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Hadith Of Good/Evil Innovated Sunnahs: A Critical Analysis Of An Interpretation.


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Introduction.

Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) is reported to have said: whoever introduces good Sunnah in Islam and those who follow it all will have equal reward. Due to thisHadith of innovated good/evil Sunnahs Muslims believe these Ahadith teach reward for innovated good Sunnahs, for its creator and actors. The anti-Islam element argues contextually Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) uttered the words about Sunnah of Sadaqah therefore they are about reviving forgotten/neglected prophetic Sunnahs. This Hadith can be explained in many different ways without contradicting the established teachings of Quran and Ahadith. And when a interpretation contradicts fundamental meaning of Hadith then it is to be rejected. Unless it can be reconciled with natural meaning of Hadith. This article will attempt to point the fault in anti-Islam element’s understanding and if Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) wills it will be reconciled with fundamental meaning of Hadith.

0.0 - Ahadith Of Reprehensible And Praiseworthy Innovated Sunnah.

Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) stated: “It was narrated that Abu Juhaifah said: "The Messenger of Allah said: 'Whoever introduces a good practice (i.e. Sunnah Hasanah) that is followed after him, will have a reward for that and the equivalent of their reward, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. Whoever introduces an evil practice that is followed after him, will bear the burden of sin for that and the equivalent of their burden of sin, without that detracting from their burden in the slightest.'" [Ref: Ibn Majah, B1, H207/H203] Same meaning Hadith is narrated with Khayrin (i.e. good) in Tirmadhi instead of Hasanah (i.e. good): “Narrated Ibn Jarir bin Abdullah: From his father that the Messenger of Allah said: "Whoever starts a good tradition (سُنَّةَ خَيْرٍ) which is followed, then for him is a reward, and the likes of their rewards of whoever follows him, there being nothing diminished from their rewards. And whoever starts a bad tradition which is followed, then for him is the sin, and the likes of the sins of whoever follows him, there being nothing diminished from their sins." [Ref: Tirmadhi, B39, H2675] In Sahih of Imam Muslim (rahimullah) this Hadith has also been narrated with variation of Sunnah Salihah: "Jarir b. 'Abdullah reported Allah's Messenger as saying: The servant does not introduce سُنَّةً صَالِحَةً (i.e. good/righteous Sunnah) which is followed after him. The rest of the hadith is the same." [Ref: Muslim, B34, H6468] This Hadith is also narrated with the words ‘in Islam’ twice in Sahih of Imam Muslim (rahimullah alayhi ta’ala) and once in Nisai: "… them in succession until signs of happiness could be seen on his (sacred) face. Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: He who introduced some good practice (i.e. Sunnah Hasanah) in Islam (فِي الإِسْلاَمِ) which was followed after him (by people) he would be assured of reward like one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And he who introduced some evil practice (i.e. Sunnah) in Islam which had been followed subsequently (by others), he would be required to bear the burden like that of one who followed this (evil practice) without theirs being diminished in any respect." [Ref: Muslim, B34, H6466]“The Messenger of Allah said: 'Whoever sets a good precedent (i.e. Sunnah Hasanah) in Islam (فِي الإِسْلاَمِ) he will have the reward for that, and the reward of those who acted in accordance with it, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever sets an evil precedent in Islam, he will have a burden of sin for that, and the burden of those who acted in accordance with it, without that detracting from their burden in the slightest."' [Ref: Nisai, B23, H2555] None of these details matter because over-all meaning of all Ahadith is same – i.e. of reward/punishment for innovated good/evil Sunnah in Islam for innovator and actor.

