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Understanding the Term “DEEN”

12 Jan 2016
Understanding the Term “DEEN”

By Syed Jawed Anwar

In Quranic terminology, the term “DEEN” stands for the complete way of life, of which the composite factors are:

1. Sovereignty and supreme authority;

2. Obedience and submission to such authority;

3. The system of thought and action established through the exercise of that authority; and

4. Retribution meted out by the authority, in consideration of loyalty and obedience to it, or rebellion and transgression against it.

And, as in other cases, the Qur'an employs the term, on different occasions, in one or more of the above four aspects, but where the intention is to imply the whole way of life and all aspects of life, it uses the definite article 'al' (the) before the word, to make it read 'al-DEEN' (pronounced Ad-DEEN).

Quran Verses in the meaning of points 1 & 2:

“ It is Allah Who has made the earth as a resting place for you, and the sky a canopy, and has given you shape-and what a piece of work it is!-and has provided for your sustenance things pure and wholesome; such is Allah, your Lord. So Glory be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. He is the Living (One); there is no god but He; so address your prayers to Him, making your DEEN exclusive for Him. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.” (Quran 64:65)

“Say (O Mohammad): "I have been bidden to give my 'ibadah to Allah, making my DEEN exclusive to Him, and bidden to be the first of His obedient-servants."… Say (O' Mohammed): "It is Allah to Whom I give my 'ibadah, making my DEEN exclusive for Him; (and as for you,) give yours to whoever or whatsoever you may wish to give it to (if you will not listen to me but wish to continue in your wrong ways)"... And as for those who are careful and wise enough not to give their 'ibadah (obedience) to taghoot (non-Allah) , and who turn to Allah alone, there (surely) are glad tidings for them. (Quran 39: 11, 14, 17)

“Verily We have sent down to you (0' Muhammad) Book, with Truth; therefore, make your DEEN exclusive for Allah, and give your ibadah (obedience) to Him alone. Hark! DEEN pertains exclusively to Him (and Him alone). (Quran 39:2-3)

“And to Him belongs all, there is in the heavens and the earth, and DEEN is (rightly) His alone. Why is it, then, that you fear others the way you should fear Him (alone)? (Quran 16:52)

“Do (the non-believers) want some DEEN other than Allah's, and this despite the fact that to Him are subservient, willingly or unwillingly, all the creatures and thing, that constitute the universe and to Him it is that they shall (all) return'? (Quran 3:83)

“And they were not bidden except that they give their 'ibadah to Allah, making their DEEN exclusive for Him (and Him alone). (Quran 98:5)

Quran Verses in the meaning of point 3:

“ Say (O' Muhammad): "If you suffer from any doubts as to the details, or validity or rationality of my DEEN, then let it be known to you that I do not give me ‘ibadah (obedience) to anyone other than Allah He Who (having alone the power in this regard) causes you to die, and I have been bidden to be of the believers (in Him), and to set my conduct and coarse wholly and solely according to the DEEN and not to become one of those who associate others with Allah. (Quran 10:104-105)

“Authority vests in Allah alone. (And) He has Commanded that we do not give our 'ibadah to any accept Him; this is the DEEN, right and proper.” (Quran 12:40)

“And to Him belong all who are in the heavens and the earth. All are subservient to Him, ... He has propounded to you a similitude from your own (experience). Is any of your slaves a partner with you in the bounty We have conferred upon you? Do you make them equal partners in your ownership of your possessions? ... The truth is that these misguided people follow their own wrong and baseless notions, ideas and desires without proper knowledge... So you (O' Muhammad) set your face straight upon the DEEN, and follow the natural course meant by Allah for men. It is not right that Allah's Design be interfered with. This is the right and proper DEEN and yet many a people know this not.” (Quran 30: 26,28-30).

“In Allah's Writ, the number of months has always been twelve to a year, from the day He erected the heavens and the earth; of which (twelve) four are sacred; this is the true and straight DEEN (usage).” (Quran 9:36)

And thus did those whom they associated with Allah make it appear a commendable act in the eyes of the mushrikeen (obedient servants of non-Allah) to slay their children in order to lead them to their own destruction, and cause confusion in their DEEN. (Quran 6:137)

“Have they taken some people to be partners (with Allah) who prescribe ways for them And thus did those whom they associated with Allah make it appear a commendable act in the eyes of the mushrikeen (obedient servants of non-Allah) to slay their children in order to lead them to their own destruction, and cause confusion in their DEEN. (Quran 6:137)

“Have they taken some people to be partners (with Allah) who prescribe ways for them in the nature of DEEN, for which they have had no permission from Allah. (Quran 42:21)

For you, your DEEN, and for me mine own. (Quran 109:6)

In all these verses, the word DEEN has been used to mean the law, rules and regulations, or code of conduct, or that system of thought and action which a person subscribes to and lives by. If the ultimate authority for the law or code, etc., which is followed, is God Himself, then the person concerned in observing Allah's DEEN.

If it owes us itself to the commandments of any king or Queen, then he is in the king’s or Queen's DEEN; if it is under the rule of a dictator he is observing dictator’s DEEN; and if it has been laid down by the family, the clan or the tribe, or the national body-politic, then he is following their DEEN. In other words, the basic, critical factor as to the DEEN a person follows is the ultimate authority responsible for it.

