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One God Many Names | Al-Rahmān Al-Rahīm (The Merciful)

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The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

لما خلق اللهُ آدمَ ونفخ فيه الروحَ ؛ عطس، فقال : الحمدُ للهِ، فحمد اللهَ بإذنهِ، فقال له ربُّه : يرحمُك اللهُ يا آدمُ

“When Allāh created Ādam and blew within him the soul, Ādam sneezed. He said, ‘Alḥamdulillāh,’ so His Lord said, ‘O Ādam, Allāh has mercy upon you.’”[1]

These were the very first words that the ears of man heard from Āllah, words that define the essence of our relationship with our Lord: raḥma (mercy).

We have been given knowledge of no less than 99 names of Allāh, all of which are majestic, perfect, and glorious. However, the name “Al-Raḥmān” is particularly unique to every other name – so unique that the only other name that can be placed side by side with it is the greatest of them all: “Allāh”.[2] The name Al-Raḥmān (the Most Merciful) must therefore occupy a special status within the heart of every Muslim, since it clearly occupies a special status in the Qur’ān.

1 – The unique characteristics of the name Al-Raḥmān

The name Al-Raḥmān has characteristics not shared by any other name of our Creator except the name Allāh. What follows are six examples of the uniqueness of this name:

1 – The name Al-Raḥmān never appears in the Qur’ān in the indefinite form, whilst other names of Allāh appear in both the definite and indefinite form. For example, the name Al-ʿAzīz (the Most Mighty) appears in the definite form, as well as ʿAzīz (Mighty) in the indefinite form. The same can be said about many other of Allāh’s names, like the Most Forgiving, which appears as both Al-Ghafūr and Ghafūr. The exception to this rule is the name “Allāh” and another: Al-Raḥmān. This Majestic name never appears in the indefinite form of Raḥmān.

2 – The name Al-Raḥmān never comes following another name. If ever mentioned side by side with another name, it will always appear first, as Allāh said:

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (2) الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ (3)

“All praise is for Allāh—Lord of all worlds. Al-Raḥmān, Al-Raḥīm.”[3]

The name Al-Raḥmān never appears second place to another name, as in “Al-Raḥīm, Al-Raḥmān”, or “Al-Ghafūr Al-Raḥmān”. The only other name that shares this characteristic is His Majestic name “Allāh”.

3 – When Allāh speaks about His Istiwā’ (ascension) to His Throne, the name that is most commonly used is “Allāh”. Allāh said:

إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى

“Surely your Lord is none other than Allāh, Who created the Heavens and the Earth in six days, and then ascended His Throne…”[4]

The only other name used by the Qur’ān when speaking about Allāh’s ascension to His Throne is “Al-Raḥmān”. Allāh said:

الرَّحْمَنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى

Al-Raḥmān, [Who is] above the Throne established.”[5]

4 – When speaking about the revelation of the Qur’ān, the name “Allāh” is typically used. Allāh said:

اللَّهُ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ

“It is Allāh Who has revealed the Book with the truth and the balance…”[6]

There is, however, one other name that is used in the Qur’ān when speaking about revelation: Al-Raḥmān. Allāh said:

الرَّحْمَنُ (1) عَلَّمَ الْقُرْآنَ (2)

Al-Raḥmān taught the Qur’ān.”[7]

5 – When engaging in istiʿādha (seeking refuge in Allāh from Shayṭān), we typically use the name “Allāh”. Allāh said:

وَإِمَّا يَنْزَغَنَّكَ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ نَزْغٌ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ

“If an evil suggestion comes to you from Satan, then seek refuge in Allāh…”[8]

There is, however, one other name that is used in the Qur’ān when speaking about istiʿādha: Al-Raḥmān. Allāh said:

قَالَتْ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِالرَّحْمَنِ مِنْكَ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَقِيًّا

“She appealed, ‘I truly seek refuge in Al-Raḥmān from you! [So leave me alone] if you are God-fearing.’”[9]

6 – When Allāh speaks about shafāʿa (intercession) on the Day of Judgement, all the verses in this regard use the name “Allāh”. Allāh said:

قُلْ لِلَّهِ الشَّفَاعَةُ جَمِيعًا

“Say, ‘All intercession belongs to Allāh…’”[10]

There is, however, one other name that is used when speaking about shafāʿa: Al-Raḥmān. Allāh said:

يَوْمَئِذٍ لَا تَنْفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَنُ وَرَضِيَ لَهُ قَوْلًا

“On that Day, no intercession will be of any benefit except by those granted permission by Al-Raḥmān and has accepted His word.”[11]

Clearly, therefore, the name Al-Raḥmān has a status of its own, one so lofty that it can only be compared to His Majestic name Allāh. It is no surprise that Allāh would draw attention to these two names side by side, when He said:

قُلِ ادْعُوا اللَّهَ أَوِ ادْعُوا الرَّحْمَنَ أَيًّا مَا تَدْعُوا فَلَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَى

“Say, ‘Call upon Allāh or call upon Al-Raḥmān – whichever you call, He has the Most Beautiful Names.’”[12]

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would make a similar pairing of the two names by teaching that “the two most beloved names to Allāh which one could name his children are ʿAbdullāh (servant of Allāh) and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (servant of Al-Raḥmān).”[13]

On this point, it should also be noted that there is no other chapter of the Qur’ān that was named after any of Allāh’s names other than Al-Raḥmān, as is the case of Sūrah 55. Clearly, ahead of us is a name of exceptionally unique characteristics.

2 – The meaning of the names Al-Raḥmān and Al-Raḥīm

Both the names Al-Raḥmān and Al-Raḥīm are derived from the root word raḥma (mercy). The famous linguist Ibn Mandhūr defines raḥma as: الرِّقَّةُ والتَّعَطُّفُ “a weakness in one’s heart and compassion”. Whilst this definition can certainly be applied to human beings, applying it to Allāh is obviously problematic.

Another difference to consider is how human-to-human mercy is of a two-way benefit, where not only is the subject of mercy benefited by what he receives, but the reciprocator of mercy is also benefited – his inner sense of burning guilt is doused when doing good.

Lastly, our mercy is, in most cases, exclusive to a special minority in our lives, beginning with immediate family, but decreasing dramatically beyond that. As for Allāh’s Mercy, He said:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ

“My Mercy encompasses all things.” [14]

As Imām Ibn al-Qayyim pointed out, perhaps this is the reason why, in the Qur’ān, the name Al-Raḥmān almost always appears with the mention of Allāh’s ascension above His Throne. For example:

Allāh said:

الرَّحْمَنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى

Al-Raḥmān Who rose above the Throne.” [15]

He also said:

ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى عَلَى الْعَرْشِ الرَّحْمَنُ

“…and then rose above the Throne Al-Raḥmān…” [16]

This is a subtle indication that, just as His Majestic Throne is above all creation, encompassing them all, similarly, His Mercy does so as well. This was beautifully put by Imām Ibn al-Qayyim:

فاستوى على أوسع المخلوقات بأوسع الصفات، فلذلك وسعت رحمته كلَّ شيء

“So, Allāh rose above the greatest of creations via the greatest of attributes, and this is why His Mercy encompasses all things.”[17]

Likewise, the Prophet Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) made a similar link between the Throne and Allāh’s Mercy, saying:

لما قضى الله الخلق: كتب في كتاب – فهو عنده موضوعٌ على العرش -: إن رحمتي تغلب غضبي

“When Allāh completed creation, He wrote in a book that is with Him on His Throne which says: ‘My Mercy prevails over my anger.’”[18]

So, yes, whilst the root of the name Al-Raḥmān is indeed traced back to raḥma—a trait possessed by us as well—the definition of Allāh’s Mercy must be fundamentally different to ours for the reasons outlined above. In other words, Allāh cannot be described as possessing “a weakness in one’s heart” unlike us, nor is He benefited in the least when displaying mercy, unlike ourselves, nor is His Mercy limited like ours is, among an infinitely endless list of differences.

Here, Imām Ibn al-Qayyim intervenes to solve the riddle, defining the Mercy of Allāh and shedding light on the difference between ours and His, saying:

الرحمة صفة تقتضي إيصال المنافع والمصالح إلى العبد، وإنْ كرهتها نفسه، وشقَّتْ عليها

“The Raḥma of Allāh is a characteristic which entails that Allāh provides His servant with bounties and benefits even if such a person despises them and finds them burdensome.”[19]

Parents may force their child to revise for an exam, imposing a temporary limitation on social outings, and other matters the child may enjoy. Typically, any child hates this, but the parent—contrary to the short-term aspirations of the child—realises this as an act of care and mercy, and most surely it is. In a similar fashion, Allāh may caution us using the harshest of expressions, but purely with our welfare in mind, as Allāh said:

وَيُحَذِّرُكُمُ اللَّهُ نَفْسَهُ وَاللَّهُ رَءُوفٌ بِالْعِبَاد

“Allāh warns you about Himself, and Allāh is Ever Kind to [His] servants.”[20]

Therefore, understanding Allāh’s Mercy in this light brings about the best expectations of Him, realising that what had not gone to plan may in fact be the epitome of mercy. Our short-sighted ambitions, had we achieved them, would have driven us to the cusp of devastation, as the poet once said:

فَلَرُبَّمَا كَانَ الدُّخُولُ إِلَى العُلا وَالْمَجْدِ مِنْ بَوَّابَةِ الأَحْزَانِ

“The entry to success and glory is, at times, through the doors of misery.”[21]

In short, Allāh’s Mercy is a trait that befits His Majesty and Perfection, whilst ours is one that befits our weakness and deficiency. Allāh’s provision, protection, and support does not come from a place of need or compulsion, but from a place of perfection, wisdom, and limitless kindness.

3 – Key differences between the names of Al-Raḥmān and Al-Raḥīm

Whilst both names—Al-Raḥmān and Al-Raḥīm—are derived from the same root of raḥma (mercy), there must be a difference between the two. Admittedly, their English translations often do not capture the reality of this difference:

Al-Raḥmān and Al-Raḥīm = “Most Gracious, Most Merciful.”

