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Hadith 5: Ibadah & Bida’ah (Innovation)

It is narrated on the authority of the Mother of the Believers, Umm ‘Abdullah ‘Aishah, radiyallahu ‘anha, that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said:

“Whosoever introduces into this affair of ours (i.e. into Islam) something that does not belong to it, it is to be rejected.”

[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

According to the version in Muslim, (it reads): “Whosoever works a work which has for it no command of ours is to be rejected.”


Background

Like Hadith 1, this hadith is one of the most important hadiths. Imam Nawawi said it should be memorised by every Muslim.

 This hadith is used as a criterion for judging external actions or performance of Ibadah. If an action is not done in accordance with the Shariah or the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, it will be rejected and not accepted by Allah based on text of this hadith. This hadith complements Hadith 1, which was a criterion for judging the intentions or the internal actions of the heart. The Scholars say that the acceptance of actions of Ibadah is based on the above two conditions:

  1. The intention – the action should be done with sincerity, for the sake of only Allah.
  2. It should be done in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam.

Apart from Hadith 1 and Hadith 5, the acceptance of actions can also be found in Surah Al-Kahf (18): ayat 110:

Whoever looks forward to meeting his Sustainer (on Day of Judgement), let him do righteous deeds, and let him not ascribe unto anyone or anything a share in the worship due to his Sustainer.

Emulating and following the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, is a Qur’anic obligation. Allah, the Almighty says:

Verily, in the apostle of God you have the best example to emulate for everyone who looks forward (with hope and awe) to Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah unceasingly. [Surah Al-Ahzab (33): ayat 21].

Say (O Prophet): “If you love Allah, follow me, (and) Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.


Lessons

This hadith is related to a very important concept which is following the Sunnah and violating this concept will lead to bida’ah [which will be discussed in detail, insha Allah, in Hadith 28].

Scholars classify actions of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, into actions done for the purpose of Ibadah (worshiping Allah) and actions which are not done for that purpose (i.e. customs, actions done haphazardly, etc.). There are clear indicators for actions done for the purpose of Ibadah such as commands to do or not to do something, warnings for not doing something, etc.

Muslims are only obliged to follow the first kind of Sunnah.

 Looking at it in a positive way, the actions (i.e.forms of ibadah) that we do should be done in accordance with the Shariah or the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, and to ensure this there is a criterion consisting of five aspects that will keep our actions in check:

  1. Time
    Any ibadah that we do has to be done in it’s designated or specified time.
    E.g. There are fixed times in the day for the five prayers. For fasting, the month for fasting is Ramadhan. The period that we can fast is from
    fajr to sunset. Similarly, there is a specific time in the year when we can perform the Hajj – from the 8 to the 12 Zulhijjah.
  2. Place
    The Shariah has specified that certain ibadahs have to be performed in designated places. E.g. The places for performing the Hajj, I’tikaf, doing Ihram for Hajj have been fixed by the Shariah and this is something which is sometimes violated by Muslims, e.g. doing the Ihram (starting talbiyyah and niyyah for Hajj) in Jeddah is incorrect.
  3. Quantity
    For most of the ibadahs the Shariah has specified a certain number of times that the ibadahs or their components need to be performed. E.g. For prayers, there are specified number of rakaahs and sujud and for Tawaf there is a fixed number of rounds (7), etc. We should not violate these rules intentionally. To violate intentionally may make the ibadah subject to be rejected.
  4. Way
    Every ibadah was described or shown to us by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam – being our best model to follow and emulate. The way that the ibadahs are performed by him have to be followed – it should not be violated. E.g. There are different ways of performing different prayers – Salat ul-Janazah has no ruku’ or sujud. Even the size of the stones used for throwing at the Jamrat has been specified by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, as not to be too big.

    Before we perform any ibadah, we should know and learn the way the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, performed it and we should do it in the right way as he did it. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said, “Pray as you have seen me praying.” Many Muslims today violate the way ibadahs are performed, because of ignorance or because they do not bother to learn, and they end up doing the ibadah in the wrong way.

  5. Type
    If the Shariah has specified a type of ibadah, then we should stick to that type. E.g. Al-Udhiah (sacrifice) – the type of animal to be sacrificed has been specified by the Shariah and this should not be violated. Recently a Sheikh in one of the Muslim countries made a fatwa that Muslims can use chicken as sacrifice – this is a violation of the type. If a Muslim cannot afford to offer a sacrifice, then they don’t have to do it as it is not a wajib (i.e. an obligation). In certain years, some of the Sahabahs (companions) purposely did not perform the sacrifice so that the people did not think that it was a wajib.

          Conclusion

           These hadiths selected by al-Imam al-Nawawi are more of principles and criteria that help the Muslim practice easily and fulfil his/her daily religious obligations.

          Hadith 5 sets a criterion for the Muslim by which he can assess and evaluate his actions to ensure their rightness and acceptability.

 

                                                                              Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi

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