Meaning of Bid‘ah – Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī

June 21, 2019

In a polemic against a Barelwī writer, Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī (1905 – 1997) wrote on the meaning of bid‘ah in Sayf e Yamānī (a work written in 1930, endorsed by leading Deobandī scholars, including Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī and ‘Allāmah Shabbīr Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī):

Linguistically, bid‘ah refers to something new, and in the terminology of the ‘Ulamā’ of Sharī‘ah, the term is used for two meanings: one, every action which came into existence after the time of Janāb Rasūlullāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and was not present in his time – in which case this action in view of Sharī‘ah can at times be good and at times bad; second, anything that is not from matters of dīn and people begin to regard it as a matter of dīn – this is also called “real bid‘ah” or “legal bid‘ah”, and such bid‘ah is always blameworthy. Our Prophet, the commander and forbidder, upon him and his progeny blessing and peace, said:

من أحدث في أمرنا هذا ما ليس منه فهو رد

“Whoever introduces into this matter of ours what is not from it, it is rejected.”

It should also be understood that the ‘Ulamā’ who divided bid‘ah into two categories of “good” and “bad”, their intent is the first meaning of bid‘ah, about which we have mentioned that in view of Sharī‘ah it can at times be good and at times bad. Those noble ‘Ulamā’ who have unrestricetedly censured bid‘ah and determine all bid‘ahs to be bad, their intent is this latter meaning, and based on this, the Messenger of God (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) said:

كل بدعة ضلالة وكل ضلالة فى النار

“Every bid‘ah is deviance and every deviance is in the Hellfire.”

Thus there is no contradiction between the two statements, and in fact those who regard them to be contradictory and opposing are pure ignoramuses.

Yes, keeping in mind the attitude of the commoners in our time, it is an obligation of the ‘Ulamā’ of the Ummah to adopt this latter methodology and not open the door of deviance by dividing bid‘ah. Thus, possessors of foresight from the earlier scholars adopted this [methodology]. Imām Rabbānī Maḥbūb Subḥānī Ḥaḍrat Sayyid Aḥmad Ṣāḥib Mujaddid Alf Thanī (Allāh have mercy on him) wrote in his Maktūbāt:

“People say that bid‘has are two categories: good and bad. Good refers to the good action that was invented after the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and the rightly-guided caliphs (Allāh be pleased with them), and does not remove a Sunnah, while bad is what removes a Sunnah. This Faqīr does not see goodness and illumination in these bid‘ahs, and does not sense anything besides darkness and murkiness in them.”

Then he said, and how brilliant is what he said:

“The leader of man (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) has said that one who introduces into dīn what is not from it, it is rejected. How can something rejected be good?”

Further, he said:

“Since every new thing is bid‘ah and every bid‘ah is deviance, what is the meaning to bid‘ah being good? Further, it is realised from ḥadīths that each and every bid‘ah is a cause of removal of a Sunnah. No bid‘ah is exempted from this. Thus, every bid‘ah is deviance.” (Maktūbāt, volume 1, part 3, p 73)

In these holy Maktūbāt (letters), second volume, part 6, page 56, there is a long letter, the subject-matter of which is this [topic]. For the purpose of brevity, I will quote a few sentences of it below:

“However, this Faqīr does not agree with him on this matter and does not recognise any individual bid‘ah as ‘good’, and does not sense anything besides darkness and murkiness within bid‘ah. The Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘Every bid‘ah is deviance.’ In this time, of Islām being strange and weak, safety is only in following Sunnah, and corruption comes from perpetrating bid‘ah, whatever bid‘ah it may be. This Faqīr recognises bid‘ah to be like a shovel, which renders the foundation of Islām fallen, and recognises Sunnah to be like bright stars which give guidance in the dark night of deviance. Allāh give direction to the ‘Ulamā of the time to not express with their tongue the word ‘good’ for any bid‘ah, and not give fatwā for the permissibility of any bid‘ah, even if that bid‘ah in their view appears to be like the light of a bright morning because Satanic deception gains great power in anything besides Sunnah.”

It is clearly evident from these statements of Ḥaḍrat Imām Rabbānī that according to him, this division of bid‘ah opens a very wide door to deviance, and at a time of trials, he regarded it as a major calamity for the Muslims particularly, and did not approve of it at all.

