally speaking it is not really an innovation but rather an inferable sunna as long as the primary texts of the Sacred Law attest to its being acceptable.

We now turn to the primary textual evidence previously alluded to concerning the acts of the Companions and how the Prophet, (Allah bless him and give him peace) responded to them:

(1) Bukhari and Muslim relate from Abu Hurayra (Allah be well pleased with him) that at the dawn prayer the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to Bilal, “Bilal, tell me which of your acts in Islam you are most hopeful about, for I have heard the footfall of your sandals in paradise”, and he replied, “I have done nothing I am more hopeful about than the fact that I do not perform ablution at any time of the night or day without praying with that ablution whatever has been destined for me to pray.”

Ibn Hajar Asqalani says in Fath al-Bari that the hadith shows it is permissible to use personal reasoning (ijtihad) in choosing times for acts of worship, for Bilal reached the conclusions he mentioned by his own inference, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed him therein.

Similar to this is the hadith in Bukhari about Khubayb (who asked to pray two rakas before being executed by idolaters in Mecca) who was the first to establish the sunna of two rak’as for those who are steadfast in going to their death. These hadiths are explicit evidence that Bilal and Khubayb used their own personal reasoning (ijtihad) in choosing the times of acts of worship, without any previous command or precedent from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) other than the general demand to perform the prayer.

(2) Bukhari and Muslim relate that Rifa’a ibn Rafi said, “When we were praying behind the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and he raised his head from bowing and said , “Allah hears whoever praises Him”, a man behind him said, “Our Lord, Yours is the praise, abundantly, wholesomely, and blessedly therein.” When he rose to leave, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked “who said it”, and when the man replied that it was he, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I saw thirty-odd angels each striving to be the one to write it.” Ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari that the hadith indicates the permissibility of initiating new expressions of dhikr in the prayer other than the ones related through hadith texts, as long as they do not contradict those conveyed by the hadith [since the above words were a mere enhancement and addendum to the known, sunna dhikr].

(3) Bukhari relates from Aisha (Allah be well pleased with her) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) dispatched a man at the head of a military expedition who recited the Qur’an for his companions at prayer, finishing each recital with al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112). When they returned, they mentioned this to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), who told them, “Ask him why he does this”, and when they asked him, the man replied, “because it describes the All-merciful, and I love to recite it.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to them, “Tell him Allah loves him.” In spite of this, we do not know of any scholar who holds that doing the above is recommended, for the acts the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to do regularly are superior, though his confirming the like of this illustrates his sunna regarding his acceptance of various forms of obedience and acts of worship, and shows he did not consider the like of this to be a reprehensible innovation (bida), as do the bigots who vie with each other to be the first to brand acts as innovation and misguidance. Further, it will be noticed that all the preceding hadiths are about the prayer, which is the most important of bodily acts of worship, and of which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Pray as you have seen me pray”, despite which he accepted the above examples of personal reasoning because they did not depart from the form defined by the Lawgiver, for every limit must be observed, while there is latitude in everything besides, as long as it is within the general category of being called for by Sacred Law. This is the sunna of the Prophet and his way (Allah bless him and give him peace) and is as clear as can be. Islamic scholars infer from it that every act for which there is evidence in Sacred Law that it is called for and which does not oppose an unequivocal primary text or entail harmful consequences is not included in the category of reprehensible innovation (bida), but rather is of the sunna, even if there should exist something whose performance is superior to it.

(4) Bukhari relates from Abu Said al-Khudri that a band of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) departed on one of their journeys, alighting at the encampment of some desert Arabs whom they asked to be their hosts, but who refused to have them as guests. The leader of the encampment was stung by a scorpion, and his followers tried everything to cure him, and when all had failed, one said, “If you would approach the group camped near you, one of them might have something”. So they came to them and said, “O band of men, our leader has been stung and weve tried everything. Do any of you have something for it?” and one of them replied, “Yes, by Allah, I recite healing words [ruqya, def: Reliance of the Traveller w17] over people, but by Allah, we asked you to be our hosts and you refused, so I will not recite anything unless you give us a fee”. They then agreed upon a herd of sheep, so the man went and began spitting and reciting the Fatiha over the victim until he got up and walked as if he were a camel released from its hobble, nothing the matter with him. They paid the agreed upon fee, which some of the Companions wanted to divide up, but the man who had done the reciting told them, “Do not do so until we reach the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and tell him what has happened, to see what he may order us to do”. They came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and told him what had occurred, and he said, “How did you know it was of the words which heal? You were right. Divide up the herd and give me a share.”

The hadith is explicit that the Companion had no previous knowledge that reciting the Fatiha to heal (ruqya) was countenanced by Sacred Law, but rather did so because of his own personal reasoning (ijtihad), and since it did not contravene anything that had been legislated, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed him therein because it was of his sunna and way to accept and confirm what contained good and did not entail harm, even if it did not proceed from the acts of the Prophet himself (Allah bless him and give him peace) as a definitive precedent.

(5) Bukhari relates from Abu Said al-Khudri that one man heard another reciting al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112) over and over again, so when morning came he went to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and sarcastically mentioned it to him. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “By Him in whose hand is my soul, it equals one-third of the Qur’an.” Daraqutni recorded another version of this hadith in which the man said, “I have a neighbor who prays at night and does not recite anything but al-Ikhlas.” The hadith shows that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed the persons restricting himself to this sura while praying at night, despite its not being what the Prophet himself did (Allah bless him and give him peace), for though the Prophets practice of reciting from the whole Qur’an was superior, the mans act was within the general parameters of the sunna and there was nothing blameworthy about it in any case.

