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Last Updated: 2010/01/06
Summary of question
What is bid’ah and what are its related rulings?
A group of dervishes who call themselves the “Ahmadiyyah Dhahabiyyah” have rebuilt their monastery or khanqah under the pretext of a Huseiniyyah. This cult considers itself in total compliance with religion, nevertheless, after doing some research, I learned that although they call themselves twelver Shias and claim to follow the marja’s, there are some major disparities between them and true Shiism, namely:
1- They consider their spiritual guide or ‘pir’ to be the successor of Imam Mahdi (aj), not the maraji’ or the waliyy faqih
2- They submit their khums to their sheikh, not to the maraji’
3- In addition to the recorded official supplications of the Shia, they have their own supplications too (that are nowhere to be found in Shia sources)
4- Instead of the masjid, they substitute the khanqah or ‘house of dervishes’ for a place of worship and of course, call it their Huseiniyyah (a place built for commemorating Imam Husein and other similar activities)
5- Instead of shaking hands, when they meet, they kiss each others’ hand
6- They separate between religion and state and either don’t like clergymen or have hostility towards them
Keeping all of this in mind, the following questions rise:
1- Since this group is practicing bid’ah, is it permissible to bring down their building without the permission of the Islamic government?
2- Is it okay to attend their gatherings in order to invite them to the truth and enjoin good and forbid evil?
3- Considering their bid’ah and straying from the straight path, are they still considered of the Shia or not?
4- What is bid’ah and what are its related rulings?
Concise answer

Bid’ah literally refers to anything new and unprecedented and in Islamic terms, means to relate something to religion that really doesn’t belong to it. Bid’ah is one of the kaba’ir or great sins. Nevertheless, it isn't permissible to destroy their property without the Islamic government’s permission. Attending their gatherings in order to guide them and enjoin good and forbid evil for those who bear sufficient knowledge to do so is permissible. Although all of these individuals haven’t practically left Shiism, but most of them have (even though they may claim that they are Shias).

Detailed Answer

In order to give you an answer, we will draw your attention to a few points:

1- Bid’ah or innovation in religion, which means to add something to religion that truly doesn’t belong to it, is one of the great sins and there is no doubt about it being haram. The Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) has said: “کل محدثة بدعة، و کل بدعة ضلالة و کل ضلالة فی النار” (All innovation in religion is bid’ah, and all bid’ah is error/misguidance, and all error is in Hell).”[1]

2- What is meant by new and unprecedented in religion is for something not to be in compliance with Islamic guidelines and standards in any way. Therefore, applying general Islamic rulings to their different instances that might be new and unprecedented isn't bid’ah.[2]

3- When we focus on the concept of bid’ah (adding something to religion that really doesn’t belong to it), a good point that has importance in social, cultural and political matters comes to mind, and that is that falsehood is never accepted and well received unless it disguises itself with the truth and presents itself in a way that seems in complete accordance with it; the reason being that all creatures are truth-seeking and refuse to follow anything that contradicts it. Throughout history, most of the ‘army’ of falsehood’s activity has been in the field of culture in order to cover its ugly face and give it fake beauty.

In more than 20 instances, the Quran has touched on this strategy (the adornment of falsehood) of the supporters of falsehood. For instance, it says: “و زین لهم الشیطان اعمالهم[3] (Satan made their deeds seem decorous to them), and “افمن زین له سوء عمله فراه حسنا...[4] (Is the one whose evil deed is made Fair-seeming to him and he looks upon It as good…)

This is the reason why oppressive rulers and expansionists have created new religions and cults throughout history; so that they can stand against divine religions and cause trouble for them.

Of course, it is hard to distinguish between whether something is true or is only pretending to be and is like that on the outside; only those who bear enough knowledge can do so. Maybe one of the reasons for why it has been recommended in Islam to sit with scholars and knowledgeable individuals so much[5] is because when one is with them, he is immune to misguidance.

