By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
3 August 2022
Rahman and Rahim: Two Attributes of Allah's Mercy
1. Rahman and Rahim are two attributes as well as names of Allah Almighty.
2. Rahman is more powerful and inclusive than Rahim and exclusively used for Allah Almighty whereas the word Rahim could be used for other than Allah.
3. Allah Almighty is the Most Merciful in this world, not just for the believers but also for the disbelievers, polytheists, and all living beings.
4. Mercy is an attribute of God, and so is wrath. To think that Allah created mankind so they could experience His wrath would be to underestimate Him.
Rahman and Rahim are two attributes as well as names of Allah Almighty. They are extreme adjectives derived from the same Arabic root "R-h-m". Extreme adjectives are used in the Arabic language to lay emphasis on the excess of an attribute. Both the words are translated as ‘The Most Merciful or The Most Gracious. It is plainly clear through the study of the Quran and Sunnah that Allah Almighty is the Most Merciful in this world, not just for the believers but also for the disbelievers, polytheists, and all living beings. If Allah's mercy and grace were not extended to all creatures, the moon, the sun, the stars, the earth and the sky, the water and the air and other great benefits of the world would have been denied to disbelievers, polytheists, misguided, oppressors, disobedient, and transgressors. This is something that common sense will never hesitate to admit based on its observations and experiences. All of these people, however, are also Allah's creation, and the fact that they are reaping the benefits of the world demonstrates that Allah's mercy is universal, i.e., that this divine mercy extends not just to believers but also to non-believers, polytheists, and disobedient and wrongdoing Muslims.
Classical interpreters frequently asserted that Rahman is more powerful and inclusive than Rahim. The term Rahman, in contrast to the title Rahim, which is appropriately given to any creature, is said to belong alone to God, according to them.
Allama Raghib Isfahani describes Rahmat as follows in his book al-Mufardat:
“Rahman cannot be used to anyone other than Allah because it means "The One whose mercy surrounds all," and this meaning cannot be exemplified by anyone other than Allah. Rahim, on the other hand, can be applied to someone other than Allah, though it also means "The One who is the Most Merciful." Rahim is a term used in the Holy Qur'an to describe both Allah the Exalted and His Messenger (peace be upon him).”
Allah Almighty says of himself, “indeed Allah is Most Compassionate (Rauf), Most Merciful (Rahim) upon mankind.” (22:65)
Allah Almighty says of His beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
“Indeed there has come to you a Noble Messenger from among you – your falling into hardship aggrieves him, most concerned for your wellbeing, for the Muslims most compassionate (Rauf), most merciful (Rahim).” (9:128)
Allah Almighty also says, “And We did not send you except as a mercy for the entire world.” (21:107)
According to traditional scholars, the holy Prophet was sent as a mercy for everyone in the world, including believers and unbelievers, and he asked his Ummah to follow the path of Rahman and Rahim (Most Merciful). The holy prophet's general mercy benefits both believers and non-believers, but his particular mercy, such as faith and mystical knowledge, etc., exclusively benefits believers. Allah says, the prophet “is the kindest and merciful to the believers” (9:128).
One saying is that Allah is Rahman in this world because He is Most Merciful to both believers and unbelievers in this world, while He is Rahim in the Hereafter because He would only be Merciful to believers in the hereafter and not to unbelievers. (Isfahani, Al-Mufardat p. 192-191, published by Al-Muktaba al-Murtazwiyya, Iran, 1342 AH)
In the Holy Quran, Rahman and Rahim are mentioned numerous times. Rahman and Rahim are sometimes used to expressly refer to Allah as the Most Merciful for believers. Similarly, they are sometimes used in generic senses to imply that Allah Almighty's mercy extends to all of His servants, whether they are believers or non-believers.
The Holy Qur'an has one hundred and fourteen Surahs, of which one hundred and thirteen are recited with Bismillahhir Rahman al-Rahim (in the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Most Merciful). This means that all Surahs, except Surah Tauba, begin in the Name, Rahmani and Rahimi Attributes of Allah.