Al-Raḥmān and Al-Raḥīm = “The Beneficent, the Merciful.”

Al-Raḥmān and Al-Raḥīm = “The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.”

So, what is the difference?

(1) Some have argued that Al-Raḥmān is in reference to the mercy that encompasses all of creation in both this world and the Hereafter, whilst Al-Raḥīm is in specific reference to His Mercy to the believers, as Allāh said:

وَكَانَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَحِيمًا

“He is to the believers Ever Merciful (Raḥīman).” [22]

However, despite the common argument that the Mercy of Al-Raḥīm is exclusive to the believers, this is not free from issues. In another verse, Allāh said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِالنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ

“Allāh is to all people most surely full of affection and Merciful (Raḥīm).” [23]

Allāh also said:

رَبُّكُمُ الَّذِي يُزْجِي لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ فِي الْبَحْرِ لِتَبْتَغُوا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا

“It is your Lord who drives the ship for you through the sea that you may seek of His bounty. Indeed, He is to you (all mankind) Ever Merciful (Raḥīm).”[24]

(2) Some have argued that the name Al-Raḥmān is exclusive to Allāh, with no one else allowed to name themselves with it.

Of the few who dared doing so was Musaylima, who identified as “the raḥmān of al-Yamāma”. So, Allāh disgraced him with another nickname that became the first description that springs to mind when hearing his name: al-kadhdhāb (the liar).

Allāh has described some of His creation using the name “raḥīm”, along with some other names of Allāh, as He did of Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) when He said:

حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ

“…he is concerned over you and to the believers is affectionate and merciful (raḥīm).” [25]

(3) Some have argued that, whilst both names involve mubālagha (hyperbole), the hyperbole of Al-Raḥmān is greater than that of Al-Raḥīm. In the same way, the terms nadmān and nadīm are both derived from nadāma (regret), but nadmān is in reference to a more intensified regret than that of nadīm.

(4) Some have argued that Al-Raḥmān is adjectival, describing Allāh Himself, whilst Al-Raḥīm is verbal, describing its effects upon His creation.

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim said:

الرحمن دال على الصفة القائمة به سبحانه والرحيم دال على تعلقها بالمرحوم فكان الأول للوصف والثاني للفعل

“Al-Raḥmān refers to an attribute that is connected to Allāh, being part of His Essence, whilst Al-Raḥīm refers to a connection with the subject of mercy. The former, therefore, is adjectival (referring to what He is) and the latter is verbal (referring to what He does).”

The evidence he cited for this was the verse:

وَكَانَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَحِيمًا

“He is to the believers Ever Merciful (Raḥīman).”[26]

And the verse:

إِنَّهُ بِهِمْ رَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ

“Certainly, He is to them full of kindness and Mercy (Raḥīman).”[27]

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim said:

ولم يجئ قط رحمن بهم فعلم أن رحمن هو الموصوف بالرحمة ورحيم هو الراحم برحمته. وهذه نكتة لا تكاد تجدها في كتاب

“The expression of “Raḥmān of them” has never appeared, and so we realise that Al-Raḥmān means the One Whose attribute is mercy, whilst Al-Raḥīm is the effect of this mercy on His creation. This is a benefit that you will rarely find in any book.”[28]

4 – The effects of the name Al-Raḥmān

“When Allāh completed creation, He wrote in a book that is with Him on His Throne: ‘My Mercy prevails over my anger.’”

This hadīth was cited earlier. Here we can ask:

  1. What are the effects of this reality?
  2. What are the implications of this book being on top of His Throne?
  3. What are the effects of Allāh’s mercy prevailing over His anger?

i – The effects of Al-Raḥmān’s Mercy on the world around us

A miraculously formidable construction that has mercy intertwined into every inch of its fabric – perhaps this is how best to describe our universe.

Consider how life would have been had Allāh placed the onus upon us to provide daylight or facilitate an evening darkness. For example, imagine the extent of the physical, emotional, and social disruption had life consisted of a single extended stretch of day or night until the end of time. For the comfort of man, however, Al-Raḥmān has taken care of that Himself, sparing man the impossible burden.

He said:

قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمُ اللَّيْلَ سَرْمَدًا إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ مَنْ إِلَهٌ غَيْرُ اللَّهِ يَأْتِيكُمْ بِضِيَاءٍ أَفَلَا تَسْمَعُونَ

“Say, ‘Tell me! If Allāh made the night continuous for you until the Day of Resurrection, which god besides Allāh could bring you light? Will you not then hear?’”

Then He said:

قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمُ النَّهَارَ سَرْمَدًا إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ مَنْ إِلَهٌ غَيْرُ اللَّهِ يَأْتِيكُمْ بِلَيْلٍ تَسْكُنُونَ فِيهِ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ

“Say, ‘Tell me! If Allāh made the day continuous for you until the Day of Resurrection, which god besides Allāh could bring you night wherein you rest? Will you not then see?’”

