بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Bismi Allahi arraHmaani arraHeem
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
-Surah Al-Fatihah, Ayah 1
Together, this phrase is referred as basmalah.
It is repeated as the start for all Quranic chapters except surah At Tawbah (chapter 9).
It is part of the content of surah An Naml (ayat 30) used by Sulayman (Solomon) in his official letter to the Queen of Saba (Sheba).
Scholars differ on whether it is a part of Al Fatihah.
Linguistically, there are many functions of the letter ba. It can mean With the help of, During; For; By; On account of; According to; In; From. It also denotes swear, comparison, in place of, for, from, over, on, a part of, etc.
In basmalah, it means: [I read/ begin] with the help and assistance of the name [and attributes] of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
These are the 3 most glorious and most mentioned names (and attributes) of Allah.
1. Allah, was used in arabic language referring to the highest Lord, the Supreme Being who is the sole possessor of all perfect attributes, who is free from all defects and who exists necessarily by Himself.
The pagan arabs believed in Allah but they also believed in lesser pagan gods e.g. hubal, lata, uzza etc.
2. Ar Raheem means the Beneficent or the most Merciful.
Linguistically, it is an active participle noun in the measure of Fa‘îl. This measure denotes the idea of constant repetition and giving of liberal reward to those who deserve it and seek of it.
Thus Ar Raheem refers to Allah’s extreme and continuous love and mercy; and as the dispenser of grace and love as a result of our deeds and supplications. It is Allah’s specific mercy for the believers among His servants and it takes effect in the Hereafter. It is by this mercy that He decreed that good deeds by the believers are followed by rewards in the hereafter and no deeds and faith are left in vain.
Allah as the Lord has all rights to choose who among His servants to be loved, favoured and guided. That is why we pray to Him, dedicate our lives for Him and hope that He will choose us to be among those blessed.
It is with Ar Raheem that the believers call our Lord for favours, acceptance of our repentance and rewards for our good deeds.
3. Ar Rahman means the all Merciful.
Linguistically, the root word for Ar Rahman is the same with Ar Raheem. It is an active participle noun in the measure of Fa‘lân (causing the ending sound of -n) which conveys the idea of fullness and extensiveness; and indicates the greatest preponderance of the quality of love and mercy.
Thus it refers to Allah’s inherent love and mercy which comprehend the entire universe without regard to our actions, even before we are born (timeless). The creation of the sun, the moon, air and water etc, all are there because of this attribute.
Thus the scope of His Mercy in Ar Rahman and Ar Raheem are of completely different measures and are two different attributes.
Among the reasons Allah used these names in the first ayah of the Quran are to:
- Attract attention of listeners from various backgrounds and understandings about God. Some people worship many deities, some associate God with mercy and some already knew the existence of a benevolent being controlling the universe.
- Remind mankind that the various names associated with God by mankind in worship refer to the same and only God.
- Enlighten mankind on His various names and attributes.
Rasulullah always mention basmalah before taking any action.
Mentioning basmalah is a sunnah (tradition of the prophet) and forms a part of his good character. Among the reasons to mention basmalah:
- We will be guided and supported by Allah.
- We will be rewarded in the Hereafter as the deeds are intended for Him.
- We will be mindful in transgressing His boundaries in achieving our objectives
- We will be God-conscious and remember our place in the universe.