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Does every Muslim have a right to innovate in the religion?

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    Does every Muslim have a right to innovate in the religion?

    The following Hadeeth is used to derive evidence that people can invent new practices in Islam, either good or bad: “Whosoever starts in Islam a good practice (sunnah), he gets the reward of it, and the reward of all those who act on it. And whosoever starts in Islam an evil practice (sunnah), he gets the evil of it and the evil of all those who act on it.” [Saheeh Muslim]

    But if they were to take this Hadeeth in it's full context, then it would not be possible to deduce such a thing. Imaam Muslim (rahimahullah) reported this story from Jareer ibn Abdullah (radhi allahu anhu), he said: “Some people came to Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) wearing woolen garments. He saw they were in bad shape and in desperate need, so he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) urged the people to give them charity. People were very slow to respond, and it could be seen on his face (that he was upset). Then a man from the Ansar brought a package of silver, then another came, then after him another and another, and his face was filled with joy. He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Whoever starts a practice (Sunnah) in Islam, and others do likewise after him, there will be written for him a reward like that of those who followed him, without detracting it in the least from their reward. Whoever starts a bad practice (Sunnah) in Islam, and others do likewise after him, there will be written for him a burden of sin like that of those who followed him, without detracting it in the least from their burden.” [Saheeh Muslim]

    Here, the meaning of the word 'sunnah' should be taken in the linguistic sense (i.e. practice) and not in the Shari'ah sense (i.e. the life example of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam)) because otherwise it would imply that there is something bad in the Sunnah. Thus, the meaning will be the one who renews an evil act will get its evil.

    Secondly, the Companion (radhi allahu anhu), who gave the charity did not start anything new, for giving charity was legislated from the early days of Islam, as proved by the Makkan soorahs. Rather he just renewed a Sunnah that was being neglected.

    Besides, the Hadeeth uses words 'good and bad'. And Islam is the complete religion, all the good and bad has been defined. There is no room for any addition or deletion. Allah says: “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as you religion.” [Soorah al-Maidah (5): 4]

    And His Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “There is nothing that will take you closer to Paradise but that I have enjoined it upon you, and there is nothing that will take you closer to Hell but that I have warned you from it.” [Musnad ash-Shafa'I and others]

    And if one is to say that the people have the right to innovate in the religion, i.e. make additions in it, then he will be accusing the religion of incompleteness and deficiency.

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