Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya in the Gospel
Teachings of Allah’s unity of Lordship in the Gospel of Matthew
In the latter stages of the Umayyad dynasty/caliphate, Islamic scholars felt a need to explain the elements of Islamic Monotheism – Tawhid, under some categories. One such category came to be known as Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya. Literally, it meant: Maintaining unity in Allah’s (SWT) Lordship.
Although much of Christianity digressed from the strict and straight path of absolute Tawhid, yet shades of monotheism can be found through the pages of the so called “Injeel”.
In this paper, we seek to bring to light all such Gospel teachings found in the “Gospel of Matthew” which reflect God’s perfect unity with regards to His Lordship! But before we proceed, let us briefly ponder into what Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya means and what are its conditions.
Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya
According to this category of Tawhid, Allah (SWT) is the only Creator, Sustainer and Provider. He alone created all that exists; He alone is executing its affairs and has sole authority over His dominion. Moreover, because Allah (SWT) has created everything when nothing existed, He is independent of everything else whereas every other thing depends on Him.
Since Allah (SWT) is the sole power behind everything, and nothing gets its viability without His permission. Prophet (peace be upon him) used to often praise Him in the following way:
“La hawla wala kuwwata illa billah”
Meaning, there is no movement nor power except by Allah’s will!
The concepts of Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya can be found in various places in the Qur’an, for instance:
“Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the Guardian and Disposer of all affairs.” (Qur’an 39:62)
“No kind of calamity can occur, except by the leave of Allah: and if any one believes in Allah, (Allah) guides his heart (aright): for Allah knows all things.” (Qur’an 64:11)
Observe the teaching of all the above verses is that Allah (SWT) is the only Creator, Disposer of all affairs. Therefore, if Allah (SWT) is the sole Power, Sustainer, Creator and Custodian of all affairs then quite logically (and theologically) all worship must be offered only to Him alone!
We ought to turn to Him (only) in all needs, prayers, requests and pleas. Similarly, we ought to thank Him only for all the gratitude. Likewise, we need to discharge all that He wills us to do – these would be worshipping Him.
With these factual qualifications, let us see what Gospel of Matthew has to delineate about Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya.
Note: Whenever we would be using the term “person” in regards to Father, Son and Holy ‘Ghost’ we would do it purely from a Trinitarian perspective since not all Christian denomination has any such concept of godhead or “persons”!
Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya Fee Gospel of Matthew
As we said, one of the principals of Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya is to recognize that God alone is the Creator of all that exists, Jesus (peace be upon him) is found stating the same:
“At that time Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank youbecause you have shown to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned. Yes, Father, this was how you wanted it to happen.” (Gospel of Matthew 11:25-26)
It could not have gotten simpler and explicit than this. According to the above adduced verses, the person of Father, not the Holy ‘Ghost’ or the Son, is the Lord of the heaven and earth. Moreover, it is the person of Father who is in charge and controlling the affairs of the world (to let know the unlearned know what is still mysterious to the wise and learned).
Since the person of Father is the Lord of heaven and earth, rightly so Jesus (peace be upon him) taught no other so called person (including himself) knows the exact time of the end of the world:
“No one knows, however, when that day and hour will come – neither the angels in heaven nor the Son; the Father alone knows.” (Gospel of Matthew 24:36)
The above ignorance of Jesus (peace be upon him) further corroborates Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya; because, Jesus (peace be upon him) was not to predict about any third person but about his very self (his second return).
If he would have planned (as Trinitarians believe) in “perfect union” with Father and Holy ‘Ghost’, he should have known the time; but yet he did not had the information, he candidly referred the esoteric information specifically to be with the “person of Father”!
There are further implications about the above ignorance of Jesus (peace be upon him):
- According to traditional Trinitarian theology Jesus (peace be upon him) is both 100% man and 100% God at the same time. The eccentric and anti-Semitic as it sounds, yet the formulation does not explain the above ignorance of Jesus (peace be upon him). Because, even if we agree that in a state of absolute humanity Jesus (peace be upon him) did not had the information yet it is expected that he must have had the information being absolute God! And, could have passed the same to his disciples, in the state of humanity, without any fear of anybody imputing him of blasphemy since predicting future and foretelling was part and parcel of human prophets and Bible is replete with the attestations that Jews en masse accepted Jesus (peace be upon him) as prophet!
