It’s been a while since I last posted anything in English, so here is a post for my Non-Arab followers. I’ve written several posts about self-development and spirituals, this time I will focus on a verse of the Quran. Best thing to read, is the words of God, best thing to write about is God, best thing to talk about is God and his words. While Arabs can easily understand the Quran and they can easily find the beautiful structure of the Quran verses and its relation to one another, it’s quite hard for Non-Arabs.
I think one of the best ways to understand the Quran is having a curious heart, a heart that seeks understanding, a mind that’s trying to find the relation/link between two things, a heart that’s willing to learn more. As Walt Disney once said: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Having the mentioned, you would definitely going to discover beautiful pearls and gems of the Quran, you would open new doors to understand the Quran. We have those cosmetic lenses that enables us to see stars light-years away, similarly, with pure and sincere heart boosted by curiosity, it would be able to shed light on treasures deep hidden in the Quran, if God wills, you might discover beautiful gems of the Quran verses that may not be discovered after centuries.
Those beautiful gems would increase your faith, as you will start realising, no human being can have such hidden treasures in mere words. Don’t read the Quran to find flaws because you will be wasting your time, countless tried, countless shamefully failed. Try to make sense of what you read and start wondering. I don’t want to waste your time with introductions, let’s take example of the first chapter of the Quran. Chapter #1: “Al Fatihah/The Opener”. What I will do, I will take each verse, with its transliteration and international translation so it might be easier for non-Arabs.
Chapter 1, Verse 1:
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Transliteration: “Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem”
Translation: “In the name of Allah , the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.”
Now there is a huge debate among Muslim scholars, that this verse is considered a verse of the first chapter, or a verse to be recited before reading any chapter of the Quran, regardless of the debate, let’s think of it. What does it mean to say: “In the name of Allah , the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” It means my friend that you are going to start reading in the name of Allah. Muslims uses “Bismi Allah” before almost any act they do, before starting work, before eating, before drinking, before talking, …etc The reason for that it means in the name of Allah I will start reading, in the name of Allah I will start writing, in the name of Allah I start do this or that. As for “Al Rahman” and “Al Raheem” they are two popular names of Allah.
Most scholars says that: “Al Rahman” means the All-Merciful or the Entirely Merciful. While “Al-Raheem” means the All-Merciful especially merciful to his good servants. There are other definitions but most of them are close to each others. However, I have a different thought about this, in a fact a thought that almost no other Muslim might agree with me but anyway. To me “Al Rahman” it’s a special of name of Allah, similar to Allah, you cannot translate it, can you translate Allah into English? No! the Arabic and English are the same, similarly I think: “Al-Rahman” is the same, you cannot translate it in English, if you want to translate it in English you have to use: “Al-Rahman” it’s very special name of Allah. That’s why in the Quran Allah said, call Allah or Al-Rahman to him belong the most beautiful names, he mentioned these two names specifically, that’s why I think they are the two special names.
The other reason why I think that, because Allah has a name: “Al Raheem” which is almost identical to what scholars translates Al-Rahman. Why do you limit the name of “Al-Raheem” especially merciful to Muslims or good servants? no I don’t agree with them, I think Al-Raheem means the “All-Merciful and Entirely Merciful”. While “Al-Rahman” is a special name which you cannot translate, because its not based on an attribute. Most of Allah’s names are taken from his attributes (Sefat) or based on what Allah does (Afa’al). For example Allah is the all-mighty, so you will find a name suitable for this attribute which is: “Al Azeez”, or Allah forgives his servants which is something Allah does, so you will find a name based on this called: “Al Ghafoor or Al Tawaab…etc” but Allah is not based on his attributes or acts, it’s special name, same thing for Al-Rahman. This is in very short my opinion.
That’s why when you ask: “Who is Allah” you start mentioning the names of Allah, you say: “He is Al-merciful, he is the Lord, he is the Almighty” those names describe Allah, but Allah don’t use “Allah for example to describe his name: “Al Raheem or Al Rahman” because it’s very special name. When you say Allah its as if you recalled all the names of Allah. But if you said: “Al Raheem” it doesn’t cover all names of Allah it covers only the merciful part. If you wanted to describe the powerful part you would use another name: “Al Qawi/ The All-Powerful” and this Al-Qawi doesn’t cover the other attributes of Allah. However, if you mentioned Allah it covers all names and attributes of Allah.
