We Must Know the Reality of Islam & the Reality of this Society
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC on December 24, 1999)
We are facing a very great danger that is threatening Islam and its future in this country. This is due to our Misunderstanding and Misconception of two important issues:
Our knowledge of this deen (Islam) is limited and fuzzy because most of us did not receive Islam from its authentic and fundamental sources, rather we inherited Islam and inherited with it many of our customs and traditions. This has resulted in a strange mix that is often contradictory.
- The deen that we belong to
- The society in which we live
Our knowledge of the reality in this society the one we live in, is shallow. To be nice, it is limited to superficial knowledge acquired by what we have heard and seen or by what we have received from the media like newspapers, radio or TV.
As a result, we do not have a real and adequate knowledge in either; the deen of Islam nor the society. Our knowledge was not based on an objective study and it is not comprehensive, rather it is bits and pieces of information that do not amount to knowledge. So, here is where the danger lurks for Muslims, now and in the future in this country.
The generation of the companions of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) was founded on the objective and adequate knowledge of the deen and the society in which they lived in. This should be of no surprise to us, because they were raised with the divine revelation; Qur’an and Sunnah. We find that Qur’an book of Allah (S.W.T.) and the Hadith of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) did not teach only the matters of belief, dealings and morals, but they also clarified the reality of their society. They distinguished between the truth and falsehood, and between right and wrong. They reinforced what was right and tied it to the deen of Islam and threw away what was wrong after it became clear that it was wrong, false and filthy. As a result, the companions of the prophet (R.A.) became so enlightened with the new deen that they believed in, and became so knowledgeable of Jahilyyah, the ignorant society, that they rejected it and escaped from it.
So, the knowledge of the companions (R.A.) of the two issues was comprehensive and adequate. The more they knew about Islam, the more they knew about Jahilyyah, the ignorant society that they lived in. And the more they knew about Jahilyyah, the ignorant society, and knew its essence, the further they hated it, and became distant from it and the stronger they held to Islam, the deen with which Allah saved them.
The companions (R.A.) realized the essence of Jahilyyah, the ignorant society that they lived in, and they knew the true nature of the deen, this gave them a new framework of thinking and perception. With that, they looked at the same things that they looked at before but, with a new perspective; they looked into it comprehensively and objectively and then they would make their just and fair decision on how to deal with it.
It is known that the companions used to study the matters of deen amongst themselves. They also used to mention the life of Jahilyyah.
The companions of the prophet (S.A.W.) used to fear that they may forget the life of Jahilyyah if they lived long in Islam. Omar (R.A.) said: "The thing that I fear the most for Islam is a generation that is raised in Islam, but does not know the life of Jahilyyah." Such a generation lacks an important pillar of knowledge, which is necessary to build an Islamic civilization. If this generation does not know the life of ignorance, they may not hate it enough. They may not despise it enough, but on the contrary, they may indulge themselves in it, They might melt into it, they might become a part of it. May Allah protect us and our progeny from that. "Ameen"
I think that Omar (R.A.) never crossed his mind that a Muslim generation may come and would know nothing about Islam. If he had known, he would have talked about it.
How about us, how do we look from the perspective of Omar (R.A.). We are a Muslim generation who knows neither Islam nor Jahilyyah, ignorance. So, the problem is complicated and needs practical and objective efforts, to solve and return to the correct and necessary knowledge; the knowledge of deenulislam and the reality of the society that we live in.
We have to study the foundations of Islam from its authentic sources and we have to study the society objectively, deeply, and without emotions. After that, we look at this society with our Islamic glasses on. With an Islamic perspective as a result, adopt what is good and reject all that is evil.
We must define what every Muslim must know about Islam and the things that a Muslim should not be ignorant of. We must also define what every Muslim living in this country needs to know about the society he is living in. Then, we must devise the appropriate academic curricula for the young and old, men and women with no exception.
Today, as a beginning of the learning process about our deen from authentic sources, we would like to elaborate on the definition of the word "deen" and the word "Islam".
Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 19), what can be translated as, "The deen before Allah (accepted by Allah) is Islam". He also says in surat Al-Mae’dah, (Verse 3), what can be translated as, "Today, I have completed your deen, and have completed my bliss upon you and accepted for you Islam as a deen." He also says in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 85), what can be translated as, "Whosoever seeks, other than Islam, as a deen, it will not be accepted from him and he, in the Hereafter, is among the losers."
The word "deen" and the word "Islam" were mentioned in these verses and in many others in the Qur’an. These two words are two of the most important words in the life of the Muslims, because the guidance, success in this life and in the Hereafter depends on two things: Understanding the meaning of these two words (deen and Islam), and applying this meaning in life.
