” In the Name of Allah,the Beneficent,the Merciful.”
It is a custom among most people of the world to recite the name of one of their great and very beloved personalities that the worthiness of their work might be elevated. That is, they relate that work to that personality from the very beginning of their endeavour.
Among all beings, the One Who is eternal is only Allah, and, therefore, everything and every activity should begin with His Holy Name. It should be enveloped in His Light, and help should be always asked only from Him. So, in the first verse of the Qur’an, we recite ‘Bism-illah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim’,( In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful ). This action should not be done only with the tongue, but it should be done truly and meaningfully, because this kind of connection with Him sets work in the right direction and keeps it far from any deviation. For this very reason, such a work will certainly be successful and blessed.
The holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.), in a tradition, has said : ” Any important work that begins without mentioning / bismillah /, will remain invalid. ” (1)
After narrating this tradition, Hadrat Aeir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali (a.s.) added: ” For every action that a person wants to do, he/she should recite / bismillah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim /, which means that he/she begins the action with the Name of Allah, and every action that begins with the Name of Allah is blessed. ” (2)
On the excellence and importance of / bism-il-lah /, it is narrated from Ali-ibn-Musa-r-Rida (a.s.), who has said thus: ” (The holy phrase) ‘Bism-il-lah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim’ is closer to ‘the Exalted Name of Allah’ than the pupil is to the white of the eye “. (3)
Again, Ibn-Abbas narrates from the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) thus: As soon as a teacher tells a child to say ‘Bism-il-lah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim’ and the child says it, Allah records immunity (from fire) for the child,his or her parents and the teacher”. (4)
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) has said: ” No Holy Book ever came down from heaven but that it began with ‘Bism-il-lah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim’ “. (5)
In ‘Khisal’ by Shaykh Saduq it is cited that Imam Baqir (a.s.) has said: “… When we begin an action, great or small, it is appropriate to recite /bism-il-lah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim/ and that action may be blessed “. (6)
In short, the stability and permanence of an action is due to this very relation to Allah.
The phrase / bism-il-lah / at the start of the Sura, teaches us to seek the help of Allah from His pure perfect Essence when we begin any action. That is why Allah, the Exalted, in the first verses revealed to the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) instructed him to ö initiating the proclamation of Islam ö perform this great task with the Name of Allah: ” Proclaim in the Name of your Lord…”,( Sura Al-‘Alaq,No.96, verse 1 ); and the words of Noah (a.s.) to his followers, at the time of the Flood are: ” So he said: ‘Embark ye on the Ark, in the Name of Allah, whether it moves or be at rest! … ” ( Sura Hud, No. 11, verse 41 ). Again, Soloman’s letter to the Queen of Sheba begins, thus: ” It is from Soloman, and is (as follows):’In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful’ “, ( Sura An-Naml, No. 27, verse 30 ).
Based on the same principle, all of the Suras of the Holy Qur’an, (except Sura At-Taubah, No. 9) begin with /bism-il-lah/ (7)in order to pursue the essential aim of guiding man and leading him to prosperity with success, far from getting a taste of defeat.
In any event, when we begin our work with reliance upon the Supreme Power of Allah, Whose Power is above all power, we feel, psychologically speaking, far more powerful; therefore, we may be more confident. We may try more, be more persevering, and more courageous in challenging with difficulties, more hopeful, and, similarly, our intentions and the essence of our actions may be more purified. At the time of beginning any affair, reciting the Name of Allah is the secret to its success.
To whatever extent we further explain this verse, it will still be seen insufficient, because, according to a narration, Hadrat Ali (a.s.), regarding the commentary of the verse, talked to Ibn-Abbas from the beginning of a night until the next morning, but it was only for the commentary of /b/, the first letter of /bism-il-lah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim/.(8)
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Is the Phrase ‘Bism-il-lah’ a Part of Each Sura ?
Almost all Islamic scholars unanimously hold the opinion that / bism-il-lah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim/ is, as was stated before, a part of Sura Al-Fatihah and, also, of the other Suras of the Qur’an (except Sura At-Taubah, No. 9). In essence, the inclusion of /bism-il-lah/ at the beginning of all Suras of the Holy Qur’an, except the above mentioned one,is a vital piece of evidence bearing witness to this very fact, and the belief is so firm that no change has been made in the Qur’an and nothing has been added to it since it was revealed to the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.).