Two of Allah's Attributes, Rahman and Rahim, are something that His slaves must recall frequently throughout their lives. The Holy Quran mentions Bismillahhir Rahman al-Raheem in Surah Naml, verse 30. It means that the servants must absolutely believe in these two characteristics of Allah Almighty. Even during great acts of worship, Bismillahhir Rahman al-Rahman should be chanted in order to keep in mind Allah's mercy and grace.
Bismillah or Basmalah is the short form of Bismillahhir Rahman al-Rahim. The acronym "Basmalah" or "Bismillah" is commonly used when an Islamic writer, speaker, or preacher discusses or recalls the merits of reciting Bismillahir Rahman al-Rahim, but when it is practically recited in essence; the full Bismillahhir Rahman al-Rahim is uttered. Therefore, I shall refer to the entire Bismillahir Rahman al-Rahim by the acronym "Basmalah."
Islam encourages Muslims to recite Bismillahir (Bismi-Allah-ir) Rahman al-Rahim before undertaking any good deeds. Because Allah Almighty loves for His servants to repeatedly remember His name and His mercy, reciting Bismillah at the beginning of various actions is sometimes commendable (Mustahabb), sometimes recommended (Sunnah), and sometimes compulsory (Wajib). Some examples are given as follows:
If one forgot to recite Bismillah at the beginning of the ritual, they should do so while performing the ablution (Wuzu). ). It is Mustahabb to recite this phrase in the middle of the ablution, although it is Sunnah to do it at the beginning. At the start of meals, it is Sunnah to recite this phrase. It is advised to recite Bismillah before the commencement of every good and significant endeavour as well as before commencing any book. It is mentioned in the Fiqh book “al-Quniyya” that reciting "Bismillah" in every rak'at is required, and that if someone forgets to do so during any one of the rak'ats of Salah (Namaz), it is necessary to do the prostration of forgetfulness (Sajda Sahw). However, the more accurate statement is that reciting Bismillah in every rak'at and at the start of ablution (wuzu) is Sunnah.
In addition to the Holy Qur'an, there are many arguments in the hadiths that make it clear that the mercy of Allah is common to all servants, believers and unbelievers in the world.
“… and My Mercy embraces all things.” [7:156]
According to a hadith, there was a woman among the prisoners who was searching (for her child). When she found her child she embraced him and put him to her breast [for milk]. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘Allah is more merciful to His slaves than this woman is to her child.’” (Sahih Bukhari, 5999, Sahih Muslim 2754)
The aforementioned hadith mentions Allah's mercy for His servants (Ibad). Additionally, the term "Ibad" is all-encompassing and refers to both believers and non-believers.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said,
“Allah has one hundred parts of mercy, of which He sends down one to be shared by the jinn, humans, animals, and insects. Through this mercy, these beings are able to show compassion and mercy to one another, as well as kindness to their offspring. And Allah has reserved a total of 99 portions of kindness for His servants on the Day of Resurrection.” (Muslim, al-Tawbah, 6908)
In the Hereafter, Allah will be Rahman and Rahim just as He is in this world. However, since the Hereafter is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an as a place where the unbelievers will be punished, this does not indicate that Allah would not be kind there; rather, His mercy will be kept in the Hereafter, particularly for the believers. The disbelievers and wrongdoers named in the Holy Qur'an will suffer punishment as a result of their own harshness and disbelief, as well as the fact that they consciously disregarded the truth after learning of it. It is not in conflict with Allah's Attribute of Mercy to punish disobedience. The examination of the verses in the Holy Qur'an makes it evident that this is completely in line with justice and fairness.
Mercy is an attribute of God, and so is wrath. To think that Allah created mankind so they could experience His wrath would be to underestimate Him. A more accurate statement would be that God made them so that they could experience His mercy. This viewpoint is consistent with God's glory. The following Hadith-e-Qudsi passages underline this reality:
Allah Almighty says, “My Mercy prevails over My Wrath”. (Sunan Tirmidhi, Hadith: 3543/ Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 3194, 7422 and Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 2751. Graded as Sahih Hadith)
A regular Columnist with NewAgeIslam.com, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is a Classical Islamic scholar with a Sufi background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.
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