Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Allah Never Committed Injustice To Anyone

Hadith 24: Allah Never Committed Any Injustice Towards Anyone

By Imam Nawawi

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger

It was relayed on the authority of Abu Dhar al-Ghifari, radiyallahu 'anhu, that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, said, of what he related from his Lord, magnified and exalted be He, Who said:

"O My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Me and unlawful for you, so do not commit oppression against one another. O My servants, all of you are liable to err except for those whom I guide on the right path, therefore seek guidance from Me so that I should direct you to the right path.

O My servants, all of you are hungry (needy) except for those whom I feed, therefore seek food from Me so that I may feed you. O My servants, all of you are naked (need clothes) except for those whom I provide garments, therefore seek clothing from Me so that I should clothe you.

OMy servants, you sin by night and by day and I am there to pardon your sins, therefore seek forgiveness from Me so that I should grant you pardon.

O My servants, you can neither do Me any harm nor can you do Me any good. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of Jinns become as pious as the most pious heart of any one amongst you, it will not add anything to My Power or Kingdom.

O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of Jinns become as wicked as the most wicked heart of anyone amongst you, it will not decrease anything from My Power or Kingdom.

O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of Jinns gather together on a sector of land and all ask of Me and if I were to give everyone of them what they asked, that will not in any way decrease what I have anymore than a needle decreases what is in the ocean when it is put into it.

O My servants, these deeds of yours which I am recording for you I shall reward you for them, so he who finds good should praise Allah and he who finds other than that should not blame anyone but himself."

[Muslim]

Background

This hadith stresses on the prohibition of all forms of injustice and oppression in Islam. It commands its followers to practice justice which is one of the main objectives of the Syariah. It also encourages Muslims to seek guidance from Allah by means of supplication (du'a) and relying on Allah alone (Tawakul).

Even though we are commanded to do our best efforts in carrying out our daily activities, one should not be materialistic and rely on his efforts alone. It is only with Allah's permission and support and His tawfiq that our efforts becomes successful. Hence, this hadith confirms certain aspects of al-qadar which have been pointed out before and the choice is Allah's Glory, the all-Gracious and Powerful.

Lessons

As also mentioned in many verses of the Qur'an, Allah subhana wa ta'ala affirms His absolute justice and negates that He has never committed any kind of injustice towards anyone. Some verses of the holy Qur'an in this regards are:

In Surah Fussilat (41), Ayah 46 : "Your Lord is not at all unjust to His slaves"

In Surah al-Zukhruf (43), Ayah 76 : "No wise shall We be unjust to them but it is they who have been unjust to themselves"

In Surah Ghafir (40), Ayah 31 : "And Allah wills no injustice for His slaves"

In Surah al-Imran (3), Ayah 108 : "...and Allah wills no injustice to the world"

In Surah al-Nisa (4), Ayah 40 : "Surely Allah wrongs not even of the weight of an atom"

In Surah al-Kahf (18), Ayah 49 : "...and your Lord treats no one with injustice"

The forbidden injustices include all forms. The first, the highest level and the most extreme form of injustice is al-shirk or associating partners with Allah. Allah says in the Qur'an: "Verily joining others in worship with Allah is a great form of injustice indeed" [Surah Luqman (31) : Ayah 13]

The second form is unjust towards one ownself such as committing sins.

The third form is dhulm or unjust towards others whether human beings or other creatures. It is a must that a Muslim should avoid injustice as it displease Allah subhana wa ta'ala and leads to His severe punishment.

Ibn Taymiyyah points out that good and bad may be related to one's worldly life or one's religion. The guidance and forgiveness that are mentioned in the hadith are related to one's religion. Food and clothing are related to one's worldly needs. These are examples of what every one of us needs.

The hadith shows us that humans are always in great need for Allah. We need Allah for everything because we are poor and needy. Allah is the only One Who does not need anybody. He does not need anything from us. He is the Almighty and the Most Powerful. So a Muslim should show his or her need to Allah all the time and should seek Allah's support and Tawfiq in whatever he or she does. That is why we are ordered to do a lot of dhikr all the time because it expresses our needs to Allah subhana wa ta'ala.

It is by the help of Allah that we are able to do things. We are able to move and walk. We are able to sleep and wake up and do all our activities. All our internal bodily systems such as breathing, blood circulation and digestion and so on depend and work on Allah's Will. If any of these functions stop working, no one can bring it back to normal except Allah. So we should always be grateful to Allah subhana wa ta'ala.

