Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Pharaoh – Another Lord and King Besides Allah

More Violations of Islamic Monotheism from the Quran

Sam Shamoun

According to Islamic theology, some of the names of Allah which relate to his sole unique sovereignty include al-Malik (the King), Al-Mâlik (the Master), and Rabb (Lord) either with or without the article:

The Divine Names Related to Lordship

Al-Malik; Al-Mâlik: The King, the Master

Al-Malik is the King, the Sovereign; Al-Mâlik is the Master, Owner, Malik is the governor of beings who have the consciousness of being governed, not the case with Mâlik, who owns everything.

Al-Malik is one of the Ninety-Nine Names

Ar-Rabb: The Lord

Lord: master, owner; chief; the Cherisher, the one who takes care of a thing. Ar-Rabb is the one who puts right, manages, compels and guards. He is the One worshipped. Some scholars say that the name is the greatest name of Allah because of the great number of those who make supplication using it. It reflects the true relationship of a person with his Lord, containing both mastery and kindness, concern, and nurture.

"Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything between them. Lord of the Easts." (37:5)

"Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path." (3:50) (Aisha Bewley, The Divine Names)

Here are just some of the many places in the Quran where Allah is called al-Malik:

Supremely exalted is therefore Allah, the King (al-maliku), the Truth, and do not make haste with the Quran before its revelation is made complete to you and say: O my Lord ! increase me in knowledge. S. 20:114 Shakir

Therefore exalted be God, the King (al-maliku), the Reality: there is no god but He, the Lord of the Throne of Honour! S. 23:116 Y. Ali

He is Allah, besides Whom there is no god; the King (al-maliku), the Holy, the Giver of peace, the Granter of security, Guardian over all, the Mighty, the Supreme, the Possessor of every greatness Glory be to Allah from what they set up (with Him). S. 59:23 Shakir

Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth declares the glory of Allah, the King (al-maliki), the Holy, the Mighty, the Wise. S. 62:1 Shakir

Islamic theology also teaches that such names can never be ascribed to any creature in their definite forms, i.e. a Muslim is expressly forbidden from calling any person besides Allah AL-Malik with the definite article. To do so is to commit the unpardonable sin called shirk ("association"), i.e. associating partners with Allah in his divine essence, attributes, dominion, worship, majesty and/or glory.

The Essence of Shirk in Tawheed al-Asma wa-Sifaat:

Shirk in Tawheed al-Asma wa-Sifaat is to give other than Allah, the qualities (Attributes), which are specific of Allah Alone. For example, amongst the Attributes of Allah is that He is the Knower of the Unseen (Ghayb) and He alone knows what the heart conceals. Allah says: "Say, ‘None in the Heavens and the earth know the Ghayb (Unseen) except Allah, nor can they perceive when they shall be resurrected."

Therefore, to consider someone other than Allah to have the knowledge of the past, future or the Unseen is Shirk (associating partners with Allah).

This concept of Tawheed distinguishes Islam from many other religions. Those who have studied comparative religion can very easily realize that, while the Jews made their Creator like the creation, the Christians make the creation like the Creator. (Sajid Abdul Kayum, The Jamaa'at Tableegh and the Deobandis, Chapter 2: The Islamic Concept of Tawheed (Monotheism); bold emphasis ours)


Ibn al-Qayyim has listed some of the types of ilhad to include:

  • To deny (tatil) or distort (tawil) their meanings, or claim that they have no meaning (tafwid)
  • To consider them as human attributes (anthropomorphism)
  • To derive names for Allah that are not befitting Him (e.g. ‘Father’)
  • To name idols or other beings with the names of Allah or their derivates (e.g. al-Uzza, al-Manat)

May Allah (SWT) guide us all. Ameen. (What is Tawheed Asma wa al-Siffat?, July, 2007; bold emphasis ours)

The following Muslim scholar concurs:

5. Maintaining the unity of Allaah’s names also means that Allaah’s names in the definite form cannot be given to His creation unless preceded by the prefix ‘Abd meaning "slave of" or "servant of". Many of the Divine names in their indefinite form like Ra’oof and Raheem are allowable names for men because Allaah has used some of them in their indefinite forms to refer to the Prophet …

"A messenger has come to you from among yourselves to whom anything which burdens you is grievous. He is full of concern for you and is full of pity (Ra’oof) and full of mercy (Raheem)."

