THE MEANING OF THE ARABIC WORD RABB PERTAINING TO ALLÂH IN AL-QUR’AN!
The Qur’ân is the first Book that contains a word which embraces the central meaning of evolution, namely Rabb, which is commonly translated as Lord. To the non-Arabic reader in a religious context it usually conveys one meaning only, a superior being. But Rabb goes much deeper. It means the ultimate law-giver. It also refers to the One who nourishes or sustains a thing so that it can move from stage to stage to its goal of completion. In short it relates to the One who determines the evolutionary pathway of everything. ‘Evolver’ would be a better translation.
Such a meaning has not been forced on the word. The Arabic lexicons speak clearly about it. What is immediately clear from the definition of Rabb is that all things (including living organisms) are not created in a state of perfection, but pass through various stages until they reach a stage of relative perfection. This definition is complemented by the other meanings of the Arabic equivalent of creation which are to fashion, shape and adapt over long periods of time, in other words to evolve. The doctrine of evolution is also referred to on numerous occasions in the Qur’ân. It stands to reason that the early Muslim scholars who studied the Book more intensely than their modern counterparts would have applied the principle in their works.
To evolve things is an essential attribute of the “Qur’ânic God”. If one considers the Arabic word Rabb, its English translation ‘Lord’ is a weak one. Rabb, besides expressing the idea of an omnipotent being, also refers to the various stages an object undergoes before reaching its goal or being completed. It therefore embraces the definition of evolution, which according to the Qur’ân is central to all creative processes.
The Qur’ân speaks about God being the ultimate law-giver. One of the titles ascribed to God in the Qur’ân is that of the law-giver, a meaning which is embraced in the Arabic word, Rabb. Its English equivalent ‘Lord’ does not do justice to it – see later. In verse Chapter 87 verse 3 it is declared: “(He it is Who) has ordained laws. In addition, it is stated: “God, your Sustainer is the creator of all that exists” (Chapter 40 verse 62), and that includes the laws. I am not arguing that the physical laws of the universe were created or existed before the universe came into being (laws without a universe do not make sense in the same way as a universe without laws do not make sense). It is very likely that the laws were created at the same time as the universe itself. My point is that at the beginning of creation there must have been a set of principles governing the development of the universe and those principles were brought into being by a conscious creative power.