بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Undoubtedly there are many religions in the world existing today and also a growing number of people not following any religion. What does the Book say about following a religion and which one? We will see shortly in the light of ayahs/signs of the Book.
The word for religion in Arabic is ملت/‘Millat’. There is another word which is commonly understood to mean religion i.e دين/‘Din’. However, the context in which ‘Din’ is used in the Book is ‘judgment’ and not religion.
God instructs every one to follow the religion of Ibrahim (a.s) in ayat 95 of Sura 3 Ale-Imran.
3:95: قُلْ صَدَقَ اللّهُ فَاتَّبِعُواْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
“Say, Allah speaks the truth, so you all, follow the religion of Ibrahim, the true in faith; he was not of the polytheists.”
Then God inspired the messenger to follow the religion of Ibrahim (a.s) in Ayat 123 of Sura 16:
16:123 ثُمَّ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ أَنِ اتَّبِعْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
“Then We inspired thee (O’Mohammad), Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the true in faith, and he was not from the polytheists.”
The messenger confirms that God has guided him to the straight path of the religion of Ibrahim in Ayat 161 of Sura 6 Al-Inam.
6:161 قُلْ إِنَّنِي هَدَانِي رَبِّي إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ دِينًا قِيَمًا مِّلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
“Say : Surely my Lord has guided me to a straight path; a judgment established; the religion of true Ibrahim and he was not from the polytheists.”
Was this inspiration to follow the the religion of Ibrahim, a new instruction for the messenger and people? or the same religion and practice was asked to be followed which was the religion and practice of all previous messengers? The following three ayahs will shed light on this question:
41:43 مَا يُقَالُ لَكَ إِلَّا مَا قَدْ قِيلَ لِلرُّسُلِ مِن قَبْلِكَ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَذُو مَغْفِرَةٍ وَذُو عِقَابٍ أَلِيمٍ
“Nothing is said to You (O’ Mohammad) that was not said to the messengers before you: verily your Lord has at His command (all) forgiveness as well as the most grievous penalty.”
The ayahs very clearly state that the messenger (pbuh) does not get any thing which the messengers before him did not get. Nothing new is said to him. He also says that he does not bring any new doctrine or practice different from previous messengers before him.
46:9 قُلْ مَا كُنتُ بِدْعًا مِّنْ الرُّسُلِ وَمَا أَدْرِي مَا يُفْعَلُ بِي وَلَا بِكُمْ إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلَّا مَا يُوحَى إِلَيَّ وَمَا أَنَا إِلَّا نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ
“Say (O’ Mohammad) “I am no bringer of new doctrine among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I follow but that which is revealed to me by inspiration; I am but a warner open and clear.”
The ‘sharia’ of the messenger (pbuh) is exactly the same which was prescribed for previous messengers such as Nooh (a.s) Ibrahim (a.s), Moosa (a.s) and Essa (a.s). No new ‘sharia’ ever comes. However, this fact is very hard for the associaters to accept despite clear ayat in Quran. They will continue to believe what their associaters keep telling them from sectarian books.
42:13 شَرَعَ لَكُم مِّنَ الدِّينِ مَا وَصَّى بِهِ نُوحًا وَالَّذِي أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ وَمَا وَصَّيْنَا بِهِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمُوسَى وَعِيسَى أَنْ أَقِيمُوا الدِّينَ وَلَا تَتَفَرَّقُوا فِيهِ كَبُرَ عَلَى الْمُشْرِكِينَ مَا تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَيْهِ اللَّهُ يَجْتَبِي إِلَيْهِ مَن يَشَاء وَيَهْدِي إِلَيْهِ مَن يُنِيبُ
“The same sharia/way has He established for you all, which He enjoined on Nooh- that We have sent by inspiration to you (Mohammad) – and that which We enjoined on Ibrahim, Moosa, and Essa: that you should remain steadfast in Din/Judgement, and make no differentiation therein: to those who join others with Allah, hard is the (way) to which you call them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).”