Here, the reader is left thinking: why is it that Allāh did not make it this way? Why is it that man has been spared the suffering of a perpetual day or night? Allāh answers:

وَمِنْ رَحْمَتِهِ جَعَلَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ لِتَسْكُنُوا فِيهِ وَلِتَبْتَغُوا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

It is out of His Mercy that He has made for you the night and the day that you may rest during them and that you may seek of His Bounty, and in order that you may be grateful.”[29]

Consider how the Earth rotates about its own axis at a speed of about 1000 miles per hour. Al-Raḥmān has made it such that this speed is not felt by us in the least. So unnoticeable to us is the motion of the Earth that it had our ancestors quite confused about the true nature of the cosmos. They noticed that the stars, Sun, and Moon all appeared to move above the Earth, but because they could not feel planet Earth moving, they logically interpreted this observation to mean that Earth was stationary whilst “the heavens” moved above us. How merciful is Al-Raḥmān.

Consider a situation where Allāh left it upon us to provide oxygen to the world. Seeing that 10 litres of oxygen costs around £10 today, and bearing in mind that man inhales approximately 11,000 litres of air a day—550 litres of which is pure oxygen—you can do the maths yourself. Multiply this figure by 7.8 billion humans[30] who live on planet Earth at present to get the bill for one day’s worth of oxygen. But no – Al-Raḥmān has taken it upon Himself to deliver that oxygen to all, free of charge.

Consider the blessing of water that many use so freely, and at times thoughtlessly. The effects of the name Al-Raḥmān are found within every glassful. The molecular structure of water is of one molecule of oxygen and two molecules of hydrogen – H20. In other words, the very substance that life depends upon happens to be composed of one element that is highly flammable and another that is an oxidiser (a chemical that fuels require to burn). Simply put, had Allāh left these two elements to function according to their disposition, the globe would be set ablaze following the lighting of one single matchstick.

Instead, however, these two molecules have been brought together, creating a miraculous chemical—water—that we use to quench thirst and actively put out fires. Is this not an effect of the name Al-Raḥmān?

On one hand, this water has been made subtle enough for ocean divers to penetrate its surface and extract benefits from within the depths of oceans. On the other hand, water has been endowed with properties that allow it to carry the heaviest of ships on its back. Whilst we as humans are too heavy to walk on the surface of water, the world’s largest floating vessel—weighing at 600,000 tonnes—was launched in 2013 by the company Shell. This is not too heavy for the sea’s surface. That is because Al-Raḥmān has most mercifully endowed water with buoyancy, a force that allows floating. Who, therefore, is the true carrier of these vessels, allowing them to remain afloat as they transport essentials from continent to continent?

Allāh says:

رَبُّكُمُ الَّذِي يُزْجِي لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ فِي الْبَحْرِ لِتَبْتَغُوا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا

It is your Lord who drives the ship for you through the sea that you may seek of His bounty. Surely He is ever Merciful towards you.”[31]

ii – The effects of Al-Raḥmān’s Mercy on our lives today

After sin

Had Allāh’s Mercy not prevailed over His anger, life after sin—any sin, that is—would be very different to how it is today. Life would be taken away instantly by a descending wrathful punishment that occurs at the exact moment and venue of sin. Allāh said:

وَلَوْ يُؤَاخِذُ اللَّهُ النَّاسَ بِظُلْمِهِمْ مَا تَرَكَ عَلَيْهَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ وَلَكِنْ يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى

“If Allāh were to seize mankind for their wrong-doing, He would not leave on it (the Earth) a single moving creature, but He postpones them for an appointed term…”[32]

In other words, were Allāh to deal with us according to His justice, or according to what we deserve, the human race would not endure for another moment. Instead, Al-Raḥmān treats us according to His Mercy, leaving the window of opportunity open for all for generations.

A tragedy befallen or a mercy in disguise?

When in the midst of a precarious situation—a situation so bleak it renders us not only lost for words but for answers as well—we protest:

“What mercy was there in the loss of my son to a car accident?”

“What mercy was there in the cancer that is now eating me alive?”

“What mercy was there in the unfaithful behaviour of my spouse that has rendered me physically, emotionally, and spiritually paralysed?”

At that instant, the definition of Al-Raḥmān’s Mercy is to be recalled.

“The Raḥma of Allāh is a characteristic which entails that Allāh provides His servant with bounties and benefits even if such a person despises them and finds them burdensome.”

In many cases, our flawed displays of mercy offer only a short-term relief from hardship at the expense of wellbeing in the long run, like the example of a parent who “mercifully” fails to wake up his adult children for prayer “so as to not disturb their sleep”.

The Mercy of Al-Raḥmān is altogether different from this. What we may have conceived as an unfairly cruel twist in life may have been, in the Eyes of the Most Merciful, the most favourable turn of events in life, the sweet fruits of which will be reaped at a time when we need them most.

