Fath al-Mulhim, vol 5, pp. 328-336)
Translated by Mft. Zameelur Rahman - Jul, 2010 (Deoband)
Muhammad ibn al-Muthanna narrated to me: ‘Abd al-Wahhab ibn ‘Abd al-Majid narrated to us: from Ja’far ibn Muhammad: from his father: from Jabir ibn ‘Abd Allah, he said:
When Allah’s Messenger ﷺ would deliver a sermon, his eyes became red, his voice rose, and his anger intensified, so it was as though he was warning against an army, saying, “The [enemy] has made a morning attack on you and an evening attack on you.” He would say: “The Hour and I have been sent like these two” and would join his forefinger and middle finger. And he would say: “As for what follows. The best of speech is the Book of Allah, and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. And the most evil of affairs are their innovations; and every bid’ah is misguidance.” He would further say: “I am dearer to a Muslim than his self. And one who left behind property, that is for his family. And he who left a debt or children, that is [given] to me and [their responsibility] is on me.” (Sahih Muslim)
Those who Categorise Bid'ah into Good and Evil
[In regards to] his statement “every bid’ah is misguidance”, ‘Ali al-Qari’ said:
In al-Azhār it says, “This means every evil bid’ah is misguidance, due to his ﷺ statement ‘One who establishes a good practice (sunnatan hasana) in Islam, he will have its reward and the reward of those who practice it.’1 Abu Bakr and ‘Umar collected the Qur’an, Zayd wrote it in the mushaf and it was reworked in the time of ‘Uthman.2
Bid’ah is everything done without a prior example and, in the Shari’ah, it is an invention of that which did not exist in the era of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ. And his statement, ‘Every bid’ah is misguidance’ is a general [statement that is] qualified (‘amm makhsus).
Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din ibn ‘Abd al-Salam said at the end of Kitab al-Qawa’id: ‘Bid’ah is either obligatory (wajib) like learning Nahw to understand the words of Allah and His Messenger, the composition of Usul al-Fiqh and the discourse of narrator-criticism (al-jarh wa l-ta’dil); or prohibited (haram) like the path of the Jabariyyah, the Qadariyyah, the Murji’ah, the Mujassimah, and refuting these groups is from the obligatory bid’ahs because the protection of the Shari’ah from these bid’ahs is a communal obligation (fard kifayah); or recommended (mandub) like creating an endowment or [creating] schools, and every performance of a good deed not known in the early period, and like Tarawih i.e. in a general congregation, and the discourse of the minutiae of the Sufis; or disliked (makruh) like decorating mosques and adorning mushafs [meaning according to Shafi’is, as according to Hanafis it is permissible]; or permissible (mubah) like shaking hands after Subh and ‘Asr [i.e. also according to Shafi’is for otherwise according to Hanafis it is disliked], increasing delicacies in food and drink and making houses spacious, and extending [one’s] sleeves. And some of these have been disputed [i.e. as we previously set forth].’
Al-Shafi’i said, ‘That which is invented from whatever conflicts with the Book, the Sunnah, the narration (athar) or ijma’, is misguidance, and that which is invented of good from whatever does not conflict with any of these, it is not blameworthy.’ ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) said about the standing [in prayer] during Ramadan ‘a wonderful bid’ah!' This is the end of the statement of Shaykh [al-Nawawi] in Tahdhib al-Asma’ wa l-Lughat.
It was narrated from ibn Mas’ud: “Whatever the Muslims deem to be good is good according to Allah.” And in a marfu’ hadith [it states]: “My Ummah will not agree on misguidance.” [All] this was [mentioned] in [al-Qari’s] Mirqat.
