Innovation in Light of the Perfection of the Shari’ah
Shaikh Muhammad bin Saalih al-Uthaimeen
Verily, all praise belongs to Allaah alone, we praise Him, seek His aid and His forgiveness. We repent to Him and seek refuge in Him from the evils of our souls and the evils of our actions. Whomsoever Allaah guides there is none to misguide and whomsoever He misguides there is none to guide. I bear witness that there is no diety worthy of worship except Allaah alone and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger. Allaah sent him with the guidance and the true religion and he conveyed the message, fulfilled the trust, advised the ummah and strove for Allaah as He ought to be strived for until there came to him the certainty. He left his ummah on a pure and clear path, whose night is like its day and none deviates from it except one who is destroyed.
He explained (in this clear path) everything which the ummah is in need of in all of its affairs (to such an extent) that Abu Dharr (ra) said: “The Messenger (sas) did not even leave a bird flapping its wings in the sky except that he mentioned to us knowledge regarding it.” Also a man from among the mushrikoon (pagans) said to Salmaan al-Farsee (ra): “Your Messenger teaches you (so much), even toilet manners.” So Salmaan replied: “Yes! He has also forbidden us to face the qiblah while passing water or excrement or that we clean ourselves with less than three stones, or that we clean ourselves with the right hand or that we clean ourselves with dung or bones.”
You will see that Allaah the Exalted has explained in this Great Qur’aan the fundamentals of the religion and its branches. He has explained Tawheed with all its types, the etiquette of meeting in gatherings, and seeking permission to enter peoples houses. The Exalted said:
O you who believe! When you are told to make room in the gatherings then make room (spread out). Allaah will (in turn) make ample room for you. And He also said:
O you who believe! Do not enter houses other than your own until you have sought permission and saluted its inhabitants. That is better for you, in order that you may remember. And if you find none in the house then do not enter until permission has been given to you. If you are asked to go back then go back. That is more pure for you and Allaah has full knowledge of all that you do.
He has also explained the manners of dress. He the Exalted said:
The elderly women who do not desire marriage, there is no blame upon them if they put aside there outer garments without making a display and show of beauty .
O Prophet. Say to your wives, your daughters and the women of the believers that they should put their outer garments over themselves (their bodies). That will be better in order that they may be known as such (free and respectable women) and not be harmed or abused.
And that they should not strike their feet so that what they hide from their beauty becomes known.
And it is not righteousness that you enter the houses from the rear but righteousness is the (quality of the) one who fears (Allaah. So enter houses through their proper doors.
And other such numerous verses by which it is made clear that this complete and comprehensive religion is not in need of any addition just like it is not permissible to make any decrease in it. This is why Allaah the Exalted said in describing the Qur’aan
And We have revealed to you the Book (O Muhammad) , as a clarification and explanation for every single matter. There is no such thing which mankind is in need of in their life and livelihood except that Allaah has explained it in His Book whether it is by the text (itself), or by an indication, or by something made explicit or something which is understood from the text (but is not in the text).
My dear Brothers, there are some amongst the people who explain the speech of Allaah:
There is no creature upon the earth or bird in the sky which flaps it wings except that it forms part of communities just like yourselves. We have not left anything out of the Book and then to your Lord will you be gathered.
They explain: “We have not left anything out of the Book…”, by saying that the Book referred to is the Qur’aan. What is correct however, is that the Book is the Preserved Tablet.
As for the Qur’aan, Allaah has described it in a way which is more deep and profound than what has been mentioned in the above verse about the preserved tablet by negating the ommission of anything from it. He said:
And We have revealed to you the Book, as a clarification and explanation for every single matter
This is more profound and clear than His speech:
We have not left anything out of the Book.
Perhaps someone may say: “Where can we find the number of the five prayers in the Qur’aan? And the number of (rakahs) for every prayer in the Qur’aan. And how can it be correct if we cannot find in the Qur’aan a description of the number of rakahs in every prayer while Allaah says:
And We have revealed to you the Book, as a clarification and explanation for every single matter
The answer is that Allaah the Exalted has made it clear to us in His Book that it is obligatory upon us to take whatever the Messenger of Allaah has said and whatever he has directed us to. The Exalted said:
Whoever obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allaah
And whatever the Messenger gives to you take it and whatever he forbids you from then refrain from it.
