By Capt Tariq Baseer Shamsi, Retd (2nd SSC)
Editor: Capt Tariq Baseer Shamsi was commissioned in 2 Baluch Regt in July 1972. His father Brig Baseer Shamsi (Late) had commanded 2 Baluch Regt during 1965 Indo-Pak War. Tariq Shamsi left the army early in 1979 and has settled in Dubai.
In many ways I was blessed to have had parents that belonged to different cultures. My father, Allah grant his soul peace, was of Indian origin while my mother, may Allah grant her soul peace, was from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My father had opted for Pakistan in 1947 and I was born and raised in the various cantonments of Pakistan.
My sister and I went to a number of missionary schools around the country, which, I feel, broadened our vision and understanding of different religions. At the same time, at home, while we were taught and made to learn and follow the basic tenets of Islam we were also taught tolerance of other religions. Apart from Islam, we were encouraged to read about other religions so that we could broaden our vision and understand that Allah is to be found not only in Mosques but also in every nook and corner of the universe and also in people’s hearts.
Perhaps due to these reasons, I as a young boy and then later during my travels around the world, would just as easily walk into Churches and hold conversations with priests and nuns, as I would walk into a Mosque and hold conversations with the mullahs.
One striking difference in the approach and teaching between the mullahs and the priests was that while the priests always portrayed God or Allah – I will leave the explanation of the Name Allah to a later paragraph – as a most loving God for human kind, the mullahs portrayed Allah as One full of retribution for the wrongs that we do and spoke and preached extensively of the pain at the time of death, the punishment of the grave, the horrors of the Day of Judgement and the torture of hell.
This raised an important question in my mid and I would, over and over again, ask myself why is it that the Christian priests see God as full of kindness, forgiveness and love while Muslim mullahs view Allah as just waiting to punish us for our wrong deeds and sins. Propagation of the Christian faith is through love of God while the mullahs propagate Islam by making us fear Allah rather than loving Him. Perhaps, to some, this may sound a silly question but to me it was overwhelming and needed an answer. This one question was to change my life in that it was in the process to understand these different approaches that I developed the habit of researching Islam in the light of the Quran.
Before coming to the main point of discussion, I would like to clear the concept of the name Allah. The name Allah was used in pre-Islamic times as is evident from the fact that the name of Muhammad’s (PBUH) father was Abdullah, meaning ‘servant’ or ‘slave’ of Allah. Encyclopedia Britannica claims that Allah is derived from the old Arabic word ‘al-llah’ meaning ‘the god’ and that ‘al-llah’ itself is derived from the Semantic word ‘il’ or ‘el’, the word for ‘god’. That is why the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament also uses the word ‘el’ for God. However, after the dawn of Islam, the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah were revealed, each one describing and signifying one particular attribute or virtue of Allah. The Islamic concept of using the word Allah encompasses all the 99 names, virtues and attributes of Allah.
Returning to the topic in hand, over the years I have tried to do my own little research of the Quran and to find out the true meanings behind its words by digging deep into the root words of the Arabic language. Arabic is very difficult language to fully comprehend especially for non-Arabs. What to talk of non-Arabs, even the Arabs of today find it extremely difficult to understand the language of the Quran. Give any native English speaker English texts that were written 1,400 years ago and he would not be able to comprehend them at all.
After conversations with many mullahs, based on the question I had in mind, I decided to do my own research to try to find a logical answer. As a natural choice, I picked the Quran, The Word of Allah, for my research rather than any man written text.
The first thing I needed to do was to read and understand the Quran. This proved to be not as easy as it sounds. To understand the Quran, I needed to understand the language it was written in. This sadly was not then possible. Hence I turned to translations of Quran in a language I understood well. My Urdu, sadly, being weak, I chose translations in English. I soon realised it was not good enough to just pick a Quran with English translation but to understand the Quran in-depth, I needed to read the translation written by an expert of ancient Arabic language as well as one who was exceedingly articulate in the English language. By process of trial and on the sound advice of my unit mate Brig (R) Ayub Uppal (49th PMA), I finally chose ‘The Meaning of the Glorious Quran’ translated by Marmaduke Pickhtall and upon the advice of my father ‘The Holy Quran’ translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and finally the ‘The Meaning of the Quran’ an English translation by Chaudhry Muhammad Akbar of ‘Tafheem-ul-Quran’ by Abul A’La Maududi became my guiding beacons to understanding the Quran.
Maududi was a very famous Islamist philosopher, religious scholar, writer and politician who founded the ‘Jamaat-e-Islami’. He learnt English and German and also studied Western philosophy, sociology and history for 5 years. His ‘tafsir’ the ‘Tafheem-ul-Quran’ is considered one of the best explanations of the Quran, alongside that of Ibn Khatir.
Marmaduke W Pickhtall was born a Christian to a Reverend (a member of the Christian clergy) in 1875 and was a classmate and friend of Winston Churchill at the illustrious Harrow School. He was a famous author, novelist, head master and a political and religious leader. He travelled extensively to many Eastern countries and gained reputation as a Middle Eastern scholar. He studied oriental languages including Arabic. In 1917 he converted to Islam and took up the name Muhammad Marmaduke Pickhtall. His translation of the Quran, after approval by Al-Azhar University, was first published in 1930.
Abduallah Yusuf Ali was born in Bombay, India in 1872 and came from a wealthy merchant family. He was put through religious education as a child and became a ‘Hafiz’ while still a child. He spoke both Arabic and English fluently. He studied English literature at several European universities. His translation of the Quran that includes notes and commentary was first published in 1934. This translation is still one of the most widely read, quoted and used translations in English of the Quran.
Having read both the translations and the ‘Tafheem-ul-Quran’, I found no evidence of Allah portraying Himself as a retributor or punisher UNLESS one were to deny Him or attach partners to Him or to carry out immoral acts or sins.
Poster Courtesy Allah’sWord.net
The next step that I took towards finding the answer to my question was to study in detail the Names and the attributes of Allah and to go deep into the meaning of each and every Name and find out how many times each Name appeared in the Quran. For this I divided the 99 Names into three groups. In the first group I placed all the Names of Allah that showed the attributes of love, forgiveness, mercy, providing sustenance, oft returning (forgiving again and again), protecting etc. etc. In the second group I placed all the Names that showed Allah’s attributes of compelling, abasing, avenging, bringing dishonour and death, destroying etc. etc. Finally in the third group I placed all the Names of Allah, which related to attributes other than those covered in the first and second groups such as The Creator, The King, The Bestower, The All Hearing, The All Seeing etc. etc.
In the table below you will find the Names (or attributes) placed in the first group in blue and the Names (or attributes) placed in the second group in red. I have purposely omitted the Names (or attributes) placed in the third group.
I have divided the table into 4 columns. The first column is the Name of Allah in Arabic, the second column gives the nearest meaning of the Name in English, the third column gives the details of where the Name appears in the Quran and in what grammatical form and finally in the fourth column the number of times the Name is repeated in the Quran.