0.1 - Genre Of Ahadith Of Reward For Initiator And Follower:

Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) told of reward/punishment regarding one who innovated good/evil Sunnahs in Islam and those who follow them: “The Messenger of Allah said: He who sets a good precedent in Islam, there is a reward for him for this (act of goodness) and reward of that also who acted according to it subsequently, without any deduction from their rewards; and he who sets in Islam an evil precedent, 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, B5, H2219] And initiator and follower getting reward/punishment  is also true for one inviting toward guidance and toward misguidance: “Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “No one calls to guidance without having the same reward as those who follow him, without diminishing their rewards at all. And no one calls to error without having the same burdens as they do, without diminishing their burdens at all.” [Ref: Ibn Majah, B15, Chap9, H41] And so is true for one reviving prophetic Sunnahs which have been forgotten after death of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam): “… the Prophet said to Bilal bin Al-Harith: "Know." He said: "I am ready to know O Messenger of Allah!" He said: "That indeed whoever revives a Sunnah from my Sunnah which has died after me, then for him is a reward similar to whoever acts upon it without diminishing anything from their rewards." [Ref: Tirmadhi, B39, H2677] “Narrated Anas bin Malik: "The Messenger of Allah said to me: 'O my son! If you are capable of (waking up in) the morning and (ending) the evening, while there is nothing of deception in your heart for anything, then do so.' Then he said to me: 'O my son! That is from my Sunnah. Whoever revives my Sunnah then he has loved me. And whoever loved me, he shall be with me in Paradise.'" [Ref: Tirmadhi, B39, H2678] Another Hadith talks about benefit of spreading Islamic knowledge: “Sabl bin Mu’ddh bin Anas narrated from his father that the Prophet i said: “Whoever teaches some knowledge will have the reward of the one who acts upon it, without that detracting from his reward in the slightest. [Ref: Ibn  Majah, Book of Sunnah, Hadith 247]

0.2 - Points Of Principle And Issue Of Correct Belief:

Hadith of innovated good/evil belongs to a genre of Ahadith which inform the believers of reward/punishment from Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) for various righteous/sinful deeds and for those who follow them. One set of Ahadith makes mention of innovated good/evil Sunnahs. The second mentions equal reward for calling toward guidance and equal sin toward for inviting toward misguidance. Third set of Ahadith mentions reviving of forgotten Sunnah of RasoolAllah (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was'salam). The fourth type of Ahadith discusses teaching of knowledge. It is ludicrous to use of one set of Ahadith to distort the apparent meaning of another set of Ahadith. Any Hadith from particular genre can be used to interpret another Hadith of different genre but the interpretation will not alter the natural meaning of each Hadith. Three plus four produces sum of seven. The sum of seven does not alter the value of three and four. In similar fashion principle of interpretion is; z interpretation derived via x and y will not cancel natural meaning of x and y, and will not turn x and y into z. Therefore any interpretation of Ahadith of; good/evil Sunnah in Islam with another set of Ahadith will not negatively impact on the position of Muslims. Please note there is requirement for interpretation of any of these sets of Ahadith and if they were to be interpreted with each other no valid interpretation can exclude another valid interpretation because prophetic words are Jawami al-Kalim in nature. Meaning the nature of RasoolAllah's (sallalahu alayhi wa aalihi was'sallam) speech is such that it can be interpreted to mean many thing. As a believer we should accept all valid interpretations without practicing selectivism because this is demonstration of firm belief in teaching of Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was'sallam).


1.0 - Anti-Islam Elements Interpretation Harmonized And Refuted:

