Over the course of this year, there is a part of me that is becoming somewhat convinced that Islam is not something that can be reformed in the way that people like Maajid Nawaz hope it can be. One of the reasons for this is something called Bid’ah.
Bid’ah, in Islamic tradition, is a term that is used to refer to doctrinal innovations that fall outside of the sphere of Islamic doctrine as espoused in the Quran and the Hadiths (or Sunnah).
There is a Hadith wherein the prophet Muhammad is reported to have explicitly condemned all innovations as leading people to damnation.
Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, would praise Allah in his sermon as He deserves to be praised and then he would say, “Whoever Allah guides, no one can lead him astray. Whoever Allah sends astray, no one can guide him. The truest word is the Book of Allah and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The most evil matters are those that are newly invented, for every newly invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.” Then the Prophet would hold up his two fingers and say, “The Hour and I have been sent as close together as these two.” Whenever the Prophet mentioned the Hour, his cheeks would turn red and he would raise his voice and become very upset, as if he were warning us of an approaching army, saying, “It is coming in the morning or the evening!” Then the Prophet would say, “Whoever leaves behind his wealth, it is for his family. Whoever leaves behind a debt or his dependents, then they are my responsibility. I am the first to take care of the believers.” – Sunan An-Nasa’i 1578
From what I understand, the concept of Bid’ah is actually a subject of debate within the Islamic world. Bid’ah often falls into a set of classifications based on “good” and “bad”. “Good” Bid’ah refers to innovations that don’t explicitly contradict the teachings of the Quran and the Hadiths or Sharia law, while “bad” Bid’ah refers to such innovations that do contradict those teachings and are deemed to be against it. Some Muslims view these categories as necessary, arguing that the teachings of Islam will only survive if they can adapt to change, which is an amicable sentiment to hold.
The problem with the idea of approved innovations to Islamic doctrine, however, is that there is a verse in the Quran wherein the perfection of Islam (from the viewpoint of the Quran) is rather clearly explicated.
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” – Quran 5:3
And remember that in Islam, the Quran and the Hadiths are the final word of God.
To me it is likely because the mentality of the finality of the teachings of Islam, and the classification reserved for ideas outside of Islam that might lead to its reform or renewal, will not pose much other than an obstacle to the reform so desired liberal/secular Muslims. Indeed, given the barbarity and absurdity of the Islamic religion, it is far better to simply abandon the religion entirely in favor of either a different religion or atheism/secularism.