After you have made it your judgement to follow the religion of Ibrahim, God names you ‘Muslim’ as stated Aya 78 of Sura Haj:
22:78 وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِي هَذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِاللَّهِ هُوَ مَوْلَاكُمْ فَنِعْمَ الْمَوْلَى وَنِعْمَ النَّصِيرُ
“And you strive in Allah as is the right of striving in Him. He has chosen you and He has made no difficulty over you in the din/judgment ; The religion of your father Ibrahim. And He has named you ‘muslim’ from before and in this, so the messenger be a witness over you and you be a witness over mankind. Then establish salat/prayer and give zakah and hold fast with Allah. He is your protector so He is the blessed protector and the blessed helper”
If the religion prescribed for believers in the Book is ‘religion of Ibrahim’ then what is ‘Islam’? When Allah says in Quran, that ‘Islam’ is your ‘Deen’ what does that mean? We know that Deen means ‘judgement’ and ‘Islam’ means ‘peace’. Al-Islam means the specific ‘peace’ which you can obtain by implementing Allah’s instructions in your life. So, the statement that Islam is your ‘Deen’ means that in any situation encountered in life, believers response should be the one which achieves ‘peace’ per Quranic instructions. If believers opt for unpeaceful response, their judgement will not be acceptable by Allah.
3:19 إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللَّهِ الْإِسْلَامُ ۗ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَهُمُ الْعِلْمُ بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ ۗ وَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ
The Deen/judgment before Allah is Islam (the Peace) nor did the Ahlal-Kitab/People of the Book differed except to wrong each other, after knowledge had come to them, And if any covers/rejects the ayahs/signs of Allah, Allah is swift in taking account.
The above ayahs are very important for believers to understand that Allah’s religion and instructions for mankind does not change with time and messengers. All messenger brought the same message of Allah and the same religion. The name of this religion is Millat-e-Ibrahim or ‘the religion of Ibrahim’. The judgement of believers to obtain peace in life by implementing Allah’s instructions in their life is ‘Al-Islam’. The divisions in mankind began when they start discriminating between the messages brought by different messengers. The statement (kalima) for muslims i.e submitters to Allah is given below which categorically says that we don’t differentiate among any of messengers and the messages which they brought.
3:84 قُلْ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالْأَسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَىٰ وَعِيسَىٰ وَالنَّبِيُّونَ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ
Say we believe in Allah and what is revealed on us and what was revealed on Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq and Yaqoob and tribes and what was given to Moosa, Essa and the prophets, is from their Lord. We do not make distinction between any from it and for Him we are muslims / submitters.
Other related ayahs to this topic are: 60:4, 2:128, 4:26, 2:130, 4:125, 3:67, 2:135, 12:38.
Usage of word ‘Deen’ in Quran:
The Arabic word ‘Deen’ is some time used interchangeably and commonly thought to mean ‘Religion’. Some people propagate another meaning of it as religion in a broader sense encompassing every aspect of life. When we look closely to all the ayahs in Quran containing this word, the closest meaning we get is ‘Judgement’. Something you evaluate and judge . Some ayahs are presented below in which you can see that this meanings is the closest:
1:4 مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
Master of the Day of Judgment.
12:76 فَبَدَأَ بِأَوْعِيَتِهِمْ قَبْلَ وِعَاءِ أَخِيهِ ثُمَّ اسْتَخْرَجَهَا مِن وِعَاءِ أَخِيهِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ كِدْنَا لِيُوسُفَ ۖ مَا كَانَ لِيَأْخُذَ أَخَاهُ فِي دِينِ الْمَلِكِ إِلَّا أَن يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ
So he began (the search) with their baggage, before (he came to) the baggage of his brother, at length he brought it out of his brother’s baggage. Thus did We plan for Joseph. He could not take his brother by the law/judgment of the king except that Allah willed it
49:16 قُلْ أَتُعَلِّمُونَ اللَّهَ بِدِينِكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Say. Do you inform Allah about your Deen/judgment? And Allah knows all that is in the skies and in earth. He has full knowledge of all things.
51:6 وَإِنَّ الدِّينَ لَوَاقِعٌ
And verily Judgment must indeed would happen.
95:7 فَمَا يُكَذِّبُكَ بَعْدُ بِالدِّينِ
Then what can, after this, contradict thee, as to the judgment (to come)?
9:29 قَاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَلَا بِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَلَا يُحَرِّمُونَ مَا حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَلَا يَدِينُونَ دِينَ الْحَقِّ
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been made forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor they judge by the judgment of Truth.
3:19 إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللَّهِ الْإِسْلَامُ ۗ
The Deen/judgment before Allah is al-Islam (the Peace)
Link to web page, showing occurrence of all instances of ‘د ي ن’ in Quran:
‘Hanif’ means literary to bend or incline. In Quran it is used in the meaning of attaining the right path i.e ‘leaving the wrong and bending to the right faith or judgement’.
Link showing occurrence of root word ‘ ح ن ف’ in Quran: