“In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Most Compassionate”
That is what a Muslim says before he/she eats, drinks, steps out the door, turns the car ignition on, and basically before starting any task.
In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Most Compassionate.
That is how Allah began the Opening Chapter, Surah Al-Fatiha, the first chapter of the Holy Book, the Qur’an. This chapter serves as an introduction to the Holy Book. In it, Allah is informing the believers of some of His Names and Attributes, because the first tenant of faith a believer must know is to know who Allah is.
The only Names and Attributes of Allah repeated —occurring twice— in the opening chapter are these two Names: Al-Raḥmân and Al-Raḥîm, “The Most Merciful, The Most Compassionate,” mentioned in both the first and third verse of this chapter. In fact, every chapter of the Holy Qur’an, except one, is preceded by this same statement, “In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.”
In this segment we address two of the ‘Beautiful Names’ (Asmâ’ Al- Ḥusna): Al-Raḥmân and Al-Raḥîm (also spelled ‘Ar-Rahman’ and ‘Ar-Raheem’). They are mentioned around 190 times in the Holy Qur’an, most often together, which points to the extra importance of understanding these Names and Attributes as they pertain to Allah, Most High.
These two Names, Al-Raḥmân and Al–Raḥîm are derived from one and the same sequence of the three Arabic root letters R – Ḥ – M. They both affirm the attribute of intense and endless mercy [raḥmah] of Allah towards all of His creation.
One chapter in the Qur’an is entitled with Allah’s Name, Al-Raḥmân. This chapter presses home the favors of the Creator on all His creation and it begins,
The Most Merciful [al-raḥmân]. Taught the Qur’an. Created man. And taught him eloquence. [Surah Al-Raḥmân, 55:1-4]
It is from the mercy [raḥmah] of Allah that He has revealed the Qur’an as guidance and light for all of mankind.
This [Qur’an] is a means of insight from your Lord and guidance and mercy [raḥmah] to a people who believe. [Surah Al-A’râf, 7:203]
Al-Raḥmân means the Entirely Merciful, a vast, general, and all-encompassing mercy for all people and all creatures in this world. Allah’s mercy and graciousness is bestowed upon all and is felt by all, non-discriminately, regardless of whether they are believers or non-believers. Everyone basks in the mercy of Allah’s blessings, whether they are obedient or disobedient Muslims, whether they are Jews or Christians, Buddhists or Hindus, and even if they are atheists.
Does not Allah bestow provisions on all, send down rain on all, give people food and drink, heal the sick, grant well-being, give safety, and create beautiful landscapes in this world for all to enjoy? By the mercy of Allah, the air we all breathe is by nature pure, the sun is a source of warmth, light, and energy for all, and the riches in the land and oceans are means of sustenance for all.
In such terms, the mercy of Allah is general for all people, which He grants to both His believing slaves and the non-believing, disobedient ones. The mercy of Allah is all around us, if we were just to look around and see with our minds and hearts.
On the authority of Abu Huraira it is reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “When Allah had finished His creation, He wrote over His Throne, ‘My Mercy [raḥmat-i] has preceded My Anger.’” (Saḥiḥ Al-Bukhari 7453)
Allah has extreme and intense mercy for all of His creation, and none is exempt from this general mercy of Al-Raḥmân.
In another Hadith,
Abu Huraira narrated that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “There are one hundred (parts of) mercy [raḥmah] for Allah and He has sent down out of these, one part of mercy upon the jinn and human beings and animals and the insects, and it is because of this (one part) that they love one another, show kindness to one another and even the beast treats its young one with affection. And Allah has reserved ninety-nine parts of mercy with which He would treat His servants on the Day of Resurrection.” (Saḥiḥ Muslim 2752)
So all the mercy we see on this Earth – a father protecting his children from harm, a mother warmly and lovingly tending to her sick child – all of this is only one percent of Allah’s mercy. And the remaining ninety-nine percent of Allah’s mercy, He has reserved for His believing slaves on the Day of Judgment, when we will truly need it most.
Why two Names, both meaning ‘Merciful’? Because there is a subtle difference between the two similar attributes, or ‘Names,’ of Allah: Al-Raḥmân and Al-Raḥîm.
