Deen (دِین)

Deen (دِین)

Dictionary Meanings of the Term

The Arabic word ‘Deen’ has the following dictionary meanings:

Obedience; a state of abasement and submissiveness; الدِّینُ لِلّہ  means ‘obedience to God’; a religion, implying obedience and submission to law; a particular law, statute or an ordinance; a system of usages, rites, ceremonies; custom or habit; a way, coarse, mode or manner of acting or conduct; management, conduct or regulation of affairs; state, condition or case; repayment, requital, compensation or recompense; retaliation; reckoning[1].

The Quranic Use of the Term

1. ‘Deen’ as a Law of an Authority

The term ‘Deen’ has been used in the Quran in the phrase ‘deen-il-malik’ (دینِ المَلِکِ), which means ‘King’s Law[2].

مَا كَانَ لِيَأْخُذَ أَخَاهُ فِي دِينِ الْمَلِكِ

[Al-Quran Surah 12: Verse 76]

 The term ‘Deen’ has also been used in the phrase (دینِ اللہ), which means ‘Allah’s Law’.

 الزَّانِيَةُ وَالزَّانِي فَاجْلِدُوا كُلَّ وَاحِدٍ مِّنْهُمَا مِائَةَ جَلْدَةٍ وَلَا تَأْخُذْكُم بِهِمَا رَأْفَةٌ فِي دِينِ اللَّهِ

[Al-Quran Surah 24: Verse 2]

2. ‘Deen’ as Obedience to (the Law of) an Authority

The Arabic phrase دَانَ لَہُ  means ‘He was, or became, obedient to him’[3]. When the preposition ‘la’ or laam’ ل is used with the word Deen, it mostly refers to ‘obedience’ to (the law of) an authority. It has been described at various places in the Quran that the ultimate obedience is only to Allah[4] الدِّینُ لِلّہ   or لَہُ الدِّین . The Quran says that Allah alone deserves the sincere and pure (خالص) obedience[5].

أَلَا لِلَّهِ الدِّينُ الْخَالِصُ

[Al-Quran Surah 39: Verse 3]

 Allah has enjoined upon the believers to call upon Him, being sincere to Him in obedience.

 وَادْعُوهُ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ

[Al-Quran Surah 7: Verse 29]

 فَادْعُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ

[Al-Quran Surah 40: Verse 14]

 هُوَ الْحَيُّ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَادْعُوهُ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ

[Al-Quran Surah 40: Verse 65]

The Quran also enjoins to render ‘ibadah (عبادۃ) to Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience.

 إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ فَاعْبُدِ اللَّهَ مُخْلِصًا لَّهُ الدِّينَ

[Al-Quran Surah 39: Verse 2]

3. ‘Deen’ as Requital (according to a Law)

The Quran has used the nominative plural passive participle form ‘madeenun’ (مدینون) of the root of the word ‘Deen’ to refer to ‘requital’ or ‘reward & punishment’. 

أَإِذَا مِتْنَا وَكُنَّا تُرَابًا وَعِظَامًا أَإِنَّا لَمَدِينُونَ

[Al-Quran Surah 37: Verse 53] 

The day of requital, judgment or accountability ‘yaum-i-deen’ (یوم الدّین)[6] has also been referred to in the Quran.

مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ

[Al-Quran Surah 1: Verse 4] 

يَا وَيْلَنَا هَٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ

[Al-Quran Surah 37: Verse 20]

4. ‘Deen’ as a Way of Life

The term ‘Deen’ has also been used in the Quran to refer to a way of life (according to some customs & traditions or according to a law). 

لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ

[Al-Quran Surah 109: Verse 6]

5. ‘Deen’ as reckoning, counting or calculation

The term ‘Deen’ may also refer to reckoning, counting or calculation (according to the Divine Law)۔

إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِندَ اللَّهِ اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ

[Al-Quran Surah 9: Verse 36]

6. ‘Deen’ as a Complete Code of Life or System of Governance

In comprehensive terms, the term ‘Deen’ refers to ‘a way of life based upon obedience to laws of some authority, and a system of rewards and punishments according to those laws’. 

