Glimpses from Our Salaf Regarding the Affair of an Innovator

Saturday 17-Nov-2018, 5:59AM / 931


When the scholars use the word Salaf, they are referring to the Sahabah, or the Sahabah and the Tabi’een, or the Sahabah and the Tabi’een and their followers in the best generation such as the leading scholars known for their trustworthiness and virtue, and for following the Sunnah and teaching others to do likewise and for avoiding bid’ah and warning other against it.

Allaah says: And the foremost to embrace Islam of the Muhajirin and the Ansar and also those who followed them exactly (in faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success. Q9:100

The two Imams, al-Bukhaari (2652) and Muslim (2533), narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The best of the people are my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them.”

The Messenger, his Sahabah and those who follow them in truth are the Salaf of this Ummah. Everyone who proclaims the same message as theirs is following the way of the Salaf.

The best of the Salaf after the Messenger are the Sahabah who learnt their religion from him and followed it sincerely as Allaah has described them in His Book,

‘Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah; of them some have fulfilled their covenant; and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed in the least.’ Q33:23.

And He warned against contradicting them:

‘And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers' way, We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell what an evil destination!’ Q4:115


As Allaah chose for His message the most pure-hearted of His slaves (i.e., the Prophets), so too He chose as the heirs of the Prophets those who would be grateful for this blessing and who were fit for this honour of conveying the message, as He says:

“Allaah knows best with whom to place His Message” Q6:124

Ibn al-Qayyim said (Tareeq al-Hijratayn, p. 171): Allaah knows best where to place His Message, both with regard to the original recipient and those who inherit it from him. He knows best who is fit to receive His Message and convey it to His slaves in a trustworthy and sincere manner, respecting the Sender and fulfilling his duties towards Him, patiently following His commands and showing gratitude for His blessings and drawing close to Him, and He knows who is not fit for that. Similarly, He knows best who among the nations is fit to be the heirs of His Messengers and to succeed them and convey the Message that they received from their Lord.

Imam Ahmad reported in al-Musnad (1/379) with a chain which is hasan that Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: Allaah looked into the hearts of His slaves, and He saw that the heart of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was the best of people’s hearts, so He chose him for Himself and sent him with His message. Then He looked into the hearts of His slaves after the heart of Muhammad, and He found that the hearts of his companions were the best of people’s hearts, so He made them the supporters of His Prophet, who fought for His religion. So whatever the Muslims think is good, is good before Allaah, and whatever they think is bad, is bad before Allaah.

Hence the Sahabah are more deserving to be followed than anyone else. They are the guidance of aqeedah and Sharee’ah, and they acted accordance with it in word and deed. Hence, Allaah specifically chose them to spread His deen and convey the Sunnah of His Prophet.

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in Jaami‘ Bayaan al-‘Ilm wa Fadluhu, 2/947, no. 1810 narrated that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ood (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“Whoever wants to follow a path, let him follow the path of one who has died, for the living are not safe from fitnah. I mean the Companions of Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). They were the best of this ummah: the purest in heart, the deepest in knowledge and the most straightforward. Allah chose them to accompany His Prophet and establish His religion, so recognise their status and follow in their footsteps and adhere as much as you can to their example of conduct and attitude, for they followed true guidance.”

Imam ash-Shaatibee (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his grand book on bid’ah, al-I‘tisaam 3/307: The reports that confirm this idea are many; all of them indicate that one should take them as an example and follow their way in all situations. It is the way of salvation, as was pointed out in the hadeeth that speaks of the division of the ummah, in which the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “… what I and my companions are following.”

The Khawaarij were quoting verses of the Qur’aan and Ahadeeth, as some individuals do today, but went astray when they abandoned the understanding of the Sahabah for their distorted thoughts. Also, Waasil bin ‘Ataa, the leader of the deviant Mu’tazilah sect went astray by believing in the correctness of his devil inspired creed away from the guidance of the Sahabah. This has been the enduring path of people of innovations and base desires.

Hence, it’s clear beyond reasonable doubt that the understanding of the Salaf is the path to salvation. So, it’s important we ask ourselves how the Salaf understood and dealt with bid’ah and its people.


Three companions came to the household of the Prophet asking about his acts of worship in private. Thereafter, they uttered statements that would have made the Hadaadees to declare them innovators; that is, disbelievers. We take solace in knowing that the best of this Ummah did not declare them innovators but corrected their misunderstanding, may Allaah reward him on our behalf with good.

