After the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) prayed Taraweeh in small groups and individually, until Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) united them behind a single imam.
It was narrated that ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn ‘Abd al-Qaari’ said: I went out with Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) one night in Ramadaan to the mosque, and the people were scattered, with one man praying by himself and another with a group of men following his prayer. ‘Umar said: “I think that if I gather them behind one reader, it will be better.” Then he decided to unite them behind Ubayy ibn Ka’b. Then I went out with him on another night, and the people were praying behind their reader. ‘Umar said: “What a good innovation this is. But the prayer that they forget about and sleep is better than the one they are offering.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1906.
The saying of Umar, ‘What a good Bidah is this?’ he meant with it ‘Bidah Lughwiay (innovation in the linguistic form)’ and not ‘Bidah Sharee’ah’ (i.e., innovation in the religion) for, something that has an origin in the Sharee’ah, if it is said concerning it, ‘it is a bidah’ it means Bidah in the linguistic form and not a Bidah in the Sharee’ah because Bidah in the Sharee’ah is something that has no origin in the Sharee’ah.
As far as Taraweeh is concerned, Allah’s Messenger (sallalalhu alaihi wa-sallam) performed Taraweeh with his Sahabah. However, he later discontinued it fearing that it might become an obligatory duty upon them. However, the Sahabah continued praying Taraweeh in separate groups during the life of Allah’s Messenger (sallalalhu alaihi wa-sallam) and after his death until Umar t gathered them behind one Imam like they used to pray behind Allah’s Messenger (sallalalhu alaihi wa-sallam) and so, this is not a Bidah in the religion.
Imam Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr has stated that Umar did not innovate qiyaam in Ramadaan, he said,…praying qiyaam in Ramadaan is one of the Sunnahs of the Prophet and is recommended and encouraged. It was not introduced by Umar ibn al-Khattaab, rather he revived something that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) loved and approved of. Nothing stopped him from doing it regularly except the fear that it might be made obligatory upon his ummah. He was kind and compassionate towards his ummah. ‘Umar knew from the Messenger of Allaah that the obligatory duties would not be increased or decreased after his death, so he revived this practice and enjoined it upon the people. That happened in 14 AH, and ‘Umar has the honour of being the one who revived this Sunnah. Al-Tamheed, 8/108, 109.
Also Abu Yusuf said, “I asked Abu Haneefah about the taraaweeh and what Umar did and he replied, ‘the taraaweeh is a stressed sunnah, and Umar did not do that from his own opinion, and neither was there in his action any innovation (bidah), and he did not enjoin it except that there was a foundation for it with him and authorization from the Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam)…” [‘Sharh Mukhtaar’ as quoted from in ‘al-Ibdaa’ (pg. 80) of Shaykh Alee Mahfooz]
Therefore some one to claim that Umars statement ‘what a good innovation this is’, indicates that he himself innovated this act after the death of the prophet has slandered Umar. From the words of Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr above it is clear that Umar revived a Sunnah the people had forgot about. So this proves that Umar meant by his statement Bidah Lughwiay (innovation in the linguistic form)’ and not ‘Bidah Sharee’ah’ (i.e., innovation in the religion). He said ‘what a good innovation this is’ because this act of worship he had revived was something new to the people he had commanded to do it, because they had forgotten or were unaware of this act of worship in the shariah. He did not mean by his words that he was happy that he had innovated, a new act of worship in the religion, because he knew if he had it be rejected because the prophet said, “He who innovates something in this matter of ours that is not of it, will have it rejected.” Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim and he also said “Whoever does an act which is not in agreement with our matter, will have it rejected.” Recorded by Muslim
Furthermore Ibn Taymiyah said, when refuting the view of those who quoted ‘Umar’s words “What a good innovation this is” as meaning that innovation (bid’ah) is permissible: With regard to qiyaam in Ramadaan, the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) introduced this to his ummah, and he led them in prayer for a number of nights, because at his time they used to pray in congregation and individually. But he did not persist in leading them in one congregation, lest that be made obligatory for them. When the Prophet died the sharee’ah was established (and would not change after that). When ‘Umar became caliph, he united them behind one imam, Ubayy ibn Ka’b, who united the people in one congregation on the orders of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab ‘Umar (was one of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, of whom the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I urge you to adhere to my Sunnah and the way of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs after me; cling tightly to it.” So what he did was Sunnah but he said, “What a good innovation this is”, because it was an innovation in the linguistic sense, as they were doing something that they had not done during the life of the Messenger of Allaah, i.e., gathering to do this (for the whole month, while with the prophet it was only for a few nights because he did not want this prayer to be made obligatory on his ummah), but it is Sunnah in the shar’i sense.” Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 22/234, 235
In addition al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab al-Hanbalee said “…as for what has occurred from some of the Salaf (early generation of scholars) in their declaring some bidahs to be good (Bidah Hasanah (praiseworthy innovation)) then this is regards to bidah in it’s linguistic meaning not it’s sharee’ah meaning, and from these is the saying of ‘Umar radiallaahu ‘anhu when he gathered the people for the standing of Ramadhaan behind one Imaam…”
So in conclusion it is clear that Umar did not innovate, the act of praying behind one imam in taraweeh. Plus his statement “what a good innovation this is” is not to be taken in the shariah sense it must be taken in the linguistic sense as the scholars above have clarified.
Explanation Of Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab & The Salafs Usage Of The Term Bidah Hasanah
The salaf used to use the word bidah hasanah in reference to one of two circumstances
- When people in an area have forgotten a particular act of worship (Sunnah) and then someone revives that Sunnah this would be called a bidah hasanah.
- When people in a particular area where unaware of a particular act of worship (sunnah) and then they discover it and implement it or someone new to that area comes and introduces them to that particular sunnah, the salaf would class this as bidah hasanah.
In the above instances the people of these areas where unaware of a particular act of worship (Sunnah) so to these people this Sunnah would have seemed like a bidah linguistically. Linguistically bidah means something new. Also this bidah (act of worship) is something that is based upon the Sunnah so it is hasan (good/praiseworthy). Therefore this act of worship would be called a bidah hasanah by the salaf. However as this act of worship has either a general or specific bases in the shariah (so was done in the lifetime of the prophet). Thus this act of worship is not a bidah sai’yya because a bidah sai’yyah according to the salaf is an act of worship which has no bases in the shariah; therefore a bidah sai’yyah is an act of worship done after the death of the prophet Mohammed.