From the Umm Al Qura University Course:
Tafseer Ayaatul Ahkaam
References: Kutub At-Tafseer (Arabic edition)
Tafseer Al Qur’an Al Atheem, Ibn Katheer Vol. 1, 1988 Edition(Arabic), (died 774H) Allah yarhamuh)
AhkaamulQur’an, Abu Bakr Muhammed bin Abdullah, known as Ibnul Arabi (468H-543H) Allah yarhamuh), Vol. 1
Other books of tafseer and ahkaam
Continuing the series…. After having studied the Isti’aatha which we say before reading Qur’an and at other times, we now turn our attention to the meaning of the word that we say next: Bismillahi Rahmaanir Raheem. We have also talked about the basmallah in detail, but now we are just discussing the two names and attributes of Allah: Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem.
Of the multitudinous blessings that Allah has bestowed upon us is his Mercy. Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem are two of the many names of Allah, subhaanahu wa ta’ala. They are both derivatives of the word ر ح م : ra ha ma which means mercy.
الرحمن Al-Rahmaan: This derivative of the word mercy is total and all-encompassing as it is for all of Allah’s creations. We find the believer as well as the non-believer provided with this mercy whether he has asked for it or not — the obedient as well as the disobedient – people as well as animals and plants – all of them are bestowed with this mercy because Allah, glory be He, who has described Himself with the whole and complete descriptions, named Himself the Highest, the Most Compassionate or the Most Beneficent. The word rahman is used in the intensive form of Arabic meaning “one endowed with mercy which has no equal”.
Al-Khataabi states that Ar-Rahmaan means one with complete mercy which includes all that is in creation which is provided for them and for their benefit; it is in general for the believer and the non-believer.
الرحيم Ar-Raheem is specially for the believers, that is, the Muslims because they believe in Allah, subhaanahu wa ta’la, and in His Messenger, Muhammed, peace be upon him, and the messengers and prophets (alaihim as salaam jamee’an) that came before; and they believe in the Last Day, they fear Allah and try to avoid sin. So because of this, His mercy for them is special and because of that, He named Himself Ar-Raheem – the Most Merciful. In the Qur’an, Allah, ta’ala, uses the word “raheem” to describe this special relationship: “. . . and He was Merciful with the Believers. . .” or “. . . and He was compassionate with them. . .” For example, in Al-Ahzaab: 33:43, …و كان الله بالمؤمنين رحيماً“wa kana Allah bilmu’mineena raheema”, “…And He is ever Most Merciful to the believers. The word “raheem” and not “rahmaan” is always used in reference to the Believers. It is mentioned in the Qur’an 95 times.
It is not fitting to use the term Ar-Rahmaan for other than Allah, ta’ala, because this description and name is special for Him alone. But as for raheem, when it is preceeded by Al (alif laam), it refers to Allah, but when used without the Al, it can refer to that which Allah has created, as we see in the words of Allah when He describes His Prophet, peace be upon him, as being merciful in this ayah from Suratul Tauba: 128
لقد جآئكم رسول من أنفسكم عزيز عليه ما عنتم حريص عليكم بالمؤمنين رعوف رحيم
“Now that come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves; it grieves him that you should suffer, ardently anxious is he over you: to the believers he is most kind and merciful.” He, ta’ala, never refers to any one of His creatures as rahmaan.
And we do not say that Allah is “Ar Raaheem” because it refers specifically to one who is merciful once; but as for Ar Raheem , His Mercy is always and forever.
Consequently, when we perform the least of our duties to the most important, when we begin reading the Qur’an or baking a cake, or taking a bite to eat, or writing a letter – when we do it in the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful, we are in essence saying: “I begin with the naming of Allah and remembrance of Him before everything, seeking His help in all affairs, asking only Him for help as verily, He is the Lord, having the right to be worshiped,the Supreme, the most Generous power over all things; widespread is His Mercy and great is His Supremacy and Goodness. He is the One whose Mercy and Compassion completely covers everything. His Superiority universally extends over all His Creations.” Or as it is beautifully explained by Sheikh Hafith bin Ahmed Hakami in his book, “Ma’arij Al Qubul” saying “Bismillahira Rahmanir Raheem” essentially means, “For me, as to all of my affairs, spiritually and worldly, verily I am powerless except for what Allah causes me to have ability over; and I have no knowledge except for what he has given me; I do not worship except Him and I do not seek help except through Him and I do n ot depend on anything except Him, and there is no power or might except Allah and no refuge or safety in anything except with Him.”
. . . to be continued, insha Allah, in Part 4, the Surah Al Fatihah