(6) Ahmad and Ibn Hibban relates from Abdullah ibn Burayda that his father said, I entered the mosque with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), where a man was at prayer, supplicating: “O Allah, I ask You by the fact that I testify You are Allah, there is no god but You, the One, the Ultimate, who did not beget and was not begotten, and to whom none is equal”, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “By Him in whose hand is my soul, he has asked Allah by His greatest name, which if He is asked by it He gives, and if supplicated He answers”. It is plain that this supplication came spontaneously from the Companion, and since it conformed to what the Sacred Law calls for, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed it with the highest degree of approbation and acceptance, while it is not known that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had ever taught it to him (Adilla Ahl al-Sunna wa’al-Jamaa, 119-33).

We are now able to return to the hadith with which I began my talk tonight, in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “. . . Beware of matters newly begun, for every innovation is misguidance”. And understand it as expounded by a classic scholar of Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Jurdani, who said:

“Beware of matters newly begun”, distance yourselves and be wary of matters newly innovated that did not previously exist”, i.e. things invented in Islam that contravene the Sacred Law, “for every innovation is misguidance” meaning that every innovation is the opposite of the truth, i.e. falsehood, a hadith that has been related elsewhere as: “for every newly begun matter is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell” meaning that everyone who is misguided, whether through himself or by following another, is in hell, the hadith referring to matters that are not good innovations with a basis in Sacred Law. It has been stated (by Izz ibn Abd al-Salam) that innovations (bida) fall under the five headings of the Sacred Law (n: i.e. the obligatory, unlawful, recommended, offensive, and permissible):

(1) The first category comprises innovations that are obligatory , such as recording the Qur’an and the laws of Islam in writing when it was feared that something might be lost from them; the study of the disciplines of Arabic that are necessary to understand the Qur’an and sunna such as grammar, word declension, and lexicography; hadith classification to distinguish between genuine and spurious prophetic traditions; and the philosophical refutations of arguments advanced by the Mu’tazilites and the like.

(2) The second category is that of unlawful innovations such as non- Islamic taxes and levies, giving positions of authority in Sacred Law to those unfit for them, and devoting ones time to learning the beliefs of heretical sects that contravene the tenets of faith of Ahl al-Sunna.

(3) The third category consists of recommended innovations such as building hostels and schools of Sacred Law, recording the research of Islamic schools of legal thought, writing books on beneficial subjects, extensive research into fundamentals and particular applications of Sacred Law, in-depth studies of Arabic linguistics, the reciting of wirds (def: Reliance of the Traveller w20) by those with a Sufi path, and commemorating the birth (mawlid), of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) and wearing ones best and rejoicing at it.

(4) The fourth category includes innovations that are offensive, such as embellishing mosques, decorating the Qur’an and having a backup man (muballigh) loudly repeat the spoken Allahu Akbar of the imam when the latter’s voice is already clearly audible to those who are praying behind him.

(5) the fifth category is that of innovations that are permissible, such as sifting flour, using spoons and having more enjoyable food, drink and housing. (al Jawahir al-luluiyya fi sharh al-Arbain al-nawawiyya, 220-21).

I will conclude my remarks tonight with a translation of Sheikh Abdullah al-Ghimari, who said: In his al-Qawaid al-kubra, “Izz ibn Abd al-Salam classifies innovations (bida), according to their benefit, harm, or indifference, into the five categories of rulings: the obligatory, recommended, unlawful, offensive, and permissible; giving examples of each and mentioning the principles of Sacred Law that verify his classification. His words on the subject display his keen insight and comprehensive knowledge of both the principles of jurisprudence and the human advantages and disadvantages in view of which the Lawgiver has established the rulings of Sacred Law.

Because his classification of innovation (bida) was established on a firm basis in Islamic jurisprudence and legal principles, it was confirmed by Imam Nawawi, Ibn Hajar Asqalani, and the vast majority of Islamic scholars, who received his words with acceptance and viewed it obligatory to apply them to the new events and contingencies that occur with the changing times and the peoples who live in them. One may not support the denial of his classification by clinging to the hadith “Every innovation is misguidance”, because the only form of innovation that is without exception misguidance is that concerning tenets of faith, like the innovations of the Mutazilites, Qadarites, Murjiites, and so on, that contradicted the beliefs of the early Muslims. This is the innovation of misguidance because it is harmful and devoid of benefit. As for innovation in works, meaning the occurrence of an act connected with worship or something else that did not exist in the first century of Islam, it must necessarily be judged according to the five categories mentioned by Izz ibn Abd al-Salam. To claim that such innovation is misguidance without further qualification is simply not applicable to it, for new things are among the exigencies brought into being by the passage of time and generations, and nothing that is new lacks a ruling of Allah Most High that is applicable to it, whether explicitly mentioned in primary texts, or inferable from them in some way. The only reason that Islamic law can be valid for every time and place and be the consummate and most perfect of all divine laws is because it comprises general methodological principles and universal criteria, together with the ability its scholars have been endowed with to understand its primary texts, the knowledge of types of analogy and parallelism, and the other excellences that characterize it. Were we to rule that every new act that has come into being after the first century of Islam is an innovation of misguidance without considering whether it entails benefit or harm, it would invalidate a large share of the fundamental bases of Sacred Law as well as those rulings established by analogical reasoning, and would narrow and limit the Sacred Laws vast and comprehensive scope. (Adilla Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jamaa, 145-47).

Wa Jazakum Allahu khayran, wal-hamdu lillahi Rabbil Alamin

[Taken from Sidi Masud’s site is an excellent and essential resource for understanding Traditional Sunni Islam]