Consider how the Qur’ān commented on the behaviour of al-Khaḍir, who claimed the life of a child in the presence of Prophet Mūsā. When the latter protested, the former justified his behaviour by saying:

وَأَمَّا الْغُلَامُ فَكَانَ أَبَوَاهُ مُؤْمِنَيْنِ فَخَشِينَا أَنْ يُرْهِقَهُمَا طُغْيَانًا وَكُفْرًا (80) فَأَرَدْنَا أَنْ يُبْدِلَهُمَا رَبُّهُمَا خَيْرًا مِنْهُ زَكَاةً وَأَقْرَبَ رُحْمًا

“As for the boy, his parents were [true] believers, and we feared that he would pressure them into defiance and disbelief. So, we intended that their Lord should change him for them for one better in righteousness and nearer to mercy.”[33]

At the hour of that travesty, the death of their child was to his parents the ultimate calamity, and understandably so. In the Eyes of Al-Raḥmān, however, it was the essence of mercy, for had the child attained maturity, he would have been the cause of eternal damnation to his parents and to himself. Allāh’s Mercy is of a subtle, wise, and divine nature – too subtle at times for our limited senses and ignorant assumptions.

Ibn Mas‘ūd said:

إن العبد ليهم بالأمر من التجارة والإمارة حتى ييسر له فينظر الله إليه فيقول للملائكة اصرفوه عنه فإني إن يَسَّرْتُهُ له أدخلته النار فيصرفه الله عنه، فيظل يتطير يقول: سبقني فلان دهاني فلان وما هو إلا فضل الله

“A person may aspire for some matter of trade or position of authority, pursuing it ardently until he comes close to attaining it. Then, Allāh looks at him and says to His angels: ‘Divert it from him, for if he attains it, I will send him to Hell.’ So it is diverted from him. However, he continues to see this as misfortune, saying: ‘So and so beat me to it! So and so outwitted me!’ when in reality it was nothing but the grace of Allāh.”[34]

Perhaps it is for this reason why the believer who was mentioned in Sūrah Yāsīn, when speaking about Allāh to his polytheistic community, chose the name Al-Raḥmān in his address to them:

إِنْ يُرِدْنِ الرَّحْمَنُ بِضُرٍّ لَا تُغْنِ عَنِّي شَفَاعَتُهُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَا يُنْقِذُونِ

“If Al-Raḥmān intends for me some adversity, their intercession will not avail me at all, nor can they save me.”[35]

Baffling, perhaps, for can it be that Al-Raḥmān ever intends adversity for the believer? This is to be understood in light of what was alluded to above: when adversity descends upon a believer, harm may be the first of its noticeable qualities. Its outcome, however, will always be one of deliverance, ease, and—above all—mercy.

The greatest effect of the name Al-Raḥmān

Unquestionably, the greatest display of Al-Raḥmān’s Mercy upon humanity culminates in the sending of Prophets and communication of revelation. The true extent of the confusion, darkness, and misery of life in the absence of such Prophets and revelation is known only to Allāh. If in doubt, ask the pharmacies, psychiatric clinics, and rehab centres of any godless society. A cursory glance at their ordeals will force you to prostrate in gratitude to Al-Raḥmān for His gift of divine instruction.

Consider the excruciating pain of yearning for a higher purpose in life, as man naturally does, but not finding the answers to satisfy its endless promptings because such answers did not exist. Imagine the trauma of being left to a trial-and-error approach to worship, having no idea how God is to be approached or glorified, each to their own in finding their way to His pleasure and acceptance, as He had not made that clear.

Praise be to Al-Raḥmān Who has spared us the anguish of all this, Who said in description of Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ

“We have sent you [O Prophet] only as a mercy for the whole world.”[36]

Far from being shacklers of liberties or curtailers of freedom, the obligations and prohibitions of Islam—its dos and don’ts, its parameters and limits—are quite the opposite; they are emancipators from our ignorance, liberators from our slavery to carnal desires, rescuers from the whims of man, and guides in the journey of life.

Allāh was merciful when He obligated the five daily prayers, fasting, Zakāh, the Hijāb, and the like. Allāh was merciful when He prohibited interest, fornication, free mixing, the consumption of or trading with alcohol, and the like. Allah was merciful when He delivered the manual for human happiness: the Qur’ān.

Allāh said:

الرَّحْمَنُ (1) عَلَّمَ الْقُرْآنَ

“Al-Raḥmān – He taught the Qur’ān.”[37]

This was as if to say that the greatest demonstration of Al-Raḥmān’s Mercy upon humanity is what is found between the two covers of the Qur’ān. In fact, a closer look at the two following verses makes this meaning even clearer:

الرَّحْمَنُ (1) عَلَّمَ الْقُرْآنَ (2) خَلَقَ الْإِنْسَانَ (3) عَلَّمَهُ الْبَيَانَ (4)

“Al-Raḥmān – He taught the Quran. He created man. He taught him the mode of expression.”

So, all in all, these verses have brought to light two categories of Al-Raḥmān’s blessings upon people:

1 – نعمة الخلق والإيجاد (the blessing of creation)

2 –  نعمة الهداية والإرشاد (the blessing of guidance).

The verses of “He created man. He taught him the mode of expression” refer to the blessing of creation, whilst the verse of “He taught the Qur’ān” refers to the blessing of guidance.

However, it is common knowledge that the blessing of creation is prior to the blessing of guidance, in the sense that man was first created, then gifted with the guidance of the Qur’ān. Therefore, one would have thought that the logical arrangement of the verses would be: “Al-Raḥmān. He created man. He taught him the mode of expression. He taught the Quran,” since this is the real chronological arrangement of events.

