Innovation in Islaam and views towards it
Innovation in Islaam is the invention, creation or addition of any religious matter, which was not (originally) found in Islaam. Therefore, Islaam warns against it and invalidates any religious deed which does not originate from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Prophet Muhammad, salla Allaahu ‘alaihe wasallam, says in this respect: "He who innovates something that is not in agreement with our matter (religion), will have it rejected." [Al-Bukharee and Muslim] This is because innovation in religion is an opposition to Islaam; it implies that our religion is incomplete and imperfect with regards to the matters of worship. Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen says: "Innovation entails the adoption of dangerous ways":
It entails the refutation of Allaah’s words; "this day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you and have chosen for you Islaam as your religion." Therefore, any innovation introduced into the religion implies that Islaam is imperfect and incomplete.
It necessitates the slandering of the Sharee‘ah (Islamic Law); that is, it was incomplete and the innovator has therefore completed it.
It requires the slander of Muslims who are not innovators, since by implication that came before these innovations, their religion is incomplete; and this is dangerous.
Most people, who were preoccupied with innovation, neglected the Sunnah. The Salaf (our predecessor Muslims) who were adherents to Islaam, said: "Whenever a people introduce a Bid‘ah (an innovation), they destroyed its counterpart in the Sunnah."
These innovations also, bring about division among Muslims because the innovators believe that they are the ones who carry the truth and that those who do not follow them are misled. However, the people of truth claim: "you are the ones (the innovators) who are on the wrong path and hence this is their division".
There are serious deviations, which result from innovation, for innovation is connected with ‘a rotten mind and flawed religion’. (Al-Muhaadaraat As-Saniyyah on the interpretation of Al-‘Aqeedah Al-Wasitiyyah, 2/713).
The Emergence of Innovation
Innovation (in Islaam) was initiated as a result of bad intention, for a man opposed the Prophet, salla Allaahu ‘alaihe wasallam, and said to him ‘be fair because you were not’. Consequently, several men followed this man and became dissidents (Al-Khawaarij). Shaikh Al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said in this respect: "The principles of innovation were based on the refutation of Sunnah principles using doubt and whims, like Iblees (Satan) when he doubted Allaah’s commands according to his whims." (Majmoo‘ Al-Fataawa, 3/286-287)
Peculiar to the innovators are their ignorant view of Allaah, increasing divisions and severe hatred. Ibn Al-Qayyim, rahimahu Allaah, said about the innovators: "If you look at innovators you will find that they are different, divided into sects and as far as worshipping is concerned, you will not find that two of them are adopting the same method. They would introduce innovations to each other. More than that, you will find that their innovations culminate into disbelief. For instance, you will find the son accusing his father of disbelief, the brother accusing his brother of disbelief, and the neighbor accusing his neighbor of disbelief. They are in constant conflict and hate each other, their differences cost them their lives and their discourse has never been common." (Mukhtasar Al-Sawaa‘iq Al-Mursalah, 2/425).
Therefore, their divisions paradoxically unites them on the hatred of the Sunnah and its people, so woe to the innovators in what their hands have earned. Their evil deeds overshadow all evil, and the damage they have inflicted upon the Muslim Ummah is bigger than that caused by sinners. Shaikh Al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah says: "The leaders of innovation inflict more damage upon the Ummah than sinners. That is why the Prophet, salla Allaahu ‘alaihe wasallam, ordered the killing of the Khawaarij and warned against the killing of the unjust followers." (Majmoo‘ Al-Fataawa 7/284)
With the foregoing in mind, we must confront the innovators, point out their deviations and protect the Ummah from their evil acts by spreading the religious science and the principles of Ahlus-Sunna Wal-Jamaa‘ah’s ‘Aqeedah (creed) and by advising people how to acquire it (i.e. ‘Aqeedah) from its people. ‘Abdullaah Ibn Mas‘ood says: "seek knowledge before it is seized, and its seizure means the disappearance of scholars. Do not delve deeply into knowledge, do not innovate and stick to the old (i.e. the authentic)." [Ad-Daarimee]
However, it is not fair to label anything new as innovation because it might be unknown or misinterpreted. This has been explained by Shaikh Al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah: "what has been proved abominable, based on the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, whether it be innovations or non- innovations, when said or practiced by a person, this person may have some excuse due to his Ijtihaad (individual judgment over a matter, if he is a scholar) or permissible Taqleed (imitation) of a scholar when this person is an ‘Aaammee (Islaamically uneducated) (Majmoo‘ Al-Fataawa, 10/371-372).
We should bear in mind that innovators are not equal in knowledge, ignorance, competence, approval, belief and hypocrisy. This has been explained by Shaikh Al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah: "Among the innovators, there are the hypocrite and the atheist; these are non-believers. This type of people is found more among the Rafidites (a Shiate sect) and Al-Jahamiyyah (a sect who denies Allaah’s attributes, among other serious deviations). Their leaders were known to be hypocrites and atheists. However, among those who innovate is that who is a believer but has some degree of ignorance and injustice, which has led him to deviate from the Sunnah. Such person is not a Kaafir (a disbeliever) nor a hypocrite. He may be sinful or disobedient but he might as well be forgiven and excused because he has mistakenly misinterpreted the issue." (Majmoo‘ Al-Fataawa 3/353)
Renouncing the innovators and boycotting their innovation
In safeguarding the interests of the Muslim community against the damages of the innovators, Islaam approved and legalized the renouncement and boycotting of the innovators. The Salaf, Ridwanu Allaahi ‘Alaihim, adopted this method in the fight against innovation and renounced the innovators in order to safeguard the Sharee‘ah. However, in order not to fight an innovation with another, their renouncement was based on faith and adherence to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. "Renouncement should not be adopted unless there is reasonable grounds for it and this entails the following:
To be sure of the existence of innovation and avoid hearsay. This is to say that one should listen to what the innovator says or does, or read what he has written, particularly in our era, which lacks piety.
To fight the type of innovation which is agreed upon. This is to say that matters on which the scholars have different views whether they are innovations or not should be renounced.
To clarify the issue to the person who says or practices an innovation before calling him an innovator. This person may be excused because he was not aware of the evidence he is opposing, or may have understood it mistakenly. This clarification can only be achieved through advising him and calling him to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah with kindness." [Haqeeqatu Al-Bid‘ah Wa Ahkaamuhaa (The Reality of Innovation and Its Principles, 2/339)].