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Bid‘ah (Arabic: بدعة) refers to innovations in Islam. Linguistically the term means "innovation, novelty, heretical doctrine, heresy". In contrast to the English term "innovation", in Arabic, the word bid'ah generally carries a negative connotation, however it can also have positive implications. It has also been used in classical Arabic literature (adab) as a form of praise for outstanding compositions of prose and poetry.
Though innovations in worldly matters, such as science, medicine and technology are generally acceptable and encouraged, bid‘ah within the religion is generally considered a sin.
In early Islamic history, bid'ah referred primarily heterodox doctrines (as evidenced below). However, in Islamic law, when used without qualification, bid'ah denotes anything newly invented matter that is without precedent and is in opposition to the Qur'an and Sunna.
Scholars generally have divided bid'ah into two types: innovations in worldly matters and innovations in religious matters. Some have additionally divided bid'ah into lawful and unlawful innovations, the details of which are discussed below.
Some Sunni Muslim scholars have divided bid‘ah in worldly matters into two types.
Religious innovation means inventing a new way of worshipping God that was not originally included in the message that Islamic tradition claims was revealed to Muhammad and opposes established forms. There is much criticism of bid‘ah in the Qur'an and Sunnah, according to Sunni Islam, with Muhammad, his companions, and predecessors all warning against innovation and its people - particularly the four Sunni Imams, Abū Ḥanīfa, Malik ibn Anas, Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
Ibn 'Abbaas also said: "Indeed the most detestable of things to Allaah are the innovations."
Sufyan Al-Thawri mentions: "Innovation is more beloved to Iblees than sin, since a sin may be repented from but innovation is not repented from" and "Whoever listens to an innovator has left the protection of Allaah and is entrusted with the innovation".
Ibraaheem ibn Maysarah mentions: "Whoever honours an innovator has aided in the destruction of Islaam."
Al-Hasan ibn 'Ali al-Barbahari mentions: "The innovators are like scorpions. They bury their heads and bodies in the sand and leave their tails out. When they get the chance they sting; the same with the innovators who conceal themselves amongst the people, when they are able, they do what they desire."
Abu Haatim said: "A sign of the people of innovation is their battling against the people of Narrations."
Abu 'Uthmaan as-Saaboonee said: "The signs of the people of innovation are clear and obvious. The most apparent of their signs is their severe enmity for those who carry the reports of the Prophet."
When a religious innovation is implemented, it is generally felt[who?] that the innovator is assuming that the Sunnah is not good enough, that he must resort to something "better." Even though this statement would be an admission of disbelief  - there are some innovations that contain shirk and there are some which allow someone to remain a Muslim, while his action is rejected (regardless of any sincerity it might have had).
The criterion that qualifies a particular action as a bid`ah in the religion is a debate amongst Sunni scholars. There are some who argue for a definition that entails anything not specifically performed or confirmed by Muhammad. Arguing for this position, Muhammad ibn Salih al-Munajjid, a famous Saudi Arabia scholar declares:
[H]ow can there be any such thing as bid’ah hasanah (“good innovation”) when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every bid’ah is a going astray and every going astray is in Hell-fire”. So, if anyone says that there is such a thing as bid’ah hasanah, he can only be insisting on going against the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).... It (referring to a spontaneous form of dhikr in the prayer by a Companion recorded in the hadith literature) was not even considered to have been a correct action until after the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had approved it, and not before. But how on earth could this innovator obtain the approval of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) after he has passed away?"—Muhammad ibn Salih al-Munajjid, Islam-QA: "There is no such thing as bid'ah hasana in Islam"
Calls within Sunni Islam in the modern era have been made for a reassessment of the traditional view, especially by practitioners of Sufism. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah writes:
[B]id‘a could take on various shades of meaning. When used without qualifying adjectives, it tended to be condemnatory, as, for example, in the statement, “bid‘a must be avoided.” Nevertheless, bid‘a was not always something bad. In certain contexts, especially when qualified by adjectives, bid‘a could cover a wide range of meanings from what was praiseworthy to what was completely wrong, as, for example, in the caliph ‘Umar’s statement below, “what an excellent bid‘a is this!”—Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, Innovation and Creativity in Islam, 2
Despite the general understanding of standing scholarly disagreements (ikhtilaf), the notion of lawful innovation is a polarizing issue in the Islamic world. A practical example of this is the debate over the permissibility of the mawlid or commemoration of Muhammad's birthday. All scholars agree that such celebrations did not exist in the early period of Islamic history, and yet mawalid commemorations are a common element in Muslim societies around the world. Even so, Sunnis scholars are divided between emphatic unconditional condemnation and conditional acceptance of the celebration with the former insisting it is a bid'ah and thus automatically unlawful, while the latter argues it nonetheless is contextually permissible.
According to Shia Islam the definition of bid'ah is anything that is introduced to Islam as either being fard, mustahabb, makruh or haram that contradicts the Qur'an or hadith. Any new good practice introduced that does not contradict the Qur'an or hadith is permissible. However, it is not permissible to say that a new good practice (that does not contradict the Qur'an or hadith) is obligatory, highly recommended or "sunnah" proper. Hence, the Shi`a stance mirrors the body of Sunni scholars who proffer the idea of "bid'ah hasana". As a general rule in Shi'a jurisprudence, anything is permissible except whatever is prohibited through divine revelation (i.e. the Qur'an or hadith).
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