But ar-Ra’oof (the One Most Full of Pity) and ar-Raheem (the Most Merciful) can only be used to refer to men if they are preceded by ‘Abd as in ‘Abdur-Ra’oof or ‘Abdur-Raheem, since the definite form they represent a level of perfection which only belongs to God. Similarly, names like ‘Abdur-Rasool (slave of the messenger), ‘Abdun-Nabee (slave of the Prophet), ‘Abdul-Husayn (slave of Husayn), etc., where people name themselves slaves to other than Allaah are also forbidden. Based on this principle, the Prophet forbade Muslims from referring to those put under their charge as ‘Abdee (my slave) or Amatee (my slave girl). (Dr. Abu Ameenah Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism) [Islamic Book Service, New Delhi, India, Reprint Edition: 2004], 1. Chapter On The Categories of Tawheed, pp. 14-15; see pp. 31-32 of the following online version of Philips' book)


2. Shirk by deification

This form of shirk in al-Asma’ was-Sifat relates to cases where created beings or things are given, or claim, Allah’s names or His attributes. For example, it was the practice of the ancient Arabs to worship idols whose names were derived from the names of Allah. Their main three idols were: al-Lat, taken from Allah’s name al-Ilah; al-‘Uzza, taken from al-‘Aziz; and al-Manat, taken from al-Mannan. During the Prophet Muhammad’s era there was also a false prophet in a region called Yamamah, who took the name Rahman which only belongs to Allah. (Ibid., Chapter Two. The Categories of Shirk, Shirk in al-Asma’ was-Sifat, p. 51; underline emphasis ours)

As does this next Muslim dai'ee:

4. Prohibition of naming yourself great names. Only Allah is Al Malik, Maalik and Maleek. A hadeeth in Saheeh Bukhari states that the worst name near Allah ta’ala on the Day of Judgment is one named: Maalikul Mulk, King of Kings. According to Ibn Hajr, he says: from this we learn it is haraam to name oneself or others with these names. It does not befit a human being to call oneself with this name. (Suhaib Webb, Al Malik - The King and Owner of Dominion, May 21, 2009)

Muslim scholars also claim that this has been the belief of all the prophets since it is an aspect of faith which can never be abrogated:

The phrase: '…of a ruling…', implies that naskh is only valid in laws, and not in belief ('aqeedah). In other words, naskh cannot occur with regards to belief in Allah, His Names and Attributes, the Day of Judgement, and other matters related to the fundamentals of belief. It is concerning those non-abrogated beliefs that Allah says…

<<He has ordained for you the same religion which He ordained for Nooh, and that which We have inspired to You (O Muhammad), and that which we ordained for Ibraheem, Moosaa, and 'Eesaa, saying that you should establish religion and make no division in it>> [42:13] (Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan [al-Hidaayah Publishing and Distribution, Birmingham UK, Second Print 2003], Chapter 13. Abrogation in the Qur’aan: An-Naskh Wa Al-Mansookh, I. The Definition of Naskh, p. 233; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Moreover, both the Quran and Muhammad were adamant against anyone being called or addressed as Rabb, or even as-Sayyid (the Master) with the definite article:

And he commanded you not that ye should take the angels and the prophets for lords (arbaban). Would he command you to disbelieve after ye had surrendered (to Allah)? S. 3:80 Pickthall

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "You should not say, ‘Feed your lord (Rabbaka), help your lord in performing ablution, or give water to your lord’, but should say, ‘my master (e.g. Feed your master instead of lord etc.), (Saiyidi),’ or ‘my guardian (Maulai),’ and one should not say, ‘my slave (Abdi),’ or ‘my girl-slave (Amati),’ but should say, 'my lad (Fatai), my lass (Fatati),’ and ‘my boy (Ghulami).’" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 46, Number 728)

Narrated AbuHurayrah:
The Prophet said: None of you must say: "My slave" (abdi) and "My slave-woman" (amati), and a slave must not say: "My lord" (rabbi or rabbati). The master (of a slave) should say: "My young man" (fataya) and "My young woman" (fatati), and a slave should say "My master" (sayyidi) and "My mistress" (sayyidati), for you are all (Allah’s) slaves and the Lord is Allah, Most High. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 41, Number 4957)


As-Sayyid: The Master

Lord, but only of animate creatures.

A delegation said to the Messenger of Allah, "You are our master." He replied, "The Master is Allah, blessed and exalted is He." (Bewley, The Divine Names)

Renowned Muslim expositor Ibn Kathir explains:

The Meaning of Ar-Rabb, the Lord

Ar-Rabb is the owner who has full authority over his property. Ar-Rabb, linguistically means, the master or the one who has the authority to lead. All of these meanings are correct for Allah. When it is alone, the word Rabb is used ONLY for Allah. As for other than Allah, it can be used to say Rabb Ad-Dar, the master of such and such object. Further, it was reported that Ar-Rabb is Allah's Greatest Name. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 1:2; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Muhammad further contended that Allah will call all kings into account in order to demonstrate that he is the only king:

XLIV. Allah will hold the earth on the Day of Rising

Nafi' related it from Ibn 'Umar from the Prophet.

6154. Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab related from Abu Hurayra that the Prophet said, “Allah will hold the earth and roll up the heaven in his right hand. Then He will say, 'I am the King. Where are the kings of the earth?’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 84. Book of Riqaq (Hadiths which produce mercy in the heart); underline emphasis ours)


CII. The words of the Prophet, "Karm is the heart of the believer."

He said, "The one who is truly bankrupt is the one who is bankrupt on the Day of Rising," as he said, "The strong person is the one who controls himself when he is angry."

He also said, "There is no king except Allah." He described Him as having the ultimate kingdom. He also mentioned kings and quoted, "Kings, when they enter a city, lay waste to it." (27:34) (Ibid., Chapter 81. The Book of Adab* (Good Manners); underline emphasis ours)


VI. The words of the Almighty, "The King of mankind" (114:2)

It contains a transmission from Ibn 'Umar from the Prophet.

6947. Sa'id related from Abu Hurayra that the Prophet said, "Allah will take hold of the earth on the Day of Rising and roll up the heavens with His right hand and then say, 'I am the King. Where are the kings of the earth?’"

Another isnad with the like from Salama. (Ibid., 100. Book of Tawhid (the belief that Allah is One in His Essence, Attributes and Actions); underline emphasis ours)

The hadiths also state that Allah utterly despises anyone who would call himself king of kings:

CXIV. The name which Allah most hates

5852. Al-A'raj related from Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The most ignoble name in the sight of Allah on the Day of Rising will be a man who calls himself 'the king of kings'."

5853. Al-A'raj related from Abu Hurayra, "The most ignoble name in the sight of Allah." Sufyan said another time, "The most ignoble of names in the sight of Allah on the Day of Rising will be a man calling himself 'the king of kings'" Sufyan said that someone else says that it means "Shahan Shah (King of Kings in Persian)." (Bewley, Chapter 81. The Book of Adab* (Good Manners))

See also the following: 1, 2, 3, 4.

This mean that no true prophet or Muslim could or would ever claim to be al-Malik or Rabb, nor would any true Islamic believer ascribe such names and titles to any creature, no matter how exalted. Seeing that these are names and titles that have always belonged to the Islamic deity no individual who fears and loves Allah would therefore ever attribute them to someone besides Muhammad's god.

However, this is precisely where the problem lies for the Muslims. Instead of upholding this aspect of Islamic theology the Quran actually ascribes both of these exclusive names to the Pharaoh at the time of Joseph!

“O my two companions of the prison! As to one of you, he will pour out the wine for his lord (rabbahu) to drink: as for the other, he will hang from the cross, and the birds will eat from off his head. (so) hath been decreed that matter whereof ye twain do enquire.” And of the two, to that one whom he considered about to be saved, he said: “Mention me to thy lord (rabbika)," but Satan made him forget to mention him to his lord (rabbihi): and (Joseph) lingered in prison a few (more) years. The king (of Egypt) (al-maliku) said: "I do see (in a vision) seven fat kine, whom seven lean ones devour, - and seven green ears of corn, and seven (others) withered. O ye chiefs! Expound to me my vision if it be that ye can interpret visions." S. 12:41-43 Y. Ali

And the king (al-maliku) said: "Bring him to me." But when the messenger came to him, [Yusuf (Joseph)] said: "Return to your lord (rabbika) and ask him, ‘What happened to the women who cut their hands? Surely, my Lord (Allah) (rabbee) is Well-Aware of their plot.’" S. 12:50 Hilali-Khan

And the king (al-maliku) said: "Bring him to me that I may attach him to my person." Then, when he spoke to him, he said: "Verily, this day, you are with us high in rank and fully trusted." S. 12:54 Hilali-Khan

They said: "We have missed the (golden) bowl of the king (al-maliki) and for him who produces it is (the reward of) a camel load; I will be bound by it." S. 12:72 Hilali-Khan

So he began (the search) with their baggage, before (he came to) the baggage of his brother: at length he brought it out of his brother's baggage. Thus did We plan for Joseph. He could not take his brother by the law of the king (al-maliki) except that God willed it (so). We raise to degrees (of wisdom) whom We please: but over all endued with knowledge is one, the All-Knowing. S. 12:76 Y. Ali

By calling the Egyptian king al-Malik and Rabb the Islamic scripture ends up violating one of the key, essential concepts of Islamic monotheism, namely that of Tauhid al-Asma wa-Sifaat!