The rearrangement, however, serves this very point we are making: to draw the reciter’s attention to the fact that the Qur’ān is the crown of all favours, one that surpasses the gifts of sight, hearing, and speech, and the primary effect of Al-Raḥmān’s Mercy upon creation.

iii – On our lives tomorrow

The truest manifestation of Al-Raḥmān’s Mercy, however, is reserved for a Day when man will need it the most: the Day of Judgement. The Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

إنّ للهِ تَعَالَى مئَةَ رَحمَةٍ، أنْزَلَ مِنْهَا رَحْمَةً وَاحِدَةً بَيْنَ الجنِّ وَالإنس وَالبهائِمِ وَالهَوامّ، فبها يَتَعاطَفُونَ، وبِهَا يَتَرَاحَمُونَ (وفي رواية: حَتَّى تَرْفَعَ الدَّابّةُ حَافِرهَا عَنْ وَلَدِهَا خَشْيَةَ أَنْ تُصِيبَهُ)

“Allāh’s Mercy is of one hundred parts, of which He has sent down one of them, and which is shared between the Jinn, human beings, animals, and creatures. Through it, they show affection and mercy towards one another [so much so that the animal raises its hoof so as to not harm its young one]…”[38]

That one part of mercy includes every dimension of mercy that exists in every walk of life today. The motherly mercy towards a child, the doctor’s mercy towards the patient, the mercy of the charity-giver to the downtrodden, the mercy of the caring child to the elderly parents, the mercy of the teacher to the student, the mercy in the animal kingdom, the mercy in the world of Jinn, the mercy of the Prophets towards their people, along with the endless dimensions of mercy that we are not even aware of. If all of this is but a fraction of one part, from a total of one hundred parts of Al-Raḥmān’s Mercy, then what about the remaining ninety-nine parts?

The hadīth above continues:

وَأخَّرَ اللهُ تَعَالَى تِسْعًا وَتِسْعينَ رَحْمَةً يرْحَمُ بِهَا عِبَادَهُ يَوْمَ القِيَامَة

“As for the remaining ninety-nine parts of Allāh’s Mercy, He has reserved them for the believers on the Day of Judgement.”[39]

For this reason, Ibn Masʿūd would say:

لَيَغْفِرَنَّ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مَغْفِرَةً لَمْ تَخْطُرْ عَلَى قَلْبِ بِشْرٍ

“Allāh will forgive people on the Day of Judgement in a way that no human heart could ever imagine.”[40]

5 – What does the Mercy of Allāh offer me?

In conclusion to the above, one of the greatest signs of success is in being inspired to implore Allāh for raḥma, as stressed by the Qur’ān in many passages.

Allāh instructs the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) by saying:

وَقُلْ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ وَارْحَمْ وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

“Say, ‘My Lord, forgive and have mercy, for You are the best of those who show mercy.’”[41]

Allāh quotes Prophet Mūsā as saying:

رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِأَخِي وَأَدْخِلْنَا فِي رَحْمَتِكَ وَأَنْتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

“My Lord, forgive me and my brother, and admit us into Your Mercy. You are the Most Merciful of the merciful.”[42]

However, a question arises here.

We often hear Imāms in their duʿā’ imploring Allāh with heavy weeping for His Mercy. We hear our teachers strongly encouraging us to beg Allāh for His Mercy, and in our conversations we always hear people saying, “Allāh! Have mercy on us!” Although we are acquainted with mercy as a term, many harbour a question they are too shy to vocalise: “If Allāh has mercy on me, what does that mean?” Consider the following carefully, for you will never see the Raḥma of Allāh the same way again.

1 – When you beg Allāh by saying, “Have mercy on me,” you are asking Allāh to give you knowledge of the Qur’ān. Allāh says:

الرَّحْمَنُ (1) عَلَّمَ الْقُرْآنَ (2) خَلَقَ الْإِنْسَانَ (3) عَلَّمَهُ الْبَيَانَ (4)

“Al-Raḥmān – He taught the Quran. He created man. He taught him the mode of expression.”[43]

Commenting on this, Imām Ibn al-Qayyim said:

تأمل كَيْفَ جَعَلَ الْخَلْقَ وَالتَّعْلِيمَ نَاشِئًا عَنْ صِفَةِ الرَّحْمَةِ مُتَعَلِّقًا بِاسْمِ الرَّحْمَنِ

“Ponder over how Allāh has classified the creation and teaching as a product of Allāh’s Mercy, connected to His name Al-Raḥmān.”[44]

2 – When you cry for Allāh’s Mercy, you are also asking Him to make you a successful dā‘iya (caller to Islām).

Surely you are tired of sitting on the fence. Surely you crave for a day when people find Allāh through you, a day when homes in Paradise are built because of you. Surely you long for the skills needed to unlock this potential. If so, then beg Allāh for His Raḥma.

