Welcome to F.I.E.L.D.- the First Ismaili Electronic Library and Database.


Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The word bid'a is derived from bada'a, means to invent something new, the like of which has not existed. In technical sense, it means newness or invention in reference to the religion. It refers to an innovation, which cannot be vindicated by authoritative precedent, or pernicious innovation (hawa wa-bid'ah), which is far removed from normal and established practice. It signifies a new or original action that has no precedent, one by which a degree of excellence or perfection in the performed of the action is demonstrated. In religious terms, bid'a entails the presentation of a particular action as a religious obligation, whilst in fact there is no basis for it in the principles or rules of religion. "Bid'a in religion pertains to an affair that is originated after the Prophet, one for the permissibility of which there is no supportive ground either in specific or general terms" (Bihar al-Anwar, 74:202). The hallmark of bid'ah is the pursuit of capricious and whimsical opinion (hawa) in preference to divine guidance. Thus we read in the Koran in an address to Prophet David: "O David! We have made you a vicegerent on earth, so judge between people in truth and follow not hawa, which would lead you astray from the path of God" (38:26), "And who is more misguided than one who follows his own hawa, without guidance from God" (28:50), and "Obey not the one whose heart We have closed to Our remembrance (an zikrina), and who follows his hawa, and is excessive" (18:28). Bid'a consists of a type of tampering with religion, one for which no sound warrant from any authoritative religious sources is forthcoming, either in universal or specific terms. In the sense of an unwarranted interference with religion is always an ugly and forbidden act: "Hath God permitted you, or do you invent a lie concerning God?" (5:59). The Prophet said, "Every newly originated thing is a bid'a, and every bid'a is a going astray, and every going astray ends up in the fire" (Masnad, 4:126).

Back to top