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MuhammedAli

Dissecting Ibn Uthaimeen’S Understanding Of Phrase ‘Every Innovation’ In Light Of Quran And Ahadith.

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Introduction:

In his life time Ibn Uthaimeen was one of the leading proponents of Wahhabism/Salafism. As such his writings are esteemed by Wahhabi/Salafi throughout the world. Minions of Iblis utilize his works to base their arguments against Islam. As such it is crucial his point is addressed comprehensively as possible so the Muslims can refute any argument which stems from his work. Note his line of reasoning is similar to Ibn Fawzan’s drivel which was refuted in another article, here. If Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) permits knew material will be presented.

Statement Of Ibn Uthaimeen:

“And you should be amazed at a people who recognize the words of Allah's Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) are complete, comprehensive and universal, being encompassed by the strongest grammatical particle used to make a noun universal and all-encompassing i.e. qullu (i.e. every): "Beware of the newly-invented matters, for every such matter is a bid'ah and every bid'ah leads astray, and everything that leads astray is in the Fire."[1] And they know that his words: "... every bid'ah ..." And (they know that) the one who used this word he knew what this word indicated and he was the most eloquent of all and he was the sincerest of the creation towards the creation. Hence he would not use a word unless its meaning was that which he intended. Hence (they know that) when the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “... every bid'ah leads astray ... ". He knew what he was saying and he knew its meaning. And this saying of Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) emanated as a result of complete sincerity and concern for the Ummah. (They know that) when these three characteristics were all present in his words i.e. complete sincerity and good wishes, complete clarity and eloquence, and complete knowledge and understanding. Then it is clear that what he said was what he wanted to say in order to convey his desired meaning. So (you should be amazed, that such a people, after recognizing all this) think that innovation can be of three or five categories? Can this be correct? Never! And what some scholars do claim is that there exists the good innovation. But if this is so, then they can only be referring to two cases: i) that it is not an innovation but they do consider it to be one, ii) it is an innovation, and hence it is something evil, but they do not know of its evil. (And these are the only two possibilities, bearing in mind that the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "... every bid'ah leads astray ... "[2]

Principles Of Making General Into Specific:

i)
Sometimes word ‘every’ is used (i.e. every one of you can eat …) and then generality of ‘every’ is negated by usage of ‘except’ followed by what is excepted from the generality (i.e. except those who have not washed their hands). ii) Sometimes first statement (i.e. All of you can eat now.) is followed by second statement which serves as exceptive clause even though word ‘except’ has not been employed (i.e. Those who have not washed their hands wash your hands first). iii) Sometimes missing information is added into a statement from another statement.  Y says: ‘Every transgression against the Islamic law is a sin and every sin is punishable.’ Y follows this up with: ‘Whoever commits a crime type of sin, result of which another human or property of another is damaged than such a person will receive ten years of prison sentence according to the law of land.’ In the first statement Y did not state what type of sin is punishable and who will punish it but the second statement serves as an explanation for the first one. In other words, every sin of type which brings harm to a human or to property is punishable by ten years of prison sentence. In this fashion ‘every sin’ is excepted to only include those sins which result in harm to a human or property. Fancy word for this type of interpretation is intertextuality. This will be employed in next section to explain the Hadith of every innovation is misguidance.

Restricting ‘Every Innovation’ With Intertextual Interpretation:

Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) is reported to have said: “And he who introduces a evil precedent in Islam (i.e. فِي الإِسْلاَمِ سُنَّةً سَيِّئَةً), there is upon him the burden of that, and the burden of him also who acted upon it subsequently, without any deduction from their burden.” [Ref: Muslim, B34, H6466] The above is repeated in the following Hadith where the word سُنَّةً is replaced by بِدْعَةَ: "And whoever introduces erroneous innovation (i.e. بِدْعَةَ) with which Allah is not pleased nor His Messenger then he shall receive sins similar to whoever acts upon it without that diminishing anything from the sins of the people.” [Ref: Tirmadhi, B29, H2677] These two Ahadith clarify that evil/misguiding innovation in Islam incurs sin. So the following words of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) are in context of evil/misguiding innovations: “And the most evil affairs are the innovations; and every innovation is misguidance." [Ref: Muslim, B4, H1885] Intertextual understanding of this Hadith is; the most evil affairs are the reprehensible/misguiding innovations[3] and every [such] evil innovation is misguidance. And he who introduces an evil precedent/innovation in Islam with which Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) are not pleased, then there is upon him the burden of that innovation, and the burden of those who acted upon the innovation, without any deduction from their burden.

Contextualizing Hadith Of Every Innovation:

No complex methodology of interpretation is required. Simple contextual placement between the two Ahadith and reading them as a single Hadith brings out the true meaning of Hadith of every innovation. Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) said: "And whoever introduces erroneous innovation (i.e. بِدْعَةَ) with which Allah is not pleased nor His Messenger then he shall receive sins similar to whoever acts upon it without that diminishing anything from the sins of the people. And the most evil affairs are the innovations; and every innovation is misguidance. And he who introduces an evil precedent in Islam (i.e. فِي الإِسْلاَمِ سُنَّةً سَيِّئَةً), there is upon him the burden of that, and the burden of him also who acted upon it subsequently, without any deduction from their burden.”[4] Due to the context in which the Hadith of every innovation is found in, the meaning of every innovation is limited and restricted to every misguiding/evil innovation.

What Are Innovations According To Ahadith:

Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) is reported to have said: “Narrated Aisha: “Allah's Messenger said: "One who innovates something in this matter of ours that is not of it will have it rejected.”[5] [Ref: Bukhari, B49, H861] In other words an innovation into Prophetic Sunnah which alters the Prophetic Sunnah then such altered Sunnah and the innovation which altered the Sunnah is rejected. Following Hadith confirms the quoted Hadith but also adds the underlined: “Aisha reported the Messenger of Allah as saying: If any one introduces into this affair of ours anything which does not belong to it, it is rejected. Ibn `Isa said: The Prophet said: If anyone practices any action in a way other than our practice, it is rejected. [Ref: Abu Dawood, B41, H4589] In other words, if someone was to change how prophetic Sunnah (i.e. action) is performed then the altered action is to be rejected. Example of this would be, not placing your both palms on ground while performing Sajdah. Hence the Sajdah would be invalid and one invalid Sajdah invalidates the prayer being performed. Lastly it is recorded in another Hadith that Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) is reported to have said: “All of them could be combined in one house; and then said: 'A'isha informed me that Allah's Messenger said: He who acted any action not from our affair that is rejected.[6] [Ref: Muslim, B18, H4267] In other words, if someone innovates into Islam an action which was not a Sunnah of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) and then acted upon this innovated action then the innovated action will be rejected.

Explaining Hadith Of Every Innovation Comprehensively:

Adding into prophetic Sunnah what was not part of Sunnah of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam). Example of this would be addition of Yoga pose in Salah. Altering a prophetic Sunnah by performing it differently from method demonstrated by Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam). Adding into Islam a completely knew action which was not from Islam. All of these are innovations and misguidance and all will be rejected and should be rejected. Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) has termed such innovations erroneous/evil innovations and has informed us of why one should not engage in such evil/erroneous innovations: "And whoever introduces erroneous innovation (i.e. بِدْعَةَ) with which Allah is not pleased nor His Messenger then he shall receive sins similar to whoever acts upon it without that diminishing anything from the sins of the people.” [Ref: Tirmadhi, B29, H2677] “And he who introduces an evil precedent in Islam (i.e. فِي الإِسْلاَمِ سُنَّةً سَيِّئَةً), there is upon him the burden of that, and the burden of him also who acted upon it subsequently, without any deduction from their burden.” [Ref: Muslim, B34, H6466] Regarding such evil/reprehensible innovations Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) said: “And the most evil affairs are the innovations; and every [erroneous/evil] innovation is misguidance." [Ref: Muslim, B4, H1885]

