Sufis claim that the hadeeths (below) prove the sahaba practiced their own acts of worship before receiving approval from Allah and His Messenger, therefore even though they were later confirmed by the Sunnah when the sahaba first done these acts they were bidah hasanah. They further stipulate that these hadeeths indicate that it is halaal for them and other Muslims to come up with there own acts of worship after the prophet’s death, as long as these acts do not contradict the shariah.
1. Bukhari and Muslim relate from Abu Hurayra (Allah be well pleased with him) that at the dawn prayer the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to Bilal, “Bilal, tell me which of your acts in Islam you are most hopeful about, for I have heard the footfall of your sandals in paradise”, and he replied, “I have done nothing I am more hopeful about than the fact that I do not perform ablution at any time of the night or day without praying with that ablution whatever has been destined for me to pray.”
2. Bukhari and Muslim relate that Rifa’a ibn Rafi said, “When we were praying behind the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and he raised his head from bowing and said, “Allah hears whoever praises Him”, a man behind him said, “Our Lord, Yours is the praise, abundantly, wholesomely, and blessedly therein.” When he rose to leave, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked “who said it”, and when the man replied that it was he, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I saw thirty-odd angels each striving to be the one to write it.”
3. Bukhari relates from Aisha (Allah be well pleased with her) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) dispatched a man at the head of a military expedition who recited the Quran for his companions at prayer, finishing each recital with al-Ikhlas (Quran 112). When they returned, they mentioned this to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), who told them, “Ask him why he does this”, and when they asked him, the man replied, “because it describes the All-merciful, and I love to recite it.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to them, “Tell him Allah loves him.”
4. Bukhari relates from Abu Said al-Khudri that one man heard another reciting al-Ikhlas (Quran 112) over and over again, so when morning came he went to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and sarcastically mentioned it to him. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “By Him in whose hand is my soul, it equals one-third of the Quran.” Daraqutni recorded another version of this hadith in which the man said, “I have a neighbour who prays at night and does not recite anything but al-Ikhlas.”
However what the Sufis do not understand is that even though these acts of worship where done by these sahaba before receiving the approval from Allah and His Messenger these acts can still not be called bidah for a number of very important reasons.
1. The first reason is because bidah is only what is done after the prophet’s death. While the prophet was alive and the shariah was not complete it would be impossible for the sahaba to do what we call bidah in the shariah, as the shariah was not even complete. Because in the prophets time the shariah was not complete and bidah is only that which occurs after his death hence the prophets warning about bidah only refer to after the shariah had been completed (after his death). This is why the sahaba knew that some of their own ijtihad could turn into the Shariah if approved by Quran and/or Sunnah. As they understood the prophets warning against bidah only referred to after his death.
For instance in one hadeeth the prophet clarified that his warnings about bidah refer to after his death. The prophet said “…Those of you who live long after me will see a lot of differences…” these differences occurred after the prophet’s death and they were due to bidah. All the groups of Ahlu bidah (people of innovation) came out after the prophet’s death. This is why in the same hadeeth the prophet told the sahaba to hold fast to his Sunnah and the Rightly-Guided Caliphs Sunnah after his death, so they (the sahaba) could avoid falling into these differences (these bidahs). In this hadeeth he indicated that these differences would happen after his death, this why the prophet said “those of you who live long after”. The prophet said, “…so hold fast to my Sunnah and to the Sunnah of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs after me. Cling to it tightly and beware of newly-invented matters, for every newly invented matter is an innovation, and every innovation is misguidance, and all misguidance is in the Fire.” [Related by Aboo Daawood, at-Tirmidhee. Graded as Saheeh by Ibn Hajr and Ibn Taymiyyah.]
2. Also if the sahaba did do bidah hasanah in the time of the prophet and after the prophets death (as the Sufis claim), then why are there so many statements of the sahaba warning against bidah.
Abd-Allah ibn Mas’ood said: “Follow and do not innovate, for everything has been taken care of, and you must follow the ancient way (i.e., of the Salaf).” Ad-Daarimi in his Sunan.
3. Additionally if the sahaba believed in the concept of bidah hasanah, how comes there are no statements from the sahaba in which they make a distinction between blameworthy innovation (bidah sai’yyah) and good innovation (bidah hasanah).
