Allah [swt] in His generosity and in His Mercy created each and every one of us as human beings. He gave us the gift of iman and the gift of Islam and when He sent us the Qur’an to teach us how to live proper lives, He also in the Qur’an revealed certain of His names and attributes so we would come to know Him and so we would draw closer to Him[swt]. There are so many names of Allah [swt] in the Quran but one name, one very special name is Rabb.
The word Rabb appears at many places in the Qur’an. Apparently, It is a very short word composed of just two letters “Ra” and “Ba” but our Ullema write that if a person understands the deep meaning of this word Rabb – if he or she turns to Allah [swt] and views Allah as her Rabb than they would begin to have a deep and loving relationship and connection with Allah [swt].
So what does this word ‘Rabb’ mean?
The word Rabb in the Arabic language means simply ‘that being that nurtures, nourishes, sustains and raises up something from the moment it is born until the moment it reaches perfection.’ So Rabb means the being that nurtures and raises up anything.
So Allah[swt] not only did He create us, but from the moment that we were born, He has been nurturing us, He has been providing for us, He has been taking care of us, as if He has raised us up and has provided for each and every one of our needs. Allah [swt] provides for our physical needs and also for our spiritual needs.
We can understand the concept of Rabb, if we look at a few examples from this world:
E.g. 1: A Gardener. If a gardener wants to plan something, he/she takes a seed and places it in the ground. Once he has made the intention to grow a particular plant even though nobody else can see that it’s under the ground but because he placed that seed there, he knows that he has to take care and provide for that seed. So he makes sure that area of the ground is watered, he makes sure that the soil is fertile, he makes sure to put fertilizer on that soil. After his care and attention, sooner or later that seed begins to sprout and eventually that plant begins to emerge from the ground. When the gardener sees the small plant emerge from the ground, he doesn’t stop there he keeps watering it. He might put it in a pot because of the sunrise that it needs, he will put up a shade, if it needs to be put in shade. As the plant begins to grow the gardener will trim its leaves, and make sure that it doesn’t rot or get a disease. He will keep away all the weeds from the plant. He will continue to take care of the plant until it becomes a completely self sufficient tree. So the gardener in this example is actually the rabb of that plant since he has nurtured that plant, provided for each and every one of its needs till the moment the plant reached its state of perfection.
E.g. 2: Parents. Parents are also a form of rabb in the sense that when their children are born they provide for each and everything that their child needs. When a baby is born, it can’t do anything for itself. It is unable to drink/eat on its own, or go anywhere. It cannot even turn around or turn on its side to stand up or sleep on its own. So each and everything the parents have to do for their baby. Whenever the baby cries out the mother comes to the baby; attends to its needs. The father will go out and earn for the baby to attempt to fulfill its needs. One of our Mashaikh used to say that ‘O person, when you used to cry as a baby, Allah[swt] used to fulfill everyone of your needs and now that you have stopped crying Allah[swt] has also stopped providing for your needs. In Qur’an Allah [swt] has addressed parents also as rabb. As you know the famous dua: ‘Rabbir hamhuma kama rabba yani saghira’: ‘O our Lord have mercy on our two parents as they were my rabb[because they did my tarbeeah, because they took care of me and nurtured me] when I was young.’
In the above ayah, Allah [swt] refers to Himself as Rabb and also parents as rabb. So, the scholars say that there are two differences here:
- Parents are only rabb of their own children where as Allah[swt] is rabb of the entire creation[ human beings, animals, plants, each and every species, animate and inanimate objects etc]
- Parents are only rabb of their children for a temporary period of time till they grow up and become adults. Sometimes it even happens that once the children become adults they start taking care of their parents and providing for them. But Allah [swt] in His rubbubiyyah in His nurturing of creation is not temporary, is eternal. From the very moment that we are born till the moment we die, every second of our life that we are able to breathe is due to the Fazl & Mercy of Allah[swt]
The purpose of our life is to recognize Allah swt as our Rabb. That is why before humans were sent to earth Allah [swt] took from them a pledge. He gathered all of the souls together and He took from them a pledge. He asked them, “Am I not your Rabb? [Alastu bi rabbikum]’ So even in this ayah Allah [swt] used the word Rabb. He did not say Am I not your Illah/Creator/Master, No. The first time He [swt] ever addressed humanity, the first time He [swt] took a pledge from us, He used the word Rabb. It comes in hadith that initially when human souls were asked this question, for a moment they hesitated because it was the first time that they were being addressed directly in this manner then RasulAllah [saw] was the first person to answer and he said, ‘balaa’ O Allah we are firm that truly you are our Rabb. And then at that moment all of the human souls testified to this too, no matter what we would do when they go to earth, at that moment they testified to Allah[swt]’s rubbubiyyat.
But then Allah [swt] sent us to earth, to test if we would be true to our pledge, would we live our life here as Allah [swt] is our Rabb. And what happens is that when we start living in this world, managing our own houses, we forget that apparently we are doing all the work but its actually Allah[swt]who is providing for all our needs
[This is an incomplete transcript of the talk delivered by Shaykh on 11.09.2004]