- Furthermore, it is important to note the reaction of his immediate disciples upon hearing Jesus’ (peace be upon him) admitted ignorance about future! Had his disciples considered him either divine and/or a second person in the godhead they should have at least made a genuine query to him with regards to his ignorance. However, much aberrantly, they readily accepted Jesus’ (peace be upon him) ignorance thereby providing strong grounds that the first Christians neither believed in the divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him) nor the “person” in-the-godhead concept! Rather, as we have documented below, they merely believed him to be a prophet at the same level as John (peace be upon him)!
Thus, on the foregoing, the best possible explanation is that Jesus (peace be upon him) staunchly believed and taught that only the “person” of Father had the information which befits the nature of God and as such the information was not possessed by any son-of-man!
As we told that if God alone is the Creator, Sustainer etc of this world then it is quite logical to do only His wish on earth without entertaining any other wish of divine kind. And since Jesus (peace be upon him) recognized the person of Father as the Creator of this world, he taught that only Father’s wishes are to be done:
“Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother, my sister, and my mother.” (Gospel of Matthew 12:50)
Jesus (peace be upon him) reiterated his message:
“Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honoured; may your kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.” (Gospel of Matthew 6:9-13)
What is even more interesting is that, although in the Trinitarian context, Jesus (peace be upon him) used to distinctively refer to the persons of godhead (cf. Gospel of Matthew 10:20), however, in the above passages he has specifically referred to the person of Father, not to any so called Holy ‘Ghost’ or Son of God; thereby implying that it is only and solely Father who is God – Lord in true sense.
Even towards the end of his ministry, Jesus (peace be upon him) reiterated the elements of Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya by calling all to obey the wish of the person of Father only. Consider the following biblical account:
“He went a little farther on, threw himself face downwards on the ground,and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me!Yet not what I want, but what you want.” (Gospel of Matthew 26:39)
“Once more Jesus went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cup of suffering cannot be taken away unless I drink, your will be done.” (Gospel of Matthew 26:42)
Notice the emphatic assertions of Jesus (peace be upon him) in the above passages! He has repeated the statement no less than three times in the same context, emphasizing over and over again, that being the only Creator, Sustainer and Disposer of all worldly affairs – Father’s will should only be executed on earth – thus, reinforcing the concept of Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya.
Pay assiduous attention to the important phrases in the passage, “…Yet not what I want, but what you want.” If Jesus (peace be upon him) and Father, as deities, would have planned together Jesus’ (peace be upon him) “suffering” then firstly, he would have never pleaded to the person of Father.
And, secondly, if the suffering was “pre-planned” by the members of the godhead then there was no basis for Jesus (peace be upon him) to request for the obviation of the “suffering”. This is simply not up with the basic Trinitarian assumption that there are three persons in godhead and they work in perfect mutual harmony.
The very reason that Jesus (peace be upon him) in the first place wanted the crucifixion (“suffering”) to be avoided, implies two things:
(1.) The Father and son – supposed persons in the godhead – have not worked in “perfect union” to plan Jesus’ (peace be upon him) crucifixion and thus Father alone was The Planner of affairs. This is further supported by the fact that Jesus (peace be upon him) was appealing to the will of the person of Father alone!
(2.) Jesus (peace be upon him) was unwilling in the first place for the alleged crucifixion and thus, unwilling to pay the price for humanity, and thus, unwilling to redeem others through his blood and subsequently there was no basis for Christianity as Paul philosophized.
Thus, we can safely conclude that there is no scriptural support for the so called three persons in the godhead, let alone, them working together in “perfect union” and thus, much safely, only the “person” of Father should be worshipped!
In his brand of monotheism, not merely did Jesus (peace be upon him) recognized only the person of Father as Creator but he also rightly attributed to Him alone the control of all affairs:
“When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Gospel of Matthew 10:19-20)
In the context of the aforementioned verses, Jesus (peace be upon him) was deputing his followers to preach the message he taught them. Jesus (peace be upon him) had premonitions that his followers would be trialed for the preaching. Thus, Jesus (peace be upon him) consoled his followers (against the general Trinitarian belief) that the person of Father would divinely intervene to empower disciples with words and speeches of defense.
