Quranic Reflection No. 7:36 Āyat 3:79 – Becoming Godly
كُونُوا رَبَّانِيِّينَ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تُعَلِّمُونَ الْكِتَابَ وَبِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَدْرُسُونَ
kūnū rabbānīna bimā kuntum tu‘allimūnal-kitāba wabimā kuntum tadrusūn
Be a godly people, because of your teaching the Book
and because of your studying it.
(Sūrat Āl-i Imran, No.3, Āyat 79)
This verse begins by saying that it does not befit for someone blessed with the Scripture, wisdom and Prophethood to tell people to worship him. Instead, as the verse above says, the Prophet tells people to be rabbānī or devoted to worshiping the Lord, and show evidence of this through what they teach of the book and what they learn from it.
Rabbānī comes from the word Rabb. The Rabb is the Lord who cherishes, nurtures, sustains etc. According to Allāmah Tabātabā’ī the rabbānī is one whose connection to the Rabb is strong. His worship, obedience, and submission to God is at an intense level. Such a person is Godly through the knowledge he teaches others [after studying the Book] and the studies he pursues of the Scripture. Tafsīr-e Namūne also mentions that the Prophets would not tell people to worship them. Rather they would train them to be Godly. They were not only training human beings individually. They were training them to go on and nurture others through the knowledge they had gained. The Prophets produced teachers and workers who would diffuse their work in society.
The human being as the representative of Allah on earth takes on the nurturing qualities of the Rabb for other human beings. The duty of the human being is not just to strive for perfection for himself. He also needs to help others towards perfection and facilitate that journey for others as much as possible; in the process he manifests the qualities of God and becomes Godly.
Instead of calling attention to the self a true believer becomes a sign for God. He calls attention towards God and uses education and knowledge to appeal to others and to train his own self. Note that the verbs teaching and studying in the above verse are present continuous, showing a constant and consistent effort to invite people towards God through education.
Recite this verse to remind yourself to be Godly. That was the aim of the Prophets, to lift you out of lowly realms of this world into a higher plane of existence.
Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; http://www.samamos.com/?p=4782