The claim of some of the scholars that there is Bid’ah Hasanah (good innovation) falls into one of two situations (and is explained in one of two ways):
1. It is not an innovation in reality but a person considers it an innovation
2. That it is an innovation, which makes it evil, however a person does not know about its evil
Therefore, this is the answer to everything which is claimed to be a bid’ah hasanah. Built upon this, there is no way for the people of innovation to make from among their innovations something which is a bid’ah hasanah. In our hands is this sharp sword from the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) : “Every innovation is misguidance”. Verily, this sharp sword was manufactured in the factories of prophethood and messengership. It has not been made in the fragile and feeble factories (of people) but rather, it has been made in the factories of prophethood. The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) designed it into this fine and efficacious art. It is not possible for anyone to challenge the one in whose hand is this sharp sword with any innovation, saying it is a bid’ah hasanah while the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) says: “Every innovation is misguidance”.
It is as if I feel in your souls a whispering which says: What do you say about the saying of Ameerul-Mumineen Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (ra) the one who was always in agreement with the truth when he ordered Ubayy bin Ka’b and Tameem ad-Daaree to stand and lead the people in prayer during Ramadaan and when he went out to the mosque while the people were all united behind one imaam: “What a good innovation this is. But the prayer which they do not perform but sleep at its time is better than the one they are performing.”
The answer to that is from two aspects:
The First: It is not permissible for any person to contradict and oppose the words of the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) with any other words. Not with the words of Abu Bakr who is the most superior person of the ummah after its prophet, nor the words of Umar who is the second best of this ummah after its prophet, nor the words of Uthmaan who is the third best of this ummah after its prophet and nor the words of Alee who is the fourth best of this ummah after its prophet and nor the words of anyone besides them because Allaah the Exalted said:
Let those beware who withstand his (the messenger’s) order that a trial will befall them or that a painful punishment will touch them.
Imaam Ahmad (rh) said: “Do you know what the trial is? The trial is Shirk. Maybe when he rejects some of the words of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) deviation and corruption falls into his heart so he is destroyed.”
And Ibn Abbaas (ra) said: “It is almost as if stones from the sky will fall upon you, I say to you the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said this and you say Abu Bakr and Umar said that”.
The Second: We know with certain knowledge that Ameerul-Mu’mineen Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (ra) was among the greatest of people in respecting and exonerating the words of Allaah the Exalted and His Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) . He was well known for standing by the limits (hudood) of Allaah the Exalted to such an extent that he was described as a guardian of the words of Allaah the Exalted.
Umar never transgressed the limits of Allaah and so it does not befit Umar (ra) to oppose and differ from the words of the leader of mankind, Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and that he should say about an innovation “What an excellent innovation this is” and this innovation being the same one which the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) meant by his speech “Every innovation is misguidance”. Rather it is necessary that this innovation about which Umar said: “What an excellent innovation this is” is placed with the type of innovation which does not fall under the intent of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) in his speech: “Every innovation is misguidance”.
Umar (ra), by his speech, was referring to the gathering of people behind one imaam after they had been separated and dispersed. The basis for the prayer (in congregation) during Ramadaan was from the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) . It is established in the two saheehs from the hadeeth of Aa’ishah (ra) that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) led the people in prayer for three nights and then remained behind from the people on the fourth night and said to them: “Indeed I feared that this may be made obligatory upon you and that you may not be able to perform it (due to its burden).”
Therefore, praying at night during Ramadaan in congregation is from the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and Umar (ra) named this an innovation considering that when the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) abandoned praying with the people they became separated. One man would pray by himself and another would pray with another and yet another would be praying with two people. There would be groups of people praying in the mosque praying by themselves.
Then Umar (ra) saw, with his sharp and correct vision that he should unite the people behind a single imaam. This action in itself is an innovation when one considers that the situation before was one of separation and dispersal. This (kind of) innovation is a relative one and has a precedence and it is not an absolute innovation which has been initiated (without any former example or model). Umar (ra) reinstated this because this sunnah was present in the time of the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) .
Therefore, this is a sunnah but it was abandoned since the time of the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) until Umar (ra) returned it. With this rule it is not possible, ever, for the people of innovation to find a passage or outlet from the words of Umar (ra) for what they sanction and approve of from among their innovations.
Innovation in Light of the Perfection of the Shari’ah
by Shaikh Muhammad bin Saalih al-Uthaimeen (rahimahu’Llaah)