There is a world of difference between the definition of the word Islam ordained by God and the Arab religion invented by the religionists which goes by the same name. The word Islam may possibly be the most abused word in the world today.
Indeed, the deen by God is Islam. (3:19)
In one simple and straightforward sentence God states that Islam is a deen. The meaning of verse 3:19 literally says:-
Indeed, the way of life by God is Peacefulness.
The word Islam means peacefulness. This word is derived from the root S L M or Salam that means ‘Peace’. In 6:54 we are told to greet one another by saying:-
“Peace be upon you” or “Salam-mun alai-kum”.
The word ad-deen means the way or the order. In no place in the Reading did God ordain Islam as a religion. This is a crucial point to consider.
What is the difference between religion and deen?
- A religion consists of a belief in a god or gods, and the activities that are connected with that belief such as prayer or worship or rites in the temple, church, synagogue, or mosque.
- A deen refers to a way: or method of doing something; or an orderly method of doing something designed (for an action or series of actions) to achieve an objective.
According to the Reading:
Religion1 is called shi’ah. It is a system detached from God’s prescribed way of life – or the deen-nil-lah. Religion was created by humans for people to devote themselves to a common entity like – but not limited to – physical entities made from wood, stone, rock, metal or anything tangible. People serve these idols or icons by worshipping them through prayers and religious rites which eventually evolve to become institutionalised and regulated religious obligations.
The deen is the order in the system conceived by the All-knowing, which allows people to devote themselves to the one, unseen God through His providence sanctioned in His Scriptures. True adherents to this system serve God by committing themselves to do the deeds required by Him in His system so that they can achieve the peacefulness in this world. These obligations require self-sacrifice but are free of the dogmatic practice of ritualised worship or rites. Men and women who believe in God, the final day and observe virtuousness in this life are called Muslims or those who are at peace. Muslim is not a label but it is the state of being of a person who enjoys peacefulness.
In the Reading the history of Noah is narrated in a surah or a chapter by itself also entitled Noah. The history of the great flood is known to all those who received something of God’s Scripture. Noah was commissioned by God to reform a community, which indulged in serving false gods. His community belonged to a religion.
It is apparent that two quite different systems existed in Noah’s time. The masses subscribed to the preservation and propagation of a traditional system of praying and worshipping as their way of life. Noah, however, observed his way of life or deen according to God’s system without institutionalised prayer and worship. As soon his home was flooded, he turned to God, saying:
My Lord, secure me and my parents and anyone who enters my system (bayti-ya) as a believer and all the believing men and believing women. And do not increase the wicked except to destroy. (71:28)
The religionists say the meaning of the word bayti-ya in this verse is house, the sense being, “… and anyone who enters my house”. Yet, even the gentlest application of reason brings to mind the fact that Noah made his humble request during the great flood from within the ark, which he himself had built. At that very moment, his house was in all probability under the waters of God’s retribution against those who had refused Noah’s call all this time. It is equally clear that since all mankind had been drowned, there would be no one to enter his house. The word bayti-ya as we know it must mean that to which Noah subscribed. Incidentally, the word for ship in the Reading is fulk.
What then makes a house and a system different?
- A house is commonly understood as a building in which people live, usually belonging to one family. It is inconceivable that Noah intended that God should forgive people just because they have entered his house, which submerged in the flood. When he implored the Lord of the Universe he was referring to his system which was different from the system of the idol-worshippers.
- A system, on the other hand, is a way of working, organising, or doing something in which people follow a plan or set of rules. When a situation or activity has the semblance of a system, it means that it has a sense of orderliness or good organisation. It is also a way in which a whole institution or aspect of society has been organised or arranged.
In Noah’s time people had already lived according to their own invented system of worshipping idols. Noah, however, was serving the Lord of universe alone and had committed himself to God’s prescribed system. When he uttered the word bayti-ya it meant ‘my system‘ – that is the system to which he was committed. We will shortly see that Abraham was directed to the same system, which God calls bayti-ya. Abraham and his son were instructed to cleanse the system of idol-worship for the benefit of the people who were devoted and those who humbled themselves consentingly to God’s providence.
The Reading says those who observe the way of life marked by ritual prayer and worship belong to the shi-ya’an, (or religions). Those devoted to religion are termed mushrikeen or ‘idol-worshippers’.
The history of Noah is again mentioned in surah thirty seven alongside the history of Abraham:
Noah implored Us, and We are the best of responders. We saved him and his family from the great disaster, and We made him and his family the survivors and preserved their history for the later generations. (37:75-78)
The history of the retribution against Noah’s people was preserved as an example to the people of Abraham. In spite of this, the people of Abraham similarly devoted themselves to false gods. They worshiped and prayed to the gods they created just like the people of Noah did.