|NAME||MEANING||GIVEN WHERE IN QURAN||TOTAL NUMBER OF TIMES REPEATED|
|Ar-Rahmaan||The All Beneficent, The Most Merciful in Essence, The Compassionate, The Most Gracious||Beginning of every chapter except one, and 56 times in 54 verses. We consider all the beginning of each chapter as only 1 time and repletion 56 times.||57|
|Ar-Raheem||The Most Merciful, The Most Merciful in Actions||Beginning of every chapter except one, and 114 times in other places. We consider all the beginning of each chapter as only 1 time and repletion 56 times.||114|
|As-Salaam||The Peace and Blessing, The Source of Peace and Safety, The Most Perfect||59:23 (Mentioned as nominative masculine adjective ‘L-SALAMU’).||1|
|Al-Mu’min||The Granter of Security||59:23 (Mentioned as nominative masculine (form IV) active participle ‘L-MUMINU’).||1|
|Al-Muhaymin||The Guardian, The Preserver, The Overseeing Protector||59:23 (Mentioned as nominative masculine (form II) active participle ‘L-MUHAYMINU’).||1|
|Al-Ghaffar||The Ever Forgiving||20:82 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘GHAFARUN’), 38:66 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular adjective ‘GHAFARU’), 39:5 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular adjective ‘GHAFARU’), 40:42 (Mentioned as genitive masculine singular adjective ‘GHAFARI’), 71:10 (Mentioned as accusative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘GHAFFARUN’).||5|
|Ar-Razzaq||The Ever Providing||51:58 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular noun ‘L-RAZAQU’).||1|
|Al-Basit||The Expander, The Munificent||2:245 (Mentioned as prefixed conjunction ‘WA’ (and) + 3rd person masculine singular imperfect verb ‘YABTUSU’, together ‘WAYABTUSU)’.||1|
|Ar-Rafi‘e||The Exalter||58:11 (3rd person masculine singular imperfect verb ‘YARFA’I’), 6:83 (Mentioned as 1st person imperfect verb ‘NARFAU’).||2|
|Al-Mu‘ezz||The Giver of Honour||03:26 (Mentioned as masculine 2nd person ‘WA-TAIZZU’.||1|
|Al-Haleem||The Forbearing, The Indulgent||2:235 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite adjective ‘HALIMUN’, 17:44 (Mentioned as accusative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘HALIMAN’), 22:59, (Given as nominative masculine singular indefinite adjective ‘HALIMUN’), 35:41 (‘HALIMUN’, AS IN 17:44).||4|
|Al-Ghafoor||The All Forgiving||2:173 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘GHAFURUN’), 8:69 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘GHAFURUN), 16:110 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘GHAFURUN’), 41:32 (Mentioned as genitive masculine singular indefinite noun ‘GHAFURIN’).||4|
|Al-Muqeet||The Nourisher||4:85 (Mentioned as accusative masculine indefinite (form IV) active participle ‘MUQITAN’).||1|
|Al-Karim||The Bountiful, Free Of All Needs, Most Beneficent||27:40 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite adjective ‘KARIMUN’), 82:6 (Mentioned as genitive masculine singular adjective ‘L-KARIMI’).||2|
|Al-Mujib||The Responsive, The Answerer||11:61 (Mentioned as nominative masculine indefinite (form IV) active participle ‘MUJIBUN’).||1|
|Al-Wadud||The Loving, The Kind One||11:90 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite adjective ‘WADUDUN’), 85:14 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular noun ‘L-WADUDU’.||2|
|Al-Wakeel||The Trustee, The Dependable||3:173 (Mentioned as nominative masculine noun ‘L-WAKILU’, 4:171 (Mentioned as accusative masculine indefinite noun ‘WAKILUN’, 28:28 (Mentioned as accusative masculine indefinite noun ‘WAKILUN’, 73:9 (Mentioned as accusative masculine indefinite noun ‘WAKILAN’.||4|
|Al-Walee||The Protecting Friend, Patron and Helper||4:45 (Mentioned as accusative masculine indefinite noun ‘WALIYYAN)’, 7:196 (Mentioned as accusative masculine noun ‘WALIY’ + 1st person singular possessive pronoun ‘YIYA’ – together ‘WALIYYIYA’, 42:28 (Mentioned as nominative masculine noun ‘L-WALIYU), 45:19 (Mentioned as nominative masculine plural noun ‘AWLIYAU’.||4|
|Al-Barr||The Most Kind and Righteous||52:28 (Mentioned as nominative masculine noun ‘L-BARU’.||1|
