Hadith 5 : Prohibition of Innovation in Religion

We have covered this hadith before, but I thought it’s good to give more details since, i have a few syarah to read about it now.

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.”

________________

Important term Ummul mu’minin.

Who are the mother of believers? Name them.

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Memorise
This is a very important hadith and Imam Nawawi said we should memorise this hadith. Insya Allah as a reminder to us when we perform our ibadah.

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.

Remember Hadith 1? This Hadith 5 complements Hadith 1.

Hadith 1 – a criterion for judging the intentions or the internal actions of the heart.

What are the conditions of accaeptance of ibadah?

  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.

Surah Al-Kahf 18: 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: 21.

Say (O Muhammad to mankind): “If you (really) love Allah then follow me , Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al Imran 3:31)

Let’s not forget our lessons in Suratul Kawthar. remember those who wound not be allowed to drink from the pond in yaumul akhirah, when we are in need of the drink. The special drink from the poond that came from the river Kawthar that is given to rasulullah sallalhu alaihi wasalam.

Those who won’t be allowed to drink are those who create bidaah (innovation) in their ibadah! May Allah protect us from this.

Which one is sunnah?

Scholars classify actions of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, into

  1. actions done for the purpose of Ibadah (worshiping Allah)
  2. 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.

Keeping in check

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. Below are criterion to ensure that we 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.
  • 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. We should not violate these rules intentionally. To violate intentionally may make the ibadah subject to be rejected. E.g.

  • For prayers, there are specified number of rakaahs and sujud
  • Tawaf there is a fixed number of rounds (7), etc.

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 wajib

Not all are for the purpose of ibadah
Some of done due to customs of the time
The following are some examples:

  • At the time of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, the men used to have long hair – it was not done for the purpose of ibadah. So if anyone wants to keep long hair today, it should not be done for ibadah.
  • The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, used to open the top buttons of his shirt – this was because it was hot and not because for the purpose of ibadah.
  • The turban, at the time of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, was worn because it was the custom then.
  • Some hadiths mention the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, using a stick. Again this was not done for the purpose of ibadah.

We should not follow these examples of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, for the purpose of ibadah.

But how do we differentiate which one is for ibadah and  which one is not

The Scholars say

  • if the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, commanded us to do an action or commanded us not to do something, then this is considered an ibadah
  • Or if the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, mentioned that the doer will receive certain rewards if an action is done, then it is an ibadah.
  • Or if the failure for doing a certain action would result in punishment, then the action is an ibadah.

More to Ponder
1. Allah has completed the religion. Who are we to add more to it?

Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:3

Today have I perfected your religion for you, and have bestowed upon you the full measure of My blessings, and willed that Islam shall be your Religion.

2. There is a hadith which tells the story of three men who only wanted to do ‘good deeds’ all the time – one said he will not get married, the second one said he will pray all night and not sleep, and the third said he will fast every day. When the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, heard this, he said that he, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, was the most pious and righteous amongst the people and yet he did not do the things the way the men wanted to do them.

This shows that the actions that the three men thought were ibadah would have resulted in bid’ah as they weren’t practiced by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam.

3. Al-Shatibi also mentions that avoiding eating certain types of food for the purpose of ibadah should not be done. We can avoid these foods for health or other good reasons but not for the purpose of ibadah.

4. He also says that if there are two ways of fulfilling an obligation, we should follow the easier way.

E.g. If the weather is cold and if we have the choice of using warm or cold water (for wudu’), we should use warm water. We shouldn’t use cold water and inflict discomfort on ourselves, trying to show that we are stronger Muslims and hoping for extra rewards.

Or if there is choice of going to two masjids (mosques) of different distances, we should go to the nearer one.


The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, was passing through a place when he noticed someone standing in the middle of the street in the sun. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, asked the Sahabahs what this man was doing. They said that he made a commitment to fast while standing in the sun. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, told them to tell the man to continue his fasting (because this was a good thing to do anyway and fulfilling a commitment is an obligation) but to get out of the sun.

Scholars deduce that we should not attach any hardship to our ibadah hoping that it will make it more rewardable. Shariah is based on ease. Therefore we should always choose the easier way when performing an ibadah because this will enable us to do it properly – if we were to choose the difficult route then we may, after a while, find difficulty in keeping to our commitment in performing this ibadah. An attached hardship to an ibadah, which has not been specified by the Shariah, should be avoided – we should not place any hardship in performing any ibadah.

If you really think about it, there are just so much sunnah that we find hard to do because of our capacity. Why focus on hardship which is not legislated in the deen over something that is in the sunnah.

So how can I be Aware

By knowledge. let’s build our knowledge from now. Acquire knowledge and practice as much as we can. When we learn, Insya Allah, Allah will guide us to distinguish which form of ibadah is as per taught in the sunnah and which is custom. Many of us do bidaah because we think it is the correct ibadah since the one before us did the same thing. Thus awareness is the first step to amendment.

All ibadah must be practised as instructed by the Messenger of Allah sallalhu alaihi wasalam who was sent to mankind in all matters of faith and its application to the affairs of human life.

The Book of Prayers (Kitab Al-Salat)

Muslim :: Book 4 : Hadith 1885

Jabir b. Abdullah said: When Allah’s Messenger (may peace he upon him) delivered the sermon, his eyes became red, his voice rose. and his anger increased so that he was like one giving a warning against the enemy and saying:” The enemy has made a morning attack on you and in the evening too.” He would also say:” The last Hour and I have been sent like these two.” and he would join his forefinger and middle finger; and would further say:” The best of the speech is embodied in the Book of Allah, and the beet of the guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad. And the most evil affairs are their innovations; and every innovation is error.”

What happens to innovators in deen?

  1. Based on this hadith, their deed is not accepted by Allah. They do not get the reward.
  2. They sin because they are arrogant towards Allah and the Messenger SAW.
  3. They are misguided and if they do not repent, they will enter Hellfire

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