Imam Al-Shatibi’s Response to the Categorisers
The Muhaqqiq [verifier] al-Shatibi, in the third chapter of the first volume of Kitab al-I’tisam, discussed the statement of Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din and his student al-Qarafi in categorising bid’ah, that “this is not indicated by a proof from the Shari’ah, neither from the texts of the Shari’ah nor from its principles, since if something from the Shari’ah proved the obligation, recommendation or permissibility [of an act] it would not then be a bid’ah. It would be an act included in the generality of actions that are prescribed, or those in which an option is given. Thus, combining in these matters between bid’ah and the evidences proving their obligation, recommendation or permissibility is a combination between two mutually exclusive things. As for the disliked (makruh) from the divisions and the prohibited (haram), it is conceded from one perspective that they are [divisions of] bid’ah, [but] not from another perspective, since if an evidence were to prove that an act is prohibited or disliked that would not substantiate it being a bid’ah, due to the possibility that it is a sin (ma’siyah) like murder, theft, drinking wine etc., so this [kind of] division is not considered in bid’ah; however, [the division of] disliked and prohibited [is acceptable in bid’ah] according to how it is cited in a particular topic. Hence, what al-Qarafi mentioned from the scholars regarding agreement on the condemnation of bid’ahs is correct, and the manner in which he divided it is incorrect.
“Astonishingly, he related agreement [on this division] despite having encountered opposition and despite his knowledge of what this entails in breaking ijma’. It appears as though he only followed in this division his teacher without deliberation, since ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, as is apparent from him, designated al-masalih al-mursalah (public interests lacking specific proofs) as bid’ahs, building on [the premise], and Allah knows best, that they are not included in their individual parts under specific texts, although it agrees with the principles of the Shari’ah. Hereof, he made the principles as the signifiers of them [i.e. al-masalih al-mursalah] being approved by designating them using the term “bid’ahs” and this is from the perspective of the absence of specific evidence on the issue and approval of them from the perspective of their inclusion under principles [of public interest]. And since he built [this] on [the premise] of depending on those principles, they are equal according to him to actions included under specific texts, and he became one of those expressing [the principle of] al-masalih al-mursalah, but he called them bid’ahs in phraseology just as ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) designated the gathering for standing [in prayer] during Ramadan in the mosque as a bid’ah, [the explanation of] which is to come if Allah (Most High) wills. 
“As for al-Qarafi, he has no excuse in transmitting these divisions in a manner not intended by his teacher or [in a manner] intended by people, because he opposed everybody in that division. Thus, he became one who opposed ijma’.”
Al-Shatibi verified in this book of his all that pertains to the exposition of the definitions of bid’ah, its types, its rules and its being blameworthy deviance, and he removed every doubt the innovators attach to it in a manner not [requiring] any addition to it.  So all praise belongs to Allah and all reward is from Him.
Verification of the Meaning of Bid’ah and its Definitions: A Brief Study
The weak servant (Allah pardon him) concluded from the words of our teachers and their instructions that:
The starting point in legal bid’ah (bid’ah shar’iyyah) is the statement of the Prophet ﷺ, “he who innovates in this matter of ours what is not from it, is rejected.” The meaning of “matter” as they expressed it is that [bid’ah] is not used unconditionally except for matters invented in the religion, not for every matter that is invented.  As such, the likes of increasing dishes, vehicles and other such things from permissible matters, are excluded. Rather, some of the formalities which people do not do in order to seek nearness [to Allah] and seek reward are also [excluded] from the definition of legal bid’ah (bid’ah shar’iyyah), although it is included in linguistic bid’ah (bid’ah lughwiyyah), since these acts are not carried out by those who carry them out while believing and intending them to be from the religion. Thus, they are not at all from inventions in the religion. Likewise, his ﷺ statement “what is not from it” indicates that the matters which have a basis in the Book or his ﷺ sunnah or from the example of the rightly guided caliphs, or from the normal activities of the generality of the predecessors (salaf) (Allah be pleased with them), or the valid legal judgement (al-ijtihad al-mu’tabar) with its preconditions based on the texts are not designated as innovations or legal bid’ah, since these sources are all from the religion textually (tansisan) or by inference (ta’lilan), as has been stipulated in its place.
The Innovations of the Caliphs
From the speech of the rightly guided caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (Allah have mercy on him) which the ‘ulama took an interest in and preserved and [which] would please Malik (Allah have mercy on him) much is that he said ‘Allah’s Messenger ﷺ and the rulers after him introduced [many] practices (sunan). Adopting them is a confirmation of the Book of Allah and completion of obedience to Allah and strength in the religion of Allah. No one has [the right] to change and alter them or consider something contradicting them. He who acts upon them is guided and he who seeks assistance by means of them will be helped, and he who opposes them follows other than the way of the believers and Allah will turn him to that which he has turned and make him enter hell; and it is an evil resort [based on Qur’an 4:115].’ It is deserving that this [statement] be pleasing to them [i.e. the ‘ulama], for it is a brief statement combining beautiful principles from the sunnah.