Now, if Jesus (peace be upon him) would have been a claimant of divinity then it would have been the best place to at least imply to his followers that he and his power would help them to answer the charges imputed on them, however, over and over again we find Jesus (peace be upon him) pointing to Father for the governance of the world He created!
Even more interestingly, the above citation and deductions matches tailor made with an incident related with last messenger – Mohammad (peace be upon him) to demonstrate Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya. Consider the following Qur’anic verse:
“It is not ye who slew them; it was Allah: when thou threwest (a handful of dust), it was not thy act, but Allah’s: in order that He might test the Believers by a gracious trial from Himself: for Allah is He Who heareth and knoweth (all things).” (Qur’an 8:17)
It was battle of Badr when the Prophet (peace be upon him) threw a handful of dust on the pagan battalion. And, even though the distance between the pagan soldiers and Prophet (peace be upon him) was large, the dust reached their faces and hurt them in their eyes. And behind all of this was the power of Allah (SWT) working. Just as the spirit of Father would be working behind Jesus’ (peace be upon him) disciples when they would be defending themselves polemically.
Quite naturally, if Jesus (peace be upon him) identified the person of Father alone as the Creator, Sustainer and Disposer of all affairs then it was expected that he would teach his followers to pray to Father’s person alone, not to his or Holy ‘Ghost’s’:
“Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to him who knocks. Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? Bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Gospel of Matthew 7:7-11)
Notice that through the above passage, Jesus (peace be upon him) is teaching his disciples to recognize who only is eligible to provide them sustenance!
Jesus (peace be upon him) specifically referred to the person of “Father” as the provider of sustenance.
Jesus (peace be upon him) restated his message on Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya that since Father is the only Creator, thus, all prayers should be directed to His person alone:
“As he saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. So he said to his disciples, “The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that HE (singular)will send out workers to gather in his harvest.” (Gospel of Matthew 9:36-38)
To paraphrase, it was a big and a suffering crowd. The large crowd was in need of more caretakers (“shepherds” and reapers). And subsequently, Jesus (peace be upon him) teaches his disciples to pray. At this point, two very important deductions are to be made:
1.) Although Jesus (peace be upon him) was present at the site hitherto performing miracles and achieving feats, yet he taught his disciples to pray, not to him, but to the person of Father alone – the owner of the harvest – to send more philanthropists thereby disowning any divinity for himself, in other words, rejecting the concept of any divine prayer directed to his self or any other “person” for that purpose!
2.) The very reason that Jesus (peace be upon him) turned his disciples to the “person” of Father for divine prayer requests (and not to himself) again imply that he considered Father to be The Provider. He did not say anything like, the harvest is large but I or We (Father, Son and Holy ‘Ghost’) can take care of them!
What is even more stark, is that, it is Jesus (peace be upon him) who is entitled as the “shepherd” of the Israelite sheep (c.f. Hebrews 13:20) and in the subject verse he talks about shepherd and sheep and yet directs his followers to pray, not to himself, but to Father to provide more caretakers – shepherds. Thus, further corroborating that he did not considered himself to be divine, on the contrary, he believed it was the person of Father who could only divinely intervene!
Since Jesus (peace be upon him) did not teach that he is divine or he is the second “person” in the godhead but on the contrary vested all divinity to the person of Father alone; he had no qualms in to admitting that, unlike Father, he has no influence on the destinies of men:
“Then the wife of Zebedee came to Jesus with her two sons, bowed before him, and asked him a favour. “What do you want?” Jesus asked her. She answered, “Promise me that these two sons of mine will sit at you right and your left when you are King.” You don’t know what you are asking for,” Jesus answered the sons. “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I am about to drink?” “We can,” they answered. “You will indeed drink from my cup,” Jesus told them, “but I do not have the right to choose who will sit at my right and my left. These places belong to those for whom my Father has prepared them.” (Gospel of Matthew 20:20-23)
It is not just that Jesus (peace be upon him) has rightly identified and upheld the concept of Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya that the person of Father is the only one in charge of deciding destinies of humans; but that, he has candidly and much like amere prophet, disowned even slightest shade of divinity from his personality by admitting his non-influence over deciding destinies!
Note that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not needed to explicitly utter “I am God” or “Worship me” but all that Jesus (peace be upon him) needed to say was either: (i) Ok (your sons will sit by my side) I would do that OR (ii) We (Father, Son and Ghost) have worked in “perfect union” to let your sons sit by my side OR (iii) We (Father, Son and Ghost) have decided in “perfect confluence” to not let your sons sit by my side. He said none of these but rather, honestly, deferred the matter to the person of Father alone thereby upholding Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya.
