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DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEEN

AND RELIGION/MADHAB
1. Introduction:
Religion deals with mans relationship with God whereas Deen means mans relation with God and his
fellow beings. Deen cover all aspects of human life while religion deals with private affairs of life. There
Islam is not only a religion but also a Deen.
Deen and Religion is clarified but prior to this a deliberation over the meaning and interpretation of both
the words should be opted for only to facilitate a better understanding of the subsequent matter.
Allah says in the holy Quran Verily the Deen in the sight of Allah is only Islam
Inn-ud-dina ind Allah hil Islam.
According to
Religion is a set of doctrine, Rituals and ethics.
(Lord North Burning)
There is no living religion without something like a doctrine. On the other hand, a doctrine , however
elaborate, does not constitute a religion
(C.P.Tsele)
A monastic or religious order subject to a regulated mode of life; the religious state; as, to enter religion.
(Chaucer)

Deen means absolute sovereignty (of Allah).

Deen means absolute submission (of man to the absolute sovereign).

Deen indicate reward and accountability.

Deen expresses a way of life or a code of conduct.

It was exigently just that the believers of Islam should have accepted and introduced Deen i.e., Deen-eIslam as the Islamic law and way of life but that was not done. On the contrary, a self-invented word,
Mazhab was opted for against Deen, the proof of which is there in neither the Holy Quran nor any
Prophetic tradition.
Deen has been chosen by Allah (SWT). Indeed Allah has chosen for you this Deen (Al-Baqara 2:132) .
Only Deen will be accepted and whoever desires other than Islam as religion - never will it be accepted
from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers. (Aal-Imran 3:85).
(Al-Anfal 8:39) Many Mazaahib are self-made and are made with human-intervention. Since many
Mazaahib are self-made and against Islam undoubtedly it will not be accepted.
A messenger or Prophet of Allah will only bring Deen with him. It is He who has sent His Messenger with
guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion, although they who associate others with
Allah dislike it. (At-Tawba 9:33).
Fiqh (deep understanding) in Deen is a favour To whomever Allah Wants to favour HE grants him Fiqh in
Deen (full understanding of Deen-e-Islaam). (Sahih Buqari & Sahih Muslim) Mazhab .
The Present day situation is an illustration of the same. Indeed, those who have divided their religion and
become sects - you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to
Allah; then He will inform them about what they used to do.

Difference Between Deen and Religion/Madhab

25

2. Definition of Religion:
A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as
the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances,
and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

3. Definition of Deen:
A system of life where ALLAH is worshipped and obeyed, not just in the narrow religious sense, but in a
manner that includes all aspects of human life.

4. Difference between Deen and Religion/Madhab:


i. Store of Subjective Experience:
Religion is merely some store of subjective experience and is concerned only with the so-called private
relationship between God and man. Deen is an objective reality and a system of collective life.

ii. Communion with Almighty:


Every follower of a Religion is satisfied that he has established a communion with Almighty, and the
objective of each individual is his own salvation. The aim of deen, on the other hand, is the welfare and
progress of all mankind, and the character and constitution of a society indicates whether or not it is
founded upon the Divine Law.

iii. Not Afford any Objective Criterion:


Religion does not afford us any objective criterion by which we could determine whether or not our actions
are producing the desired results. In a social order governed by deen, development of a collective and
harmonious life correctly indicates whether or not the people are pursuing the right course
iv. Hostile to Scientific Investigation:
Religion is hostile to scientific investigation and is an adversary of reason, so that it could flourish
unhampered with the aid of a blind faith. Deen helps in the development of human reason and knowledge,
allows full freedom to accept or reject on the basis of reason and arguments, and encourages investigation
and discovery of all the natural phenomena to illumine the path of human life and its advancement in the
light of Permanent Values.

v. Follows the Susceptibilities:


Religion follows the susceptibilities and prejudice of men and pampers them. Deen seeks to lead men to a
path of life that is in harmony with the realities of life.

vi. New Idols and Mumbo-Jumbos:


In every age, therefore, Religion sets up new idols and mumbo-jumbos in order to keep the peoples
attention away from the real problem of life. But deen is rational and radical: it breaks all idols, old and
new, and is never variable in its principles.

vii. Perpetual Sense of Fear:


Religion induces a perpetual sense of fear in the minds of men and seeks to frighten them into conformity.
While deen treats fear as a form of polytheism and seeks to make men courageous, daring and selfreliant.

viii. To Bow Every Seat of Authority and Prestige:


Religion prompts men to bow before every seat of authority and prestige, religious as well as temporal.
Deen encourages man to walk about with his head erect, and attain self-confidence.

ix. Treats the Matter with Contempt:


Religion treats the world of matter with contempt and calls upon man to renounce it. It promises paradise
only in the hereafter as a reward for the renunciation of the material world. Deen, on the other hand,
enjoins the conquest of matter and leads man to measurable heights of attainment. It exhorts him to seek
well-being and happiness in this world as well as felicity in the life hereafter.

x. Belief in Pre-Destination:
Religion encourages belief in fatalism (pre-destination), and this tends to dissuade man from active life
and self-development. Deen gives man power to challenge fate, and provides energy for a life of activity
and self-development.

xi. Seeks to Comfort the Weak:

