By Ahmad Raza
June 01, 2018
ALLAH describes himself as ‘Rahman’ and ‘Rahim’ in the second verse of Surah al-Fateha. These are not just two simple Arabic words. These are the words that describe the essential nature of the One Ultimate Reality. They tell us about the core of the One Supreme Being. That His Being is deeply rooted in mercy, and mercy alone.
He sustains the entire cosmos by mercy, and mercy alone. He is neither weary, nor tired of feeding and nourishing His creatures. Every moment, varied and complex life forms are sustained by Him, through His boundless mercy.
‘Rahman’ and ‘Rahim’ are translated as merciful and compassionate. The Arabic root of words ‘Rahman’ and ‘Rahim’ is ‘Rahm’, which means to ask for mercy, to have mercy, and to pity. The word ‘Arham’ is a plural noun of ‘Rahm’, which is translated as kinship in English. That means also the extended network of blood relationships. The word ‘Rahm’ also refers to womb of mothers, which is a place of conception, sustenance and growth of human embryo. Besides that, foetuses are nourished and protected by the womb due to biological programming of mothers by a sense of ‘Rahm’ (mercifulness, compassion).
Around the womb, the entire network of kinship and blood relationships are interwoven and defined. Incidentally, these close blood networks are sustained by mercy and compassion born out of the womb of nourishment. The Quran also speaks about taking care of consanguine ties, which constitute the basis of the human social system. Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) has also persuaded Muslims to care about the well-being of close blood relations. Mercy and compassion are thus biologically programmed into the human self.
Hazrat Muhammad has said that the mercy of Allah is greater than the mercy of a hundred mothers. That means the Rahm of Allah is boundless and infinite. Everything known and seen as well as unknown and unseen is nurtured by the breath of divine mercy. All creatures are interconnected with the root of divine mercy in an infinite network of kinship and togetherness. All creatures and systems of life are in reality sustained by the Sustainer of the Worlds (Rab ul Alameen), and hence come to exist in profound kinship with the Divine.
This complex cosmos can only be sustained by an infinite merciful and compassionate Creator and Sustainer. The multiplicity and complexity of the world systems imply the existence of a Supreme Being, without which the complex systems cannot endure and survive. The root of divine creativity is none other than a perpetual, permanent and eternal state of mercy or Rahm. In the Quran, Allah says that His mercy contains everything (in this universe).
In Surah al-Rahman, Allah further communicates the depth and range of his mercifulness. First the very name of the Surah tells us that this Kalam (revelation) is from Ar Rahman — the merciful and compassionate. That He revealed the Quran to Hazrat Muhammad out of His sheer and boundless mercy. That means that the Quran carries waves of acoustic peace when you listen to it, and beyond that the words, symbols and discourses mentioned therein also speak about infinite divine mercy.
It means that the Quran is a cure and panacea for ailments for those who have faith in divine mercy. That it was the endless mercy of Allah that led to the design of life and birth of man. That it was due to the divine attribute of mercy and compassion that man was bestowed with the gift of speech and language. That it was plain and simple mercy that man was endowed with the gift of writing and communication by the symbolic system of language. That it was through language that man can preserve and convey knowledge to posterity.
By means of language, lamentations and prayers are communicated to the Almighty. Words of mercy invoke Allah’s compassion. The signs and symbols of language are an authentic means of reaching and interacting with the divine space of mercy.
Ar Rahman and Ar Rahim pervade every inch, dot and moment of existence. The plants grow and are sustained because of this boundless merciful divine energy. Man buries a dead and lifeless seed in the depths of the dark earth, and look what emerges after a few days — a green sapling looking towards the sky, showing submission to divine mercy. There is a manifest Mizan (balance) between the heavens and earth. The proportions, dimensions and sizes of physical objects lead us to wonder about the hand of the merciful and compassionate Maker.
None of the heavenly objects — be it the sun, moon, planetary system and beyond, the luminous galaxies — can escape this inherent cosmological conformity and order. The prevalence of the cosmic order is nothing but the expression of divine mercy.
Ahmad Raza is a cultural psychoanalyst.