Sunday, May 24, 2015

Commentary on the Quran: Chapter 1 Verse 3

Greetings! It’s time to continue my commentary on the Quran. If you have read my previous two posts, you would have noticed that I have started my commentary on the Quran, on the first chapter of the Quran: “The Opener”. I dedicated each post to one verse, this time, I am also dedicating this post to one verse. I finished posting my comments on verse number 2, it’s time post about the third verse. This time, I promise and I will Insha Allah keep my promise, I will make this short compared to the earlier two posts. Shall you require further commentary about the verse, go back to my Arabic post or the hundreds books out there about the commentary on the Quran. 

Chapter 1 Verse 3
الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Transliteration: “Arrahmani arraheem"
Translation: “The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful”

If you read the first post in my commentary on the Quran, you will notice I have a different perspective of God’s name: “Al Rahman” unlike most other Muslim Scholars. I have explained some of the reasons earlier in my previous post. However, it’s good to let you know how some Islamic’s scholars see the difference between the two names: “Al Rahman” and “Al Raheem”. Some Islamic scholars say that “Al Rahman” means that he is all merciful and to all in this life, but in the hereafter God is: “Al Raheem” specially merciful to those who worshiped him the way he instructed. Other Islamic scholars says: “Al Rahman” is all merciful, the Entirely Merciful while “Al Raheem” means the especially Merciful. Merciful to those he loves or pleased with. While they are widely accepted by Muslims however, I tend to not accept that. 

The reason for that I see it in this way: The two names are limited, God’s mercy shouldn’t be limited. That’s why I say, “Al Raheem” means he is Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, he is the Merciful in this life and he is the Merciful in the hereafter. His mercy reached everyone, but there are those who accepted it and there are those who rejected the mercy. While “Al Rahman” to me is a special name of God, like how “Allah” is a special name of God which can’t be translated. However, there are other meanings to this name I noticed, that “Al Rahman” is a name that is commonly used in Quran when the context requires to Show God’s great kingdom, God’s great attributes, God to be feared and respected. 

What I want to say is that God has two categories of Names, one category where all the names related to his mercy, forgiveness, beauty, love, …etc are grouped such as: “Al Raheem”, “The Source of Peace”, The Guardian, The Forgiving, The Giver of All, The Forbearing, The Loving One, …etc. And the second category where it shows God’s great powers, kingdom, greatness, names that let the heart somehow respect or fear God, such as: The Absolute Ruler, The Victorious, The Greatest, The Maker of Order, The Subduer, The Magnificent, The Highest, The Possessor of All Strength, The All Powerful, …etc the mentioned names would make anyone think twice before disobeying God, they call it in Arabic: “Sefat Al Jalal”. I would say the name that stands up above all the mentioned names is: “Al Rahman”, it’s the name that covers all the names under the second category, while the name: “Al Raheem” is the attribute that covers all the names under the first category. 

Now it’s time to start answering some questions? The first question, why “Arrahmani arraheem” was repeated twice, first in the first verse of the chapter and now here? Well to answer this question, let’s remember what I said in the first post. The first post was “Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem” Translation: “In the name of Allah , the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” So why in verse number 3 seems somehow repeated? Well, the first verse is a general verse that we start before reading any chapter of the Quran, we say: “Bismi Allah arrahmani arraheem” that we are going to start in the Name of Allah Al Rahman Al Raheem. We are seeking his blessing and mercy, we are reading for Allah but here in verse 3, the context is to answer the question: “Who is Allah?” so the answer came: “Arrahmani Arraheem” he is Al Rahman Al Raheem. 

The second reason is that in the first verse as mentioned can be read before any chapter, which somehow gives you the impression, that every chapter in this book is a Mercy from God. Like how the air is a form of Mercy, the stars, the water, the mountains, …etc they are signs of Allah’s infinite mercy when you really think about them. Similarly,  all chapters of the Quran are really have secrets and signs of mercy in them but only if you have this curious mind who dig deep into the meanings behind each chapter. 

The third reason is that I think because Allah started introducing himself in his book, the 2nd Verse“Alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameen” Translation: All praise is due to Allah , Lord of the worlds” as I explained in previous post, God used his special name Allah then he described his position and how he is mostly known by human beings. This verse he started with his second special name: “Al Rahman” so one might ask who is Al Rahman? the immediate answer would be: “Ar Raheem” (The Entirely Merciful / The All Merciful) he answered with his most popular attribute. This is an excellent way to introduce God. In fact, even in our personal life we sometimes use the same way. Let’s assume we have so many names, we have so many positions, and we have so many attributes. I will start with my Name then I list my position and role, if the other didn’t know me yet, I will use my other Name which he may have heard of, if it didn’t get to know me, I will describe my most known attribute, if I did so at least he/she will come to know me better. 

So IF my original name is Abdulaziz and my other name is Ahmed, and my role is Strategy Management Consultant, I am tall, Kind person, I have great muscles, I am black, I am Arabian, …etc so what’s the best way to introduce me to another person or if you were talking about me, how would you let your colleague understand which guy you are referring to? You might say: “You know I am talking about AbdulAziz, the Strategy Management Consultant” if your colleague didn’t know me, you would say: “They call him Ahmed sometimes, he is the Arabian guy (If you are in community where Arabs are not there) or you might say the Black guy (if all around you are white people) you would use the most differentiated attribute to describe him. Similarly here, God first used his most popular and special name along with his mostly known position and role. The next verse he used his other special name with his most unique attribute, his mercy which cannot be compared with anyone, if all creations mercy to be grouped in one soul, it wouldn’t even be compared to God’s mercy. The Difference is far greater than the difference between drop of water compared to the sea. 

