Bid’ah: A Study of its Usage and Legal Application

January 29, 2013

by Zameelur Rahman

The article linked below presents a thorough treatment of the concept of bid’ah based on the book, al-I’tisam, by Imam al-Shatibi. This is from its introduction:

The notion of “bid‘ah” in Islam is one that is confusing to many. There are a number of reasons for this which are not the concern of this paper, but suffice it to say, there is very little clarity presented on the more nuanced aspects of this concept, and unfortunately there are few works in English, if any, that attempt to tackle the concept of bid‘ah accurately and with serious depth.

Fortunately, however, we have an excellent and well-researched work on the subject in Arabic by the eminent pre-modern scholar, Imam Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Musa ibn Muhammad al-Lakhmi al-Shatibi (d. 790 H), called al-I‘tisam. Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi was a Maliki Ash‘ari jurist and scholar, particularly known for his contributions in the fields of usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) and fiqh (jurisprudence). He is the author of al-Muwafaqat, an authoritative work on the subject of usul al-fiqh.

This paper is primarily based on Imam al-Shatibi’s definitive study of bid‘ah in his seminal work, al-I‘tisam, but will also draw on other sources to support some of his conclusions. The aim is to present a coherent and satisfactory examination of the concept of bid‘ah, with a treatment of all its important aspects, while keeping it as short and digestible as possible.