By Abigail Maryam
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful
The first name of Allah we are introduced to in the Qur’an is ar-Rahman. Before we learn about His justice and other attributes, Allah lets us know He is a God of love. Sadly, the meaning of this name is often lost in translation as there is no equivalent word in English. In this piece, in shaa’Allah, I intend to share what I have learned about ar-Rahman, as well as my personal experience of connecting to Allaah through this Divine Name.
Ar-Rahman, commonly translated as “The Most Merciful,” “The Most Compassionate,” or “The Most Beneficent,” comes from the root rahm (R-H-M) which means the womb of love. Other related words are rahim (womb) and rahmah (mercy). Arabic instructor and international speaker Nouman Ali Khan points out the limitations of the words “compassion” and “mercy” in the English language. These words imply pity or a negative situation that one is spared from. While Allah certainly has a kind attitude towards those He has the power to punish, this is but a part of His Rahmah. It is the love by which He brought all of creation, and continually upholds and sustains it.
“Do they not see the birds above them, spreading and folding [their wings]? None holds them up except ar-Rahman. He watches over everything.” (67:19)
Just as the sun shines on everybody, no one is excluded from the rays of Allah’s rahmah. It is encompassing, nourishing, and unconditional, like the love between mother and child.A baby in the womb has little to worry about. All of his or her needs are entirely taken care of, without needing to ask. The baby is always warm, fed, and protected. Should there be any problems, the onus is on the mother. The baby is not conscious of all the care a mother provides, and what lengths she goes to take care of him or her.
If you are like me and you have been pregnant before, then you know how difficult it can be. We vomit. Our moods go up and down. We may get anaemia, gestational diabetes, or worse. But if you are also like me, none of the inconveniences or pains of pregnancy affect how much you love your baby. You do not count the costs or wait to mete out eternal punishment on this precious child. You also do not “have mercy” by sparing your baby from what you believe he or she deserves. No, we love our children. For the simple reason that they are here. In fact, even before they came into earthly existence, they were already in our loving thoughts. In my case, I long dreamed about having a baby girl before Allah finally blessed me with one.
This unconditional love is the kind that Allah has for us, and to Him belong the highest examples. Only it does not stop there; His rahmah is far greater in magnitude. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) informs us about a woman who had lost her child but later found him, took him to her chest and nursed him. He asked his companions, “Do you think this woman would throw her child into a fire?” To which they answered, “No, by Allah, as long as it was in her power not to.” The Prophet then stated, “Allah is even more compassionate towards His servants than this woman is to her child.”
Even from a linguistic standpoint, the word “Rahmaan” is very emphatic. Ar-Rahman addresses the original wound of the human psyche, one that occurs during our life in the womb: the pain of disconnection from Allah. Of transitioning from Jannah to this world, and from enjoying His constant presence to always needing reminders of Him. In this wounded consciousness, we develop an impression that Allah is distant or abandoning us. We also feel shameful, worthless, and unlovable. Turning to ar-Rahman, who is incessantly present by His Awareness and divinely loving, is the only way to heal our deepest wound.
At a personal level, the way I have been connecting with ar-Rahman is through gratitude. The rich meaning of His name makes me reflect on the myriad ways He must be taking care of me right now, outside of my conscious awareness. That is one reason why I think patience, gratitude, and surrender cannot be over-emphasized in our religion. Just like little babies in the womb, we have little to worry about as regards our earthly life and sustenance. Communing with ar-Rahman has not only healed me and made me a more conscious person, but has taught me to have trust and hope in Him.
While I do not believe that Allah begets, we are like little children to Him. And although He is formless, He does hold us all in His Rahmah. I would like to end with a few words of Rumi:
But listen to me: for one moment,
quit being sad. Hear blessings
dropping their blossoms
around you. God.
About the author:
Abby Maryam embraced Islam in 2014. She loves to read, write, and travel the world. Originally Polish-American, she now lives in the UK with her lovely daughter. Visit her at http://abbymaryam.home.blog, on Facebook, and Instagram.
Sahih Bukhari no. 5999
The Holy Qur’an
Divine Speech: Exploring the Qur’an as Literature by Nouman Ali Khan
The Study Qur’an: A New Translation and Commentary by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Caner K. Dagli, Maria Massi Dakake, Joseph E.B. Lumbard, and Mohammed Rustom