Refuting the Notion of Bid'ah Hasanah (Good Innovation) in Worship: Part 3 - the Statements of Imaam Al-Shafi'i
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Wednesday, July, 13 2011 and filed under Bidah Hasanah
Key topics: Bidah Hasanah Good Innovation

We have to understand that there are two orientations as it relates to how bidah is defined and how bidah is defined will affect the nature of any scholars' speech on the subject. As for the first orientation then they use the word bidah (بدعة) to refer to every newly-arising thing which is not found in the Book and the Sunnah, irrespective of whether it relates to worship (ibaadah) or custom (aadah) and regardless of whether it is praiseworthy or blameworthy. This understanding and usage of the term bidah is known from Imam al-Shafi'i and his followers were influenced in this such as al-Izz bin Abd al-Salam, al-Nawawi, Abu Shaamah, and likewise from the Malikis, al-Qarafi and al-Zarqani, and from the Hanafis Ibn Abideen, and from the Hanbalis, Ibn al-Jawzi. The other orientation is the one which states that bidah (بدعة) is applied only to religious matters and thus it can only ever be blameworthy and evil, and in this they are applying the Shariah meaning for the word bidah.

The Statements of Imaam al-Shafi'i

Al-Bayhaqi, Ibn Hajar and Ibn Taymiyyah (and others) have cited the statements of al-Shafi'i, so we can document them here for the record. Al-Bayhaqi relates in Manaqib al-Shafi'i (1/469) with his isnad that Imam al-Shafi'i said:

المحدثات من الأمور ضربان: أحدهما ما أحدث مما يخالف كتابا أو سنة أو أثرا أو إجماعا، فهذه البدعة الضلالة، والثانية: ما أحدث من الخير لا خلاف فيه لواحد من هذا، وهذه محدثة غير مذمومة

The newly-invented matters are of two types: The first of them is that which has been introduced from that which opposes [something from] the book, or [something from] the sunnah, or a narration, or [a matter of] consensus. This is the misguided innovation. And the second is that which has been introduced of goodness and there is no opposition to anyone of these things [qur'an, sunnah, athar, ijmaa']. This is the newly-invented matter which is not blameworthy.

Ibn Hajar also mentions it in al-Fath (Maktabah Salafiyyah edition, 13/253):

قال الشافعي "البدعة بدعتان: محمودة ومذمومة، فما وافق السنة فهو محمود وما خالفها فهو مذموم" أخرجه أبو نعيم بمعناه من طريق إبراهيم بن الجنيد عن الشافعي، وجاء عن الشافعي أيضا ما أخرجه البيهقي في مناقبه قال "المحدثات ضربان ما أحدث يخالف كتابا أو سنة أو أثرا أو إجماعا فهذه بدعة الضلال، وما أحدث من الخير لا يخالف شيئا من ذلك فهذه محدثة غير مذمومة

Al-Shafi'i said:
Bidah is of two types: praiseworthy and blameworthy. Whatever is in agreemenet with the Sunnah it is praiseworthy and whatever opposes it is blameworthy.
Ibn Nu'aym related it with its meaning through Ibrahim bin al-Junaid from al-Shafi'i. Also from al-Shafi'i is what al-Bayhaqi related in his Manaqib, he said:
The newly-invented matters are of two types: The first of them is that which has been introduced from that which opposes [something from] the book, or [something from] the sunnah, or a narration, or [a matter of] consensus. This is the misguided innovation. And the second is that which has been introduced of goodness and does not oppose any of these things [qur'an, sunnah, athar, ijmaa']. This is the newly-invented matter which is not blameworthy.

Understanding These Statements Correctly

We have already established in Part 1 from Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani that whenever the term 'bidah' is used to refer to a praiseworthy matter it is being employed with its broader linguistic meaning. Ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Bari (Maktabah Salafiyyah print, 13/278)

وأما " البدع " فهو جمع بدعة وهي كل شيء ليس له مثال تقدم فيشمل لغة ما يحمد ويذم ، ويختص في عرف أهل الشرع بما يذم وإن وردت في المحمود فعلى معناها اللغوي

As for innovations (البدع), it is the plural of innovation (بدعة) and it is everything which does not have any prior example. Linguistically, [the word] encompasses what is both praiseworthy and blameworthy. In the usage of the people of the legislation (i.e. Scholars) it is specifically for what is blameworthy and if it is used in connection to what is praiseworthy, then it is upon its linguistic meaning.

