Part 4: Obligation of Following the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) and know that every Innovation is Misguidance: Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal’s Usūl As-Sunnah (The Foundations of the Sunnah) with the explanation of Shaikh An-Najmi

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All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation; may Allah extol the mention of our noble Prophet Muhammad in the highest company of Angels, bless him and give him peace and security―and his family, his Companions and all those who follow him correctly until the establishment of the Hour.

The Obligation of Following the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) and Every Innovation is Misguidance

The Imām of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā’ah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.241H) stated:

وكل بدعة فهي ضلالة

“And every innovation is misguidance”


It is obligatory upon every person to know that he has to follow the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam), and he must obey him, and that Allah the Most High has commanded him with that in His statement:

قُلْ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ

‘Say: ‘Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam)’ (Surah an-Nur 24:54)

And likewise in the statement of Allah from Suratul-Hashr:

وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا ۚ 

‘Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it; and whatever he forbids you, abstain from it’ (Surah al-Hashr 59:7)

And also in the statement of Allah the Most High in Suratul-Ahzāb:

وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ

‘It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision’ (Surah al-Ahzāb 33:36)

We shall be asked in our graves and on the Day of Resurrection concerning our following of the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam), and whether we believed in him. Allah the Most High has said regarding this in Surah al-’A’rāf:

فَلَنَسْأَلَنَّ الَّذِينَ أُرْسِلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَنَسْأَلَنَّ الْمُرْسَلِينَ. فَلَنَقُصَّنَّ عَلَيْهِم بِعِلْمٍ ۖ وَمَا كُنَّا غَائِبِينَ 

‘Then surely We shall question those to whom it (the Book) was sent and verily, We shall question the Messengers. Then surely We shall narrate to them (their whole story) with Knowledge, and indeed We have not been absent.’ (Surah al-A’rāf 7: 6-7)

There is also the famous Hadeeth of al-Barā bin ‘Āzib ibn Al-Hārith Ibn ‘Adiy Al-Ansāri Al-Awsi (d. 72H radiAllahu ‘anhu), a companion and a son of a companion, who settled in Kufa. He was similar in age to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiAllahu ‘anhumā), and was too young to partake in the Battle of Badr. He narrates in this Hadeeth that the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said:

“Indeed a servant when he is placed in his grave, and his companions turn away, he can hear the footsteps of their sandals as they walk away. Then two angels will come to him, one of them will be called Munkar and the other one Nakeer. They will sit him up and they will ask him, ’Who is your Lord? What is your religion? Who was that man who was sent among you? Allah will give the believer firmness and strength in his grave and He will enable him to answer correctly. He will say, ‘My Lord is Allah, my religion is Islām and my Prophet is Muhammad (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) who came to us with the clear proofs and with guidance, so we believed in him and followed him.’ As for the disbeliever and the munāfiq, then when he is asked these same three questions, he will say, ‘Haa, haa, I do not know! I heard the people say something, so I said the same.’ Then he will be beaten with an iron rod, that were it to strike a mountain, it would turn to dust.’ He will let out a scream that all of creation will be able to hear, except for the Jinn and mankind, and were they to hear that, then they would fall dead.”  

(Collected by Imām Ahmad in his Musnad, Abu Dāwud in his Sunan, Kitāb us-Sunnah, at-Tayalisi, Imām al-Aajurri in ash-Shar’ia, Ibn Abi Shaybah in Kitāb ul-Janā’iz in his Musannaf, ‘Abdur Razzāq in Kitāb ul-Janā’az in his Musannaf and al-Hākim in Kitāb ul-Eemān).

Also another proof that we will be asked about him in our graves is that which he (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said in the Khutbah on day of al-‘Arafah in the Farewell Hajj, where he said: ‘You people will be asked about me, so what is it that you will say?’ So the Companions responded by saying, ‘We bear witness that indeed you conveyed the message.’ 

(Part of a Hadeeth collected by Abu Dāwud in his Sunan and Ibn Mājah, declared saheeh by Sheikh al-Albāni).