Standing in the sun seeking reward from Allaah with that is bid’ah according to the scholars, classical and contemporary. When the Prophet saw a man, Israeel or Abu Israeel, standing in the sun, he asked about his affair and directed him to what is best.

There are several instances of this in the purified Sunnah. This will show the falsehood of the claim of those who alleged that every bid’ah is kufr.

Compare how he responded to these incidents with his reaction to the event of dhatul anwaat which entails an act of kufr. This will tell you the difference between kufr and bid’ah “…and none will comprehend this except the people of knowledge.” Q29:43.


Umar does not need an introduction; he is stern in upholding obedience to Allaah and he never feared the blame of the blamers, may Allaah be pleased with him. When a group of people who innovated a way of praying were brought to the notice of Umar, he asked for their leader to be sent to him. He whipped him as punishment for this bid’ah; he didn’t give him the option of tawbah or death as an exemplary punishment of kufr. And he was the just ruler, the best of this Ummah after its Prophet and Abu Bakr. Don’t be surprised if some people claim to be more pious than Umar - radiyaLlaahu an'h.

Ibn Masood is known for his strong adherence to the Sunnah and great abhorrence of bid’ah and its people. Imam ad-Daarimee recorded his action when he met some people who formed a circle in the mosque making dhikr in congregation. He warned them severely but did not declare them as disbelievers. This is Ibn Mas’ood, the Mufassir of this Ummah. Good enough, our Prophet told us that: ‘I am pleased for my Ummah what Ibn Umm ‘Abd (Ibn Mas’ood) is pleased with for it.’ “…So they are those whom Allaah had guided. So follow their guidance.”

The Khawaarij were the first group of innovators in Islam and I don’t know any Sahabah who declared them as disbelievers even with their pronounced bid’ah which they call to. Rather, the Salaf prayed behind them and recorded their hadeeths in all classical books of hadeeth. Imam al-Bayhaqee reported in his Sunan al-Kubra (8/173)that when Alee was asked about the Khawaarij 'Are they disbelievers?' He said, 'they fled from disbelief... they are only our brothers who wronged us'. But, the piety of these muggers may be higher than that of Alee and other Sahabah, may Allaah be pleased with them.

Marwan bin Hakam was the first person to innovate preceding the Eid Prayer with Khutbah. He was reproached severely by Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree but didn’t declare him a kaafir; rather, he still prayed behind him. Now, will they declare Abu Sa’eed a Mubtadi’?

It’s enough evidence against these marauding louts that the most authentic book after the Book of Allaah contained more than 60 narrators known for various types of bid’ah in AQEEDAH. Still, all the Muslims agree to the authenticity of all reports found in this book.

Imam al-Bukharee, the Ameerul Mumineen in Hadeeth and its sciences, reported from ‘Imran bin Hittaan who praised AbdurRahman bin Maljaan, the killer of Alee bin Abee Taalib, and he was one of the greatest callers to his bid’ah.

Therefore, claiming that all bid’ah is kufr negates the understanding of the Salaf and the consensus of this Ummah since it’s not permissible to narrate from a Kaafir and the Prophet informed us that the Ummah would not agree on misguidance.

Everyone, throughout history, who follows the examples of the righteous Salaf and follows their path, is known as a Salafee and the word As-Salafiyah has become a signpost for the way of the Salaf in approaching Islam, understanding it, and applying it.

Hence, As-Salafiyah applied to those who adhere completely to the Book of Allaah and the proven Sunnah of the Messenger according to the understanding of the Salaf. It’s apparent that the belief that all innovations leads to Kufr is contrary to the understanding of the Salaf.

And Imam Muslim recorded that our Prophet, as-Saadiq al-Masdooq, said, 'Some people from my Ummah will come towards the end of time, they will tell you what you and your fathers have never heard. You must not have anything to do with them and vice versa.’ We have never heard that all bid’ah leads to kufr and our fathers, the Salaf, did not know of or hear this claim.

Lastly, if these people will continue on their misguidance, we hope they will stop their false ascription to Salafiyah for Salafiyah is free of them as the wolf was free of the blood of the son of Ya’qoob.

And we remind them of Allaah’s warning:

‘And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers' way, We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell what an evil destination!’ Q4:115

So, if you believe in the like of that which they believe then you are rightly guided; but if you turn away, then you are only in opposition. Truthful indeed is the poet when he said:

Every good is in following the Salaf
And every evil is in following the latter generations.