This explanation leads us to the following diagram which makes things easier to visualize:

What al-Shafi'i is referring to goes beyond and outside of the scope of the Shariah defnition of bidah, and this is established by the fact that his followers (such as al-Izz bin Abd al-Salam) make it clear in their particular classification of bidah that they enter matters which go beyond affairs of worship and enter into wasaa'il (means) and masaalih mursalah (matters of public interest). The statement of al-Izz bin Abd al-Salam will be discussed in the next article, along with al-Shatibi's clarification and rebuttal of it. The late Salafi Shaykh of Qatar, Ahmad bin Hajar Aal Butami (d. 1423H), who is Shafi'i in fiqh, explains in his book Tahdhir al-Muslimin anil-Ibtidaa' wal-Bida' fil-Din (Dar al-Imam al-Bukhari, 1428H, p. 114):

As for the saying of Imaam al-Shafi'i, "Bidah is of two types: praiseworthy and blameworthy. Whatever is in agreemenet with the Sunnah it is praiseworthy and whatever opposes the Sunnah is blameworthy", the intent behind "praiseworthy innovation" is what has been innovated of beneficial matters relating to worldly affairs and [affairs of] habitation, livelihood such as the use of radio, electricity, airplanes, cars and using the phone and what is similar to that of good and beneficial inventions. This is because they are not harmful (in and of themselves) and do not lead (in and of themselves) to any evil that comes to the people, or to the performance of what is haraam or destroying any foundation from the foundations of the religion. And Allaah, the Sublime and Exalted, has permitted His servants to invent whatever they wish to look after their worldly interests, He, the Exalted said (وَافْعَلُوا الْخَيْرَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ), "And work good that you may be successful" (2:77).

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah states in Majmu' al-Fatawa (20/163):

ومن هنا يعرف ضلال من ابتدع طريقاً أو اعتقاداً زعم أن الايمان لا يتم إلا به، مع العلم بأن الرسول لم يذكره، وما خالف النصوص فهو بدعة باتفاق المسلمين، وما لم يعلم أنه خالفها فقد لا يسمى بدعة، قال الشافعي رحمه الله‏:‏ البدعة بدعتان‏:‏ بدعة خالفت كتاباً وسنة وإجماعاً، وأثراً عن بعض ‏(‏أصحاب‏)‏ رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، فهذه بدعة ضلالة، وبدعة لم تخالف شيئاً من ذلك فهذه قد تكون حسنة لقول عمر‏:‏ ‏[‏نعمت البدعة هذه‏]‏ وهذا الكلام أو نحوه رواه البيهقي بإسناده الصحيح في المدخل

And from here, the misguidance of the one who innovated a path or belief -claiming that faith cannot be completed except without it - becomes known, alongside the knowledge that the Messenger did not mention it. And whatever opposes the texts, then it is an innovation by agreement of the Muslims, and that which is not known to oppose [the texts], then it is not always called 'bidah' (in the blameworthy Shariah sense). Al-Shafi'i (rahimahullaah) said:
Bidah is of two types: A bidah that opposes [something from] the book, or [something from] the sunnah, or [a matter of] consensus, or a narration from some of the Companions of Allaah's Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), this is the misguided innovation. And a bidah which does not oppose any of these things [qur'an, sunnah, athar, ijmaa']. This is what can be good (hasanah), due to the saying of Umar, "What an excellent innovation this is".
This statement or what is similar to it has been related by al-Bayhaqi with in authentic chain of narration in al-Madkhal...

Al-Mubarakfuri wrote in Tuhfatul al-Ahwazi (7/366):

فقوله صلى الله عليه وسلم كل بدعة ضلالة من جوامع الكلم لا يخرج عنه شيء وهو أصل عظيم من أصول الدين وأما ما وقع في كلام السلف من استحسان بعض البدع فإنما ذلك في البدع اللغوية لا الشرعية فمن ذلك قول عمر رضي الله عنه في التراويح نعمت البدعة

For his saying (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), "Every innovation is misguidance" is from the concise, profound words (jawaami' al-kalim), nothing exits from them, and it is a mighty foundation from the foundations of the religion. As for whta occurs in the speech of some of the Salaf of considering some of the innovations to be good, then that is in relation to linguistic (usage of) bidah, not the Shariah (usage). From (the examples) of that is the saying of Umar (radiallaahu anhu) regarding the tarawih (prayer), "What an excellent innovation."

