A Friday Sermon

by Nasir Ahmad Aziz

The Light (UK), June 2011 Issue (pp. 2–3)

This khutba [sermon] is, I guess, a continuation of what we were talking about for the last few weeks — that is evolution — and I want to say something about the first verse of the Holy Quran, which is:

اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۱﴾

All praise is due to Allah the Rabb of the alameen [worlds].

In Arabic it says:

“Al-ham-du lill-laa-hi rabb-bil ‘aa-la-meen.”

The word I want to say something about is Rabb. Arabic is a language in which words carry many meanings. There is a basic meaning and others arise because of some similarity. Let me give you an example for Rabb.

There is a chapter in the Holy Quran called Yusuf [Chapter 12]. The English name for this is Joseph, the prophet we find in the Old Testament. In fact, it is the story of the same prophet but the difference is that the Holy Quran presents Hazrat Yusuf as a pious man and the picture it paints of him is very different to the one presented in the Bible. Anyway, as we know the king had Joseph arrested and put in prison on some charge. Later on, the king needed Joseph’s help and he sent a soldier to go to the prison and get Joseph.

But Joseph does not want to be let out because the king has taken pity on him and needs his help. He wants to be let out because he is innocent and he wants the king to admit that he wrongly put Joseph in prison. The Holy Quran tells us that Joseph said to the soldier:

“My Rabb knows of my innocence, has your rabb investigated the matter…”

You see, here the word rabb is being used in two different ways in the same sentence.

Joseph says my Rabb and your rabb. Rabb is usually translated as God. Does this mean then that there are two gods, and does Islam not teach that there is only one God? Was the king correct in claiming to be god? What is the explanation for this? The explanation is very simple: The word rabb means master and provider. So the king is the soldier’s rabb because the soldier is his employee and the king pays the soldier’s salary and provides for him. I guess being a soldier he probably got free food and accommodation as well.

But that is not the same as Joseph’s Rabb who is a Being who provides for the whole world. Joseph’s Rabb provides for Joseph, for the soldier, for the king and for everyone else in the world. So Joseph’s Rabb is Allah who provides for the whole universe and the soldier’s rabb provides for his family, his army, his ministers, etc. They are both rabb in that they are providers but we need to distinguish between them. One is the Rabb of the alameen [worlds] and the other, of people.

This is the answer to those people who say that the Promised Messiah [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian] was a nabi [prophet] and rasul [messenger] because Allah addressed him with these words. If that is so then the king of Egypt was God because in the Holy Quran the word rabb is used for him. If the King of Egypt was not God then Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was not a nabi and rasul and these words were used in another sense. But that is not what we are discussing today and I only used the word rabb as an example to show that if we do not use common sense in understanding the use of words we will be led to a wrong understanding of the Holy Quran.

So, as I said the word rabb means master or provider; the next word is alameen. This is usually translated as worlds but can also mean universes. This shows there may be many universes. These may exist at the same time or a universe may have existed in the past (which was destroyed) and this universe created. Another alternative is that this universe will be destroyed and a new one created. Allah tells us that a time will come when the world as we know it will come to an end but if Allah is the master of the universes then does it mean another physical world will be created or does it mean the spiritual world into which we transfer after death? We do not know. What we do know is this that he is our provider in this world and in the next one, whatever form it may take, physical or spiritual. All we know for certain is that whatever happens, He will provide for us in this world and next.