Abd-Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas said: “No bid’ah is introduced but it will spread further and no Sunnah is neglected but it will dimminish further.” Ibn Battah in Al-Ibaanah.
Ibn Abbaas (d.68H) said: “Indeed the most detestable of things to Allaah are the innovations (bidah).” Reported by al-Bayhaqee in as-Sunan al-Kubraa (4/316)
4. The sahaba only spoke about bidah in a general sense and never refered to bidah hasanah as a concept or even explain it. This proves that the concept of bidah hasanah was not even known among the sahaba.
Mu’aadh ibn Jabal said: “…beware of bidah (innovation) and sophistication, and adhere to the ancient way [i.e., the way of the Prophet].”  Al-Bia’h wan-Nahy ‘anha by Ibn Waddaah.
5. Furthermore there are many narrations from the sahaba in which they commanded following the footsteps of the prophet, this goes against the concept of bidah hasanah. Because bidah hasanah is when a person makes up his own act of worship to get closer to Allah which was not in the Quran or/and Sunnah (as the prophet did not do this act of worship). Following the footsteps of the prophet means to follow the Quran and Sunnah. This means Muslims must not add or takeaway form the Quran or Sunnah as the prophet never added or took away form either, once Allah had completed the shariah near the end of his life. But when a person does bidah hasanah he adds to the religion this goes against following the prophet’s footsteps.
The great Sahabi Abu ad-Darda said: “You will never be misguided so long as you follow the footsteps [of the Prophet]” Ibn Battah in Al-Ibaanah.
Abd-Allah ibn Umar said: “People will continue to adhere to the correct way so long as they follow the footsteps [of the Prophet].” Al-Laalkaa’i in Sharh Usool I’tiqaad Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah.
6. Plus if the sahaba did do bidah hasanah in the prophet’s time and after, then why do the sahaba only have statements warning against bidah in general and no statements encouraging bidah hasanah.
Abd-Allah ibn Umar said: “Every bid’ah is misguidance, even if people think it is good.”
7. These hadeeths do not indicate the sahaba did bidah hasanah because bidah is an act of worship, which is done with the intention of being added to the shariah. The sahaba did not do these acts with the intention of adding them to the shariah because they knew their actions might be rejected from the shariah. Because the prophet was among them so they knew their acts could be approved or disapproved by Quran and/or Sunnah. So they did these acts to found out whether their personal ijtihad was correct or not. As it was an honour to have there ijtihad accepted and maybe added to the shariah.
8. None of the classical scholars from the salaf (early generations of Islam) said the sahaba did bidah hasanah in the time of the prophet or after. These scholars knew that the sahaba practiced their own acts of worship before receiving approval from Allah and His Messenger but they still never said the sahaba did bidah hasanah. The salaf understood from the above hadeeths that the sahaba were allowed to do ijtihad and come up with their own acts of worship, which did not contradict what they had of the shariah at that time. It was halaal for the sahaba to do this type of ijtihad because the prophet Mohammed lived among them so he could clarify whether their acts of worship (based on their own ijtihad) was halaal or haraam.
9. The sahaba did not do bidah in the prophet’s time even though they practiced their own acts of worship before receiving approval from Allah and His Messenger, because the ideology of Khawarij was the first innovation (bidah) to appear in Islam. The Khawaarij (singular Khariji -seceder) (Fathu’l-Bari, 12/296) are group of innovators. The word “Khawaarij” is from the Arabic root verb: “kharaja” meaning to go out or leave something. This label of theirs may be translated as separatists, insurgents, rebels, nonconformist, etc. They are called as ‘khawarij’ that because of their leaving the (fundamentals of the) religion and for their opposing the best Muslims (the Companions of the Prophet saw). (Ibn Hajar, Fathu’l-Bari, 12/296-316; Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, 7/170; Shahrastani, al-Milal wan’nihal, 107) And it is also said that they were called Khawarij due to their khuruj (leaving) the path of the jamaah. They are the first people to go against Imam Ali in the war of Siffin, they distanced themselves from Uthman and Ali. They called people with major sins kuffar and they said that it is legitimate and compulsory to rebel against an Imam if he differs or opposes a Sunna (according to their opinion). (Al-Milal wan-Nahal, 87-99)
10. Plus if the Sufis are correct about the meaning of the above hadeeths. Then these hadeeth according to them indicate that the sahaba did bidah hasanah and it is halaal for other Muslims to do bidah hasanah But if this is the case then why were the salaf paranoid about falling into bidah, if the correct position was to be liberal about bidah. The salaf warned against bidah and the people of bidah.