Abandoning Innovations, and every Innovation is Misguidance

Therefore it is necessary for the intelligent person to ponder and ask himself: Should he follow the command of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) to follow him? Or should he follow the people of desires who seek to lead him into misguidance? That which I enjoin upon you and myself is to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) and to abandon innovations because all innovations are misguidance and destruction. Allah’s Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) warned against Bid’ah, and the Imāms of guidance among the Salaf of this Ummah also warned against innovations. From the warnings of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) is: “Whosoever from amongst you lives for long, he will see great amounts of differing and controversy, so upon you is to cling to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs.” He also said, “ Beware of the newly invented matters, for every newly invented matter is a Bid’ah and every Bid’ah is misguidance.” This Hadeeth, which has been covered previously, is reported in the Sunan.

Likewise there is the statement of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam): “Whosoever innovates into the religion that which is not from it, then it will be rejected.” (Reported by Bukhāri and Muslim and others)

We also have the statement of Allah the Most High in Surah an-Nur:

فَلْيَحْذَرِ الَّذِينَ يُخَالِفُونَ عَنْ أَمْرِهِ أَن تُصِيبَهُمْ فِتْنَةٌ أَوْ يُصِيبَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

 “And let those who oppose the Messenger’s commandment beware, lest some fitnah should befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them.” (Surah an-Nur 24:63)

Therefore every innovation is misguidance, and these narrations are refute those who falsely claim that there are some innovations which are ‘hasanah’ or ‘good’, and they refute those who incorrectly say that innovations enter into the five Islamic regulations of the Shar’iah: obligatory innovations, recommended innovations, hated (makruh) innovations, allowed (mubah) innovations and forbidden (harām) innovations. This is completely erroneous, because the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said; ‘Every innovation is misguidance’ without any exceptions.

The Forbidden Innovations are those in the Religion and not those in Worldly Affairs

As for innovations and inventions of the World, such as advancements in technology, or the invention of cars, aeroplanes, microphones, the internet etc., then these are not referred to as bid’ah because they are not connected to a person’s religion. Technology is not forbidden, rather it is permitted and even encouraged (as long as there is no conflict with the Religion). Rather what is forbidden is that a person introduces an act of worship or a belief or statement for which there is no proof from the Book and the Sunnah. Allah the Most High states in the Qur’ān:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا 

“O mankind! Eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth…” This means that everything is allowed for us to eat except that which is prohibited. So when it comes to worldly affairs and technology, then everything is permitted except for that which Allah (the Most High) has prohibited. This was also alluded to by the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) when he saw that the people were cross-pollinating the date palm trees, so he said, ‘Maybe they should not do that,’ so they stopped doing it. That year, the crop failed, and when the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) was informed of this he said, ‘It was just a suggestion that I had and you are more knowledgeable concerning your worldly affairs. If I inform you of something from the words of Allah, then I will never tell you an untruth.’ (Reported by Imām Muslim).

Therefore using various forms of technology such as the internet, microphones, cars, aeroplanes and the like, then these are permissible as they are to do with worldly affairs, for which there is no prohibition – they are not the prohibited newly invented affairs introduced into the religion. What is utilised from the worldly affairs, it is not said that it is bid’ah. Rather they are from the endeavours of the creation and for their benefit. As for what is referred to as bid’ah in the religion, then it is that which is innovated in worship and in the religion – and this is what is prohibited.

The Two Types of Bid’ah

You should know that Bid’ah is of two types: 

  1. Bid’ah mukaffirah (Bid’ah which involves kufr)
  2. Bid’ah mufassiqah (Bid’ah which involves sin less than kufr)

Bid’ah mukaffirah includes worshipping at the graves, making sacrifices to the dead in their graves, calling upon the Jinn for aid and assistance and heretical beliefs held by the Jahmiyyah, the Qadariyyah, the Rāfidhah, the extreme Sufis and the grave worshippers. In Al-Mughni of Ibn Qudāmah, (volume 3 page 33), he mentions that many of the Imāms of the Salaf held that one must repeat the prayer if you inadvertently pray behind those who commit the bid’ah with involves kufr. Imām al-Lālakā’i (rahimahullah) in his Sharh Usool Al-I’tiqād (volume 2) with a chain of narration to the Companion, Wāthilah Ibn Al-Asqa (radiAllahu ‘anhu) who said regarding praying behind a Qadari, “Do not pray behind him, but if you did pray behind him by mistake, then repeat the prayer.

