Surah an-Naas begins as follows:
قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ النَّاسِ
Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind,
The King of mankind,
The God of mankind,
The Surah then goes on to instruct man to seek refuge in Allah from the whispers of the shaytaan (satan). However, the above 3 ayaat will be the main focus of the current article.
So let’s look at the meaning of each of the terms used to refer to Allah ta’ala in the above ayaat:
1. Rabb of mankind – ie lord, sustainer, nourisher, provider, maintainer.
2. Malik of mankind – king/ruler. One who sets the laws and is the authority. One who’s laws are applicable to His servants, but not vice versa. The One whose servants are subjected to His sovereign authority, but not vice versa. One who provides for His servants, yet (further to rabb) is also all-powerful and authoritative over them.
3. Ilaah of mankind – the God of mankind: includes the rabb, the malik, the creator & fashioner, exhalter & abaser, generous & just, omnipotent & merciful, provider, preventer and protector. He who is turned to, and who listens and provides ease from difficulty, etc. etc. Thus, here it seems an extension in authority further to Rabb and Malik, as it alludes to the other sifaat (qualities) of Allah.
Tafseer Maududi summarises this well:
“Here also, as in Surah Al-Falaq, instead of saying A’udhu-billahi (I seek Allah’s refuge), a prayer has been taught to seek Allah’s refuge by reference to His three attributes: first, that He is Rabb-un nas, i.e. Sustainer, Providence and Master of all mankind; third, that He is Ilah-un-nas, i.e. real Deity of all mankind, (Here, one should clearly understand that the word ilah has been used in two meanings in the Qur’an: first for the thing or person who is practically being worshiped although it or he is not entitled to worship; second, for Him Who is ‘ entitled to worship, Who is in fact the Deity whether the people worship Him or not, wherever this word is used for Allah; it has been used in the second meaning). Seeking refuge by means of these three attributes means: “I seek refuge with that God, Who being the Sustainer, King and Deity of men, has full power over them, can fully protect them and can really save them from the evil, to save myself and others from which I am seeking His refuge. Not only this: since He alone is Sustainer, King and Deity, therefore, there is no one beside Him with Whom I may seek refuge and he may give real refuge.”
The separate mentions of these titles allow us to focus on these specific attributes of Allah, and to then take on the message of the Surah as a whole (to seek refuge from the shaytaan’s waswasah [ie. evil suggestions]) whilst keeping these attributes in mind. An elaboration is as follows:
- to consider Allah as one’s Rabb, without which the littlest of essential things would not be possible, without which one would not achieve good and one would be in loss. He whose favours we should appreciate when tempted towards sin. The one who makes it possible for us to choose the better option. The one who grants ease after difficulty to those who trust Him, satisfying their needs and doing what is best for them (out of His wisdom and mercy) – including that which they could not fathom. He knows our necessities and makes the means for us to fulfill them. He who enables those who are feeling the influence of waswasah to overcome it, the One who allows this struggle to occur in order to make us learn and grow from our experiences.
- to consider Allah as one’s Malik, to follow His rules and abide by His guidelines, which enables us to stay away from sin. He who is completely independent, not affected by our actions or thoughts, yet we are subject to His omnipotence and His will. Our sin is our loss, but it does not harm Him – His guidelines are for our benefit alone. To follow that which He has decreed and to avoid that which He has prohibited.
- to consider Allah as ilaah, our creator, the one whom we worship, the one whom we invoke for help and turn towards in times of difficulty, to turn to Him for help and also turn to Him in giving thanks and repentance, to believe that He alone is worthy of worship. He is the one who knows our faults, our desires, our temptations, our weaknesses, our mistakes. He to whom we are encouraged to turn to even when tempted by the shaytaan, He with whom we seek refuge from the shaytaan and waswasah, He whose protection is all that is needed against the shaytaan. To firmly believe that no harm can reach you under His refuge, which is completely and utterly sufficient, and with which one has no other need or requirement as He alone is absolutely sufficient for us. This is as the following ayah explains:
And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no repeller of His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful
Through writing the above article, I’ve realised how superficially we tend to look at things, and how taking some time out to reflect on and write about subjects in the Quran makes one achieve a richer understanding.
Feel free to comment on this very humble reflection from a layperson and to share your own reflections of these 3 ayaat!
I’d like to thank my dear brother known as “Ibn Fulaan”, who was a great help in the compilation of this article, and contributed to it wholeheartedly. May Allah reward him with abundant good.