It was narrated on the authority of the Mother of the Believers, Umm ‘Abdullah, A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), who said, “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, ‘Whoever introduces anything into this matter of ours that is not from it shall have it rejected.’ ”
[Bukhari – Kitab As-Sulh (Book on Peacemaking), hadith 2697; Muslim – Kitab Al-Aqdiyah (Book on Judicial Matters), hadith 1718/18]
In another version in Muslim, this hadith states, “Whoever does an act that is not in accord with Our matter will have it rejected.’’
The importance of the Hadith
This hadith is an important principle of Islam. Just as this hadith states that actions are judged by intentions is a scale for what is hidden in the deeds, similarly, this hadith is a scale for what is apparent from them. For any deed that is not for the sake of seeking Allah’s Face, Exalted be He, there is no reward for its doer. Similarly, any act which is not according to Allah’s and the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)’s order is rendered fruitless and returned to the doer. Whoever innovates something in the religion that Allah and His Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) have not ordered, then it has nothing to do with the religion.
This point is also mentioned in the hadith of ‘Irbad bin Sariyah, who reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Whoever from you who Lives after me will see many differences, so keep to my sunnah and the sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. Whoever is after me, bite it firmly with your molars (hold tight to it), and avoid all newly introduced matters, for verily, every newly introduced matter is an innovation, and every innovation is misguidance.”
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) used to say in his preaching, “Verily the truest of speech is the Book of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) and the most evil of affairs are the newest of them.” [Muslim – Kitab al-Jum’ah (Book on Friday Prayers), 867/43]
We will delay the discussion of innovations until the hadith of ‘Irbad describes it. Here, however, we shall discuss those deeds which are not according to the order of the Legislator (Allah).
(Here you can read the explanation of the hadith narrated by ‘Irbad)
Commentary of the Hadith
The literal meaning of this hadith indicates that every deed which is not in accordance with Allah’s matter (order) is rejected. The meaning which is implied therefrom, is that every act which is accordance with Allah’s matter is accepted.
The definition of “matter” in this context is His Religion and Laws.
Thus, it means that anyone whose actions are outside Allah’s laws, or not conforming to them are rejected.
“Not in accord with our matter…”
This indicates that the deeds should all fall under the rules of Shari’ah, by which they are judged according to its orders and prohibitions. Whosoever’s deeds run in accordance with these rules, are accepted, and whoever’s deeds are outside of them, are rejected.
Classification of Deeds
Deeds fall into two categories: acts of worship and transactions.
As for the acts of worship, whatever is completely outside of Allah and His Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)’s rulings, is rejected, and its doer falls under Allah’s words,
“Or have they partners with Allah (false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not ordained?” (Surah Ash-Shura, 42 : 21)
Thus, whoever tried to draw near to Allah by acts of devotion that Allah and His Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) did not order, then his deeds are worthless and thrown back upon him.
This is similar to the state of those who were whistling and clapping around the House (of Allah), as well as those who worshipped Allah by listening to music, dancing, etc. These are from the innovations which were not ordained in their entirety by Allah and his Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) by which to worship Allah.
Not all ways by which one draws closer to Allah are unconditionally considered acts of worship.
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) saw a man standing in the sun; so he (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) asked about him. It was said that the man made a vow to stand and not sit, and not take shade, and to fast. So the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) ordered him to sit, and take shade and to complete his fast.
Thus, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) didn’t make his standing and exposure to the sun acts of worship which should be fulfilled with his vow, despite the fact that standing is an act of worship in other contexts, such as prayer, the call to prayer, and the supplication on ‘Arafat and exposure to the sun as an act of worship for the pilgrim.
This indicates that what is considered an act of worship in one situation is not an act of worship in all situations. Rather, acts of worship must follow what came in the shari’ah in their proper situations.
As far as one who performed an act which was originally prescribed, and is an act of worship, and then added to it what is not prescribed, or fails to fulfill what was prescribed, then that is also contrary to the shari’ah to the extent of its deficiency or addition.
In this case, is his act rejected from its origin or not? In this case, one neither says that it is rejected, nor accepted. Rather, the matter must be looked into further.
If what was not fulfilled was from the parts of the deed or the conditions which necessitate its invalidity according to Shari’ah, (such as one who did not fulfill the conditions of purity for prayer, though he was able to do so, or where a person failed to fulfill one ruku or prostration or with tranquility in it, then that act is rejected, and he must repeat it if it was an obligatory act.
If however, what was not fulfilled does not necessitate the invalidity of the act, such as whoever did not pray in congregation for those whom it is required that they do so, and did not make it a condition, then it is not said in this case that his act is rejected from the origin. Rather, it is deficient.
If he added to the prescribed deed what is not prescribed, then his action is rejected, meaning that it is not an act of worship, and he does not receive a reward for it. However, sometimes, the act will be invalidated from the origin, so that it is rejected. For example, one who added a rak’ah intentionally to the prayer. Sometimes it does not invalidate it, and does not render it rejected from its origin, such as one who performed ablution by washing each limb four times, or fasted during the night along with the day and connected his fasts.
Concerning transactions, such as contracts or their breaching, etc., whatever was changed in the religion is prohibited by Shari ah, such as making the penalty for adultery a monetary one, etc.; and is rejected from its origin.
Clarifying this point, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said to one who asked him (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), “My son oppressed so-and-so, and he committed adultery with his wife; so I ransomed him (from the punishment) with one hundred sheep and a servant.” So Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “The one hundred sheep and the servant are to be returned to you, and your son is to be scourged with one hundred lashes and sent into exile for one year.” [Bukhari – Kitab Ash-Shurut (Book on Conditions), hadith 2724, 2725; Muslim – Kitab al-Hudud (Book on Legal Punishments), 1698/25]
By: Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali , From the book: Jami’ al Ulum wal Hikam.