A major contribution of Imâm al-Shâfi`î (ra) in the Foundations of Jurisprudence (us.ûl al-fiqh) is his division of innovation (al-bid`a) and innovated matters (al-muh.dathât) into “good” and “bad” depending on their conformity or non-conformity to the guidelines of the Religion. This is authentically narrated from al-Shâfi`î from two of his most prestigious students in the latter period of his life, the Egyptian h.adîth Masters H.armala ibn Yah.yâ al-Tujaybî and al-Rabî` ibn Sulaymân al-Murâdî:
H.armala said, “I heard al-Shâfi`î (ra) say:
He used as his proof the statement of `Umar ibn al-Khat.t.âb (ra) about the [congregational] supererogatory night prayers in the month of Ramad.ân: “What a fine innovation this is!” This shows that al-Shâfi`î never interpreted `Umar's words figuratively the way the "Salafi" over-interpreters (mu`attila) do.
Al-Rabî` said, “Al-Shâfi`î said to us:
'Innovated matters are of two kinds (al-muh.dathâtu min al-umûri d.arbân):
→ One is an innovation that contravenes (mâ uh.ditha yukhâlifu) something in the Qur'ân or the Sunna or a Companion-report (athar) or the Consensus (ijmâ`): that innovation is misguidance (fahâdhihi al-bid`atu d.alâla).
→ The other kind is the innovation of any and all good things (mâ uh.ditha min al-khayr) contravening none of the above, and this is a blameless innovation (wahâdhihi muh.dathatun ghayru madhmûma).
`Umar (ra) said, concerning the prayers of Ramad.ân: What a fine bid`a this is! meaning that it was innovated without having existed before and, even so, there was nothing in it that contradicted the above.'”
Thus al-Shâfi`î set forth the essential, indispensable criterion for the determination of true bid`a, as defined, among others, by Imâm al-Haytamî, Qâd.î Abû Bakr Ibn al-`Arabî, and Imâm al-Lacknawî respectively:
Consequently, it is not enough for something merely to be novel to be a bid`a; it must also contradict the Religion.
This is a clear-cut defense of the necessity and Sunna character of kalâm in the defense against innovators on the part of Imâm al-Bayhaqî. Something similar is reported from Ibn `Asâkir, Ibn al-S.alâh., al-Nawawî, Ibn al-Subkî, Ibn `âbidîn, and others of the great Imâms we cited.
* This text is part of the longer exposition: The Sunni Definition of Bid`a (As Either Good or Bad) by Sh. G. F. Haddad
 Narrated from H.armala by Abû Nu`aym with his chain through Abû Bakr al-âjurrî in H.ilyat al-Awliyâ' (9:121 #13315=1985 ed. 9:113) and cited by Abû Shâma in al-Bâ`ith `alâ Inkâr al-Bida` wal-H.awâdith (Ryadh 1990 ed. p. 93), Ibn Rajab in Jâmi` al-`Ulûm wal-H.ikam (p. 267=Zuh.aylî ed. 2:52= Arna'ût. ed. 2:131 s.ah.îh.), Ibn H.ajar in Fath. al-Bârî (1959 ed. 13:253), al-Turt.ûshî in al-H.awâdith wa al-Bida` (p. 158-159), and al-Shawkânî, al-Qawl al-Mufîd fî Adillat al-Ijtihâd wa al-Taqlîd (1347/1929 ed. p. 36). `Umar's report is narrated by Mâlik in al-Muwat.t.a' and al-Bukhârî in his S.ah.îh..
 Narrated from al-Rabî` by al-Bayhaqî in his Madkhal and Manâqib al-Shâfi`î (1:469) with a sound chain as stated by Ibn Taymiyya in his Dâr' Ta`ârud. al-`Aql wa al-Naql (p. 171) and through al-Bayhaqî by Ibn `Asâkir in Tabyîn Kadhib al-Muftarî (Kawtharî ed. p. 97). Cited by al-Dhahabî in the Siyar (8:408), Ibn Rajab in Jâmi` al-`Ulûm wal-H.ikam (p. 267=Zuh.aylî ed. 2:52-53=Arna'ût. ed. 2:131 s.ah.îh.), and Ibn H.ajar in Fath. al-Bârî (1959 ed. 13:253).