Deen vs. Religion – in depth

Our article Deen vs. Religion a fortnight ago highlighting the differences between the two created a lengthy online discussion about what each of the terms meant. It is understandably confusing, as the traditional translation of the Quranic word “Deen” has always been “Religion”, despite there being a perfectly serviceable Arabic word for religion “mazhab”, which is never used in the Qur’an.

This article attempts to clarify the difference in meaning and why “deen is not “religion” and was originally written by Worldwide Quran Thinkers.

People tend to confuse Deen and Mazhab/Religion, but there is a huge difference.

  • On one hand, religion is full of rituals causing divisions among community members. Deen on the other hand, is a way of life — a code of conduct seeking unity and connection among community members and has nothing to do with rituals. It is practical and reasonable and asks you to benefit society and your fellow community members without any discrimination. Deen doesn’t discriminate, and neither can there be injustices of any sort.
  • Religion asks you not to think, ask questions or seek knowledge. Deen on the other hand is based on and builds upon your thinking and intellect asking you to utilize your potential to its maximum, especially your reasoning faculties.
  • Deen is perfected by God almighty and given as Na’imat – all worldly religions are man-made.
  • Deen is evidenced by the presence of Na’imat — success & prosperity, peace, law & order, being at your height, inspiration and role model for others, and being united with the same values, goals, and principles. The absence and deprivation of all these Na’imat are proof that one is not following Deen but Mazhab/religion, which is evidenced by failed nations that are divided into many sects and groups with animosity and hatred against each other.

Deen is NOT Religion

DEEN (دِّينِ) is normally mistranslated as religion but as per Quran Deen is much more than that, it is a way of life, a code of conduct. The word is used in Quran in 4 broad definitions

  1. Laws/Rules & Regulations, Boundaries & Parameters for instance in ayah 12:76 “…it was not that he should take his brother under the king’s Deen (laws of the king) unless Allah pleased…” or in Ayah 1:04 as Maalik Youmu Deen – the day of our life which we spend in accordance with Allah’s commandments, laws and rules and Allah is the Maalik of that day of our life
  2. Obligations – under Debt for a defined period of time for instance in ayah 2:282 “O you who have Emaan, when you contract a Deen for a specified term, write it down. And let a scribe write between you in justice…”
  3. Rewards and punishment/judgment- for instance as used in Ayah 51:6, as recompense, judgment etc., and
  4. As per the Fitrat of Allah for instance as per ayah 30:30 “So direct your face toward the Deen, inclining to Hanifan, the Fitrat of Allah…”

Thus, Deen is those aspects, those attributes, as per the Fitrat of Allah, that Allah wants to see in us, as human beings. In ayah 5:03, Allah has told us that the Deen is perfected by Allah, and given to us Na’imat.

If we combine all the above meanings, Deen is composed of all those rules, regulations, set of instructions, the commandments given to us by our creator Allah – it is a complete code of conduct, a way of life as perfected by Allah which defines the boundaries of our freedom & our restrictions. We need to comply with these rules as per the Aimaan (the covenant with Allah) to which we are indebted for a specified period of time (until our death).

On the basis of these rules, compensation, rewards, and punishments are accorded in this world and the hereafter. These Rules are in accordance with the Fitrat of Allah, bringing out the very best in us through the utilization of all our abilities and faculties, our intellect to its maximum.

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