The Forty Nawawi Ḥadīth. The Fifth Hadith

On the authority of the Mother of the Believers, Umm `Abdullāh, ʽĀ’ishah, who said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:”He who innovates something in this matter of ours that is not a part of it – it will be rejected.”(Narrated by al-Bukhāri and Muslim)In one version by Muslim it says:”He who does a deed not in accordance with our matter – it will be rejected.”Here is one of the comprehensive statements of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) which is a basis for several fundamental principles. It provides a criterion for evaluation of the visible aspects of one’s deeds,complementing the ḥadīth, “Deeds are only by intention,” which deals with the unapparent aspect. Combining the import of both, scholars have concluded that there are two conditions for the acceptability of any deed by Allah (subḥānahu wa ta`ālā): sincerity of intention (ikhlās), i.e., it must be done for Allah alone, and correctness (ṣawāb), i.e., it must be done in the way ordained by Him in the Qur’ān and sunnah of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم).The ḥadīth warns against innovation (bidʽah)31 in all matters of religion. In this context the word “matter” (amr) carries the meaning of religious practice and law.”Rejected” means that the deed is unacceptable to Allah and so will not be rewarded. It is a clear prohibition against making any changes in or additions to the religion and warns those sects differing with Ahl as-Sunnah of their error, for anything claimed to be a valid religious practice must be based upon a proof from the Qur’ān or the sunnah.
That is because Allah (subḥānahu wa taʽālā) has completed and perfected the religion (Islam) which He ordained for mankind as stated in Sūrah al-Mā’idah,32 and He has not omitted from it anything beneficial to man. One who asserts otherwise by insistence on some alternative way places himself in danger of falling into disbelief through his contradiction of the Qur’ān and refusal of obedience to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) elaborated further when he said, “Indeed, the best statement is the Book of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم). And the worst of matters are the newly devised ones, and every innovation is misguidance.”33Again, this refers to matters of religion and not those of worldly life.The deeds to be assessed by this criterion fall into two categories: those of individual worship, which have been specified and precisely defined by Allah and His 31 For an explanation of the term, see Ḥadīth No. 28.32 Sūrah al-Mā’idah, 5:3.33 Narrated by Muslim.14Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), and those relating to dealings with one’s fellow human beings.


Within the latter category, all legal rulings, whether issued for the public interest or concerning individual parties, must have their foundations in and be in compliance with the divine sharīʽah.34 Moreover, those instructions, written contracts, verbal agreements, etc.expressly forbidden therein are not to be honored, and any benefits or profits obtained through them are unlawful.This ḥadīth is one which should be memorized, made known to the people, and employed for the prevention of every kind of wrongdoing. For although many are aware of the specific prohibitions35 stated in the Qur’ān and ḥadīth literature, far fewer people give attention to deviations in the more private sphere of worship, particularly when an ignorant majority has been led by custom or by some popular “shaykh” to believe that certain innovations are good and are valid methods for seeking nearness to Allah. These innovations are either practices that have no basis in the sunnah whatsoever or those prescribed therein but performed in a way or for a reason contrary to that prescribed, thereby blemishing a deed which otherwise would have been commendable.36 Awareness is the first step to amendment.Any act performed with the sincere intention of drawing nearer to Allah must first be one ordained by Him, either through His Book or through His Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Then it must be done correctly: precisely in the way demonstrated or instructed by the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم), who was sent to mankind with complete guidance in all matters of faith and its application to the affairs of human life.

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