Most people remember Allah only when there is a problem. For example, when one of our bodily functions does not work properly (e.g. an injured muscle, a broken finger, etc.), it is only then that we remember the bounties of Allah and what He provided us. But we should not wait until a problem occurs to be grateful to Allah. We have to be grateful to Him all the time and thank Him for all His Ni'mah on us. This will increase our iman because the more we show our needs to Allah, the more we feel the bounty of Allah. People who are not grateful to Allah are considered arrogant because they do not recognize the bounties of Allah given to them.

Guidance is a great mercy and ni'mah from Allah the Almighty. It is very important for every Muslim to know that the most valuable thing that we have in our life is this guidance. Allah has guided us to the right path or iman and we have to be grateful to Him. This guidance in the form of the Qur'an was revealed to us by Allah through His Messenger, Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wasallam. So we should stick to its guidance and follow its teachings as a guide for us in everything we do in our lives.

Our efforts alone cannot guide us. Even though we have our own will and choice, they are not independent. They are under Allah's will and choice and belong to Him. We have aql (mind) but again it is created by Allah. We also have fitrah or the natural deposition but it is also created by Allah and belongs to Him. All these things are created by Allah. Allah showed us the right way to follow and be guided and warn us against Syaitan who is our greatest enemy and cause of our wrongdoings and misguidance. Allah also showed us how to deal with our own desires which He created in us. He told us that we should not be misled by these desires. We have to use them in the right ways.

When it comes to the issue of misguidance, we must know that it is not from the choice of Allah because He does not want us to be misguided. It is from our own will and choice. When someone is misguided it is his or her own attitude and behavior and it is he or she who chooses it to be like that. For example, takabur (arrogance) is one source of misguidance but it is a person's character and attitude which affect the heart and cause misguidance. So when a person chooses to be misguided he or she will be so by his or her own will and not by Allah's misguidance.

Allah's misguidance comes later as punishment for the person who chooses to be misguided. But if the person is misguided because of external factors which is out of his hands, he will be excused. For example, if the person did not receive the message of Islam at all or he received it but not in a clear way, then he will be excused for that misguidance. People who live in periods between two prophets (Ahlul Fatrah) are considered as being in excusable situations because they could not receive the messages of Allah at that period of time.

At the end of the hadith it is mentioned and stressed that whoever finds good record he should be thankful to Allah and praise Him for that, and anyone who finds other than that, which means bad record, he should not blame anyone except himself. This is a clear statement that shows the personal responsibility of one's actions. It is the person's own will and choice and not Allah's. Allah is al-A'dil or Just. He never does injustice to His servants. In the Qur'an, we can find many verses that explain how people blame themselves during the Day of Judgment for not following the right path. It is the people themselves who chose to be misguided and hence they cannot blame any one else but themselves. This is also an important aspect of al-qadar that should be understood.

According to the scholars there are four types of guidance:

1. Guidance needed for the welfare of the worldly life. This type is general guidance for all living beings. They include  Muslims and non-Muslims, animals and also other creatures. All are guided by Allah for their worldly well-being.

2. Guidance which benefits mankind in the religious sense. This type is beneficial for life in the Hereafter.

3. Guidance in terms of placing faith and guidance into the heart of a person. This can be done only by Allah, as mentioned in Surah al-Kahf, Ayah 117.

4. Guidance in the Hereafter as stated in Surah Yunus, Ayah 9. This fourth guidance is a result of the second guidance. Those who follow the message of Allah are guided to the right path and will be guided in the Hereafter.

The door of Taubah or repentance is open for all. The acceptance of our repentance is always available. Islam is a practical religion. It acknowledges our weaknesses. People are always subject to wrongdoings. They may neglect or delay performing obligations (wajib) or they may even indulge in sins (ma'asi') but Allah subhana wa ta'ala is Oft-Forgiving and His door is open to all wrongdoers.

We are given the chance to repent and come back to Allah. This is a mercy from Allah. If we truly repent to Allah, our sins will be forgiven and even the bad records will be changed into good ones. Allah is telling us that He is Forgiving, Merciful and Compassionate. He requires us to come to Him and seek His forgiveness. We should know that the door of Allah is open to us all the time. If we do something wrong at night, we should come back to Him in the morning and if we do something wrong in the morning, we should come to seek His forgiveness during the night. 

