The Linguistic Definition Of Bidah
The root of the word bidah in Arabic means ‘initiating something without any precedent’. Therefore the word bidah in its linguistic sense often refers to new innovations in the dunyah (worldly affairs). For example a car or a plan could be referred to as bidah.
Or new things people do can be referred to as bidah. So for example the first time the Muslims prayed tarweeah all together behind one imam in the time of Umar Ibn Al Kattab he called it a “good bidah” as this act had not been done since the time of the prophet. After the Prophet Mohammed’s death until the time of Umar the people used to pray tarweeah either alone or in small groups but never all together. So when he saw them praying all together he called it a “good bidah” as this was a new act in his time but not in Islam, it was done in the Prophet Mohammed’s time.
The Shariah Definition Of Bidah
In the terminology of shariah, bidah means something that has been introduced into the religion of Allah that has no general or specific basis to support it (no evidence from the Quran or Sunnah).
The Difference Between Both Definitions
The word bidah in the linguistic sense is used to refer to worldly things which have nothing to do with Islam. On the other hand the Islamic definition of bidah only refers to a new belief, statement or action which some Muslims try connected to Islam.
The Types Of Bidah
As well as there being two definitions for the word bidah, bidah is also of two main types which each have subcategories.
The two main types of bidah are worldly and Islamic. There sub categories are as follows:
Wordly bidah is of two types: 1) good e.g. Car, Mobile etc and 2) bad e.g. Alcohol, Cocaine etc.
Bidah is of two types the first type is that which leads to disbelief and the second type is bidah which leads to sinning.
Ruling On Bidah
As for the first category of worldly bidah it is permissible in Islam as this category includes permissible things like cars and mobile phones.
However if anything in this category is used for forbidden things or it prevents a person from fulfilling his obligations to Allah then this thing becomes forbidden for that particular person. For instance game consoles are Ipods are permissible in general. They are permissible as they full under the first category of worldly bidahs. So if a person listened to Islamic talks, university lectures or Quran on his Ipod this ok. But if a person uses his Ipod to listen to music now the ruling on it changes as the purpose it’s used for has changed. Now the Ipod becomes forbidden but not for all Muslims just this particular person as he is using the Ipod for a forbidden thing (listening to music). Another example could be a games console it’s permissible but if a person plays so much that they miss their five daily prayers then it becomes forbidden for that particular person to have one unless he can play the games console and keep his five daily prayers.
The second category is forbidden because this category involves forbidden things such as drugs and alcohol.
Both categories are forbidden. However if a person falls in to the first category of Islamic bidah he has done a act of disbelieve or holds a belief contrary to the Islamic faith or he has said a statement of disbelieve.
But even if a Muslim person falls in to this category he can not be labelled a disbeliever by any Muslim person only the scholars can label this him a disbeliever. Also all the preventive factors must not be there. The preventive factors are things like being a new Muslim, ignorance and being forced by others (e.g. held at gunpoint), tricked, blind following and misunderstanding the texts (Quran or Sunnah), there are others these are just a few. There is a difference between being labelled a disbeliever and doing an act of disbelieve. So a Muslim can do an act of disbelieve and still be Muslim and a disbeliever can do an act of Islam but still be a disbeliever. But sometimes when a Muslim does an act of disbelieve he does become a disbeliever, but that’s for the scholars to decided.
If a person falls into the second category of Islamic bidah he has committed a major sin which is just under shirk. It is a very serious sin it is worst then every other major sin which is less then shirk or acts of disbelieve.
From what has preceded it is clear that it is wrong for a Muslim to try and defend any bidah in Islam when told to stop this bidah as it is forbidden, by saying “I am not going to stop this act because if I were to stop this act you call bidah I would have stop using my phone, stop driving my car and stop wearing my trainers as they are all bidahs. And you said bidah is forbidden in Islam”. The reason this statement or any similar statements are wrong is because the person is not making a distinction between the linguistic and Islamic definitions of bidah and between the two types of bidah worldly and Islamic. So mobile phones, cars and trainers are not Islamic bidahs only worldly bidahs so they are not forbidden in Islam.