Did Someone Say “Good Bida`”?

salamu `alaykum

There has always been confusion regarding the stance of the Deobandi scholars on the issue of “good bida`” (i.e. bida` hasana). Do the Deobandi scholars reject this concept? Is there really a difference between them and other traditional scholars on the issue? How do they explain the new acts that they themselves do?

Point 1: There Is No Real Difference Except In Usage

In reality, there is no essential difference between the definition of the scholars who named a particular practice as bida` hasana and the Deobandis. Nor do the Deobandi scholars reject such a concept. If anything, the only difference is in wording (lafdh) and the rule has always been “there is no argumentation when it comes to usage.” Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanawi explicitly states this in his Imdad al Fatawa. He says:

“The establishment or negation of innovation being divided into “good” (hasana) and “bad” (sa’iyya) is disputed merely due to (difference) in usage… and there is no arguing when it comes to usage (istilah). After realizing and understanding this principle all subsequent and prior doubts are removed.”

(vol 5, Pg: 283. Maktaba Dar al `Ulum Khi Ed.)

Maulana Gangohi states in his fatawa :

“This is a difference in usage. Everyone means the same thing.”

(Pg: 155 Dar al Isha`at Ed. 2003)

This principle is something one should actively take note of since it is common for people to descend into petty quarrels due to differences in how they express certain points of the religion – even though both methods of expression are sound in meaning-.

Point 2: The Deobandi Definition & Explanation

Both the Deobandi scholars and others consider new practices that arise as permissible on the condition that they conform with the general dictates of Sunni methodology. As such, the Deobandis only argue that these matters are in *reality* not innovation because they conform to the general purport of the sunna and what it points (ishara) to. Due to this, such new acts will be considered sunna or mustahab and so forth, altough they may “appear” to look like innovations.

This was explained in detail by Hakimul Ummah Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanawi (Allah be well-pleased with him) in his Imdad al Fatawa (Ibid). He clearly differentiates between:

[1] haqiqi bida` (intrinsic/real), and
[2] suri bida` (extrinsic/appearingly)

He states regarding the latter (Vol 5, Pg: 293):

“[The meaning of bida` surriyya] is that which is in itself not found in the sunna (explicitly) but is infered from the general principles (of the Law).”

Then Maulana states:

“[Regarding whether bida` suriyya and hasana are two seperate thing] (bida`) Sa’iyya (bad innovation) and (bida`) haqiqiyya are one; (bida`) hasana (good innovation) and suriyya are one.”


He elaborates further on the narration “All innovation is misgudiance” (kul bida` dhalala) by stating that if “innovation” is defined solely as haqiqi (intrinsic/real) then the narration is non-exclusionary, meaning that it includes every “real” innovation. Since, “real” innovation is by default considered “bad”, and that which does not conform to Sunni methodology, then there is no problem in accepting “all” (kul) in the narration to actually mean “every innovation” without specification.

However, if innovation is defined generally as including both the haqiqi and the suri then the latter will not enter into this narration, and the narration will be considered `aam makhsus i.e. a general expression used to indicate something specific. “All” (kul) will therefore only include in it haqiqi bida` and not suri. Thus, it does not mean “every innovation” but “every real (haqiqi) innovation”.(Ibid, Pg: 292)

Similarly, Imam Anwar Shah Kashmiri stated in his Faydh al Bari:

والبدعة عندي ما لا تكون مستندةً إلى الشرع، وتكون ملتبسةً بالدين

“And innovation according to me is that which has no support in the shari`ah…”

And the shari`ah here refers to the basic sources of Sunni methodology, as he makes clear in his `Urf al Shadhi when he states:

واعلم أن البدعة ما لا يكون أصله في الأصول الأربعة

“Know that innovation is that which does not have any basis in the four fundamental principles (qur’an, sunna, ijma`, and qiyas).”

This is also what Maulana Idris Kandihlawi states in his commentary on Mishkat al Masabih.

Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (Allah be well-pleased with him) says in his fatawa (Pg: 155):

“There is no such thing as “good innovation” (bida` hasana) and whatever is called bida` hasana is in reality a sunna (s: confirmed, derived, or indicated by the sunna). However, this is a difference in usage. Everyone means the same thing.”

