Rabûbîyyat – Rahmânîyyat – Rahîmîyyat – Mâlikîyyat
In the very first verses of the Holy Qur’ân (1:1–4), Allâh introduces Himself to humankind with His four Attributes – Rabb al-‘Âlamîn, رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (Creator, Evolver, Nourisher and Sustainer of the worlds of bodies and non-bodies), al-Rahmân, الرَّحْمَـٰن (the most Gracious), al-Rahîm, الرَّحِيم (the Ever Merciful) and Mâlik-i-Yaum a(l)-Dîn, مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ (King on the Day of Judgment). These are His four Attributes of Mercy. They are repeated several times during the five daily ritual Prayers of the Muslims, and are expounded in detail in the verses of the Holy Qur’ân. They rank above all His other Attributes made Him known to us. On these four Attributes rests the very existence of His entire creation. They are the fountainhead of His four Graces – the Grace of Rabûbîyyat, Rahmânîyyat, Rahîmîyyat and Mâlikîyyat.
He says, “(He is) the Most Gracious (God, Who) is firmly and flawlessly established on (His) Throne (of Power),” الرَّحْمَـٰنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَىٰ (20:5). His “Throne of Power” is supported by these four Divine Graces. Each of these four Graces is related to Divine Mercy and Love. Together, the four Divine Graces may be called the mother of all Divine Graces, which are in operation at all times in the universe. The order in which they are mentioned in al-Fâtihah (1:1–4) is their natural order, and they are being manifested in the order mentioned. These Graces of Mercy and Love are being bestowed on his entire creation, because He desires to have them bestowed, not because of anything His creation has done to earn them.
Rabûbîyyat – The First Divine Grace
The Fountainhead of Allâh’s Rabûbîyyat ربٌوبيت is His first Attribute, Rabb al-Âlamîn, رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ meaning, Creator, Evolver, Nourisher, and Sustainer of all the worlds. The cosmos, the worlds of spheres and planets, of life in all its forms (see 26:23–24), of spirits, of knowledge, and of other realms of nonmatter—such as that of paradise (jannât), hellfire, angels, or anything that comes under the sway of Allâh’s Holy Intention (al-Irâdat al-Muqaddas) and His perfect Knowledge (al-‘Alim)—all are part of ‘alam-i-kabîr (the macrocosmos).
Every form of creation—living or nonliving, with forms or without forms—comes under the sway of Allâh’s Rabûbîyyat. All bodies were manifested and are still being manifested through it, and all were evolved and are still evolving through it. This Grace is the very origin of the universe. Were it to be withdrawn for even an instant, the universe would end, and had it not been for this Grace, there would have been no creation. Therefore, the Grace of Rabûbîyyat ranks above all other Graces, because it came into manifestation before other Graces were manifested. Even after the creation of the universe, the need for this Grace remains insistent in every moment, just as if Allâh had not yet created anything. His Rabûbîyyat continues to envelop all objects of His creation.
Allâh says, “Our word to a thing when We intend it (to come into being) is only that We say to it Be and it comes to be” (16:40; see also 2:117). Thus, His first word is the word “Be!”. All objects of creation are the result of obedience to the Command “Be!” Though in your faculty of imagination every impossible thing is possible through Him, still He brings into existence whatever He desires according to His eternal perfect Knowledge, His Will, and His merciful Intention (al-Irâdat al-Muqaddas). He desires all existing things, and He does not utter His Command unless He desires and intends it (2:117).
Allâh’s creation is of two kinds. First is the creation prior to His existence-giving Command “Be!”. The creation before this Divine Command “Be!” is in His eternal Knowledge, and we are not given any knowledge of it. The second creation is the one that comes into existence after the existence-giving Command “Be!”. With this Command He brings into existence forms, which, in their state of nonexistence, were nonetheless pre-existing in His Knowledge. Moments of time are connected only to the existing things, but His Knowledge about them is from eternity, without any beginning (10:34). “Allâh [is the] Originator of the heavens and the earth, Possessor of the knowledge of the unseen and the seen” (39:46). He “starts the cycle of creation and then continues it” (10:34). He originates the “entities and forms” from His sacred Intention (- al-Irâdat al-Muqaddas) in accordance with His merciful Knowledge. Then, with His Command “Be!”, “He brings forth the living out of the lifeless and He brings forth the lifeless out of the living” (6:95). “Be!” shall be His Command to bring forth the Day of Judgment (6:73).
According to ‘Alî Ibn Abî Tâlib and other people of reflection, “dust” was the first universal reality. “And He originated the creation of human being from clay [dust]” (32:7). Then Allâh manifested Himself in Theophany to that “dust” through His Light (Nûr; 24:35). Within this dust was the entire cosmos in its potentiality and readiness (salâhiya). Ibn al-‘Arabî said, “The origin of creation was the “cloud of dust”, (‘Amâ – the Urwolke) which came into existence from the Known Reality [al-Haqq ألحق ], Who is described neither by what is existent nor by what is nonexistent. He manifested Himself in Theophany through His Light (24:35) to that dust, which contained the entire universe in potentiality and readiness )al-Hayûlâ al-Kull(. Each thing in that dust received from His Light in accordance with its preparedness (isti’dâd). By bringing His Light and the dust together, Allâh made a mixture, and something of the one entered into the other.” Then there is a constant change from one state to the other, outwardly and inwardly (55:29) as you are told:
السَّمَاءِ وَهِيَ دُخَانٌ فَقَالَ لَهَا وَلِلْأَرْضِ ائْتِيَا طَوْعًا أَوْ كَرْهًا قَالَتَا أَتَيْنَا
“He directed Himself towards the space [heaven]. Behold! It was (like) a mass of gas. (God) said to it [the space] and to the earth [dust], Come both of you (in obedience to Me) willingly or unwillingly. They said, We obey you with all our will.” (41:11)
After Allâh brought the masses of gas, دُخَانٌ and “dust” together, there was a process of separation.
أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا ۖ
“… the heavens and the earth were (once) one mass all closed up, then We rent them apart.” (21:30).
Was this renting apart the “Big Bang” or was an “unrolling of the cosmos,” like the unrolling of the scrolls as the following verse indicates:
يَوْمَ نَطْوِي السَّمَاءَ كَطَيِّ السِّجِلِّ لِلْكُتُبِ ۚ كَمَا بَدَأْنَا أَوَّلَ خَلْقٍ نُّعِيدُهُ ۚ وَعْدًا عَلَيْنَا ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ
“This is the Day when We shall roll up the heavens like the rolling up of the written scrolls by a scribe. Just as We started the process of the first creation so shall We reproduce it. This is a promise binding on Us; We shall certainly bring it about.” (21:104)
From this verse, which describes the Day of Judgment, you can infer the mystery of the beginnings of creation, the mystery behind the “Big Bang.” Creation was an “unrolling of heavens,” like the unrolling of the written scrolls of a “book.” The rolled scrolls have the potential of energy, which when unrolled is let loose. How was the cosmos created? Did the initial expansion of the so-called big bang resemble an unrolling of scrolls as indicated in verse 21:104? The scientific quest for the fundamental laws of nature has always resulted in unification. The laws of fall and the laws of planetary motion were unified into one theory of gravity and the apparently so distinct phenomena of electricity and magnetism are but two aspects of a unified electromagnetism. The theory of relativity has unified several ideas, intertwining time and space, energy and mass and more. Physicists have come a long way in their quest for a unified theory of all physical laws.
It is futile to explain the Holy Qur’ân by relying on scientific findings, which itself is continuously evolving. Nevertheless, this unmistakable reference to the unitary origin of the universe, metaphorically described here as the heavens and the earth, strikingly anticipates the view of almost all modern astrophysicists that this universe originated as a single entity from one single element. Then He says:
قُلْ أَئِنَّكُمْ لَتَكْفُرُونَ بِالَّذِي خَلَقَ الْأَرْضَ فِي يَوْمَيْنِ وَتَجْعَلُونَ لَهُ أَندَادًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَوَجَعَلَ فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ مِن فَوْقِهَا وَبَارَكَ فِيهَا وَقَدَّرَ فِيهَا أَقْوَاتَهَا فِي أَرْبَعَةِ أَيَّامٍ سَوَاءً لِّلسَّائِلِينَثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ إِلَى
“Would you really disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two eons (a time period which we cannot reckon)? And do you set up compeers with Him? He alone is the Lord of the worlds. He placed therein [in the earth] firm mountains rising above (its surface) and showered it with His blessings [cosmic particles] and placed in it various provisions according to a set measure, (provisions to which) all those who require them have equal rights, (and all this He created) in four eons.” (41:9–10)
فَقَضَاهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ فِي يَوْمَيْنِ وَأَوْحَىٰ فِي كُلِّ سَمَاءٍ أَمْرَهَا ۚ وَزَيَّنَّا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا بِمَصَابِيحَ وَحِفْظًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ
“So He ordained them seven heavens in two eons and assigned to each (heaven) its (relevant) function. And We decked the nearest heaven with lamps [shining stars for light] and made it to guard. Such is the decree of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing” (41:12).
Thus, there was a continuous evolution in cosmic creations. The following verse points to the great upheavals and violent agitations that led to the formation of the mountains, before human beings existed on earth.
وَجَعَلْنَا فِي الْأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَن تَمِيدَ بِهِمْ وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا فِجَاجًا سُبُلًا لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ
“And We have made firm mountains on the earth so that they may be a source of benefit and provision for the people and lest it should quake with them. And We made on it wide pathways that people may find right guidance to reach the goal” (21:31)
The mountains owe their rise to the gradual balancing process to which the solid crust of the earth is subjected. The mountains are like pegs, symbols of the firmness and relative equilibrium that the surface of the earth has gradually achieved in the course of its geological history. In cosmic space are aggregations of matter, which form planets, stars, nebulae, or galaxies. Very little was known of biology in those days, but the Holy Qur’ân, in the clearest terms, speaks of water as being where life originated, and water as an essential requirement for life (21:30).
وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ
And it is from water that We created all life” (21:30).
The Holy Qur’ân is not a treatise on science. It merely refers to certain phenomena in nature to elucidate the principles underlying nature. Since the Holy Qur’ân comes from the Omniscient, All-Knowing Allâh, it cannot impart wrong knowledge. A number of scientific truths were mentioned in the Holy Qur’ân at a time when no one was aware of them. The Holy Qur’ân inspired the early Muslims to rescue astronomy from the clutches of astrology and place it on a strictly scientific basis, leading to many valuable discoveries.