Prophet (sallalahu alayhi was'sallam) has stated: “He who introduced some good Sunnah in Islam which was followed after him (by people) he would be assured of reward like one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect.” In order to deny/reject the other possible interpretations the anti-Islam element interprets this Hadith exclusively to mean: “Also its about reviving a Sunnah which people forgotton and neglected.” This interpretation is acceptable in light of following Hadith because there is no mention of words; in Islam: “It was narrated that Abu Juhaifah said: "The Messenger of Allah said: 'Whoever introduces a good Sunnah that is followed after him, will have a reward for that and the equivalent of their reward, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. Whoever introduces an evil practice …” [Ref: Ibn Majah, B1, H207/H203] In other words Hadith means: “Whoever introduces a good Sunnah [to people which was forgotten/neglected and if] that is followed after him, will have a reward for that and the equivalent of their reward …” This meaning is tolerable as long as it is not applied to historical context and upon prophetic statement of; good Sunnah in Islam because Takhseesi meaning can be given to a Hadith/Ayat on the basis of an evidence but that interpretation can not supersede the literal reading of text. Please note in reality there is no need to interpret these Ahadith by Ahadith of reviving prophetic Sunnah because those Ahadith themselves convey the same meaning: “… the Prophet said to Bilal bin Al-Harith: "Know." He said: "I am ready to know O Messenger of Allah!" He said: "That indeed whoever revives a Sunnah from my Sunnah which has died after me, then for him is a reward similar to whoever acts upon it without diminishing anything from their rewards." [Ref: Tirmadhi, B39, H2677] “Narrated Anas bin Malik: "The Messenger of Allah said to me: 'O my son! If you are capable of (waking up in) the morning and (ending) the evening, while there is nothing of deception in your heart for anything, then do so.' Then he said to me: 'O my son! That is from my Sunnah. Whoever revives my Sunnah then he has loved me. And whoever loved me, he shall be with me in Paradise.'" [Ref: Tirmadhi, B39, H2678] But in the context of Hadith of; good Sunnah in Islam; their interpretation is heretical. It is so because it can only derived after completely mutilating the Hadith of good Sunnah in Islam. And secondly because the reviving of prophetic Sunnah is after depature of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) from earthly life: “He said: "I am ready to know O Messenger of Allah!" He said: "That indeed whoever revives a Sunnah from my Sunnah which has died after me, then for him is a reward similar to whoever acts upon it without diminishing anything from their rewards.” [Ref: Tirmadhi, B39, H2677] Therefore to say prophetic words were about reviving ‘neglected/forgotten’ Sunnah of RasoolAllah (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) and to be precise regarding Sadaqah is bit stupid. And there was/is no proof it was forgotten, and it definitely was not forgotten because; the context reveals Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) exhorted them to give charity (i.e. Sadaqah) minutes before the companion broke the ice by giving bag of silver and minutes after Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) uttered the following words: “He who introduced some good Sunnah in Islam which was followed after him (by people) he would be assured of reward like one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect.” Lastly there is no actual need to interpret the Hadith of; good Sunnah in Islam with Hadith of reviving prophetic Sunnahs because Hadith of reviving prophetic Sunnahs conveys exactly the desired/interpreted meaning by itself – without need of interpretation: “… the Prophet said to Bilal bin Al-Harith: "Know." He said: "I am ready to know O Messenger of Allah!" He said: "That indeed whoever revives a Sunnah from my Sunnah which has died after me, then for him is a reward similar to whoever acts upon it without diminishing anything from their rewards." [Ref: Tirmadhi, B39, H2677] There is no actual need for interpretation apart from effort to distort Hadith of; good Sunnah in Islam. If anti-Islam position is believed then it boils down to; Wahhabi won’t forget for days and years to come but Sahabis forgot Sunnah of giving Sadaqah twenty seconds after being encouraged to give Sadaqah. In other words if this distortion of Hadith is believed then natural conclusion would be; Sahabi is a useless idiot with memory capacity of thirty secs at maximum but Wahhabi isn’t.

1.1 - Concept Of Reviving Prophetic Sunnah Is An Innovated Good Sunnah:

An interpretation which does not omit the fundamental meaning of Hadith of good Sunnah in Islam but which incorporates is safer then the mutilation of Hadith. One such interpretation is if the concept of reviving Sunnah/Practice of RasoolAllah (sallalahu alayhi was'sallam) itself is considered a good Sunnah introduced in Islam then the meaning of hadith of Muslim would be:
“He who introduced some good Sunnah in Islam [i.e. reviving of neglected, forgotten Sunnahs] which was followed after him (by people) he would be assured of reward like one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect.” With this interpretation the fundamental meaning of Hadith of good Sunnah in Islam remains intact while Hadith of Tirmadhi is incorporated into it's text to give a interpretation. Please bare in mind this does not refute the fundamental meaning of Hadith. And Islamic understanding is based on fundamental meaning of Hadith and in fact it refutes the exclusivists. Note exclusivists believe this Hadith referrs to reviving the forgotten/neglected Sunnahs only i.e. Sadaqah. With this interpretation the concept of reviving of Sunnahs of RasoolAllah (sallalahu alayhi was'sallam) itself is innovated good Sunnah. This interpretation does not contradict the position of Muslims but rather this interpretation is in agreement with fundamental meaning of Hadith and it is valid interpretation.

