The Beneficent, the Merciful - الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Al Fatiha - Verse 3

الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

The Beneficent, the Merciful.




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Verses 2,3 & 4

the Lord of the worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful, the Master of the Day of Judgement

“ar-Rabb” (الرّب) is the Master Who manages the affairs of His servant. The word, thus, connotes the idea of ownership. Ownership (in our social structure) is a special relationship of one thing with another - a relationship that allows the owner to do with the owned thing as he wishes.

When we say, “This thing belongs to us”, it shows that it has a special relationship with us that allows us to do with it as we wish; had it not been for this relationship, we would not have had this authority over it.

In this social context, it is an idea which the society has laid down but which has no existence out­side imagination. This idea is derived from another real and posi­tive concept, which too is called “ownership”:

Our limbs and faculties, like the sight, the hearing, the hands and the feet, belong to us - they exist because of our own existence, they have no independent existence, they depend on us for their existence and continuity, and we use them as we like. This is the real ownership.

The ownership that may be attributed to Allah is the real one, and not that which is based on subjective outlook. Obviously the real ownership cannot be disjoined from management of the affairs of the owned thing.

The owned thing depends on the owner in its existence, as well as in all affairs related to its exist­ence. Allah is “ar-Rabb “the Lord of everything because the Lord is the owner who manages the affairs of, and looks after, the owned thing - and only Allah has this attribute.

“al-'Alamīn (العالمين) is the plural ofal'alam (العالَم = the world) which literally means, “what one is known with”. This paradigm is used for “instrument”, likeal-qalab (القالب = the mold, the form),al-khatam (الخاتم = the seal, the instrument of sealing), andat-taba' (الطابع = the stamp, the impress).

The wordal-'Alam is used for the universe - the whole creation taken together. Also it is used for each genes or species taken separately, for example, the inorganic world, the vegetable world, the animal world, the human world.

It is also used for a class of a species, like the Arab world, the African world etc. This last meaning is more appropriate in the context of these verses: The verses that enumerate the good names of Allah until they come to “the Master of the Day of Judgement”. The judge­ment is reserved for mankind alone or together with the jinn.

Therefore, the “worlds” should refer to the worlds of the human beings and the jinn, that is, their various groups. The word al­'alamin (the worlds) has been used in this sense in other Qur'anic verses too. Allah says:

. .and has chosen you above the women of the worlds (3:42) ;

. .so that he may be a Warner to the worlds (25:1);

What! do you commit an indecency which any one in the worlds has not done before you (7:80).

“The Master of the Day of Judgement”: We have explained above the meaning of ownership, that is, mastership. The word“al-malik” (المالك) is derived fromal-milk (المـِلك = possession, to possess).

Some reciters have read this word as“al-malik” (المالك = the sovereign, the king); it is derived fromal-mulk (المُـلك = country; kingdom). The king is the one who has the authority to manage his nation's affairs; never­theless he does not own the nation or the country. In other words, he holds the authority for management and administration.

The reciters have given the reasons for their preference of either recitation. But the fact remains that Allah is the Master as well as the King, and both words are equally correct, so far as the divine authority is

concerned. Looking at it from linguistic point of view, the word, “King” is generally used in context of time and period.

It is said, “The King of that time”; but they do not say “the master of that time”, as it would be stretching the mean­ing too far. In this verse, Allah has used this word in reference to a certain “day”; therefore, linguistically, it would be more proper to say, “The King of the Day of Judgement”. Moreover, Allah has used the word, “Kingdom” in context of the same day in other verse:

To whom belongs the kingdom of this day? To Allah, the One, the Subduer (of all) (40:16).



Ar-Rida (a.s.) said in explanation of the divine words:In the name of Allah : “It means: 'I mark my soul with one of the marks of Allah', and it is (His) worship.” He was asked: “What is the 'mark'?” He said; “The brand.”(`Uyūnu '1-akhbar and Ma'ani 'l-akhbar ).

The author says: This meaning emanates from the explana­tion given earlier that the preposition, “in”, herein connotes beginning. As the servant marks his worship with the name of Allah, he brands his soul - real doer of the worship - with one of the divine marks.

It is narrated inat-Tahdhīb from as-Sadiq (a.s.), and in `Uyūnu 'l-akhbar andat-Tafsīr ofal-`Ayyashi from ar-Rida (a.s.) that this verse “is nearer to the Greatest name of Allah than the iris of the eye is from its white”.

The author says: This tradition will be explained when we shall talk about the Greatest name.

