Imaam al-Shatibee said in al-I’tisaam (1/43):
Bid‘ah is the method of innovating in religion; it resembles a Sharee‘ah-approved method, but actually contradicts the Sharee‘ah and is intended to exaggerate religious observance. The Prophet (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam) said:
“Whoever innovates anything in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam), that is not part of it will have it rejected.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, no. 2697; Muslim, no. 1718)
According to a version narrated by Muslim,
“Whoever does anything that is not in accordance with this matter of ours (i.e., Islam), will have it rejected.”
This is why it is reported on the Imaam of Daar-ul-Hijrah (Madeenah), Imaam Maalik Ibn Anas, may Allaah have mercy on him, that he said: “Whosoever introduces into Islaam an innovation, which he deems is good, then he has claimed that Muhammad (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam) has betrayed (the trust of conveying) the Message. Read the saying of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic:
‘This day I have completed your Religion for you, and I have perfected My favor upon you, and I am pleased with Islaam as a Religion for you.’
So whatever was not (part of) the Religion on that day, is not (part of) the Religion on this day. And the last part of this ummah (nation) will not be rectified, except by that which rectified its first part.”
This was from the understanding of Imaam Maalik, the Imaam of Daar-ul-Hijrah, such that he plainly stated in a clear Arabic language that whoever introduces into Islaam just one innovation and then claims that it is something good, he has in fact claimed that Muhammad (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam) betrayed the Message. And whoever makes this claim, he does not believe (truly) that “Muhammad is His slave and messenger.” As it is very clear in the words of this noble Imaam, it (the innovation) is “not (part of) the Religion on this day.”
So it is upon the Muslim to implement his Ittibaa’ (following of the Prophet), such that he could be truthful in (his declaration that) Muhammad, Allaah’s Messenger, is His slave and messenger. And that he (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam) brought the complete and pure message, without adding to it or subtracting from it. If this is the case, then every Muslim must acknowledge his extent and stop at the points where his Prophet (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam) has placed limits for him, such as the acts of worship and deeds of obedience (to Allaah). This is because the pen has dried with what was revealed previously; no more revelation after Muhammad (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam). And there was no room left open to approve of an act of worship that did not exist previously in the first days (i.e. of the Prophet). Consequently, our pious predecessors (Salaf As-Saalih) have come and gone all acknowledging the extent of the Prophet (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam) in that he first fulfilled his mission and conveyed the Message, as you know. And (secondly) that he was the best worshipper amongst Allaah’s worshippers and the most fearing of Allaah. So there is no room to correct him:
- From the standpoint of legislating (revealed matters) into the Religion, as you have heard the ayah and Imaam Maailk’s comments about it.
- Such that it can be claimed that there is someone who is a better worshipper and more worshipping (of Allaah) than Allaah’s Messenger (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam). This is impossible!
So whoever understands these two facts, which are related to one’s belief that Muhammad (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam) is Allaah’s slave and messenger, he will limit the worship he performs for Allaah to only that which has been reported on the Prophet (in the ahaadeeth). And he will not put any example or role model before him other than the Prophet (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam). Nor will he ever claim this second point, meaning it is impossible that it can get into the mind of any believer that he is more dutiful to Allaah or more fearing of Allaah or more worshipping of Allaah than him (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam). This is something impossible!
So after realizing that the Prophet is the best worshipper amongst mankind and the most dutiful and fearing of Allaah amongst us, there should not be anything but following of Allaah’s Messenger (ṣalla Allaahu ‘alaehi wa-sallam). We are upon certainty that we will never be able to encompass the worship of Allaah’s Messenger, except for occasionally or at brief periods of time. So we are completely incapable of following and tracing the footsteps of Allaah’s Messenger in his worship. This is impossible – with respect to every individual amongst mankind after the Prophet.