2.0 - Explanation Of Every Innovation Is Misguidance:

Prophet (sallalahu alayhi was'sallam) has reported to have said:
“... further say: "The best of the speech is embodied in the Book of Allah, and the beet of the guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad. And the most evil affairs are the innovations; and every innovation is error." He would further say: I am more dear to a Muslim even than his self …" [Ref: Muslim, B4, H1885] On the basis of this Hadith anti-Islam element argues;  'every' innovation is evil misguidance. Unbeknown to them in Arabic qullu (i.e. every) isn’t always used to mean absolutely ever/all but it is used to mean all or every in a specific category. The specific category of innovation from which every innovation is misguidance is of type which are not composed of Islamicly sanctioned acts as the following Ahadith indicate [please note following is not literal translation rather they convey intended meanings]: “Narrated Aisha: Allah's Apostle said, "If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected." [Ref: Bukhari, B49, H861] “Sa'd b. Ibrahim reported: I asked Qasim b. Muhammad about a person who had three dwelling houses and he willed away the third part of every one of these houses; he (Qasim b. Muhammad) said: All of them could be combined in one house; and then said: A'isha informed me that Allah's Messenger said: He who did any act for which there is no sanction from our behalf, that is to be rejected.” [Ref: Muslim, B18, H4267] Those innovation which are composed by sinful, Kufr, Shirk, and other non-Islamic forms of worship (i.e. Aarti) are without valid justification from Shari’ah and thus they should be rejected and will be rejected on judgment day. Every such innovation is misguidance and every misguidance of such type makes fire of hell-fire Halal upon believer. Those innovations which are in harmony with principles of our Deen are compromised of various prophetic Sunnahs that were sanctioned by Prophet (sallalahu alayhi was'sallam) such as; worship, charity, and education of Islam etc are accepted, and are good innovated Sunnahs in Islam. These are good innovated Sunnahs regarding which Prophet (sallalahu alayhi was'sallam) stated: “He who introduced some good practice in Islam which was followed after him (by people) he would be assured of reward like one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect.

3.0 - Valid And Invalid Interpretation Of Reviving Good Sunnah In Islam:

The dispute between Muslims and anti-Islam elements is regards to what Hadith of; whoever introduces good Sunnah in Islam means in context of event. Anti-Islam element believes Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) made the statement about reviving good prophetic Sunnah in Islam and one who revives a Sunnah and those who act on the revive Sunnah will all get equal reward. The Muslims believe Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) taught innovated good Sunnahs which are not yet part of Islam can be made part of Islam and there is reward for innovator and actors. Please note for an interpretation may not be valid in context of historical event but this does not mean it is not valid at all. In light of historical context position of anti-Islam element is invalid and heretical because it amounts to distorting what Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) taught. Yet if this understanding is held as an additional interpretation originating after death of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) along the fundamental meaning then it would be valid position because of Jawami al-Kalim nature of prophetic words.

Conclusion:

The position of Muslims is; in Deen innovated good Sunnahs can be made part of Islam via Ijtihad. And Hadith of; good Sunnah in Islam establishes this Islamic understanding. Those who believe Hadith of; good Sunnah in Islam is about reviving prophetic Sunnahs ignore the fact; Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) had encouraged the companions to give Sadaqah at maximum minutes before the companion broke the ice by giving bag of silver. And to think it was forgotten minutes after is bit stupid of person who thought of this distortion of Hadith. This false Taweel is nothing less then at attmpt to insult and attack the lofty status of righteous companions of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam). Also the Ahadith of reviving the prophetic Sunnah tell of reward to those who revive prophetic Sunnah after death of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) yet Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) was alive and well. And to apply these Ahadith on portion of Hadith of; good Sunnah in Islam; to make them mean; whoever reviving forgotten Sunnah in Islam and then relate it to context. And say it referrs to Sunnah of Sadaqah is senseless. The reviving forgotten Sunnahs was for after his death and he could not have meant those; whoever revive my Sunnah of Islam, by saying; whoever introduces good Sunnah in Islam because Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) was alive.

Wama alayna ilal balaghul mubeen.
Muhammed Ali Razavi

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