Dīn (Arabic: دين, romanizedDīn, also anglicized as Deen) is an Arabic word with three general senses: judgment, custom, and religion.[1] It is used by both Muslims and Arab Christians.

In Islamic terminology, the word refers to the way of life Muslims must adopt to comply with divine law, encompassing beliefs, character and deeds.[2] The term appears in the Quran 98 times with different connotations, including in the phrase yawm al-din (Arabic: يوم الدين), generally translated to "Day of Judgment" or the famous verse "La ikraha fid din" which translates to "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation).



According to Arthur Jeffery dīn "related to religion" and dīn "judgement, debt etc..." are two separate words of different origin, he derives the dīn related to religion from the Middle Persian den, itself derived from the Zoroastrian Avestan notion daena.[3] Most scholars, such as Nöldeke, Vollers, Mushegh Asatrian and Johnny Cheung are in agreement with this etymology.[4][5] Others like Gaudefroy-Demombynes and Gardet, have found this derivation unconvincing.[1] Nonetheless, Al Khafaji and Tha'ahbi have included the dīn that is related to religion in their list of foreign words, due to its lack of verbal root.[3]

The Arabic dīn "judgement, debt, etc.." has Semitic cognates, including the Hebrew dīn (דין‎), Aramaic dīnā (דִּינָא), Amharic dañä (ዳኘ) and Ugaritic dyn (𐎄𐎊𐎐). However, none of these cognates carry any form of religious connotations, further supporting the etymological proposition made by Arthur Jeffery.[3]

The Arabic sense of judgment is likely analogous to the Hebraeo-Aramaic cognate root.[1] 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 feminine form of Arabic adjective "Jabārah جَبَّارَة"), refer to "power" and "judgement".[6] In ancient Israel, the term featured heavily in administrative and legal proceedings i.e. Beth Din, literally "the house of judgement," the ancient building block of the Jewish legal system.[7][8] The Arabic sense "custom, usage" has been derived by classical and modern lexicologists from the Arabic verbal forms dāna (دانى, "be indebted") and dāna li- (-دانى لِ, "submit to").[1] Louis Gardet sees the Hebraic and Arabic senses as related through the notions of retribution, debt, obligation, custom, and direction, prompting him to translate yawm al-din as "the day when God gives a direction to each human being".[1] This view is not supported by the majority of scholars, who translate yawm al-din as "the day of judgement".[9][3]

Use in Islam


It has been said that the word Dīn appears in as many as 79 verses in the Qur'an,[10] 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 Qur'an as "religion".[11]

Some Qur'anic scholars have translated Dīn in places as "faith".[12] 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".[13]

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[14] that the term Dīn is also widely used in translations of the Qur'an in a third sense. Most famously in its opening chapter, al-Fātiḥah, the term is translated in almost all English translations as "judgment":

1:3 مَٰلِكِ يَوْمِ ٱلدِّينِ transliterated as "Maliki yawmi ad-Dīni," and (usually) translated as "Master of the Day of 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 Shari'a: "whereas Shari'a is the ordaining of the Way and its proper subject is God, Dīn is the following of that Way, and its subject is man".[15] Thus, "if we abstract from the Divine and the human points of reference, Shari'a and Dīn would be identical as far as the 'Way' and its content are concerned".[15]

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."

— Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:2:38, (Fath-ul-Bari, Page 102, Vol 1)

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e Gardet, L. (2012). "Dīn". In P. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Brill. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0168.
  2. ^ John L. Esposito, ed. (2014). "Din". The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 20 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Jeffery, Arthur (1938). The Foreign Vocabulary Of The Quran (Gaekwad's Oriental Series; 79). Baroda: Oriental Institute. pp. 133 seqq.
  4. ^ Asatrian, Mushegh (2006). "Iranian Elements in Arabic: The State of Research". Iran & the Caucasus. 10 (1): 87–106. doi:10.1163/157338406777979386. ISSN 1609-8498. JSTOR 4030944.
  5. ^ Cheung, Johnny (6 June 2016), On the (Middle) Iranian borrowings in Qur'ānic (and pre-Islamic) Arabic, retrieved 29 December 2022 – via HAL-SHS
  6. ^ "The Ten Sefirot: Din, Gevurah". Jewish Virtual Library. Archived from the original on 30 November 2016.
  7. ^ Fox, Tamar. "The Beit Din". My Jewish Learning. Archived from the original on 19 October 2020.
  8. ^ Reiss, Jonathan (Winter 1999). "Jewish Divorce and the Role of Beit Din". Jewish Action. Jewish Law. Archived from the original on 7 December 2022.
  9. ^ Wehr, Hans (1994). "A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic". Spoken Language Services. p. 352. ISBN 0-87950-003-4.
  10. ^ Gulam Ahmed Parwez, "Exposition of the Qur'an", p. 12, Tolu-E-Islam Trust
  11. ^ For instance, translations of the Qur'an by Marmaduke Pickthall, Shakir, and others
  12. ^ For instance, the translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, 60:9
  13. ^ Lugh’at-ul-Quran, Ghulam Ahmed Parwez, Tolu-e-Islam Trust, 1941
  14. ^ "Let Us Be Muslims, Abu Ala Maududi U.K.I.M. Dawah Center, 1960
  15. ^ a b Rahman F, Islam, p. 100, University of Chicago Press, 1979