Furthermore, it is very important to note the reaction of subject lady (wife of Zebedee) and other twelve disciples. Once Jesus (peace be upon him) admitted that he has no control over deciding fate of her sons, neither she nor the twelve disciples complain as to how the ‘second divine person in the godhead’ admit such ignorance. On the contrary, she (and the other twelve disciples) readily accepted Jesus’ (peace be upon him) candid admittance thereby establishing that the best and the earliest Christians did not believed Jesus (peace be upon him) to be divine and second person of the godhead!
Impact of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) teachings on Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya
We have seen how Jesus (peace be upon him) taught Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya to his community. On the foregoing, if the “person” of Father was/is the only God then it would be equally important to know how Jesus (peace be upon him) portrayed himself since a sizeable amount of Christians take Jesus (peace be upon him) to be God violating Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya! Furthermore, we would also see how men around Jesus (peace be upon him) understood his status:
(1.) Jesus (peace be upon him) portraying himself:
(i) God’s Chosen Servant: Let alone elevating himself to God – Almighty, Jesus (peace be upon him) portrayed himself as a humble servant of God worshipping him:
“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, the one I love, and with whom I am pleased.” (Gospel of Matthew 12:18)
What is still interesting with the above verse is that Jesus (peace be upon him) was quoting another biblical prophet Isaiah. Therefore, not merely Jesus (peace be upon him) but even Isaiah believed Jesus (peace be upon him) nothing more than a mere messenger of God!
(ii) Prophet of God: In contrast to the Trinitarian belief, Jesus (peace be upon him) did not portray himself as a member any godhead but as a mere messenger of God:
“And so they rejected him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is respected everywhere except in his hometown and by his own family” (Gospel of Matthew 13:57)
(2.) Men around Jesus (peace be upon him) portraying him
Once Jesus (peace be upon him) had preached Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya, it would be interesting to note how general masses around Jesus (peace be upon him) understood it.
(i) Prophet of God: People around Jesus (peace be upon him), based on his teachings, did not believe him to be part of any godhead since they considered him to be a prophet of God!
“When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was thrown into uproar. “Who is he?” the people asked. “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee,” the crowds answered.” (Gospel of Matthew 21:10-11)
Moreover, the Rabbis and Law doctors where not afraid to prosecute Jesus (peace be `upon him) because he was divine or “Son of God”; rather, they feared to put him to trial since general mass believed in the veracity of Jesus (peace be upon him), not as a person in Christian godhead, but as a prophet of God:
“The chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables and knew that he was talking about them, so they tried to arrest him. But they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.” (Gospel of Matthew 21:45)
There is more to the above quoted passage. There cannot be a scintilla of doubt that John (peace be upon him) was considered to be a mere messenger of God with no divine qualities attributed to him. Now, Jewish Rabbis and Law Priests had similar fear with regards to the prosecution of John (peace be upon him).
They feared prosecuting Jesus (peace be upon him) very similarly as they feared putting John (peace be upon him) to trial. Because the general laity believed John (peace be upon him) to be a prophet of God therefore a word against him would resurge protest against the temple custodians – Rabbis:
“Jesus came back to the Temple; and as he taught, the chief priests and the elders came to him and asked, “What right have you to do these things? Who gave you this right?” Jesus answered them, “I will ask you just one question, and if you give me an answer, I will tell you what right I have to do these things. Where did John’s right to baptize come from: was it from God or from man?” They started to argue among themselves, “What shall we say? If we answer, ‘From God,’ he will say to us, ‘Why, then, did you not believe John?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of what the people might do, because they are all convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” (Gospel of Matthew 21:23-27)
The important comparison to be made is, if general Jew believed Jesus (peace be upon him) to be just as much a prophet as John (peace be upon him) then it is hard to reconcile and assume that they would have believed for Jesus (peace be upon him) anything more than what befits a prophet!
Problems with Trinitarian theology
Having realized that associating anybody or anything with God in his dominion, attributes and worship is the most abject sin one could ever commit, we would now ponder into the implications which the Trinitarian belief has with it.