We are always encouraged to do istighfar, which means to remember Allah and praise Him by reciting His Dzikr. We should maintain this istighfar regularly, for example, during the morning and evening times. It is also recommended to recite these adhkar after the salah and in some other specific times. We are encouraged to read these dzikr in our hearts.

The hadith shows the generosity of Almighty Allah. Allah gives His servants a lot of bounties and favours. The more they ask Him, the more He gives them His Ni'mah and countless Bounties. He wants us to ask Him more and seek His help and support. This is different from human beings because humans do not like to be asked frequently. The more you ask a human, the more they hate you and eventually will turn away from you. But the more we ask Allah the more He gives us. He wants us to come closer to Him and show Him our needs and humbleness. He will be pleased by our frequent taubah and repentance. This is also a kind of ibadah which is required to be practiced.

The early scholars (al-Salaf) used to ask Allah a lot and always seek His help in everything, even when a part of their shoe is cut they ask Allah to repair it for them. This shows that they were totally relying on Allah subhana wa ta'ala in their lives. We should also depend on Allah alone. We should not depend on our material aspects such as money and wealth as they cannot do anything for us. It is Allah alone Who deserves to be relied on. So every Muslim should be closer to Allah and seek His help and support. This will give us strength in our faith and iman. It will also give us more barakah (blessings) in our deeds and actions as explained in many verses of the Qur'an.

Istighfar is also one way to acquire good rizq or wealth because when we do istighfar we will get barakah in our rizq. It is this barakah or blessing of Allah which makes our wealth more beneficial regardless of how much money we earn. Some people earn a lot of money but there in no barakah in their wealth because they do not do istighfar nor are they grateful to Allah. People should show their need and humbleness to Allah who is the Master and Sustainer of the world.

Conclusion

The hadith shows us the proper relationship between mankind and Allah. It shows us the many attributes of Allah such as being Merciful, Forgiving, Powerful and Compassionate. In contrast, we as human beings are poor, needy and weak. We are in continuous need for Allah, our creator and sustainer. We need His Guidance, Help and Support. That is why in every rak’ah of our salah we are required to recite Umu al-Kitab or Surah al-Fatihah. We recite it at least 17 times everyday. It reminds us of our extreme need for our Lord and His Guidance and Support. Also this will strengthen our faith and iman.

In many verses of the Qur'an and in the hadiths of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, it is explained the importance of showing our need and humbleness to Allah and the worthiness of frequent taubah or repentance to Him. He will listen to us and will accept our supplication and repentance. He will be pleased by our du'a and prayers. He will shower on us His Mercy and Blessings and that is what we continuously need. We want to be guided, supported and forgiven. We seek the pleasure of Allah and it is the most important thing that a Muslim may achieve in life. Those who achieve it are described as Fa'izun or the most successful people.

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.


[Excerpted from a commentary on Hadith  24: “Allah Never Committed Injustice Towards Anyone”, 40 Hadiths Of Imam NawawiBy Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi, via IC Truth]

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Do Not Transgress the limit set by Allah

Hadith 30: Do Not Transgress the limit set by Allah

By Imam Nawawi

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger


It was narrated on the authority of Abi Tha'labah Al-Khushani Jurthum bin Nashir, (radiyallahu’'anhu), that the Messenger of Allah, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), said:

"Verily Allah the Almighty has prescribed the obligatory deeds, so do not neglect them; He has set certain limits, so do not go beyond them; He has forbidden certain things, so do not indulge in them; and He has said nothing about certain things, as an act of mercy to you, not out of forgetfulness, so do not go enquiring into these."

[Related by Al-Daraqutni and others - Al-Nawawi (rahimahullah) aid this is a hasan (fine) hadith]

Background

This hadith has been recorded by a number of scholars. They all recorded this hadith through the chain of Dawud Ibn Abi Hind on the authority of Makhool from Abi Tha'labah Al-Khushani.

This hadith is regarded as a weak hadith by many scholars such as Al-Bukhari, Ahmad and Hatim.

They point out that there are three defects in this hadith:

1. Makhool did not hear the hadith from Abi Tha'labah.

2. Even if it is assumed that he did hear from Abi Tha'labah, Makhool was classified among the third category of those who commit tadlis (tadlis is when a person narrates a hadith upon one of his teachers but he did not hear the particular hadith he is narrating directly from his teacher but from an intermediate source). For this hadith, there should be a direct term that reflectssama', that is this person heard the hadith directly from his teacher or sheikh. Otherwise, if he uses on the authority of, this cannot be accepted.