|At-Tawwab||The Ever Returning, Ever Relenting||2:128 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular active participle ‘L-TAWABU’), 4:64 (Mentioned as accusative masculine singular indefinite active participle ‘TAWWABAN’), 49:12 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite active participle ‘TAWWABUN)’, 110:3 (Mentioned as accusative masculine singular indefinite active participle ‘TAWWABAN’).||4|
|Al-‘Afuww||The Pardoner, The Effacer of Sins||4:99 (Mentioned as accusative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘AFUWWAN’), 4:149 (Mentioned as accusative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘AFUWWAN’, 22:60 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘LA-AFUWWUN’.||3|
|Ar-Ra’uf||The Compassionate, The All Pitying||3:30 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘RAUFUN’), 9:117 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘RAUFUN’), 57:9 nominative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘LA-RAUFUN’), 59:10 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular indefinite noun ‘RAUFUN’).||4|
|Dhu-al-Jalaliwa-al-Ikram||The Lord of Majesty and Generosity||55:27 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular noun ‘DU’ + genitive masculine noun ‘L-JALALI’ + prefixed conjunction ‘WA’ meaning ‘and’ + genitive masculine (form IV) verbal noun ‘L-IKRAM’, together ‘DUL JALALI WAL IKRAM’), 55:78 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular noun ‘ZI’ + genitive masculine noun ‘L-JALALI’ + prefixed conjunction ‘WA’ + genitive masculine (form IV) verbal noun ‘L-IKRAMI’, together ZIL JALALI WAL IKRAMI).||2|
|Al-Mughni||The Enricher, The Emancipator||9:28 (Mentioned as 2nd person masculine plural object pronoun ‘YUGHNI’).||1|
|NAME||MEANING||GIVEN WHERE IN QURAN||TOTAL NUMBER OF TIMES REPEATED|
|Al-Muntaqim||The Avenger||32:22 (Mentioned as nominative masculine plural (form VIII) active participle ‘MUNTAQIMUNA’, 43:41 (Mentioned as nominative masculine plural (form VIII) active participle ‘MUNTAQIMUNA’, 44:16 (Mentioned as nominative masculine plural (form VIII) active participle ‘MUNTAQIMUNA’.||3|
|Al-Mumit||The Bringer of Death, The Destroyer||3:156 (Mentioned as prefixed conjunction ‘WA’ (and) + 3rd person masculine singular (form IV) imperfect verb ‘YUMITU’, together ‘WAYUMITU’, 7:158 (Mentioned as prefixed conjunction ‘WA’ (and) + 3rd person masculine singular (form IV) imperfect verb ‘YUMITU’, together ‘WAYUMITU’, 15:23 (Mentioned as prefixed conjunction ‘WA’ (and) + 1st person plural (form IV) imperfect verb ‘NUMITU’, together ‘WANUMITU’, 57:2 (Mentioned as prefixed conjunction ‘WA’ (and) + 3rd person masculine singular (form IV) imperfect verb ‘YUMITU’, together ‘WAYUMITU’).||4|
|Al-Mudhell||The Giver of Dishonour||03:26 (Mentioned as masculine 2nd person ‘WA-TAZILLU’.||1|
|Al-Khafid||The Abaser||2:245 (Mentioned as 3rd person masculine singular imperfect verb ‘YAQBIDU’).||1|
|Al-Qabid||The Restrainer, The Straightener||2:245 (Mentioned as 3rd person masculine singular imperfect verb ‘YAKBIDU’).||1|
|Al-Qahhar||The All Compelling, The Subduer||13:16 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular adjective ‘L-QAHARU)’, 14:48 (Mentioned as genitive masculine singular adjective “L-QAHARI’), 38:65 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular adjective ‘L-QAHARU’), 39:4 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular adjective ‘L-QAHARU’), 40:16 (Mentioned as genitive masculine singular adjective ‘L-QAHARI’).||5|
|Al-Jabbar||The Compeller||59:23 (Mentioned as nominative masculine singular adjective ‘L-JABARU’}.||1|
|Al-Mani’e||The One who Withholds||67:21 (Given as 3rd person masculine singular (form IV) perfect verb ‘AMSAKA’.||1|
|Ad-Darr||The Distresser, The Harmer, The Afflicter||6:17 (Mentioned as prefixed preposition ‘BI’ + genitive masculine indefinite noun ‘DURRIN’, together ‘BIDURRIN’.||1|
From the above table it will become clear that 24 Names of Allah show his attributes of compassion, forgiveness, mercy etc. etc. While only 9 show Allah’s attributes as avenger, destroyer, afflicter etc. etc.