Amiru 'l-mu'minīn (a.s.) said that (this verse) is from the chapter of The Opening; and verily the Apostle of Allah used to recite it and count it as one of its verses, and he used to say, “The Opening of the Book is `the seven oft-repeated' (verses)”. (`Uyūnu 'l-akhbar )

The author says: This matter has also been narrated by the Sunni narrators. ad-Dar-qutnī narrates from Abū Hurayrah that he said: “The Apostle of Allah said: When you recite (the chapter of) The Praise (i.e., The Opening), you shall recite,In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful , because it is the source of the Book and (is) the seven oft-repeated (verses), and,In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful is one of its verses.

as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: “What have they done? May Allah destroy them! They proceeded to the greatest verse of the Book of Allah, and thought that it would be an innovation (unlawful act) if they recited it loudly!” (al-Khisal)

al-Baqir (a.s.) said: “They stole the most exalted verse of the Book of Allah, (that is)In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful . It should be recited at the start of every big or small work, so that it may be blessed.

The author says: There are numerous Tradition of this meaning coming from the Imams of Ahlu 'l-bayt (a.s.). All of them prove that the verse (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful ) is a part of every chapter, except theninth (” Re­pentance”); and the Sunni Tradition also prove it

Anas (ibn Malik) said that the Apostle of Allah said: “Just now a chapter has been sent down to me.” Then he began reciting, “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful .” (as-Sahih, Muslim ).

Abu Dawud narrates from Ibn `Abbas (and they say that its chain is “correct”) that he said: “Verily, the Apostle of Allah did not know the separation of a chapter (and in another narrative it is `end of a chapter') until came down to him:In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The author says: This matter has been narrated by Shi `ite narrators also from al-Baqir (a.s.).

It is reported in al-Kafi, at-Tawhīd, Ma'ani '1-akhbar and at-Tafsīr of al-`Ayyashi that as-Sadiq (a.s.) said, inter alia, in a tradition: “And Allah is God of everything, ar-Rahman (the Beneficent) for all His creations, ar-Rahīm (the Merciful) es­pecially for the believers.”

as-Sadiq (a.s.) has said: “ar-Rahman (the Beneficent) is a special name with a general attribute; and ar-Rahīm (the Merciful) is a general name with a special attribute.”

The author says: The preceding Commentary may explain why the mercy of “the Beneficent” is general for the believer and the unbeliever alike, and why that of “the Merciful” is reserved for the believer only.

The description given in this tradi­tion that “the Beneficent is a special name with a general attribute, and the Merciful is a general name with a special attribute ”, perhaps this refers to the fact that the mercy of the Beneficent is limited to this world and is common for the whole creation; and that of the Merciful is common to this world and the here­after but is reserved for the believer.

In other words, the mercy of the Beneficent is reserved for the creative blessings that are bestowed on believers and unbelievers alike; and that of the Merciful is common to the creative and legislative blessings (the latter opening the way to happiness and felicity) and is reserved for believers, because only the bounties bestowed upon them will last for ever, and the (good) end is for guarding (against evil) and for piety.

It is narrated in Kashfu '1-ghummah that as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: “A mule of my father was lost. He said: `If Allah brought it back to me, I would thank Him with praises He would be pleased with.” Shortly afterwards, it was brought before him with its saddle and rein (intact).

When he sat on it and arrayed his clothes, he raised his head towards heaven and said: 'Praise be to Allah.' He said nothing more. Then he said: “I did not omit, nor did I leave out, anything; I have declared that all praises are for Allah, Powerful and Great is He!; because there is no praise but it is included in this (formula).”

It is narrated in `Uyūnu 'l-akhbar that 'Ali (a. s.) was asked about its explanation. He said: “Verily, Allah has explained to His servants broadly some of His bounties on them, as they can­not know all His bounties in detail - they are beyond enumer­ation and description. Therefore, He said: Say: 'All praise is for Allah on what He has bestowed upon us.' ”

The author says: The Imam points to the fact mentioned earlier that the praise, in this verse, is from the servant, and that Allah has revealed it to teach him the manners of servitude and worship.


From Philosophical Point Of View

Reason tells us that an effect, as well as all its characteristics and affairs, depend on its cause; whatever perfection it may be having, is a shadow of the cause. If beauty or goodness has any existence, then its perfect and independent entity is for Allah only, as He is the Cause of all causes.

The praise and thank is ad­dressed, in reality, to the cause which creates the perfection and excellence referred to. As every perfection is caused by Allah, every praise and thank, in reality, is addressed to Allah. There­fore, all praise is for, and due to Allah.

Verse 5

Thee do we worship and Thee do we beseech for help

“al- Abd”(العَبد) means slave, a human being who is owned. In its abstract sense, it is applied to other intellectual beings also, as the words of Allah show:

There is no one in the heavens and the earth but will come to the Beneficent God as (“`abdan” عبْداَ = a slave) (19:93).

In modern usage, it is commonly translated as 'servant.' “al -'Ibadah “ (العِبادة = to serve, to worship, to obey) is derived from this word. Its inflexion and meaning changes accord­ing to the context. al-Jawhari has written in his dictionary, as-Şihah, that “the basis ofal-'ubūdiyyah (العبودية = bondage, servitude) is “al-khudu' (الخضوع) submission.”

