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The Beautiful Names Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem


“Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem. I begin in the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.”

The Honoured Qur’an has 114 surahs (chapters) and all of them, with the exception of At-Tawbeh (9), begin with this salutation: “in the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”. Although Allah has 99 names or attributes, these two are His most often used names.

The question then arises, what is so special about these two names or titles that they are used so often in the Honoured Qur’an? These names of Allah are connected with the relationship He has with man. It is in His acts towards mankind that Allah’s gracious and merciful attributes are demonstrated. It is because mankind is the object of Allah’s grace and mercy that we may see how He is Most Gracious and Most Merciful.

In everyday life, it is common to hear names being given because of special relationships. When a little boy named Sulayman is born, his mother becomes Umm Sulayman and his father becomes Abu Sulayman. They have this name because they have a special relationship with their child. In a similar way, God has the names Most Gracious and Most Merciful because we exist and because we need His mercy and grace.

Mercy and Grace to Find the Straight Way

Surat Al-Fatiha 1:6 says, “show us the Straight Way”. What is the Straight Way? How do we follow it? In fact, Our search for the Straight Way teaches us something beautiful about Allah’s glorious attributes of Grace and Mercy.

Surat Al-Fatiha 1:7 says, “the way of those on whom you have bestowed your grace, those whose portion is not wrath, and who do not go astray”. Two paths are presented here: the path of those who respond to Allah’s grace and those who reject His grace. Those who receive Allah’s grace are the ones who walk in the Straight Way, but those who reject it are those who go astray. What is this grace? If it is powerful enough to make the difference between being on or being off the Straight Path, it must be important indeed.

In order for us to understand Allah’s grace and mercy to man, we must go to Surat Al-Araaf 7:11 where we find the story of the creation of man. According to the Qur’an, Allah created Adam and asked the angels to bow down to him. However, Iblis refused to bow down to Adam.

Verses 12-18 contain a dialogue between Allah and Iblis. At the end, Allah casts Iblis out of paradise. Iblis then vows to tempt Adam and persuade him away from walking on the Straight Path. When and how did Allah bestow His grace and mercy on mankind? In the story of Adam in the Garden, we notice in Surat Al-Araaf 7:19 that Allah said, “Oh Adam, you and your wife dwell in the Garden, and enjoy (its good things) as you wish: but do not approach this tree, or you will run into harm and transgression”.

To go against Allah’s will was clearly “to disobey” and it was not merely forgetting Allah, but it was a willful disobedience of Allah’s command. By disobeying Allah, they strayed from the Straight Way. Allah had said to Iblis in Al-Araaf 7:18, “if any of them (man) follow you, I will fill hell with you all”. So “the consequence of disobeying was death” (Surat Maryam 19:19-20).

Allah clearly stated His will and He said that if you knowingly disobeyed and trusted Iblis, “I will fill hell with you all” (Surat Al-Araaf 7:18). Adam and Eve disobeyed Allah’s expressed will and stood comdemned to die.

The story tells us that Allah questioned them. Here is a scene of judgment. The Word of God stated that the penalty for disobedience was destruction in hell, “for the consequence of disobedience is death”. Allah questioned them, and they acknowledged their sin. But it states in Surat Al-Araaf 7:23, “they said, ‘our Lord! We have wronged our own souls; if you do not forgive us and bestow upon us your mercy, then we shall certainly be lost”. Adam asked for forgiveness (grace) and mercy from Allah.

Allah bestowed His grace upon them and forgave them in the Garden. Remember, Allah is most gracious (al-Rahman). His grace can be understood as the grace period they received, otherwise truly they should have died immediately since they disobeyed. In Surat Al-Araaf 7:24, Allah said, “get you down, with enmity between yourselves. On earth shall be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood – for a period”. Allah’s grace was truly bestowed on them. They received a “grace period” since Allah was gracious to them in the garden. It is in this light that we see Allah’s graciousness to man. Man deserved to die because of disobedience, but Allah bestowed grace and forgave mankind and allowed him a grace period.

The Mercy of Allah – Bestowed in the Garden?

However, not all was fixed. Even after forgiving them (being Gracious), Allah still removed them from the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. Adam had asked not only for grace (forgiveness) but also for the mercy of Allah to be bestowed upon them (Surah 7:23). We have seen that Allah bestowed His grace upon them since He forgave them, but did Allah bestow His mercy upon them in the garden as well? If Allah had bestowed His mercy upon them, then they should have remained in the Garden, therefore His mercy was not yet bestowed. They had to leave the Garden, because they still had to pay the consequence of their sin. However, Allah had a clear plan. What was His plan?

His mercy was yet in the future, that paradise would again be opened to them. Because of disobedience and sin, they lost Paradise and if obedience and righteousness was established, then Paradise would again be restored.

How did Allah bestow His mercy upon man? His mercy was sent through a very special individual. It says the following in Surat Al-Maryam 19:21:

“And we wish to appoint him as a sign unto men and a Mercy from Us. It is a predestined matter”.

This is referring to Isa al-Masih. Allah is stating that Isa is coming as the Mercy of Allah, and He also declares that He will be a sinless son.

Maryam asked, “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?” The angel Gabriel replied, “I am only a messenger from thy Lord to announce to thee the gift of a holy son”. Isa was completely sinless from the day of His birth and all of His life. Thus He fulfilled completely Allah’s law by obeying Him completely. No man or prophet after Adam has been completely holy, but Isa was the only sinless one. Now we can understand how Isa al-Masih could be the mercy of Allah; He is completely untouched by evil. Thus He completely and perfectly fulfils Allah’s requirement.

One man, Adam, lost Paradise through his disobedience, and we have all been cast out of Paradise because of him. Now, because of the complete obedience of another man, Isa al-Masih, the door of Paradise can be opened for us once more. No wonder that at the end of Isa al-Masih’s life on earth, the door of Paradise was opened to Him, and He has been living there since then. And in Surat Maryam 19:21, it states that “he shall be a sign unto men and a mercy from us. It is a predestined matter”. That means this was all planned by Allah. In fact, in Arabic, “al-Masih” means “wiped clean; Purified” to show that Allah cleaned the human sin through His appointed Messiah whom He predestined when He promised in the Garden to solve humanity’s problem with sin.

Allah’s crowning attributes – His grace and His mercy – are indeed wonderful. It is because of His graciousness that we are shown the Straight Path. It is because of His mercy that we may one day be admitted into the gardens of bliss once more. Praise Allah.


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