Quran could be called ‘the science of God’ if we evaluate it according to the fact that it contains 2699 occurrences of the word ‘Allah’ which can be seen as a connective concept of God. However, the word ‘Allah’ and all the names connected to it (like Ar-Rahmaan, Ar-Raheem etc) are in this constant form. They are not attached with pronouns nor can they be, grammatically speaking. This is not the case with the term ‘rabb’.
The word ‘rabb’, usually translated as ‘lord’ is the most frequently occurring description of Allah at 975 times. It is also the first description of Allah in Quran Ch 1 Vs 1 which is ‘rabb al-‘alameen’ (lord of the worlds). This is very significant because Ch 1 is the key to Quran, a summary and so its first description of Allah is even more sigficant.
The focus of this essay however is the variety of occurrences of the word ‘rabb’ with pronouns. We will look at ‘rabbihum/rabbahum’ (their lord), ‘rabbuhu/rabbihi’ (his lord), ‘rabbaha’ (her lord), rabbakum (your lord in plural), ‘rabbikuma’ (your lord in dual) , ‘rabbuka’ (your lord in singular), ‘rabbana’ (our lord) and ‘rabbee’ (my lord). It is our belief that these forms show different states of proximity between Allah and human beings.
The first form to occur after 1/1 is in 2/5 where ‘rabbihim’ (their lord) is mentioned. Here we can see that it talks about a particular people. It is a state which is, at that stage of the chapter, is still distant from the Reader. It is a process which the Reader has not engaged in.
The second form to occur is 2/21 is ‘rabbakum’ (your lord in plural). In this form, Allah speaks directly to the listeners in plural. The proximity is made closer showing that an action plan is due. Perhaps the difference is in theory for ‘their lord’ and practice for ‘your lord’.
The third form we will look at is in 2/30 which is ‘rabbuka’ (your lord in singular). This is the first time the Reader is mentioned alongside the ‘rabb’ concept. Interestingly, it is with adam whose narrative is mentioned in 2/30-39. We can then deduce that the first relationship of rabb and the Reader is towards the goal of adam.
The fourth form to consider is within the same passage in 2/38 in which the ‘rabb’ is connected to adam once again through the word ‘rabbihi’ (his lord). This again shows the emphasis of the personal ‘rabb’ with the state of adam.
The fifth form relevant to our discussion is ‘rabbee’ (my lord). This deeply personal form is appropriately for the Quranic personality ibrahim in 2/126 . It is no coincidence that ibrahim is the personality who achieves the pure deen for Allah in the process outlined in 6/74-79. The word ‘rabbee’ occurs no less than three times in 6 verses here.
The sixth form we will look at is ‘rabbana’ (our lord) which occurs in the same passage as ‘rabbee’ (2/122-152). This form first occurs in three consecutive verses (2/127, 2/128 and 2/129) and details the social philosophies of the ibrahimic community. It shows the close proximity of rabb but on a collective level.
The seventh and final form we are considering occurs rather far away in 3/37 to the only Quranic female personality mentioned by name, maryam. It is the word ‘rabbaha’ (her lord) and shows a state of passivity and receptivity of maryam towards her lord. He then accepts her and grows her. There is a deep symbolic proximity in this occurrences.
In the forms displayed by the occurrences of the word ‘rabb’ in Quran, we come to understand the proximity of relationships we may have with our Lord or rabb. It is therefore a science of distance and a means through which we may attain closeness.