Taopheek Babayeju was the guest speaker at Nasfat Abuja Zone’s Strategic Retreat (2017 – 22) Workshop which held on 22nd of April 2017, where he talked about the place of innovation in religion, excerpts below.
“Islam in the 21st Century: The Place of Innovation”
Presented by TAOPHEEK A. BABAYEJU
As Salam Aleikum Waramutulahi Wabarakatuh
The essence of this presentation is to explore the concept of innovation and establish whether it has a place in Islamic propagation. Before we go further let us understand what innovation is. Innovation is the action or process of innovating – A new method, idea, product, etc.
Synonyms: change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, reorganisation, restructuring, rearrangement, recasting, remodelling, renovation, restyling, variation.
Bid‘ah (Arabic: بدعة;) refers to innovation in religious matters. Linguistically the term means “innovation”.
The world has witnessed and has continued to witness several innovations. Mankind has also continued to challenge the status quo of existence by finding new meanings to life and solutions to the enormous problems of the society, some of these innovations have improved our lives, while some are threatening the whole essence of humanity. In line with the generally accepted fact that the only constant thing in life change, we have gathered here today to design a strategic direction for Nasfat as an organisation, and by extension Islam, let us use this opportunity to explore further different Islamic school of thoughts on Innovation (Bid’ah) to see how its understanding may affect today’s assignment.
Islamic School of thoughts on Innovation [i]
Some Islamic school of thoughts believe that the deen of Islam has no need for bidah. They argue that the religion of Islam is complete and there is no need to introduce or invent new matters in the religion. This school of thought make reference to the Holy Quran Chapter 5, Verse 3 which says “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your deen”. However, it will also be very useful for us to further explore these school of thoughts from sectorial perspectives. [ii]
Sectorial Perspectives of Innovation
Sunni Islam Perspectives
According to Sunni Islamic scholars, in early Islamic history, bid’ah referred primarily to heterodox doctrines. However, in Islamic law, when used without qualification, bid’ah denotes any newly invented matter that is without precedent and is in opposition to the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Scholars (most prominent of which is Imam Shafi‘i) 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. They believe that introducing and acting upon a bid‘ah in religious matters is a sin and considered one of the enormities in Islam that is obligatory to immediately desist and repent from.
Innovation in worldly matters
In worldly, Sunni scholars categorized bid‘ah into two types;
- Good innovations such as using technology to propagate the faith of Islam and
- Innovations that are purely evil – these are forbidden under Islamic law.
Innovation religious matters
There are a number of different definitions of Bid‘ah which can be classified as either good or bad innovation:
- Bid’ah Say’iah, “a new thing” which “opposes the Qur’an and Sunnah” or is “against Islam” or “Sharia (Islamic law)” or removes sunnah or wajib and is forbidden.
- Bid’ah Hasana, a new thing that is not against the Sharia (according to scholars such as Muhammad ash-Shawkani. An example of Bid’ah Hasana is the development of the study of Hadith, Fiqh, Tafsir, which did not exist at the time of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (Al-Nawawi)[iii]
According to Shia Islam the definition of bid’ah is anything that is introduced to Islam as either being fard, mustahabb, halal, makruh or haram that contradicts the Qur’an or hadith. They believe that 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).
NASFAT: A product of Innovation?
It is said that “Innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organization”. Some school of thoughts have argued that Nasfat is a product of Islamic innovation. Though it is sunnah to perform As-salatu but there is nowhere in the Quran where it was stated that Muslims should gather on Sundays for As-salat. However, Nasfat, established about 21 years ago, with the purpose of developing an enlightened Muslim community in Nigeria, this novel idea of worship has revolutionize the practice of Islam in Nigeria and evolved to become a global phenomenon. Just like the compilation of the revelation into a Quranic book was done after the death of the Prophet, and this Quran in a book form, in audio form, and translated into multiple languages have strengthened the practice of Islam.
Brothers and sisters in the deen, as we continue to say our prayers “Our Lord, give us in this world [that which is] good and in the Hereafter [that which is] good and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Surah Baqarah Verse 201) we should also endeavour to strive to create “that which is good” for ourselves.
Today, Islam is faced with several challenges and Nasfat, recognized as foremost and formidable Islamic organization is strategically positioned to address most, if not all the challenges of Muslim Ummahs in the Sub-Saharan Africa. It is accepted that Allah has played His own part by perfecting the religion of Islam but as Muslims we have to play our own part through constant innovation, by aligning our religious propagation and dawah to the realities of today’s ever-changing world.
- Islamic organization need to adopt technology, use the new media effectively to propagate the goodness of the religion and provide alternative narratives about Islam.
- Beyond the traditional preaching, Islamic organisations have to start investing heavily in coaching, mentoring, knowledge and capacity building for the Ummah.
- For Islam to remain attractive to the younger generation, Islamic organisations need to “speak their language” and provide them with role models that will inspire them positively.
- To sustain membership, Islamic organization must meet the socio-economic realities of its members. In addition, they should segment their membership, understand the specific needs of each membership segment and organize the organization to deliver these needs using both internal & external resources
- And most importantly, Islamic organization must consciously improve the knowledge base and quality of its preachers, administrators and volunteers to be well grounded on all matters as well as Islamic studies.