The Names or attributes of Allah falling under the first group (given in blue in the above table) have been repeated 221 times, to the best of my knowledge and belief. Today, many websites including those that have word search engines, give different numbers regarding how many times a particular Name of Allah is repeated in the Quran. The reason for this being that the search engines, both in English and Arabic, can search and count in only one grammatical form. For example ‘RAUFUN’ will only show results of ‘RAUFUN’ and not ‘LA-RAUFUN’. This figure of 221 is WITHOUT including the Name ‘AR-RAHMAAN’ and ‘AR-RAHEEM’ given at the beginning of each Surah (114 Surahs, except Surah 9 (Tawbah) as it is considered to be a continuation of Surah 8 (Anfal), although there was a time-lapse of 7 years between the revelation of the two Surahs). If we were to add these 112 repetitions (as we have already included ‘AR-RAHMAAN’ and ‘AR-RAHEEM of the opening verse of the Quran) the total figure in the Group 1 would rise to 445.
The Names or attributes of Allah falling in the second group (given in red in the above table) have been repeated 18 times, to the best of my knowledge and belief as the same principle of translation and derivation from Arabic root words applies.
It is quite clear from the Names, attributes and number of times these are repeated in the Quran that the first group heavily outweighs and outnumbers the second group. Hence we can conclude that the Mercy of Allah is umpteen times more than His retribution.
This fact is, unfortunately, overlooked or forgotten by most of our mullahs. Some may not even know of the details I have mentioned herein. It is a pity that our mullahs are trying to propagate and teach Islam by making people fear Allah rather than love Him. If we read through the biographies of Muhammad (PBUH), the rightly guided Caliphs and the other Sahaba, we will see that it was their love for Allah, for Islam and not their fear that accounted for Islam spreading from Multan in the East to Damascus in the West and from Uzbekistan and Dagestan (Russia) in the North to the Southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the South within a short span of 40 years.
While on the subject, I would take the opportunity of discussing two Names or attributes of Allah which are most mentioned in the Quran, ‘Rahmaan’ and ‘Raheem’.
While ‘allah’, as a name, was commonly used in Arabic in pre-Islamic era, ‘Rahmaan’ and ‘Raheem’ had never before been used and were totally new words or Names mentioned in the Quran. That is why when Suhayl ibn Amr came to Hudaybiyyah to sign the peace treaty between the Muslims and the Meccans, after reading the first line of the treaty, ‘Bismillah–ir–Rahman–ir–Rahim’ Suhayl objected and said, ‘Who is this God called Rahmaan, I do not know of him’, hence the first line of the treaty was changed to ‘Bismillah’ or ‘in the name of god’.
Of course Suhayl ibn Amr, had no idea of the word ‘Rahmaan’ or ‘Raheem’, as Suhayl was yet to convert to Islam but he clearly understood the word ‘allah’ to mean god.
‘Rahmaan’ and ‘Raheem’ are two Names or attributes of Allah most repeated in the Quran. The Name or attribute ‘Rahmaan’ appears 57 times and ‘Raheem’ 114 times. It is interesting to note that ‘Raheem’ is repeated exactly twice the number of times as ‘Rahmaan’. Perhaps the reason for this will be made clear in subsequent paragraphs.
‘Rahmaan’ is commonly translated into English as ‘Most Gracious’ by Abdullah Yousuf Ali, ‘The Beneficent’ by Mohammad Habib Shakir, ‘The Beneficent’ by Marmaduke Pickhtall and ‘Most Gracious’ by Mohsin Khan. All four translators, however, translate ‘Raheem’ as ‘Most Merciful’.
The very purpose of translation is so that the common person can understand the translated word through the word itself and by relating to it. If the common man cannot relate to a translated word, it defeats the very purpose of the translation.
