A reader emailing in asking;
The Prophet Muhammad said that innovations are forbidden in Islam then why do Muslims drive cars and wear glasses?
To read the answer click on the read more button.
Such objections against Islam and its Holy Prophet arise because of a misunderstanding of Islamic teachings. This refers to innovation in, or addition to, religious duties and rituals. This does not apply to use of science or modern technology. The Holy Prophet (s) himself used innovations. For example, when Madinah was attacked by a large army the Holy Prophet (s) asked for ideas or innovations which would confound the enemy. Hazrat Salman who came from Iran suggested that Muslims dig a wide ditch around Madinah to stop the Makkan cavalry. This was done. Another aspect of the innovation was that, at the time, during a battle parties marched out and gave battle in open field. Muslims had been doing the same thing until the Battle of the Ditch when they resorted to defending the town.
Further, throughout history Muslims have not interpreted these words in this manner. Hazrat Umar introduced innovations. He introduced the words “Prayer is better than sleep” in the early morning call for prayer. He introduced the Islamic year, at the time of the Holy Prophet (s) Muslims only used months. Muslims also pursued science and technology and invented many things which they used to further the cause of their religion. Mathematics, medicine, astronomy, literature, chemistry and many other fields benefited from Muslim innovations. Students who suffer Algebra at school should know that this is Arabic for “The Unknown” which they are trying to calculate.
If innovations were introduced into religion it will lead to dissension and varying practices. For example, Islam has a very simple burial ritual followed by a three day period of mourning. In India and Pakistan people have added elaborate rituals such as readings and recitations at 3 day, 7 day and 40 day intervals, holding a huge reception for people etc. We have seen that the Catholic Church was split when some two decades ago it changed the language of church services from universal Latin to local language.
In summary, even those around the Holy Prophet (s) did not understand the hadith in the way our friend has mentioned.