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      Tafseer - Explanation of the Qur'aan

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VERSE THREE

        ·           The saying of the Exalted: "The Most Beneficent (ar-Rahmaan), The Most Merciful (ar-Raheem)"

Meaning of the words Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem: Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem are two different descriptions and two Names of Allah, the Exalted. They are derived from the root-word rahma (Mercy) in a way to express intense (strong, powerful, extreme) and exaggerated (stress, go on and on) meanings.

 Ar-Rahmaan is more intense than Ar-Raheem - Because Ar-Rahmaan is the one endowed with Mercy that extends to all of the creations in this world and to the believers in the Hereafter. Ar-Raheem on the other hand is the One endowed with Mercy that extends to only the believers on the Day of Judgement.

 This is understood by the narration reported from Eesa, as mentioned by ibn Katheer and others - that Essa (alaihi as-salaam) said: “Ar-Rahmaan: the One Who shows Mercy in this world and the Hereafter. Ar-Raheem: the One Who shows Mercy in the Hereafter”

 This is witnessed by the verses of the Qur’aan where Allah says: “Ar-Rahmaan. He taught the Qur`aan…so which of the favors of your Lord will you two deny?’ [Soorah Ar-Rahmaan (55): 1-13]

 ‘Do they not see the birds above them, spreading out their wings and folding them in? None upholds them except ar-Rahmaan’ [Soorah Al-Mulk (67): 19]

 Explanation: From his Mercy to His creation is His kindness to the birds and His holding them in the sky while they are spreading out their wings and folding them in. He referred the His Favors and His Mercy and Blessings of this world with the Name, Ar-Rahman.

And He, the Exalted said: “And He is Ever Most Merciful (Raheem) to the believers’ [Soorah Al-Ahzaab (33): 43]

 Explanation: Here we see that Allah particularized His name ar-Raheem to the believers. [1]

Tawheed al-Asma’ wa Sifaat – Maintaining the Unity of Allah’s Names and Attributes

The above verse guides us to the Three Beautiful Names of Our Lord– Allaah, Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem and His Attribute of being Merciful. Collectively we are familiar with ninety-nine Names of Allah and some of His Attributes via the Qur’aan and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam).

According to the people of knowledge (i.e. scholars) it is very important for a believer to be well aquatinted with principles of Allah’s Names and Attributes because it is one of the three divisions / categories of Islamic Monotheism (Tawheed) – which is the foundation of the religion of Islam. Tawheed consists of three aspects namely - The Unity of Allah’s Lordship (Tawheed of Allah’s Lordship – explained on pg. 11), Unity of Allah’s Worship – Ebadah- (Tawheed al-Ebadah – explained on pg. 18) and Unity of Allah’s Names and Attributes (Tawheed al-Asma’ wa Sifaat). We will learn Tawheed al-Asma’ wa Sifaat as we have come across the Names and Attributes of Allah, the Exalted.

This category of Tawheed has four main aspects:

1. The first basic rule to maintain the Unity of Allah’s Names and Attributes is that Allah must be referred according to how Allah has referred Himself in the Qur’aan and His Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) has described Him in the Sunnah, without going into details or explaining them other than their obvious meaning. For example Allah says in Soorah Fath (48) verse 6 that He gets angry with disbelievers and hypocrites. Thus, anger is one of Allah’s Attributes. It is incorrect to say that His Anger means His punishment since anger is a sign of weakness in man and, as such, is not befitting for Allah. What Allah has stated should be accepted with qualification that His anger is not like human anger, based on Allah’s statement, There is nothing like Him. [Soorah Ash-Shoorah (42): 11]

2. The second aspect involves referring to Allah as He referred Himself without giving Him any new name or attribute. For example Allah should not be given the name al-Ghaadib (the Angry one), inspite of the fact that He has said that He is Angry, because neither Allah nor His Messenger has used this name.

3. In the third aspect Allah is referred to without giving Him the attributes of His creation. The key principle that should be followed when dealing with Allah’s Names is the Qur’aanic formula. “There is nothing like Him, He is hearer and seer of all.” [42:11] The Attributes of hearing & seeing are amongst mankind, but when they are attributed to the Divine Being they are without comparison in their perfection. When these attributes are associated with men they necessitate ear and eye, which cannot be attributed to Allah.

4. The fourth aspect requires that man not be given the names and attributes of Allah. For example one should not attribute the Divine attribute of absolute infallibility, knowledge of the past, the future and the unseen, the ability to change destiny etc. In doing so one will set up rivals who share Allah’s Attributes and who, infact, become God’s besides Allah. Similar with names of Allah, the definite form cannot be given to His creation unless preceded by the prefix ‘Abd meaning ‘slave of’ or ‘servant of’.


[1] Question? – How is it possible to reconcile (set up, make-up, and settle) what we have thus far established with his saying in the supplication:

“The Rahmaan of the world and the Hereafter and the Raheem of them” [Saheeh according to al-Haakim [1/515]. However, adh-Dhahabee criticized this by saying, "al-Hakam [its narrator] is not trustworthy and precise." Al-Mundhiree said about this isnaad in ‘Targheeb wat Tarheeb’ [2/616], "al-Hakam is abandoned, accused." Refer to Muqbil bin Haadee, ‘Takhreej `alaa Tafseer ibn Katheer’ [1/43]

Answer:  The obvious reply - and Allah knows best - is that Ar-Raheem is specific to the believers as we have mentioned, but it is not specified to them in the Hereafter alone, rather His Mercy to them is included in this world as well. So the meaning of ‘the Raheem of them’ would be ‘His Mercy to the believers in them’. And the evidence that He is Raheem to the believers in this world as well [as the Hereafter] is that this is the literal meaning of His, the Exalted’s saying:  ‘He is the One who sends His Blessings (salaah) upon you, and His Angels (to ask Allah to bless and forgive you), that He may bring you out darkness (of disbelief and polytheism) into the light (of Belief and Islamic Monotheism). And He is Ever Most Merciful (Raheem) to the believers.’ [Soorah Al-Ahzaab (33): 43]

Explanation: His salaah (Blessings) upon them, asking forgiveness of His Angels and His leading them out of the darkness to the light is Mercy to them in this world and it is also a reason for Mercy in the Hereafter as well. And similar to this in meaning is His saying:  ‘Allah has forgiven the Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam), the Muhaajiroon and the Ansaar who followed him in the time of distress after the hearts of a group of them had nearly deviated [from the Right Path], but He accepted their repentance. Certainly He is Full of Kindness to them, Most Merciful (Raheem).’                                                           [Soorah At-Tawbah (9): 117]

Explanation: For the Mercy is linked to the event that befell the Prophet, the Muhaajiroon and the Ansaar, and also His forgiving them was Mercy in this world even though it be the reason for Mercy in the Hereafter as well. The Knowledge [of what is correct] lies with Allah.  [This discussion is taken entirely from ash-Shanqeetee, ‘Adwaa al-Bayaan’ [1/31-32] uptill For the Mercy is linked to the event that befell the Prophet, the Muhaajiroon and the Ansaar, and also His forgiving them was Mercy in this world even though it be the reason for Mercy in the Hereafter as well.]

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