And Ibn Katheer said in his tafseer (Dar Tayyibah, 1422H, 1/398):

والبدعة على قسمين تارة تكون بدعة شرعية كقوله فإن كل محدثة بدعة وكل بدعة ضلالة وتارة تكون بدعة لغوية كقول أمير المؤمنين عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه عن جمعه إياهم على صلاة التراويح واستمرارهم : نعمت البدعة هذه

And bidah is of two types. Sometimes it can be a legislative innovation (bidah shar'iyyah), such as his saying, "Every newly-invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance" and sometimes it can be a linguistic innovation (bidah lughawiyyah), such as the saying of Amir al-Mu'minin Umar bin al-Khattaab, (radiallaahu anhu) about his bringing them together for the tarawih prayer and their continuance upon that, "What an excellent innovation this is."

From what has preceded it should now be very clear that in the usage of some of the Scholars, they employ the word bidah with its linguistic meaning to include praiseworthy matters which either a) already have a specific precedent in the Shariah and are therefore not 'bidah' in the legislative (Shar'iyy) sense or b) matters which pertain to public interest (maslahah mursalah) which do not clash with the Shariah but rather are in agreement with it and its objectives and are considered praiseworthy (such as building schools). This should be kept totally separate and distinct from the censured and condemned bidah in matters of worship which can be innovation from all angles, in every sense of the word (bidah haqiqiyyah) or from some angles only (bidah idafiyyah). Or in other words: Every innovation in the arena of the acts of worship which do not have any basis or foundation in the Book or the Sunnah or from the rightly-guided Caliphs or Companions, in either their foundations, or their details, then it is a blameworthy, repulsive bidah in the Shariah.

Imam al-Shafi'i Did Not Permit Departure from the Sunnah

It is appropriate here to show that Imam al-Shafi'i was a follower of the Sunnah and did not permit departure from the Sunnah into bidah, and that al-Shafi'i's statements cited above are no proof whatsoever for those people who claim attachment to him, but misunderstand his words (regarding the linguistic use of the term 'bidah') and confuse them with the bidah idafiyyah. The example that can be given here is what is cited by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari from al-Shafi'i in relation to touching the corners of the kabah. In Kitab al-Hajj, al-Bukhari brings a chapter heading titled "On the one who does not touch except the two Yemeni corners" and in his commentary Ibn Hajar discusses the various narrations in this regard that pertain to Mu'awiyyah (radiallaahu anhu) touching all four corners and Ibn Abbaas (radiallaahu anhu) advising him that only the two corners are to be touched. Mu'awiyyah states, "There is nothing from the house (ka'bah) that is abandoned." Ibn Hajar cites al-Shafi'i (see 3/473-474):

وأجاب الشافعي عن قول من قال ليس شيء من البيت مهجورا بأنا لم ندع استلامهما هجرا للبيت ، وكيف يهجره وهو يطوف به ، ولكنا نتبع السنة فعلا أو تركا ، ولو كان ترك استلامهما هجرا لهما لكان ترك استلام ما بين الأركان هجرا لها ، ولا قائل به

And al-Shafi'i responded to the saying of the one who said, "There is nothing from the house (ka'bah) that is abandoned" with (the response) that: We have not left touching the (two corners) out of abandoning the house, and how can a person be abandoning it when he is making tawaf around it. Rather, we follow the Sunnah both in performance (fi'l) and abandonment (tark), and if not touching them both constitutes abandoning them, then not touching what is between the corners would also be abandonment of it, yet there is no one expressing this [view].

Al-Shafi'i indicates this is the practice of the Messenger (alayhis salaam) - to only touch the two corners - and Ibn Hajar says (3/474) that to kiss the first (the stone) and touch the second (Yemeni corner) only (and not touch or kiss the other two) is the view of the majority.

The point of evidence here is that upon the argument of the innovators that "good innovation" is allowed so long as it has a basis in the Shariah then why did al-Shafi'i show rejection against this because it can be argued that since touching the other two corners is already established in the Sunnah (so we now have a basis) why cannot we innovate and touch the other two corners and none of this would clash with the Shariah and it would be "good innovation". This is because they do not understand the statements of al-Shafi'i correctly, who does not allow any innovation whatsoever in the matters of worship because matters of worship are not the same as matters included within the broader linguistic usage of the term 'bidah' (like the masalih mursalah) which is how al-Shafi'i makes application of the term 'bidah.'

In reality, what they are upon is the bidah idafiyyah in matters of worship (ibadah) and they attempt to make it appear that what they are upon of reprehensible innovation which has no evidence for its particulars and details from the Sunnah is of the same category as what is entered into a purely linguistic usage of the term 'bidah' by some of the scholars. So their deception is clear walhamdulillaah. We will make their deception even more clear in our series "Proof That The bidah idafiyyah is Evil and Rejected" (read series here). Refer to that for more details which will highlight ever more clearly their departure from the way of al-Shafi'i (and others they claim to be following such as al-Izz bin Abd al-Salam).