Religious Innovation and its consequences

We are blessed and grateful to Allah SWT in that He has sent us a religion that has been completed for us. By following the path of the Prophet SAWS, we do not want for anything as our faith has been presented in its entirety.

To add anything to our religion from the point where our Prophet SAWS declared it’s completion is considered an act of innovation and it is not permitted.

In fact, the Prophet SAWS explicitly warned us against innovating in our worship to Allah SWT as this is a misguidance.

The imam mentioned a hadith in relation to this reminder and it is translated to say:

The Prophet SAWS said ‘So hold fast to my sunnah and the examples of the rightly guided caliphs who will come after me. Adhere to them and hold to it fast. Beware of new things in faith because every innovation is misguidance.

We were also reminded of the hadith in which the Prophet SAWS was heard saying:

Whoever innovated in our mission that is not of it, it is rejected.

Dear brothers and sisters, we need to first be sure as to what denotes innovation and how we can identify this habit within ourselves.

Firstly, the act of innovation differs from disobedience as disobedience is doing something knowing that it is something that Allah SWT does not want us to do. Examples of this may be things like lying, stealing etc.

Innovation on the other hand is something that is being done without realisation because the person doing such an act believes it to be pleasing to Allah SWT and therefore believes it will get them closer to their Lord.

This is more dangerous in some ways than disobedience. Reason being is that with doing something you know to be wrong, there is still a potential for one to feel guilt and for one to seek forgiveness for it in the future.

Compare that to something which you are doing that is wrong but you aren’t even aware that it is impermissible and therefore the opportunity to repent for it will never present itself unless you identify it to be an innovation.

The problem we have is that we live in a time and a place of great innovation and misinformation. There are a lot of things being done in the name of our faith that are innovations and we need to be mindful of this.

But how does one protect themselves from innovative acts? After all, one reminder isn’t enough to be able to list the countless things that are being done in the name of our faith.

What is needed is a process by which we are able to identify those acts that are innovations and thus protect ourselves from them.

The first step of that process is seeking guidance and protection from Allah SWT against innovation. This comes from ensuring that we are in a state of consistent remembrance of Allah SWT and that we are in supplication to Him consistently to protect and guide us on the right path. This requires dedication and humility in worship.

The next step comes from being active on our faith. It is not enough that we declare ourselves Muslim and be done with that. We need to constantly strive and aim to learn and gain knowledge in our deen.

To study and contemplate on the Quran is the first practical step of this. If there is something that is being done that is directly contradictory of the Quran then we know straight away that this is innovation and thus we should avoid it.

The other practical step we need to take alongside the study of the Quran is the study and understanding of the sunnah of the Prophet SAWS. He was the living embodiment of the Quran and so if the act that we are following was not done by him then we need to ask ourselves if this is an innovation.

One point often made at this point is that we are not all scholars of hadith and therefore it is often not possible to carry out this practical point. This is where the masjid, the imam and the knowledgeable scholars amongst us then hold that responsibility to inform us as to the hadith which backs up the act that we are questioning.

If one finds that there is no satisfactory answer provided and that there is opinion that the act is questionable and possibly innovation then we are taught that the best course of action is that we avoid it through caution.

Ultimately we need to remember that our faith is one of intention and sincerity. If we make a sincere effort to rid ourselves of acts of innovation then we will be rewarded for this effort. The imam reminded us of this through the reference in the Glorious Quran in Sura Al-Nahl, ayat 42 which is translated to say:

Such as are steadfast and put their trust in Allah.

Dear brothers and sisters, to think that we can rid ourselves of all innovations is simply not feasible. There will always be those who think that innovation is good as well as others who simply don’t know better. However, with the reminder today, we can take steps to ensure that we do not fall into this trap and instead follow the path of our beloved Prophet SAWS who perfected and completed our religion for us.

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