Fundamentally, according to the doctrine of Trinity there are three distinct persons in the godhead yet they are all co-equal to each other. The eccentric that it sounds from a purely monotheistic point of view, we would still look into the subject from the Trinitarian qualification:
If the person of Father alone is capable enough to create, sustain and execute the affairs of this world. If He is alone capable and absolute enough to accept prayer requests in a divine way and respond to it, decide destinies and accept worship; then in the single person of Father we have an absolute God and thus to include anyone in Father’s dominion, even in “person” capacity, would still be associating partners with Him which would account to polytheism.
We have Father – biblically, a complete God – then according to concepts of monotheism, it is not required to include anybody else in godhead with Father under any veneer of the so called term “person”. Even more so, when the second person, namely, Jesus (peace be upon him) is abundantly portrayed as a prophet, servant, worshipper, dependent on the “person” of Father!
Contrariwise, it was hard to find a single verse in the whole Bible where the “person” of Father is portrayed as dependent on Jesus (peace be upon him), worshipping, pleading, praying to him etc.
If the divine conjoining of Jesus (peace be upon him) or the Holy ‘Ghost’ with the person of Father – a complete and absolute God in every respect – is not polytheism then what is it?
After all, why is it at all required to have any more divine “personS” when we have a God (Father) complete and absolute enough for all worldly and heavenly needs?! So much so that even Jesus (peace be upon him) worships Him with his face in the dust!
Conclusion and Inference
We learnt that the concept of Tawhid – Ar – Rububiya states that God is the only Creator, Sustainer of everything that exist. He is the sole Power and Disposer of all affairs. As such, all creation needs Him but He is not in need of anybody else. Consequently, all worship including prayer request, praise, thanks giving etc must be directed to Him alone.
Jesus (peace be upon him) in the Gospel of Matthew identifies the person of Father as the Lord God. He directs his disciples to pray to Him alone for any want. He exhorts his followers to do the will of the person of Father besides himself observing the same.
Moreover, Jesus (peace be upon him) is found to be teaching his followers to praise Father alone without any mention of anybody else in the praise!
In order to reinforce the faith in his disciples that there is no source of power besides the person of Father, Jesus (peace be upon him) pacifies them that when trialed, they do not have to do anything since Father would divinely intervene to enable them their polemics.
Furthermore, we saw how Jesus (peace be upon him) differentiated everybody else from Father – the real Lord God when he claimed (i) that it is not up for him to decide who would sit by his side when he would become king of Israel but the authority rests with the person of Father alone and (ii) none knows the time, including himself, when he would return back to the world except the person of Father!
In contrast to the Trinitarian belief, we had dual attestation from Jesus (peace be upon him) and Isaiah with regards to the fact that Jesus (peace be upon him) is a mere humble servant of God.
Furthermore, Jesus (peace be upon him) had no qualm in portraying himself as a prophet of God. And, general mass of people around him also considered him to be nothing more than a prophet just as John (peace be upon him)!
Therefore, if according to concepts of monotheism if the person of Father alone is the Lord God then none besides him has to be worshipped. Inclusion of anybody (including Jesus (pbuh) and so called Holy ‘Ghost’) else in Father’s dominion would amount to polytheism.
Think about this…
If according to the Gospel(s) and the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him), the person of Father alone is the Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Disposer, Listener (of prayers), Master of destinies etc then here we have a complete God which alone can be worshipped under the light of MONO-theism.
Subsequently, we don’t find any need to convolute the simple monotheistic concepts by bringing in the philosophies of multiple “persons” in the godhead – there is just no need when we have a complete and an absolute God in the person of Father! Especially when Bible itself portrays Jesus (peace be upon him) as a prophet and a servant!
Moreover, there is a lurking possibility that worship of Jesus (peace be upon him) can be idolatry and an act of disbelief when a monotheistic religion – Islam – has already declared so!
Therefore, we invite Christians to the following:
Say: “O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah.” If then they turn back, say ye: “Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s Will). (Qur’an 5:064)
“‘(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me.”‘It is Allah Who is my Lord and your Lord; then worship Him. This is a Way that is straight.’” (Qur’an 5:050-051)
They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. (Qur’an 6:072)
- All biblical text taken from Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version.
- All Qur’anic text taken from Yusuf Ali Translation, Yusuf Ali.pdf.
- Emphasize in the quoted text, wherever not matching with the original, is ours.