Posted by: Dawud Israel | March 23, 2008

The Psychology of Bida

I’ve never appreciated the concept of bida in Islam (innovation in Islam) and I came to finally understand it the other day.

Most Muslims understand it to refer to something that we simply should not do but don’t understand why. There is a hadith that says “every bida is in the Fire.” But we still wonder, why?

Look at the Christians today, their entire religion is so chaotic that they have to invent new practices for their followers. And so the question becomes in Islam why does Islam need innovations? Why do we need new practices?
The answer is we don’t. Islam satisfies everything and is more than enough to satisfy our quench and so what is there the need for anything else? The Jannah that is Islam needs not the fruits of Earth.

There is also a difference between religious practices that are bida and other things that are merely the fruits of Islam–things that come out of the hearts of the worshipers that enhance the emaan of the Muslims. These things, not unlike anything else, can be introduced into religious practices. This is a discussion that is better suited for another time however due to it’s complexity and historical connotation.

However, we should be grateful that Islam is not like Christianity which is destroyed beyond repair.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.


Responses

  1. Assalamualaykum Wah Rahmatullahi Wah Barakatuh,

    A desperately long awaited post!

    It’s important to keep such a moderate opinion of the issue of Bidah. The extremes on either end of the arguments are disturbing.

    I’ve seen bidah from people calling themselves Muslims by worshiping graves. On the other extreme (this may sound like a paradox), i’ve seen brothers practice bidah by making it a part of their life to point a tormenting finger towards their fellow Muslims and scream, wide-eyed: “BIDAH!, BIDAH!, HARAM!” indicating every tiny “innovation” the brother maybe doing that may have really been a resulting “fruit of Islam”, that our brother here has so elegantly put.

  2. Perhaps we should yearn to make a definitive statement about the difference between something fruitful and an innovation.

  3. I think the issue is virtually anything can become an innovation–i.e. you could introduce anything as a “religious” practice.
    But there are certain things like prayer beads which are nothing more than an aid.

    I think the problem becomes when something is taken as worship rather than a means to successful worship. Or just sheer confusion due to understanding deteriorating over a period of time.

    Grave worshiping could be connected to the complicated topic of tawassul or to the visiting of graves and praying for them.
    This is a super-complicated topic that isn’t easy to deal with.

    Or the poetry of Rumi for example is taken by some non-Muslims as a “scripture”–they would smoke a joint of marijuana and read a few verses of Rumi. This is just misunderstanding.

    Or perhaps the spinning of the dervishes can be seen as bida because it occurs in a masjid and seeks to bring them close to Allah. From this viewpoint it would be bida. But would you consider it a religious practice if one person just did it for the heck of doing it?

    These aren’t easy issues to deal with and understand so it’s easier to declare them bida because there is a risk of them indeed becoming bida (some of which undoubtedly are) since people will be stupid and just imitate their fore-fathers.

    I will be dealing more with this topic later insha Allah…

  4. At the end of the day, you look at the Quran and Sunnah for guidance, and use your heart to decide whether or not your “bidah” is conflicting with any part of the Islam. Some “Bidahs” have really saved Islam.

    Eg; the compiling of the Quran into one book came from the idea of Omar RA under the caliphate of Abu Bakr RA, this is a bidah but one that Allah Almighty planned for us in His promise to preserve the Quran.

  5. AA- Dawud,

    Very nice.

    “There is also a difference between religious practices that are bida and other things that are merely the fruits of Islam–things that come out of the hearts of the worshipers that enhance the emaan of the Muslims. These things, not unlike anything else, can be introduced into religious practices.”

    I’d be interested to read more of your thoughts on this issue. Any possible references?

  6. Any references?

    This blog is one reference. Take a look around… 🙂

    And I will be introducing some of my own too, Insha Allah but I will have to make sure they don’t become bidas so this requires safeguards.

    😉

  7. Kullu – does not necessarily mean every. Secondly, there are many examples of the Sahaba and tabi’in doing “newly-fangled” actions in worship which our Nabi did not do.

    As the scholars of old stated, Bida’ah falls beneat the 5 categories of the law: mubah, haram, mustahabb, makruh, fardh/wajib.

    So there can be a legal bida’ah that is permitted, hated, or even obligatory, as stated by Ibn Abdus-Salam, Nawawi, and others. It is that simple!


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