3. It is debatable whether this is actually a hadith or a saying of one of the Companions (sahabi). (Is it marfou' or mawqouf?)

Despite these three defects, the hadith has been accepted. Moreover, what has been mentioned in this hadith has been used by all jurists or fuqaha' as a way of categorizing rulings of syari'ah. It is from this hadith that the rules of the five well-known categorizations are derived: The obligatory (wajib), preferable (mandoub), forbidden (muharam), hateful (makrouh), and the permissible (mubah).

Not only is the meaning acceptable, this hadith is also used for categorizing rulings o f syari'ah (ahkam).

Lessons

The meaning of the statement which says: "He (Allah the Almighty) has set certain limits, so do not go beyond them." has been emphasised in the Qur'an. Allah says: “These are the bounds, the limits set by Allah. Do not then transgress them for who transgress them are evil doers”. [Surah Al-Baqarah (2): Ayah 229], and in Surah Al-Talq, Ayah 1, Allah says: “And those are the set limits of Allah and whosoever transgresses the set limits of Allah then he indeed has wronged himself.”

By looking closer into the content of these verses, we find that the two verses are talking about the limits (hudud) that Allah set regarding family relationships, especially the relationship between husband and wife.

The limits that govern the relationship between husband and wife are stated in two verses in two surahs. Moreover, in Surah Al-Nisa', Ayah 13 and 14, Allah talks about the regulations of inheritance (furud almirath). Favouring one person over another and giving a person more than he deserves is considered transgression in Islam. And if we lessen or decrease the right of another person, this is also considered transgression. We have to stick to what Allah has set for us regarding what a person should receive.

Usually in family relationships, if there is no adherence to the Islamic bounds and guidelines, the consequences will inevitably be negative as we see in real life and in the Muslim world today. If we go to the courts we will see many cases where transgression has taken place. If the family life is not carried out in accordance with syari'ah, we will end up with many people transgressing the set limits. For example, the way divorce takes place violates the concept of family relationship where the spouses are not aware of what they say. They are not in control of their tempers. They end up saying things they do not mean (e.g. performingtalaq out of anger) - things which might get them in a situation where they would need to go and consult the court or scholars regarding what to do. They start to look for a way to resolve the problem only when they are stuck and the situation deteriorates. Had they controlled their tempers and their tongues in the first place, they would not have reached this situation. It is only because they have violated the prescribed limits.

(In the example of a husband having used words or terms which later on even he himself is not sure whether he has declared divorce or not, some scholars will refer it to the intention when the action took place.)

Another area in this regard is the area of the procedure of divorce itself that has been set by Allah. There are certain rulings that have to be observed by both parties, especially the husband.

There are ways of minimizing the case of divorce. It has to occur in a totally controlled situation and in a way where there is an opportunity of getting back when it is carried out in the right way.

There are adab (manners) that have to be followed if divorce has to take place. Most of the time divorce takes place when everybody lose control of their tempers, feelings or emotions. In Islam, if Muslims have to divorce, they are required to be fully aware of the situation and consequences, and that they have thought deeply about it and not simply divorce as a result of anger or a hasty decision.

Islam creates the procedure that if a person is actually considering divorce, he must be fully aware of what he is doing and his actions are based on sound reasons. This also means that both sides have given the act of divorce deep thought and they could not find any other solution to their dispute. The act of divorce should not lead to transgression - the wife and children should not be victims. To make sure of this, we should stick to the limits set by Allah. People have to be aware of this. They have to respect the family relationship.

There should be strong commitment where both sides stick to what this commitment implies. This is so because Islam encourages the continuity of relationships. So here we have two considerations:

(1) the respect of commitment, and
(2) the continuity of that commitment.

Islam, as a practical religion, wants things to happen even if we dislike them. This is actually mentioned about the relationship between husband and wife. The hadith explains what the verse in the Qur'an says, that the believer should not hate another believer (wife). If he dislikes an aspect of her character or personality, he should appreciate other aspects of her character as well and vice versa. This is because there is no perfect person except Prophet Muhammad, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam). Consequently, Islam encourages us to appreciate other people's characters.

Islam also asks us to be moderate in our life when it comes to dealing with people. So spouses should deal with each other in a moderate way. A hadith says: "When you like someone, you should like him moderately because he might become someone whom you dislike one day, and when you dislike someone dislike him moderately because he might become someone you like one day."