Difference Between Deen and Religion/Madhab


26
Religion seeks to comfort the weak, the helpless and the oppressed with the belief that the affairs of this
world are governed by the will of God and that its acceptance and resignation helps to endear them to
God. This sort of teaching naturally tends to morbidity, and emboldens their religious leaders who profess
to interpret the Will of God, so that they indulge in their misdeeds with perfect impunity and persuade the
adherents to a complete and quiet submission. Deen, on the other hand, raises the banner of revolt
against all forms of tyranny and exploitation. It calls upon the weak and the oppressed to follow the Divine
Laws and thereby seek to establish a social order in which all tyrants and oppressors will be forced to
accept the dictates of right and justice. In this social order, there is no place for dictators, capitalists or
priests. They are all enemies of Deen.

xii. Religious Meditation:


Religion enjoins religious meditation in the name of worship and thus induces self-deception. Deen exhorts
men to assert themselves and struggle perpetually for the establishment of the Divine Social Order, and its
betterment when attained. Worship in Deen really means obedience to the Laws of Allah.

xiii. Frowns and Sneers:


Religion frowns and sneers at all things of arts and beauty. Deen defies those who forbid the enjoyment of
the good and beautiful things of life which God has created for the enjoyment of man.

xiv. Denounces Everything:


Religion denounces everything new and declares all innovation as sin. Deen holds that the needs and
demands of human life keep changing with the change in the conditions of life; change and innovation are,
therefore, demanded by life itself. Only the Divine Laws are immutable.

5. Analyses by Dr. Israr Ahmad


The words Deen and Madhab are entirely different from each other with regard to their underlying
concepts. Although in our part of the world we generally refer to Islam as Madhab (religion), yet what is
interesting indeed is the fact that the word Madhab has never once been used in the entire treasury of the
Quranic text and Ahadeeth literature! Instead, the word that has almost always been used for Islam in the
original sources is Deen.
The fundamental difference between the two terms must be understood. Madhab, or religion, is a term
used for a set of beliefs and rituals of worship. On the other hand, Deen refers to an entire way of life that
pervades all aspects of life. In other words, as compared to Madhab, Deen is a far more comprehensive,
all-encompassing reality. With this backdrop, it will perhaps not be entirely correct to say that Islam is not a
Madhab (religion), because all of the elements of a Madhab are certainly part and parcel of Islam it
includes the articles of belief, spirituality, and the etiquettes of worship (Salah, Saum, Zakah and Hajj).
Hence, it would be more accurate to say that Islam is not merely a Madhab, but an entire code of life
(Deen). It not only offers whatever constitutes religion, but is endowed with the elements of a complete
way of life. Hence, Islam is, essentially, Deen.
In this context, it must also be understood that while several religions can co-exist at a time in a particular
region of the world, there can only be a single Deen (way of life). It is not possible, for instance, for
capitalism and communism to coexist in a country at the same time. Only one will be dominant and prevail
over others. Similarly, monarchy and democracy cannot simultaneously be established in a country. A
system can either be based on the law of Allah (swt), or it will be against the law of Allah (swt). There
cannot be two parallel systems, although there can be several religions co-existing at a time in a certain
place. The only exception can be made in the case of a single dominant system ascendant above all,
subservient to which, all shrunken up and sidelined, may exist other systems. Allama Iqbal said: In a state
of enslavement, it is reduced to a single, small droplet / The very same life which, when freed, becomes a
ceaseless, shoreless torrent!
When Deen is subjugated, it is reduced to mere religion. At the high point of Islamic history, Islam was the
single dominant system, under which existed Christianity, Judaism, Magianism and other creeds as
religions. They were given this allowance on the clearly laid out condition to pay a nominal tax (Jizya) and
accept their subservience to the ascendant system, as said in Surah At-Taubah: Fight until they pay the
Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (At-Taubah 9:29)
The law of the land shall be Allahs (swt), and the dominant system will be Islam, but as far as personal law
and private life was concerned, they were free to live according to their own beliefs and practices.
However, during the period of the decline and downfall of the Islamic state, the situation was entirely
reversed. It will not be wrong to say that in the Indian subcontinent, the dominant system of life belonged
to the British. Hence, Islam in the subcontinent was reduced to mere religion Muslims could pray as they
wished, and the British never objected to that; they could declare the call for prayer from the mosques, and
they could marry and inherit according to their religious laws, but the state law had to be none other than
British, according to the dictates of the British Crown, without interference from the local people. This is
exactly what Iqbal expressed in his verse: Since the Mullah (cleric) in India is allowed to prostrate in
prayer / He foolishly thinks it implies his freedom.
In other words, Islam was not free, but had shrivelled up and been reduced to the level of a mere religion
among many.

27 Advanced Handbook of Islamic Studies


Deen is essentially that which dominates and pervades. If it is subjugated, it will no longer remain Deen,
but will be reduced to Madhab. Its true character will be distorted. If studied from this angle, it becomes
clear that no matter how great a system, if it is presented merely as a vision and idea, or presented in the
form of a written treatise, it can at best be an idealistic utopia, but can never truly be a criterion, a
standard, or a benchmark. It can become a decisive criterion for the whole of mankind to judge and live by
only when it is brought into practice, established and fully implemented.