Mu’awiyat-ibn-‘Ammar, one of the companions of Imam Sadiq (a.s.), said that he had asked the Imam whether he should say /bism-il-lah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim / at the beginning of Sura Al-Fatihah when he stood for prayer, and he (a.s.) replied: ” Yes “. He had questioned him (a.s.), again, as to if he should recite /bism-il-lah/ when Sura Al-Fatihah ended and before reciting the next Sura. Then, Imam Sadiq (a.s.), again, answered: ” Yes “. (9)
Dar Qutni, a Muslim learned researcher, according to a sound document, narrates from Amir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali (a.s.) that someone asked him (a.s.):” What is As-Sab’-al-Mathani (Seven Verses)?” ” It is Sura Al-Hamd “,he (a.s.) answered. The man said: ” Sura Al-Hamd consists of six verses “. He (a.s.) replied: ” ‘Bism-illah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim ‘ is also one verse. ” (10)
Moreover, Muslims have always preserved the practice of reciting / bism-il-lah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim / at the beginning of every Sura ( except Sura 9 ) when reciting the Holy Qur’an, and it has been proven, on numerous accounts, that the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) used to recite it, too.
It has been said that Amir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali (a.s.) was asked to say whether / bism-il-lah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim / was a part of Sura Al-Fatihah. He (a.s.) answered: ” Yes, the Messenger of Allah used to recite it and considered it one verse (of the verses) of the Sura, and he said that ‘ Fatihat-ul-Kitab (The Opening) is the same as ‘ Sab’-al-Mathani ‘ (seven verses) “(11)
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Allah, the Most Inclusive Name of God
The term / ism / in the phrase / bism-il-lah /, as men of letters in Arabic literature say, is originally derived from / sumuww / with the meaning of ‘height, elevation’. The reason why any ‘noun’ is called by an ‘ appellation ‘ is that after choosing to call a ‘noun’ by the particular given ‘name’ (ism), the hidden meaning of the expression appears, and the sense of the ‘name’ is elevated, therefore forsaking meaninglessness.
In the phrase / bism-il-lah /, the word Allah is the most complete and comprehensive name among the Lord’s many names. This is because each of Allah’s names, which are found in the Holy Qur’an, as well as in other Islamic sources, truly reflects one particular aspect of Allah’s Attributes. In other words, the only name that refers to all of His Attributes of Glory and Beauty, is Allah. That is why other names are often used as modifiers for the word ‘Allah’. For example, ” Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”,(Sura Al-Baqarah, No. 2,verse226), refers to Allah’s forgiveness; ” …Allah heareth and knoweth all things “, (No. 2, verse 227) shows His being well-acquainted with what is audible and what comes to pass, respectively; ” And Allah sees well all that you do”, (Sura Al-Hujurat, No. 49, verse 18) states that He has information on every thing that is done by anyone; ” Surely Allah is He Who gives (all) sustenance, the Lord of Power, steadfast (for ever) “, (Sura Ath-Thariyat, No. 51, verse 58) points to His giving sustenance to all creatures and, at the same time, discloses that He is powerful and firm in His actions.
And, finally, Sura Al-Hashr, No. 59, verses 23,24 reveals some other Attributes of Allah. The terms ‘ Creator ‘ and ‘ Evolver ‘ are suggestive of His creativeness and inventiveness, and ‘ Bestower of Forms ‘ indicates His giving shapes: ” Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god;öthe Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme (in creating all creatures)… .” ” He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms, to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names… .”
Another piece of evidence which is a clear indication that this Name, Allah, is all-inclusive is that the acceptance of Faith, in Islam, is possible only by reciting the sentence: / la ilaha illalah / ” There is no god, but Allah “; and each of the other phrases such as: ‘ All-Knowing ‘ or ‘Creator ‘, or ‘ Bestower of Sustenance ‘, and the like, alone, is not sufficient enough to proclaim as evidence of Monotheism in Islam. And, that is why in religions other than Islam, the God of Muslims is referred to as ‘ Allah ‘, because it is only Muslims who use ‘ Allah ‘ to refer to what they do worship.