Just as the cosmos depended upon His Rabûbîyyat ربٌوبيت for its coming into existence, it is equally dependent upon it for its continuation and sustenance. It is not that after having created the cosmos, Allâh withdrew from its control, that He committed it to the laws of nature so that He Himself never intervenes in any way, that He is taking some rest until the Day of Judgment. No, His Rabûbîyyat is continuously providing a means for the physical requirements and sustenance of creation, collectively and without discrimination:
The coming into being from nonexistence and its development from the crudest form on its way to perfection is through the manifestation of His Grace of Rabûbîyyat. Under the ever-present eye of His Rabûbîyyat, you can see the stage for the wise development of living things in their respective spheres. Then He tells us the developmental stages of human origin from dust to the embryonic stages:
وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِن سُلَالَةٍ مِّن طِينٍ ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاهُ نُطْفَةً فِي قَرَارٍ مَّكِينٍ ثُمَّ خَلَقْنَا النُّطْفَةَ عَلَقَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْعَلَقَةَ مُضْغَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْمُضْغَةَ عِظَامًا فَكَسَوْنَا الْعِظَامَ لَحْمًا ثُمَّ أَنشَأْنَاهُ خَلْقًا آخَرَ ۚ فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ
“We create a human being from an extract of clay; then We reduce him to a drop of sperm (and place him) in a safe depository; then We form the sperm into a clot; then We develop the clot into a lump of flesh; then We fashion bones out of this lump of flesh, then We clothe the bones with flesh, thereafter We evolve him into another being. Therefore blessed be Allâh the Best of Creators.” (23:12–14)
These Divine Words describe the working out of a grand scheme through millions of years, in order to bring life to its current shape. The verse (21:30): وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ “And it is from water that We created all life, refers to water as the source of all living entities in His cosmos. Then your attention is drawn to the evolution of living species when you read, “It is He Who has evolved you from one living entity” (6:98).
Evolution did not replace God. Evolution is the process the Creator has used to bring life into being and into its perfection. The impressions of divine design are overwhelming everywhere in creation. In the scientific framework, it is not feasible to keep track of every gamma ray causing some mutation. This lack of knowledge or lack of control is paraphrased as “coincidence,” and an unavoidable consequence of this practical restriction is that you can make only punctual, local observations, which must be patched together. It is their failure to patch these together, which leads atheists to believe that evolution is supposedly “random” and – so they reason— whatever the process of evolution brings forth must therefore be without higher purpose. They fail to see that the Divine law permeating through the universe is purposeful and even the tiniest, most subtle change of state only happens in accordance with His Law, His Will and His Command. The care of the universe tires Him not (2:255). “Coincidence,” in the sense of an event that occurred surprisingly, unintentionally, or without control, corresponds to your lack of knowledge or power in some way or another. However, such a notion cannot exist for an All-Knowing Being, Who stands above even the time that He created. Evolution is no different from any other process in the universe. Powers working in the universe are not operating by themselves, but Divine Power operates through them. All the qualities and capacities with which the celestial bodies and earthly elements are temporarily invested are but a reflection of the Divine Power and Attributes eternally possessed by Allâh, the Supreme.
There is nothing in the teachings of the Holy Qur’ân that is hostile or contradictory to established scientific truths, and the statements in the Holy Qur’ân on nature and creation are clear, requiring no lengthy explanations or hedging interpretations.
Never Ending Renewal of Creation
There is no stillness whatsoever in the cosmos (31:29); there is a constant change from one state to another, outwardly and inwardly, a change that you may or may not perceive.
كُلَّ يَوْمٍ هُوَ فِي شَأْنٍ
“Every moment He manifests Himself in a new state” (55:29).
The states come and go, and the changes leave their traces. The entire cosmos refuses to stay still, and His Rabûbîyyat is in operation all the time over His entire creation. At no time is the universe deprived of the benefit of His Rabûbîyyat
No doubt, the cosmos itself is a proof of His Names and His Attributes; we cannot say that the cosmos is a proof of His existence. We can only say that it is a proof of His Attributes. The cosmos signifies only that there is a Reality Who is the Designer and Regularizer (Rabb), but you do not have a proof that such a Reality exists and is living and controlling all the affairs. You cannot sense and perceive this Creator through reason or by inspecting His handiwork, the universe and its laws. The ultimate proof of His existence comes only through His Self-Disclosure and when He unveils and speaks. Allâh’s Rabûbîyyat is constantly providing means for His Self-Disclosure (wahî and ilhâm) that gives you the knowledge about Him and the certainty of His existence. He says:
قُلِ اللَّهُ يَهْدِي لِلْحَقِّ ۗ أَفَمَن يَهْدِي إِلَى الْحَقِّ أَحَقُّ أَن يُتَّبَعَ أَمَّن لَّا يَهِدِّي إِلَّا أَن يُهْدَىٰ ۖ فَمَا لَكُمْ كَيْفَ تَحْكُمُونَ
“Say, ‘It is Allâh alone Who leads to the Truth’. Is then He Who leads to the Truth more worthy to be followed or he (assumed to be god) that cannot find the way (himself) unless he be guided? What, then, is the matter with you? How do you judge?” (10:34)
The Truth (al-Haqq الْحَقِّ) is He alone. Be sure, His Revelations, His unveiling and His speaking is the only definite source that provides you the absolute certainty you need of His presence. At times the ‘Âlam (realm) of misguidance, disbelief, and transgression flourishes; the earth becomes dark, and dead, and the light of faith is pulverized under this affliction. Then Allâh brings forth another ‘Âlamعالم (realm), and the dead earth throbs with a fresh life.
