ⓘ Blog | Din, Arabic - religion. Dīn is an Arabic word with three general senses: judgment, custom, and religion. It is used by both Arab Muslims and Christians. In I ..

Din (Arabic)

Din (Arabic)

Dīn is an Arabic word with three general senses: judgment, custom, and religion. It is used by both Arab Muslims and Christians. In Islam, the word refers to the way of life Muslims must adopt to comply with divine law, encompassing beliefs, character and deeds. The term appears in the Quran 98 times with different connotations, including in the phrase yawm al-din, generally translated as Day of Judgment.


1. Etymology

The Arabic dīn has Semitic cognates, including the Hebrew "dīn" דין, Aramaic dīnā דִּינָא, Amharic daña ዳኘ and Ugaritic dyn.

The Arabic sense of judgment is commonly derived from the Hebraeo-Aramaic root. The Hebrew term "דין", transliterated as "dīn", means either "law" or "judgement". In the Kabbalah of Judaism, the term can, alongside "Gevurah" cognate to the Arabic "Jabaarah", refer to "power" and "judgement". In ancient Israel, the term featured heavily in administrative and legal proceedings i.e. Bet Din, literally "the house of judgement," the ancient building block of the Jewish legal system.

Some scholars such as Noldeke and Vollers have derived the Arabic sense of religion from the Middle Persian den revelation, religion connected with the Zoroastrian notion daena. Others, like Gaudefroy-Demombynes and Gardet, have found this derivation unconvincing.

The Arabic sense "custom, usage" has been derived by classical and modern lexicologists from the Arabic verbal forms dāna be indebted and dāna li- submit to. Louis Gardet sees the Hebraic and Arabic senses as related through the notions of retribution, debt, obligation, custom, and direction, prompting him to translate yawn al-din as "the day when God gives a direction to each human being".


2. Use in Islam

It has been said that the word Dīn appears in as many as 79 verses in the Quran, but because there is no exact English translation of the term, its precise definition has been the subject of some misunderstanding and disagreement. For instance, the term is often translated in parts of the Quran as "religion". However, in the Quran itself, the act of submission to God is always referred to as Dīn rather than as Madhhab مذهب, which is the Arabic word for "religion".

Some Quranic scholars have translated Dīn in places as "faith" Others suggest that the term "has been used in various forms and meanings, e.g., system, power, supremacy, ascendancy, sovereignty or lordship, dominion, law, constitution, mastery, government, realm, decision, definite outcome, reward and punishment. On the other hand, this word is also used in the sense of obedience, submission and allegiance".

In addition to the two broad usages referred to so far, of sovereignty on the one hand and submission on the other, others have noted that the term Dīn is also widely used in translations of the Quran in a third sense. Most famously in its opening chapter, al-Fātihah, the term is translated in almost all English translations as "judgment":

The well-known Islamic scholar, Fazlur Rahman Malik, suggested that Dīn is best considered as "the way-to-be-followed". In that interpretation, Dīn is the exact correlate of Sharia: "whereas Sharia is the ordaining of the Way and its proper subject is God, Dīn is the following of that Way, and its subject is man". Thus, "if we abstract from the Divine and the human points of reference, Sharia and Dīn would be identical as far as the Way and its content are concerned".

In many hadith, the din has been described as a midway lifestyle:

Narrated Abu Huraira, the Prophet said, "Religion Dīn is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded; and gain strength by worshipping in the mornings, the nights."

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