Refuting the Notion of Bid'ah Hasanah (Good Innovation) in Worship: Part 2 - Understanding Matters of Public Interest (Al-Masalih Al-Mursalah)|
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Wednesday, July, 13 2011 and filed under Bidah Hasanah
Key topics: Public Interest Al-masalih Al-mursalah Bidah Hasanah Good Innovation
It is essential to understand the point made in Part 1 through the speech of Ibn Hajar before proceeding, which is that when the term bid'ah is used for praiseworthy matters, it is being used in its linguistic sense and not the Shariah sense. Here we wish to tie the noose a bit more tightly around those who take isolated and vague statements of the Scholars and thrust them upon the common-folk upon other than what those Scholars actually intended and meant. This will be done by discussing the issue of al-masalih al-mursalah (matters of public interest). It is important to grasp the difference between the bid'ah condemned in the Shariah and between what enters into matters of public interest and to which a purely linguistic application of the word bid'ah has been applied by some scholars (such as al-Shafi'i, al-Nawawi and others). Imam al-Shatibee has addressed this matter in detail in his book al-I'tisam. We will try to present things as concisely as possible here. As a reminder, try to keep this diagram in your mind as you proceed through these articles:
What is public interest (Maslahah Mursalah)?
To understand this we need a few background principles. From them is that there is a necessary binding relationship between the Shariah and matters of personal and public beneficial interest because this is what the Shariah has come to actualize. This is embodied in the fact that a) The Shariah is founded upon actualizing all beneficial interests for the servants and repelling all harmful matters from them in worldly and religious matters, and b) That this Shariah has not omitted any beneficial matter of interest at all, ever (see this article), meaning that it has either specifically mentioned it, or it has mentioned broad principles that encompass it in a non-specified way. The Shariah has come to protect the five necessities, which the preservation of 1) religion, 2) life, 3) reason, intellect, 4) lineage and 5) wealth and it is with respect to these five areas that the masaalih mursalah relate to.
As a result there may arise issues that would become issues of public interest (as defined by the preservation and protection of life, religion, intellect, property and honour), and they may be legislated to protect that interest as long as certain conditions are fulfilled, which are generally specified as follows:
So the maslahah mursalah is:
Making consideration of matters which are of public interest (acquisition of good or removal of harm) for which there is no specific evidence or basis (in relation to it specifically) in the Shariah, but which in a general sense would agree with universal Shariah principles and goals. Consideration is made of them in order to help protect and preserve the five necessities (life, religion, intellect, wealth and honour).
At this point it would be useful to give an example or two to illustrate the above points and considerations.
There are many accidents happening and people are being injured or killed due to reckless driving. So legislation is enacted to impose fines for speed violations. Is there are public interest involved? Does this serve a public interest that the Shariah aims to protect. Is there any conflict with any Shariah text? Will the benefit be realized? So after consideration of these matters a ruler will implement legislation, and this legislation is not sought in and of itself but rather it is simply a means to attain an objective that the Shariah itself mentions, in other words it is from the wasaa'il (means to and end) and not the maqaasid (actual goals, objectives sought in themselves). Now this legislation is down to purely circumstantial reasons. Let's say in another country, public transport is excellent and most people don't use cars, or that everyone is sensible and drives carefully. Here there is no need for such legislation.
So this helps to explain what is a matter of beneficial public interest, and one can clearly see the difference between this and between the bid'ah which is condemned in the Shariah and which relates to matters of worship by which a person seeks nearness to Allaah, taking it as a path to be followed in religion. One should also note that these issues of al-masaalih al-mursalah are not be to considered as Shariah rulings (haram, wajib etc.), but they are considered additional and new legislations which serve the goals (maqaasid) of the Shariah. If they are issued by a ruler, then one must obey the ruler in those matters. One must also follow these rules if not doing so leads to harm.
Differences Between al-maslahah al-mursalah and Bid'ah
There are some common grounds between al-maslahah al-mursalah and al-bidah. Firstly, they are both new, and invented, linguistically speaking, not being present in the time of Prophethood and secondly, they both do not have any specific evidence from the Shariah and as such it is only generalized texts or principles that are used as evidence for them, or in the case of bid'ah, doubts which appear to be evidences but are not.
As for the differences then:
Firstly, the maslahah mursalah is aimed at bringing about or preserving a benefit or protecting from or removing a harm. This means it is a means to an end (waseelah) and not an end in and of itself, and it is used to reach and acquire Shariah defined objectives (which are preservation of life, religion, intellect, wealth, honour). As for bidah, it is sought in and of itself as a goal, as it is believed that it brings about nearness to Allaah, in its own right and is from the religion.
Once all of this is clear, when we see the word bid'ah used for that which is praiseworthy in the speech of some of the Scholars (like al-Shafi'ee for example), then either it is not an blameworthy innovation (from a Shariah point of view) because it has a precedent (like the revival of the tarawih prayer), or it is simply a matter of beneficial public interest which does not clash with the Shariah texts but agrees with the goals of the Shariah, and it being labelled as bidah is from a linguistic sense only, in which case it is a "good bidah" in the terminology of those scholars who use this terminology. All of this has absolutely no connection to innovations in worship, which all of the Scholars are united about, that there is no such thing as "good innovation" in matters of worship, be they haqeeqiyyah (proper, in every sense of the word) or idaafiyyah (relative, where they have a basis from one aspect but depart from the Sunnah in their details). This is clear even in the speech of those like al-Izz bin Abd al-Salam when one takes a much wider perspective and view when looking at many of his fatawas that relate to affairs of worship. So the deception that is really taking place is that the Innovators have simply pounced upon the fact that there is to be found in the speech of these Scholars a classification (by which they intended one thing) and have twisted it and used it for another thing (which those scholars themselves did not actually intend it for).