قُلْ هَلْ مِن شُرَكَائِكُم مَّن يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ ۚ قُلِ اللَّهُ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ تُؤْفَكُونَ
“Say, is there anyone of your (associated) partners (with God) who starts the cycle of creation and then continues it? Say, ‘It is Allâh Who starts the cycle of creation and then continues it’. Whither then are you being deviated away (from the truth)?
Allâh alone starts the cycle of new creation. His Will and Decree descends from the heavens, and many are blessed with perceiving hearts and eloquent tongues to render Him thanks for His bounties. They make themselves lowly before the Lord of Greatness, and they run to Him in fear and hope, their eyes downcast with modesty and their faces turning wistfully to the Provider of all needs with resolute submissiveness.
اللَّهُ الَّذِي يُرْسِلُ الرِّيَاحَ فَتُثِيرُ سَحَابًا فَيَبْسُطُهُ فِي السَّمَاءِ كَيْفَ يَشَاءُ وَيَجْعَلُهُ كِسَفًا فَتَرَى الْوَدْقَ يَخْرُجُ مِنْ خِلَالِهِ ۖ فَإِذَا أَصَابَ بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ إِذَا هُمْ يَسْتَبْشِرُون وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلِ أَن يُنَزَّلَ عَلَيْهِم مِّن قَبْلِهِ لَمُبْلِسِين فَانظُرْ إِلَىٰ آثَارِ رَحْمَتِ اللَّهِ كَيْفَ يُحْيِي الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا
“It is Allâh alone who sends forth the winds and they raise (the vapours to form) a cloud which He spreads out in the sky as He will and sets it layer upon layer, and you see the rain falling from its midst. And no sooner does He cause it [the Divine Revelation] to fall on whom He will of His servants, then they (the people) are filled with joy (because of the glad tidings). Though shortly before it was sent down upon them, they were in a state of despondency. Look, therefore, at the evidences of Allâh’s mercy! How He breathes life into the earth (making it green and flourishing) after its (state of) death.” (30:48–50)
When the darkness of disbelief and ignorance prevails on earth, “and the night when it becomes (dark and) still” (93:2), that Divine Compassion and His eternal Mercy raises a person, one who is blessed with Divine Discourse and His Light. And with this Light, he dispels darkness and creates a new “world” (see 93:3). They are those who perceive this Light, those who are gifted with insight and whose hearts are clean, who are prepared for this reception. The most honoured of this group are the Prophets, their followers, apostles, and the righteous, the ones who are the true servants of Allâh, and they excel above all the rest. Many of them are reviled in the earth but are commended by Allâh in the heavens. When Allâh’s servant discards his own desires, empties his passion, is centered in Allâh and His worship, and glorifies Him with all the particles of his body, then the heart of such a one becomes a new ‘Âlam – a new world of its own; one of the ‘Âlam-i-Saghîr (the microcosmos).
You may think that your journey comes to its end when you die, that the path before you is now closed, and that the time has come for you to take shelter in the silent obscurity of your grave. However, this is not true; the grave is not the end. Rather, it is the commencement of the unfolding of soul. Hâfiz of Shirâz, the great Persian mystic, said, “If just a little dust and water mixed in His bowl can yield such exquisite scents, sights, music, and whirling forms, what unspeakable wonders must wait with the commencement of the unfolding of the infinite numbers of petals that is the soul.”
Raising the dead on the Day of Resurrection, or life after death, is one of the major themes of the Holy Qur’ân (see 23:16). On the Day of Judgment, the “job” and His involvement in affairs of Allâh does not come to an End after He simply assigns humankind to either the “Gardens of Paradise” or “hell,” as some may believe. Rather, resurrection is but a continuation of the cycle of creation (29:19). The life after death is a creation of Allâh, so His Grace of Rabûbîyyat will continue to operate in that life as well.
