In religious parlance you often hear two words and use them also. One is Deen and the other is Shari'ah. But there are very few among you who would be knowing of the meaning of Deen and Shari'ah. The illiterate ones are, of course, incapable of understanding the nuance but fairly educated people, too, even many Maulvis, do not know the exact purport of these two words and the difference between their meanings. Due to this ignorance, Deen and Shari'ah are often mixed up with each other and this creates lot of confusion. Today I explain to you their meaning in very simple words.
There are several meanings of Deen. One meaning is honour, government, empire, monarchy and rulership. The second meaning is quite opposite to it, i.e. subordination, obedience, slavery, servitude and subjection. Third meaning is to account, to give judgment, and dispense reward and punishment of actions. The word Deen has been used in the Qur'an in all these three meanings.
Deen with Allah is al-Islam.
This means that with Allah Deen is only that creed which make man recognize Allah alone as Possessor of Dignity and which does not allow him to bow himself before anybody save Allah. Man must regard only Allah as Master, Lord and Sovereign and must not be slave, servant and subservient to anybody except Him. He must consider Allah only as the Giver of reward and punishment, and must never be afraid of being accountable to anybody else except Him, must not be covetous of receiving reward from anybody else nor be afraid of punishment from anybody else. The name of this very Deen is Islam. If contrary to this, man considered some one else as possessor of real dignity, as a real ruler and master and as a real giver of reward and punishment, and bowed his head before him in humiliation, became servile to him, obeyed his orders, became eager for his reward and fearful of his punishment, then this will be false Deen, Allah never accepts this kind of Deen because it is totally contrary to reality. No other being except God is the Possessor of honour and dignity in this whole universe nor does there exist anybody else's sovereignty and kingdom. Man has not been created to be a servant and slave of anybody else nor is there anyone else except that real Master Who is capable of giving reward and punishment. This very fact has been pointed out thus in two verses:
"And whoso seeketh as Deen other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him."
That is to say that whosoever, disregarding the sovereignty and kingship of God, acknowledges someone else as his master and ruler, and becomes his servant and slave, and considers that being as a giver of reward and punishment, God will never accept his Deen, because
"And they are ordered naught than to serve Allah, keeping Deen pure for Him, as men by nature upright."
God has actually made human being His own slave and has not at all ordered them to be servile to anyone except Himself. It is, therefore, incumbent upon them to turn away from all directions and rivet their attention to their Deen, i.e. obedience and servitude, for Allah only. They should devote themselves to His service with single-mindedness, and be afraid of being accountable to Him alone.
"Seek they other than the Deen of Allah when unto Him submits whosoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly, or unwillingly, and unto Him they will be returned."
(Al-Qur'an 3 : 83)
This means : Does man want to be servile and subservient to someone other than God although all those things that are in the earth and the heavens are slaves and obedient servants of God alone, and for the accountability of their deeds they have to submit themselves to no other authority than God? Does man seek to evolve a novel plan for himself in contravention the entire universe comprising earth and heavens?
"He it is Who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the Deen of truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all Deens, however, much the idolaters may be averse."
(Al-Qur'an 10 : 33)
This means that Allah has sent His Messenger with the true Deen for the purpose that should end the sovereignty of all false authorities and make man so emancipated that he should become servant of none except that of the Lord of the universe no matter what hue and cry the unbelievers and polytheists may raise against it because of their ignorance.
"And fight them until persecution is no more and Deen is all for Allah."
(Al-Qur'an 8 : 39)
This means that you wage war so that the evil of the sovereignty of beings other than Allah is wiped out, and only the Law of God operates in the world, the sovereignty of God alone is acknowledged and man becomes slave exclusively that of God.
From this elucidation you must have understood the meaning of Deen.
To acknowledge God as Lord, Master and Ruler.
To obey and serve only God.
To obey afraid of accountability to God, to fear His punishment and to be greedy of His reward.
Since the commandments of God have been vouchsafed to human beings only through His Book and His Messenger, therefore, to recognise the Messenger as God's Messenger and the Book as God's Book and obey their injunctions is also the essential part of Deen as has been said in the Qur'an :
"O Children of Adam ! If messengers of your own come unto you who narrate unto you My revelations then whosoever refrains from evil and amends--there shall no fear come upon them neither they shall grieve."
