Light from the Holy Quran

by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui

Quranic Lesson No. 1 [Bismil-laa-hir rahmaa-nir raheem]

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۱﴾ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ ۙ﴿۲﴾ مٰلِکِ یَوۡمِ الدِّیۡنِ ؕ﴿۳﴾ اِیَّاکَ نَعۡبُدُ وَ اِیَّاکَ نَسۡتَعِیۡنُ ؕ﴿۴﴾ اِہۡدِ نَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ ۙ﴿۵﴾ صِرَاطَ الَّذِیۡنَ اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ ۙ۬ غَیۡرِ الۡمَغۡضُوۡبِ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا الضَّآلِّیۡنَ ٪﴿۷﴾

I seek the protection of Allah from the accursed devil.

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

“Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, The Beneficent, the Merciful, Master of the day of Requital. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help. Guide us on the right path, The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.” (The Holy Quran, Chapter 1:1–7)

I start this first lesson of the Holy Quran with its pure and sublime verses that mark the beginning of the Holy Quran. The selection of these verses is as much for their blessings and prayers, as it is upon my intention, God willing, to discuss those portions of the Holy Quran which are recited by Muslims in their daily lives and prayers. I also hope to comment on those verses that Allah has blessed me to understand. The motivation for developing this series of Quranic lessons has come from a request made by a foreign friend, who owns a radio station, and is desirous of broadcasting an easy-to-understand Quranic tutorial of about fifteen minutes duration, once every week.

Attributes of Allah:

Let us start,

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful” (Bismi Allahi Al Rah-man Al Rahim).

This verse is at the beginning of each chapter of the Holy Quran, except one. It is not numerically included in the total verses of each chapter, because it contains a complete text in itself. It has been placed at the commencement of each chapter just like a seal on an imperial proclamation which gives the emperor’s name and title. It is essential for a book to have the name of its author on its title page. Similarly, it should be the first undertaking of any revealed scripture to give us the identity of the One Who has revealed it. Holy Quran is the only scripture, which declares right at its beginning that it has been revealed by Allah. It begins with,

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

Bismi Allahi Al Rah-man Al Rahim,

which means,

“In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful,”

and thus states that this Book is from the Being Whose name is Allah, and Who is Al-Rahman (the Beneficent) and Al-Rahim (the Merciful). Allah is the proper name of God, and means the Being Who is perfect in excellence and goodness. By excellence is meant that His attributes have reached perfection in His Being. This is further on stated in the first chapter Sura Fatihah as,

اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۱﴾

“All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the worlds (Rabb — One Who brings everything to perfection).”

By ‘goodness,’ is meant that the perfection of Allah is not confined to His own person, but all His creation benefits from it each and every moment. If, for example, someone possesses knowledge or wealth, but its benefit is limited to his own person, and it contributes nothing to the well-being of others, then that attribute is flawed. The goodness of Allah manifested in His attributes of Rabb Al‘alamin (Lord of the worlds), Al-Rahman (the Beneficent), Al-Rahim (the Merciful), Maliki yaum Aldin (Master of the Day of Requital), benefit the entire creation all the time, both in this world and the Hereafter.

Allah’s attributes or qualities are unlimited, but only two of these attributes, Al-Rahman (the Beneficent), and Al-Rahim (the Merciful) are mentioned here. I will try to explain the significance of this. First let us understand the meaning of Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim. Both these words are derived from one root word, rahma, which means tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence, and thus comprise the idea of love and mercy. ‘Al-Rahman,’ and ‘Al-Rahim,’ are both active participle nouns of different measures. Al-Rahman being of the measure of falan in Arabic and indicating the greatest preponderance of the quality of mercy. In other words, the mercy of Allah is such that He has created, without any effort on part of the creation, the whole universe and its wonders. In fact, He has created the means of subsistence for all His creation, guided the creation towards the purpose of its existence, and given it the means of obtaining this objective. Rahim is the measure of fa’il in the Arabic being expressive of the constant repetition of the quality of rahma. Thus, Allah’s mercy is continuous and repetitive. When proper use is made of the means which Allah has given us by His beneficence, His mercy flows in abundance and results repeatedly in excellent reward for our effort.

The Human Soul:

I will further explain the meaning of Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim in the commentary of the first chapter Al-Fatihah. First, I would like to point out the special reason why the attributes of Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim are mentioned at the very beginning of the Holy Quran. It is because Allah has blessed man with something that none of His other creation received, which is the spirit (Ruh). The Holy Quran mentions this a little further on in the verse,

فَاِذَا سَوَّیۡتُہٗ وَ نَفَخۡتُ فِیۡہِ مِنۡ رُّوۡحِیۡ

“so when I have made him complete and breathed into him of My spirit” (The Holy Quran, 15:29).

