13-Does Rabb Al-Alamin mean Lord of the Worlds?

The phrase Rabb-al-Alamin occurs 42 times in the Quran and is translated as Lord of the Worlds. There are numerous explanations in tradition attempting to explain this translation. However, if the Quran by its own words is clear, distinct, and detailed, then why go to tradition for answers?

Here are a few of the explanations from hadith and tafsir of Al-Alamin: The Worlds:

  • Every creation in this world and the hereafter (reference).
  • Referring only to all that which possess an intellect: the world of humans, jinn, angels, and satan.  (reference). — Note: Here they acknowledge the word involves the intellect, but continue to justify its role in the use of worlds.
  • Lord of the entire universe, Lord of mankind…. and one in particular by A.L. Bilal Muhammad as “the Guardian Evolver of all systems of knowledge” (reference). Note: This last interpretation is the closest to the root definition of Al-Alamin الْعَالَمِينَ

KNOWLEDGE

The root word for Alamin is علم (ayn-lam-mim). It occurs a total of 854 times in Quran, of which 73 times as worlds.

Lanes Arabic-English Lexicon’s explanation of علم:

  • to know/ learn something truly, certainly, soundly, thoroughly
  • knowledge, cognizance, awareness,-understanding, consciousness
  • to possess knowledge as a faculty firmly rooted in the mind

So how did knowledge evolve into worlds, this life and the hereafter, universe, or mankind?

To understand الْعَالَمِينَ (Al-Alamin) we first define its root word. Next we do a horizontal reading of all the verses that contain the root, which must remain consistent throughout the text. This shows if the word has been altered to fit a desired meaning, to give a particular narrative.

It is important to note that in the Quran the root meaning does not change according to the context. Instead, the context may change according to the root. As a result, you may read something very different from traditional interpretations.

Al-Alamin الْعَالَمِينَ

Al- ال indicates a definite article and Alamin عَالَمِينَ is plural for علم (ilm). So if علم, based on the root definition, means knowledge then how did it become worlds in other verses?

Understanding the definition of knowledge is crucial:

  • acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition
  • familiarity or conversant, as with a particular subject or branch of learning
  • acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, or report
  • the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth
  • clear and certain mental apprehension
  • awareness, as of a fact or circumstance
  • something that is or may be known; information
  • the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time
  • the sum of what is known (to know- to comprehend, understand, grasp)

Al-Alamin الْعَالَمِينَ encompasses all knowledge, as defined above. This is important to recognize the definition of knowledge when studying Quran.

There is no reference in Al-Alamin to other worlds, the hereafter, universe, or worlds consisting of only intelligent beings. They are created to achieve a particular narrative.

Where did these ideas come from?

Perhaps from Jewish and Biblical sources, see Post 8. Eschatological literature (end of times) began to appear after the First Temple destruction in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, forecasting better times to come. After the Second Temple destruction in 70 CE, following many military defeats, Jewish thinkers gave up on immediate relief and preached a messianic future and life after death. (reference)

This introduced the notion of an afterlife as reward for all the suffering endured by the Jewish people.

Rabbi Ya’akov taught: This world is compared to an ante-chamber that leads to Olam HaBa, (the World-to-Come)” (Pirkei Avot 4:21). That is, while a righteous person might suffer in this lifetime, he or she will certainly be rewarded in the next world, and that reward will be much greater.

In fact, in some cases, the rabbis claim that the righteous are made to suffer in this world so that their reward will be that much greater in the next (Leviticus Rabbah 27:1).

This led to theological claims of heaven, Garden of Eden, and hell, Gehinnom. The religion was evolving, with most ideas of the afterlife being post-biblical. (reference)

The Babylonian Talmud was written during the Sassanian Empire, influenced greatly by Zoroastrian theology and practices. Both Jewish and Zoroastrian ideas found their way into Islam following the Islamic conquest of Persia in the mid seventh century, where all three faiths intermixed.

To justify suffering in this life, tales of heaven were created. A life of eternal bliss for those who endured pain and torment in this life.

In Bart Erhman’s new book, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife, he discusses how the notion of the afterlife evolved over time from Greek origins. And how the old testament had no mention of heaven or hell.

RABB رب

ربب – the root word of rabb occurs in Quran 975 times, of which 970 times is translated as Lord.

Lanes Arabic-English Lexicon defines ربب as that which has possession, command, or authority over something.

RABB-AL-ALAMIN رَبِّ ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ

Based on the root definitions, this phrase should read something like this: The entity which has command/authority/possession over thee knowledge (all the knowledge, comprehensive knowledge). The Rabb رب of All the ILM علم.

The Quran addresses the rationale mind over 1600 times and reminds in over 200 verses to mentally comprehend an idea.

Logic would dictate that Allah would be this entity directing and redirecting through comprehensive knowledge. Comprehensive knowledge, as defined above, is attained through investigation, study, consciousness, perception of facts and truth…

Providing guidance through the mind, the intellect, mental grasping, mental apprehension, perception, information, and facts.