Quran Verses in the meaning of point 4:

“Verily, that which you are promised (that is, life after death) is true, and deep (the reckoning and the judgment and retribution) must indeed come to pass. (Quran 51:5-6)

“Have you noticed the person who denies DEEN (the life after death)? He is one who spurns the orphan, and does not urge people to feed the needy and the indigent. (Quran 107:1-3)

“ And what do you know of the Day of DEEN? Yea, what (little) do you know of the Day of DEEN. That is the Day when no human being shall be able to be of any service to another, the Day on which all authority and dispensation will tangibly be in the hands of Allah. (Quran 82:17-19)

There is perhaps no word in the terminology of any country or people-other than Muslims-which would comprehensively embrace all these factors. The word religion can’t cover all those areas that the word DEEN covers. That means religion is not the translation of DEEN. When we say “Islam is a religion-----“, we are representing wrong Islam. Islam is not a religion founded by Muhammad ﷺ . Islam is the DEEN, revealed on Muhammad (s.a.w) for all mankind and it is the same DEEN that was revealed on Noah, Abraham, Musa, and Jesus (peace be upon all of them).

The same DEEN has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah - the which We have sent by inspiration to thee - and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in DEEN, and make no divisions therein (Quran 42:13)

Examples of the Qur'anic use of DEEN in this comprehensive sense (all together):

“And, said the Pharaoh: Leave me to slay Musa, and then let him call upon his Rabb (Lord to save him). (I must slay him for) I am very much afraid that he might change your DEEN or disturb the peace of land. (Quran 40:26)

In the light of all the detail dialogue between the Pharaoh and Musa (on whom be peace), it is clear that the word DEEN as used here does not stand only for `religion' but covers also the whole politico-social and cultural set-up. The Pharaoh's contention was that if Musa (on whom be peace) succeeded in his mission, there would come about a revolutionary change in which the prevailing way of life with the Pharaoh as the ultimate authority, together with all the laws, rules, and customs etc., would be uprooted, and either a whole new way of life would take its place on completely new foundations, or no new way of life would establish itself at all and the land would fall a prey to anarchy.

Insofar as Allah's scheme for man goes, the only DEEN for him is 'Islam' and none other. (Quran 3:19)

“And whosoever seeks any DEEN other than `Islam', it shall never receive acceptance. (Quran 3:85)

“It is He-Allah-Who sent his Messenger with true Guidance, and with the True DEEN to make it triumph over other DEENs, caring naught what annoyance this may cause to those who associate others with Him. (Quran 9:33)

“And continue the fight against them until all mischief is effectively destroyed and the only DEEN holding away is Allah's DEEN and none other. (Quran 8:39)

“When Allah's help arrives, and victory results, and you see people joining in Allah's DEEN in crowd, then Glorify your Rabb (Lord), and beg forgiveness of Him, for He is the Oft-Forgiving? (Quran 110:1-3)

In all these verses, the word DEEN stands for the complete way of life, including man's beliefs, his moral principles, and his behaviour in all walks of life.

The word `state' as employed in our time to some extent, approximate to the sense, but even this word lacks the far wider connotation which would bring it on a par with the word DEEN.

However, (Ad) DEEN revealed and completed by the Almighty Lord, the Ruler and Sustainer is for dominance and for power and not under the influence or subjugated by other DEENs. The state’s political, social, economic, and education policies all should comply with Ad-DEEN.

And if it doesn’t comply then a Muslim has no other choice other than peaceful struggle/resistance to establish Deen of Allah as all the Messengers and Prophets of Allah did in their own time; Noah, Abraham, Muses, Jesus, Muhammad ﷺ .

Invite, [O Muhammad], and remain on a right course as you are commanded and do not follow their inclinations but say, "I have believed in what Allah has revealed of the Qur'an, and I have been commanded to do justice among you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. For us are our deeds, and for you your deeds. There is no contention between us and you. Allah will bring us together, and to Him is the [final] destination." (Quran: 42:15)

And the whole purpose to establish Deen of Allah is that every hindrance in the path of humanity going to Al-Jannah cleared and mankind could be saved from the hellfire. In-short, mankind could see their destination, be educated, trained and prepared accordingly.

Syed Jawed Anwar can be reached at anwar@nymuslimtimes.com

Muhandas Muhammad Akram Khan Suri says:

Thanks for your column:UNDERSTANDING THE TERM "DEEN"
This term and topic is of my prime most importance for knowing and understanding ISLAM. I believe "DEEN" is such a term where Muslim scholars perhaps did not try to formulate a comprehensive definition, thus Muslims of today fail to understand real concept of of this term "DEEN". I spent years thinking on this term "DEEN", because it did never convinced me as phrased "Complete Way of Life". I always felt something missing in that phrase for use as a Islamic legal term for for "DEEN". Finally I by the Grace of ALLAH reached the conclusion after years of thing and analyzing the constructive nature of "DEEN" to define the term "DEEN"" with this phrase " Complete SYSTEM of Human Life". In this the most important term is "SYSTEM". It is a specific technical term but undefined.I believe it is well under stood in the advanced western region but least by Muslim scholars. I in my book (in Urdu) and writings by the Grace of ALLAH had exclusively defined it with a comprehensive explanations, what is a SYSTEM, How a SYSTEM is formed and stand as a SYSTEM etc.
Your four points are a good try to define "DEEN" and these points do cover the the term "DEEN"" to a great extent,
DEEN is a very special term used by ALLAH in Quran " equivalent to this term there is no word in any other language of the world, as written by Dr. Molana Muhammad Aslam Siddiqui in his recent Tafseer "Ruh-ul-Qur'an".

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