In the discussion of the differences between the Deobandis and Barelwis, you have come across the important Masaa`il from the Qur`aan Majeed, Sunnat and Aimmah Ahle Sunnat. Since in the preceding pages the words Sunnat and Bid`ah have come quite often, hence, I will now discuss these two terms so that you have no confusion with regard to who the Ahle Sunnat are.
(1). Sunnat and Bid`ah are two complete opposites. When it is said that a certain thing is Sunnat, then it means that it is not a Bid`ah and if it is said that a certain thing is Bid`ah, then in other words it implies that that particular thing is contrary to the Sunnat.
(2). You, the entire Muslim Ummat and I have full Imaan in that with the coming of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam), on the one hand, the Shariahs of all the previous prophets were abrogated, and on the other hand, the doors of prophethood was closed until Qiyaamah. With the coming of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam), his very being was an example of those things whereby we could ascertain which things are liked and which unliked by Allaah Ta`ala. Besides this there is no other way. Those things which Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) showed us which were liked or not by Allaah Ta`ala, this is what is called Deen and Shariah. The announcement of the termination of his teachings was made three months before his (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) demise, on the plains of Arafat. Now, there is absolutely no scope for any deletions or additions to this Deen.
(3). Sunnat is also known as Tariqah (the way). Hence, “Sunnat” are those things which Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) taught, like, Aqaa`id, character, dealings, habits, etc. Together with holding onto the knowledge of Tariqah-e-Nabawi, the Qur`aan Majeed and the Ahaadith of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) have exhorted and coupled the Sunnat of the Khulafaa-e-Raashideen. That is, both of them are binding upon us. Hence, the Sunnat of the Khulafaa-e-Raashideen (radhiAllaahu anhum) holds the same ruling as the Sunnat of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam). Also, Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) has stressed greatly upon the virtues of the Sahaabah-e- Kiraam (radhiAllaahu anhum). He has certified their reliability and integrity. It is stated in one Hadith: “Honour my companions, because indeed they are the best amongst you. And after them (in importance) are those (Taabieen) who follow them, and after them are those (Tab-e-Taabieen) who follow them. Thereafter falsehood will prevail.” [Mishkaat, page 554]
It is also reported in another Hadith that those Sahaabah who pass away in any land, on the day of Qiyaamah, they will rise up and be the leaders and Noor for the people. [Mishkaat].
There are numerous Ahaadith regarding this topic. On the one hand, the Qur`aan Majeed has classified this venerable group of Sahaabah as “Believers” and “The best of the Ummat”, and we have been ordered to follow their way. That person who transgresses their way is regarded as having deviated and is warned of Jahannum. On the other hand there are numerous Ahaadith which extol the blessings and virtues of the Sahaabah-e-Kiraam (radhiAllaahu anhum). It is for this reason that the Sunnat of the Sahaabah-e-Kiraam is the reflection of the Sunnat of our Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam). Whatever action they did with consensus and whatever they omitted with consensus is regarded as being absolute (proof). It is not permissible for anyone to discard their way. Also, whatever some Sahaabah did and it was not rejected by the other Sahaabah, is also regarded as being correct and the truth. There is no scope in any doubt in this.
The crux of the matter is that whatever actions the Sahaabah carried out is a proof of it being Sunnat. And since Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) has mentioned these three eras, that is, the Sahaabah, Tabieen and Tab-e- Taabieen, without any hesitation, we can classify their actions as being part of the Sunnat.
(5). With the definition of Sunnat, the meaning of Bid`ah becomes apparent. That is, to understand to be part of the Deen whatever was not prevalent during the eras of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam), the Sahaabah, Taabieen and Tab-e-Taabieen, is regarded as a Bid`ah. However, in order to understand it properly, it is imperative that we clarify a few points:
Firstly, those Masaa`il wherein more than one option is narrated, all of them will be regarded as Sunnat. It will not be permissible to chose one of them and classify the others as Bid`ah. Except of course if one of them were abrogated. For example, the saying of “Ameen” loudly after (Surah Faatihah) is reported from Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) and so is the saying of it softly. Hence both these actions are termed as being Sunnat. It is impermissible to term one of these actions as being Bid`ah.
Secondly, if Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) executed a certain action often and another rarely, then the one which he did often will be classified as being Sunnat, but the second action, which he (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) did rarely was done to indicate consent for it, hence it cannot be classified as Bid`ah. This second action will be classified as being permissible, although the actual Sunnat will be the one which he did often.
