Bismillah hirRahmaan nirRaheem
With The Name of ALLAH, The Beneficent, and The Merciful
Translation of the Two Lovely Names
These are two descriptions of ALLAH, and two of the Names from amongst His Beautiful Names and are derived nouns and both come the same verb رحم
Both have been mentioned in the Quran many times. Interestingly RAHMAAN has been mentioned 57 times and RAHEEM 114 times [114 is double of 57], we will appreciate the difference in number when we come to know the difference in meaning between RAHMAAN and RAHEEM. The common translation is the most merciful the most beneficent. I ask you when was the last time you used the word beneficent in a sentence?
The purpose of translation is so you and I can understand what we are reading and a translation should be with words you actually understand, use and can relate to. If you translate with words you cannot relate to then it defeats the purpose of translating.
Both of these words have the same root word RAHMA in there origin.
RAHMAAN, RAHEEM, RAHMA is usually translated as ‘mercy’ but there is a slight problem with this translation (As we shall see). But as long as we understand the concept of what RAHMA is, then inshaa ALLAH there is no problem in translating it as ‘MERCY’ (so long as we understand the concept).
The word RAHMAAN and RAHEEM comes from the word RAHAM. RAHAM in the Arabic language (does not mean mercy, it) is; the womb of the woman when she is pregnant.
In a HADITH QUDSI it is reported that the Messenger of ALLAH صلى الله عليه وسلم said that ALLAH said:
أَنَا الرَّحْمنُ خَلَقْتُ الرَّحِمَ وَشَقَقْتُ لَهَا اسْمًا مِنِ اسْمِي، فَمَنْ وَصَلَهَا وَصَلْتُهُ وَمَنْ قَطَعَها قَطَعْتُهُ
‘I Am Ar-Rahman. I created the RAHAM (womb) and derived a name for it from My Name. Hence, whoever keeps it (family ties), I will keep ties to him, and whoever severs it, I will sever ties with him.’.
Why did ALLAH take the word RAHAM (womb) and derive from it His name? We can say because a mother’s womb beautifully exemplifies the concept of RAHMA. A mother’s womb is a source of protection, it a place where one grows and develops and is nurtured in an unparalleled way.
The child inside the RAHAM is taken care of, in every single way. There is an interesting relationship between the mother and the child. Does the child know the mother? No. Does the child love the mother? No. But does the mother already love the child? Yes. Is the mother already looking after the child? Yes. In every way the entire world of the child is taken care of by the mother but the child has no idea no clue that he is loved so much, that the mother is willing to do so much for this child and protect it from every danger and harm.
Normally when a person protects themselves they will protect their face or body 1st etc but a mother before she protects herself she will protect her stomach out of concern for the child. She will be extra careful when she walks into a narrow space etc
(And to ALLAH belongs the Highest similitude) from this understand we can come to begin to understand the concept of RAHMA and it from this word we get RAHMAAN AND RAHEEM.
RAHMA is usually translated as mercy. Mercy however in English is used when you spare someone. Like if it is said, ‘I was going to punish you up but I turned the other cheek’ meaning you was expecting punishment but when I decided not to punish you I was merciful towards you.
A police officer stops you on the motorway for speeding, you expect a speeding ticket but he shows you mercy by not giving you a ticket etc So in the English language when we use the word mercy we are thinking about punishment and then the punishment went away and then we think about mercy. But the word RAHMA has nothing to do with punishment, the thought shouldn’t even cross our mind. It has everything to do with complete care and protection.
Inshaa ALLAH as we have mentioned there is no harm in translating RAHMA as ‘Mercy’ as long as we bear in mind what we have mentioned (1. It is derived from the word the RAHAM womb and 2. It has nothing to do with punishment)
Someone who shows you RAHMA has compassion towards you, someone who wants to be soft and easy with you and make things delicate for you, they understand that you need to be handled with care.
So ALLAH is Ar-RAHMAAN He is saying He cares for you He understands that you are very delicate and that you must be handled with care and He will take care of every matter that you have. Hes not going to abandon you or leave you.
Notice His name is not AR-RAAHIM (the One who shows mercy) But rather His Nobel Name is AR-RAHMAAN. This in Arabic language RAH’MAAN is on the form of FA’AAL indicating something that is excessive and extremely in that particular action.
Example If you say you are thirsty you are AATISH but if you say عطشان ATSHAAN this means you are dieing of thirst, you couldn’t be any more thirsty.
If you are angry you say you are غاضب GAADIB but if you are full of anger you say your are GAD’BAAN meanings you couldn’t be anymore angrier.
ALLAH is AR-RAH’MAAN His mercy is at its peak, the unlimited form, it is extreme, beyond imagination. He is FULL of RAHMA.
People complain and get depressed and say ‘O ALLAH doesn’t care about me! Why do I have all these problems? etc’ They utter such ignorant statements because they haven’t thought about Ar-RAHMAAN enough (the meaning). You don’t want have to wait for His RAHMA its all ready here.
قَالَ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ ۖ وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ
[ ALLAH ] said, “My punishment – I afflict with it whom I will, but My mercy encompasses all things.” A’raf:156
Differences between Ra’fa & Rahma
There is another type of mercy which is called RA’FA usually translated as compassion and from this word we get the name of ALLAH, AR-RA’OOF, usually translated, The Most Compassionate. So whats the difference between RAHMA AND RA’FA?
RA’FA; Is an act compassion/mercy/kindness that people can recognize as such. It is associated with [everyone recognizes a person’s compassion because it is usually] gentleness and kindness without any harm or dislike. Example if I invite you to my house let you sit on my comfy couch put the heating on give you nice food etc I have shown you RA’FA there is no harm/pain or dislike/discomfort that comes with my ‘RAHMA’
RAHMA; has aspects of RA’FA i.e kindness/compassion but it is possible sometimes a person is merciful to someone but the person who is receiving that mercy might not recognize it as mercy.
Example your child is seriously ill so you take your child to the doctor. Your child needs an injection this will momentarily harm your child which will leave your child in discomfort and possible pain. Are you doing this to to punish the child? This momentary harm is very beneficial to the child so your are showing mercy to your child but will your child see it as an act of mercy towards them? So you are showing RAHMA to your child not RA’FA
Another example of this is when a parent disciplines their child. Do parents discipline their child to punish them? Or is it really an act of mercy? It is an act of mercy because they want that child to be an upright individual and thus be nurtured in a correct way.
It could be argued that if the parents where to be constantly showing RA’FA towards their children there would be absolute chaos. The child falls ill but because the child doesn’t want to talk medication the parents don’t give it to them thus the child is harmed even further. The child is misbehaving but because the parents don’t want anything but RA’FA towards the child they say and do nothing thus the child grows up with no manners etc So there is a time and place for RA’FA and there is a time and place for RAHMA.
When you understand this point you understand the confusion of some who say ‘If Islam is a religion of mercy why does it cut the hand of the thief or kill the murderer?’ They are confusing RA’FA with RAHMA i.e it may not be seen as an act of mercy towards the criminal and the society but in fact it is. The criminal is spared the punishment of his act in the Hereafter and a mercy towards the society as it acts a powerful deterrent to all other would-be thieves.
ArRahman ArRaheem First Image Courtesy: Etsy.com