But this explanation is not of the word; it only shows a concomitant quality of its meaning; because al-khudu` is used with the preposition ”li ” (لِـ), and al-`ibadah is used without any preposition.1

When a servant of Allah worships Him, he stands before the Lord as a slave stands before his master. That is why worship is diametrically opposed to arrogance and pride - but it is not so opposed to polytheism; after all, a slave may be jointly owned by two or more masters. Allah says:

Verily those who are arro­gant to My worship shall soon enter Hell, disgraced (40:60).

. . and he should not join anyone in the worship of his Lord (18:110).

It should be noted here that polytheism - joining someone in the worship of Allah - is a possibility, and that is why it has been made subject of this prohibition; none forbids an impossible thing. But arrogance does not exist with worship, and that is why the expression, “arrogant to my worship”, has been used in the first verse.

Servitude is effective in those affairs which are owned or controlled by the master; and not in other matters related to the slave, like his being son of his father, or having a height of so many centimetres - there is no submission or servitude in such things. But the mastership of Allah is not limited; His mastership is not shared by anyone else, nor is the servitude of the creatures divided between Allah and someone else.

A master has only limited authority over his servants - he may employ them to perform certain duties, but he cannot kill them or punish them

unjustly. But Allah has total and all-encompassing authority over His servants; He does whatsoever He wills with them and about them. His ownership is unconditional and unlimited; and the servitude of His creatures is likewise unconditional and un­limited.

This “ownership” is true and exclusive on both sides: The Lord has the exclusive ownership, and the slave has the exclusive servitude. The construction of the sentence, “Thee do we worship”, points to this exclusiveness - the object, “Thee”, has been placed before the verb, and worship is mentioned with­out any condition.

It has been explained earlier that the owned thing exists and subsists because of, and with, its owner. In this sense, it should not divert an onlooker's attention from its owner. You look at a house belonging to Zayd; if you are looking at it merely as a house, you may possibly lose sight of Zayd; but if you look at it from the angle that it is a property of Zayd, you cannot wean your thoughts from him.

The only true attribute of the universe is that it is created and owned by Allah. Nothing in the creation can hide the divine presence, nor should looking at these things make one forgetful of Allah. He is ever present, as He has said:

Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that he is a witness over all things? Now surely they are in doubt as to the meeting of their Lord; now surely He encompasses all things (41:53-54).

The true worship, therefore, is that in which the worshipped and the worshipper both are present. Allah should be worshipped as the One who is present before the worshipper - and that is why the third person of the preceding verses has been changed to the second person in this verse, “Thee do we worship”.

The worshipper should be present before his Lord, not only with his body but also with his soul; otherwise, the worship would be a body without soul, a form without life. Nor should he divide his attention between his Lord and someone (or something) else - neither openly, (as the idol worshippers do) - nor secretly (like the one whose mind is on something else while worshipping Allah, or the one who worships Allah because he wants to enter the Garden or to save himself from the hell).

All these diversions are various facets of poly­theism, and Allah has forbidden it in His Book:

. . therefore, worship Allah, being sincere to Him in religion (39:2).

Now, surely, sincere religion is for Allah (alone), and (as for) those who take guardians besides Him, (saying): We do not worship them save that they may make us nearer to Allah, surely Allah will judge between them in that in which they differ (39:3).

Worship shall be a true worship when it is done with pure intention, and this purity has been named as the presence of the worshipper. This will happen only when the attention of the Worshipper is not fixed on anyone other than Allah (otherwise, it would be polytheism); and when his aim of worship is not any other hope or fear like that of the paradise or the hell (otherwise, the worship would not be purely for Allah).

Moreover, he should not be concerned with his own self, as it would tantamount to egotism and arrogance, completely opposite of submission and servitude. Probably the plural pronoun - “we” worship - points to this fact; it negates the individuality of the worshipper as he includes himself in a multitude of people; it removes egotism, creates humility, and effaces the tendency of self-importance.

The declaration of one's servitude with the words, “Thee do we worship”, is free from all defects, so far as its meaning and purity are concerned. Yet, as the servant describes the worship as his own act, it could create an impression that he thought to be independent in existence, power and will, while in fact he is only a slave and slave owns nothing.

The second sentence, “and Thee do we beseech for help”, removes this possible misunder­standing. It means: “We ascribe the worship to ourselves and make this claim only with Thy help; we are never independent of Thee.

In other words, the complete verse, “Thee do we worship and Thee do we beseech for help”, gives a single meaning, and that is “worship with purity of intention”. Probably, that is why both sentences have the same style; otherwise, it could be said, 'Thee do we worship; help us and guide us . .'The style has been changed in the next verse, “guide us . .” and its reason will be explained later.

The above-given explanation makes it clear why the pro­nouns in this verse have been changed from the third to the second person; why the restrictive device of putting the object (“Thee”) before the verb has been chosen; why the worship, in “do we worship”, is used without any condition; why wor­shipper includes others with him in this declaration of allegiance and worship; why the second sentence is needed after the first; and why both have the same construction and style.

The scholars have written other fine points about this verse; the reader is advised to refer to their books for this purpose; Allah is the creditor whose debt can never be repaid.

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