Conclusion:

O Muslims, know the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) never spoke a lie nor provided misguidance instead of guidance. Deen of Islam was explained by him and his statements were clarified by him. Judge the teaching of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) on subject of innovation as whole and do not distort Islam. When he said, every innovation is misguidance. Then know; he meant every innovation which alters prophetic Sunnah, or adds to prophetic Sunnah, or takes away from prophetic Sunnah and innovation which is composed of Haram, or Shirk, or Kufr. And he termed such innovations as erroneous innovations and evidence of it as follows: "And whoever introduces erroneous innovation (i.e. بِدْعَةَ) with which Allah is not pleased nor His Messenger...” [Ref: Tirmadhi, B29, H2677] In following Hadith meaning of previous Hadith is being conveyed: “And he who introduces an evil precedent in Islam (i.e. فِي الإِسْلاَمِ سُنَّةً سَيِّئَةً), there is upon him the burden of that, and the burden of him also who acted upon it subsequently, without any deduction from their burden.” [Ref: Muslim, B34, H6466] All practical aspects of fundamental Islam are prophetic Sunnahs and what is not prophetic Sunnah is not fundamental Islam but it is innovation. When he said, one who introduces an evil Sunnah into Islam there upon him is burden of sin, he has told you of burden of sin for innovating in Islam an evil Sunnah. When he tells of reward for introducing good Sunnahs into Islam then know Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) has allowed the Muslims to innovate good Sunnahs (i.e. practices) into Islam and evidence of it: “He who introduces a فِي الإِسْلاَمِ سُنَّةً حَسَنَةً (i.e. good Sunnah in Islam), there is a reward for him for this and reward of that also who acted according to it subsequently, without any deduction from their rewards …” [Ref: Muslim, B34, H6466] Know what is being introduced into Islam is not from it and goods Sunnahs are innovations. Hadhrat Umar (radiallah ta’ala anhu) introduced an innovation and said about it: “On that, 'Umar remarked نِعْمَتِ الْبِدْعَةُ هَذِهِ (i.e. what an excellent innovation this is) but the prayer which they do not perform, but sleep at its time is better than the one they are offering.” [Ref: Bukhari, B32, H227] Would you say Taraweeh of entire month under leadership of an Imam was not an innovation but a prophetic Sunnah? Would you be irrational and argue it is not an innovation but he considered it to be. In that case you claim to know better what innovation is then a companion of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam). Are you that mad?

Wama alayna ilal balaghul mubeen
Muhammed Ali Razavi

Footnotes:

- [1] Reported by Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi and others, no. 2549 in Sahih al-Jami without: " ... everything that leads astray is in the Fire ... ", and hadith no.28 in an-Nawawi's Forty Hadith.

- [2] The original has been reworked to improve coherency. Some changes were made i.e. inserting words for clarification, and some material was rearranged. Nothing has been inserted or omitted to weaken the argument presented by Wahhabi Shaykh.

- [3] Reprehensible innovation is which does not please Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and beloved Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam). Such innovation is reviving which is prohibited or composed of prohibited, or composed of Kufr, or Shirk, and which goes against any teaching of Islam, or amalgamation of all mentioned.

- [4] The Hadith are quoted in the following order: Tirmadhi, B29, H2677, Muslim, B4, H1885, Muslim, B34, H6466.

- [5] Alternative translation based on all available Ahadith on the subject: “Narrated Aisha: Allah's Messenger said: "If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected." [Ref: Bukhari, Book 49, Hadith 861]

- [6] Alternative translation based on all available Ahadith on the subject: “He who did any act for which there is no sanction from our behalf that is to be rejected.” [Ref: Muslim, B18, H4267]

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