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الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيمُ

These two names will be discussed together as they are very similar in meaning and come from the same root word,رحم  which means “softness”.


الرَّحْمَنُ = “The Lovingly Beneficent“, “Most kind” and “Most Gracious”  

الرَّحِيمُ = “The Most Merciful” and “The Most Compassionate.”


What is the Difference between them?


Scholars have mentioned a few differences of which the following three are well known and the most accepted among them.


1.رَحْمَن  is a trait of Allah ta’ala which is in His Dhaat. It is innate in Him and therefore it is in Allah ta’ala’s essence to be Rahmaan while رَحِيم is a trait which needs to be manifested upon an object to be apparent. Therefore رَحْمَن is a trait which is innate in Allah ta’ala whether Makhlooq is there or not while رَحِيم is a trait which needs Makhlooq to be manifested upon.


2.رَحْمَن  is when He is asked, He gives i.e. that being Who is giving and رَحِيم  is when he is not asked He gets angry.


3.رَحْمَن   is Allah ta’ala’s general and expansive mercy that encompasses and includes everybody whether deserving or not, Believer or disbeliever i.e. when rain falls, it is not discriminatory. It benefits everyone and we see this in the world. Everyone eats, drinks, lives etc. whether they do good or evil so Allah ta’ala is giving them through His being  رَحْمَن .


 رَحِيم is “Khaas” – Allah ta’ala’s more exclusive/selective mercy for the Believers and doers of good and some Scholars say it is exclusive for Maghfirat of the Believers in this world and to enter Jannah in the Aakhirah.


Therefore رَحْمَن is general and for this world and رَحِيم is exclusive and for the Aakhirah.


رَحْمَن  is that name which is very close to Allah ta’ala’s Dhaat so humans cannot share in it i.e. a person can be Raheem (merciful) or Kareem (generous) however it cannot be said that he is Rahmaan. It is exclusive for Allah ta’ala and it is also similar to Allah ta’ala’s Dhaati name in terms of not being made dual or plural and there being no feminine form of it unlike Raheemah and Kareemah. It is also the most know attribute of Allah ta’ala and is used by Allah ta’ala to describe Himself.


The Tasmiyah

Allah ta’ala has used both these names in the Tasmiyah بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


In the Qur’an

رَحْمَن  is mentioned 57 times

رَحِيم   is mentioned 114 times

(Outside of the Tasmiyah)


وَإِلَٰهُكُمْ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ

Your God is One God; there is no God save Him, the Beneficent, the Merciful. [Baqarah 163]

In this verse Allah ta’ala describes Himself.


الرَّحْمَٰنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى

The Beneficent One, Who is established on the Throne [Surha Taha 5]


Allah ta’ala often substitutes His Dhaati name with رَحْمَن which shows that رَحْمَن is very close to the name of Allah ta’ala and this is a Sifat that He, among all the Sifaat, wants to be known as.

In this verse Allah ta’ala says He is “Established on the Arsh” and according to the Qur’anic verses and Hadith, the Scholars say the Arsh surrounds (envelopes) all of creation and Allah ta’ala has situated Himself on it. Allah ta’ala cannot be given a locality but it is His Rahmah which is encompassing /enveloping the entire universe.


In another verse Allah ta’ala says;

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ 

My mercy encompasses all things [Suarh Al-A’raaf: 156]


Therefore it shows that literally Allah ta’ala has established His Rahmah on the Arsh and figuratively His Rahmah is above and beyond everything.


So this trait is probably the most dominant, strongest and closest to Allah ta’ala. It is the trait He wants to be known as and the trait He wants to be invoked by the most i.e. we begin with the name of Allah ta’ala and these two names in the Tasmiyah when we recite the Qur’an or when doing anything.


Description of His Rahmah and Who is Deserving of it

Allah ta’ala has made His mercy mandatory/incumbent upon Himself as mentioned in the Qur’an,


قُلْ لِمَنْ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ قُلْ لِلَّهِ ۚ كَتَبَ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ الرَّحْمَةَ ۚ لَيَجْمَعَنَّكُمْ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ ۚ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ فَهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

Ask them: “To whom belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth?” If they don't respond, tell them: “To Allah!” He has decreed mercy for Himself, that is why He does not punish you for your misdeeds right away. He will certainly gather you all together on the Day of Resurrection; there is no doubt about it. Yet those who have lost their souls will not believe [Surah Al-An’aam:12]


Knowing that Allah ta’ala is merciful no matter how bad people seem, gives a sense of hope and peace. It is mentioned in the Qur’an and the Hadith that becoming hopeless of Allah ta’ala’s mercy is a type of Kufr. However in the next part of the verse Allah ta’ala says He will definitely gather people on the Day of Judgement so though He is Most Merciful, His punishment is also there. He gives people time and opportunities to make Tawbah and change but there will come a day when it will be cut off and people will be gathered, judged and punished or rewarded according to their deeds.

Therefore have hope but also know that you will be accountable for your deeds and there is this balance in our Deen unlike other religions like Christianity where emphasis is put of God’s mercy with the belief that He will not punish. In our Deen there is mercy of Allah ta’ala and it is extreme and far reaching and a beautiful trait however at the same time there is an ending to the time given to make Tawbah.