Anyhow, we need to be careful and not be fooled by the adorned appearances of some of these groups and cults, and must pay attention to the political and cultural motives behind them. All of the confidential documents regarding the fact that other expansionist governments have played a great role in the creation of these groups are good evidence for our claim.

4- Another important point is that something that is wrong shouldn’t be looked only in the present time and short-sightedly, and all of the negative outcomes that it may entail in the long run must be taken into consideration. It is like two lines that begin at one point and extend in different directions; the more the lines extend, the more the distance between the two increases and may even reach hundreds and thousands of miles.

This is where one can sense why so much importance has been given to traditional fiqh in which the Islamic seminaries pursue and why we must follow the marja’s and practice taqlid, and why this method of Islamic practice was stressed on by the imams.[6] This method is the best for obtaining and correctly understanding Islamic teachings from their sources.[7]

Anyway, bid’ah in religion has destructive social, political and cultural outcomes and plays the greatest role in ruining religion in society. This might be why the prophet of Islam (pbuh) ordered the masjid of Dhirar to be destroyed during his time (this masjid was built by the munafiqin [hypocrites] in an effort to undermine Islam and as a base for plotting against the Muslims).[8]

The reason being that regarding this matter, the Quran has said: “And those who built a mosque To do harm [to Islam and The Muslims] and to spread disbelief And cause disunion among The believers; and also to provide a Refuge to him who warred against Allah and His Messenger before; and Yet they surely swear, saying:" We Only intended good." And Allah bears Witness that indeed they are liars”.[9]

Of course, it is also clear and the fatwa of mujtahids[10] that destroying places related to these cults needs to be with the permission of the Islamic ruler or else it will lead to chaos in the Muslim society. Attending their gatherings with the intention of guiding them and enjoining good is permissible for those who bear the needed practical and scholarly prerequisites for doing so, given that there are chances of their endeavors being effective, and in this case, not only will it be permissible, but will be wajib.[11]

As for whether they are still considered Shia despite their straying and the bid’ah they have implemented, we must say that the affiliates of these cults are of various categories. Some are individuals who have no belief whatsoever in what the Shia believe in and only call themselves Shia, no more. In reality these are the heads of the cults and the ones taking care of all their affairs; they are clearly not of the Shia and they themselves are aware of it. On the other hand, there are some who really believe in Shia beliefs, but have gone the wrong way and are mistaken in practice and some beliefs; this doesn’t lead to one not being Shia anymore.[12]

[1] Biharul-Anwar, vol. 2, pg. 263; Musnad Ahmad, vol. 4, pg. 126.

[2] With help from: Manshoure Aqaid, Jafar Sobhani, pg. 219 and on.

[3] Ankabut:38.

[4] Fatir:8.

[5] Kafi, vol. 1, chapter on sitting with the ulema and accompanying them.

[6] Wasailul-Shiai, vol. 18, pg. 19, it narrates Imam Sadiq (as) saying: “من کان منکم قد روی حدیثنا و نظر فی حلالنا و حرامنا عرف احکامنا...فانی قد جعلته حاکماً” (Whosoever narrates our sayings and has studied the harams and halals that we have expressed and knows them…I have made such a person Hakem (given him authority over you).

In Kamaluddin wa Tamamul-Ni’mah, vol. 2, pg. 844 narrates Imam Mahdi (aj) saying: “و اما الحوادث الواقعة فارجعوا فیها الی رواة احائینا فانهم حجتی علیکم و انا حجة الله” (As for incidents that take place, refer to the narrators of our hadiths regarding them, for they (narrators) are my hujjah (proof) over you and I am Allah's (swt) hujjah).

[7] For further information, refer to books on the principles of jurisprudence and fiqhi books that have stated the fiqhi reasoning behind Islamic rulings.

[8] Sirah of Ibn Hisham, vol. 2, pg. 530; Biharul-Anwar, vol. 20, pg. 253.

[9] Tawbah:107.

[10] Imam Khomeini, Tahrirul-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 454.

[11] Imam Khomeini, Tahrirul-Wasilah, vol. 1, pp. 362-365.

[12] With help from Question 1878 (website: 2002).

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