Definition of the word “Deen”

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 19), what can be translated as, “The deen before Allah (accepted by Allah) is Islam”. He also says in surat Al-Mae’dah, (Verse 3), what can be translated as, “Today, I have completed your deen, and have completed my bliss upon you and accepted for you Islam as a deen.” He also says in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 85), what can be translated as, “Whosoever seeks, other than Islam, a deen, it will not be accepted from him and he, in the Hereafter, is among the losers.”

The word deen and the word Islam were mentioned in these verses and in many others in the Qur’an. These two words are two of the most important words in the life of the Muslims, because the guidance, success in this life and in the Hereafter depends on two things: Understanding the meaning of these two words (deen and Islam), and applying this meaning in life.

Our understanding for these two words got weak because of our weakness in the Arabic language with which Qur’an was revealed. As a result, we repeat these two words (deen and Islam) with the tongues without understanding them except for a few people who could understand them as they should be understood. So, it is impossible to apply their meanings in our lives, despite our insistence on belonging to the deen and specifically to Islam.
What is the meaning of the word deen?

To answer this question, it is a must that we refer to the Arabic language dictionaries which still keep the meaning of how the Arabs used to understand the word deen and the word Islam when Qur’an was being revealed. In that period of time, there was no problem with understanding these two words by the Arabs from whom the companions of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) came. That generation that transformed the understanding for these two words into reality in their individual and collective lives. As a result, this understanding led them to the guidance, the guidance of Islam. This change was the greatest change in the long history of mankind.

The concept of deen: The word deen is used in the Arabic language to give different meanings, most importantly are:

1- Subjugation, Authority, Ruling and Having Charge

A. He subjugated people to obey. Subjugated here is a literal translation of the verb of the word deen.

B. He has authority over him. Has authority here is a literal translation of the verb of the word deen. In this context, the saying of the prophet (S.A.W.) reveals this meaning, “The intelligent person is the one who has authority over himself and works for the Hereafter” This means that the intelligent person is the one who has subjugated himself and made himself obedient to Allah. In this context, also, the past participle would be subjugated, ruled and submitted. For example, Allah(S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Waqe’ah, (Verse 86 & 87), what can be translated as, “If you are not subjugated, then return it if you are truthful”. This means, if you are not forced by the will of Allah in the issues of death and life, then return the soul to the body after it has left it due to death.

2- Obedience and Submission due to Subjugation:

3- The Method and the Habit:

4- Punishment, Reward and Judgment: The Arabs had a saying, which implies the following: you are treated the same way you treat others.

These four linguistic meanings constitute the concept of the word deen in the Qur’an where it implies a comprehensive system of life that is composed of four parts:

The rulership and the authority belong to Allah (S.W.T.).

The obedience and submission to this rulership and authority by those who embraced this deen.

The comprehensive system (intellectual and practical) established by this authority (Allah).

The reward given by this authority (Allah) to those that followed the system and submitted to it and the punishment inflicted upon those who rebel against it and disobey it.

Based on this definition of deen, we can summarize that deen is a submission, following and worship by man for the creator, the ruler, the subjugator in a comprehensive system of life with all its belief, intellectual, moral and practical aspects.

After understanding this definition of the Arabic word deen, we realize that it is wrong to translate it to the English with the word “religion”. Furthermore we do not need anyone to come up with a definition for the word deen for us- like many of the enemies of Islam do today- But, we should take precaution and warn Muslims against these conspiracies that are plotted against Muslims to keep them away from the reality of their deen and distort the concept of deen or restrict it to one aspect of life-like they (None Muslim) did with there religion and church after the French Revolution.
It is obligatory for us to clarify to the people the reality of deen in the Islamic perspective, also obligatory for us to implant this reality in our youth’s mind so that they will not confuse the concept of deen with all these wrongful and distorting definitions.

(Friday speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on December 27,1996)

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