This material world and everything that is in it, including the human body will one day cease to exist, and what will remain forever is the human spirit which Allah has given to man. This spirit, while in the human body is impacted by the good and evil actions of a person and shares all the circumstances experienced by the body. The Ruh thus develops a personality of its own, which has been called the Nafs (soul) by the Holy Quran. This Nafs (soul) is taken at the time of death and goes into the world Hereafter to exist forever. The Ruh is the real essence of mankind. What, one may ask, is the Divine program for nurturing, reforming and protecting this precious entity He has granted, and for making it realize its purpose? Man is unable to see his spirit although he is aware of its existence. Where does this spirit go after it departs from the body at the time of death? What is the nature of the spiritual cosmos, and the circumstances the spirit will encounter? Our physical existence ends over here, but the spirit has to remain forever; what should one do to maintain its health, and growth so as to realize the objective for which it was given? How has Allah’s attribute of beneficence fulfilled this urgent and most essential need? The Holy Quran states,

اَلرَّحۡمٰنُ ۙ﴿۱﴾ عَلَّمَ الۡقُرۡاٰنَ ؕ﴿۲﴾

“The Beneficent taught the Quran” (The Holy Quran, 55:1–2),

indicating that the beneficence of Allah has made full provision in the Holy Quran for the spirit by imparting this most excellent knowledge. When a person utilizing this knowledge acts upon it, then according to the Holy Quran,

کَانَ بِالۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ رَحِیۡمًا ﴿۴۳﴾

“And He is ever Merciful to the believers” (The Holy Quran, 33:43).

That is for those who believe and act upon it, Allah is oft returning to mercy and rewards man with those fine moral and spiritual blessings that are called the gifts of paradise. It thus becomes apparent how splendid and profoundly meaningful at the commencement of the Holy Quran is the verse,

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

“Bismi Allahi Al Rahman Al Rahim,” (In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful).

Knowledge of the Holy Quran:

One of the meanings of the letter Ba in Bismi Allah is, seeking the help of. The reader of the Holy Quran is thus taught to ask the help of Allah, Whose beneficence has granted us a blessing like the Holy Quran. We beg His Mercy that He may give us all the blessings — spiritual, moral, temporal, and those pertaining to the Hereafter, and award us with His pleasure and contentment which can only be attained by following the Holy Quran. Included in this also is the prayer imploring the Beneficent, Who has given us the Holy Quran, to create all the conditions and circumstances conducive to our satisfactory completion of its study. These would include a healthy body, a mind free of worries and inclined towards the Holy Quran. Also required would be presence of mind and its inclination towards obedience, and absence of any circumstances that would influence the peace and comfort of the reader.

Appealing to Allah’s attribute of mercy, involves supplication before the One Who possesses infinite goodness, so that His mercy opens up one’s mind towards Divine guidance and complete submission. It also safeguards human effort from being wasted and protects him from the temptations and whisperings of the devil. Besides the recitation of the Holy Quran, the Holy Prophet [Muhammad] (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has encouraged the Muslims to say Bismi Allahi Al Rahman Al Rahim (In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful) at the beginning of every task, in the following words.

“Any task that is not started with the recitation of Bismi Allahi Al Rahman Al Rahim is devoid of blessing.”

Thus, when a person recites it in this manner he pleads with Allah, for His Beneficence to provide the means for the accomplishment of the task, and to turn to him mercifully. Allah’s quality of mercy thus invoked, rewards human endeavor with results that only He is capable of bestowing.

It may be noted that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has used the word ‘blessing’ in his statement quoted above. The Arabic word for blessing is barkat — which means goodness that lasts forever. A person who recites Bismi Allahi Al Rahman Al Rahim at the start of any of his undertaking, dedicates it to Allah by invoking His name. Whether he meets with success or failure in its accomplishments, he is still rewarded by Allah for his effort. The rewards of this life are of course temporary, for one whose work is for Allah, the real bonus will be in the Hereafter which is everlasting.

By commanding the recitation of Bismi Allahi Al Rahman Al Rahim a great reformation of mankind is also desired. A person, who before beginning a task recites with understanding,

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful,”

will abstain from any action that is evil or displeasing to Allah. This is taqwa (abstaining from evil, keeping one’s duty), which is mentioned repeatedly in the Holy Quran and Hadith.