Whatever the Sunnah explains then the Qur’aan has (by default) indicated and directed to it because the Sunnah is one of the two types of revelation which Allaah revealed to His messenger and taught him, just as Allaah has said:
And Allaah has revealed to you the Book and the Wisdom.
Therefore, based upon this is that whatever comes in the Sunnah has also came in the Book of Allaah Azzawajall.
My brothers, now that this matter has been settled, did the Prophet (sas) die while something from the religion which draws one closer to Allaah the Exalted remained which he did not explain?
Never! since the Messenger (sas) explained the whole of the religion either by his speech, his action or his (silent) approval, whether that was initiated of his own accord or whether it was due to a response to a question. Sometimes Allaah would send a bedouin from the furthest region of the desert in order to ask the Messenger of Allaah (sas) a thing from among the matters of the religion which the Companions, who stuck by the Messenger of Allaah (sas) did not ask him. This is why they used to rejoice when a bedouin would come and ask the Prophet(sas) about certain affairs.
That the Prophet (sas) did not leave anything which the people are in need of in their worship, their dealings with one another and their livelihood without having explained it is proven to you by His speech, the Exalted:
This day have I perfected for you your religion and have completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islaam as a religion
When this matter has been explained – O muslim – know that every one who innovates something in the religion of Allaah even if it is with a good intention, then his innovation, along with it being misguidance, will be considered a defamation of the religion of Allaah Azzawajall and will be considered a denial and rejection of Allaah the Exalted in His speech:
This day have I perfected for you your religion
Since this innovator who innovated a matter into the religion of Allaah which is not from the religion of Allaah is saying silently that the religion has not been completed because this matter which was left out, and which he innovated, can be used to draw closer to Allaah Azzawajall.
It is amazing that a person will innovate something related to Allaah’s Essence, His Name’s and Attributes and then say that in doing so he is exalting and magnifying his Lord, that he is freeing his Lord from any imperfections and faults and that he is obeying His speech the Exalted:
So do not set up equals or partners to Allaah
You will be amazed by this person. He makes this innovation in the religion of Allaah which is related to Allaah’s Essence, and which the Salaf from this Ummah were not upon and nor its leaders, and then says that he is freeing Allaah from defects, magnifying Him and is giving obedience to His speech, the Exalted:
So do not set up equals or partners to Allaah
and that whoever disagrees with that is someone who makes resemblances for Allaah and likens Him to His creation.
Just like you will be amazed by a people who innovate in the religion of Allaah something which is related to the Messenger of Allaah (sas) and which does not belong to the religion of Allaah. Then they call out and claim by this innovation that they are lovers of the Messenger of Allaah (sas), that they are exalting the Messenger of Allaah (sas). And that whoever does not agree with them in this innovation of theirs is a hater of the Messenger of Allaah (sas) and other such bad names which they give to whoever does not agree with them in their innovation.
It is amazing also that the likes of such people say ‘We are the ones who exalt and magnify Allaah and His Messenger. In reality when they innovate into the religion of Allaah and His Sharee’ah which the His Messenger (sas) came with something which does not belong to it they are without a doubt putting themselves ahead of Allaah and His Messenger. Allaah Azzawajall has said:
O you who believe! Do not put yourselves ahead of Allaah and His Messenger and fear Allaah. Indeed Allaah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.
My brothers, I ask and adjure you by Allaah Azzawajall, and I would like the answer to be from your hearts not from your sentiments and emotions, from what your religion necessitates and not your blind-following: What do you say about those who innovate into the religion of Allaah something which does not belong to it whether it is related to Allaah’s Essence, His Names and Attributes or whether it is related to the Messenger of Allaah (sas) and then say ‘We are exalting and magnifying Allaah and His Messenger’. Are these more deserving of being those who exalt and magnify Allaah and His Messenger?