This hadith implies that we should be moderate in our actions and sayings and not to exceed the limits. Unfortunately today, this idea has been violated by the media through movies, songs, etc.where love is taken as the central issue in our daily lives. We rarely or never see any exception where love is moderate and in accordance with the Islamic guidelines. This explains why we have 'hopeless' people. Because they have lost their lovers (and most importantly because they have exceeded the limits set by Allah) their lives become miserable and meaningless. This is because of the effect of the culture and the environment which they are exposed to. So by exceeding the limits set by Allah, more problems and disasters occur.

Another area where people usually go beyond the limits is the area of fara'ed (inheritance). The limits and guidelines that have been set by Allah have been violated. Allah, in the Qur'an, and the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, via revelation, have prescribed and made clear for us the limits. For example, in the case of death, it is made clear to us who should inherit and what is the allowance of each son or daughter. As a result we will have those who have priority and those who have less but still have their share. And we also have those who are even set aside because there is someone closer to inherit. They are consideredmahjoub.

Nowadays we see people violate these limits all over the Muslim world. Most of the cases happen because of the transgression and domination of the relatives. Muslims all over the world have to observe the limits. Otherwise they will transgress and violate the guidelines set by Allah.

They have to make sure that this is not halal and will not please Allah. They may enjoy it for months or years, but at the end they may suffer the severe punishment of Allah in the Hereafter.

We hear different stories of people who transgress and victimize their relatives. A verse in the Qur'an says: “Those people are considered transgressors and being unjust where Allah has forbidden injustice (zulm).” These people will be totally responsible for what they have done. This is one statement that is mentioned in this hadith and has been emphasized by the Qur'an.

Conclusion

All the meanings that are mentioned in this hadith are sound and acceptable even if the hadith itself - due to chain defect in the way it is narrated - is considered weak. A Maliki jurist Ibn Al'arabi said: "This hadith is one of the most important rulings in Islam and should be known to every Muslim."

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.


[Excerpted from commentary on Hadith 30: “Do Not Transgress the limit set by Allah”, 40 Hadiths Of Imam NawawiBy Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi, via IC Truth]

Adhering To The Sunnah

Hadith 28: Adhering To The Sunnah

By Imam Nawawi

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger


It was narrated on the authority of Abu Najih al-Irbad bin Sariyah, (radiyallahu 'anhu), who said:

The Messenger of Allah, (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam), delivered an admonition that made our hearts fearful and our eyes tearful.

We said, "O  Messenger of Allah, it is as if this were a farewell sermon, so advise us."

He (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam) said, "I enjoin you to have Taqwa of Allah and that you listen and obey, even if a slave is made a ruler over you. He among you who lives long enough will see many differences. So for you is to observe my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly-principled and rightly-guided successors, holding on to them with your molar teeth. Beware of newly-introduced matters, for every innovation (bid'ah) is an error."

[Abu Dawud and Al-Tirmidzi, who says it is an authentic hadith]

Background

In one of the narrations of this hadith, it is mentioned that the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), gave this talk after the Fajr prayer. Based on other hadiths, it was the practice of the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), to give admonition to his companions from time to time, however, without burdening nor boring them.

Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) points out the  characteristics of the Prophet's,( sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), speeches and admonitions: brief, concise, and conveyed in beautiful understandable manner.

The admonition consists of three main issues:

1.      To have taqwa of Allah where it is Allah's Advice to all mankind;
2.      To listen and obey the leaders for it will lead to better management of the affairs of the community, of peace and unity. However, the hadith lays a fact that rightly-guided leadership will be the first Islamic concept to be violated; and
3.      The hadith anticipates a historical fact: i.e. the Muslim disunity and split into groups and sects due to heresies. It indicates the main principle to be followed in such situations: adhering to the sunnah.The emphasis, then, in the advice given in the hadith is to adhere to the sunnah and to avoid bid'ah (heresy).

Lessons

Introductory statements about adhering to the Sunnah

The Prophet's, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), actions may be classified as follows:

1.      Those that are specific to the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), such as continuous fasting (wisal);
2.      Actions that are related to the culture of his time, such as the turban, unbuttoning the top shirt button, keeping long hair, using a walking stick;
3.      Actions resulting from spontaneous or haphazard actions. For example, the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), used to stop at particular places during a journey or take a certain route for a journey; and
4.      Actions that the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), performed intentionally for the purpose of ibadah.