From these [beautiful principles] is what we are [discussing] here because his statement ‘No one has [the right] to change and alter them or consider something contradicting them’ is decisive about the entire matter of innovation. His statement ‘He who acts upon them is guided…’ to the end of the statement, is praise for the adherent of the sunnah and condemnation of one who opposes it, using as a proof that which indicates this, that is Allah’s statement (Glorified is He) ‘And whoever acts hostilely to the Messenger after that guidance has become manifest to him, and follows other than the way of the believers, We will turn him to that to which he has (himself) turned and make him enter hell; and it is an evil resort.’ (4:115)
From these [principles] is that which the rulers over the matter [of Islam] practiced after the Prophet ﷺ, it is a sunnah, containing no bid’ah at all, even if a specific text from the Book of Allah and the sunnah of His Prophet ﷺ is unknown, since what proves it [being sunnah and not bid’ah] in general has been transmitted, that is the text of the hadith of al-‘Irbad ibn Sariyyah (Allah be pleased with him) where he said therein:‘Adhere to my sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly guided Caliphs and cling to it with your molars. Be wary of newly-invented matters.’ Hence, he (upon him be peace), as you see, yoked together the sunnah of the righteous caliphs and his sunnah and [said] that part of adherence to his sunnah is adherence to their sunnah, that innovations are contrary to this and are not from them at all. [This is] because they (Allah be pleased with them), in what they practiced, were either following the sunnah of their Prophet ﷺ itself or following what they understood from his sunnah in general and the elaboration of the manner [of this understanding] is hidden to others. This kind of [action] is not an increase on [the sunnah], and its clarification is to come, by the power of Allah. [The clarification] of [which is]: Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Hakim transmitted from Yahya ibn Adam about the statement of the pious predecessors ‘the sunnah of Abu Bakr and Umar’ that the meaning of it is that the Prophet ﷺ died while he was on that sunnah and that the statement of another is not required along with the statement of the Prophet ﷺ. What he said is correct in itself for it is from that which the hadith of al-‘Irbad (Allah be pleased with him) bears out. There is, therefore, no excess to what has been established in the Prophetic sunnah, but [since] it is feared that it may be abrogated by another sunnah, the ‘ulama depend on the consideration of the actions of the caliphs after him to know that that is the [sunnah] which the Prophet ﷺ died upon and nothing abrogated it, because they would take the latest matter from his command.
The Meaning of Legal Bid’ah
The upshot is that legal bid’ah is an invented matter which does not have substantiation from the four sources of the religion, while believing it to be from the religion, and something in which one expects to be rewarded from Allah and gain good deeds. According to this, whatever the Lawgiver commanded as an obligation or recommendation of seeking knowledge, memorising it, spreading it, supporting the religion, defending it, purifying the souls and refining them , if its compliance in this age is dependent on acquiring the ways and means which the predecessors (salaf) could do without, due to reasons and states specific to them, like the composition of the sciences and compilation of books, building schools in specific ways etc. taking up these means is not from legal bid’ah. It is established in Usul al-Fiqh that that which an obligation is not completed except by means of it, it is itself obligatory and whatever something prescribed depends on, it too is prescribed, so it is a part of the religion by judgement, and is not from innovation in the religion of that which is not from it. 
This is similar to a doctor instructing a patient to use a certain ointment which is not found in the market, so the patient took all of its ingredients without excess or shortage and proportioned it into a good standing ointment by himself. Preoccupation with the principles of proportioning and working the mind to [acquire] its methods, although it is not part of what the doctor explicitly instructed, it is nonetheless included in it by judgement, as is clear. Yes, if he increased in the mixture of the medicine or decreased from it, or changed the medicine for another medicine or changed the times of its use or freely chose its measurements, for example, in spite of the instruction of the doctor treating [him], then in this there is opposition to his instruction and interference in his job which is not for others to interfere in.
This is the condition of the laws of the Shari’ah: it is not permitted to add to them or decrease from them, or take them out of their times and limits, or restrict something general or generalise something restricted, or specify its modalities and modes by mere opinion and guesswork.