The people of Noah drowned by the flood belonged to the shi-a’tihi (a religion). Similarly the community of Abraham were worshipping and praying to idols. They too, were shi-a’tihi except Abraham.
Peace be upon Noah, throughout history. We reward the sincere people. Thus he was among the true believers and then We drowned the rest. And surely from a religion that excludes Abraham (min-shi-a’tihi-laa-ibrohim) – who came to his Lord with a blissful heart while he asked his father and his people, “What are you serving? It is false gods besides God that you need? What do you make out of the Lord of the Universe?” (37:79-87)
Abraham was living in a community whose people were enslaved with the idea of serving idols. When he discovered that God is the One who initiated the heavens and the Earth and it is the only One that is worthy to be served – he went to his people to demonstrate simple logic.
He said to his father and his people. “What are these statues that you serve”? They said, “We found our ancestors doing it”. He said, “Surely you and your ancestors are totally wrong”. They said, “Have you brought the truth, or are you just kidding”? He said, “No! Your true Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the Earth who created you and your ancestors. This is what I testify to – by God! as soon as you leave, I will proof to you something about your statues”. Then he broke the small idols leaving the biggest one so that they could use it as reference. Later they asked, “Who did this to our gods, he must be crazy”? A few of them said, “We heard a youth threaten them – his name is Abraham”. They said, “Then bring him in front of the people so that they may bear witness”. They asked him, “Did you do this to our gods, Abraham”? He replied, “It must be the biggest one who did it – why not you ask him – perhaps it could speak”? They conferred with each other and said, “Indeed it is you who are guilty”. In spite of that they reverted against their own common sense and said, “You know very well it cannot speak”. Then he said, “Do you then serve besides God what is too powerless to benefit or harm you”?
From the above lesson we learn that people who are shackled by their religious belief are extremely dangerous and they are willing to pass unreasonable judgement on others who ask them to use their common sense. This is a typical example of all organised religions. They are conditioned by their masters to defy common sense.
A religion is a concept requiring rituals or rites focused on physical icons enabling people to see what they worshipped. This singular attribute, according to the Reading, marks it as a religion. After all, who would choose to show the Glory of God in something tangible and man-made?
A Deen on the other hand, is a way of life sanctioned either by men or by God Himself. When God says, “you shall not serve except Me“, it means that we are to observe only what is sanctioned by Him. These sanctions were revealed to the various prophets. In the Reading it is known as Deen-nil-lah or God’s prescribed way of life. Hence, we find many passages in the Reading instructing people to obey God and obey the messengers so that they not be diverted from God’s prescribed sanctions under the pretext of a particular religion. God’s deen requires His servants to manifest their faith in practical acts of charity and deeds. His way is a series of decrees that must be translated into actions as the way of life. For example, God’s covenant revealed through all the prophets requires His servants to observe the decrees listed below. Anyone can undertake to fulfil their covenant with God by upholding these prescribed decrees without consulting the priests of any religion:
- Your Lord has decreed that you shall not serve other than Him.
- You shall honour your parents for as long as they live, one of them or both of them.
- You shall not speak harshly to them nor mistreat them.
- You shall speak amicably to people and do not utter any lies.
- You shall regard the relatives, the orphans, and the poor.
- You shall not kill your children from fear of poverty.
- You shall not commit adultery, for it is a vice.
- You shall not kill anyone, for taking of life is made forbidden.
- You shall not touch the orphans’ money except for their own good.
- You shall give full measure when you trade and weigh with an equitable balance.
- You shall not accept anything that you yourself cannot ascertain.
- You shall be perfectly honest when you serve as a witness, even if it is against yourself, your parents, or your relatives whether the defendant is rich or poor.
- You shall give to charity from God’s provisions, which He has entrusted to you.
- You shall strive in the path of God (fi-sabi-lil-lah) against those who strive against you, but not aggress.
- You shall fulfil your commitments and humble yourself with those who are humble.
- You are not to be arrogant, nor to walk in pride. God does not love the boastful, the arrogant. Be humble as you walk and lower your voice.
- Eat from everything that is lawful and good, and do not follow the step of the Devil, he is your ardent enemy. He directs you towards vice and evil and to invent lies and attribute them to God.
This is part of the prescribed way and the wisdom sanctioned by God in the Reading. People, from the times of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad have been committed to these values. They observe these values in an orderly manner (as a deen). Common sense tells us that in order to achieve results these values must be translated into deeds. Worship or ritual prayers are irrelevant. Therefore, religion and deen are distinctly different.
People are expected to serve the Creator by observing the prescribed orders.
