Bidah, the definition of Innovations
I referring to my answer here:
All bidah are haram or not?
The answer at top (by Sohaeb) is actually followed by the minority of scholars today and in the history. It's well known that that viewpoint has become much more popular these days, how that happened is another question (you may want to check it up, or ask here).
The other viewpoints that actually have more followers (now and in the history), is that bidah is divided into several categories. Meaning, there are good and there are bad. Just a few scholars that holds that viewpoint are: al-'Izz ibn 'Abd al-Salam, Imam An-Nawawi, Ibn Hajar, As-Souyouti, as-Sakhawi.
How did they come to that conclusion?
Of course these scholars have read all the hadiths that talk about innovations. But how is it possible that they still don't agree with he others about it? Many would say: "these hadiths are good enough for everybody to understand that a bidah is a bad innovation and there are no good innovations! How stupid could these scholars have been, thinking anything else!"
Just allowing yourself to think that, would in my case be a trigger to check up why and how it is possible that they did disagree, when they in fact are so knowledgeable. I wish people would think in that way.
One example of the hadith is the following (using his translation)
وَشَرَّ الأُمُورِ مُحْدَثَاتُهَا وَكُلَّ مُحْدَثَةٍ بِدْعَةٌ وَكُلَّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلاَلَةٌ وَكُلَّ ضَلاَلَةٍ فِي النَّارِ "
The worst of things are those that are newly invented; every newly-invented thing is an innovation and every innovation is going astray, and every going astray is in the Fire.
The word koll (every) in this context is not understood as EVERY literally by these scholars. In Arabic you might use the word "koll" (all,every) and by that meaning the vast majority, or ALL of some sort. For instance it's mentioned in the Quran:
46:24 (some context)
فَلَمَّا رَأَوْهُ عَارِضًا مُّسْتَقْبِلَ أَوْدِيَتِهِمْ قَالُوا هَٰذَا عَارِضٌ مُّمْطِرُنَا ۚ بَلْ هُوَ مَا اسْتَعْجَلْتُم بِهِ ۖ رِيحٌ فِيهَا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
Then, when they saw the (Penalty in the shape of) a cloud traversing the sky, coming to meet their valleys, they said, "This cloud will give us rain!" "Nay, it is the (Calamity) ye were asking to be hastened!- A wind wherein is a Grievous Penalty!
تُدَمِّرُ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ بِأَمْرِ رَبِّهَا فَأَصْبَحُوا لَا يُرَىٰ إِلَّا مَسَاكِنُهُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْقَوْمَ الْمُجْرِمِينَ
"Everything will it destroy by the command of its Lord!" Then by the morning they - nothing was to be seen but (the ruins of) their houses! thus do We recompense those given to sin!
They understand that in this verse, literally, everything wasn't destroyed, they and their houses was (what we know though). The whole world was a safe place in the meantime, meaning the whole world wasn't destroyed.
The hadith of Aicha (ra)
(using the translation from above)
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ قَالَتْ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم " مَنْ أَحْدَثَ فِي أَمْرِنَا هَذَا مَا لَيْسَ فِيهِ فَهُوَ رَدٌّ "
Narrated Aisha: Allah's Apostle said, "If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected."
This hadith is neither a proof. If you read it carefully, you might find out. Scholars have argued that this also proves that there are good and bad innovations. What?! How? Read and you'll notice!
"If somebody innovates something which is NOT in harmony with the principles of our religion, THEN that thing is rejected"
What if it IS IN harmony with the principles of our religion? Then logically it should not be rejected!
IF IS NOT IN HARMANY OF OUR RELIGION
Another hadith (sahih muslim)
فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم " مَنْ سَنَّ فِي الإِسْلاَمِ سُنَّةً حَسَنَةً فَعُمِلَ بِهَا بَعْدَهُ كُتِبَ لَهُ مِثْلُ أَجْرِ مَنْ عَمِلَ بِهَا وَلاَ يَنْقُصُ مِنْ أُجُورِهِمْ شَىْءٌ وَمَنْ سَنَّ فِي الإِسْلاَمِ سُنَّةً سَيِّئَةً فَعُمِلَ بِهَا بَعْدَهُ كُتِبَ عَلَيْهِ مِثْلُ وِزْرِ مَنْ عَمِلَ بِهَا وَلاَ يَنْقُصُ مِنْ أَوْزَارِهِمْ شَىْءٌ " .
"The one who innovates a good innovation in Islam has its reward and a reward similar to those who follow him in it--until the Day of Judgment--without lessening their reward. The one who innovates an innovation of misguidance would be sinful for it and has sins similar to those who follow him in it--until the Day of Judgment--without lessening their sins."
The word for "sanna" means to innovate, (an article could be written about this word). This hadith is also clearly (in our perspective) stating that if someone innovating a good innovation, he will have a reward for it.
The ones that does classify innovations as only bad, would never agree with this or translate it in this way because it goes against their fundamental understanding of innovations. The only thing in their case is interpret it in another way, or they would have to change their views on what a bidah is.
Ibn Al-baz (a scholar that only believe in bad innovations) is saying that this hadith actually means that whoever innovates a good innovation that has been FORGOTTEN, from the prophets (saw) sunnah will have a reward for it.
As I said before, they have to interpret it in another way to get around the issue. By doing that the interpretation goes against the word innovation. It also would mean that if a person innovate a a bad innovation that has been forgotten from prophet (saw) sunnah, that he will be sinful for it. This can not be possible. We do not belive that the prophet had bad innovations or any bad sunnahs, how could it then been forgotten and then re-innovated.
There are many more proofs of course, these are just a few. The thing is that books can be written about this subject. But people rather read one hadith and draw the conclusion. Our scholars spent years studying and didn't speak up in the way we do today.
In my research, this is actually the position of the majority. To get to that conviction you must get away from the internet. The internet does not show you the real result. You will find the same answers posted everywhere.
These arguments I've come with are not as popular as the other views are in the net. How is that? Well, one reason could be that the people have not yet taking their big step into the net yet, many do not speak english, do not have the money, time and resources.
The most important thing
You have all the right to disagree about the subject of what an innovation is or what it really means. But the most important thing is to respect the different opinions that exists out there. You are Muslims!
By my knowledge, this subject is one of the most dangerous subjects, that has been dividing the Muslims to a degree that never been seen before, and it's continuing.
To say that a part of group use the Quran and Sunnah as a resource doesn't help. ALL of the scholars do use the Quran and Sunnah for resources - but the understanding and conclusions differ among them.
It is sad that I've seen teachers and so called scholars using bad language against anybody not sharing their understanding of the subject.
I would like to end with something we shouldn't forget.
And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.
May God guide us all.