In fact, what makes this all the more problematic is that the Pharaoh in the above verses is never ADDRESSED as king, i.e. in direct speech. The title al-Malik only occurs in third person narrative statements, e.g. he is REFERRED to as king, but not ADDRESSED as king. This is even worse because if it were in direct speech, e.g. an Egyptian addressing the ruler as king, one could have excused it in the sense of asserting that the Quran only reports accurately what these individuals were saying without necessarily agreeing with it. But since it is always in the third person narrative, this means that it is actually Allah, whom Muslims believe authored the Quran, that is ascribing to the Pharaoh one of his very own names!

What makes this rather ironic is that Muslim apologists like to appeal to these very same passages to prove that the Quran’s knowledge of Egyptian history is quite accurate since the title “Pharaoh” was not used for the rulers of Egypt during Joseph’s time (*; *). However, these propagandists overlook the fact that the Quran identifies the Egyptian ruler of Joseph’s time by two divine titles which are supposed to only be ascribed to Allah! Therefore, the alleged accuracy of the Muslim scripture comes at the expense of compromising and undermining one of the essential pillars of Islamic monotheism!(1)

Nor is this the only place where the Quran applies this unique title of Allah to others. It does so another time when recounting the supposed encounter between Solomon and the queen of the South:

She said: "Verily! Kings (al-mulooka), when they enter a town (country), they despoil it, and make the most honourable amongst its people low. And thus they do." S. 27:34 Hilali-Khan

And not only does/do the author(s) of the Quran refer to Pharaoh as Rabb s/he/they even has/have Joseph addressing him this way! Here are the verses once again:

O my two fellow-prisoners! As for one of you, he will pour out wine for his lord (rabbahu) to drink; and as for the other, he will be crucified so that the birds will eat from his head. Thus is the case judged concerning which ye did inquire. And he said unto him of the twain who he knew would be released: Mention me in the presence of thy lord (rabbika). But Satan caused him to forget to mention it to his lord (rabbihi), so he (Joseph) stayed in prison for some years. S. 12:41-42 Pickthall

So the king (al-maliku) said: "Bring ye him unto me." But when the apostle came to him, (Joseph) said: "Go thou back to thy lord (rabbika), and ask him, 'What is the state of mind of the ladies who cut their hands'? For my Lord (rabbee) is certainly well aware of their snare." S. 12:50 Y. Ali

Thus, the Quran has a righteous prophet ascribing one of Allah’s names to a pagan ruler thereby making him guilty of shirk and of violating Islamic monotheism!

Now if Muslims still insist that this is only historical reporting, i.e. the author is merely repeating the titles that were used at the time, then this only shows that Islamic theology is so unreasonable that following its demands prevents accurate historical reporting, especially when doing so leads to shirk. This can hardly be called a reasonable religion!

More importantly, isn't the Arabic language capable of expressing the same historical facts without committing shirk? Couldn't the author(s) of Quran have simply used the word malik without the definite article, or simply used the explicit "malik misr" (i.e. the king of Egypt) to avoid the expression al-malik? Surely the Arabic language is rich enough that the author(s) could have found a way to maintain the Islamic doctrine of tauhid.

But since the Quran failed to do so this means Muslims must accept the fact that their primary religious text does not support their view of Islamic monotheism. As such, Muslims have to modify their beliefs concerning the exclusivity of the names and attributes of Allah.

So much for the Quran establishing and affirming the Islamic doctrine of divine exclusivity and unity!


(1) It is curious to see how the following Muslim authors actually avoid the mistake of the Quran:

This article is about the usage of the term for the ruler of Egypt during the time of Joseph(P) and Moses(P) in the Qur'an. During the time of Joseph(P), the ruler of Egypt is addressed as King (Malik, in Arabic). And during the time of Moses(P), the ruler is called the Pharaoh (Fir'awn, in Arabic). This usage is consistent through out the Qur'an. (M S M Saifullah & Elias Karim, Joseph, Moses and the Rulers of Egypt)

In mentioning the title that the Quran uses for the Pharaoh at the time of Joseph the authors conveniently drop the definite article and simply refer to him as Malik! It seems that they were aware of what Islam teaches concerning the use of divine names in their definite forms for persons other than Allah and therefore omitted the article before Malik when speaking of the Pharaoh.

However, in dropping the article the writers actually confirm my point that the author(s) and/or redactor(s) of the Quran could have avoided this major blunder by simply referring to the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time as Malik.