Thirdly, regarding those things which came into existence after these three eras, they are classified into two categories: one is those which are regarded as an object in themselves and the other which is not regarded as such, rather it is regarded as being a means of attaining some other Deeni objective. For example, many virtues and benefits have been extolled regarding the learning and teaching of the Deeni knowledge of Qur`aan Majeed and Ahaadith. They have been greatly stressed upon. Hence, the attainment of those means of acquiring this knowledge which came into existence after theses three noble eras, would not be regarded as Bid`ah (on the condition that the means adopted are permissible in themselves). The reason for this permissibility is that these means are not the actual objective, in fact, they are a means of attaining a Deeni objective.
Similarly, the virtues and benefits of Jihad have been greatly extolled in the Qur`aan Majeed and Ahaadith. Hence, it would not be regarded as Bid`ah to utilise those means and weapons for Jihad which were not used the noble eras, because the usage of these means and weapons is not the actual objective and they are also not regarded as being the object of Deen.
Similarly, the journey for Hajj is also very meritorious. But, it would not be regarded as Bid`ah to go for Hajj using the aeroplane or ship, since this mode of travel is not regarded as being the Deeni objective, it is merely a means of attaining and reaching one‟s objective, i.e. Hajj, which is the actual Ibaadat.
In short, the usage of those things which are a means of attaining a Shar`i objective, are permissible. But, to regard such things as being the actual objective and a necessity of Deen, would be a Bid`ah.
Fourthly, The principles of many Shar`i Masaa`il have been outlined in the Qur`aan Majeed and Ahaadith. The experts in this field of studying these principles, use these principles to extract many other Masaa`il. Hence, those Masaa`il which are extracted using the Qur`aan Majeed and Ahaadith as a basis would also not be classified as Bid`ah, since this has been established from the Qur`aan Majeed and Sunnat. It is for this reason that the Ijtihaad of the Aimmah are also regarded as being a part of the Deen, after that of the Qur`aan Majeed, Sunnat or Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam), Sahaabah and Tabieen. Ijtihaad is also regarded as being one of the proofs of the Deen.
Fifthly, those things which are neither proven from the Qur`aan Majeed, nor the Hadith of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam), nor the actions of the Sahaabah or Tabieen, nor the Ijtihaad of the Fuqahaa of the Ummat nor Qiyaas, are NOT regarded as being part of the Deen. They cannot be made part of the Deen by the Kashf or Ilhaam of any buzrug, nor by the whimsical Qiyaas of any learned person. The proofs for the Shariah are those four mentioned previously. Besides these to „prove‟ anything as being part of the Deen is in itself a Bid`ah.
(6). Bid`ah is divided into two types: one regarding beliefs (I`tiqaadi) and another regarding actions (Amali). I`tiqaadi Bid`ah refers to those beliefs and views held by any person or group which differs to the beliefs of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) and the Sahaabah-e-Kiraam. This falls under the Qur`aanic Aayat: “Darkness – some of it over others”. Further on it is divided into many other categories. Some of them are clear -cut kufr. Like, for example, the belief of the Qadianis that after Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) the doors of Nubuwwat are still open (Nauthubillah), or that Hadhrat Isaa (alaihi salaam) died, etc. Some I`tiqaadi Bid`ahs are not classified as Kufr but they certainly lead to deviation.
Amali Bid`ah would not entail a corruption of beliefs, rather it refers to the execution of those actions which were not carried out by the Salf-e-Saaliheen.
(7). Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) has chastised and castigated Bid`ah to such an extent that in terms of its evil it follows after kufr and shirk. In this regard I have quoted one or two Ahaadith at the beginning of this discussion, and if I have to cite any more, then this discussion would be greatly increased. The crux of the matter is that Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had termed Bid`ah as being rejected, accursed and deviation. From this one can gauge how degraded a person would be in the sight of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) if he has to innovate a Bid`ah. It is mentioned in a Hadith that the Fardh and Nafl Ibaadat of such a person is not accepted by Allaah Ta`ala. It is mentioned in another Hadith that the person who grants honour to a Bid`ati has aided in the destruction of the Deen. It is reported in another Hadith that the person who moves away from the “Al -Jamaat”, even a hand-span, has unyoked Islaam from his neck. [Mishkaat, page 31]
From this one can ascertain how hateful even the smallest and most insignificant Bid`ah was to Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam).