In America, at our masjid, when a new Muslim converts, we issue a certificate for him. We tell him that it is not required in the religion but that it may be a means of protecting his/her rights pertaining to marriage, Hajj, or a proper burial and the likes. Some of the youth deemed it to be a bid'ah (innovation) in the religion and stated there was also a need for this at the time of the Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, but that he and the Companions after him did not do this. These youth suggest having the person write an Islamic will instead and claim that this certificate will not aid them in securing his rights. What is the ruling upon issuing these certificates when the person is not under the impression that it is obligatory? Is it a bid'ah in the religion?
All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
Issuing this certificate has nothing to do with bid'ah; rather, this is part of what the scholars call al-masaalih al-mursalah (unrestricted interests). Perhaps it is appropriate to clarify the meaning of each term:
Bid'ah or innovation is defined by Ash-Shaatiby as follows, “An innovation is an invented method in the religion, which resembles the sharee'ah, and by doing it, a person intends to exaggerate in worshipping Allaah Almighty.”
So innovation is related to matters of worship. An example about innovation would be saying that the Quran is created or innovations in thikr (mentioning Allaah) and so forth.
Al-maslahah al-mursalah [singular form of al-masaalih al-mursalah] is defined by Ibn Ameer Haaj in At-Taqreer wat-Tahbeer as follows: “It is that which is neither proven by the sharee'ah nor negated by it, but it is within the context of benefits and the minds received it with acceptance.”
An example of this maslahah is gathering the Quran in one volume (mus-haf) and putting articulation signs in it and recording the matters of the Islamic state (and matters related to the organization of the army and so forth) in registers and so forth.
A contemporary researcher has mentioned the similarities and differences between the bid’ah and al- maslahah al-mursalah.
1. Both the innovation and al-maslahah al-mursalah did not happen in the era of the Prophet .
2. Both the innovation – in general – and al-maslahah al-mursalah lack specific supportive evidence.
1- Innovation is in matters of worship and other related religious matters, contrary to al-maslahah al-mursalah, which, in general, is related to that of which the meaning is understood and there is a benefit in it.
2- The innovation is intended in itself by its doers; they intend, in general, to get closer to Allaah by doing it… contrary to al-maslahah al-mursalah, which is not intended in itself but rather is a means to achieve an end.
3- Innovation leads to overburdening the people who are assigned to perform religious obligations and causes them distress; contrary to the al-maslahah al-mursalah, which leads to alleviating distress from the people who are assigned to perform religious obligations and relieves them from difficulties.
4- In general, al-maslahah al-mursalah did not occur in the era of the Prophet because there was no requisite for doing it, or there was a requisite for doing it but there was an impediment that prevented doing it, contrary to innovation, which did not happen in the era of the Prophet despite the fact that there was a requisite for doing it, i.e. there was a reason and there was no impediment.
With this last difference, the answer becomes clear about the misconception that you mentioned; that this certificate did not exist in the era of the Prophet; it is understood that the people now are very attached to it due to their need for it, as is the case regarding the documents issued by the judicial authorities and the like, which are required for resolving disputes, such as the marriage certificate, the divorce certificate, and so on, unlike the first era, when people were not in need of it, nor were they in need of other means of personal identification; so this was not done at their time due to the fact that there was no requisite for it.
Also, if the will proves rights, then what can be said about it is the same as what is said about the certificate. It is known that a will in regard to what is mentioned in the question did not also exist in the first era!
As regards the fact that the will can be a substitute for the certificate, then this is an easy and broad matter; and the whole issue is not related to innovation at all, as we have already discussed.
Allaah knows best.
You can search for fatwa through many choices