What is Bidah?

Mufti Ali Gomaa

With the development of the modern state in the middle east and it’s evolution to totalitarianism (dictatorship and kingship) the list of things declared bidah keeps increasing.  Amongst the tools used in totalitarian states to control the population are the restriction of movement, the freedom to associate with others and the freedom to express oneself.  Proof of this is the dominance of secret/virtue police and the criminalization of normal human activities.  The totalitarian states in the middle east have successfully drafted religion into its social control mechanism to subjugate its respective populations.  Hence the growing list of religious/devotional practices that are deemed by official religious authorities as forbidden by Islamic Law.  For over 1400 years Muslims have been a people of association who found blessings in gatherings.

This totalitarian state defined bidah today bans association thus denying the blessings of the gathering with the consequence of the loss of the sacred and attachment to the Divine realm by the Ummah of Muhammad (ﷺ) resident in those parts.  As Muslims living in societies in the west, which guarantees freedom of movement, association and expression, we have also been victims of this totalitarian influence on our way of life.  By taking the praxis of our faith wholesale from the middle east (especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) as the default arbiter of all that is correct in law, we risk importing the totalitarian influence into our own praxis.  By not filtering out  from the teachings of the official religious scholars the prism of their governing systems, we distort the praxis left to us in that living chain of scholarship which traces its interpretations and narrations back to the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).  The numerous locals who leave our shores to study on scholarships to institutions that teaches official religion using rote methodology are the wholesale agents and distributors of this totalitarian influence deen in our midst.  They absorbed these interpretations and then regurgitate these poisoned concepts as divine law upon us.  A university education’s legacy is developing critical thinking skills.  The only critical skill learnt by these “graduates” is to criticise the praxis of the people who came before them and to “expel” them from the ambit of the faith.  Here in five minutes the Grand Mufti of Egypt explains the true meaning of the concept of bidah.  It is an essential defintion that is key to understanding our faith and the evolution of its legal principles.  To often it is used to stir confusion amongst us.  The definition is clear and deconstructs the facade of authenticity built by the “fundamentalists”.

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