(Al-Qur'an 7 : 35)
From this it is clear that Allah does not send His commandments direct to every person but through the medium of His Messengers. Therefore, one who acknowledges Allah as Ruler can be taken as obedient to Him only when he becomes obedient to His Messengers and carries out the orders received through the Messengers. This is exactly what Deen implies.
Now I shall tell you what Shari'ah is. The meaning of Shari'ah is mode and path. When you have acknowledged God as your sovereign and accepted His servitude and have also admitted that the Messenger is the tangible ruler holding authority on His behalf and that the Book has been sent by Him, it will mean you have entered Deen. After this, the mode in which you have to serve God and the path you have to traverse in order to obey Him, is called Shari'ah. This mode and path has been indicated by God through His Messenger who alone teaches the method of worshipping the Master and the way to become pure and clean. The Messenger shows us the path of righteousness and piety, the manner in which rights are discharged, the method of carrying on transactions and dealings with fellow-beings and the mode of leading one's life. But the difference is this that while Deen always was, has been, and is still one and the same, numerous Shari'ahs came, many were cancelled, several were changed but these alterations did not change the Deen. The Deen of Noah was the same as that of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Shu'aib, Saleh, Hud and Muhammad ( peace be on them) but the Shari'ahs of these Prophets varied from each other to some extent. The modes of saying prayer and observing fast were of one kind with one prophet and of another kind with the other. Injunctions about Halal and Haram, rules of cleanliness and codes of marriage, divorce and inheritance somewhat differed from one Shari'ah to another. In spite of this, all were Muslims---the followers of Noah, the followers of Abraham, the followers of Jesus and those of Moses, and we too are all Muslims because Deen is one and the same for all. This shows that Deen is unaffected by differences is the rules of Shari'ah. Deen remains one though modes of following it differ.
To understand this difference, suppose there are many servants of a master. The one who does not acknowledge the master as such and does not consider his orders worthy of obedience, is a disobedient fellow excluded from the sphere of service, while those who acknowledge him as master, consider it incumbent upon themselves to obey his orders and are afraid of disobeying him, are included in the category of servants. If their modes of discharging duty and serving their master differ from each other, the fact of all of them being servants remains unaffected. If the master has shown one way of service to one servant and a different way to another, the former has no right to say that he alone is a servant and the latter is not. Similarly, if one servant on hearing his master's order understands its purport in one way and another servant in a different way, and both carry out that order as understood by them, then both are equal to each other in the matter of service. It is possible that one might have erred in understanding the meaning of the order and the other has understood the correct import, but as long as one has not refused to obey the order, no one has a right to tell him that he is disobedient and that he has been dismissed from the service of his master.
From this example you can very well understand the difference between Deen and Shari'ah. Prior to the Holy Prophet, Allah used to send various Shari'ahs through various prophets. One mode of service was sent forth for one prophet and another mode for another prophet. Those who served the Master according to all these modes were all Muslims though the systems of service were different from each other. Then when the Holy Prophet came, the Master commanded : " Now We cancel all the previous modes. From now on whosoever wants to serve Us must follow the system which We are now promulgating through Our last prophet". After this no servant has the right to do service according to previous methods, because if he does not accept the new method and is following the old methods, he is in fact not obeying the orders of the Master but following the prejudices of his mind. Therefore, he is dismissed from service or in the religious language, has become a Kafir.
This concerns the believers in the past prophets. As for the followers of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the second part of this example applies to them appropriately. All those persons are Muslims who believe that the Shari'ah sent by Allah through the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) is Allah's Shari'ah and consider it compulsory to follow. Now if a certain person understands the injunctions of Shari'ah in one way and another person in a different way, while both follow these as per their understanding, none of them will be dismissed from service, irrespective of the difference found between their deeds, because each one of them who is following a particular mode is doing so with the consciousness that such is the master's order. In such a case, what right has one servant to say that he alone is the genuine servant while the other is not. The utmost he could say can be that he had understood the exact meaning of the master's order while the other had not, but how could he have the authority to discharge the latter from service? Whosoever displays such temerity assumes, as it were, the status of the master. He would seem to say :"Just as it is compulsory for you to obey the master's order, so also it is compulsory for you to accept my way of understanding. If you fail to do that, I shall with my own power dismiss you from the master's service". Just imagine what a serious thing it is ! For this very reason the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said : " Whosoever unjustly brands a Muslim as Kafir, his verdict will bounce back on him". This is so because while God has made a Muslim subservient to His commandments, this fellow says: " No, you must also submit to my interpretation and my judgment. ( That is to say God alone is not your God but I am also a small god of yours). And if you do not obey my order I shall with my own power dismiss you from the servitude of God, irrespective of whether God Himself dismisses you or not". Whoever makes such a pretentious assertion involves himself in the danger of becoming a Kafir, irrespective of whether or not the other Muslim has turned a Kafir.
