What is the difference between Sunnah and Bid'aa‘ah (religious innovation)?
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, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.
The Sunnah is the tradition of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in belief and practice. Scholars of Hadeeth (narration) defined it as (what was narrated about the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, whether it was his sayings, deeds, approval, traits or behavior.
Ash-Shaatibi, who was a follower of the school of Maalik defined Bid’ah as: “An invented way in religion that is similar to but in reality it contradicts it. Usually it is intended for exaggerating in worshipping Allaah The Almighty". Ash-Shaatibi gave an example of innovation such as mentioning the Name of Allaah The Almighty aloud and celebrating the birthday of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Also, being particular about performing certain acts of worship at certain times that were not identified in the religion, such as fasting on the fifteenth of Sha‘baan and maintaining night vigil the day before it.
Another criterion that was identified by scholars is that any act that was not done by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, even though a need existed and there was no hindrance, is an innovation. Therefore congregational night prayer in Ramadan, and compiling the Quran are not considered innovations. This is because the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, did not perform congregational night prayer regularly in Ramadan, because he was afraid that people would think it is an obligation. Regarding the compilation of the Quran, there was no need for that at the time of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, but when the number of Muslims increased after the Islamic conquests, the Companions were afraid that the Quran might be distorted by non-Arabic words. Thus, they compiled it.
Muslims should know that Bid'ahs (religious innovations) are very dangerous to Islam and Muslims, and on the Day of Judgment it will be returned to the one who innovated it. It was narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that anyone who innovates something in the religion, it would not be accepted from him regardless of who he was. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Bid'ah (religious innovation) is also considered deviation, as it was narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that every innovation is considered deviation and every deviation would be in Hell. [An-Nasaa’i]
We seek refuge with Allaah The Almighty from religious innovations and the punishment of Hell.
And Allaah Knows best.
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