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A Question of Deen and Dunya: How to Follow Religion Today?

By Muhammad Saddam Khan

Most of us struggle to make time for our religious obligations in the midst of our wordly lives. Today, the majority of Muslims look for an answer to this pivotal question, how to strike a balance between practicing Deen and living in the Dunya? This is a query not just related to contemporary times. It arose in the early stages of Islam as well. 

A Companion of the Prophet, Hanzala (RA) feared that he had become a hypocrite because, during his day-to-day activities pertaining to his family or his business, thoughts of Allah would slip from his mind. He shared this concern with Abu Bakr (RA) who admitted to feeling the same. So they both went to the Prophet (PBUH) and Hanzala (RA) inquired: 

“Allah’s Messenger, when we are in your company, we are reminded of Hell-Fire and Paradise as if we are seeing them with our own eyes, but whenever we go away from you and attend to our wives, children and business, much of these things go out of our minds.” 

Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the Angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your paths but, Hanzala, time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time (should be devoted to prayer and meditation). He (the Holy Prophet) said this thrice.” (Sahih Muslim 2750)

What is clear from this Hadith is that Muslims are expected to balance both the deen and the dunya. We are not expected to become monks, completely cut off from all of the world, nor is it permitted to be engrossed so much in the world as to forget about our faith. 

Many of us struggle with a misconception that deen and dunya are separate. in reality, they are not separate, rather entwined with each other. Before we get to the core of the topic, it is vital to know the difference between Deen and religion. More than often, both are taken synonymously but just like they don’t sound the same, they are not the same. Deen and Religion differ in multiple aspects. 

Religion can be defined as ‘belief in spiritual things’. Its scope is limited to dogma, rituals, and a variety of social customs to mark important events. Religion covers the individual relationship a person has with God. 

Islam is not a mere religion, in its technical meaning. It is defined as ‘deen’, which encapsulates the concepts of accepting Allah SWT as sovereign over everything; submitting oneself to His commands; and, to be accountable to Him for our actions. Taken together with their entire meanings, Deen refers to a complete code of life, laying down not only the way we need to worship Allah but also the way we must center our entire lives so that we prioritize Him and His commands i.e. submit to Him in all aspects of life. 

An important point to understand is that if we follow Deen in its true spirit, everything will fall in its due order. There is no way one is not  able to maintain a balance between Deen and Dunya, following Deen.  Deen enriches our worldly life. It makes it more effective, and efficient. The benefits of adhering to Deen first, is that when we please Allah SWT, we invite ease and blessings in our worldly affairs as well. 

Allah SWT says in Surah Baqarah: 

And among the people is he who says, “Our Lord, give us in this world,” and he will have in the Hereafter no share. Yet there are others who say, “Our Lord! Grant us the good of this world and the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.” Those will have a share of what they have earned, and Allah is swift in account.” (Surah Baqarah, 2:200-202)

Running after the worldly possessions might get you material gains in this short-lived world. But following Deen will get you both, the Deen and Dunya.

It is understandable that in this fast-paced world, one finds it difficult to make time proportionately for everything. But once we understand that the deen guides every aspect of life, we realise that we don’t have to especially find time to practice deen. Deen is there in every facet of our lives. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has provided us with a perfect example of concurrently managing the worldly life with the deen. His life is an example of the deen beautifying every  moment of life: from trade, battles, and governance to family, friendships, and community. His Sunnah is our shining guide to balance deen and dunya. 

He said,

“I am leaving two heavy things among you, that is, the Quran and Sunnah. Hold on to these two things, you will never go astray”

(Muwatta Imam Malik, 2408a)

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