Or is it those people who do not deviate even a fingertips length from Allaah’s Sharee’ah, who say with regard to what has come in the Sharee’ah ‘We believe and treat as true that with which we have been informed and we hear and we obey with regard to that which we have been commanded’ and who say about that which the Sharee’ah did not come with ‘We desist and refrain, it is not for us to put ourselves ahead of Allaah and His Messenger and it is not for us to say about the religion of Allaah something which is not found in it.’ Which of these two are more worthy of being those who love Allaah and His Messenger and who exalt Allaah and His Messenger?
There is no doubt that it is the ones who say ‘We believe and accept (as true) that with which we have been informed and we hear and we obey with regard to that which we have been commanded’ and who say ‘We hold back and refrain from that which we have not been commanded’ and who say ‘We are the least able in placing something in the Sharee’ah of Allaah something which is not in it’. There is no doubt that these are the ones who know and acknowledge their own limit and power and the power of their creator. These are the ones who magnify Allaah and His Messenger and they are the ones who demonstrate the truthfulness of their love for Allaah and His Messenger.
It is certainly not those who innovate into the religion of Allaah something which does not belong to it, in terms of belief, speech or action. You will surprised at a people who know the saying of the Messenger of Allaah (sas): “Beware of the newly-invented matters, for every newly-invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.” They know that his speech “…every innovation …” is general, comprehensive and complete, being enclosed and surrounded with the strongest particle that can be used for generalisation and inclusion and that is “…kullu (every)…” and that the one who spoke this comprehensive speech (sas) knows the sense and meaning of this word. That he is the most eloquent of the whole of creation, the greatest adviser of the creation to the creation, who does not speak except with something the meaning of which he (certainly and definitely) intends and desires.
Therefore, when the Prophet (sas) said: “Every innovation is misguidance” he knew what he was saying and he knew the meaning of what he said. These words came from him out of the perfection of (his) advice to the ummah.
Whenever these three matters come together in speech – the perfection of advice and will, the perfection of speech and discourse and the perfection of knowledge and acquaintance – it indicates that what is desired or intended by the speech is the actual meaning which it indicates and refers to. After this comprehensiveness is it correct that we divide innovations into three types or five types? Never! This is not correct.
The claim of some of the scholars that there is Bid’ah Hasanah (good innovation) falls into one of two situations (and is explained in one of two ways):
1. It is not an innovation in reality but a person considers it an innovation
2. That it is an innovation, which makes it evil, however a person does not know about its evil
Therefore, this is the answer to everything which is claimed to be a bid’ah hasanah. Built upon this, there is no way for the people of innovation to make from among their innovations something which is a bid’ah hasanah. In our hands is this sharp sword from the Messenger of Allaah (sas): “Every innovation is misguidance”. Verily, this sharp sword was manufactured in the factories of prophethood and messengership. It has not been made in the fragile and feeble factories (of people) but rather, it has been made in the factories of prophethood. The Prophet (sas) designed it into this fine and efficacious art. It is not possible for anyone to challenge the one in whose hand is this sharp sword with any innovation, saying it is a bid’ah hasanah while the Messenger of Allaah (sas) says: “Every innovation is misguidance”.
It is as if I feel in your souls a whispering which says: What do you say about the saying of Ameerul-Mumineen Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (ra) the one who was always in agreement with the truth when he ordered Ubayy bin Ka’b and Tameem ad-Daaree to stand and lead the people in prayer during Ramadaan and when he went out to the mosque while the people were all united behind one imaam: “What a good innovation this is. But the prayer which they do not perform but sleep at its time is better than the one they are performing.”
The answer to that is from two aspects:
The First: It is not permissible for any person to contradict and oppose the words of the Messenger (sas) with any other words. Not with the words of Abu Bakr who is the most superior person of the ummah after its prophet, nor the words of Umar who is the second best of this ummah after its prophet, nor the words of Uthmaan who is the third best of this ummah after its prophet and nor the words of Alee who is the fourth best of this ummah after its prophet and nor the words of anyone besides them because Allaah the Exalted said: Let those beware who withstand his (the messenger’s) order that a trial will befall them or that a painful punishment will touch them.
