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Compiled by: Ayesha Hassan


The following discussion has been taken from the Discussion Forums of Studying Islam (, one of our sister sites. While Razi Allah is the moderator of this discussion, Ayesha Hassan has compiled it for publication in the journal (Editor).

 The religion of Islam was transmitted to the world through Prophet Muhammad (sws) in its entirety. However, an above-the-ground view shows that certain new practices have been added to the corpus of Islam that were not present at the time of the Prophet (sws). People give various arguments for and against these practices. The term Bid‘ah and its implications have been discussed below in some detail. We hope that the readers will benefit from this discussion.


Muneeb: Any new innovation is Bid‘ah if it goes against the Qur’ān and demolishes Sunnah. A Hadīth in Mishkāt quotes: ‘whosoever introduces a new belief in religion that contradicts it should be rejected. Beware of innovations, for every innovation (kullu Bid‘ah) is misguidance’. However, another narrative in the same book quotes: ‘He, who sets a good precedent in Islam, there is reward for him for this (act of goodness) and a reward for him who follows the act subsequently, without any deduction from the reward of the initiator. And he, who sets an evil precedent in Islam, bears its burden along with the burden of he who acts upon it subsequently, without any deduction from the burden of the follower.’

If we presume that every new act introduced in Islam is Bid‘ah, would the following also fall under the same category: compilation of the Qur’ān after the death of Muhammad (sws), congregational Tarāwīh prayer introduced by ‘Umar (rta), calling Iqāmah introduced by ‘Uthmān (rta)? 

Razi Allah: In the corpus of Hadīth and Athār attributed to the Prophet (sws) and his companions (rta), Bid‘ah has been used to denote both the literal as well as the terminological sense of the word. When used as a term, we have such Ahādīth as you have quoted in the first part of your post. But it has also been used in its literal sense which implies ‘beginning’ or ‘initiation’ of something. Hence, the Ahādīth which talk of reward for a good precedence. The use of the term Bid‘ah today has become rather loose in that most issues which should not be given any religious semblance have been dragged within the ambit of Bid‘ah. As for the compilation of the Qur’ān and Tarāwīh prayers, there is precedence for these in the Prophet’s (sws) life. The addition of a second Ādhān by ‘Uthman (rta) was to achieve the purpose of Ādhān more effectively. Quite similar is our use of loud speakers today to amplify the voice of the Mu’adhin, which is not a Bid‘ah but a means to achieve the end effectively.

Amatullahi: The word Bid‘ah is misinterpreted many a times. According to most scholars, there is no such thing as good Bid‘ah. The Arabic grammar scholars assert that when the word ‘kullu’ comes before a ‘Nakira’ (i.e. an indefinite article) as in this report; ‘kullu Bid‘atin’ it means that there is no exception to it. ‘Kullu’ envelopes everything in toto.

The Bid‘ah referred to by the Prophet (sws) is the one introduced in worship only. Anything new that makes life easier like riding a car, traveling by air, eating using cutlery, using microphones, and listening to radio, etc, cannot be termed as Bid‘ah. It is indeed innovation but not the one that misguides.

Muneeb: From the discussion above, I gather that Bid‘ah is not misguidance as long as it is employed for the propagation of Islam and is misguidance when it is introduced in worship only.

Razi Allah: When any belief, action or concept is added to the corpus of Islam, without any basis for it in the teachings or actions of the Prophet (sws), such an addition is Bid‘ah. Clearly this definition is not just limited to acts of worship. There are many other ideas that we form and many actions we undertake which have no religious sacredness per se and no one considers them obligatory parts of or additions to the corpus of Islam. These ideas and actions may very well be for the propagation of Islam such as starting an Islamic website or initiating a forum for discussion on Islamic issues but are not and cannot be deemed additions to Islam.

Muneeb: Scholars have classified the term Bid‘ah into two categories: Bid‘ah-i-hasanah and Bid‘ah-i-siyyah. The former is defined as not being contrary to the tenets of Islam while the latter is defined as being opposite to the basic tenets of Islam. Please explain further.

Razi Allah: When Bid‘ah is used as a term, implying an unauthorized addition to the corpus of Islam, it is an innovation in religion which is totally unacceptable be it good or bad. Someone can posit that in view of the general decadence of Muslims, let’s add ten more fasts to the normal course of Ramadān for further spiritual nourishment and call it Bid‘ah-i-Hassanah. Clearly, it is an atrocious idea, one that opens the door for altering the contents of our belief system; the door which has been closed with the culmination of the institution of prophethood. Thus Bid‘ah as a term is always unacceptable. On the other hand, Bid‘ah in its literal sense can be good or bad.  As for the Scholar’s categorization of the term, it may simply have been an error in understanding a statement referred to ‘Umar (rta) wherein he has used the term Bid‘ah to praise the initiation of Tarāwīh prayer in congregation.

Safia: Would you kindly shed some light on the incident from ‘Umar’s (rta) life referred to in the last part of your comment concerning Tarāwīh Prayer?

Razi Allah: Let us take a look at the summary of the information provided in Mu’attā of Imam Malik regarding the initiation and development of Tarāwīh prayer in its congregational form.

The Prophet (sws) never offered the Tarāwīh prayer. However, one night the Prophet (sws) came out of his room (at the time of the Tahajjud prayer) and offered his prayers in the mosque. People gathered behind and joined him in his prayer. The same thing happened on the night that followed, with a greater number of people joining the Prophet (sws). On the third or the fourth night, people gathered in anticipation of joining the Prophet (sws) in his prayer again, but the Prophet (sws) did not come out. In the morning, the Prophet (sws) told the Muslims that he had not come out of his chamber to offer his Tahajjud with the Muslims due to the concern that the Muslims may consider this to be an obligatory prayer.

The first time, that the night prayer was organized at a mass congregational level, was during the caliphate of ‘Umar (rta). One night, when ‘Umar (rta) came into the mosque after the ‘Ishā’ prayer, he saw that people had gathered in a number of various groups and were offering their prayers behind various imams (leaders of prayers). This situation was creating a chaotic scene. The recitation of one imam could not be clearly distinguished from that of another. After observing this scene, ‘Umar (rta) suggested that those who want to offer their night prayer in congregation should all join behind one imam, so that the Qur’ān is clearly audible. He also appointed Ubayī ibn Ka‘b as the leader of this prayer, because of his good style of recitation. The next day, when ‘Umar (rta) came to the mosque, he was satisfied with the development in the situation. However, ‘Umar (rta) himself never joined this congregational prayer and is reported to have commented that the prayer being substituted is far superior to its substitute. 

It is evident that, if required, congregations can be organized for supererogatory prayers. This is substantiated by some incidents during the time of the prophet (sws). Hence ‘Umar’s (rta) organization of the prayer is not unauthenticated.


Courtesy Studying Islam:

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