He has decreed for you the same deen enjoined upon Noah and what is revealed herein, and what was decreed for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. You shall uphold the one deen and not be segregated. It is simply too difficult for the idol-worshippers to accept what you advocate. (42:13)
Be penitent to God, observe Him, uphold your commitments and do not fall into idol-worship. And do not be with those who change the deen into religion (shi-ya-‘an) each sectarian is happy with what they have. (30:31-32)
Traditionally, the word shi’ah is translated as sect. Sects have long been associated with principal differences in a religious context. God however, has no interest in sectarianism. All the religions in this world are the same. The faithful congregate. They form groups to a common cause in public. They worship and pray ritually to different shapes of idols be it a wall, cross, star, crescent or a square house or other images made from the materials which themselves owe their existence to the true God. That is the extent of difference between religion and the deen as far as the Reading is concerned.
For example, while prescribing good and lawful foods God proclaimed that He has perfected the deen. He says: ‘Today I have perfected the deen for you and completed My favour upon you, and decreed Islam (peacefulness) as the deen’. This is in the middle of the subject about food.
Taken literally and substituting the concept of deen with religion, this decree becomes absurd. In 26:195-196 the Reading says: ‘It came in the clear Arabic tongue and it contains the same message of the previous Scriptures‘. This means that the message in the Reading is consistent with all other previous Scriptures. God perfected a deen for His servants after detailing His covenant on food. God has not forbidden any food in this world except for the decaying meat, blood, carrion, any animal that dies through violent death and food consecrated to idols. This is the deen (or the orderly way) sanctioned by God in His system. There shouldn’t be any other prohibitions added to it by anyone. There is nothing religious about it. It is merely a dietary restriction based on good hygiene.
Restricted to you are the meat from the animals that die of themselves, blood, decaying meat2, and food dedicated to other than God. Also, the animal that has been strangled to death, the animal struck by an object, the animal that dies from falling from a height, the animal that is gored to death, the animal that is partially eaten by a predator unless you have rescued it alive, the food dedicated to idols and meat divided by means of casting lots. These are abominations. Today, the disbelievers are in despair about your deen. Do not fear them and fear Me instead. Today, I have perfected the deen for you and completed My favour upon you, and I decree Islam as the deen for you. (5:3)
The word deen is mentioned three times in the verse above, instructing believers in simple and clear terms to observe what only God had sanctioned. There is nothing religious about not eating carrion or animals gored to death. Similarly, there is nothing religious about not eating decaying meat. It is simply an order prescribed from the One who has created you, and intended for your good. This directive supersedes all other dietary restrictions before it. A person who serves God alone is one who sincerely observes the limits prescribed by Him alone. That is the essence of the perfect order of life of Islam.
We have revealed to you this Scripture truthfully, therefore serve God alone. Be sincere to Him in the way of life (deen). (39:2)
Sincerely consenting to the prescribed limits sanctioned by Him in the deen is to serve Him. That is all it says. Simple. In this simple decree, God has reinforced the concept of His words to His servants around the world irrespective of colour or language. Islam is simple, the Reading is simple. However, bear in mind that simple here does not mean easy. God’s enemies will unceasingly try to divert men and women from His path by sanctioning additional set of prohibitions. In order to overcome the predicament we are told to be sincerely committed to Him alone:-
Seek help through perseverance and be committed. This is difficult indeed, but not for those who are sincere who realise that they will meet their Lord that they will ultimately return to Him. (2:45-46)
I reiterate my stand that there is no such thing as the Islamic religion. There is, undoubtedly, the peacefulness of an orderly way of life sanctioned by God. It is our responsibility as His servants to consent to His will by observing only His prescribed way. Let us now explore the logic behind this requirement of Islam.
- It is God who grants life and death.
- It is God who keeps the creation in perfect balance.
- It is God who makes us happy or miserable.
- It is God who creates the human, male and female, from a drop of liquid and then from ‘something which clings’, then He gives it life as an infant. Then some reach full strength and get to become old, and others die earlier. It is God who determines our time of life and death, nobody else.
- It is God who makes us rich or poor.
- It is God who provides everything in exact measure.
- To Him belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth.
- There is no god but Him.