Al-Raḥîm means the Especially Merciful, the One who grants a special, additional, and exclusive mercy to His faithful and believing servants, above and beyond what is given to all of His creation as routine provision. The ultimate mercy is when Allah will show mercy to those who believe in Allah and His Messengers, when He will shade them on that most tumultuous day, the Day of Judgment. He will forgive their sins, erase their bad deeds, multiply their rewards for the good they have done on this Earth, and by His mercy, He will grant them Paradise.
Allah mentions His special mercy for the pious believers; He says in the Holy Qur’an:
My punishment – I will afflict with it whom I will, but My mercy [raḥmat-i] encompasses all things. So I will decree it [especially] for those who fear Me and give zakah and those who believe in Our verses. [Surah Al-A’râf, 7:156]
Allah showers a special mercy on those believing servants who are good-doers.
Indeed, the mercy [al-raḥmah] of Allah is near to the doers of good. [Surah Al-A’râf, 7: 56]
And ever is He, to the believers, merciful [raḥîma]. [Surah Al-Fâṭir, 33:43]
Allah’s ‘special’ mercy, dedicated in a further, distinctive way to His believing servants, comes in many forms. For example, a believing Muslim may become afflicted with calamities, but Allah has instilled in this person’s heart patience, peace, and serenity that helps the believer cope and persevere. A disbeliever hit by the exact same calamity may experience a more hopeless or unrelieved feeling of suffering than the believing Muslim because the disbeliever lacks this patience, inner peace, positive outlook, and acceptance of the will of Allah.
Muslims receive the special mercy of Allah when He aids them and eases the way for them to do good, to perform acts of worship, and to obey Allah —all of which are designed for our benefit. I’m sure we have all experienced this in our lives. For example, I have heard many stories of how almost miraculously the visa application process to Saudi Arabia and airline reservations went smooth sailing for Muslim Americans who so desperately yearned to travel to Makkah and perform Umrah. Allah, Al-Raḥîm, made easy the way for them to perform Umrah, and so many usual obstacles were surprisingly removed from their paths.
My sister-in-law shared her story of how Allah has opened the door for her for an amazing way of gaining good deeds. An elderly, single man rented an apartment in the same building where she lives. Almost every time she prepares a home-cooked meal for her family, she delivers a portion of the warm, delicious meal to him. So, Allah has made easy for her the good deed of being kind to her neighbors and of feeding others. Also, Allah has sent her a way to avoid wasting food, because she no longer has leftovers of foods that may spoil and then be thrown out.
This feel of the mercy of Allah is felt more profoundly during Ramadan, when we are enabled to stand for hours praying the late-night prayers without feeling tired. Allah is the One, through His mercy, who has aided us in fulfilling these acts of obedience and worship.
More importantly, we hope in Allah to have mercy upon us keeping us firm on His straight path, to have mercy upon us in the grave after we die, to have mercy upon us on the Day of Judgment, to forgive our shortcomings and sins, to distance us from the Hellfire, and to grant us entry into Paradise where we can delight in all of its bounties and pleasures. Allah’s mercy to His believing servants on the Day of Judgment is far greater than the mercy and kindness of a mother to her beloved child.
ATTRACTING ALLAH’S SPECIAL MERCY
How can we all attain to this special mercy from Allah? The answer is found in this verse of the Holy Qur’an,
Indeed, the mercy [raḥmah] of Allah is near to the doers of good. [Surah Al-A’râf, 7:56]
Spreading goodness —of being merciful to others— that is a sure way of attaining to Allah’s mercy!
The various possible ways of spreading goodness are innumerable, and we will mention a few here as a reminder for ourselves and our readers.
- Be kind to your parents, as they are the most deserving of your attention, care, goodness, generosity, and kind words.
- Keep family ties. Call your distant relatives and visit those who live in your city.
- Be good to your neighbors. Let your neighbors know that they can count on you whenever they need something.
- Donate to those in need.
- Teach a group of kids at your local masjid or in your family or neighborhood. The best gift you can give anyone is to teach a useful skill, a new language, a Hadith of the Prophet (ﷺ), or verses of the Holy Qur’an.
- Volunteer regularly at a nursing home.
- Volunteer at places that care for abandoned animals.
In closing, we suggest memorizing and repeating often the following supplication (du’â’):
“Our Lord, we have believed, so forgive us and have mercy [arḥam-na] upon us, and You are the best of the merciful [al–raḥimîn].” [Surah Al-Mu’minûn, 23:109]