Scholars state that Muslims are only obliged to follow the last type of action.

It should be noted that an act is considered an ibadah if there are authentic hadiths mentioning that the act is an ibadah, or that it will be rewarded, or that the one who does it is praised, or that the one who does not perform it is blamed or cursed or will be punished.

Scholars stated that to consider an action as a sunnah, two conditions must be met:

1) Not only are the outward actions of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), to be imitated;

2) But the intention of the act must be the same. Such as  wearing a turban should be done with the intention of performing an ibadah. If one has the intention of merely following the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), then one will rewarded for that intention only.

It Is Obligatory To Take The Easier Way

Imam Shatibi (rahimahullah) states the principle that if there are two ways to perform an ibadah, one being easier than the other, then it is obligatory to take the easier way. If on a cold winter's night there is an option of using cold or hot water, then one takes the easy option, i.e. using the hot water. This principle is derived form the Qur'an, Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 185: “....Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful”.

Another principle that Imam Shatibi (rahimahullah) states is that when one does a preferable action or mustahab, one should not commit oneself to doing it in a set manner. For example, one should not say that he shall read two juzu' a day, or will fast every Monday and or Thursday on a continuous basis without stopping from time to time.

The reasons one should not commit oneself to non-obligatory acts are because:

1.      It is not made obligatory by syari'ah.
2.      It goes against the general principles of the syari'ah (al-Baqarah: 185).
3.      If one commits himself to do non-obligatory ibadah on a regular basis, it comes close to being a vow (nazr) which is not a preferable act (makruh).
4.      If one makes a commitment and sticks to it, one might get fed up with the action later on and stop doing it altogether.

Therefore, it is better to do good deeds based on one's personal capacity, encouraging oneself to continue performing the deed.

Imam Shatibi (rahimahullah) has established that there are two types of bid'ah:

1.      Genuine bid'ah .Any form of ibadah for which there is no evidence in the Qur'an nor from the sunnah;
2.      'Relative' bid'ah. Any form of ibadah for which there is a general evidence from the Qur'an and or sunnah but no explicit/specific evidence. An example is the du'a in congregation. There are general evidences for making du'a, but there is no explicit or specific evidence to perform it in congregation on a continuous basis;
3.      Imam Ahmad Zarouq (899H) adds a third category which is: un-agreed upon heresy or bid'ah khilafiyyah. This is acceptable form of ibadah to some scholars and it is bid'ah according to other scholars such as the later given example.

General Principles to Differentiate between Bid'ah and Sunnah
[Extracted by Imam Shatibi]

1.      An ibadah (ritual of worship) cannot be formulated unless there is evidence from wahy (revelation). Another way of saying this is that ibadah is restricted by the syari'ah. The evidence for this is the hadith of Aishah (radiyallahu’anha) which states that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), said, "Whoever performs an action that is not according to our way will be rejected." (Al-Bukhari:  Re. Hadith 5)
2.      If there is a beneficial act that existed during the time of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), yet the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), did not perform it as a act of ibadah, then we cannot perform it as an act of ibadah. An act of ibadah may be performed due to a number of reasons:

a.      If an act is considered a need to motivate people because of their laxity and carelessness, then that act is a bid'ah and cannot be performed. For example, Abdul Malik bin Marwan gave the Eid khutbah before the prayer because people left after the prayers.
b.      If the act is considered a need due to the natural circumstances of the people and there was no need during the time of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), then it is considered as maslahah mursalah. For example, the compilation of the Qur'an, the use of the mihrab, the existing schooling system, the use of loudspeakers during the adzan, etc.

3. If the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), performed an act and then stopped due to a certain reason, we may perform that act provided the reason no longer exists. For example, the Solat Tarawih  - the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), stopped performing them after a time because he was afraid that it would be made compulsory. After his death, there is no way that theTarawih prayers will become compulsory as the time of wahy has passed.

4. Avoiding any act of worship that the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), did not  perform is considered a sunnah (sunnah tarkiyyah).