Imaam Ahmad (rh) said: “Do you know what the trial is? The trial is Shirk. Maybe when he rejects some of the words of the Prophet (sas) deviation and corruption falls into his heart so he is destroyed.”
And Ibn Abbaas (ra) said: “It is almost as if stones from the sky will fall upon you, I say to you the Messenger of Allaah (sas) said this and you say Abu Bakr and Umar said that”.
The Second: We know with certain knowledge that Ameerul-Mu’mineen Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (ra) was among the greatest of people in respecting and exonerating the words of Allaah the Exalted and His Messenger (sas). He was well known for standing by the limits (hudood) of Allaah the Exalted to such an extent that he was described as a guardian of the words of Allaah the Exalted.
Umar never transgressed the limits of Allaah and so it does not befit Umar (ra) to oppose and differ from the words of the leader of mankind, Muhammad (sas) and that he should say about an innovation “What an excellent innovation this is” and this innovation being the same one which the Messenger of Allaah (sas) meant by his speech “Every innovation is misguidance”. Rather it is necessary that this innovation about which Umar said: “What an excellent innovation this is” is placed with the type of innovation which does not fall under the intent of the Prophet (sas) in his speech: “Every innovation is misguidance”.
Umar (ra), by his speech, was referring to the gathering of people behind one imaam after they had been separated and dispersed. The basis for the prayer (in congregation) during Ramadaan was from the Messenger of Allaah (sas). It is established in the two saheehs from the hadeeth of Aa’ishah (ra) that the Prophet (sas) led the people in prayer for three nights and then remained behind from the people on the fourth night and said to them: “Indeed I feared that this may be made obligatory upon you and that you may not be able to perform it (due to its burden).”
Therefore, praying at night during Ramadaan in congregation is from the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger (sas) and Umar (ra) named this an innovation considering that when the Prophet (sas) abandoned praying with the people they became separated. One man would pray by himself and another would pray with another and yet another would be praying with two people. There would be groups of people praying in the mosque praying by themselves.
Then Umar (sas) saw, with his sharp and correct vision that he should unite the people behind a single imaam. This action in itself is an innovation when one considers that the situation before was one of separation and dispersal. This (kind of) innovation is a relative one and has a precedence and it is not an absolute innovation which has been initiated (without any former example or model). Umar (ra) reinstated this because this sunnah was present in the time of the Messenger (sas).
Therefore, this is a sunnah but it was abandoned since the time of the Messenger (sas) until Umar (ra) returned it. With this rule it is not possible, ever, for the people of innovation to find a passage or outlet from the words of Umar (ra) for what they sanction and approve of from among their innovations.
Someone may say: ‘There are innovated things which the muslims have accepted and have acted upon yet these things were not known during the time of the Messenger (sas) such as schools, composition of books and whatever resembles that. These are innovations which the muslims have considered to be good, acted upon them and see them as being from the best of actions. How then can you reconcile between this which is almost unanimously agreed upon by the muslims and between the speech of the leader of the muslims, the prophet of the muslims and the Messenger of the Lord of all the Worlds (sas): “Every innovation is misguidance.”
The answer: We say that this in reality is not an innovation. Rather it is a means to something which has been legislated (in the Sharee’ah). The means differ from place to place and time to time. It is from the established principles (in the Sharee’ah) that the means have rulings related to their intent or purpose. Therefore, ways and means for achieving something legislated are also legislated and permissible. Means and ways for things which are not legislated are also not legislated and means and ways to things which are unlawful are forbidden. Even good, when it is a means towards evil is also evil and as such is forbidden. Listen to the words of Allaah Azzawajall:
And do not revile or curse those whom they call upon besides Allaah so that they also revile and curse Allaah out of enmity without knowledge.
Reviling the gods of the pagans is not wrong rather it is true and justified however reviling the Lord of all the Worlds is improper, unjustified and constitutes enmity and oppression. That is why when the praiseworthy reviling of the gods of the pagans is a clear and open cause for reviling the Lord of all the Worlds it is unlawful and prohibited. I have presented this as a proof to show that the ways and means have rulings related to their intent and purpose. Therefore, schools, writing down of knowledge and authorship of books while they may be innovations, not being found in the era of the Prophet (sas) in this manner, are not the sole intent and purpose (i.e. sought in themselves). Rather they are of the means and ways which have the same ruling as the intent and purpose behind them, which in this case is to teach and spread knowledge.
