Hadith: Every innovation is misguidance.
Seriousness of innovation: This is like claiming that Rasoolullah ﷺ did not provide the complete religion to us or what we have introduced is better than what he gave to us.
Apparently contradicting statements by Umar and Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنهم) praising some innovations as good are quoted by those in favour of introducing innovations in Islam.
Umar (رضي الله عنه): What a good innovation this is! (In reference to Taraweeh prayer).
Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه): Bid'ah (innovation) and what a good bid'ah (In reference to Duhaa prayer)
Question: Does this mean that there is an exception to the Hadith quoted earlier and some innovations are indeed good?
Answer: The two statements (which are the only 'evidences' available to innovators) by Umar and Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنهم) do not approve of innovations at all. Before going into these two statements, we must understand some of the types of Sunnah:
- 1 - Direct actions, orders, recommendations and instructions of Rasoolullah ﷺ
2 - Actions of Rasoolullah ﷺ but not ordered or instructed to others
3 - Actions of the people not disapproved, disliked or rejected by Rasoolullah ﷺ.
Now coming to the two statements...
First statement) Taraweeh was prayed by Rasoolullah ﷺ at home. He came to the Masjid for three nights and did not do so afterwards as he feared that it would become mandatory rather than Sunnah [Saheeh Muslim, book 4, Hadith no. 1,663]. When Taraweeh was revived as a congregational prayer, Umar (رضي الله عنه) was definitely aware of the practice and statement of Rasoolullah ﷺ when he said 'What a good bidah this is!' Had it been an innovation in his view (which it was not), he would have not used such words. Therefore, he said this in a linguistic term and not in religious term and meant that it was a revival which had a basis in the Sunnah.
Second statement) Some people were praying Duhaa prayer and Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه) said to them 'what a good bid'ah'. Some facts need to be mentioned here.
- - Duhaa prayer was Sunnah: “It is preferable to offer Duha prayer when the sun’s heat has become so intense that even the young of the camels feel it.” [Muslim, 748]
- Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه) himself used to pray this prayer occasionally: Narrated Nafi': Ibn 'Umar never offered the Duha prayer except on two occasions: [Saheeh Bukhari, book #21, Hadith #283]
- Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه) did not know whether Rasoolullah ﷺ prayed Duhaa or not: "Did the Prophet use to pray it?" Ibn 'Umar replied, "I don't think he did." [Saheeh Bukhari, book #21, Hadith #271]
If Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه) himself occasionally prayed Duhaa and he did not know whether Rasoolullah ﷺ prayed or not, then there can be two possibilities here:
- 1) The Hadith of Duhaa prayer reached him - Then in his view, it would have been the first category of Sunnah stated above.
2) The Hadith did not reach him - Then in his view, it would have been the third category of Sunnah i.e people practiced and the action had implied approval of Rasoolullah ﷺ as he did not condemn it.
So when he called this prayer as a good Bid'ah, he referred to it either linguistically i.e. a good revival of Sunnah (first possibility) or he meant that this was an act started by the people (Bid'ah) but Rasoolullah ﷺ implied approved it (Hasanah) and hence the term good innovation. This is further confirmed by the following Hadith:
Narrated 'Aisha: I never saw the Prophet offering the duha prayer but I always offer it. (Saheeh Bukhari, book #21, Hadith #273)
The claim that Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه) considered some innovations as good is refuted by himself: He (رضي الله عنه) said: Every innovation is misguidance, even if the people see it as something good." [Kitab al Sunnah pg. 24 Hadith 82, Sharh Asul Aiteqaad Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamah Hadith 126, al Mudakhal Bayhqi Hadith 191].
Indeed, Allah knows best.