نَحْنُ قَدَّرْنَا بَيْنَكُمُ الْمَوْتَ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَسْبُوقِينَ عَلَىٰ أَن نُّبَدِّلَ أَمْثَالَكُمْ وَنُنشِئَكُمْ فِي مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمُ النَّشْأَةَ الْأُولَىٰ فَلَوْلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ
“It is We that have ordained death for all of you. And We cannot be stopped from (it), From replacing you with beings similar to you, (or from) evolving you into a form which is unknown to you (at present). And you certainly know of the first evolution. Then, why do you not reflect?” (56:60–62)
Many people mistakenly imagine death to be a state of nonexistence. This notion of theirs is not true, as the preceding verses explain. It is also incorrect to assume that resurrection will be like the first creation, with the body such as the one you have today. Resurrection is another kind of creation, but it is different and unrelated to the first. He says:
أَفَعَيِينَا بِالْخَلْقِ الْأَوَّلِ ۚ بَلْ هُمْ فِي لَبْسٍ مِّنْ خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ
“Are We wearied with the first creation (that We will not be able to create them the second time on the Day of Resurrection)? The fact is that they are in confusing doubt about a new creation.” (50:15)
إِنَّا أَنشَأْنَاهُنَّ إِنشَاءً
“Verily, (on the Day of Resurrection,) We have made them (women and men) excellent and have raised them into a special new creation.” (56:35)
خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا مَا دَامَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ رَبُّكَ ۚ
“And they shall abide therein, unless your Lord otherwise will, so long as the heavens and the earth (thereof) endure. Surely, your Lord does bring about very well what He intends (to do)” (11:107)
According to Ibn Jarîr, the passage “so long as the heavens and the earth endure” means that time cannot endure beyond this limit. The passage “unless your Lord otherwise will” إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ رَبُّكَ means unless Allâh decides to bestow on them yet another and a greater reward, and open up to them a new, yet higher stage of evolution (Râzî in al-Tafsîr al Kabîr). The new efforts and progress shall continue.
يَوْمَ لَا يُخْزِي اللَّهُ النَّبِيَّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ ۖ نُورُهُمْ يَسْعَىٰ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَبِأَيْمَانِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا أَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُورَنَا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ۖ
“On that day (when the human beings will be raised to life again) Allâh will not disgrace the Prophet nor those who have believed with him. Their light [Nûr] will advance swiftly (radiating) in front of them and on their right hands while they will go on (praying and) saying, Our Lord! (Continue to) perfect our light for us and protect us (against our lapses). Verily You are Possessor of prudential Power to do every desired thing” (66:8).
In this verse the words أَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُورَنَا – perfect our light, are drawing your attention to how the development of human souls continues beyond death, though in a different form. There is yet another verse, which when read carefully, provides the same message:
يَوْمَ يَقُولُ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتُ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا انظُرُونَا نَقْتَبِسْ مِن نُّورِكُمْ
“That day the hypocritical men and hypocritical women will say to those who believe, ‘Wait for us so that we might obtain some illumination from (this) light’.” (57:13).
The expression used by the hypocrites, “Wait for us” انظُرُونَا indicates that in paradise, souls will continue to pass through evolutionary processes, and there shall be no rest.
Ibn al-‘Arabî writes, “At the end of his journey in this world, the servant desires to throw down the staff of the journey and does not want to remain a traveler anymore. However, his Lord tells him that this is not the end of the affair. At the time of death, He shows His servant His grand Kingdom. When the servant sees that grand Kingdom of his Lord, he runs towards his Creator, he wants to see everything that had been veiled from him. The Lord informs him that he will never cease to be a traveler and reach a place of permanent rest. He reminds him that just as he never ceased to be a traveler in the many stages of the cosmos, and as he was entering from one form into the other, so he will continue from one way station to the other. He will say, Just as you traveled with your elemental body each day and each night, crossing your lifespan till you reached the way station of your death, even after that, you will not stop traveling. You will cross the way station of barzakh, from your grave to the way station of resurrection. Then you will be carried to the abode of your felicity and from there to the dune of White Musk on your never ending journey.” This is the bridge between Rabûbîyyat and Rahmânîyyat.
Rahmânîyyat – The Second Divine Grace
The operation of Allâh’s second Grace, His Rahmânîyyat, follows Rabûbîyyat but is involved only with the worlds of animates, not with inanimate. The Divine Grace of Rahmânîyyat رحمانيت is not the consequence of, or the reward of one’s actions. It is by the blessing of this Grace that everything lives and eats and has its sustaining needs fulfiled. It is through the operation of this Grace that you fulfil your life requirements: the sun for warmth, light, and energy; the air for breathing; and the water for drinking. It is by the blessing of this Grace that all prerequisites for your spiritual development have already been provided – the capacities of rational thinking and speech, the embedded love for God and the innate drive to worship, and the capacity to receive Divine Revelation. You read in the Holy Qur’ân such verses as: “He has taken upon Himself (the rule of) mercy” (6:12; 6:54), “Your Lord is the Lord of All-Embracing Mercy” (6:146), “My mercy embraces all things” (7:156), and “Our Lord, You embrace each and everything in Your mercy” (40:7). Every created living thing is the object of His Rahmânîyyat, and Mercy is His Essence, but being merciful is His Attribute.