You might ask why God started with: “Ar Rahman” then “Ar Raheem” why didn’t he start this way: “Ar Raheem Ar Rahman” ? if you understood what I wrote previously you would have known the answer. The reason for that is because Al Rahman is God’s special name, cannot be translated, it’s like his other name Allah but comes after. Allah’s name covers all of Allah’s names, while Al Rahman covers all names of God except Allah so it makes sense it comes first. The second reason “Al Rahman” as I said covers all other names including the names under the category of the attributes/names that gives the meaning of great Power, Kingdom, Above All, …etc and also covers the other category of God’s names, the category that gives the meaning of Mercy, Love, …etc so that’s another reason why “Ar Rahman” before “Ar Raheem”. Because God punishes, God take souls, God created Hell, …etc all these acts requires more than being the Merciful, so if he said Al Raheem” only it will not cover everything. Since he started with: “Ar Rahman” it covers everything that exists, everything that existed, everything that will exists in the future” if you understood this you would realize you are reading an unusual book with great structure and wisdom behind it. 

Another thing, if you read the previous verse, God mentioned he is Lord of the worlds! one might ask: “What is Lord of the Worlds?” or “Why he is Lord of the Worlds? what’s the point of being: “Lord of the Worlds” the answer came in two words because he is: “Ar Rahmaan Ar Raheem” because he is God, God cannot be anything but God. And being Lord of the Worlds is nothing but God’s position, being the most merciful is no one but God, being the All-Powerful, The Owner and creator of everything is no one but God. Who can revive everything that died? who can punish those who after killing millions of human being and died, who can revive them and have judgment on them but God? who can forgive all sins but God? So God can only be God, so the answer came to a known question of Who, What, Why, How? in the name of Al Rahman.

Also this verse is a good reminder to human being reading the Quran, whenever you read you remember the two categories of Allah’s names, this would lead either to respect God, fear to disobey him because he is: “Ar Rahman” You would Love him, never lose faith or hope in him because he is “Ar Raheem”. There are so many other beautiful meanings you can get out of this verse consisting of two Arabic words only! However, I don’t want to make this longer, you can always refer to my Arabic commentary on this verse which is posted in my blog. I think I kept my promise this time, I tried my best to make this shorter than previous posts. Peace 

1 comment:

  1. I’d like to begin by saying it never ceases to amaze me how our life is paved to place us exactly where we need to be. If recent events had not occurred I would probably not have found myself stumbling upon your blogpost, let alone pondering over this verse, furthermore even if I had done, would it have affected me as it has done or would the words of God remained upon my tongue?

    I’d like to add if I may to what you have written. As we know Al Rahman and Al Raheem come from the word Rahmah – a word that is inclusive of love and care, and by extension we an take that to mean that Al Rahman and Al Raheem is unimaginably extreme love and care that is bestowed.

    More specifically Al Rahman is mercy that is immediate – it is the love and care we are in need of at the exact time of our need whereas Al Raheem is mercy that is always and permanent, it doesn't encompass us in the here and now. Let me explain, if I were to say to your colleague that AbdulAziz is kind, it doesn't imply that you are displaying that kindness upon him at that given moment, it implies that kindness is a part of you, your trait, an attribute with which you conduct yourself when dealing with others - it's always there.

    Al Rahman is the mercy that is our first aid when we are injured, it is the mercy we call out for when we are in the midst of chaos, usually due to our own actions, and in fact it is precisely our actions that will dispel this mercy, which is why it is temporary – by that I mean it won't always surround us unless we are from those who never falter, those who never disobey the commands of Allah.

    To give an example of its immediateness – if I am hungry I need food now to remove that hunger, once I have had my fill them I can look to dinner tomorrow. Likewise, if I had stained my soul and find myself in a state of anguish, sorrow, despair, hurt and pain I need Al Rahman to give me that immediate nourishment, medication and healing i.e. Mercy to heal that open wound, to get rid of the edge of that pain so that I can then focus on healing completely.

    You touched on the order of these words in this verse – why is Al Rahman placed before Al Raheem, why not the other way around? As humans we need our immediate needs met before our long term needs are met e.g. Only after I have paid my bills, rent etc can I look at saving for university fees, and eventually buying a house; I cannot contemplate long term goals without attending to the things that need urgent attention now. That is why Allah states He is Al Rahman – one who deals with the immediate, temporary problems, and then follows it by saying He is Al Raheem – one who will always look after our further needs through His ever encompassing Mercy.

    And that is why we will probably never truly understand the completeness of His Mercy.

    It also brings me to Ibn Abbas’ statement where he said that Al Rahman is for this Dunya and Al Raheem is for the Akhira – the Dunya is temporary and the Akhira is permanent.

    I hope that makes sense.

    And before I leave I'd like to say thank you. It is strange how our paths cross again, previously it was through Twitter, but many years ago, and here I am today discussing the thing that brings us great comfort : Allah Azza Wa Jal.