Proof From the Prophet, Companions, the Salaf and the Scholars That the Bid'ah Idafiyyah (Despite Having a Basis in the Shariah) Is Rejected: Part 5 - Al-Nawawi Refuting Bidah Related to Prostration
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Tuesday, July, 26 2011 and filed under Foundations
Key topics: Bidah Haqiqiyyah Bidah Idafiyyah Al-Nawawi


The grave-worshippers and innovators from the Sufis and other than them attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the common folk by deceiving them about numerous statements which have come from the Scholars which appear to legitimize what is referred to as "bid'ah hasanah" (good innovation). The statements they quote come from Imaam al-Shafi'ee (see here), or al-Nawawi (see here) or al-Izz bin Abd al-Salam (see here, here, and here) and others. The crux of the matter is that some of the Scholars have used the word bid'ah in a broader linguistic sense to refer to actions which either have a specific foundation in the Shari'ah (tarawih prayer in congregation, and established acts of goodness such as giving charity) or are matters of public interest that relate to ways and means (wasaa'il) through which beneficial interests are realized and maintained. All of this is different to maqaasid (goals, objectives) which is the case in the innovations in worship (ibaadaat), which are sought in and of themselves. To give an example, the compilation of the Qur'an is not an end sought in itself but as a means to preserve the religion, and whilst there is no specific injunction about putting the Qur'an into a single book, there is a non-specific broad support for it by the fact that preservation of the religion is obligatory and since this cannot be achieved except through preserving the Qur'an, putting the Qur'an into a single book is obligatory (upon the reasoning of those Scholars). This is a matter of public interest to enable the preservation of one of the five necessities, in this case, religion (the others being life, intellect, wealth and lineage). So these matters in reality do not come under the definition of bid'ah as it has come in the Shari'ah, but enter into the wider linguistic meaning. This is preciesly what al-Shafi'ee (and others) intended as is explained and proven in this series. What we aim to do in this series is to provide evidences and examples that demolish the argument of the innovators that "what they are doing of innovations in worship have a basis in the Shari'ah" and therefore cannot be shown rejection. This is gross deception and they are in reality confusing between bidah idafiyyah (condemned in the Shariah) and matters that have been labelled bidah from a purely linguistic perspective - to have more clarity on this, see the comphrehensive diagram in this article. Once it is clear that these Scholars speak of "praiseworthy bidah" and some of them enter bidah into the rulings of wajib, mandub and mustahabb only from the angle of excluding these matters from being wrongly included within the bidah that is blameworthy in the Shariah, we see that they are subsequently in complete agreement with all the other Scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah that bidah in worship (as in that by which nearness to Allaah is sought) is absolutely prohibited and is repugnant and evil and all innovation (as intended by the Shariah) is misguidance. This is made clear by all the quotes in this series inshaa'Allaah from the Messenger (alayhis salaam), the Companions, the Salaf, and the Scholars in general.

Quotes from Shafi'i Jurists

We have some valuable quotes in some of the more lengthy articles dealing with the academic fraud of todays Innovators in trying to twist the statements of al-Shafi'i and some of the later Shafi'ite jurists such as al-Nawawi and al-Izz bin Abd al-Salam to justify innovations in worship in a broad sense. Because these are important quotes and are buried in long articles, we are going to isolate them and give them their own separate article for easy reference and linking purposes. At the same time it should be pointed out that whilst there is agreement between the general tone and spirit in the rejection by these scholars of innovations in worship and between what the Salaf were upon of the same, because of their particular orientation in understanding this matter, some of these jurists may have allowed certain affairs which the Salaf never allowed and which the Salaf would have treated as blameworthy innovations.

Imam al-Nawawi's Refutation of A Bid'ah Pertaining to Prostration

Imam al-Nawawi wrote in his book al-Majmu Sharh al-Muhadhdhab (Maktabah al-Irshad, Jeddah, 3/565):

(Subsidiary Issue:) If a person humbled himself to Allaah, the Exalted, and sought nearness to Him through an (isolated) prostration (sajdah) without any reason necessitating that a prostration of gratefulness be made (to Allah), then it has two positions, Imam al-Haramayn (al-Juwayni) and others have cited it. The first, that it is permissible, this was said by the author of al-Taqrib, and [the second] and most sound of them both is that it is not permissible. This view was validated by Imam al-Haramayn and others, and the Shaykh, Abu Hamid (al-Ghazali) held this definitively. Imam al-Haramayn said:

And my Shaykh, meaning Abu Muhammad, was very severe in showing rejection against this prostration, and they sought the analogy with bowing (ruku') as evidence for this. If a person was to do an act of voluntary goodness through an isolated bowing (ruku'), this would be unlawful by agreement because it is a bidah and every bidah is misguidance except that which evidence indicates to be an exception. And equal in this difference in the unlawfulness of the prostration is what is done after the prayer and other than it. And what many of the ignoramuses do of prostrating in front of the Shaykhs is not included within this (particular discussion), because that is unlawfual (haraam) absolutely, in every situation, irrespective of whether it was done facing the qiblah or other than it, and irrespectivev of whether he intended prostration to Allaah, the Exalted, or forgot, and in some of its manifestations is what necessitates kufr (disbelief) or what approximates to it, may Allaah, the Most-Generous, protect us from it....


