Difference Between Deen and Religion

What is Deen? What do we understand from the term Religion (Mazhab)? Are these two the same concept? If not, then what is Islam? Is it a deen or religion?

In this write-up, we will try to find the answers and understand the difference between Deen and Religion.

What is Religion?

The term ‘religion’ is derived from a Latin origin religio that originally meant obligation, bond, etc. And this Latin term was derived from religare that means to tie back, tie tight, etc. (reference: Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto).

The American Heritage Dictionary defines ‘Religion’ as;

The belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers, regarded as creating and governing the universe.

Also, Alfred North Whitehead defines religion as;

“Religion is what an individual does with his solitariness.”

So, religion is quite narrow in its meaning. It is limited in its scope. Religion is just a belief in God or governing body. It is who we personally believe God is; but devoid of what God wants from us. In other words, religion is just a private connection to God. It is limited to religious practices and ways of worship. It is not something that would reflect in the collective life of society.

To make it more precise, the term ‘religion’ governs our private lives only. It does not encompass our collective life. It has no bearing on the social, economic, or political spheres of life.

In short, religion has no influence on different aspects of life. It is just our bond to God i.e. I and God. Religion is a personal matter, personal belief; it does not control the collective life of individuals and society.

Understanding the term ‘Deen’

The term Dīn is interpreted differently in different contexts. For example, in the Holy Qur’an, often it has been interpreted as ‘Mazhab’ as well as ‘Deen’ by scholars. However, it is different in sense from what the actual interpretation of Mazhab is.

In another verse, (مَٰلِكِ يَوْمِ ٱلدِّينِ) deen is translated as judgment; as “Master of the Day of Judgment”.

However, Din is a way of life. As the well-known Islamic scholar, Fazlur Rahman Malik interpreted Din as ‘the way to be followed’. It is a set of divine laws that govern every aspect of life.

For example, Din shows us why we are sent to the world. Similarly, it teaches us our role being a father, brother, sister, mother, husband, or wife.

Din inculcates moral and ethical values in a person.  With its teachings, it makes an individual a perfect human being, an ideal man/woman.

Deen governs the economic and political sphere of life. How to earn, how to spend is what we learn from Dīn. Similarly, it guides the ruler about his duties to the public.

To cut it short, ‘Deen’ is all-encompassing and vast in its scope. Religion is one important aspect of din. Din covers all the aspects of life. It is a complete code of life.

Thus, Din guides an individual in all the aspects of life; i.e. spiritual, social, economic, political, cultural, moral, ethical, etc.

Understanding the Difference between Deen and Religion

Based on the above discussion; we can now easily understand the difference between Deen and Religion.

Din encompasses all aspects of life. It is a complete guide, a universal code of life.

However, Religion is just a single aspect (spiritual aspect) of Din. Apart from this spiritual aspect; i.e. who is our Creator, our purpose of life; the belief in life and death; in angels; and on the day of judgment; Din also guides us in the social, political, and economic spheres of life.

Islam is a Din. It is a deen because it perfectly fits in the definition of din. It is a way of life; a complete code governing all the aspects of life.

Let’s try to understand how Din makes an equilibrium in society and why do we need Din in life. Similarly, if we remove din (Islam) from our lives, how the entire edifice of society would collapse.

In the West, the Christians and Jews have failed to keep their family system intact. They show more respect to dogs than to their parents. Keeping pets at home and parents in the old age home is common in the west.

Other social evils like gambling, drugs, homosexuality, etc. are common in those societies.

The respect that Islam has given to an individual is missing in those countries. They treat their women as objects. Likewise, they see their old parents as burdens. Similarly, children leave their parents when they grow up.

They lack the sense of right and wrong. Although, there are man-made rules based on personal consciousness; i.e. they disapprove of killing, theft, etc. But, they lack a complete code that could govern their personal and social life.

Last, but not least, they do not know their purpose of living. That is the primary reason why depression is common in such countries despite being wealthy nations with all the luxuries.

While Islam maintains harmony in everything. The followers of Islam have their family system intact. Islam has placed a proper deterrence for immoral activities. It is a complete guideline in all aspects of life. With Islam, we find the purpose of our life.

This is how Deen-e-Islam differs from all religions. In short, deen is a complete roadmap for an ideal life.


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