Sufyaan ath-Thawree (d.161H) said: “Innovation is more beloved to Iblees than sin, since a sin may be repented from but innovation is not repented from.” Reported by al-Laalikaa’ee no. 238
Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee (d.204H) said: “That a person meets Allaah with every sin except Shirk is better than meeting Him upon any one of the innovated beliefs.” Reported by al-Bayhaqee in al-I’tiqaad pg.158
Ibraaheem bin Maysarah (d.132H) said: “Whoever honours an innovator has aided in the destruction of Islam.” Reported by al-Laalikaa’ee (1/139)
Sufyaan ath-Thawree (d.161 H) said, “Whoever listens to an innovator has left the protection of Allaah, and is entrusted with the innovation.” Reported by Aboo Nu’aym in Al-Hilyah, 7/26 and Ibn Battah, no. 444.
Al-Fudayl ibn ‘Iyaad (d. 187H) said, “Whoever sits with a person of innovation, then beware of him and whoever sits with a person of innovation has not been given wisdom. I love that there was a fort of iron between me and a person of innovation. That I eat with a Jew and a Christian is more beloved to me than that I eat with a person of Innovation.” Reported by al-Laalikaa’ee
Sha’eeb bin Harb said: Ibn ‘Awn said: “The one who sits with ahlul-bid’a is more severe upon us (ahlus sunnah) than ahlul-bid’a.” Al-Ibaanah #486
Also those that believe the sahaba did bidah hasanah must not have read the two narrations below. Below are two narrations which prove the sahaba did not do or believe in bidah hasanah and disliked innovation.
Amr ibn Yahya narrated his father told him, “We used to sit at Abdullah Ibn Masood’s house before Fajr prayer. If he exited we would follow him to the musjid. Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari then came to us and asked us, ‘Did Abu Abur-Rahman (Abdullah Ibn Masood) come out yet?’ We said, ‘No’, so he sat with us till he emerged. We all stood up when he exited.
He (Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari) said, ‘O Abu Adur-Rahman, I just saw something which I did not recognize, and I did not see, all thanks to Allah, but good.’ He (Ibn Masood) said, ‘What is it?’ He (Abu Musa) said, ‘If you live you will see it. I saw in the musjid people sitting in circles waiting for the prayer. In each circle there is a leader, and they have stones in their hands. He (the leader) would say, ‘Say Takbir (Allahu Akbar) 100 times’, so they say Takbir 100 times. He (the leader) would then say, ‘Say Tahil (La Ilaha Illa Allah) 100 times’, so they say Tahil 100 times. He (the leader) would then say, ‘Say Tasbih (Subhana Allah) 100 times’, so they say Tasbih 100 times.
Ibn Masood said, ‘Did you not order them to count their evil deeds, and guarantee them that none of their good deeds will be lost?’ Then he and us left till we reached one of the circles. Then he (Ibn Masood) stood next to the circle and said, ‘What are you doing?’ They said, ‘O Abu Abdur-Rahamn, (these are) stones that we count our Takbir, Tahil, tasbih, and Tah’mid (Alhumdu’lillah).’
Ibn Masood said, ‘Count your evil deeds, for I guarantee that none of your good deeds will be lost. What is the matter with you, O nation of Muhammad? How soon you come to your destruction! The companions (of Muhammad) are still many, these are his clothes still not worn out and his cookware did not break yet. By whom my soul is in His Hands, you are either following a religion better than Muhammad’s or followers of a way of evil.’
