DOES ISLAM THEN NOT SUFFICE US IN WORLDLY MATTERS?
This question will eventually dawn on you. Is Islam not meant to be a complete way of life? If innovating is a thing condemned in religious matters, and Islam is a complete way of life, then, everything the Prophet did not do or make use of, whether religious matters -such as celebrating his birthday – or worldly matters – such as riding cars – would be an innovation, and hence, to be condemned.
But, this is wrong. And here’s why. But, before then, note that by ‘worldly matters’, we mean things that are not done to seek Allah’s pleasure directly.
For example, while one only celebrates the Prophet’s birthday to show love to him, and thus, gain Allah’s pleasure, cars and houses are acquired for the simple reason of comfort and not because one expects a heavenly reward for acquiring them.
Now, let us check the pieces of evidence against innovating again, this time, with more scrutiny.
1. The first verse says: Follow the Prophet if you love Allah.
That is, when you want to prove your love for Allah (as is the case when one celebrates the Prophet’s birthday) then follow the Prophet. i.e. Do only what he did and recommended. But when wants to eat, drink, drive cars, build houses, are these done to seek Allah’s pleasure? certainly not. Then this verse does not apply to such a person.
2. Today I have completed your religion for you.
Religion is something that is done to seek the pleasure of a god, and hence the same rule applies as to the first verse.
3. Whoever innovated into THIS MATTER OF OURS.
The phrase ‘this matter of ours’ makes is understand that some matters are not wholly ‘Matters of his’, and the criminalization of innovations would not apply to such matters. But, what are those matters? How do we know which he meant by ‘This matter of ours’? Point 5 will explain.
4. You do not know what they innovated in the religion after you.
i.e. Things they invented, and added to the religion. This hadith clearly describes those who innovate in matters which are used to seek God’s pleasure, and hence, religious. No one innovates a new car, spoon, or microphone and then goes on to say: I have innovated something in Islam. We know, that basically, Islam has nothing to do with these, and the hadith only encompasses those who innovated IN THE RELIGION; those who tried to shoehorn their personal ideas into the religion, such that people would seek Allah’s pleasure through them.
5. Every Innovation is a kind of misguidance, and every misguidance is in hellfire.
This is where the problem ensues. EVERY innovation. The Prophet did not segregate between innovations in worldly matters and innovations in religious matters. But did he really mean EVERY innovation generally, or EVERY innovation in the religion? This story will tell us better.
The story of the pollination of the date-palm trees describes how, when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) migrated to Madeenah, he saw the people there pollinating the date-palm trees by hand, and he said to them, “If you do not do this, it should still be fine.” So they did not do it, and the crop failed, producing only bad dates. He passed by them and said, “What is wrong with your date-palms?” They said, “You told us such-and-such.” He said, “You know best about the affairs of your world.”
(Reported by Muslim, 4358).
In the story, the Prophet did not insist that his advice be followed, because the trees were not planted to seek Allah’s pleasure but worldy pleasure, so he told them to innovate, and to seek ways which would bring their efforts to fruition.
This hadith explains that “Our matter” as mentioned in the 4th point, therefore refers to matters which are not worldy, but things which are done to gain heavenly rewards. It also explains, that when the Prohpet mentioned that all innovations were forbidden, what was meant were ones that had to do with religious issues, but not ones on worldly matters.
Note: There are some worldy matters which Islam specifies certain ways through which they should be carried out; in cases like this, one is obliged to take as much as Islam stipulates and regard himself free to innovate in the other related areas.
For example, drinking and eating are worldly matters which are not done to seek Allah’s pleasure, but out of mercy for us, Islam stipulates certain ways of doing them so that by simply not eating with the left hand, we garner heavenly rewards while engaging in matters through which we gain worldly rewards too.
But does the fact that Islam has ‘meddled’ into that particular issue mean then, that the door to innovating in the matter is closed?
No, since the origin of eating and drinking is that they are matters done solely for worldly purposes, then we take what Islam has to offer on them – to not eat with the left – then we leave the rest free to innovations; hence one could decide whether or not to use a plastic or wooden spoon without bothering if the Prophet did that