The Etymology of Bid’ah
The Muhaqqiq al-Shatibi said in al-I’tisam, “The root [meaning] of the root [letters] b–d–‘ is to invent something without a past precedent. Hereof is His statement, (Most High) ‘Originator (badi’) of the Heavens and earth. When He decrees a thing, He says unto it only: Be! and it is.’ (2:117, 6:101) i.e. their inventor without a past precedent, and His statement (Most High) ‘Say: I am no new thing (bid’) among the messengers (of Allah)’ (46:9) i.e. I was not the first to come with a message from Allah to [His] servants, rather many Messengers came before me. It is said ‘such and such a person innovated a bid’ah’ i.e. he invented a method not preceded by one who preceded [him]; and it is said ‘this is a novel (badi’) matter’ in regards to something considered good which has no precedent in [its] goodness, so it is as though nothing that is similar to it or resembling it preceded it. From this meaning, bid’ah was called bid’ah. Thus, its extraction in order to practice it is an innovation (ibtida’), its mode is a bid’ah, and the action done in this way is called bid’ah. In this sense, the action which has no evidence in the Shari’ah is called bid’ah which is the generalised usage of a linguistically more restricted [meaning] in accordance with how it is mentioned by the power of Allah.” Then he said, “Bid’ah is, therefore, an invented method in the religion which resembles [the prescribed law of] the Shari’ah, by the performance of which is sought an excess in devotion to Allah ﷻ.”
Relative Bid’ah (al-bida’ al-idafiyyah]>
Then he said in another place, “Often an action is originally licit but begins to take the course of bid’ah. The explanation of this is that an action that is recommended, for example, and a performer performs it in the privacy of his own [space] upon its first assignment of recommendation. If the performer restricts [himself] to this degree there is no harm and it takes its course [of recommendation] when he remains on this in his private [space] without persistently exhibiting it. Rather, when he exhibits it, he does not exhibit it as the ruling of the persistent acts like the regular sunnahs and the compulsory obligations. This, then, is sound and there is no problem in it. The basis of this is the recommendation of Allah’s Messenger of concealing supererogatory [prayers] and performing [them] within the houses. His statement, “The best of prayers is your prayer in your houses besides the prescribed [prayers]” limits exhibition [of prayer] to the obligations, as you see, even if this was in his mosque, in the Sacred Mosque or in the mosque of Jerusalem to [the extent that] they [i.e. the jurists] said that supererogatory [prayer] in the house is better than it is in one of these three mosques as is required by the outward [meaning] of the hadith. The sunnahs like the two Ids, the Eclipse Prayer (al-khusuf), the Rain Prayer (al-istisqa) and those resembling them take the course of the obligatory prayers in exhibition. The ruling of concealment remains in [prayers] besides these, and hereof the pious predecessors (Allah be pleased with them) persevered in the concealment of [good] deeds in what they were able as it was easy for them to follow [his] tradition and his practice (upon him be peace) because he is the example and the standard.”
He said, “The reason for innovation being included here is that all that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ persisted in of supererogatory [prayers] and exhibited them in congregations, they are sunnah, so performing a supererogatory [prayer] which is not sunnah in the manner a sunnah is performed is removal of the supererogatory [prayer] from the place specified for it in the Shari’ah. Moreover, as a consequence of this, the laity and those who have no knowledge about it believe that it is a sunnah and this is a great iniquity, because believing of what is not a sunnah [to be a sunnah] and performing it to the degree a sunnah is performed is akin to changing the Shari’ah, just as if it is believed about an obligation that it is not an obligation or what is not an obligation that it is an obligation and then this is practiced in accordance with one’s belief, for indeed that is an iniquity. Thus, an action originally begins correctly, then its removal from its place by belief and practice is a kind of corruption of the laws of the Shari’ah.”
He said in another place, “Of the relative bid’ahs (al-bida’ al-idafiyya) which are close to actual [bid’ah] is that the origin of the [act of] worship is licit but it is removed from its original legislation without evidence, imagining that it remains upon its original [ruling] under the requirement of the evidence, and that [i.e. relative bid’ah] is by restricting the generality of these [rulings, based] on opinion or generalising its restriction. In sum, it is removed from its limit to [another] limit.”