Rahmah comes on Whom?

In verse 54 of the same Surah, Allah ta’ala says,


وَإِذَا جَاءَكَ الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآيَاتِنَا فَقُلْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ ۖ كَتَبَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ الرَّحْمَةَ ۖ أَنَّهُ مَنْ عَمِلَ مِنْكُمْ سُوءًا بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ تَابَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَنَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

Whe those who believe in Our revelations come to you, say: “Peace be upon you. Your Rabb has decreed mercy upon Himself. If anyone among you commits evil because of ignorance and thereafter repents and mends his ways; you will find Allah Forgiving, Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’aam: 54]


This verse mentions three traits which we should have in our lives:


·         Imaan

·         Tawbah

·         Islaah


The verse tells us how we can utilise this beautiful trait of Allah ta’ala and become more deserving of it. Firstly, believe in Allah ta’ala and then if a person does a bad deed out of ignorance and then does Tawbah and takes measures to change, then Allah ta’ala is غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ


فَإِنْ كَذَّبُوكَ فَقُلْ رَبُّكُمْ ذُو رَحْمَةٍ وَاسِعَةٍ وَلَا يُرَدُّ بَأْسُهُ عَنِ الْقَوْمِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ

So if they give the lie to thee (Muhammad), say: Your Lord is a Lord of all embracing mercy, and His wrath will never be withdrawn from guilty folk. [Surah Al-An’aam: 147]


رَحْمَةٍ وَاسِعَةٍ  is very open and exclusive mercy. The verse says that even though people deny Him, Allah ta’ala is extremely merciful. He will give them opportunities and time in this world. He will let them have a good life and not punish them even though they do evil and oppress others however as the next part of the verse says, there will be a day when His anger and punishment will not be repelled from these people.


His Rahmah is such that He gives people chances again and again, but in this world.


In a well-known verse in Surah Hijr Allah ta’ala tells the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam to inform His salves that He is الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

نَبِّئْ عِبَادِي أَنِّي أَنَا الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

Announce, (O Muhammad) unto My slaves that verily I am the Forgiving, the Merciful. [Surah Hijr: 49]


And this is mentioned many times in the Qur’an i.e. that His mercy isوَاسِعَة  however He punishes as well.


وَأَنَّ عَذَابِي هُوَ الْعَذَابُ الْأَلِيمُ

but at the same time My punishment is also the most painful punishment.[Surah Hijr: 50]


In Hadith

It is mentioned in Hadith,

“Allah has one hundred mercies, out of which He has sent down only one for jinn, mankind, animals and insects, through which they love one another and have compassion for one another; and through it, wild animals care for their young. Allah has retained ninety-nine mercies to deal kindly with His slaves on the Day of Resurrection.” [Bukhari & Muslim]


It is the one part of mercy that we see in the world where humans and animals are merciful and ninety-nine parts are kept for the Day of Judgement. In another Hadith it is narrated,


لما خلق الله الخلق، كتب في كتاب، فهو عنده فوق العرش‏:‏ إن رحمتي تغلب غضبي

“When Allah created the creatures, He wrote in the Book, which is with Him over His Throne: ‘Verily, My Mercy prevailed over My Wrath’” [Bukhari & Muslim]


تغلب  means “More dominant”


‘Umar ibn Al Khattab (radiyallahu ‘anhu) has narrated,

“Some captives were brought to Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, among whom was a breast feeding woman. When she found a child among the captives, she took it and suckled it. Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasalla) said to us, ‘Do you think this woman will cast her child into a fire?’ We said, ‘No, if she has the power not to.’ Then Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam said, ‘Allah is more merciful to His slaves than this woman is to her child” [Bukhari & Muslim]


An important Question – Why does Allah ta’ala allow Suffering?


An important question comes up here that Allah ta’ala is Arham – extremely Merciful. He is Arhamur Raahimeen – The Most Merciful of those who show mercy. His Rahmah is above and beyond everything and He has the power to remove any problem or difficulty. The question which Imam Ghazali (رحمه الله) and a lot of us have is, He still lets people go through pain, suffering, tragedy, hardship etc. and for many the suffering is extreme. This causes a lot of people, Muslims and non-Muslims who have sensitive hearts and are thinking people that why does Allah ta’ala allow suffering?

Imam Ghazali (رحمه الله) has answered this question in depth.

Something bad may contain something good however we do not see it or understand it because our concept is different on what it means to be merciful. Sometimes we have to amputate a limb to save the body which is being merciful although the person may not see it.

Imam Ghazali (رحمه الله) gives an example of a child who, due to some sickness, has to have a limb amputated. The mother refuses thinking her child will lose a limb and she is being merciful in her own way. The father however understands that without the amputation the child will lose his life. Imam Ghazali (رحمه الله) explains that a person who is ignorant thinks the mother is being compassionate but an intelligent person will see the whole picture and understand that the father is being more compassionate and more loving because he knows that to save the child the limb has to be amputated.

