In fact, what Muslims need these days is to understand Islam correctly, without negligence or extremism. Not all novel and new things are bad in Islam; rather Islam does ask Muslims to be innovative and creative in the social, economical, cultural, and political fields so as to serve their societies and humanity in general. Innovation in religion is what Muslims must be cautious of lest they invent what is un-Islamic.
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, president of the Fiqh Council of North America, states: The wordbid`ah literally means “something new; an innovation.” But as a term (istilah), it is explained in different ways.
Some scholars consider everything new as bid`ah. However, if that new thing has some basis (asl) in the Shari`ah to make it acceptable, then they call it bid`ah hasanah (good innovation). But
if it has no basis in the Shari`ah, then they call it bid`ah sayyi’ah (bad innovation).
However, there are some other scholars who do not call any action, however new it may be, as bid`ah as long it has a basis in the Shari`ah. They would call bid`ah only those actions that have no evidence or foundation in the Shari`ah to make them acceptable.
For example, the Tarawih Prayer in congregation during the nights of Ramadan was called a good bid`ah by `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him). This does not mean that Tarawih Prayer was not done during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) or that Tarawih has no basis in the Shari`ah. Actually we know from authentic traditions that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself led the Tarawih Prayers during Ramadan for several nights. He urged Muslims to have extra prayers during the nights of Ramadan. The Prophet’s Companions used to pray Tarawih in congregation or individually during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Thus, it is clear that the Tarawih was not something introduced in the time of `Umar. It was not a new thing, but what happened was that during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) various groups used to hold their Tarawih Prayers at different times in his mosque. During the time of `Umar, they all came together and had one congregation (jama`ah ). Caliph `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) liked to see all Muslims praying together in one group so he made his famous remark: “This is a good bid`ah.” Actually it was not a bid`ah in the sense that there was no basis for it in the Shari`ah, but it was a bid`ah in the sense that it was not done regularly in the same way during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
There are many other examples of this nature in Islam. The collection of the Qur’an in one volume (mushaf ) took place during the time of Abu Bakr. Someone might say it was bid`ah, but if it is, it is a good one and has a basis in Islam. The Book of Allah has to be protected and preserved by all means. In modern times we have the Qur’an on audio and video cassettes, on the Internet. This is all bid`ah, but it is good bid`ah because it has evidence, the proper foundation that make these acts permissible.
Similarly, there were no books of Hadith or fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), no schools of fiqh, and so on, at the time of the Prophet. All these are new things but they are based on strong foundations in the Shari`ah that support them.