The Quran says that the (true) way of life or system of governance (Ad-Deen) [7] in the sight of Allah is Al-Islam (i.e. Submission to His Laws).  

إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللَّهِ الْإِسْلَامُ

[Al-Quran Surah 3: Verse 19]  

The Quran says that the upright way of life or system of governance is the one in which the Ultimate Authority (Al-Hukm) belongs to Allah alone; He has ordained that one should render ‘ibadah to Him alone.

 إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ أَمَرَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ

[Al-Quran Surah 12: Verse 40]

No Compulsion or Coercion in ‘Ad-Deen

There is absolutely no compulsion or coercion (إِكْرَاهَ) in ‘Ad-deen’. Human beings are absolutely free to choose their way of life or system of governance. However, once they have opted for a particular way of life or system of governance, they are obliged to abide by the norms of that way of life or laws of that system of governance.  

لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ

[Al-Quran Surah 2: Verse 256]

No Sectarianism in ‘Ad-Deen

Allah has forbidden sectarianism in Ad-deen 

أَقِيمُوا الدِّينَ وَلَا تَتَفَرَّقُوا فِيهِ

[Al-Quran Surah 42: Verse 13]  

Allah’s Messenger has nothing to do with those who indulge in sectarianism.  

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا لَّسْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ

[Al-Quran Surah 6: Verse 159]

‘Ad-Deen’ Needs to be Established

‘Ad-deen’ is not merely a collection of some rituals. It is also not merely a theoretical ideology, which just needs to be preached. It is a complete way of life and system of governance that needs to be established (اقامت) with power and authority (تمکّن)[8] 

أَقِيمُوا الدِّينَ

[Al-Quran Surah 42: Verse 13]  

وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَىٰ لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُم مِّن بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا وَمَن كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

[Al-Quran Surah 24: Verse 55] 

Ad-Deen’ needs prevalence in every walk of life

There is no dualism of religious and secular affairs in ‘Ad-Deen’. The Divine Guidance الھدی) and Deen-il-Haq (دینِ الحق) needs prevalence in complete way of life.  

هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ شَهِيدًا

[Al-Quran Surah 48: Verse 28]

Al-Islam is ‘Ad-Deen’, not a ‘Maz’hab’

The word Maz’hab (مذھب) does not appear in the Quran.

وَمَن يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ الْإِسْلَامِ دِينًا فَلَن يُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ وَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

[Al-Quran Surah 3: Verse 85]

[1] E. W. Lane, Lane’s Arabic English Lexicon, New ed., Islamic Texts Society, 1984.

[2] Al-Quran Surah 12: Verse 76

[3] E. W. Lane, Lane’s Arabic English Lexicon, New ed., Islamic Texts Society, 1984.

[4] Al-Quran Surah 7: Verse 29, Al-Quran Surah 10: Verse 22, Al-Quran Surah 16: Verse 52, Al-Quran Surah 29: Verse 65, Al-Quran Surah 31: Verse 32, Al-Quran Surah 39: Verse 2, Al-Quran Surah 39: Verse 11, Al-Quran Surah 40: Verse 14, Al-Quran Surah 40: Verse 65, Al-Quran Surah 98: Verse 5

[5] Al-Quran Surah 39: Verse 3

[6] The Arabic word ‘yaum’ means: day, age, era, time [E. M. Badawi and M. A. Haleem, Arabic English Dictionary of Quranic Usage, Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2008.]

[7] The particle al (ال) is the definite article and changes the common noun ‘deen’ (دین) into proper noun ‘ad-deen’ (الدّین), referring to the way of life or system of governance based on Allah’s law.

[8] Tamakkun (تمکن) means: to have authority and influence; to have power; to be firm and consolidated; to have an abode [F. Steingass, The Student’s Arabic English Dictionary, London: Crosby Lockwood and Sons, 1884.]

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