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The Difference between Deen and Shariah
By Moulana Abdul Hamid,Canada
Whenever we talk about Islam, we often hear and use two very distinctive words: one is Deen and the other is Shari'ah. Unfortunately, very few of us understand the difference and the true meanings of exactly what the word Deen and Shari'ah means. It is not only the uneducated, but even reasonably educated people including religious scholars who are at a loss to fully grasp the important characteristics between these two concepts. It is due to our own ignorance that we often confuse Deen and Shari'ah with each other.

The word 'Deen' has several meanings. The first is sovereignty, power, and lordship. The second is the very opposite which is submission, obedience, service or slavery. The third is to bring to account, to judge, or to dispense reward or punishment for actions. All three uses are found in the Most Holy and Glorious Qur'an as declared by Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala in verse 19 of Surah Al-Imran:

"The only (true) Din in the sight of Allah is (mankind's) total submission to none other than Him."

In this verse, Din is that way of life in which we recognize none other than Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal as the real possessor of all Glory, Power and Majesty and surrender ourselves totally and completely to Him and to Him Alone. In so doing, we do not abase or humble ourselves before anybody except our Glorious Creator and Maker. We regard Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala as Master, Lord, Sovereign, for we are His slaves and servants. Furthermore, we declare that Almighty Allah Alone is the Lord and Creator of the heavens and the earth, Creator of life and death, and the Lord of reward and punishment. Islam is the name of His Deen.

False Deen arises when we ascribe real powers to anyone besides Almighty Allah, when we take anyone as a saviour and master, when we consider such a person as a dispenser of real reward and punishment; when we bow our heads before such a person in humility and when we covet his reward and fear his punishment more than that of Almighty Allah's. This kind of false Deen will never ever be accepted by Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala Who has declared His total rejection of such belief in verse 85 of Surah Al-Imran:

"If anyone desires a Din other than Islam (submission to Allah); Never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost."

Thus, anyone who disregards the Sovereignty and Kingship of Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala, acknowledges someone else as his master and saviour, and becomes his servant and slave, will never have his Deen or conduct accepted by Almighty Allah as we learn in verse 83 of Surah Al-Imran:

"Do they seek a Deen other than Allah's? While all creatures in the heavens and on earth have willingly bowed to His Will (accepted Islam). And to Him shall they all be brought back."

Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal - out of His Great Muhabbat for humanity, has created us to serve none other than Him. It is therefore incumbent on us that we turn away from all false gods and reserve our total submission and our true Deen for none other than our Glorious Creator and Sustainer. How can we human beings incline to be servants and to submit to someone other than Almighty Allah when all other things on this Doonya and in the heavens are slaves and obedient servants of their Glorious Creator, accounting for their deeds to no other authority than Almighty Allah? Does mankind want to adopt a deviant way for himself, some kind of independent and autonomous existence, in defiance of the entire universe?

The Muslim position is very clear. A Muslim does not claim to have a Deen peculiar to himself. Islam is not a sect or an ethnic religion. In its view all Deen is one, for the Truth is one. It was the Deen that was preached by all the earlier Ambiya Alayhim Salaam and it was the truth taught by all the revealed and inspired scriptures. In essence it amounts to a consciousness of the Will and Plan of Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal and a joyful submission to that Will and Plan.

If anyone wants a Deen other than Islam, he or she is false to his/her own nature, and false to Almighty Allah's Will and Plan. Such a person cannot expect guidance, for he or she has deliberately renounced the guidance from the Glorious Creator - Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala Who informs us very clearly in verse 33 of Surah At-Taubah:

"It is He Who hath sent His messenger with guidance and the Din of Truth, to cause it to prevail over all religion, even though the pagans may detest it."

Every religion which commends itself widely to human beings and lasts through some space of time has a glimpse of Truth in it. But Islam being the perfect light of Truth is bound to prevail. As a greater Light, through its own strength, outshines all lesser lights, so will Islam outshine all else, in spite of the displeasure of those to whom light is an offence. The lesson is very clear: we as the favoured Ummah of Almighty Allah's Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam must wage Jihad until the sovereignty and the Deen of Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala is established throughout the Doonya.