You beg him for mercy by mentioning His Names and Attributes. You might say, “O All-Mighty! Have mercy on me,” or you might say, “O Merciful! Forgive me.” This is because the Attributive Names are referring to His Attribute of Mercy and the various associations that they bear. All Attributes can be appealed to for Mercy. Ibn al-‘Arabî said, “The Mercy of Allâh flows in all created things and courses through His Self and His Essences. The rank of Mercy is the epitome to those who perceive it, and is sublime to those with discursive mind.” (Ibn al-‘Arabỉ, Fatûhât al-Makkîyya). It is because of Allâh’s Rahmânîyyat that He gives respite to the disbelievers:
وَلَا يَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّمَا نُمْلِي لَهُمْ خَيْرٌ لِّأَنفُسِهِمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا نُمْلِي لَهُمْ لِيَزْدَادُوا إِثْمًا
“And do not let those who disbelieve think that the respite We give them is good for them. Surely, We grant them respite (that they may have a chance to mend their ways and correct their evil actions,) but they do not avail it, with the result that they add to their sins” (3:178)
If He were to punish sinners for every wrong committed, “He would not leave any (unjust and polytheistic) living and crawling creature on the face of the earth, but He gives them respite till an appointed term” (16:61), so that the disobedient may have the opportunity to avail and correct, so that they have a chance to repent. His Mercy takes precedence over His Wrath (- ghadzab غضب)—that is, His Mercy is attributed to Him before His Wrath. Many are aware of Allâh’s Mercy, and many are aware of His Wrath. Everyone flees from His Wrath and seeks His Mercy. Out of His Rahmânîyyat, He appoints Prophets for the guidance of humankind, Prophets who bring good tidings but also warnings, which are followed by punishment. Thus, Allâh has a hidden Wrath within His Mercy. He has also a hidden Mercy within His Wrath. This is His mystery and His Wisdom.
It is through this Grace of Rahmânîyyat that living beings enjoy the fulfilment of their wants. You cannot claim that the fulfilments of your demands and joys of life are because of your actions, or because you had been engaged in some virtuous pursuit in a previous incarnation that earned Gods favourable estimate so that He conferred all these innumerable bounties upon you. Nor is it because of your own requests and prayers, nor because of somebody else’s request for intercession on your behalf. It is this Grace, which reveals itself in thousands of ways that is meant to elevate the well-being of all living things. It is a bounty regardless of merit, claim, or demand on the part of anyone. It is but the upsurge of Divine Mercy, so that you (and every other animate creature) may attain your natural goal and may reach the state inherent in your nature. That the Divine Being possesses this Attribute is manifestly established through a study of the laws of nature. Your body owes its origin to His Rahmânîyyat. He provides His bounties out of His sheer Grace, even long before the birth of His creatures and before the commencement of their deeds and thinking.
His universal Rahmânîyyat رحمانيت refutes those who seek to confine the Providence and Grace of Allâh to their own religion, country and people, mistakenly believing that Allâh did not create other communities or peoples of other lands or ages, or that after creating them, Allâh rejected them or forgot about them. They may also believe that all Prophets and messengers were raised among their own people and that Allâh was so indifferent to other peoples that He did not have the least pity with them, even when He found them in error or in a state of unawareness. People may also mistakenly believe that Divine Revelation and Divine Speech has always remained restricted to certain chosen peoples or certain regions. But whoever believes this, is unaware of Allâh’s universal Rahmânîyyat. He says:
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلًا مِّن قَبْلِكَ مِنْهُم مَّن قَصَصْنَا عَلَيْكَ وَمِنْهُم مَّن لَّمْ نَقْصُصْ عَلَيْكَ ۗ
“And indeed We have already sent (Our) Messengers before you. There are some of them whom We have mentioned to you and of them there are some whom We have not mentioned to you” (40:78)
وَإِن مِّنْ أُمَّةٍ إِلَّا خَلَا فِيهَا نَذِيرٌ
“There has been no people but have (been warned by) a Warner (from God)” (35:24).
This is so that no people may have cause to complain that Allâh was gracious only towards some nation and not towards another, or that some other people were given a book to guide them but they were not, or that He manifested Himself through His Words and Revelations and signs in a certain age but remained hidden and silent in another age. This passage demonstrates a sense of respect and honour for all the religious guides that have appeared among the various nations of the world. Accepting and respecting these various Prophets who have appeared all over the world paves the way for unity among the nations and peace through religion. Then He says:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدُونِ
“And We sent no Messenger before you but We revealed to him, (saying), The truth is that there is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but Me, therefore worship Me (alone)” (21:25)
These Words tell us that Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, the Sikh faith, or any other faith are but different aspects of one and the same religion, which in its original purity conveyed the same message of the Unity of God. The purpose of the religions was the submission to the will of One Deity and to make peace with their Creator and His creation. Therefore, you should respect their religious founders, since this is the foundation of a universal brotherhood. His Rahmânîyyat abolishes all individual and racial distinctions and confirms that the noble among us in the sight of Allâh is he who guards against evil and who is the righteous (2:177).
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَىٰ وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
“Surely, those who (profess to) believe (in Islam), and those who follow the Jewish faith, the Christians and the Sabians, whosoever (of these truly) believes in Allâh and the Last Day and acts righteously shall have their reward with their Lord, and shall have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:62)
You can appreciate differences of opinion arising from differences of temperament and differences in upbringing. Such differences may lead to the existence of several schools of thought, but they cannot affect the real and basic Faith, as far as the cardinal principle of Oneness of Deity is concerned in its pure integrity. Nobody is to be deprived of any right on the score of the faith he professes or the language, race, colour, or sex he happens to be born into (2:4; 2:136; 3:84). We are told:
وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ مِن فَوْقِهَا وَبَارَكَ فِيهَا وَقَدَّرَ فِيهَا أَقْوَاتَهَا فِي أَرْبَعَةِ أَيَّامٍ سَوَاءً لِّلسَّائِلِينَ
“He placed therein [in the earth] firm mountains rising above (its surface) and showered it [the earth] with His blessings and placed in it various provisions according to a set measure, (provisions to which) all those who require them have equal rights, (and all this He created) in four aeons” (41:10)
Rahîmîyyat – The third Divine Grace
It is out of the Grace of Rahîmîyyat رحيميت that your formal Prayers and supplications are accepted. He says:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me (tell them), I am nearby indeed, I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me, so they should respond to My call, and believe in Me (that I possess all these Attributes) so that they may proceed in the right way” (2:186).