This is why if a person was to build a school for the purposes of teaching knowledge which is forbidden, the building of the school is also forbidden and if he was to build the school for the purposes of teaching the Sharee’ah the building of this school is legislated and would be permissible.
If one was to say: How would you respond to the saying of the Prophet (sas): “Whoever enacted in Islaam a good sunnah would have its reward and the reward of whoever acted upon it till the day of Judgement.”
The answer: The one who said: “Whoever enacted in Islaam a good sunnah…” is the same one who said: “Every innovation is misguidance” and it is not possible that a saying should arise from the truthful and believed one (the Messenger) which makes another of his sayings false. It is not possible that the words of the Messenger of Allaah (sas) should ever contradict. Nor is it ever possible to reject one meaning when there is a contradiction. Whoever thinks that the words of Allaah or the words of His Messenger (sas) are contradictory should look again. This suspicion only arises either out of incapability or negligence. It is not possible for a contradiction to be found in the words of Allaah the Exalted or the words of His Messenger (sas).
When that is the case the explanation of the lack of contradiction between the hadeeth: “Every innovation is misguidance” and the hadeeth: “Whoever enacted in Islaam a good sunnah” is that the Prophet (sas) said: “Whoever introduced in Islaam” and innovations are not from Islaam. He also said: “hasanah (good)” and innovation is not hasanah (good). There is also a difference between reviving and innovating.
There is also another answer in which there is no fault: That the meaning of “man sanna (whoever enacted)” is: Whoever revived a sunnah which used to exist and then it became nonexistent (disappeared). Built upon this, “enacting” is a relative addition just like when one revives a sunnah after it had been abandoned is considered as an innovation (in relation to its previous non-existence).
There is also a third answer which indicates the context of the hadeeth and that is the story of the small band of people who came as a delegation to the Prophet (sas) and who were in very straitened and difficult circumstances. The Prophet (sas) called the people to bestow out their free will for these people. A man from the Ansaar came with a bag of silver which was very heavy in his hands. He placed it in front of the Messenger (sas) and the face of the Prophet (sas) began to rejoice out of delight and happiness and he said: “Whoever enacted in Islaam a good sunnah would have its reward and the reward of whoever acted upon it till the day of Judgement.” Here the meaning of enacting is the introduction of an action in terms of its execution/performance and not in terms of legislation. Therefore the meaning of: “”Whoever enacted in Islaam a good sunnah” is the one who acted upon it effecting it, and actualising it, not legislating it because legislation is forbidden since: “Every innovation is misguidance.”
Know my brothers that a person’s following of the Messenger (sas) is not proper and correct except when the action is in accordance with the Sharee’ah with respect to six matters:
The First: When a person worships Allaah with an act of worship linked to a cause or reason which is not legislated this is an innovation which is rejected from the one who performs it. An example of that is when people awaken on the seventeenth night of the month of Rajab with the proof that it was the night in which the Messenger of Allaah (sas) ascended to the heavens. The tahajjud prayer is indeed an act of worship but when it is linked to this reason it becomes an innovation because it is based and constructed upon a reason which is not established from the Sharee’ah. This description – the agreement of the act of worship with the Sharee’ah in terms of its reason and cause – is an important matter by which the innovatory nature of many things thought to be from the sunnah, when in reality they are not, are made clear.
The Second: Type or Kind: It is also vital that the act of worship agrees with the Sharee’ah in its type. If a person was to worship Allaah with an act of worship whose type or mode has not been legislated, it would not be accepted. An example of that is when a man sacrifices a horse, his sacrifice would not be correct because he has opposed the Sharee’ah in its specification of the type. Sacrifice is not performed except with lamb, cattle, sheep and camels.
The Third: Quantity: If a person desired to increase the prayer (with respect to the number of rakahs) this would become an innovation which is not acceptable since it opposes the Sharee’ah in terms of quantity. If a person was to pray Dhuhr with five rakahs for example, his prayer would not be correct by unanimous agreement.