To acknowledge Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal as the Glorious Creator, Lord, Master and Ruler; to obey and serve Him Alone and to be accountable to Him, to fear His punishment and to covet only His reward are the three meanings of Deen that stand out clearly. Deen also includes obedience to all the Ambiya Alayhim Salaam. The commandments and scriptures of Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal have been given to mankind through the Revealed Scriptures and through His prophets Alayhim Salaam. Whoever acknowledges Rahmathul Liel Ala'meen as the Creator and Ruler can be accepted as obedient to Him only when he becomes obedient to His Beloved Nabee Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam and all the earlier Ambiya Alayhim Salaam and lives by the guidance received through them. These are the fundamental principles of Deen.

I now turn to explaining the meaning of the word Shari'ah. The word Shari'ah means 'way' or 'path'. We enter the Deen of Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala when we accept Almighty Allah as our Sovereign; we accept to live in service only to Him Alone; and we accept that His Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam is the seal of the prophets and holds authority on His behalf; and we accept that the Most Holy and Glorious Qur'an was revealed to His Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam.

The ways in which we then have to serve Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala and the path we have to travel along in order to obey our Glorious Creator and Sustainer is to follow the Sunnah and the Seerah of His Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam is called the Shari'ah. This 'way' or 'path' too, has been given by Almighty Allah through our Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam who taught us how to worship our Glorious Creator; how to cleanse our bodies and our hearts; what is righteousness and piety; how to discharge rights; how to undertake transactions and dealings with our fellow human beings and how to live our entire lives in total submission to none other than Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala.

The key difference then between Deen and Shari'ah is that while Deen always was, has been, and still is one and the same, many Shari'ahs were revealed to the earlier Ambiya Alayhim Salaam before the advent of our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam. The Deen of Nabee Adam Alayhis Salaam was the very same as that of Nabee Nuh Alayhis Salaam, Nabee Ebrahim Alayhis Salaam, Nabee Moosa Alayhis Salaam, Nabee Saleh Alayhis Salaam, Nabee Dawood Alayhis Salaam, Nabee Sulaiman Alayhis Salaam, Nabee Esa Alayhis Salaam and our Beloved Nabee Muhammad Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam, but their Shari'ahs varied from each other to some extent.

The prescribed ways of performing Ibadah and observing fasting were different. Injunctions about Halal and Haram, rules of cleanliness and codes of marriage, divorce and inheritance also differed. In spite of all this, all were Muslims - the Ummah of all the earlier Ambiya Alayhim Salaam like all of us, were all Muslims because Deen is one and the same for all. This shows that Diee is unaffected by differences in the regulations and laws of the Shari'ah. Deen remains the same though precise details of following it may differ. Before the advent of our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam, Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala sent various Shari'ahs through various prophets Alayhim Salaam. One mode of service was ordained through one prophet and another through another prophet. Those who served Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal in these different ways were all Muslims like us. With the advent of Almighty Allah's Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam - Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal declared:

"Now We abbrogate all the previous codes. From now on whoever wants to serve Us must follow the Code which We are giving through our Final Messenger Muhammad Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam."

There is really only one True Deen - and that is complete submission only to the Will of Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala. The name of that True Deen is Islam. If people corrupt that Pure Light and call their religions by different names, we must bear with them. But the Truth must prevail over all. What we as the favoured Ummah of Almighty Allah's Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam give or do on our parts as the defenders of Tawhid and what we get in return is described in the Most Holy and Glorious Qur'an.

Alhumdoelillah! It is indeed a great and wonderful bargain to give so very little and get so much, if we only knew and understood the comparative value of the life promised to us in the Aghirah; the sacrifice of our fleeting advantages for forgiveness, the Muhabbat of Rahmathul Liel Ala'meen, and eternal bliss and everlasting happiness. May Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala guide us so that we may Insha'Allah forever strive to help His Cause by dedicating ourselves to Him entirely without reserve. Ameen!

Baarak-Allaahu Feekum wa-Sal-Allahu wa-Salam 'alaa Nabiyyinaa Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam.
Was Salaamualaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatu.

Moulana Abdul Hamid,Canada

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