In order to become the beneficiary of the third Divine Grace, Rahîmîyyat, you are obliged to tread on the path of righteousness and virtue in an effort to bring your ego out of the coverings of darkness. Striving, effort, and purification of your heart through supplication and attention are needed. This Grace only descends upon those who seek it and work for it. He says, “And those who strive hard in Our cause We will certainly guide them in the ways that lead to Us” (29:69). Those who exert themselves in the direction of Allâh cannot be the same as those who do not care. Since the Attribute of Rahîmîyyat follows upon the fulfilment of certain conditions, it is mentioned after Rahmânîyyat. This Mercy can be acquired by obligations in the way that verse 7:156 continues to inform us:
قَالَ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ ۖ وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُون
“He (the Almighty) said, As for My punishment, I inflict on whom I will, but My mercy embraces all things. So I will ordain it for those who guard against evil and spend in charity and for those who believe in Our Messages.” (7:156)
It is because of this Attribute that it is said that he who seeks finds and that he who asks is given to. It is on account of this Grace that Allâh hears the prayers of supplicants and He says, “Call on Me, I will answer your prayer” (40:60). There are dozens of verses that remind you of this Attribute of Allâh. The Attribute of al-Rahîm is usually in association with His other Attributes. We read, “Verily, my Lord is Ever Merciful, Most Loving” إِنَّ رَبِّي رَحِيمٌ وَدُودٌ (11:90); “Surely, Allâh is Oft-Returning (with compassion and is) Ever Merciful,” إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ (49:12); and other Divine Attributes, such as theAll-Mighty (al-‘Azîz), the Most Beneficent (al-Barr’), the Great Protector (al-Wâlî), and the Ever-Loving (al-Wadûd).
According to a saying of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), the Attribute of Rahmân generally pertains to this life, whereas the Attribute of Rahîm also brings reward in the life to come (Abû Hayyân Gharnâtî in Bahr al-Muhît ). This world is the world of actions, good or bad, and the next is a world where those actions shall be rewarded. The Attribute of Rahmân provides you with what you need for your life, whereas the Attribute of Rahîm brings about rewards in the hereafter as well as special blessings in this very life. The Qur’ânic message of Rahîmîyyat was summarized by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in Divine Words, as follows: “O My servant, do not despair of Me. I am Ever Merciful and Benevolent and cover up your misgivings. No one will ever have mercy on you as I have. If you come to Me, I shall protect you from the bad consequences of your deeds. If you advance towards Me slowly, I shall run to you. If you seek Me, you shall find Me, and if you knock at My door, you shall find My door open. My Mercy upon you is greater than My Wrath. My Wrath is little, because you are My creatures. I have created you all, so My Mercy comprises all of you.” Ibn al-‘Arabî said in the symbols of the two dots below yâ in الرَّحِيم are the two feet of Allâh for those who get close to Him in their worship. They symbolize فَاخْلَعْ نَعْلَيْكَ “taking off the sandals” for the one who hears إِنِّي أَنَا رَبُّكَ (20:12)”.
Mâlikîyyat – The fourth Divine Grace
الْمُلْكُ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِّلَّهِ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فِي جَنَّاتِ النَّعِيمِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَكَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا فَأُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ
“On that day the kingdom [al-Mulk] shall belong to Allâh alone. He will judge between people so that those who believe and do deeds of righteousness will be (admitted) into blissful Gardens. But those who disbelieve and cried lies to Our Messages, shall suffer a humiliating punishment.” (22:56–57)
Any command by a master requires obedience. Those who are commanded either obey or oppose the command. For the one who opposes, his opposition incites from his Master an action. The action can be either punishment or to pass over, depending on what the situation demands. One of the two must occur. Allâh says, “We shall make him suffer a great punishment” (25:19); He also says, “Such are the people the best of whose deeds We accept and reward, and whose evil deeds We pass over” (46:16). This is the essence of the fourth Divine Grace, Mâlikîyyat. Therefore, the Law of Requital is not like a rigid law of nature or of a court; rather it is the dealing of a Most Gracious and Ever-Merciful Master. Abû Hurairah said that he heard Allâh’s Messenger say, “Allâh, Most High, had inscribed a document before bringing the creation into being: My Mercy has preceded my Wrath, and that this is written in His presence above the throne” (Sahîh Bukhârî). The attributive word Mâlik is to be translated as master, not as judge. The essential difference between a judge and a master is that the former is bound to punish the evildoers for the crime they commit, whereas the master can exercise his discretion; He may either punish or overlook his fault and pass over his crime. It is because of this fact that the Holy Qur’ân says:
قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
“Say, O My servants who have committed excesses against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allâh (that Allâh is going to punish you at all costs, and cannot forgive your sins). Surely, Allâh forgives all sins. Verily, He is the Great Protector, the Ever Merciful.” (39:53)
Hence, in the Attribute of Mâlik, the Divine Mercy is incorporated to link the idea of forgiveness and protection with that of punishment. In the body of the Holy Qur’ân, Attributes like Al-Ghafûr, Al-Ghâfir, and Al-Ghaffâr along with its cognate verb forms, are mentioned 560 times. These Divine Attributes are derived from ghafara, which means, “to protect,” “to forgive,” or “to cover up.” The Holy Qur’ân repeatedly gives prominence to the Divine Attributes of love, forgiveness, protection, and mercy. We read:
وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَصَعِقَ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَن شَاءَ اللَّهُ ۖ ثُمَّ نُفِخَ فِيهِ أُخْرَىٰ فَإِذَا هُمْ قِيَامٌ وَأَشْرَقَتِ الْأَرْضُ بِنُورِ رَبِّهَا وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ وَجِيءَ بِالنَّبِيِّينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ وَوُفِّيَتْ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا عَمِلَتْ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونََ
“(That Day) there shall be a blast on the trumpet and all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth will fall into a swoon except whom Allâh will like (to spare). Then there will be a blast another time and behold! These people shall stand up awaiting (judgment before their Lord).