He said, “From this [kind of bid’ah] is specifying virtuous days with various types of worship which have not been specifically legislated like specifying a certain day with such and such rak’ats or with such and such charity or a specific night with standing such and such rak’ats or completing the Qur’an in it or whatever resembles that, since that specification and acting upon it, when it is not because of the rule of expediency or by an objective the like of which is intended by those of intellect, free-time and activity, it is an excess legislation. There is no proof in support of it in saying that the virtue of this time is established over other than it so it is good to place rituals in it because we say: Is this goodness established on a sound basis or not? If it is established, then that is our opinion just as it is established in the standing of the nights of Ramadan and the fasting of the three days of every month and fasting Monday and Thursday, and if it is not established, then what are you relying on in this? The intellect does not deem [something] good or bad and the Shari’ah does not support it, so nothing remains but it being an innovation in that specification.”
Implications of tark (not doing something)
He said in another place, “Here is a principle on this matter [of tark], may Allah benefit by it those who are just to themselves, which is that silence of the Lawgiver on the ruling of an issue or leaving something is of two types:
“One of them is that he remains silent about it or leaves it because there is no incentive to it, requiring it; [and there is] no necessitating [factor] due to which it was assigned and a cause for it being assigned did not occur. [This is] akin to the legal cases (nawazil) that occurred after the death of the Prophet ﷺ because they were non-existent. Moreover, he remained silent about them despite their coming into existence, as they only occurred [as legal cases] after that [i.e. his death]. Thus, the scholars of Shari’ah need to examine them and apply them in accordance with what is evident from the universals by which the religion was perfected. All that the pious predecessors deliberated on of that which is not from the Messenger of Allah’s ﷺ practice, in a specific [manner] of which the meaning is intelligible, refers to this type. When the causes of this type occur, it is necessary to look into it and apply it in accordance with its principles if it is from the customs, or from the rituals which cannot be limited to what was transmitted, like the rules of forgetfulness (al-sahw wa l-nisyan) in the performance of rituals. There is no problem in this type because the principles of the Shari’ah are available and the underlying causes of these rules were not there in the age of revelation so silence about them specifically is not a ruling requiring permission to leave [the act] or anything else. Rather, when the cases are presented it is referred back to its principles and it will be found by means of them. None besides a mujtahid can find it and only the mujtahids characterised by knowledge of Usul al-Fiqh can find it.
“And the second type is that the Lawgiver is silent about a specific ruling or leaves a matter from the matters, and its necessitating factor that requires it is present, and its underlying cause in the age of revelation and in the time after it was existent and established, but an additional command to what is the general law in the likes of it was not specified therein and there was no decrease from it. Since the factor necessitating the legalisation of the specific rational ruling was existent and then it was not legislated and no attention was paid to its extraction, it would be clear that any excess to what is established here is a superfluous bid’ah and contrary to the intent of the Lawgiver, since it is understood that he intended to halt at what is defined [in the Shari’ah] with no addition to it and no subtraction from it.”
Then he said, “Indeed, here, silence over the ruling of the performance of an act or leaving [it] when the factor demanding it is present, is [equivalent to] the consensus of all who are silent that there is no excess to what was, since if that [excess] was suitable according to the Shari’ah or permissible they would have done it, and they would be more deserving of comprehending it and beating [us] in practicing it, because it is not correct that the legal cause was ineffective in the time of the Prophet ﷺ and the caliphs after him and then it came into effect . For this [reason] Malik said, ‘Do you believe people today are more desirous of good than those who have passed?'” 
In sum, all good is in the sunnah and following the pious predecessors who are stars of guidance and signposts of integrity. “After the Truth what is there saving error? How then are ye turned away?” (10:32)
The Hadith “Whatever the Muslims deem to be good is good according to Allah”
[It is mentioned in Majalis al-Abrar:] [In the subject] of innovation, [according] to a learned scholar (fadil): It remains for us to verify [the narration] ‘whatever the Muslims deem to be good…’ to its end, since many people have become accustomed to adducing this narration as proof for the non-detestability of what they have become accustomed to of bid’ahs. This deduction is incorrect. The hadith is against them, not for them, because it is part of a hadith halted at ibn Mas’ud (mawquf ‘ala bni mas’ud), narrated by Ahmad, al-Bazzar, al-Tabrani and others as such: “Indeed Allah (Most High) looked at the hearts of the servants and chose Muhammad and sent him with His message. Then he looked at the hearts of the servants and chose for him companions and made them helpers and supporters of his religion, so whatever the Muslims deem to be good, it is good according to Allah, and whatever the Muslims deem to be bad, it is bad according to Allah.”
