What is the Arabic (and Hebrew) term “deen”?

The law and the code you live by.

There are two questions to consider:

  • Personal: Which code do you personally live by, that God will judge you by? (Of course, this also requires that you know that code and do not make assumptions about it.)
  • Social/Political: Which code do you ascribe yourself to for social/communal belonging?

In the Quran 3:19, God says that the only code He recognises and accepts as an expression of subservience to His will is ‘the submission’, referring to the submission of Abraham, the first messenger of God to human civilisation – one of many contextual references can be found in Quran 2:127-134 or 6:158-165. ‘The submission’, in Arabic merely a verbal noun, is presented as an ellipsis (the omission of speech or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues).

God literally calls this method of submission as the ‘millah’ of Abraham (millah in Arabic being a code people hold to be revealed by God). The code was carried by Abraham’s descendants for approx 2600 years via the Hebrew Israelites, and then spread beyond them throughout the world via the Ishmaelites (and later on others) in the last 1400 years.

Who then is Muhammad? He is God’s final messenger from the Ishmaelites, upholding the code of Abraham his forefather, and delivering the final amendments of the Law to mankind. He is God’s response to the prayers of Abraham and Ishmael, thinking of their descendants upon building the Ancient House at Makkah (then Bakka): “Send them a messenger from their own to deliver your signs (revelations) to them, teach them the scripture and wisdom, and purify them.” (Quran 2:129) God’s Law was first revealed to Abraham and then amended over thousands of years via 100,000s Prophets reflecting changing contexts and circumstances. The final amendments were eventually given to Muhammad.

So here we are today with the history of human civilisation behind us, revelation and the code to inform us as we look forward into the unknown future. It is all enough to guide us to live productive and contented lives with which we give thanks to the Most High, and flourish emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

In general, the contemporary Western Muslim is oblivious to all of the above, let alone a more detailed breakdown. The term Islam in today’s western context is a social marker of ethnic identity, and a political marker of minority identity. As a modern ‘religion’ it is the expression of ‘Millah’ of Abraham in a rudimentary ‘village religion’ which is over-simplified and mixed with folk religion. In everyday life, the sincere Muslim is a theist initiated into this culture. Their religion is taught to them with an ambiguously defined ‘spirituality’ inspired by ethno-cultural identity and norms – it ends up a desire for a theism and the spiritual coached in the ethnic and political familiar.

The true Torah/Nev’im/Gospel/Qur’anic faith – characterised by God as the “Faith of Abraham”, is truth. Today, Islam is the ‘village religion’ version of the Religion of Abraham which has skewed and misconstrued it on every level. Judaism and Christianity also started this way. Moses and Jesus were on the religion of Abraham, but those who later claimed Moses initially did to the Religion of Abraham what Muslims are doing now, until eventually it became Judaism. Same with those who later claimed Christ.

Are Muslims really taking the same wayward path like the other two? Yes, it seems so – it all starts with village mentality and folk religion, evolving into a separate entity. It should come as no surprise since the final Prophet of God said, “You will tread the same path as was trodden by those before, you inch by inch and step by step, so much so that if they had entered into the hole of the lizard, you would also follow them in this. His companions said: God’s Messenger, do you mean Jews and Christians (by your words) “those before you”? He said: Who else?! (Muslim)

Some might argue that Islam is not village religion since it has a complex theology and legal formulations. Yes, but so too does Christianity and Judaism and that doesn’t make them legitimate. Many systems of thought go off on a tangent and then become complexified, based on perverted views, by later generations. Ziyad b. Labid said: The Prophet mentioned something and then said, “…that shall be in times when knowledge (in the form of guidance) is gone.” I said: “Messenger of God, how shall (such) knowledge disappear when we recite the Qur’an, and have our children recite, and our children shall have their children recite it until the Day of Judgment?” He said, “Woe to you Ziyad, I considered you the most intelligent man of Madinah! Do not these Jews and Christians recite the Torah and Bible, but know little of what is in it?” (Ibn Majah)

In fact it’s something to think about: nearly every time the Prophet would discuss the misguidance of believers, he would draw on the Christian and Jews as an example. Why? Because he was warning on the ways in which the devil perverts believers and draws them away from the religion of Abraham and into their own sect. And another point to note: the sectarianism God refers to in the Quran isn’t the daft sects of Islam, but the sects of the religion of Abraham, namely Judaism and Christianity. Unfortunately, Islam is forming into an Abrahamic sect rather than standing as the religion of Abraham itself.

But the Qur’an as the final testament of God is a true and accurate representation of God’s will. For those who read it with the intention to actually understand it in neutral terms (in as much as they can) rather than sing its phonemes, then the above is all patently obvious.

So how is it most Muslims miss this? How is it that Christians and Jews don’t know this?!

Because some humans (with varying agendas) have clouded it and are committed to their new formulation, emotionally blackmailing sincere folk with godly aspirations to commit to unthinking, irrationality, and superstition. Simple.

What we need is no-nonsense faith – The faith of Abraham in clear and simple terms. In context. Reflecting its environment. Making sense.