Allāh said to His messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):

فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ لِنْتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنْتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانْفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ

“It was by the Mercy of Allāh that you were gentle with them, and had you been stern and harsh-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you…”

3 – When you cry for Allāh’s Mercy, you are also asking Him to erase your sins, both the ones you remember and the ones you have forgotten about. Allāh says:

كَتَبَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ الرَّحْمَةَ أَنَّهُ مَنْ عَمِلَ مِنْكُمْ سُوءًا بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ تَابَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَنَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

“…your Lord has decreed upon Himself mercy: that any of you who does wrong out of ignorance and then repents after that and corrects himself – indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.”[45]

Therefore, should the Mercy of Allāh touch you, bid farewell to every sin to your name.

4 – When you ask for His Mercy, you are asking for the easing of every one of your difficulties in life.

With the Raḥma of Allāh, life is a dream come true. Without it, life is an unending rollercoaster of grief – a nightmare that cannot be awoken from. Indeed, one may recline on the softest of silk and eat from the finest of food, but in the absence of Allāh’s Raḥma, that silk may as well be thorns and that food will seem like poison. On the other hand, one may sleep on the coarsest of beddings and their income may be minimal, but should the Raḥma of Allāh be with him, that bedding will seem softer than silk, poverty will seem to him as affluence, and every trauma of his will be managed.

This was the Raḥma that Prophet Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) experienced as he sat in the fire; it became bliss. This was the Raḥma that Prophet Yūsuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām) experienced at the bottom of the well, and a second time in the confines of jail; it became bliss. This was the Raḥma that Prophet Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) experienced as he grew up in the care of a tyrant; it became bliss. This was the Raḥma that the youth of the cave experienced in a dark and dingy cave, one that they had retreated to in escape of religious persecution; it became bliss.

Should Allāh accept your duʿā’ for His Raḥma, you will become the happiest person alive – a happiness that no mortal can strip away from you ever again. Allāh says:

ما يفتح اللَّهُ لِلنَّاسِ مِن رَّحْمَةٍ فَلَا مُمْسِكَ لَهَا وَمَا يُمْسِكْ فَلَا مُرْسِلَ لَهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

“Whatever mercy Allāh opens up for people, none can withhold it, and whatever He withholds, none but Him can release it, for He is the Almighty, All-Wise.”[46]

5 – Focus on this last one carefully: when you ask Allāh to give you from His Raḥma, you are asking Him to allow you into Paradise.

Our deeds on their own will not qualify us access to Paradise. Even the deeds of the Prophets do not qualify them for a moment’s worth within it. Any hope for Paradise is leveraged entirely on Allāh’s Raḥma upon us.

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

قَارِبُوا وَسَدِّدُوا ، وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّهُ لَنْ يَنْجُوَ أَحَدٌ مِنْكُمْ بعَمَلِهِ قالُوا: وَلا أَنْتَ يَا رَسُول الله ؟ قَالَ: وَلاَ أنا إلاَّ أنْ يَتَغَمَّدَني الله برَحمَةٍ مِنهُ وَفَضْلٍ

“Do your best in doing good deeds and come as close as you can to perfection, but know that none of you will enter Paradise through his good deeds.” The Companions asked: “Not even you, O messenger of Allāh?” He said: “Not even me, unless Allāh showers me with His Mercy and His Kindness.”[47]

6 – Beware of blocking yourself from Allāh’s Mercy

Despite all that has been mentioned above, there are still those who choose to block themselves from Allāh’s Mercy; wishful thinkers who justify their sins in the face of every adviser, stubbornly arguing: “But Allāh is the Most Merciful! Who are you to judge me?” They have forgotten—or perhaps purposely overlooked—a basic rule of life: all precious things require hard work, effort, and immense sacrifice, and Allāh’s Mercy is no exception.

In the absence of such a work ethic, what one may insist is “hope in Allāh’s Mercy” may in fact be, in Allāh’s Eyes, nothing short of delusional behaviour and the Devil’s deception. Such people are to be reminded of the verses that describe the qualifiers of Allāh’s Mercy.

Allāh says:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

“My Mercy encompasses all things, so I will write it for those who fear Me and give Zakāh, and those who believe in Our verses.”[48]

Allāh says:

أَمَّنْ هُوَ قَانِتٌ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ سَاجِداً وَقَائِماً يَحْذَرُ الْآخِرَةَ وَيَرْجُو رَحْمَةَ رَبِّهِ

“What about he who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing in prayer, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord?”[49]

Allāh says:

قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ لِمَ تَسْتَعْجِلُونَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ قَبْلَ الْحَسَنَةِ لَوْلَا تَسْتَغْفِرُونَ اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

“He (Sāliḥ) said, ‘O my people, why are you impatient for evil instead of good? Why do you not seek the forgiveness of Allāh that you may receive mercy?’”[50]

Allāh says:

وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

“Establish prayer, give Zakāh, and obey the Messenger so that you may receive mercy.”[51]

Allāh says:

وادْعُوهُ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا إِنَّ رَحْمَتَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ مِنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

Call upon Him in fear and aspiration. The Mercy of Allāh is near to the doers of good.”[52]

Pluck out the highlighted words above to get an idea of part of what the Mercy of Allāh entails: prayer, Zakāh, caution of Allāh’s limits, fear of the Hereafter, repentance, obeying the Messenger, doing good, du‘ā’, and so on. His Mercy, therefore, demands determination, planning, giving up sins, and retrying after failure. Al-Raḥmān wishes to see an effort. His Mercy will pick up the rest.