5. Performing an act which has been made into an ibadah by:

a.      Generalising evidences that relate to a specific ibadah. In other words, removing the limits of an act that has been limited by the syari'ah. An example is that there are certain adhkar whose number of repetitions have been limited by the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam )- for example, the adhkar after prayers. To remove these limits, i.e. make more than the specified number of repetitions, is a bid'ah.
b.      Specifying a general evidence to a particular act. In other words, limiting an act that is unlimited by the syari'ah. An example is to specifically fast on Friday and pray on Friday evening. Other examples are to call the adzan for the Eid prayer (by using the general hadith for the adzan) and performing a certain set of dzikr for a certain time or day. These acts are considered bid'ah.

6. Connecting an act of ibadah to an unrelated action (either a natural action or a act of ibadah) and making them appear as a continuous action, might be a bid'ah or lead to bid'ah, depending on the situation:

a.      Intentionally. This is a bid'ah.
b.      Unintentionally. If the connection is repeatedly made in public, then it could lead to a bid'ah (because people might think the actions were related).

An example is that at the time of Imam Malik (rahimahullah), it was reported that the muadzin would purposely clear his throat before giving the adzan. When he was made to stop by Imam Malik (rahimahullah), he would then purposely hit a stick against the side of the minaret before giving the adzan. Imam Malik (rahimahullah)stopped him from doing this as well, and said, "Do not do something which has not been practised by the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), nor by his companions."

Another example is to stand up immediately after performing the Solat fardh to perform the solat sunnah where people without knowledge may get confused.A third example is to start fasting the six days of Shawal from the second day of Eid.

7. Any non-obligatory action which is permitted by the syari'ah but by repeatedly performing in public makes it appear to be a fardh, then that action should be stopped occasionally. An example is the recitation of Surah as-Sajdah and Surah al-Insan in the Friday Solat Fajr. Another is that the Companions (Abu Bakr and Umar) occasionally did not perform udhiah.

8. Not everybody who commits a bid'ah will be considered a mubtadi' (the one who  ommits a heresy). Some of them will be excused. This principle also applies to one who commits acts of kufr (disbelief) i.e. not everyone who commits kufr is a kafir.

The excuses are:

a.      Someone lives in a place where there is no scholar who can establish the evidence, remove misconceptions and offer guidance.
b.      Someone who is a new Muslim. That person is excused until he knows about the   issues involved.
c.      If there are misconceptions related to the situation, that person is excused until these are removed.
d.      The un-agreed upon acts.

9. It is important to differentiate between innovation that is kufr or leads to kufr, and one that isn't. Any innovation which is notkufr or does not lead to kufr is worse than a ma'siat  (sin) but with regards to the Hereafter, it falls under the same category ofma'siat, i.e. the innovator may be punished or he may be forgiven and not punished.

[Note: according to Ibn Taimiyyah, there are 10 reasons why one isn't punished, among which are:

One's rewards outweigh his sins:

a.      Trials and hardship undergone in this world.
b.      Intercession of the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam).
c.      Intercession of a good Muslim.
d.      Punishment in the grave.]

10. There are two opinions about one who commits a bid'ah:

Only those actions committed with the bid'ah will not be accepted.

All deeds will not be accepted from that person, provided the person is not excused or has not repented.

Clarification of the second opinion: Imam Shatibi (rahimahullah) argues that you will not find someone committing an innovation in only one action, i.e. if one commits a bid'ah in the prayers, it is most likely that he will be committing bid'ah in zakathajj, etc. Imam Shatibi (rahimahullah) states that this opinion may be interpreted in three ways:

a.      The statement is taken at face value, i.e. all deeds, obligatory (fard) or recommended (sunnah), will not be accepted.
b.      That the bid'ah is a basic belief that can negate all of a person's actions. For example, the Rafidah's bid'ah of rejecting the Companions' results in not accepting the hadith and claiming that the Qur'an is incomplete.
c.      The manifestation of an innovation is a sign of a person not having a sound grounding in the syari'ah, not 'respecting' the syari'ah or placing the intellect ahead of the syari'ah.

Based on Hadith 5 of Imam al-Nawawi's collection it seems that the first opinion is sounder in the case of those who follow thesunnah in general.

Conclusion

In order to adhere to the sunnah and to be able to refrain from heresy (bid'ah), a Muslim needs to fully understand and apply these principles pinpointed by our great scholars. Doing so can also minimize disputes and quarrels among Muslim community members over many debatable issues every now and then.

 And Allāh Almighty Knows best.


[Excerpted from commentary on Hadith 28: “Adhering To The Sunnah”, 40 Hadiths Of Imam Nawawi, By Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi, via IC Truth]