Definition of the Words Deen & the Word Islam

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


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 and the word Islam?


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

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.

Obedience and Submission due to Subjugation:
The Method and the Habit:
Punishment, Reward and Judgment.

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.

This is about the definition of the word deen, what about the meaning of the word Islam?

Islam in the Arabic language and in Qur’an means total submission and obedience. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 83), what can be translated as, "Do they seek a deen other than the deen of Allah and to Him all what is in the skies and in the earth have submitted willingly or forcefully and to Him they shall return"

This word Islam had been used in the Qur’an as a symbol for the deen that was revealed to Muhammad (S.A.W.) and Allah clarified that He will not accept from man other deen even if it was from the previous divine deens. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 85), what can be translated as, "He who chooses other than Islam a deen, it will not be accepted from him and he, in the Hereafter, is among the losers." This meaning is emphasized by the saying of the prophet (S.A.W.) when he said, "By whom my soul is in His hand, if one, Jew or Christian, heard of me, then died and he/she did not believe in that which I was sent with, then they are from the dwellers of Hell fire." (Reported by Imam Muslim)

Islam is a divine system, with it Allah (S.W.T.) sealed all other deens, and made it a comprehensive system that deals with all aspects of human life (Belief, intellectual, moral and practical) and this system is based on total submission to Allah (S.W.T.) alone and no one else and purifying worship to Him, and adopting all that is authentic from the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). 

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated:Last Updated December 18, 2000 at 2:00 A.M. / ema