So, expose yourself to the Raḥma of Allāh and do not deprive yourself from it. Is it realistic to expect the arrival of such mercy from within a nightclub, or with the tip of a shisha pipe to the mouth, or whilst having lent your eyes to the vilest of internet content, or your ears to the hypnosis of music, or your wealth to interest, alcohol, or any sin-based transaction? What mercy can one expect after lazing about for hours on end behind a TV, wasting away with aimlessness and boredom, without ever putting pen on paper in planning for his Hereafter?

Al-Raḥmān wishes to share His Mercy, as He does every second of the day. It is man, however, who—at times—refuses to be a full recipient of it through the choices he makes. One way to start would be to find a cave to retreat to, escaping both the environments and people of sin. For some, this is a literal cave, just as the youth of the cave said to one another after having found themselves surrounded by sin:

فَأْوُوا إِلَى الْكَهْفِ يَنْشُرْ لَكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ مِنْ رَحْمَتِهِ وَيُهَيِّئْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مِرفَقًا

“Seek refuge in the cave; your Lord will open a way for you from His Mercy and will make easy for you your affair.”[53]

It was uncomfortable, lonely, and dark in that cave, but they were certain that Allāh’s Raḥma would be there for them – and it was.

For others, the cave that they escape to will not be a literal one, but figurative. Their cave is in their honest tawbah (repentance), their tracking down of righteous companionship, and their portion of Qur’ān that they read and contemplate on a daily basis. Their caves are found in the masājid, the houses of Allāh that they retreat to whenever half an opportunity arises.

Take the first necessary steps of change and then expect the best, for just as the youth of the cave did, you too will find Al-Raḥmān’s Mercy in your place of refuge.



[1] Mishkāt Al-Maṣābīḥ, on the authority of Abū Huraira

[2] As was the opinion of Imam al-Taḥāwi and many others

[3] Al-Qur’ān, 1:2-3

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 7:54

[5] Al-Qur’ān, 20:5

[6] Al-Qur’ān, 42:17

[7] Al-Qur’ān, 55:1-2

[8] Al-Qur’ān, 7:200

[9] Al-Qur’ān, 19:18

[10] Al-Qur’ān, 39:44

[11] Al-Qur’ān, 20:109

[12] Al-Qur’ān, 17:110

[13] Abū Dāwūd, on the authority of Abu Wahb al-Jushami

[14] Al-Qur’ān, 7:156

[15] Al-Qur’ān, 20:5

[16] Al-Qur’ān, 25:59

[17] Madārij Al-Sālikīn

[18] Bukhāri and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira

[19] Ighātha Al-Lahfān

[20] Al-Qur’ān, 3:30

[21] The words of Dr ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-‘Ashmāwi

[22] Al-Qur’ān, 33:43

[23] Al-Qur’ān, 2:143

[24] Al-Qur’ān, 17:66

[25] Al-Qur’ān, 9:128

[26] Al-Qur’ān, 33:43

[27] Al-Qur’ān, 9:118

[28] Badā’iʻ Al-Fawāid

[29] Al-Qur’ān, 28:71-73

[30] The statistic for the year 2020

[31] Al-Qur’ān, 17:66

[32] Al-Qur’ān, 16:61

[33] Al-Qur’ān, 18:80-81

[34] Jāmiʻ Al-ʻUlūm wa Al-Ḥikam

[35] Al-Qur’ān, 36:23

[36] Al-Qur’ān, 21:107

[37] Al-Qur’ān, 55:1-2

[38] From another narration recorded by Muslim, on the authority of Abu Huraira

[39] Bukhāri and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira

[40] Ibn al-Mubārak in his book Al-Zuhd

[41] Al-Qur’ān, 23:118

[42] Al-Qur’ān, 7:151

[43] Al-Qur’ān, 55:1-4

[44] Al-Sawāʻiq Al-Mursala

[45] Al-Qur’ān, 6:54

[46] Al-Qur’ān, 35:2

[47] Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira

[48] Al-Qur’ān, 7:156

[49] Al-Qur’ān, 39:9

[50] Al-Qur’ān, 27:46

[51] Al-Qur’ān, 24:56

[52] Al-Qur’ān, 7:56

[53] Al-Qur’ān, 18:16

About Shaikh Ali Hammuda

Shaikh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is a UK national of Palestinian origin. He gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari'ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Ustādh Ali is the author of several books including 'The Daily Revivals' and 'The Ten Lanterns", and continues to deliver sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.

One comment

  1. Assalamualaykum. The article on the name Al Rahman was beautiful, it was extremely informative, and itself was a mercy. My child said she wants to leave school because the atmosphere around her is polluting her mind. I was worried about how I could replace her teaching at home, but your article has given me strength InShaaAllah to support her in the right way. Please make dua for a good outcome for her. Jazakallahukhair.

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