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Allah’s General and Specific Mercy:
The words ‘ar-Rahman’ (The Beneficent) and ‘ar-Rahim’ (The Merciful) are adjectives, both derived from ‘ar-Rahmah’ (Mercy). The former word, the Beneficent, as it is popularly recognized among some commentators, refers to the General Mercy of Allah which is bestowed upon all creatures, among them are the believers and the disbelievers, good-doers and evildoers. And, as we can see, the Divine bounties of life are distributed everywhere and all human beings enjoy the endless merits therein. This is their sustenance. They draw it out of the abundant blessings encompassing the whole world of existence.
The word ‘ar-Rahim’ (The Merciful) refers to that Specific Mercy that is endowed upon the believing, obedient servants alone. The believers, because of their true belief, good actions, and faithful active obedience, deserve this special, exclusive mercy, of which the disbelievers are deprived.
The particular fact ratifying this topic is that the word Rahman is always used in the Qur’an with the meaning of an infinite form of mercy, which is a sign of its generality, while the word Rahim is sometimes used with the meaning of a finite form, which is a sign of its specificity such as: “… And He is full of Mercy to the Believers “, (Sura Al-Ahzab, No. 33, verse 43). And it is sometimes used in an infinite form such as in Sura Al-Fatihah.
A narration from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says: ” Allah is the God of all things and is Beneficent to all His creatures, and He is Merciful, especially to the believers.” (12)
Therefore, at the moment that we initiate any action, when we begin with the Name of Allah, we must seek His Mercy, General and Specific Mercy, both.
It is interesting to note that this power, which has a broad concept much the same as gravitational pull, and has the ability to draw hearts closer together, is the very Attribute of Mercy. This Attribute of Mercy is the very means by which men can attain a close relationship with the Creator, also.
That is why true believers, when reciting the holy verse /bism-il-lah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim/, at the beginning of their affairs, detach their hearts from everything else and rely only upon Allah, and seek help only from Him, because He is the only One Whose Mercy is ‘All-Encompassing’ and no creature is deprived of it.
Another fact that can also be understood from / bism-il-lah / is that Allah’s acts are based on Mercy, and, punishment has an exceptional aspect which will not be fulfilled unless there are some exact, clear reasons for it.
When we recite the supplication entitled, ‘ Jaushan Kabir ‘, Section 20 thus : ” O’ Lord, Whose Mercy surpasses His Wrath… ” the above point becomes clear.
Human beings should attach importance to mercy and affection and behave accordingly in their daily lives and use violence and harshness only for those times when it is clearly warranted.
We conclude this discussion with a tradition, rich in meaning, from the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.), who, when commenting on the many different kinds of His All-Encompassing Mercy, said : ” Verily, there are one hundred mercies belonging to Allah, from which, He has sent down to the Earth only one and distributed that one among His creatures. All the mercy and affection they have, issue from it. He, the Merciful, withheld the other 99 for Himself to show mercy upon His servants on the Day of Resurrection “. (13)
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(1) Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 76, chapter 58, p. 305 (according to ‘ Tafsir Al-Bayan ‘, vol. 1, p. 461)
(2) Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 76, chapter 58
(3) Majma’-ul-Bayan, vol. 1, p. 18
(5) Al-Mahasin by Barghi p. 40 Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 92, p. 234
(6) Tafsir-us-Safi, vol. 1, p. 70 Al-Mizan, vol. 1, p. 26 (Persian version)
(7) The phrase /bism-il-lah/ is used as a contraction of /bism-il-lah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim/.
(8) Makhzan-ul-‘Irfan, vol. 1, p. 28
(9) Al-Kafi, vol. 3, p. 312
(10) Al-Itqan, vol. 1, p. 136
(11) Atyab-ul-Bayan, vol. 1, p. 92
(12) Kafi, Tauhid by Saduq, and Ma’ani-yul-Akhbar, (according to Almizan Commentary)
(13) Majma’-ul-Bayan, vol. 1, p. 21