Is every Bidah a good Bidah (Bidah Hasanah)?

ⓘ Supported by Al Medina 313.



Islamic Text

Bidah Hasanah is an innovation that is acceptable in Islam. This is the exception not the rule. Normally Bidah is strictly prohibited in Islam. It is absolutely unacceptable to consider every Bidah to be good (Bidah Hasanah). Rather the default is that Bidah is blameworthy.

أَمَّا بَعْدُ، فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابُ اللهِ، وَخَيْرُ الْهُدَى هُدَى مُحَمَّدٍ، وَشَرُّ الْأُمُورِ مُحْدَثَاتُهَا، وَكُلُّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلَالَةٌ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘The best of speech is the Book of Allah (Most High), and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad ﷺ. And the most evil of affairs are innovations and every innovation (Bid’ah) is misguidance’. (Muslim, 867 – 43).

It is absolutely wrong to look at Bidah as something positive. Rather, in the Hadith above we find the general rule regarding Bidah (religious innovation), namely it is prohibited and considered to be part of misguidance. This should be our general view regarding Bidah. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: مَنْ سَنَّ فِي الْإِسْلَامِ سُنَّةً حَسَنَةً، فَلَهُ أَجْرُهَا، وَأَجْرُ مَنْ عَمِلَ بِهَا بَعْدَهُ، مِنْ غَيْرِ أَنْ يَنْقُصَ مِنْ أُجُورِهِمْ شَيْءٌ، وَمَنْ سَنَّ فِي الْإِسْلَامِ سُنَّةً سَيِّئَةً، كَانَ عَلَيْهِ وِزْرُهَا وَوِزْرُ مَنْ عَمِلَ بِهَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِ، مِنْ غَيْرِ أَنْ يَنْقُصَ مِنْ أَوْزَارِهِمْ شَيْءٌ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘Whoever establishes a good Sunnah in Islam he will have a reward for it and the equivalent of the rewards of those who act upon it after him, without their reward being diminished in any respect. And whoever establishes a bad Sunnah in Islam will bear the sin of it and the sin of those who act upon it after him, without their sin being diminished in any respect’. (Muslim, 1017 – 69).

This Hadith speaks to an exception to the general disapproval of Bidah. Sometimes Bidah can be accepted. In such cases it is often referred to as Bidah Hasanah. Thus, Bidah Hasanah is an innovation that is acceptable in Islam. However, one should recognise that Bidah Hasanah is the exception , and not the rule. Therefore, it is incorrect to respond to every contention of Bidah, with the answer that it is Bidah Hasanah, as if that is the default. Rather the default is Bidah being blameworthy not Bidah Hasanah.

وَفِي هَذَا الْحَدِيثِ تَخْصِيصُ قَوْلِهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كُلَّ مُحْدَثَةٍ بِدْعَةٌ وَكُلَّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلَالَةٌ وَأَنَّ الْمُرَادَ بِهِ الْمُحْدَثَاتُ الْبَاطِلَةُ وَالْبِدَعُ الْمَذْمُومَةُ. (المنهاج شرح صحيح مسلم بن الحجاج)

And in this Hadith there is an exception to the general statement in his ﷺ words: And every innovation is Bid’ah, and every Bid’ah is misguidance. The Hadith is referring to deplorable innovations and blameworthy Bid’ah. (Imam al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim).

The Nass (text) above and the following Nass, both make it clear that Bid’ah Hasanah is a valid concept. And the Hadith narrations condemning Bid’ah are not absolute. Rather there are exceptions. Bidah is not always reprehensible.

والبدعة فِي الأَصْل أَحْدَاث أَمر لم يكن فِي زمن رَسُول الله، صلى الله عَلَيْهِ وَسلم، ثمَّ الْبِدْعَة على نَوْعَيْنِ: إِن كَانَت مِمَّا ينْدَرج تَحت مستحسن فِي الشَّرْع فَهِيَ بِدعَة حَسَنَة، وَإِن كَانَت مِمَّا ينْدَرج تَحت مستقبح فِي الشَّرْع فَهِيَ بِدعَة مستقبحة

Bid’ah is to introduce something that was not present at the time of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Bid’ah has two types, that which links to something recommended in Shari’ah, which is a good Bid’ah. And that which links to something deemed abhorrent in Shari’ah, which is an abhorrent Bid’ah. (Imam al-Ayni, Umdatu al-Qari).

The default regarding Bidah is that it is unacceptable and strictly prohibited. To contradict this and consider the default to be acceptance. Thus, responding to every concern or question regarding Bidah with the argument that it is Bidah Hasanah is misguidance. Rather one’s immediate response should be one of concern and aversion. Only when it is certainly established to be a good Bidah or not Bidah at all, should one be fine to engage.

For example, if a person engages in group Dhikr and is informed that it is Bidah. He should not immediately respond by saying it is Bidah Hasanah. Rather, he should give this contention due consideration. Thus, he should investigate it. Upon research and enquiry he will find that group Dhikr is not Bidah, rather it is encouraged in the Sunnah (see link below for details). Conversely, if someone is informed that it is Bidah to whirl or spin whilst making Dhikr. His immediate response should not be that it is Bidah Hasanah. Rather he should consult the views of the classical scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah. He should also recognise that the default is that Bidah is sinful and not Hasanah.

And Allah Most High Knows Best.

-Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (25.04.2022)

See also:
What is Bidah?
Is it Bidah to pray Taraweeh in Jamat?
Is Group Dhikr permitted?

See also video: