Bid`ah: Highway to Hellfire

Bid`ah: Highway to Hellfire








Jabir ibn `Abdullah narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

“Indeed, the most evil of matters (in the religion) are the newly invented ones, and every innovation (in the religion)is a bid`ah, andevery bid`ah is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.” (Authinticated by Al-Albani)

Al-Bukhari reported that once some Jewish scholars said to `Umar ibn Khattab, (may Allah be pleased with him), “The Qur’an contains a verse that if it had been revealed to us, we would have designated a day to celebrate its revelation, meaning (This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.) (Al-Ma’idah 5:3) Yes, I know, the time and place where it was revealed,” he replied.

Indeed it was a historic day. It was the day of `Arafat during the farewell Hajj of Prophet Muhammad. This verse announced the completion of a historic process that had started with the descent of Adam (peace be upon him) to earth. Allah sent His Guidance to him, telling him that in the generations to come there would be other messengers.

The process continued through the 124,000 prophets who were sent to different places at different times and was sealed with the coming of the last Messenger, Muhammad who kept receiving revelations over a twenty-three years. Then during the Farewell Hajj, on the mountain of Arafat, in the presence of nearly 150,000 Companions, this verse was revealed announcing that the religion has completed!

The full significance of this message must never escape us. Islam is unlike all previous revealed religions in one crucial respect. All of them came with deadlines but Islam has none. The Guidance from Allah had been completed, the religion had been perfected and there would be no new message, no new prophet, no new Shari`ah, and no new commands until the Last Day! The Straight Path had been laid out and it is our job to only follow it, not to try to discover new paths.

In Islamic terminology, Sunnah and Bid`ah are antonyms. Sunnah literally means path, and it is the path shown to us by the Prophet. This includes the Shari`ah teachings derived from the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the consensus of the Companions, and ijtihad of the qualified scholars.

Bid`ah means adding or changing articles of faith or religious practices in many forms:

  • Changing the occasion of a prescribed act, thereby extending it to occasions for which it was not meant.

  • Adding restrictions on a desired act that the Shari`ah had not imposed.

  • Changing the style or form of such an act.

  • Doing something collectively that was to be performed individually.

  • Changing the Shari`ah status of an act from permissible to mandatory.

  • Or adding a ritual where none existed.

These are all forms of Bid`ah which are all forbidden.

Bid`ahis like fake currency that tries to exclude the good one. By design, it has the appearance of a virtuous religious act where in fact it lies outside the Shari`ah boundaries. So, we can trace back the sources of Bid`ah, in many cases, to non-Islamic influence from surrounding communities which came into contact with Muslim communities.


Distinguishing Bid`ahs from the Sunnah

First, Bid`ahs normally vary from region to region, and over time, revealing their local and non-Islamic sources. This is unlike the genuine religious practices that maintain the same form everywhere. No matter where a person comes from, a follower of, say, Hanafi Fiqh, will be offering salah in exactly the same way, right down to the minutest detail – like when to raise the index finger. In contrast, Bid`ah practices surrounding, marriage or death in the Indo-Pak subcontinent vary from those in Arabia or Africa.

Second, the Bid`ah practices are largely transmitted through oral tradition. Many of these have a pseudo-legal, ritualistic framework of their own, but one would be hard pressed to find it in the standard legal texts! Rather it lives in the folklore.

Consider -for example- the rituals normally performed upon the death of a person, the books of fiqh describe in great detail how the funeral and burial should be done. However, do they also mention that on the third day (or the tenth or the fortieth), a gathering should be arranged where participants should recite the Qur’an for the benefit of the deceased and after which they should be served with dinner? The answer is no as this is a common practice and not part of the Shari`ah; it is an addition or Bid`ah.

One factor that helps the propagation of Bid`ahs is the attitude that treats religion as a hobby rather than submitting to the ordinances of Allah. Pure submission may be “boring.” It demands sacrifice while Bid`ahs are fun. On top of that they “promise” reward in the Hereafter which makes Bid`ah more deadly than ordinary sins. A person may repent after committing a sin and he knows he has committed a sin. However, how can a person repent from a wrong that he/she considers to be right?

In reality Bid`ahs are a tremendous burden. Islamic teachings are simple and easy and life would be much easier if all Bid`ahs were vanished. When a person dies, Islam instructs people that they should provide food to the bereaved family. Bid`ah requires the opposite, that the bereaved should feed all the visitors? a widespread practice in the Muslim communities in Asia.

Other Bid`ahs are also a burden. The burden in the Hereafter will be much bigger, as the retribution of every Bid`ah is Hell-Fire.


Published by

Boricua Muslimah

Graduate from Rutgers Newark. Journalist, photographer and videographer.

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