The Fourth: Manner of Performance: If a person was to perform wudhoo by washing his feet first then wiping his head then his hands and then the face we would say: His wudhoo is void as it is in opposition to the Sharee’ah in the manner of its performance.
The Fifth: Time: If a man was to sacrifice an animal in the first days of Dhul-Hijjah the sacrifice would not be accepted due to its opposition to the Sharee’ah with respect to time. I have heard that some people sacrifce sheep during the month of Ramadaan seeking nearness to Allaah with this sacrifice. This action is an innovation with respect to time because there is nothing by which a person draws nearer to Allaah with sacrificing except the sacrifice of Adhaa, Aqeeqah and that which is given as a gift. As for sacrificing in the month of Ramadaan while believing that there is a reward for this sacrifice similar to the sacrifice on Eedul-Adhaa
then that is an innovation. And as for sacrificing merely for the meat then that is permissible.
The Sixth: Place: If a man was to perform I’tikaaf in other than a mosque his I’tikaaf would not be correct. This is because I’tikaaf is not to be performed except in the mosques. If a woman was to say: I wish to perform I’tikaaf in the place of prayer in the house, her I’tikaaf would not be correct due its opposition to the Sharee’ah in terms of time. Another example of this is when a man wishes to perform Tawaaf but finds that it has become constricted (due to the many people) and the area around him has become narrow and constricted so he begins to perform Tawaaf from behind the mosque. His Tawaaf would not be correct because the place for Tawaaf is the House (Ka’bah) Allaah the Exalted said to Ibraheem the Khaleel:
Purify my House for those who perform Tawaaf
Therefore Ibaadah is not considered to be righteous action except when two conditions are present:
The First: Ikhlaas (Sincerity)
The Second: Following and Adherence and this is not correct except by the six abovementioned matters.
I say to those who have been put to trial with innovations and whose intentions were (no doubt) good, desiring good when you desire good but we do not know, by Allaah, a path better than the path of the Salaf may Allaah be pleased with them.
My brothers bite onto the Sunnah of the Messenger (sas) with the molars and travel upon the path of the Salaf us-Saalih. Be upon whatever they were upon and then look and see: Will that will injure or hurt you in any way?
I say – and I seek refuge in Allaah that I say something about which I have no knowledge – I say: You will find that many amongst these people who are eager and zealous in innovations are weak and feeble in carrying out those matters whose legislation has been established and whose correctness from the sunnah has also been established. When they finish and depart from these innovations they face the established acts of sunnah with laxity.
All of this is from the evil effects of innovations upon the heart. The evil effects of innovations upon the heart are very great (and severe) and their dangers towards the religion are immense (and significant). Never do a people make an innovation into the religion of Allaah except that they neglect from the Sunnah its like or even greater than it, as some of the people of knowledge from the Salaf have mentioned.
Conversely, when a man feels (and knows) that he is following (and adhering) and not legislating he will obtain, as a result of that, the perfection of awe, submission, humility and worship of the Lord of all the Worlds, and the perfection of following and adherence to the Imaam of the Allaah-fearing, the chief of the messengers and the Messenger of the Lord of all the Worlds, Muhammad (sas)
I direct this advice to all my muslim brothers who consider anything from among the innovations to be good, whether they are related to the Essence of Allaah, His Names and Attributes or to the Messenger of Allaah (sas) and exalting him, that they should fear Allaah and turn away from that. Furthermore, they should make their affair built upon adherence and imitation and not innovation, upon sincerity and not association of partners (in Allaah’s worship), upon the Sunnah and not upon Bid’ah, upon what ar-Rahmaan loves and not upon what Shaytaan loves. Then they should look at the security, life and tranquility that their hearts will obtain and also the ease and comfort of their condition.
I ask Allaah that He makes us guides who are guided and leaders of the righteous. That He enlightens our hearts with faith and knowledge and that He does not make the knowledge we have aqcuired harmful to us. That He travels with us upon the path of His believing servants and that He makes us from among His close friends who have fear of him and among His party of the succesful ones. May Allaah send prayers and blessings upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and his companions.