Point 3: The Hanafi Scholars Who Divided Innovation Into “Good” Or “Bad”

Others, however, labelled the above as “good innovation” – whether by using the term or actually explaining it in detail. So it is in actuality merely khilaf lafdhi as has been mentioned before.

The muhaqiq of the Hanafi school, Allamah Ibn `Abidin stated in his Rad al Muhtar that innovation is of five types, as did many other scholars before him. He stated:

مطلب البدعة خمسة أقسام ( قوله أي صاحب بدعة ) أي محرمة ، وإلا فقد تكون واجبة ، كنصب الأدلة للرد على أهل الفرق الضالة ، وتعلم النحو المفهم للكتاب والسنة ومندوبة كإحداث نحو رباط ومدرسة وكل إحسان لم يكن في الصدر الأول ، ومكروهة كزخرفة المساجد . ومباحة كالتوسع بلذيذ المآكل والمشارب والثياب كما في شرح الجامع الصغير للمناوي عن تهذيب النووي ، وبمثله في الطريقة المحمدية للبركلي

Among the other scholars in the Hanafi school who explicitly accepted (or used) the division of innovation into hasana and sa’iyyah were:

[1] Ibn Nujaym in his Bahr al Ra’iq sharh `ala Kanz al Daqa’iq,
[2] Al Birgivi in his Tariqa al Muhammadiyya, and its commentators such as Imam Khadimi,
[3] Imam Tahtawi in his Hashiya,
[4] `Ala al Din Haskafi in his Durr al Mukhtar,
[5] The authors of Fatawa al Hindiyya,
[6] The great Indian commentary on the Durr entitled Ghayat al Awtaar by Maulana Muhammad Nantowi,
[7] `Allama Shabbir Ahmad `Uthmani, the Deobandi scholar, in his Fath al Mulhim, and so forth.

Point 4: Conclusion

In conclusion: Deobandis do not reject new practices, but they do not label them as “good innovations” since the phrase “innovation” is haqiqatan signifying something bad according to them. Rather, new acts that conform to the general methodology of Sunni Islam, even if not explicitly found in the sunna, are referred to as sunna. Apparently, they seem to look like innovation but in reality are not.

Others, differing in terminology, labelled such things as bida` hasana and found no qualms in using sucha phrase. To them bida` hasana is no different than sunna hasana as in the prophetic narration “whoever starts a good sunna will have the reward of it.”

The most important thing to note is that both opinions strictly stipulate that any new action that does not conform to Sunni methodology, or is not derived from the general indication of the sunna, is rejected since “that which is not from this way of ours will be rejected”, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said. However, that which does conform and has some basis will be accepted. Whether one wishes to refer to it as “good innovation” or as a “sunna” that only “appears” to look like an innovation is ultimately inconsequential.

And Allah Knows Best



Update: Please also see Mufti Muhammad’s answer.


Filed under Fiqh/Law

14 responses to “Did Someone Say “Good Bida`”?

  1. Amin Abu Ismail

    Assalam ‘alaykum,

    MashaAllah, magnificent post. I think some good deal of disagreement could be settled if people would just read what the deobandi scholars have written. How come there are so few deobandis who actually makes such things clear..?


  2. mujahid7ia

    Jazak Allahu Khayran for this great post. I think the Deobandi usage of the terminology gives one more comfort when hearing the du’a “every bid’ah is in the Fire”, because “innovation is by default considered “bad””. Deobandis are brilliant.
    Thanks for clarifying that the two apparently different outlooks are actually one and the same.

  3. Zainab L

    The matter has always been clear for me alhamdulila. I have always been taught by my respected Deobandi teachers that the definiton of Bidah is of hasana and sayyia.

    I didn’t know ppl were confused over the deobandi stance on this issue.

    Jazakalah khyr for the post, very informative and clear.

  4. Zain

    Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam has a similar type of explanation on his website:


  5. as-salamu’alaikum Sidi,

    Thank you for this, JazakAllah khayr. Very interesting, indeed!

