Names of Allah Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV | Part XXVI | Part XXVII | Part XXVIII | Part XXIX | Part XXX |Part XXXI | Part XXXII | Part XXXIII | Part XXXIV | Part XXXV | Part XXXVI |Part XXXVII | Part XXXVIII | Part XXXIX | Part XXXX | Part XXXXI | Part XXXXII | Part XXXXIII
“And out from where they had been concealed walked two other detectives. They’d had me covered. One false move, I’d have been dead…
If I hadn’t been arrested right when I was, I could have been dead another way. Sophia’s husband’s friend had told her husband about me. And her husband had arrived that morning, and had gone to the apartment with a gun, looking for me. He was at the apartment just about when they took me to the precinct…
I have thought a thousand times, I guess, about how I so narrowly escaped death twice that day. That’s why I believe that everything is written.”1
These are the words of the late Malik el-Shabazz – Malcolm X – may Allah’s mercy be upon him, as he told the story of the day he got arrested. It was through prison that he was exposed to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. It would be many more years before he visited Makkah, as a member of the Nation, and accepted orthodox Islam. It was as though someone was taking care of him all this time – nudging him, teaching him through hardship and blessing, and caring for him. It may not have been clear at the time, but it became apparent later on.
Because someone was taking care of him. The same One who takes care of you and me.
He is Allah, Al-Rabb (the Lord). This attribute is mentioned so many times in the Qur’an, but it is different from His other Names. While Allah is Al-Haleem (the Forbearing) or Al-Wahhab (the Giver of Gifts), you cannot say, “Allah is my Haleem”, for example. Linguistically it does not make sense. You can say He is forbearing with you, or He is The Forbearing, but you cannot use it in the possessive form. But when ‘Rabb’ is mentioned, you can change the form.
He is not just Al-Rabb. He is ‘Rabby’ – my Rabb. This shows us how close Allah is to us. That’s why the first verses to be revealed to the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) were:
“Recite in the name of your Rabb who created –” [96:1]
Though the Prophet ﷺ was an orphan, it is as though this verse came to tell him, ‘You have a Rabb, Someone has been taking care of you all this time.’ ‘Rabb’ is hard to translate because it has so many meanings attached to it. It is commonly translated as ‘Lord’, but that is only part of the meaning. In the dictionary it is stated:
الرَّبُّ يُطْلَق في اللغة على المالكِ، والسَّـيِّدِ، والـمُدَبِّر، والـمُرَبِّي، والقَيِّمِ، والـمُنْعِمِ
والرّبُّ: المُصْلِح للشّيء.
والله جلّ ثناؤُه الرَّبٌّ؛ لأنه مصلحُ أحوالِ خَلْقه.
Al-Rabb linguistically is said to be the Owner, the Master, the One who arranges all matters, the Nurturer, the Sustainer, and the One who bestows favors and blessings. Al-Rabb is also the one who mends something; and Allah is al-Rabb – subhanahu wa ta`ala, exalted is He – because He mends the conditions of His creation.
Because Rabb encompasses all of these meanings, Surat al-Fatiha (Qur’an 1) is a beautiful introduction to His Name. We are told:
“[All] praise is [due] to Allah…” [1:1]
Imagine you are reading this for the first time. You might say ‘well, who is Allah (swt)?’
“…Rabb of all the worlds.” [1:1]
If He is a Rabb – with all of the meanings this word encompasses – then the logical conclusion is ‘I must be a slave’. But what is my relationship with this Rabb? What kind of Rabb is He?
“The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” [1:2]
Wow. That is who is He is. That is the type of Rabb Allah (swt) is. He is the The Rabb, the One who is your Master, but the Master who nurtures you with His All-Encompassing Mercy. So how can we not worship Him? How can we not seek His nearness?
Allah shows us how he arranges everything in this world, how He is master of things that you are not even aware of. When He first speaks to Moses `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) and tells him that he must confront Pharaoh, Moses (as) makes a supplication. Allah (swt) grants Him what he asked for, but then He reminds Moses (as):
‘And We had already conferred favor upon you another time, When We inspired to your mother what We inspired, [Saying], ‘Cast him into the chest and cast it into the river, and the river will throw it onto the bank; there will take him an enemy to Me and an enemy to him.’ And I bestowed upon you love from Me that you would be brought up under My eye. [And We favored you] when your sister went and said, ‘Shall I direct you to someone who will be responsible for him?’ So We restored you to your mother that she might be content and not grieve. And you killed someone, but We saved you from retaliation and tried you with a [severe] trial. And you remained [some] years among the people of Madyan. Then you came [here] at the decreed time, O Moses. And I produced you for Myself. Go, you and your brother, with My signs and do not slacken in My remembrance. Go, both of you, to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed. And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah].’ [20:37-44]
Allah (swt) reminds Moses (as) that He was there for him all along – even when he did not know it. Even when he thought that he was going through a hardship, Allah (swt) was there. Allah (swt) was teaching him, like a Rabb would. And what do Moses and Aaron (as) say?