Moreover, this is also the methodology of ‘Allāmah Muḥaqqiq Sayyid Sharīf [al-Jurjānī], Khātam al-Ḥuffāẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, ‘Allāmah Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī (Allāh, Exalted is He, have mercy on them). Thus, Khātam al-Muḥaqqiqīn Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Muḥammad ‘Abdul Ḥayy Ṣāḥib Firangī Maḥallī (Allāh illuminate his resting place) wrote in his book Tuḥfat al-Akhyār:

والقول الثاني وهو الأصح بالنظر الدقيق: أن حديث كل بدعة ضلالة باق على عمومه، وأن المراد به البدعة الشرعية، وهي ما لم يوجد فى القرون المشهود لها بالخير، ولم يوجد له أصل من الأصول الشرعية، ومن المعلوم أن كل ما كان على هذه الصفة فهو ضلالة قطعا، وإلى هذا القول مال السيد في شرح المشكوة، والحافظ ابن حجر فى الهدى الساري مقدمة فتح الباري، وفي فتح الباري، وابن حجر المكي فى الفتح المبين شرح الأربعين وغيرهم (تحفة الأخيار

“The second view, which is the more authentic upon closer scrutiny, is that the ḥadīth, ‘Every bidah is deviance’, remains on its generality, and the intent of it is legal bid‘ah, which is all that was not present in the eras whose virtue has been attested to, and does not have a basis from the bases of Sharī‘ah. It is obvious that everything with such characteristic is definitely deviance. Sayyid in Sharḥ al-Mishkāt, Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar in al-Huda al-Sārī introduction to Fatḥ al-Bārī and in Fatḥ al-Bārī and Ibn Ḥajar al-Makkī in al-Fatḥ al-Mubīn Sharḥ al-Arba‘īn and others have inclined to this view.”

(Sayf e Yamānī, p. 96-9)


Mujaddid Alf-e-Thani’s stance against Bid’ah Hasanah

August 19, 2012

Mujaddid Alf-e-Thani’s stance against Bid’ah Hasanah
(Vol 1) Letter 186 to Khwajah ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Mufti al-Kabuli in Encouraging Adherence to Sunnah and Avoidance of Bid‘ah and that every Bid‘ah is Misguidance

I ask Allah – glorified and exalted is He – with humbleness and contrition, helplessness and poverty, humility and brokenness, in secret and in openness, to not try this feeble one with those who unite near Him or rely on Him in performing every innovated practice of bid‘ah in the religion, of that which was not present in the time of the best of humanity and the time of the rightly guided caliphs (upon him and upon them blessings and peace), even if that act is like the breaking of dawn in clarity, and [I ask Allah] that He does not try us with approving of that innovator, [and I ask this] through the sanctity of the select master and his righteous progeny (upon him and upon them blessing and peace).

Some people say bid‘ah is of two types: good and bad. Thus, good bid‘ah is every righteous deed which arose after the time of our Prophet and the time of the rightly guided caliphs (upon him and upon them blessings and peace) and does not eliminate a Sunnah practice; while bad bid‘ah does eliminate a Sunnah practice.

This needy one has not seen any goodness or light in any bid‘ah, and he has not sensed in them anything besides darkness and dirt. Whoever, in the present time, supposedly finds praise and light in an innovated matter due to a weak insight, he will learn tomorrow after gaining sharpness in vision, that it has no advantage at all besides in regret and loss.

[poetry not translated]

The master of men (upon him blessing and peace) said: “Whoever innovates in this matter of ours what is not of it, it is rejected.” So when a thing is rejected, from where will goodness come to it? He (upon him blessing and peace) said: “To proceed. Verily the best speech is the Book of Allah, and the best conduct is the conduct of Muhammad. The worst of affairs are their innovations, and every innovation is bid‘ah, and every bid‘ah is misguidance.” He (upon him blessing and peace) said: “I enjoin unto you the fear of Allah, and listening and obedience, even if an Ethiopian slave [is your leader]; for indeed those of you who live after me will see much conflict. Incumbent on you is my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs. Remain steadfast on that, and bite on it with the molar teeth. And beware of innovated matters, for indeed every innovation is bid‘ah, and every bid‘ah is misguidance.”

Since every innovation is bid‘ah, and every bid‘ah is misguidance, what is the meaning of goodness in bid‘ah? Furthermore, the purport of the hadiths is that every bid‘ah eliminates a Sunnah, and eliminating [Sunnah] is not restricted to some [bid‘ahs]. Hence, every bid‘ah is bad. He (upon him blessing and peace) said: “No group innovates a bid‘ah except the like of it from the Sunnah is lifted.” Thus, adhering to the Sunnah is better than inventing a bid‘ah. It was narrated from Hassan [ibn Thabit] that he said: “No group innovated a bid‘ah in their religion except Allah removed the like of it from their Sunnahs, and then He will not return it to them till the Day of Resurrection.”

