Meaning of the Hadeeth,

“…He who initiates a Sunnah Husna (a good Sunnah) in Islam.”

The fundamental argument of those who support the celebration of Mawlid an-Nabawi is that they refer to the celebration of Mawlid an-Nabawi as a ‘Bidah Husna’ for which they present arguments such as the saying of Umar (radhi Allaahu anhu), “What a good Bidah is this?’, the gathering of the Qur’aan in one book and the collection of Hadeeth – which are explicitly refuted by Shaikh Salih al-Fawzan.

However, one of their main argument still remains unanswered that Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said, “He, who establishes/initiates a Sunnah Husna (good Sunnah) in Islam, he will have the reward of those who perform it after him until the Day of Judgment.” [Saheeh Muslim]

In a reply to this argument, Shaikh Fawzan says in a Fatawa,

“This Hadeeth does not prove their stance because Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam) did not say, ‘Whosoever innovates a Bidah,’ rather he said, “Whosoever initiates a good Sunnah.” and Sunnah is the opposite of Bidah.

Sunnah is something that is in agreement with the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and in agreement with the proof. So (the meaning of the Hadeeth is) he, who performs a Sunnah which is proved by the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, he will have the reward of it (his action) and the reward of those who perform it until the Day of Judgment.

(Thus) Whoever revives a Sunnah and performs it for the people, and enlightens it before them, and they follow him then he will have the reward equal to theirs.

The reason/context of the Hadeeth is well-known. When some needy people came to Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam), he was grieved to see their state, and he ordered and encouraged Sadaqah (charity). One man from the Sahabah stood up and gave in charity a huge amount and the people followed him because he took the first step. Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said on this occasion, “He, who (Sanna) establishes/initiates a Sunnah Husna (good Sunnah) in Islam, he will have the reward of those who perform it after him until the Day of Judgment.” [Saheeh Muslim]

So, this man performed a Sunnah i.e., Sadaqah and helping the poor. Sadaqah is not a Bidah because it is ordered in the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. It is a Sunnah Husna. He who revives a Sunnah and acts upon it and enlightens it for the people until they follow him, he will have the reward equal to their rewards.”

[al-Muntaqa min Fatawa Shaikh Salih ibn Fawzan al-Fawzan (1/173), Fatawa no. 96]

Shaikh Muhammad ibn Saleh al-Uthaimeen (rahimahullah) explained the issue in these words, “Bidah in Sharee’ah can be defined as, ‘worshiping Allah with that which is not legislated by Allah.’ If you wish, you can say, ‘worshiping Allah with that which Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam) and Khulafa ar-Rashidoon were not upon.’

The first definition is deduced from the verse, “Or have they partners with Allah (false gods), who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not allowed.” [Soorah ash-Shura (42): 21]

The second definition is deduced from the Hadeeth, “Stick to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of my rightly guided Caliphs, cling to it firmly with your molar teeth. Beware of newly invented matters, for every new matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance.” [At-Tirmidhee (2676)]

So, anyone who worships Allah with that which Allah did not legislate or with that which Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam) or the Rightly Guided Caliphs were not upon then he has innovated regardless or whether that worship is linked to the Names and Attributes of Allah, His Orders or Sharee’ah.

As far as the common practices or traditions are concerned, they are not called Bidah in Deen. They may be referred to as Bidah in the language but not in Deen. This is not the Bidah from which Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam) has warned against.

There is no Bidah Husna in Islam. The Sunnah Husna is that which is in agreement with the Sharee’ah and this includes that one may initiate a Sunnah, which means that one starts practicing the Sunnah (before others and others follow him), or he revives it after it has been forgotten, or he does something that may become a means for a legislated command. So, these are three things:

1. Applying (the ruling of initiating a) Sunnah upon one, who initiates an action. This meaning is proved by the intent behind the saying of Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam), which is encouragement towards Sadaqah (charity) to the needy people who had come to Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam).

The Prophet (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam) encouraged, and a man from the Ansar brought out gold for charity. Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said, “He, who establishes/initiates a Sunnah Husna (good Sunnah) in Islam, he will have the reward of those who perform it after him until the Day of Judgement.” [Saheeh Muslim]

So, this man (Sanna) initiated practicing the action and he did not initiate (or innovate) in the Sharee’ah.

2. Reviving a forgotten Sunnah by someone who practices it is also called ‘Sunna’ (initiating) meaning ‘revive’…

3. To do something which is a means to performing a legislated command like building (Islamic) schools and publishing books. This act is not a worship in itself but since it is a means (to perform a legislated command) it is included in the Hadeeth of Allah’s Messenger (Sallalaahu Alaihi wa Sallam), “He, who establishes/initiates a Sunnah Husna (good Sunnah) in Islam, he will have the reward of those who perform it after him until the Day of Judgment.” [Saheeh Muslim]

[Majmoo Fatawa wa-Rasaa'el Fadhilatus-Shaikh Muhammad ibn Salih al-Uthaimeen (291/2) Fatawa no. 346]

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