Categorisation of Bid'ah: The Distinction between Lexical & Legal Definitions
The following is Imam ‘Izz ad-Din ibn ‘Abd as-Salam’s (r.a.) categorisation of the term “bid’ah”. Many of the major Muslim scholars have divided “bid’ah’” into categories based on its lexical meaning in the Arabic language. The following is Imam ‘Izz ad-Din ibn ‘Abd as-Salam’s (r.a.) classification of “bid’ah” into five categories. There is wajib, obligatory, bid’ah. This includes the study of grammar that enables a proper understanding of the Words of Allah (s.w.t.), the compilation of the Qur’an into a single volume by Abu Bakr (r.a.), the development of Islamic sciences such as the collection and classification of ahadits, and contesting unsound theological arguments about the Nature of Allah (s.w.t.) through logical reasoning, kalam. There is mandub, recommended, bid’ah, such as the building of schools and facilities of learning, or the publication of books. There is mubah, permissible, bid’ah. This includes expanding the types of food one consumes or the style of clothing one wears. There is makruh, reprehensible, bid’ah. This includes extending one’s fasts beyond the regular time of breaking fasts and washing one’s limbs more than the prescribed three times during ritual ablutions. And finally, there is muharramah, forbidden, bid’ah. An example of this would be to pray the noon prayer before its time has arrived or following the theological views of the libertarians, Qadariyyah, or the anthropomorphists, al-Mujassimah.