We must know that the great purpose for which we exist in this world is to worship our Lord, our Creator, who created all things in the best of forms. Allah says: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Qur’an, 51:56)
Our deeds can be divided into two categories: Worldly deeds and religious deeds.
For our religious deeds or acts of worship to be acceptable by Allah, there are two conditions:
1. Sincerity: Doing it for the sake of Allah alone, with the intention to please Him and not anyone else.
2. Following the Sunnah: Doing it in accordance with the legal ways of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), i.e., the Shariah.
Both conditions are mandatory and one cannot exist without the other. No person can claim to worship Allah with the intention to please Him by following a way other than that of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Hypothetically speaking, can we claim to please or worship Allah by standing in the scorching sun on our rooftop, reciting ‘Subhan Allah’ 3,000 times, or by praying the Maghrib Salah with four Rak’ah instead of three? Will it be right? No.
On the other hand, if we perform our prayers perfectly, following the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but to show off in front of people and earn their praise, will it be acceptable? No. So, both – sincerity and following the Sunnah – are mandatory conditions for our worship to be sound and correct.
We cannot invent our own methods of worship. Innovation is only allowed in worldly things, not in the religion. Islam is Allah’s religion and it is complete. We follow what Allah revealed to His Prophet.
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Qur’an, 5:3)
Any act of worship that has no basis in the Shariah and that is an innovation will be rejected. Some claim that good innovations are OK. Not only does it go against the clear statement of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he used to say in every Khutbah, “Every innovation is misguidance,” but it also implies that either these people know more about Islam than Allah and His Messenger or it means Islam is not complete and is in need of such innovations. Both implications are false and dangerous.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever innovates anything in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam), that is not part of it will have it rejected.” (Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, “I have left you upon the clear path, its night is like its day and no one deviates from it after me except that he is destroyed.” (Ahmad, 4/126)
Islam is a complete way of life. All acts of worship that we need to get closer to Allah have already been revealed and explained to us by the Messenger (peace be upon him).
It is also strange that the innovators urge people to practice Bid’ah, but are completely negligent about adhering to the obligatory deeds (Fardh), which are more beneficial and sound.
Some examples of innovations done today would be specifying words of Dhikr that are not prescribed in the Sunnah, or to say that a particular Dhikr should be recited a specific number of times without any proof from the Hadith, or to specify a day or night for religious celebration that the Prophet (peace be upon him) never did. In the current month, the popular innovation exists among many Muslims is: Celebrating the 15th of Sha’ban.
Earlier, even I used to celebrate it and single out the 15th night for worship. But after learning about Islam and reading the Qur’an and Hadith, I’ve come to know that there is not a single authentic report that says the Prophet or his companions celebrated it or singled out its night for worship. The narrations that speak about the virtue are weak and not authentic.
If we truly want to follow the Prophet’s Sunnah (peace be upon him) in Sha’ban, then we must fast as much as possible, as is mentioned in authentic reports.
Usamah Bin Zaid asked, “O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting in any other month like you fast in Sha’ban.” He (peace be upon him) said, “That is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadan, and it is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the Worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up when I am fasting.” (Al-Nasa’i; Sahih Al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, p. 425)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not specify one night in Sha’ban for prayer. He used to pray Tahajjud in the third part of the night all throughout the year. That was his constant way of worship.
Undoubtedly, the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been preserved in authentic Ahadith. The Sunnah is easily accessible to the one who seeks it. All we have to do is study.
What I fear for myself and my Muslim brothers and sisters is the propagation of false Ahadith and practices.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) severely warned against it. It is one of the worst means of corrupting the religion. The People of the Book before us were only doomed when they fabricated lies against Allah and His Messengers. They attributed things to the religion that the earlier Prophets did not bring. Thus they incurred the wrath of Allah.
May Allah protect us from becoming like them.
Written in August 2009