Quran – Foundational Concepts: Deen (Religion) Pt 2

This series is a study of concepts that feature prominently in The Quran. The words representing these concepts appear tens, if not hundreds, of times and form the backbone of its philosophy. This study is based on my own personal method of study called ‘Qira’ah Wujudiyyah’ (QiWu) or ‘An Existential Reading’. It does not necessarily represent any other Quranist although our methods may overlap. The point of QiWu is to transcend any religious or historical connotation but rather to find a meaning that fits our experience of life

In this and the few forthcoming essays, we will be analysing the word ‘deen’. Deen is a foundational concept in The Quran. Not only that, it is commonly used in Islamic circles as well. However, the connotations which it acquires in those circles may not be what is implied by Quran. As this is a central concept, it is important that we explore fully its meaning.

The first few occurences of deen gives us an indicator of its basic idea. As we have translated deen as ‘religion’ (explained in the previous essay), understand the verses about deen will give us an understanding of what is Quranic version of religion.

Deen is such a foundational concept that it appears in Chapter 1 itself (commonly known as ‘Al-Fatihah):

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ.
الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ.
مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ***.
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ.
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ.
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ

The translation appears below.

Although we do not count the basmalah in the count (we call it ‘verse zero’ as it opens all chapters), we very much consider it as part of The Quran. As such, we can see that our verse in question, ‘maaliki yawm ad-deen’ (Dominator of the period of the religion) is the central verse of Chapter 1.

This is most appropriat because ‘deen’ connects a servant with his lord (rabb), king (malik), ‘ilah’ (god). The first three verses of Chapter (Verses 0-2) tell us the role of God and creates a ‘rahmaan’ and ‘raheem’ bracketing effect:
With the essence of Allah, Ar-Rahmaan, Ar-Raheem
Praise is for Allah, Lord of the Worlds
Ar-Rahmaan Ar Raheem

This kind of effect is not present in any other passage in the Quran at all. This shows that 1/3 ‘dominator of the period of religion’ is the reason why God’s role takes effect in the previous three verses. So when the period of religion happens, God dominates everything and he takes on the roles outlined in the previous verses.

What about the proceeding three verses:

You alone we worship and you alone we seek optimisation
Guide us of the straight and establishing path
The path which you have blessed, not with anger nor that of the misdirected.

So this is the human role in ad-deen. They are to worship God and to optimise their life performance. This is the first definition of the straight and establishing path. It is a path filled with positive emotions and is directed in the right way.

‘Yawm ad-deen’ is also explicated in 82/17-19 as a period where no soul will have command over another and all affairs go back to God. This is what happens in Chapter 1 when both halves are operational.

Combining the divine and human roles above give us a fundamental understanding of the concept of deen.

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