Out of mercy He revealed His guidance to mankind so that they enjoy a peaceful life in this world and a peaceful life the hereafter. Those who are vigilant and consent to His will and believe in Him alone have grasped the strongest bond that never breaks. His message to all mankind:
O mankind, you shall serve your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you might become observant. (2:21)
I have not created the jinn and the humans except to serve me alone (51:56)
There are people who take God for granted by denying Him as the Lord of the Universe. No matter how hard we try to deny His existence and power – we cannot escape from reality that He gives life and He takes it back. Our natural instincts as humans tell us that there is an unseen super power somewhere out there who has created everything in existence and maintains it in perfect balance. The Reading tells us that there is only one God and that God is common to all people. Of course there are ungrateful people who believe that there is no such a thing as God because they have deconstructed a simple process in the complexity of the grand design, and then claim they have deconstructed God Himself. Strangely there are among them who concede that there is ‘something out there’ or a ‘higher intelligent energy’ they just do not want to call it God. A number of them are rebelling against the dogma of religion and a God that has been personified by all the religions in many ways. In a way they are right with their misunderstanding. They consider it an act of irrationality to believe in an Unseen Creator. The majority of them however, had deliberately denied the faculty of reason that points everything to the existence of the Creator, including the frontiers of physics for example.
Surely there is a distinction between appreciating mere glimpse of the Glory of the Creator through the reflection of His creations against understanding the ‘essence’ of it. We are fortunate to have been given some information about the existence of this Invisible Supreme Power from the Reading. Although no vision could ever encompass IT, but it has the power to know everything in the skies and on land and in the sea. Not a single leaf falls without its knowledge, nor a seed in the darkness of the soil, nor anything that is wet or dry. We are only able to see His signs in the sky and on Earth. In His grand design He has been compassionate and merciful towards us by creating a water cycle system to provide us with pure and clean water from the sky without which we are deprived of our basic need. In 11:7 it says God made the water a requisite for every living organism and science has proven that life begins with water and nothing could survive on this planet without it – including those who say ‘there is no such thing as God‘. If we reflect on the water cycle alone, how He created the exact balance of heat gravity to cause vapours to be lifted from within the forest trees, rivers, seas and the pools to form the clouds, we could not fathom His power of creation. It is not surprising to find in the Reading that among other attributes He is depicted as Compassionate, Merciful, Powerful Energy, Pure, Peaceful, and Caring, nothing could match its Supremacy and Might, and He is above all dignity. It has the ability to create and design everything in the heavens and Earth in perfect balance.
The Reading says everything in the heaven and Earth are glorifying Him every passing second including whatever is in between them and whatever is beneath the soil – except the best creature among His creations – a gene that possesses ego. It also tells us that mankind has never been appreciative towards Him. Obviously as God – He did not forget to tell us, “I don’t need any of you – you are the one who needs Me – therefore you are free to believe or disbelieve in Me!“
However, He gives us a very simple illustration in sura 2:258 of His power by saying that He is the one that brings the sun from the east and that, if there is anyone who wishes to deny Him or challenge His authority, we should ask such a person to bring the sun from the west if they can. Thus, is there anyone who wishes to take up the challenge today? If not, they should kill their egos and try to be humble with those who are humble.
It has been decreed that those who add even one extra ruling or regulation beyond that which was prescribed by God are His manifest enemies. They have rejected what God had sanctioned. And those who obey these additional restrictions are not consenting to God’s decrees, rather, they have been misled by the Devil. The Reading is very clear on this matter when God says, ‘Do not testify as they do, and do not follow their opinions’.3
Summon your witnesses who can testify that God has prohibited this or that4. Even if they testify, do not testify as they do, and do not follow the passions of those who reject Our revelations, those who disbelieve in the Hereafter, and set up idols alongside God. (6:150)
Those consenting to God must uphold their covenants and they may eat any food palatable to them except what He had sanctioned in His Scripture.
1 Religion is defined in the Chambers Encyclopaedic English Dictionary as 1. A belief in, or the worship of a god or gods. 2. A particular system of belief or worship, such as Christianity or Judaism. 3. Anything to which one is totally devoted and which rules one’s life. 4. The monastic way of life. [from Latin religio]
2 The word Khin literally means rotten, stink or bad – Ziri means that you see. Khinziri does not refer to swine – a livestock that is part of God’s provisions to mankind (5:1 & 6:142). It is obvious the prohibition is limited to the nature and condition of the food – not the species of animals. It is illogical to imagine that God in His wisdom created swine and allows it to be domesticated and then prohibits its meat. Wildlife hunting is permitted – wild boars are not mentioned as prohibited game. In 5:60 God uses the word kh-na-zi-ro to signify stinking as the state of condition of a person – but religionists say humans can become pigs.
3 i.e. those who create laws on food more than the Quranic injunctions.
4 The Jews introduced the Kosher – Arab religionists rejected the Quran to follow the Jews and declared food as Halal and Haram. 6:138 says: ‘They said, “These livestock and crops are prohibited, and no one shall eat them, unless we say so“, according to their claim’.
- Deen does not mean religion
- Total Freedom
- Virtual idols
- Serve God through commitments
- God is not to be ‘worshiped’
- Moses and Jesus did not worship God
- Religion is man made