In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful The Bestower of Mercy.
Question to Shaikh Zaid Bin Haadee al-Madkhalee [rahimahullaah]: Is there a difference between the verdict against a person that he is from Ahlul Bidah and the verdict that he is a Mubtadi [innovator]? And does the verdict against a person that he is not a Salafi or that he is a Hizbi necessitate that he is a Mubtadi [innovator]? Can you please shed light on this affair?
Answer: Firstly, you should know that indeed Ahlus Sunnah are people who fear of Allaah. They neither make Takfeer [i.e. declare a person a disbeliever], Tafseeq [i.e. declare a person a sinner] and Tabdee [declare a person an innovator] except against the one who deserves it based on the evidences in the Book and the Sunnah, and the understanding of the pious predecessors of this Ummah.
Secondly, you should know that the people of desires and misguidance are [categorized into] those who are followed and those who follow. Indeed, those who are followed are the ones who set up the various principles of Bidah and call to their innovation and misguidance, and they will carry their burden of sins and the burden of the sins of those whom they misguided without knowledge, as it is clearly stated in the Qur’aan and the Sunnah.
As for the followers of a leader from amongst the people of desires, then in most cases they are of two categories:
The First Category: Those who possess knowledge, but they harbour evil intentions, so they yield to Satan, desires and the urge of the evil soul. They follow the people of misguidance and oppose the callers to guidance [in that which] Allaah sent His Messenger Muhammad [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] with.
The Second Category: Their share of knowledge is little, so the people of desires take advantage of them and they become [part] of their group. They convince them that what they call them to is the manifest truth and that what their opponents are upon is falsehood. And they convey to them a huge [number] of affairs that resemble the truth but are falsehood in reality, in order to deceive them and submerge them into misguidance.
As for those who are followed-those who set up principles of bidah and call the people to their bidah and misguidance-then indeed they are marked with the bidah they innovated and call the people to, and for them there is no honour.
As for the followers of the people of desires, it is as I have stated that they are of two categories in most cases. They are to be called to the Sunnah and to cling to it, and that they reject the bidah they have been deceived by and have yielded to. And if they respond to the call of truth through knowledge and action, and reject that which the people of desires and innovation call them to, then this is what is desired and it is a praiseworthy aim. If they reject the advice of the advisers and bargain with falsehood at the expense of truth, and give preference to innovation over the Sunnah, then they deserve to be assigned the term Mubtadi [innovator]. There is no honour for them after the truth has been established with its evidences and (after) the falsity of that which is in opposition to it of newly invented affairs in the Religion has been clarified, which the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] called misguidance and [for which] he promised its adherents the hell fire; as he [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] said: “Upon you is to adhere to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided khulafaah after me; hold onto it and bite onto it with your molar teeth. And beware of the newly invented affairs in the religion, for every newly invented matter in the religion is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the fire. [Source: Al-Ajwibah Al-Athariyyah Anil Masaa-il Al-Manhajiyyah, Khamsoona Su’aalan Wa-Jawaaban: page: 18-19:]
Also read here for more clarification: https://www.abukhadeejah.com/shaikh-rabee-establishment-of-proof-in-declaring-a-person-to-be-an-innovator/