This is another example of where the true and real purpose of the Shafi'ite jurists behind their understanding of bidah (innovation) upon its linguistic definition becomes clear, and by which they never, ever intended what todays Innovators have twisted it for, to justify innovations in worship. Their real intent has been made sufficiently clear in this series of articles which you can refer to for further elaboration and this diagram is useful as quick reference point. The point we wish to make here is that an isolated prostration is not permitted except in two situations, a) prostrating due to reciting a verse of prostration (sujud al-tilawah) and b) prostrating out of gratefulness (sujud al-shukr). Any other prostration for whatever reason outside of these two reasons are unlawful and are innovations. This because worship (ibaadah) even if it has a basis in the Shariah in its foundation (as in the act in itself), it must also agree with the Shariah in its details and particulars, and these may include at least one of the following (as examples):

  • the time of the act
  • the place of the act
  • the reason behind the act
  • the number pertaining to the act
  • the features, form of the act

Al-Izz bin Abd al-Salam pointed to this meaning within his refutation of Salat al-Ragha'ib in response to Ibn al-Salah wherein he said (see this article for documented quote):

For the Shariah has not made mention of nearness to Allaah with any isolated prostration which does not have an explained reason for it. This is because nearness to Allaah has specified reasons, conditions, specified times and pillars without which it is not valid. So just like nearness is not sought to Allaah by standing at Arafah and Muzdalifah and throwing stones at the pillars and making sa'ee between Safa and Marwa without being in the relevant state of devotion at the specified time, alongside its reasons and conditions, then likewise nearness is not sought to Allaah by any single prostration, even if it is nearness (i.e. prostration in and of itself is devotion, nearness), it does not have any valid reason (underlying it). Likewise, nearness is not sought to Allaah through prayer or fasting in every time and moment. And perhaps the ignoramuses will seek nearness to Allaah by which which makes them distant from him, without them even perceiving it.

This reveals to us that these scholars certainly do not accept the idea of "bidah hasanah" in worship which is what todays Innovators intend. Rather, those scholars used these terms "praiseworthy innovation", "good innovation" because they were operating upon the premise that the Messenger's mention of the word bidah (البدعة) was upon its linguistic definition. As a result, they used terms and classifications to ensure that the following things were not wrongly declared to be misguidance:

  • The matters of broad public interest (al-masaalih al-mursalah) that preserve the five necessities (religion, life, intellect, wealth, honour) and this can include things like putting the Qur'an into a single book, compiling and formalizing the usul of fiqh and tafsir, setting up schools and universities for teaching the Qur'an or Arabic and so on.

  • Or Those matters that have been forgotten or neglected, but then re-enacted, such as the re-enactment of the congregational tarawih prayer, which can be referred to a bidah since prior to it, it was not present (even if it originally had a foundation in the Sunnah), and entering into this is every forgotten, neglected or abandoned Sunnah.

  • Or the initiation of new ways of doing what are already established good deeds. To give an example, payment by cheque to give in charity with giving in charity being an established act of worship, yet its means (wasaa'il) may vary, and novel forms may appear over the passage of time.

  • Or novel forms of what are permitted (mubah) matters in the Shariah, such as food, drink, clothing and residence, so with respect to these, we may say pizza is a bidah, and carbonated drinks are bidah, and hoodies and sneakers are a bidah and brick and marble buildings are a bidah, and all of these are permitted bidahs, because innovation in these matters takes the foundational ruling related to these matters, which is one of permissibility.

This was the intent of those Shafi'ite juristsm, and alongside this we say that putting this message across by entering bidah into these classifications (wajib, mandub, mubah) is an erroneous approach, and a departure from what is most correct. But once all of these affairs have been excluded from coming under the saying of the Messenger (كل بدعة ضلالة), as is the intent of these Scholars, these Scholars are subsequently in agreement with all the other scholars (who do not accept these classifications and terms) that bidah in worship is unlawful, and every innovation in worship is misguidance and deviation. And this is the meaning in the sentence from the above quote in al-Majmu' of al-Nawawi:

...because it is a bidah and every bidah is misguidance except that which evidence indicates to be an exception...

The exceptions being those mentioned above, upon the classifications of these Scholars. However, as we have pointed out in other articles, what todays intellectual fraudsters have done is to hoodwink the people by simply brandishing these terms used by these scholars whilst hiding and concealing the way these scholars actually intended, used and applied these terms. And if you want to see a lucid explanation of this fact, be sure to read Part 8 of the series that deals with this matter.