It should be known that some bid‘ahs which the ‘ulama and mashayikh counted amongst good bid‘ah, when carefully considered, it will be realised that it eliminates a Sunnah practice. An example of this is that they consider putting a turban on the dead a good bid‘ah, although it eliminates a Sunnah because it is an addition on the Sunnah number [of garments] for shrouding, which is three garments, and [according to the principles of jurisprudence] an addition is abrogation, and abrogation is the very essence of elimination. Similarly some mashayikh have considered releasing the tail of the turban to the left to be good although the Sunnah is to release it between the shoulders, and this bid‘ah eliminating that Sunnah is manifest containing no obscurity.

Likewise some scholars have considered it good to articulate with the tongue the intention of Salah along with the intention of the heart even though articulating the intention on the tongue has not been established from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), nor his noble companions, nor the great successors, neither in an authentic transmission nor in a weak transmission. Rather they would do the initial takbir after standing. Thus, articulating [the intention] is bid‘ah. And they say that it is a good bid‘ah. This needy one says that this bid‘ah eliminates an obligation let alone a Sunnah, because most people suffice with this degree, of expressing the intention with the tongue, meaning without bringing the intention in the heart, and without care for the heedlessness of the heart from this matter, and thus an obligation from the obligations of Salah, that is the intention [of the heart], is completely abandoned, and leads to the corruption of Salah.

And likewise all bid‘ahs and innovations follow on this pattern because they are additions to the Sunnah, even if only in one aspect, and an addition is abrogation, and abrogation is elimination. Thus, you must restrict yourself to following the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and suffice with imitating the noble companions for they are like stars: whichever of them you imitate, you will be guided. As for analogy (qiyas) and exercising scholarly opinion (ijtihad) it is not bid‘ah at all, because it is a clarifier of the meaning of the texts, and it does not establish an additional matter. So take heed O possessors of intelligence! Peace be on those who follow guidance, and adhere to the practice of the Chosen One – upon him and upon his progeny the best of blessings and the most complete of salutations.

….

Hadrat Mujaddid Alf-e-Thani  said in another letter:

“As long as man does not abstain from such ‘bid’ah hasanah’ which is in reality ‘bid’ah sayyiah’, he will be deprived of the fragrance of this wealth of Imaan. Today, the comprehension of the tenth has become most difficult because the entire world is drowning in the ocean of bid’ah. People are reclining and taking comfort in the darkness of bid’ah practices. Who today has the ability to eliminate bid’ah and revive Sunnah? The majority of the Ulama of this age are engaged in establishing bid’at and eliminating Sunnah….” 

[Maktoob 54, Daftar 11, addressed to Sayyid Shah Muhammad]

Another letter of profound insight by the Mujaddid of this millenium:

“The happiest, the most fortunate person is he who recovers one of the forgotten sunnats and annihilates one of the widespread bid’ats in a time when irreligiousness is on the increase. We are now in such a time when a thousand years have elapsed after the Best of man kind [Hadhrat Muhammad ], As we get farther from the time of happiness of our Prophet, the sunnats are gradually being covered and, lies being on the increase, the bid’ats are spreading.

A hero is needed who will uphold the sunnats and stop, expel the bid’ats. To spread bid’ats is to demolish Islam. To respect those who make up and commit bid’ats, to deem them great will cause Islam to perish. It is declared in a hadith, “He who says ‘great’ about those who commit bid’ats has helped the demolition of islam”. The meaning of this should be given die consideration on. Utmost energy should be spent in striving for uncovering one Sunnat and annihilating one bid’at. For strengthening Islam any-time, especially when Islam has become so weak, it is necessary to spread the sunnats and demolish the bid’ats.

The former Islamic savants, having seen maybe some beauty in the bid’ats, gave some of them the name of hasana [beautiful]. But this faqir [Imaam-Rabbini means himself] do not follow them in this respect; I do not regard any of the bid’ats as beautiful. I see all of them as dark and cloudy. Our Prophet declared: “All bid’ats are aberration, deviation from the right way”. In such a time as this when Islam has become weak, I see that salvation and escaping Hell is in holding fast to the Sunnat; and destruction of the din is, no matter how, in falling for any bid’at. I understand that each bid’at is like a pickaxe to demolish the building of Islam and all sunnats are like brilliant stars to guide you on a dark night.

May Allahu ta’ala give enough reasonableness to the hodjas of our time so that they will not say that any bid’at is beautiful or permit any bid’at to be committed. They should not tolerate bid’ats even if they seem to illuminate darknesses like the rising of the sun! For, the satans do their work easily outside the sunnats. In the early times, Islam being strong, the darknesses of bid’ats were not conspicuous, but, maybe, along with the world-wide powerful light of Islam, some of those darknesses passed as bright. Therefore they were said to be beautiful. Whereas, those bid’ats did not have any brightness or beauty, either.