“And the earth shall radiate with the light of her Lord. And the record (of their deeds) will be produced (before them), and the Prophets and the (other) witnesses shall be brought forward; people shall be judged in all fairness and no injustice shall be done to anyone of them. And every soul shall be repaid in full for its deeds; for He (the Almighty Lord) is well-aware of all that they do.” (39:68–70)
Then, “He (the Almighty) says, As for My punishment, I inflict on whom I will, but My mercy embraces all things,” قَالَ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ ۖ وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْء (7:156). Our world of bodies lacks the capacities to serve as a sphere for the grand manifestation of Mâlikîyyat with its brilliant Lights, its beauties, and eternal bounties. And it cannot comprehend those full and enduring auroras of His manifestation. An altogether different realm is needed for the Manifestation of this perfect and enduring Grace of Mâlikîyyat, a realm independent and free from the opacity of physical spheres, a realm adequate to demonstrate the absolute and pure Might of the All-Powerful, Unique, Merciful Lord.
Yet a foretaste of this most special Grace is vouchsafed in this very life to those perfect and purified souls who tread on the path of righteousness in their efforts to reach the proximity of their Lord, discarding all other desires. They die a death before their actual death; their bodies are in this world, but their hearts are already with their Lord. They wean their minds away from all temporalities and make a break with human ways and values, and their faces are full of hope, looking towards their Lord. As for such seekers, it is said, “Allâh is well pleased with them” (5:119). The Beneficent Lord then treats them in a like manner. He manifests His Light upon them in a manner that He will not manifest it upon others, except after death. They already become the recipients of that very Light with which the earth shall radiate on the Day of Judgment. They receive in this very life a portion of the Light of this most special Grace.
In a similar manner, requital begins to takes place for the evildoers in this world. Allâh exercises His forbearance, overlooks their faults, and covers them up for a while (46:16). However, if they persist in their bad deeds, they suffer different kinds of afflictions in this very world, and their lives become a misery. This is a foretaste of the hell of the hereafter (25:19). In other words, it is the human being who bestows evil on himself, he being his own chastiser. The Holy Qur’ân stresses the fact that the Divine Law of Requital of deeds is working every moment and thus makes a human being feel the responsibility for what he does. On the other hand, it also gives prominence to the Attribute of Forgiveness in His Essence.
Abû Hamzah al-Thumâlî (d. approximately 150 AH / 767 CE) supplicated: “I pray to You, O my Master, with a tongue that has been paralyzed by its sin. O my Lord, I confide to You with a heart that has been doomed by its mischief. I pray to You, O my Lord, frightened but wishful, hopeful but fearful. If I contemplate my sins, O my Lord! I become scared, but when I remember Your generosity, I yearn, so if You forgive, You are the most Merciful, and if You punish, You have not unjustly judged. My excuse, O Allâh, in my daring to ask You, even though I have committed what You hate, is Your Benevolence and Generosity, and my preparation for my adversity, given that I lack shyness (in committing sin), is Your forbearance and Mercy. And I am wishful that my hope will not be disappointed, so fulfil my ambition and accept my prayer, O the Best Who was ever prayed to!”
The contemplation of these four Divine Attributes can inspire in you an irresistible longing to see your Creator, an intense desire to offer your wholehearted devotion to Him, and an irresistible feeling of love. Under the Attribute of Rahîm, and through good actions and formal Prayers, you are deemed worthy of this Divine Grace, but it is through the Attribute of Mâlik-i-Yaum al-Dîn that the Grace is bestowed. Mâlikîyyat also indicates that He has not withdrawn Himself from the governance of the universe, committing it to some vice-regent (one such as Jesus, as some believe) with all authority to award recompense here and in the hereafter. The four Divine Graces described in this chapter rule out the doctrine of atonement and transmigration of souls in this very world.