Likewise, it is narrated from al-’Anazi (rahimahullah) and from Sallām bin Abi Mutee’ that he was asked concerning the Jahmiyyah, so he said, “They are unbelievers and there is no prayer behind them.” It was reported regarding Imām Mālik who was asked concerning praying behind an Imām who was Qadari so he replied, “If you can, then do not pray behind him,” so the questioner asked, “Not even Jumu’ah?” To which he replied, “Not even Jumu’ah. And I see that if you are in fear of him for yourself, then pray with him and then repeat the prayer by praying dhuhr.” (Reported by Imām al-Lālakā’i , vol 1 page 732).

Likewise Abu Yusuf al-Qādi (d.182H), the famous companion of Abu Haneefah and the Qādi of Baghdād (rahimahumullah) said, “I do not pray behind a Jahmi, nor a Rāfidi, nor a Qadari.” (Reported by al-Lālakā’i in his Sharh Usool ‘Itiqād Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamā’ah, vol. 2 page 733).

So this was the stance of the Salaf: that generally they would not pray behind Ahlul Bid’ah, but the prayer behind a person of Bid’ah who has with him bid’ah mukaffirah, then this prayer is not accepted and they would repeat the prayer. Sheikh Ibn al-‘Uthaymeen (rahimahullah) mentioned this in his Fatāwa Noorun ‘alad-Darb that the one who has bid’ah mukaffirah which exits a person from the fold of Islām, then there is no prayer behind him.

As for the one who has bid’ah mufassiqah, then the prayer behind him is valid, although the Salaf of this Ummah would not pray behind the innovators, rather they would pray behind the people of Sunnah if they were able, but if they were not able, then it allowed as long as their bid’ah does not reach the level of kufr.

Sheikh Ubayd al-Jābiri (hafidhahullah) explained that the one who has with him kufr in his ‘Aqeedah, and he has with him major shirk or kufr, and the proof has been established upon him, then he has exited the fold of Islām. As for the one whose Bid’ah is less than kufr, then such a person is a fāsiq (a sinner with his bid’ah).

Sheikh ‘Abdul ‘azeez bin Bāz (rahimahullah) was asked regarding the types of bid’ah, so he answered saying: “As for bid’ah, and the divisions that some of the people make saying that some types of bid’ah are harām, some makruh, some mustahab (recommended), some mubāh (allowed) and so on, then this is incorrect. What is correct is that all bid’ah is misguidance just as our Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) would say in the Jumu’ah Khutbah: “The best of speech is the Book of Allah, and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam), and the worst of all affairs are the newly introduced matters (Bid;ah) and every Bid’ah is misguidance.”

He was then asked about praying behind an Imām who is an innovator, so he answered by saying :”If his Bid’ah is mukaffirah (it has reached the level of kufr), then it is not allowed to pray behind him. For example the bid’ah of the Jahmiyyah and Mu’tazilah who deny the Names and Attributes of Allah, and those who are similar to them – there is no prayer behind them.” This applies to other groups such as the Qadariyyah and the grave worshippers. Sheikh Ibn Bāz continued, “As for the bid’ah that is ghayr mukaffirah (does not reach the level of kufr), such as the one who raises his voice in the niyyah for the prayer by saying, ‘I intend to pray the dhuhr prayer…’ or something similar, then the prayer behind him is sound, however this person should be taught that which is good and correct (i.e. that the niyyah is from the heart and should not be vocalised). Likewise those who gather to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) or anyone else, if it does not involve shirk, then it is bid’ah and misguidance, but it is not said that it is kufr. But if they make dua to the one whose birthday they are celebrating, or seek aid and deliverance from him, or vow or sacrifice in their name, then this is shirk akbar (major shirk) therefore there is no prayer behind them. But those who for example raise their voices and recite in chorus, or make dua in congregation, then this is bid’ah but not kufr.” 

Therefore it is important to distinguish between whether the bid’ah is mukaffirah or not when determining whether it is permissible to pray behind a person of bid’ah – but as a general rule, Ahlus Sunnah avoid praying behind the people of bid’ah.

The above is based upon the explanation of Al-‘Allāmah Ahmad An-Najmī (rahimhullāh) with additions from myself.

سبحانك اللهم وبحمدك أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت، أستغفرك وأتوب إليك

Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Wāhid.


This article was transcribed by Umm Maryam (may Allah reward her) from the classes of Abu Khadeejah ( Please share it with others.

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