Gentlemen ! I hope you have fully understood the difference between Deen and Shari'ah. You must have also comprehended the fact that any difference in the modes of serving God does not entail deviation from Deen provided a man who follows a particular course is genuinely conscious of the fact that God and His messenger have
actually enjoined what he is doing, and that in support of his actions he possesses authentic proof from the Book of God or the Sunnah of His messenger.
Now I want to tell you what harm is being caused to your community by not realizing the difference between Deen and Shari'ah.
There are several modes of offering Salah among Muslims. One Muslim rests his hands on the chest while another one puts them on the navel. One man recites Surah Fatiha while praying behind the Imam and the other does not. One man utters Amen loudly while the other utters it in a subdued tone. Each one of them is following the respective methods in full consciousness of the fact that this very method was followed by the Holy Prophet ( peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and in support of it he has unimpeachable authority. Therefore, both are followers of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in spite of their modes of offering Salat being different. But those unkind
people who regard these problems of Shari'ah as problems of Deen itself, have declared these differences in methods as variations in Deen. They segregated their groups, isolated their mosques, hurried abuses at one another, forcibly drove their opponents from mosques, fought legal battles and split Rasulullah's Ummah into factions.
When even this did not appease the minds of cantankerous elements, they started, on small pretext, labelling each other as Kafir or sinner and heretic. The position is that if a man evolves a principle according to his own understanding of the Qur'an and Sunnah, he does not confine it to himself but considers it necessary to impose it on others, and should they refuse to submit, he will ostracise them from God's Deen.
The different religious sects of Hanafi, Shafi'i, Ahl-i-Hadith etc. which you see among Muslims, all acknowledge the Qur'an and Hadith as final authority and draw injunctions therefrom according to their own understanding. May be that one sect's understanding is correct and that of the other one is incorrect. I am also a follower of one of these systems and consider it correct and also argue with those who are opposed to it in order to explain to them what is correct in my view and prove wrong what I consider to be wrong. But it is one thing if somebody's understanding is wrong and it is quite another thing to expel him from Deen. Every Muslim has the right to follow Shari'ah according to his understanding. If ten Muslims follow ten different methods, all of them are surely Muslims as long as they believe in Shari'ah. They constitute one Ummah and there is no reason at all for them to have the separate groups. But those who do not understand this point split the community into different factions on paltry matters, get severed from each other, set apart their Salat and Mosques, stop inter-marriages and inter-communications and organise groups of co-factionists in such a manner as if each group is an Ummah by itself.
You cannot assess what harm has been caused to Muslims by this factionalism. Merely to say the Muslims are one Ummah. There are eight crores of them in Hindustan. If such a big community were really united and worked hand in hand to raise aloft Allah's Kalima, who has the guts in the world to subdue them? But, in reality, due to this sectionalism this Ummah has been split into hundreds of factions. Their hearts are sore with each other. They cannot stand together even at the time of the gravest crisis. The Muslim belonging to one faction is as much, rather more, prejudiced against the Muslim belonging to another faction as is a Jew against a Christian. There have been cases when a member of one Muslim faction sided with unbelievers to humiliate a member of another Muslim faction. In such a situation, don't be surprised to see Muslims overpowered and dominated upon. This is what they have earned by their own hands. Upon them has descended that punishment which has been described thus by Allah in His Holy Book:
"..or to bewilder you with dissension and make you taste the tyranny one of another."
That is to say, one form of punishment is that Allah divides you into different groups and you finish yourselves by cutting each other's throat.
Brethern! This punishment which is being suffered by Muslims in the whole of Hindustan seems most pronounced in the Punjab. Here the intersections strife of Muslims are the highest in number throughout the country, and it is due to this that in spite of your numerical majority in the Punjab, your strength is ineffectual. If you want your well-being, you must break these groups, live as brothers unto one another and become one united Ummah. There is nothing in the Shari'ah of God on the basis of which Ahl-i-Hadith, Hanafi, Deobandi, Brelvi, Shi'ah, Sunni etc. can constitute as separate Ummahs. These Ummahs are the product of ignorance. Allah made only one Ummah : " Ummah-e-Muslimah ".