Also in my study of the Quran, I noticed that Allah uses the name: “Al Rahman” usually when the verses gives indicator about God being the supreme, the greatest and description of his great power and kingdom, description of his great powers in this world and hereafter, and when there is a connection with his creation. While “Al Raheem” it’s usually used when a forgiveness or mercy is required, or when there is a description how God helped his creation, or how beautiful is God and description of his great love. So in short, the Name Al-Raheem it covers all the other beautiful names of Allah that have a meaning of beauty, mercy, forgiveness, healing, protecting, …etc while the name: Al-Rahman covers all the beautiful names of Allah that indicates might, power, kingdom, strong, punishment, …etc while the name Allah it covers every name of Allah, it covers both side, the beautiful side and the great side, it covers what Al-Rahman covers, and it covers what Al-Raheem covers. If you understood what I am saying, you would understand why Allah started with “Allah then Al Rahman then Al Raheem” and why he didn’t start listing all his names or 10 or 20 of his names, because they cover every other name and covers everything that exists in this world.
It also works as a great reminder to humanity, that before you start doing anything, before you read, before you say anything, before you write anything, remember the God. Remember he is Allah, remember he is “Al Rahman” the one who could remove you out of existence anytime, remember his powers, remember his greatness. If you remembered this, you would never dare to hurt any soul in this universe. Remember Al-Raheem, remember all the mercy and love of God, remember that no matter how much you sinned, no matter how many short comings and weakness you may have, you are seeking the blessing, mercy and protection of Al Raheem. If you remember this, you will start giving the poor, remembering how God gave you before you ask him, you would protect the weak like how he is protecting you, remember being merciful to your kid, husband/wife, to the patient in the hospital, …etc it’s only 3 Names you need to remember to straighten your path in this life.
Now let’s use the engine of curiosity and let’s see what we will find out! It’s time to start asking, Why this verse at the beginning of the Quran? Why Allah used the three names: “Allah, Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem” ? Why did he use three names instead of 99 Names? part of the answer I already answered above, because Allah is the most special name of God’s names, come after the second most special name which is Al-Rahman. What about Al-Raheem? why Allah used this name? Well simply, because the most popular and the greatest attribute of God is his unlimited and infinite Mercy. Every nation in every generation, those believers knows God as the most merciful. The mercy of God covers the whole universe, it reaches everyone, it’s us who welcome this mercy or reject it. There are those who accepted it, and there are those who rejected them even though it reached them. I am not going to write about God’s mercy as I’ve already posted several posts about God’s mercy in my blog, you can always read them. Now every time you read the Quran or start doing anything, think of those three names, you are starting by remembering your God’s greatest names and greatest attribute.
Now let’s give a second round of thinking, why at the beginning of the chapter we say: ““Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem” it’s as if the human being is saying: “I am reading Allah’s words, I am able to read thanks to Allah being merciful giving me the tools I need to read and understand, I am reading this for the sake of Allah” you are not reading for another God, you are not reading depending on your own power, if it wasn’t for God, you wouldn’t be able to read, you are not reading words written by human being.
You might wonder that I said the name Allah it covers all the names of God, then why he didn’t say only: “In the name of Allah” and thats it, why he added two other names! Simply because the first name is the special name the real name of God, would you as human being understand everything if you only heard this name? Let’s assume I tell my name is Steve! so what? it doesn’t give you any other information, but if say: “My name is Steve the Great” you would get to know me bit more, if I add more information you would know even more. Now let’s assume there is someone with so many names, what we would be doing? we would select his name and his greatest attribute or other name. For example, the Arabs have more than 90 names alone for the Lion, but if they want another to understand about the animal they are talking about, they are not going to list all the lion names, they would his name and maybe the greatest attribute or nick name, such as: Lion, the King of Jungle. In this verse, is similar, Allah started with his two greatest name then he mentioned the greatest attribute, the All-Merciful, Al-Raheem.
Do you see the importance of this verse being the first, do you see it’s beauty and the great context and relation to the coming verses? The next time you read this first verse in your prayer or simply reading the Quran remember what I said in this post, feel the beauty of this great verse. This was a summary and only few things one can understand from the first verse of the Quran, I actually wrote in Arabic four long blog posts about this verse alone, so in case you can read Arabic please refer to them as there are more details, this is almost a summary of those posts. I wrote it specifically for New Muslims or Muslims who don’t have commentary books on the Quran.
Actually, one of my current dreams is to publish my own commentary about the Quran in Arabic, but my dream is almost unattainable in my life time. As you can see, I wrote around 3 to 4 pages only to have a summary commentary on one verse in English. My Arabic commentary on the verse was more than 15 pages. If I am not mistaken, the Quran consists of 6236 verses! multiply this number by 15! that would be around 93540 pages! If we assume the average number of pages in one book is 250 pages! Can you imagine how many books I have to write to meet my expectation? Around 375 Books!
But let’s assume I am not trying to satisfy myself, but to help others, let’s assume I will write 3 pages for each verse, that would be 18708 pages! and again if we assume the average number of pages in a book is 250 pages, it means I would need to write 75 books! do you understand now why I said my dream is unattainable! In addition to that, I am a lazy person! Anyway Let’s hope that Allah gives me the power so at least I post some of my commentary on other verses like this even if it’s only in my blog. At least it’s better than nothing.