‘Rahmaan’ and ‘Raheem’ come from the same root word in Arabic: ‘Rahma’ which in itself is a derivative of ‘Raham’.
The words ‘Rahmaan’, ‘Raheem’ and ‘Rahma’ are all usually translated as ‘mercy’ but such translation loses the larger concept of the word ‘Rahma’, unless the reader can relate to it. Once a reader can relate to the concept of ‘Raham’ then he will fully understand its translation into the English word ‘mercy’.
As I have stated above, the words ‘Rahmaan’ and ‘Raheem’ both are derived from the word ‘Raham’ which is a derivative of ‘Raham’. In Arabic language ‘Raham’ does not mean mercy but is the word used to define the womb of a pregnant woman, where as ‘Rehma’ annotates the mercy a womb provides.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated that Allah revealed to him the following:
‘I Am Ar-Rahmaan. I created the Raham (womb) and derived a name from it for My Name …’.
It is important to look deeper why Allah took the word ‘Raham’ and derived from it a Name for Himself. The simplest answer to this would be that a mother’s womb beautifully and fully exemplifies the concept of ‘Rahma’.
A mother’s womb is a source of protection, a place where a fetus grows and develops and is nurtured in a way that no other example of it can be found in this universe. The fetus has all its needs met within the womb while it is fully protected in every aspect. The relationship between the developing child and its mother is a very interesting one indeed. The child is totally unaware of the mother or the love the mother has for it, it does not know that it is in its mother’s womb and it does not love its mother. However, the mother is aware of the growing child in its womb and unconditionally and selflessly provides it all the protection the fetus needs. The mother is in love with the growing child and wants nothing in return for all that she is doing, giving and emotionally feeling for the fetus. The mother provides all the nourishment and needs of the child. She protects her growing child from cold, heat and even if she suffers a fall her first instinct is to throw her arms around her stomach to protect the child.
From here we start to understand the concept of ‘Reham’ the womb of the mother and ‘Rehma’ the mercy it provides to the fetus and by extension its derivative words ‘Rahmaan’ and ‘Raheem’.
As explained before ‘Rahma’ is usually translated into English as ‘mercy’. However, ‘mercy’ in English is used when someone deserves to be punished but is forgiven. This, in English, would be being merciful. The Arabic word ‘Rahma’ has nothing to do with punishment. Instead it denotes unconditional mercy in the form of protection, caring, love, nourishment, place to grow, etc. If, however, we understand the concept of ‘Rehma’, we may well translate it as ‘mercy’.
So Allah the ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ takes care of all His creation. He understands that His creation is very delicate and needs to be handled with care and that He takes care of His creation and provides for it that it needs and will never abandon His creation. It is also worth noting that the Name is not ‘Ar-Raa’him’, which would mean ‘the one who shows mercy’. Instead the name is ‘Ar-Rahmaan’. In Arabic this is on the form of Fa’aal indicating someone or something that is excessive and extreme in that particular action or attribute.
An example of this can be taken from the word for thirst in Arabic, which is pronounced ‘atash’. When a person is thirsty, it is said he is ‘aatish’ but when he is dying of thirst, he is ‘atshaan’. Hence the addition of ‘an’ to ‘Rehma’ shows the extreme form of mercy.
Allah is ‘Ar-Rah’maan’ (must be pronounced with an extended ‘a’ sound). His mercy is at its peak, the unlimited form; it is extreme, beyond imagination, selfless and pure. He is full of ‘Rahma’. He wants nothing in return from His creation, He is ‘As-Samad’ free of any wants yet the provider of every want of His creation.
The difference between ‘Rahmaan’ and ‘Raheem’. If ‘Rahmaan’ and ‘Raheem’ both come from the same root word ‘Raham’ and both are very closely related, then why are these two different Names used in the Quran and why do they appear adjacent to each other as in ‘Bismillah-ir-Rahmaan-ir-Raheem’? The very fact that Allah put these Names or attributes adjacent to one another means there has to be a difference between the two.
