Is there a difference between ruling an individual to be from the people of desires and innovation and ruling a person to be an innovator? And does the ruling upon a person not being a Salafī or being a hizbī necessitate that he is a person of innovation? We request some clarity regarding this issue.
Shaykh Zayd ibn Muḥammad al-Madkhalī:
It is to be known firstly, that the people of the sunnah and the people of righteousness do not make takfīr (declare a person to be outside the fold of Islam) and do not make tafsīq (declare a person to be a sinner) and do not make tabdīʿ (declare a person to be innovator) except upon those who are rightly deserving of it with evidence from the book (of Allāh ﷻ), the sunnah (of His Messenger ﷺ) and the understanding of the Salaf of this Islamic community.
Secondly, it is to be known that the people of desires and misguidance are both those who are followed and those who follow. And that those who are followed are the ones in which lay out principles of innovation of its different types and call the people to their innovations and misguidance and they shall carry their (own) burden and the burden of those whom they misguide without knowledge as that is the explicit text of the Book (of Allāh ﷻ) and the sunnah (of His Messenger ﷺ) As for those who follow the leaders of the people of innovation then they are of two types in most cases.
• The first type being that they have knowledge but their intentions became corrupted and they were led towards the devil, false desires and they had an inclination towards evil. So they followed the people of misguidance and opposed the callers to guidance in which Allāh ﷻ sent His Messenger Muḥammad ﷺ with (i.e guidance).
• The second type is those who do not have a great portion of knowledge and the people of innovation took hold of them so that they can be from their party and persuaded them that, that which they are calling them to is the clear truth. They incited upon them the path of misguidance with which they made unclear upon them and submerged them in misguidance. And as for the leaders of those who are followed, those who lay out principles of innovations and call the people to their innovations and misguidance, then they are to be described with the innovation that they have innovated and call the people to and there is no honour for them.
As for those who follow the people of desires, then as I have mentioned, they are often of two types and they are to be called to the sunnah and holding firm to it (the sunnah), and rejection of the innovation which they are deluded by. So if they accept the call to truth with knowledge and action and reject what the people of desires and innovations call them to then this is preferable and a praiseworthy aim. If they reject the advice of the advisors, and they choose misguidance over guidance, and innovations over sunnah, then they are rightly deserving of being labeled as innovators and there is no honour for them after the truth has been established (upon them) with its evidences, and clarification of falsehood has been made with regards to that which opposes it (the truth) from the newly invented matters in which the Prophet ﷺ labeled as misguidance, and its people have been threatened with the Fire. The Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Upon you is my sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly guided Caliphs after me. Hold on to it and bite it with your molar teeth and beware of the newly invented matters. For every newly invented matter is an innovation, and every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the (Hell) Fire.’ [Reported by Aḥmad, Abū Dawūd and others.]