Chapter One: The Opening (Al Fatiha)

Verse One.....Part 2

(This session is also available in audio and video)


Session 10

Chapter 1 Verse 1 a continuation.

The Arabic words   الرحمة'mercy' ,  الرحمن 'the Most Merciful' and   الرحيم  'the Most Benevolent' all share the same root  رحمwhich means 'the womb'.  The womb is the place where nourishment and protection are provided for the fetus with abundance.  In the womb, the fetus finds everything his or her development requires from God without any work or effort.   This mercy extends beyond the womb; Think about the overwhelming love a mother has for her child, her warm-heartedness towards him or her, and her concern for the baby even while still in the womb.  

God Almighty mentions in a Sacred Narration:  'I am the All-merciful. I created the womb and gave it a name الرحمderived from My own name الرحمن,So whoever maintains ties with his womb and kin, I shall maintain ties with him; and whoever severs ties with his family I shall sever ties with him.

God wants us to always be mindful of his kindness as he provides for us and opens wide the doors of repentance time after time.  He does not punish or deprive us from His favors, and he does not destroy us despite the fact that we continually commit sin.  He wants us to begin the recital of the Holy Quran with his names "the Most Merciful the Most Benevolent", so that we may remember the open doors of mercy.  Whenever you distance yourself from the right path, God longs for your return.  So raise your hands to the heavens and say 'Our Lord! Through your mercy forgive my sins and wrongful deeds'; This way, you always remain connected with your creator.  As long as God is the Most Merciful the Most Benevolent, the doors of mercy will never close before you.

In the Arabic language: 'راحم' Rahem means the merciful,'Rahmaan 'meansthe Most Merciful and 'Raheem' the Most Benevolent.  So God chose to use the words “Most Merciful” and “Most Benevolent” in the hyperbole form indicating the vastness of his Mercy.  Always keep in mind that God's attributes do not change or oscillate between strength and weakness.  Rather these are attributes of absolute perfection at all time.  The only change is to whom these attributes apply.  Let’s examine this concept in two examples from the Quran.  God says:

God does not wrong any one, not even the equal of an atom (chapter 4: verse 40)

This verse negated all unjustness from God; and then we encounter the following verse:

and your Lord is not tyrannical to the slaves (03:182)

In this verse, we notice the use of the word “tyranny”, which means extreme unjustness.  So, at first glance, this verse does not negate God being unjust; it only negates him being extremely unjust;  so there seems to be a contradiction between the two verses.  However, when you take a closer look at the intricacies of the language, you will find the answer.  The first verse negates all unjustness from God with regard to a single being.  The second verse did not mention unjustness in regard to a single person; rather it mentioned the plural word 'slaves', meaning all of God's creation.  Given the enormous number of God's creation, if each person is inflicted even with an atom's weight of unjustness, the total unjustness would be massive, and this adds up to tyranny.  Thus, both verses negate all unjustness from God, but the expression of hyperbole “tyranny” is used for the large number of people to whom the verse applies.  God does not treat anyone unjustly; his fairness, just like his mercy, is absolute and consistent. 

This brings us back to the words “Most Merciful” and “Most Benevolent”.  God is the Most Merciful in this world because of the large number of those whom he includes under His mercy.  God's Mercy envelops all -the believer, the disobedient and the disbeliever-.  He provides everyone with the essentials of life, and pardons many regardless of their faith or disbelief.  On the other hand, in the hereafter, God will extend His mercy only to the believers while the rest will be expelled from it.  Here you may ask: Why do we still use the form of hyperbole “the most benevolent” when God’s mercy in the hereafter is only limited to the believers?  We answer; God's mercy in this world is general and widespread to all his creation.  And while his mercy is specific for the believers in the hereafter, it is far greater in its quantity and everlastingness.

               A number of scholars have differed whether the verse 'In the name of God the Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent' is a part of the Quran chapters or not.  Is it the first verse of every chapter? or is it just a separator between chapters?   The scholars are of the opinion that ‘In the name of God the Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent' is a verse from amongst the other verses of the Quran, but it is only considered an integral part of the very first chapter of the Quran (الفاتحة)   'the opening of the book'. 

It is also worth noting that this verse occurs at the beginning of 113 chapters of the Holy Quran's 114 chapters.  All chapters of the Quran begin with it except for Chapter 9 (The Repentance).  And it has been repeated in chapter 27 (The Ants) twice, once at the beginning of the Chapter and once in the following verse:

It is from Solomon, and it says: in the name of God, Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent' (27:30)