Al-Qurtubi, the famous mufassir, muhaddith and faqih scholar from Cordoba of Maliki origin said, “It was said that both ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ and ‘Ar-Raheem’ have the same meaning. The difference lies in the usage of the word. Allah uses ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ in some instances and ‘Ar-Raheem’ in others.”
Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, a prominent scholar from Persia and known as an expert in tafsir, history and fiqh said about ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ and ‘Ar-Raheem’, “He (Allah) is ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ with all creation and ‘Ar-Raheem’ with the believers.”
Ibn Jarir al Tabari’s statement carries a lot of weight when we read and fully understand the verses where ‘Ar-Raheem’ is mentioned in the Quran. For example:
25:59: He Who created the heavens and the earth and all that is between, in six days, and is firmly established on the Throne (of authority): Allah, Most Gracious (Ar-Rahmaan): ask thou, then, about Him of any acquainted (with such things). Established over the Throne means the pinnacle of mercy through power and authority over all His creations. He, therefore, embraces with utmost mercy all His creations irrespective of what they are, who they are and what their belief is. Equate this to the love, affection, protection the mother provides the fetus in her womb without the fetus even recognizing the mother.
67:19: Do they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in? None can uphold them except (Allah) Most Gracious (Ar-Rahmaan): truly it is He that watches over all things.
Meaning thereby that through His ‘Rehma’ he holds afloat birds as they fly through the sky flapping their wings.
On the other hand the Name or attribute of ‘Raheem’ is specifically mentioned in regard to the believers. Perhaps this is the reason it is mentioned twice as many times in Quran than the Name or attribute ‘Ar-Rahmaan’. The Persian scholar Abu Ali Al-Farisi said, “ ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ is a name that encompasses every type of mercy that Allah has. ‘Ar-Raheem’ is what affects the believers, for Allah has said in the Quran the following:
33:41-43: O ye who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah and do this often; And glorify Him morning and evening. He it is Who sends blessings on you, as do His angels, that He may bring you out from the depths of Darkness into Light: and He is Full of Mercy (Rahma – Ar-Raheem meaning merciful) to the Believers.
2:127-28: And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer):”Our Lord! accept (this service) from us, for thou art the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. “Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to Thy (Will), and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy (Will), and show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in mercy); for Thou art the Oft-Returning, Most-Merciful (Ar-Raheem).
4:152: To those who believe in Allah and His messengers and make no distinction between any of the messengers, we shall soon give their (due) rewards: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, most merciful (Ar-Raheem).
To sum up, ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ is the One endowed with mercy that extends to all of His creation in this world (as well as to the believers in the hereafter). So Allah is ‘Rahmaan’ ‘full of mercy’ towards the believers, disbelievers and all of His creation including His friends and enemies, birds, fish, plants, planets EVERYTHING. He feeds them, looks after them, takes care of their needs, etc.
‘Ar-Raheem’, on the other hand is the One endowed with mercy that extends only to the believers in this world and the hereafter.
This is a specific mercy only towards the believers and this is a higher level/quality of mercy. This type of ‘Rahma’ is where Allah (in this world) takes care of the affairs of the believers, internally in terms of looking after the state of their hearts, nurturing their belief and faith and beautifying it for them, and in the Hereafter saving them from much punishment and harm according to His Will and Wisdom, etc.
In the end I would like to add that in my personal opinion, no one understood Islam better in modern times than Allama Iqbal the great thinker, philosopher and poet. In his poem ‘Saer-e-falak’ he writes:
The last couplet bears careful understanding. The fire of hell that is oft spoken about is not something that ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ and ‘Ar-Raheem’ created to punish His human creation. It is we, the humans, who through our actions collect the ambers that we take with us to turn hell into a roaring inferno.
Allah is full of mercy for all His creations and in particular to believers and anyone who portrays Allah in any other way does a great disservice to the cause of Islam.
NOTE: All translations from verses of the Quran are from ‘The Holy Quran’ translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.
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