‘They said, “Our Lord, indeed we are afraid that he will hasten [punishment] against us or that he will transgress.”’ [37:45]
They say ‘Rabbana’ – our Rabb. That is how personal this Name is. They beseech their Rabb, telling Him of their fears. And Allah (swt) responds, reassuring them once more:
‘[Allah] said, “Fear not. Indeed, I am with you both; I hear and I see.’ [37:46]
In another chapter, Moses (as) and the Children of Israel are being hunted down by Pharaoh and his army. They are fast on their heels. The Children of Israel cry out in despair, “Indeed, we are to be overtaken!”2 But Moses (as), firm in his faith, says, “No! Indeed, with me is my Lord [Rabby]; He will guide me.”3
There is a hadith (saying) of the Prophet ﷺ in which he says:
اللّهُمّ إِنّي أَسْأَلُكَ بِأَنّ لَكَ الْحَمْدُ لا إِلَهَ إِلاّ أَنْتَ المنّانُ بَدِيعُ السّمَاواتِ وَاْلأَرْضِ يَاذَا الْجَلاَلِ وَالإِكْرَامِ يَاحَيُّ يَاقَيّومُ
“O Allah, I ask You by virtue of the fact that praise is due to You, there is no god but You, Who shows favor and beneficence, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, O Lord of Majesty and Splendor, O Living One, O Eternal One.”
The Prophet ﷺ then said, “He has supplicated Allah using His Greatest Name; when supplicated by this name, Allah answers, and when asked by this name, He gives.” (Abu Dawud)
There are other sayings with different wordings. Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi stated that some are of the opinion that Al-Hayy Al-Qayyum (the Ever-Living, the Sustainer) are His greatest Names, while others were of the opinion that the greatest Name is that which pertains to your situation. For example, if you are poor, you may ask Allah Al-Razzaq (the Provider) or Al-Ghani (the Self-Sufficient). If you are sick, you would ask Al-Shaafi’ (the Healer). Others stated that His greatest Name is Al-Rabb. If we look at the Qur’an, the Prophets (peace be upon them) call on Allah (swt), their Rabb:
‘And [mention] Zechariah, when he called to his Lord, “My Lord (Rabby), do not leave me alone [with no heir], while you are the best of inheritors.”’ [21:89]
The Prophet Zechariah (as) calls out “Rabby” when asking for an heir. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, when he was expelled from Ta’if, made a heartfelt call to his Rabb:
“O Allah! To you alone I complain my weakness, my scarcity of resources, and the humiliation I have been subjected to by people. O Most Merciful of those who have mercy! You are the Lord (Rabb) of the weak, and You are My Lord (Rabby) too.
To whom have you entrusted me? To a distant person who receives me with hostility? Or to an enemy to whom you have granted authority over my affair?
But as long as You are not angry with me, I do no care, except that Your favor is a more expansive relief to me. I seek refuge in the light of Your Face by which all darkness is dispelled and every affair of this world and the next is set right, lest Your anger or Your displeasure descend upon me.
Yours is the right to reproach until You are pleased. There is no power and no might except by You.”
Al-Rabb is a beautiful Name and attribute of Allah (swt) that should make us feel close to Him. Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi likens this attribute, which is sometimes used for a human being, to a compassionate father who takes care of his household. With a human, there has to be an addition, for example ‘rabb al-bayt’ – the rabb of the house. But Allah (swt) is the only One who is Al-Rabb – The Rabb.
Coming alive with this Name
- Look back at your life and see how He has been taking care of you all along
Just like the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the Prophet Moses (as), Malcolm X, and many more, look back at your life and see how Allah (swt) has been taking care of you. Talk to Him and thank Him for being there with you. Remember that in every hardship there is a lesson from ‘a Merciful Lord’ [36:58].
- Worship your Rabb
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
‘Indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path.’ [3:51]
‘And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty (death).’ [15:99]
Knowing that Allah (swt) is our Rabb is to worship Him wholeheartedly. And that worship has a sweetness, especially when we know who we are worshipping. As Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an to the people of Paradise:
‘[And] “Peace,” a word from a Merciful Lord.’ [36:58]