They said, ‘By Allah, O Abu Abdur-Rahman, we sought only what is good.’ Ibn Masood said, ‘Many people seek good, but they do not reach it. The Messenger told us some people who read the Quran will not have the Quran leave their throats (to their hearts). By Allah I do not know if most of you are from them.’ Then he left them. Amr Ibn Salamah said, ‘We saw most of those people fighting against us, in the battle of Nahrawan with the Khawarij.’” (Tirmidhi)
Once a man sneezed in the presence of Ibn Umar and said, “Praise be to Allah and peace be upon the Messenger.’ Ibn Umar chastised the man and said, “The Prophet has only taught us to say Alhumdu’lillah.” (Tirmidhi)
The Above Hadeeths Indicate The Sahabas Action Were Bidah Linguistically
However before these actions were confirmed by the prophet they could have been considered bidah in the linguistic sense. For something to be called bidah linguistically, it has to be something which is new either in the religion (or the worldly affairs, also whether the thing is praiseworthy (hasanah) or blameworthy (sai’yyah).
How Do We Understand These Hadeeth If They Are Not Bidah Hasanah
The salaf understood the above hadeeths that the sahaba were allowed to do ijtihad and come up with their own acts of worship, which did not contradict what they had of the shariah at that time. It was halaal for the sahaba to do this type of ijtihad because the prophet Mohammed lived among them so he could clarify whether their acts of worship (based on their own ijtihad) was halaal or haraam.
Also it was established to the sahaba that Shariah would not keep quite about any new impermissible act of worship they did before receiving the approval from Allah and His Messenger. This is why the sahaba had the freedom to do new acts of worship that did not contradict the shariah already sent down; as they understood that the acts of worship they did which were not yet approved may turn out to be haraam or they maybe halaal. So they did not do these acts with the intention of adding them to the shariah because they knew it might be rejected from the shariah. So they did these acts to found out whether their personal ijtihad was correct or not. As it was an honor to have there ijtihad accepted and maybe added to the shariah.
Can Muslims Today Do Ijtihad & Come Up With There Own New Acts Of Worship (Bidah Hasanah)
Muslims today can not do what the sahaba did in the prophet’s time with regard to doing ijtihad and coming up with new acts of worship that was not in the shariah. The reason why Muslims today can not do this is because the shariah is complete now. So Muslims are not allowed to add to the shariah after it has been completed, as bidah is that which is added after the prophet’s death.
Allah says, “… This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion…” [al-Maa’idah 5:3]. To add a new act of worship to the religion claiming it is good is clearly impossible as the religion is not in need of this act because the religion is already perfect. Plus to add something to the religion means that the religion must have been imperfect from the time of the Prophet until the time when this innovator came along and completed it with his own ideas.
Adding a so called bidah hasanah to the religion implies the Prophet was “guilty” of either of two things: either he was ignorant of this “good innovation,” or he knew about it but concealed it, thus letting his ummah down by not conveying it. In addition to try and add a new act of worship to Islam indicates that the Prophet, his Companions and the righteous salaf (early generations) missed out on the reward of this “good innovation”, up until this innovator came along and earned reward for it (himself).
Moreover nothing is allowed to be added to the religion as no addition to the shariah can be called good, hence nothing can be called bidah hasanah. The prophet Muhammad said, “Verily I shall precede you to the Fountain (Al-Kawthar). Whosoever will pass by me shall drink (from it) and never get thirsty. People whom I know and who will know me will certainly come to me for drink but there will be a barrier between them and me. Then I will say, “Verily they are of me.’ It will be said, ‘You certainly do not know what bidah (innovation) they made after you.’ Then I shall say, “Be off those who made bidah after me.”” (Bukhari and Muslim). In this hadeeth the prophet makes it clear that those who do bidah after his death will not drink from his fountain (Al-Kawthar) which is a warning to those that do bidah. Also if any bidah was good (hasanah) then in the above hadeeth the prophet would have indicated that not all the people of bidah will be prevent form drinking from his fountain on the day of resurrection, only those who do blameworthy bidah. However in the hadeeth it is clear that there is no differentiation between the people of bidah hasanah and blame worth bidah this proves that all bidah is blameworthy and forbidden, whether it is called blameworthy or good bidah.
In addition if a person does a new act of worship in the religion, if it was truly a bidah hasanah (good innovation), then the prophet, his companions and the righteous salaf (early generations) would have been the first to do it.