It is related from the route of Jarir Ibn Abdullah that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said:
Whosoever introduced a beneficiary action in Islam will be rewarded for his practice as well as for the practice of the people who follow him, without lessening their reward. Whosoever introduced a bad practice in Islam will take the sin for it as well as the sin of the people who follow him, without lessening their sin. (Muslim).
This hadith which is of sound classification is very clear and unambiguous and is a foundation for proving the validity of good innovations in Islam. The criterion used as to whether or not a new action is accepted is that it should be hasanah, or beneficial. If the action is beneficial then there is an immense reward for it.. New introductions that are bad are punished severely. Scholars of Islam, as will be seen later have derived the conditions for a new act to be considered beneficial or bad.
Although the context of this hadith relates to a specific incident during the time of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam when some companions came forward to offer charity to some poverty-stricken new arrivals at Madinah, the meaning is general. It is not permissible to claim that this Hadith applies only to charity as a general term was used: Whosoever introduced a beneficiary action in Islam. The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam did not restrict the reward to ‘He who spends in charity.’ It is the rule among the scholars of Islam that if an ayah of hadith was revealed for a specific incident or reason yet a general term were used in it then its application would be general and not restricted to that incident.
Some people translate the word sunnatan as the specific Sunnah of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam himself, instead the general word ‘action’ or ‘practice.’ In other words, whoever revived a Sunnah of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam will be rewarded etc. However this is a gross mistranslation of the Hadith. It is impossible to differentiate such a thing as a good Sunnah, as all the practices of the Holy Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam were good, and the concept of a ‘bad Sunnah’ for obvious reasons cannot be entertained at all. Therefore it is impossible for this Hadith to apply to the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam.
The authentic Hadith of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam translated as:
Abstain from innovations, for every kind of innovation is a Bid’ah, and every Bid’ah is misguidance and all misguidance leads to hellfire is often used in an attempt to prove that all new things introduced in Islam are forbidden. This Hadith would apparently contradict with that given above, however one must study the whole Hadith of which this is only a portion, and thus read it in context to the rest. One must also interpret this Hadith according to the other evidence from either the Qur’an or Hadith instead of giving a meaning from our own (mis)understanding.. The whole Hadith is:
I command you to have Taqwa, and to be obedient to those appointed leader over you, even if it be an Abysinnian slave. O my companions, those who live after me will, very soon, see a lot of differences among you. Stick to my path and the path of the Rightly Guided Khalifas. Abstain from innovations, for every kind of innovation is a Bid’ah, and every Bid’ah is misguidance and all misguidance leads to hellfire.
This Hadith is a warning about events to come very soon after the Prophet’s sallallahu alayhi wa sallam passing on; events characterised by differences among the companions. The Prophet’s advice was to stick to his path and that of the Rightly Guided Khalifas, indicating that there will be differences of opinion against Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat Umar, Hazrat Usman, and Hazrat Ali, and that when these arise, the people should follow them and also the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. In fact, the time immediately after the death of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam was a time of great disruption and tribulation for the Muslims. There came several people claiming to be prophets after the Holy Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam who fought against Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique. There were groups of Muslims who denied the paying of Zakat, and there were people who abandoned Islam and challenged the authority of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, becoming apostates. Hazrat Abu Bakr said he would fight those people who claimed to be prophets, who did not pay Zakat or became apostates. After him came people who denied the Kkalifate of Hazrat Usman, and that of Hazrat Ali. The Khwarij sect came about which fought against Hazrat Ali. In all, it was an extremely volatile time. It is clear that the ‘innovations’ mentioned in this Hadith refer to major disruptions that occurred, including people declaring prophethood after the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, people denying the paying of Zakat, and the distorted beliefs of the Khwarij. These were the kinds of ‘innovation’ referred to by the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam that were misguidance and therefore leading to Hellfire