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Rabb (Lord)

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Definition

A rabb (loosely translated as lord) is anyone who must have 3 qualities:

  1. Creator: He must be able to create from nothing. 1
  2. Owner: He must be a true owner of his possessions. 2
  3. Controller: He must be a controller of all the affairs. 3

If any of the quality is missing from an individual, he cannot be a rabb by definition and language. Even the mushrikeen (polytheists) of Makkah at the time of Prophet ﷺ believed that only Allāh Glory be to Him is the Rabb.

Evidence of Definition

Allāh Glory be to Him mentioned this in many places in the Qurʾān but in the following place, it’s mentioned with all these characteristics

Allāh Glory be to Him said

قُلْ مَن يَرْزُقُكُم مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ أَمَّن يَمْلِكُ ٱلسَّمْعَ وَٱلْأَبْصَٰرَ وَمَن يُخْرِجُ ٱلْحَىَّ مِنَ ٱلْمَيِّتِ وَيُخْرِجُ ٱلْمَيِّتَ مِنَ ٱلْحَىِّ وَمَن يُدَبِّرُ ٱلْأَمْرَ ۚ فَسَيَقُولُونَ ٱللَّهُ ۚ فَقُلْ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

Say, “Who provides for you from the heaven and the earth? Or who controls hearing and sight and who brings the living out of the dead and brings the dead out of the living and who arranges (controls) [every] matter?” They will say, “Allāh,” so say, “Then will you not fear Him?” [Surah Yunus 10:31]

There are actually 5 qualities mentioned in this ayah but 2 are 1 in the same (which is giver of life and causer of death) and the provider is covered in controller, Allāh Glory be to Him then said

فَذَٰلِكُمُ ٱللَّهُ رَبُّكُمُ ٱلْحَقُّ

Such is Allāh, your Lord in truth. [Surah Yunus 10-32]

False Claims: Pharoah

There were many who claimed to be rabb because they partially possessed these qualities.

Pharoah of Egypt (Fir’aoun) is one example where he said

أَنَا۠ رَبُّكُمُ ٱلْأَعْلَىٰ

I am your most exalted lord. [Surah an-Naziyyat 79:24]

Why did he say that? Allāh Glory be to Him mentioned in another ayah

وَنَادَىٰ فِرْعَوْنُ فِى قَوْمِهِۦ قَالَ يَٰقَوْمِ أَلَيْسَ لِى مُلْكُ مِصْرَ وَهَٰذِهِ ٱلْأَنْهَٰرُ تَجْرِى مِن تَحْتِىٓ ۖ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ

And Pharaoh called out among his people; he said, “O my people, does not the kingdom of Egypt belong to me, and these rivers flowing beneath me; then do you not see? [Surah az-Zukhruf 43:51]

So his reason of this claim (of Lordship) was because he said to his people that he is controller of the rivers (Nile) flowing beneath his territory. This Nile river was means of nourishment for many countries’ economy. He was using the ignorance of his people.

In another place he said

مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُمْ مِّنْ إِلَـهٍ غَيْرِى

I have not known you to have a god other than me. [Surah al-Qasas 28:38]

False Claims: Nimrood

Likewise, Nimrood also claimed to be Lord and Prophet Ibraheem peace be upon him defeated him in his claim by using the definition of Lord. He said

أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى ٱلَّذِى حَآجَّ إِبْرَٰهِۦمَ فِى رَبِّهِۦٓ أَنْ ءَاتَىٰهُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلْمُلْكَ إِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَٰهِۦمُ رَبِّىَ ٱلَّذِى يُحْىِۦ وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا۠ أُحْىِۦ وَأُمِيتُ ۖ قَالَ إِبْرَٰهِۦمُ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْتِى بِٱلشَّمْسِ مِنَ ٱلْمَشْرِقِ فَأْتِ بِهَا مِنَ ٱلْمَغْرِبِ فَبُهِتَ ٱلَّذِى كَفَرَ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ

Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord [merely] because Allāh had given him kingship? When Abraham said, “My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death,” he said, “I give life and cause death.” Abraham said, “Indeed, Allāh brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.” So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [by astonishment], and Allāh does not guide the wrongdoing people. [Surah al-Baqarah 2:258]

Explanation

Ibraheem peace be upon him when used the quality of creator the nimrood brought two prisoners who were on the death row waiting for their execution. He set one free and killed another one

Qatadah, Muḥammad bin Ishaq and As-Suddi said that he meant,

Two men who deserved execution were to be brought before me, and I would command that one of them be killed, and he would be killed. I would command that the second man be pardoned, and he would be pardoned. This is how I bring life and death

This explanation does not provide an answer to what Ibrahim said. Nimrod arrogantly and defiantly claimed that he was the creator and pretended that it was he who brings life and death. 4

Then Ibraheem peace be upon him used the quality of controller which gave him victory over the disbeliever. This is when Nimrood order to burn Ibraheem peace be upon him and Allāh Glory be to Him saved Ibraheem peace be upon him by making the fire cold and peaceful.

قُلْنَا يَٰنَارُ كُونِى بَرْدًا وَسَلَٰمًا عَلَىٰٓ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ

We said, “O fire, be coolness and safety upon Abraham.” [Surah al-Anbiya 21:69]

Conclusion

In conclusion, the mushrikeen of Makkah believed that only Allāh Glory be to Him is their Creator, Provider, Sustainer, Cherisher, Nourisher, Giver of life, Causer of death and Controller of all the affairs. In spite of all this, i.,e believing in the oneness of Lordship of Allāh Glory be to Him did not make them a muwaahid (monotheist), in fact, they were fought against by the Prophet ﷺ because of their worship to other gods beside Allāh Glory be to Him. They did not believe that these gods (that they are worshipping beside Allāh Glory be to Him) can give them any benefit, rather they believed that they are just means to get closer to Allāh Glory be to Him. Allāh Glory be to Him said about them

وَٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّخَذُوا۟ مِن دُونِهِۦٓ أَوْلِيَآءَ مَا نَعْبُدُهُمْ إِلَّا لِيُقَرِّبُونَآ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ زُلْفَىٰٓ

And those who take protectors besides Him [say], “We only worship them that they may bring us nearer to Allāh in position.” [Surah az-Zumar 39:3]

I will (in shaa Allāh) cover the different types of tawheed in another article and where mushrikeen of Makkah fell short and where do many people today fall short.

Notes:

  1. For example, a creator of a car creates using various tools and materials that are readily available, i.e, various metals. So he is not really a creator. This quality implies he must be able to create something from absolutely nothing.
  2. To further explain the quality of ownership, no one who owns something e.g, wealth or horse etc truely owns it. For example, a person who has money is not allowed to burn his money just because he “owns” it. Likewise, when a person dies, his “ownership” no longer belongs to him, e.g, his wealth is taken away from him.
  3. A person might be able to control some things, even though that control is subject to the strength and abilities he has. And who has given him this strength and ability? If it was not for Allāh Glory be to Him giving him all this, would he ever be able to get it? No!
  4. Tafseer Ibn Katheer