The literal meaning of ‘bidat’ is something new. Every ‘bidat’ in deen/Islam is forbidden; but we find severe differences among various groups of Muslims as to what is ‘bidat’ and what is not. One group narrowly defining ‘bidat’ considers everything not specifically found in the Sunnah as ‘bidat’ whereas another group liberally defining ‘bidat’ considers every ‘bidat’ as pious deed. Let us peep into the concept of ‘bidat’ in Islam.
From the outset it may be clarified that ‘bidat’ is something relating to the structure of a pious deed.
All structures of pious deeds cannot be specifically found in the Sunnah. For instance, stopping the vehicle on red traffic signal; donating an ambulance to a hospital; air travel for a noble cause etc. are such pious deeds whose structures are not found specifically in Sunnah but still cannot be considered as ‘bidat’ . In fact, our Nabi’s (saw) Sunnah is based on Quran, and our Nabi (saw) has directed mankind to follow Quran. It means if a pious deed is based on Quran, it cannot be considered as ‘bidat’; even if its structure is not specifically found in the Sunnah, it will be considered as in line with Sunnah because our Nabi (saw) has directed mankind to follow the Quran. For instance Quran has stated many times about remembering Allah; to remember Allah is a pious deed. If some people sit together in a circle (halqa) and remember Allah in a specific form, it cannot be considered as ‘bidat’ because this pious deed is based on Quran even though this structure/form of this pious deed may not be found in the Sunnah. However, if any structure/form of a (pious) deed has been forbidden in the Sunnah, such deed in that structure will be considered as forbidden.
In fact, ‘biddat’ is lessening or enhancing or changing the structure/form of a Sunnah/ deed of our Nabi’s (saw). For instance, our Nabi (saw) used to offer four ‘rakaat’ in ‘zuhr’ prayer; if someone starts offering three or five ‘rakaat’ instead of four, it will be considered as ‘bidat’. Similarly if any person increases or decreases number of obligatory prayers (i.e. five) it will be bid-ah. Similarly if a person makes 'sajda' without putting his forehead directly or indirectly to the ground, it will be 'biddah'/biddat', because putting forehead on the ground directly or indirectly is our Nabi's (saw) sunnah. In other words, 'biddat' is changing the shape of our Nabi's (saw) deed/sunnah.
We may conclude that ‘bidat’ is not new form/structure of a pious deed, if such pious deed is based on Quran and such structure is not prohibited by Sunnah though it may not be found in the Sunnah. ‘Bidat’ is actually lessening or enhancing or changing the form/ structure of a Sunnah/deed of our Nabi (saw); ‘bidat’ is changing the shape of our Nabi’s (saw) deed/Sunnah.