RABB AL-ALAMIN رَبِّ ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ : The entity which has command, authority, possession of comprehensive knowledge

20:114 Rabbi zidni ilmaa.رَبِ زِدْنِي عِلْمً my Rabb increase me in my knowledge

32 thoughts on “13-Does Rabb Al-Alamin mean Lord of the Worlds?

  1. Peace and i hope you are doing well brother,

    I just wanted to say thank you for all of your thoughtfull insight, it is highly appreciated. It open’s the mind to a great possibilities.

    If this book meant’s what it meant’s, then it is undoubtly the true salvation for all mankind .

    But for now, the majority are being imprisoned in their own mind -حجب-

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Salam brother just wondering what you’re thoughts are on the hereafter and in you’re opinion does the Qur’an talk about life after death? Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Salaams, I can find no basis in Quran about life after death. I have no personal opinion on the hereafter, all I know is Quran does not mention it, neither does the old testament. Based on history, it evolved over time. Thank you

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Salam,

        I’m confused what you mean you find no basis in Qur’an…so what do you think happens to the good people after they die? What happens to people who choose to live in evilness overall after they die?

        To me, the Qur’an is constantly and abundantly and repeatedly talking about the hereafter in its themes, its parable, its explicit verses, its admonitions, and its encouragement.

        1. Salaams,
          When you say “..the Qur’an is constantly and abundantly and repeatedly talking about the hereafter in its themes…” This is what the translations and interpretations based on tradition say, not what the Quran says.

          Please read my posts starting from 1 then up to current, I show how to understand Quran through its own words and why.

          The Quran tells a very different story/narration, than tradition. But the only way to understand and receive its message is to undo all what we have learned and clear our heads and approach with a blank slate.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Salam,

            Thanks for the prompt reply.

            I agree that the Old Testament has only traces of the hereafter in it. I would disagree that it does not have it at all.

            I agree with regards to potential influences from Zoroastrianism and so on.

            But the Qur’an speaks of the hereafter numerous times.

            Without going over the literally thousands of verses that deal with the hereafter, let’s be rational.

            I think you would agree that the companions believed in the hereafter.

            They can be wrong as they are not Prophets and they are largely illiterate but if they were wrong, would not the Prophet have corrected them?

            If the Prophet was wrong in believing in the hereafter, would not God have corrected the Prophet?

            God was correcting the Prophet for small mistakes like ignoring a blind person when the Prophet was busy trying to spread Islam to a chieftain.

            Again, using a rational analysis, would we not rationally expect God to have corrected the Prophet?

            Like

            1. We have to define the Arabic word for hereafter according to Quran. Not through the lens of tradition.

              Everything you mentioned Is from tradition. It’s from hadith.

              You have to put all this aside if you want to hear what the Quran is saying.
              Cannot let these stories be a hijab (see my post on hijab) to our understanding of Quran.

              Brother the only way to understand what the Quran is saying is to clear the mind of all Islamic history and stories.

              Thank you

              Thank you

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Brother,

                Please try to understand what I am saying….even if hadith are not to be used to interpret the Qur’an, according to all non-Muslim historians of Islam whether the experts on early history of Islam or experts on Arabic language or experts on the origin of Arabic or linguists, or the minority of non-Muslim experts on the Qur’an who do not use the hadith at all are all unanimous that the Qur’an clearly and repetitively talks about the hereafter in independent ways.

                1. It is irrational to think that all these thousands of verses, many which are independent from each other which all people whether Muslim or non-Muslim, whether scholar or layperson for 1400 years believe say hereafter to all be verses that don’t say that….I am not saying it is impossible but it is highly improbable.

                They would unanimously also say that the early Muslims including the Prophet believe in the hereafter.

                It is irrational to think that the tens of thousands of traditions and other sources are all in some conspiracy.

                2. If the Prophet was wrong on this issue, it is irrational to think that the Qur’an would not correct him on such a fundamental point.

                The points above are separate from the point of whether the hadith are important to understand the Qur’an.

                I don’t mean to be argumentative and I don’t mean to annoy you.

                I genuinely think on purely rational grounds, it is not sensible to be to hold the view that the Qur’an is not talking about the hereafter in any of the verses.

                wassalam

                Like

                1. Salam, as I responded before brother, the word for hereafter, the akhira, has to be studied in Quran.
                  As far as Islamic history is concerned, all sources go back to Ibn, Ishaq (death 767) and al-Tabari (death 923). Ibn Ishaq used oral hadith to write the his sahib-al sira, the sira of the prophet. Al-Tabari used some of Ibn-Ishaqs work in his history of the prophet and his body of tafsir, and introduced and embellished on the prophet’s life.
                  All muslim and non-muslim historians get the history from this one and only source–al-Tabari. He wrote the history we know today.
                  There are no independent sources. Just one.

                  Also is there a conspiracy? I am not saying there is or there isn’t. I am simply saying what Quran is saying in its own words. I lay out the sources and the method so everyone can study along or on their own.

                  This post was about the word Alamin, it is clearly not about worlds. It is about knowledge….studying, learning, perception, etc….

                  thanks and sorry for the delay, peace

                  Liked by 3 people

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