Through this analogy Imam Ghazali (رحمه الله) shows that sometimes Allah ta’ala puts us in difficulty and even extreme difficulty to save us from something greater and this gives solace when we see suffering i.e. in Yemen, Syria and other places where we cannot do much and it causes heartache. For our own Imaan and sanity we should know that Allah ta’ala is Merciful and He knows exactly what they are experiencing unlike us who only know what we read on the media. Yet He is allowing it to happen therefore what they are going through in the Dunya must prevent them from any difficulty in the Aakhirah and therefore the difficulty of this Dunya is not against the mercy of Allah ta’ala but is a part of His mercy.

This is something for us to remember when we are going through any difficulty even though it may extreme. We know that Allah ta’ala is Raheem and He is protecting us and alleviating pain and difficulty of the Aakhirah and this is one of the most beautiful things for the people of Imaan.

Sometimes in difficult situations we make Du’a and when the difficulty is not removed we lose hope however it is mentioned in Hadith that Du’a is accepted in one of three ways;

·         Allah ta’ala will give what is asked for

·         He will not give what is asked for but some evil which was meant to happen is diverted away from the person and since we do not know it was diverted (as the evil does not happen) we think our Du’a is not accepted however the Du’a prevented it from happening. Du’a can change destiny.

·         Neither of the above happens however in compensation Allah ta’ala will give so much in the Aakhirah that the person will wish none of his Du’a made in the world were accepted.

Therefore the Dua not being accepted the way we want, is also His mercy and it is mercy we cannot see.



What are the lessons for us to Learn?


لَا يَرْحَمُ اللَّهُ مَنْ لَا يَرْحَمُ النَّاسَ

“Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to people” [Bukhari & Muslim]


النَّاسَ – all human beings. Therefore showing mercy to human beings is a way to attain Allah ta’ala’s mercy for ourselves.


In another Hadith it is mentioned;


ارْحَمُوا مَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَرْحَمْكُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ

“Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” [Tirmidhi]


Therefore show mercy to people be they Muslims or non-Muslims, good or bad, which unfortunately is something we are very short of. We do not even show mercy to our own children and families. Show mercy through your words and actions, by giving Naseehah, dealing gently with people, not looking down on anyone and looking with the eye of mercy at disobedient people (Hate the sin, not the sinner). Try to meet the needs of people in poverty or in need of education etc. and if you cannot, then show you care and make Du’a for them and that is also being merciful.

Mercy should also be shown to all other living things. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam said,


إن الله كتب الإحـسـان عـلى كــل شيء

“Indeed, Allah prescribed ihsaan in all things.”


There is mention in Hadith of a woman who was forgiven through her kindness to a dog;

“A prostitute had once been forgiven. She passed by a dog panting near a well. Thirst had nearly killed him, so she took off her sock, tied it to her veil, and drew up some water. Allah forgave her for that.” [Bukhari & Muslim]


Therefore learn these names of Allah ta’ala and make intention that I want to be more merciful to all of creation. Insha-allah


Silah Rahmi

A separate point which is attached to the concept of mercy is صله رحمى - joining ties of kinship which is mentioned in the Qur’an.

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامَ

“… and fear Allāh through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut) family ties[Surah Nisaa’:1]


Interestingly the word Rahmah is used for family ties and also used for the womb of a woman.


It is mentioned in a Hadith;

الرَّحِمُ مُعَلَّقَةٌ بِالْعَرْشِ تَقُولُ مَنْ وَصَلَنِي وَصَلَهُ اللهُ، وَمَنْ قَطَعَنِي قَطَعَهُ اللهُ

“The bond of relationship is suspending from the Throne, and says: ‘He who keeps good relations with me, Allah will keep connection with him, but whosoever severs relations with me, Allah will sever connection with him“. [Muslim]

This shows that Rahmah is maintaining family ties and to invite the Rahmah of Allah ta’ala, we should maintain family ties. Another Hadith mentions;

“Allah’s mercy will not descend on people among whom there is one who severs ties of kinship.” [Baihaqi, Shuab Al-Iman]

Therefore one of the ways to invite the mercy of Allah ta’ala is maintaining family ties and this is important for us as for a lot of us family ties are there however we do not see the worth in it (appreciate it) and we do not understand the definition.


What does it mean to maintain family ties?

With people we have issues with or with whom we do not get along, maintaining family ties can be at a minimum level which is to say and reply to Salaam, share in happy occasions, give condolences on sad occasions and visit when sick. It does not matter whether our family are Believers on non-believers. We should have a merciful attitude to all our family. If the family are non-believers and they invite you to a wedding or other occasions where you know there will be Haraam activities then you do not have to attend however wish them well.

Sometimes people are good and merciful to others but neglect the family and do not show them even a quarter of the mercy they show others.


Du’a to invoke the mercy of Allah ta’ala


Recite in illness or in other difficulty:

يَا حَيُّ يَا قَيُّوْمُ بِرَحْمَتِكَ أَسْتَغِيْث

On You Who is Ever-living and Sustains and Protects everything, I seek assistance through the means of your mercy [At-Tirmidhi]


And also:

ياَ أَرْحَمَ الرَّاحِمِينَ

Oh the Most Merciful of those who show mercy



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