There is no doubt that the definite particle (lam) in “the Muslims” is not for the entirety of the genus, so it is not contrary to his ﷺ statement “My nation will divide into 73 groups all of which are in the Fire except one” because every group from the Muslim nation believe its religious character is good, by which it is necessitated that no group of them will be in the Fire, and likewise some Muslims deem something good while others deem it bad, so it results in good being indistinguishable from bad.
Thus, [the definite particle] is either for particularity (‘ahd) and the particularised object (ma’hud) is what he mentioned in his statement “and chose for him companions”, in which case the intended meaning would be the Muslims from the Companions only; or for encompassment (istighraq) of the special features (khasa’is) of that genus so by Muslims is meant the people of sound judgement (ijtihad) who have perfected the attribute of Islam, turning the general (mutlaq) into the perfect (kamil) because the general in the absence of a qualifier turns into the perfect particular (fard kamil) which is the mujtahid [in this case], thus it becomes ‘whatever the Companions or the people of sound judgement deem to be good is good according to Allah and whatever the Companions or the people of sound judgement deem to be bad is bad according to Allah’; and it is possible that [the definite particle] is for actual encompassment so the meaning becomes ‘whatever all the Muslims deem to be good or bad is as such according to Allah’, and whatever is disputed, attention then is given to the three generations whose greatness has been corroborated [in the hadiths]. [End of quote from Majalis al-Abrar]
[Hafiz Al-Lakhnawi wrote after quoting the above:] The most obvious and correct of the three interpretations of the definite particle is the first interpretation as indicated by the fa (so) prefixed to “whatever the Muslims deem to be good.” The latter two interpretations would be considered if the speech was without fa or was with waw (and) as is commonly used on their tongues, and since [this is] not [the case, that is] not [considered].
A group have attributed this hadith to the Prophet ﷺ and said Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said “Whatever the Muslims deem to be good is good according to Allah.” From them is Imam al-Razi in al-Tafsir al-Kabir and al-‘Ayni in Sharh al-Hidayah and others from its commentators. However, ibn Nujaym said in al-Ashbah wa l-Naza’ir: Al-‘Ala’i said, “I did not find a basis for it in marfu’ form in any of the books of hadiths or with a weak chain after lengthy research and much investigation and inquiry, and it is only one of the sayings of ibn Mas’ud halted at him (mawquf ‘alayhi).” [Here] ends a summarised [passage on the discussion of this narration] from Tuhfat al-Akhyar by al-Hafiz al-Lakhnawi. 
And from what we transmitted to you about this narration you know that the supporters of bid’ahs adhering to it is not justified because it is a narration halted at ibn Mas’ud, and acting on the statement of a Companion and the obligation of practicing it is disputed. Furthermore, the purpose behind it [i.e. the statement] is: whatever they, either all the Muslims or the Companions in particular, agreed upon, is good, as you now from what has preceded. Preserve this for it is beneficial. Allah ﷻ knows best.
By this account which we reviewed from the instructions of our praiseworthy teacher [Shaykh al-Hind Mawlana Mahmud al-Hasan] and others of the ‘ulama of this field (Allah have mercy on them), it [should] be clear to you, if Allah (Most High) wills, legal bid’ah in its entirety is evil and blameworthy and is not divided into good and bad, or obligatory, recommended and disliked, and other divisions. So his ﷺ statement in the hadith of the chapter “every bid’ah is misguidance” is understood by us as general.
Those who specify it as evil bid’ah and divide bid’ah into types seem not to have been over particular about the use of this word and they shifted from the legal definition to the linguistic definition and construed it as legal , as the statement of al-Zurqani in Sharh al-Mawahib indicates where he said: “It is linguistically what is done without a past precedent and is used in the Shar’iah in this sense also. It divides into obligatory [bid’ah] like knowledge of the evidences of the dialectical theologians (mutakallimin) to refute the atheists and innovators; recommended, like compiling books, building schools and endowments; permissible, like expanding foods and drinks; prohibited, like errors produced in [the recitation of] the Qur’an; and disliked, like the effect of something the detestability of which is proven textually.” Al-Nawawi said, “the hadith is from the general [statement that is] qualified and this is not negated by its emphasis on ‘all’, because that does not prevent qualification as [in] His statement (Most High) ‘Destroying all things by commandment of its Lord’ (46:25) .” And Allah ﷻ knows best what is right.