But now, Islam having become weak and disbelievers’ customs and even the symptoms of disbelief having become settled [as fashion] among Muslims, each bid’at has displayed its harm, and Islam, without anyone noticing it, has been slipping away. Our hodjas should be most vigilant in this respect, and they should not pioneer the spreading of bid’ats by saying, “it is permissible to do so and so”, or “such and such things is not harmful”, and putting forward the old fatwas. Here is the place for the saying, ‘The din will change in process of time”. It is wrong for disbelievers to use this saying as tongs for demolishing Islam and settling the bid’ats and disbelief.

The bid’ats having covered all the world, this age roosts like a dark night. The sunnats being on the decrease, their lights blink like fire-flies flying here and there in dark night. As the committing of bid’ats increases, the darkness of the night has been increasing and the light of Sunnat has been decreasing. But the increasing of the sunnats would decrease the darkness and increase the light. He who wishes may increase the darkness of bid’at, thus strengthening the devil’s army! And he who wishes may increase the light of Sunnat, thus strengthening the soldiers of Allahu ta’ala! Know well that the end of the devil’s army is calamity, loss. He who is in the army of Allahu ta’ala will attain endless bliss.” (Vol 2:23)

….

This letter by the Mujaddid, written in response to a letter from Shaikh Hasan-i Barki, encourages to recover the forgotten sunnats and to abstain from bidats.

I begin to write this letter with the Basmala. May hamd (grateful praise) be to Allahu ta’ala. I send my salams to and prayers for the good people chosen by Allahu ta’ala. I was very much pleased to read the letter from my brother Shaikh Hasan. Valuable pieces of knowledge and marifats were written in it. When I understood them, I became quite pleased. Thanks be to Allahu ta’ala, all the knowledge and kashfs which you wrote are correct. They are all agreeable with the Qur’an and hadiths. So are the right beliefs of the savants of Ahl as-sunnat. May Allahu ta’ala keep you on the right way. May He bless you with attaining high grades! You write that you have been striving to do away with the bidats that are so widespread. At such a time as this, when the darknesses of bidats are so prevalent, it is a very great blessing to bring about the annihilation of one bidat and to recover one of the forgotten sunnats. Our Prophet “sall-Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam’ states in a sahih hadith: “He who recovers one of my forgotten sunnats will receive as many thawabs as a hundred martyrs will receive!” The greatness of this deed must be inferred from this hadith. But, when doing this, there is an important subtlety to be observed. That is, while trying to recover one sunnat, we should not cause any fitna; one goodness should not give birth to a variety of problems or evils, for we are in the latest time. We are in a century when Muslims are weak and forlorn.

Do your best to educate and to bring up so as to be well-mannered and well-learned the late Mawlana Ahmad’s “rahmatullahi ta’ala ‘alaih’ children. Teach them spiritual and bodily adabs! Be an example for everybody you know and meet and even all your brothers- in-Islam there by obeying the Shariat and holding fast to the sunnat! Tell everybody about the harms of committing bidat, of disbelief! May Allahu ta’ala bless you with the lot of doing good deeds! May He give success to those who strive for the spreading of the Islamic din and for teaching it to the youngsters! May He protect us and our children against going astray by being deceived by the enemies of the din and virtue, by those who strive to demolish the Islamic din and steal the iman and morals of the pure youth, and by those who try to deceive the youngsters through lies and slanders! Amin.

My son! When fitna is widespread and fasads are abundant, it is time to repent and make istighfar. You must keep aloof and not participate in fitna. Fitna is growing and spreading each day. Our beloved Prophet “sallallahu alaihi wa sallam’ said: “As the Doomsday approaches, fitna will increase. It will resemble the increase in darkness as night begins. Many who leave their homes in the morning as Muslim, will return home as kafirs in the evening. While they are Muslim in the evening, they will lose their belief during the night at places of amusement. During such times, to stay at home is better than being involved in fitna. Those who stay aloof are better than those who attack and lead in front. On that day, break your arrows! Leave your weapons and swords! Address everybody with a smiling face and sweet words! Do not leave your house!””

(Vol 3:105)

The Mujaddid said:

“You have asked how it is that I forbid dhikr with loud voice and not condemn many other things which had not existed at the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) such as the shirt open in front (libas farji) and pyjamas. Please note that the acts of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) were of two kinds: those that were performed as ibadah, an act of worship, and those that were done as urf and adah, habits and customs. The acts which were done as ibadah, we consider deviations from them to be evil innovations, and condemn them strongly, for they are innovations in religion (din) and must be rejected. But the acts which were done as part of habit and custom, we do not regard deviations from them as innovation, and do not proscribe them. For they do not belong to religion (din); their existence or disappearance depends upon the custom of society rather than religion” (Vol 1:231)