Our understanding of these two words has become weak because of our weakness in the Arabic language which is the language of Qur’an. As a result, we repeat these two words (deen and Islam) with the tongues without understanding them except for a few people who could understand them as they should be understood. So, it is impossible to apply their meanings in our lives, despite our insistence on belonging to the deen and specifically to Islam.
What is the meaning of the word "deen" and the word "Islam"?
To answer this question, it is a must that we refer to the Arabic language dictionaries which still keep the meaning of how the Arabs used to understand the word deen and the word Islam when Qur’an was being revealed. In that period of time, there was no problem with understanding these two words by the Arabs. This is the generation that transformed the understanding for these two words into reality in their individual and collective lives. As a result, this understanding led them to the guidance, the guidance of Islam. This change was the greatest change in the long history of mankind.
The concept of deen: The word "deen" is used in the Arabic language to give different meanings, most importantly are:
- Subjugation, Authority, Ruling and Having Charge.
- He "dan" subjugated people to obey. Subjugated here is a literal translation of the verb of the word deen when used as a verb. As in: to obey.
- He "danah" has authority over him. Authority here is a literal translation of the word deen. In this context, the saying of the prophet (S.A.W.) reveals this meaning, "The intelligent person is the one who "dan" has authority over himself and works for the Hereafter" This means that the intelligent person is the one who has subjugated himself and made himself obedient to Allah. The past tens would be subjugated, ruled and submitted. For example, Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Waqe’ah, (Verse 86 & 87), what can be translated as, "If you are not "madineen" subjugated, then return it if you are truthful". This means, if you are not forced by the will of Allah in the issues of death and life, then return the soul to the body after it has left it due to death.
Other concepts of the word "deen" are:
These four linguistic meanings constitute the concept of the word deen. In the Qur’an it implies a comprehensive system of life that is composed of four parts: They are as follows:
- Obedience and Submission due to Subjugation.
- The Method and the Habit.
- Punishment, Reward and Judgment: The Arabs had a saying, which implies the following: "you will be "tudan" treated the same way you 'tadeen" treat others."
Based on this definition of deen, we can summarize that deen is a submission, following and worship by man for the creator, the ruler, the subjugator in a comprehensive system of life with all its belief, intellectual, moral and practical aspects.
- The rulership and the authority belong to Allah (S.W.T.).
The obedience and submission to this rulership and authority by those who embraced this deen.
- The comprehensive system (intellectual and practical) established by this authority (Allah).
- The reward given by this authority (Allah) to those that followed the system and submitted to it, and the punishment inflicted upon those who rebel against it and disobey it. May Allah protect us from that!
After understanding this definition of the Arabic word deen, we realize that it is wrong to translate it to the English with the word "religion". Furthermore, we do not need anyone to come up with a definition for the word deen for us- like many of the enemies of Islam do today- But, we should take precaution and warn Muslims against these conspiracies that are plotted against Muslims to keep them away from the reality of their deen and distort the concept of deen or restrict it to one aspect of life-like they (None Muslim) did with their religion and church after the French Revolution.
It is obligatory for us to clarify to the people the reality of deen in the Islamic perspective, also obligatory for us to implant this reality in our youth’s mind so that they will not confuse the concept of deen with all these wrongful and blasphemous and distorted definitions.
So far, we've discussed the definition of the word "deen", what about the meaning of the word "Islam"?
Islam in the Arabic language and in Qur’an means total submission and obedience. Allah says in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 83), what can be translated as, "Do they seek a deen other than the deen of Allah and to Him all what is in the skies and in the earth have submitted willingly or forcefully and to Him they shall return"
This word Islam had been used in the Qur’an as a symbol for the deen that was revealed to Muhammad (S.A.W.) and Allah clarified that. He will not accept from man another deen even if it was from the previous divine deens. Allah says in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 85), what can be translated as, "He who chooses other than Islam as a deen, it will not be accepted from him and he, in the Hereafter, is among the losers." This meaning is emphasized by the saying of the prophet (S.A.W.) when he said, "By whom my soul is in His hand, if one, Jew or Christian, heard of me, then died and he/she did not believe in that which I was sent with, then they are from the dwellers of Hell fire." (Reported by Imam Muslim)
Islam is a divine system, with it Allah (S.W.T.) sealed all other deens, and made it a comprehensive system that deals with all aspects of human life (Belief, intellect, moral and practical) and this system is based on total submission to Allah (S.W.T.) alone and no one else and purifying worship to Him, and adopting all that is authentic from the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).