- 1 The hadith in Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-‘Ilm is as follows: Some desert Arabs clad in woollen clothes came to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ. He saw them in sad plight as they had been hard pressed by need. He exhorted people to give charity, but they showed some reluctance until [displeasure] could be seen on his face. Then a person from the Ansar came with a purse containing silver. Then came another person and then other persons followed them in succession until happiness could be seen on his face. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “It will be written for the one who introduced a good practice in Islam which was practiced after him the reward of those who practiced it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And it will be written for the one who introduced some evil practice in Islam which had been practiced subsequently the sin of those who practiced it, without their sins being diminished in any respect.”
Mufti Taqi Usmani said under the commentary of this hadith, “In it is [an indication] of the great reward [given] to one who performs a good [deed] the first time and is then followed by others. This is concerning the goodness of that which has been established in the Qur’an and sunnah but people have abandoned it or do not pay attention to one of its particulars as has occurred here, since the virtue of charity has been established in the Qur’an and sunnah, but the one who paid attention to it in regard to this particular [cause] and produced charity for it the first time and thus became an inviter to others, this reward is established for him. As for that which is not established as a good deed in the Qur’an, nor in the sunnah, the invention of such a practice, is an innovation that has no relation to this hadith. And Allah (Glorified is He) knows best.” (Takmilah Fath al-Mulhim, vol. 5, p. 407)
- 2The Spanish Maliki legal theorist Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi (d. 790/1388) wrote in the eighth chapter of his work al-I’tisam while discussing examples of al-masalih al-mursalah (matters of public interest introduced without specific evidences from the Qur’an or Sunnah), which he takes as the only exception to innovations in religion: “We will restrict ourselves to ten examples of al-masalih al-mursalah. The first of them is that the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) agreed upon the compilation of the mushaf, while there is no direct text [instructing] its composition and also its writing, rather one of them [i.e. the Companions] said ‘How can we do something which Allah’s Messenger did not do (Allah bless him and grant him peace)?’
Thus, it was narrated from Zayd ibn Thabit (Allah be pleased with him) [that] he said: Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) sent for me after the [heavy] casualties in [the battle of] Yamama while ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) was with him. He said: ‘Umar came to me and said, ‘The people have suffered heavy casualties among the reciters on the day of Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among the reciters at other battle-fields, whereby a large part of the Qur’an may be lost, unless you compile it, so I am of the opinion that you should instruct the collection of the Qur’an.’ He said: I said to him, ‘How can I do something which Allah’s Messenger did not do?’ ‘Umar said to me, ‘By Allah, it is good.’ So ‘Umar kept on pressing me till Allah opened my bosom to it and I saw in it what ‘Umar saw in it.’ Zayd said: Then Abu Bakr said, ‘Indeed you are a wise young man and we do not suspect you. Indeed you used to write the revelation for Allah’s Messenger. Therefore, trace the Qur’an and collect it.’ Zayd said: By Allah, if they had charged me to shift a mountain from the mountains it would not have been heavier on me than that. Then I said, ‘How can you do a thing which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not do?’ So Abu Bakr said, ‘By Allah, it is good.’ So he kept pressing me till Allah opened my bosom to that which He had opened their bosoms. So I traced the Qur’an, collecting it from parchments, scapula, leaf-stalks of date palms and from the breasts of men.’ [Transmitted in Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir] Hence, this is a deed in which no dispute has been transmitted from the Companions.
Moreover, it was narrated from Anas ibn Malik that it was [the time when] the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were waging war to conquer Armenia and Azerbaijan and Hudyahfah ibn al-Yaman was afraid of their differences in [the recitation of] the Qur’an, so he said to ‘Uthman, ‘O leader of the faithful! Take hold of this nation before they differ about the Book as the Jews and the Christians differed before.’ So ‘Uthman sent [a message] to Hafsah, ‘Send me the manuscripts [of the Qur’an]. We will copy them into mushafs and then return them to you.’ So Hafsah sent the manuscripts to ‘Uthman. ‘Uthman then sent [them] to Zayd ibn Thabit, ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, Sa’id ibn al-’As and ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith ibn Hisham and he commanded them to copy them into mushafs. Then he said to the three Qurayshi men, ‘In whatever you disagree with Zayd ibn Thabit about, write it in the dialect of Quraysh since it was revealed in their tongue.’ He said: ‘They did so, and when they had copied the manuscripts into mushafs, ‘Uthman sent to every province one mushaf from those mushafs they copied. Then he ordered that all readings other than this, in manuscript [form] or in mushafs, be burnt.’ [Transmitted in Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab Fada’il al-Qur’an] Hence, this too is a consensus on [the legitimacy of] its writing and uniting people on one reading whereby differences in large part will not result, because they did not differ except in the readings, according to what the ‘ulama specialised in this field transmitted.
“Moreover, none opposed the matter except ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud because he prohibited the disposal of that which he possessed of [manuscripts containing] readings different to the mushafs of ‘Uthman and he said: ‘O people of ‘Iraq!’ or ‘O people of Kufa! Conceal the mushafs that you have and embezzle them for indeed Allah (Most High) has said “Whoso embezzles will bring what he embezzled with him on the Day of Resurrection” (3:161) so meet Allah with the mushafs’ [Abu ‘Ubayd transmitted it in Fada’il al-Qur’an]. Look carefully at his words because he did not oppose its compilation and he only opposed another matter. Despite this, ibn Shihab said: ‘It reached me that men from the most virtuous of the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) disliked this [because] of the statement of ibn Mas’ud’. A text has not been narrated from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) about that which they did, but they considered it a benefit (maslahah) that is absolutely in line with the regulations of the Shari’ah (tasarrufat al-shar’), because it derives from the [need to] preserve the Shari’ah, and the command to protect it is acknowledged; and [the command] to prevent the means to disputation about its source which is the Qur’an, and the prohibition of disputation over it is known to a degree not [requiring] more [detail].
“Once this principle is established, extend it to writing knowledge of the traditions and other than them when their effacement is feared, adding to what has come in the hadiths of the command to write knowledge. I wish that the writing of this book which I put my hands to is from this viewpoint because I saw that the topic of bid’ahs was greatly neglected in the speech of the ‘ulama, except for minor transmissions as ibn Waddah transmitted or [various] points of discussion are produced that will not satisfy the one thirsty for complete understanding of it as is required. I did not find, despite my intense search for it, except what Abu Bakr al-Turtushi wrote about it, but it is too brief with regard to what is needed about it, and if it was not [needed] people would not fall into seventy two sects. It [i.e. al-Turtushi’s work] is a chapter of the chapters on the subject and a section of its sections. So I took up the [task] myself to pay the attention to it [that it deserves]. May Allah benefit thereby its writer, its reader, its distributer, its copyist, the one seeking benefit from it and all Muslims. Verily He is the Guardian of that and the Executer of it by the vastness of His mercy.” (Kitab al-I’tisam, Vol 3, pp. 12-17)
Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505) wrote in his celebrated work on the sciences of the Qur’an: “Al-Khattabi said: Indeed he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not compile the Qur’an into a mushaf because he anticipated the revelation of something that will abrogate one of its laws or parts of its recitation. Then, when its revelation ended with his death, Allah inspired this [task] to the rightly guided caliphs, fulfilling His truthful oath guaranteeing its preservation for the entire ummah [in Qur’an 15:9]. Thus, the beginning of this [compilation] was at the hand of al-Siddiq upon consulting with ‘Umar. As for what Muslim transmitted from the hadith of Abu Sa’id that he said: Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said ‘Write not from me [anything] besides the Qur’an…’ [to the end of] the hadith, this does not negate that, because the discussion is about a specific writing in a specific way. Indeed, the entire Qur’an was written in the era of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) but was not collected into one place, and the chapters (suwar) were not sequenced.” (Al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, p. 129)
Type: Article, Translation
Subject: Aqa'id, Sahih Muslim
Translator: Mft. Zameelur Rahman