    Can you provide some examples of what some practices would be considered a ‘sunnah’ by the Deobandi scholars with the above understanding?

    Were there any specific practices being discussed when the scholars gave the above explanations?

  6. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi Amin: Yes, if people were aware of the stance of the Deobandi scholars – its reality – they would have no qualms…

    Sidi Mujahid: I feel exactly the same way as you do.

    Sidi Zain: Barakallah feek for the link. I have added it to my post.

    Sister Zainab: Could you name some of your teachers. I am genuinely curious. I am aware of Deobandi scholars who do divide bida` as such (Maulana Shabbir `Uthmani being one example).

    Sidi Yursil: A command being a “sunna” could entail a few things. It could entail that it fulfills the general command of the sunna. It could mean that it is established through the sunna, and so forth. For example, group dhikr is not a specific sunna of the Prophet in the sense that he “actually” did it. However, the narrations regarding the “circles of dhikr” are unconditional in their purport. Therefore, any modality is accepted as long as it does not contradict other explicit laws of the shari`ah. Group dhikr is thus a fulfillment of the general qur’anic and sunna command of engaging in dhikr.


  7. Amin Abu Ismail

    Assalam ‘alaykum,

    “I didn’t know ppl were confused over the deobandi stance on this issue.” [Zainab L]

    Sister Zainab, at least I was quite confused after reading these notes from a talk by mufti Taqi Uthmani (hafidhahuAllah): http://basair.wordpress.com/2006/05/18/understanding-the-concept-of-bida%e2%80%99-in-shariah/

    Maybe it was just me, Allah ‘alim.


  8. Zainab L

    I know what you mean, if one reads the link you provided, it may cause confusion to some, but I think that post doesnt really contradict this one, [its just the wording]. Maybe if this extract :
    Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (Allah be well-pleased with him) says in his fatawa (Pg: 155):

    “There is no such thing as “good innovation” (bida` hasana) and whatever is called bida` hasana is in reality a sunna (s: confirmed, derived, or indicated by the sunna). However, this is a difference in usage. Everyone means the same thing.”
    was added to the article, it wouldn’t cause any confusion.

    However if you still feel it confuses you, I would advise you to take the position of the information brother Salman has posted. [this opinion is more authentic], but like I said before, If one understands the difiniton Mufti Taqi Uthmani gave, it doesn’t really contradict this one.

    Brother Salman, I had many teachers, most were female, and a few male shuyukh too. ‘Hadhrat’ Yusuf Motala db was one of them. They are all british Shuyukh, you might not know them.

  9. Asalamu Alayikum Wa Rahmatullah

    Your blog is great and is a eminent part of my Blogroll since it’s existing, maybe you can link my new Blog now, too. I just moved my Blog from Blogspot to WordPress.

    And I as well need help finding a new name: http://truelife200vi.wordpress.com/2007/02/17/blog-needs-name/

    Jazak’Allah khairun.

    Was Salam
    True Life

  10. MR

    What about the deobandi view on the Mawlid? (just kidding, don’t answer it)

    sorry 😀

  11. I love Sh. Yusuf Motala db and all of his khulafah. Allahu yaziduhum khairan katheeran katheeraa

  12. salamu `alaykum

    Sis. Zainab: Alhamdulilah. May Allah increase your knowledge and continue to benefit us through the likes of Maulana Yusuf Motala and others. I know a few scholars who graduated from Bury who are under the irshad of Maulana Yusuf. Mufti `Abdur Rahman, for example.

    I also had the chance to meet Maulana Yusuf’s elder brother – Maulana `Abd Ar Rahim Motala – last year.

    Sidi True Life:
    Your blog has been added.


  13. Anon

    Wa iyyakum akhi
    Mashaalah, Maulana `Abd Ar Rahim Motala actually came to the UK, and I had the honour of being taught by him too, it wasn’t much but alhamdulila [its the barakah that counts].

    My main male teacher was Molana Ismail Raja saheb. I cant describe him in words!, one has to experience his suhba themselves to know.
    Inshalah you get to meet him someday [if you havent done so already], he is also really close to ‘Hadhrat’.

  14. Zainab L

    sorry the above post was me

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