The Seven Oft-Repeated Verses

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  • The Seven Oft-Repeated Verses



    In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”

    Scholars differ as to whether or not these words count as a verse of the Fâtihah or even if they are a verse of the Qur’ân, while some scholars consider them to be a verse of every chapter of the Qur’ân. I will not go into this issue here –it is a point of Islamic Law – but I will deal with it as part of my lessons on the book Bulûgh al-Marâm, Allah willing.

    What is important to note is that every chapter of the Qur’an begins with the words: “In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.” In the Fâtihah, moreover, they are followed by: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds; The Most Gracious, Most Merciful”, so the two lofty attributes of Allah get repeated. In the Fâtihah, five of Allah’s names are mentioned. They are: Allah, al-Rabb (the Lord), al-Rahmân (the Most Gracious), al-Rahîm (the Most Merciful) and al-Mâlik (the Master).


    This is Allah’s greatest name.6 All of his other names come after it. No one or nothing else shares this name with Him. No one else has ever been called by this name. One meaning implicit in the name Allah is that the hearts of humanity deify and worship Him – they yearn for and desire meeting Him and seeing Him. They take comfort in remembering Him. He is Allah to Whom all hearts turn in reverent devotion and longing, to the extent that a Muslim – expressing the words of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) – calls out to Allah saying: “I ask you the pleasure of gazing upon Your noble face out of longing to meet with You…”

    Another meaning implied by the noble name Allah is that He is beyond human comprehension. Human knowledge can never comprehe nd Him. Nothing of His nature or of His essence can be known except what He reveals to us in His Book or on the tongue of His Messenger (peace be upon him). The mind can never know how His essence truly is. The mind will always fail to comprehend it and fall into bewilderment. The rational faculties of mankind get befuddled when contemplating some of what He has created within the heavens and in the land and sea. So how can they ever hope to comprehend Allah? The mind, from absolute exhaustion, must abandon any attempt of grasping His essence. This is why Allah says: “They will never comprehend Him with their knowledge.” [Sûrah TâHâ: 110]

    In the hadîth where Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) describes the intercession that Allah will grant him on the Day of Resurrection, he says: “I will seek permission from my Lord and he will grant it to me. Then He will inspire me with words of praise that I now have no knowledge of and I will praise Him with them and fall down before Him prostrate.”

    In this hadîth, the Prophet (peace be upon him) informs us that Allah will teach him words of praise that he did not know before that time. This means that Allah will grant him knowledge of Himself that he had never possessed before.

    Another meaning implicit in the name Allah is the concept that He is the deity Who has the exclusive right to be worshipped. This is why the name Allah is the only one mentioned in the testimony of faith. A believer must testify: “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah” and cannot say instead: “I bear witness that there is no God but the Gracious” or “the Merciful”, though “the Gracious” and “the Merciful” are definitely among His names. He must only use the proper name Allah that is the ultimate source for all the other names. When he says: “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah” he professes that there is no true object of worship in existence except for Allah. There are many other things that people take as objects of worship, but they are all false. Allah says: “This is because Allah is the Truth and what they call on besides Him is falsehood.” [Sûrah al-Hajj: 62]

    al-Rabb (The Lord)

    He is the Lord of All the Worlds, the Lord of everything in existence. He created everything and has absolute power over it. Nothing can escape from His Lordship, and everyone in the heavens and on Earth is His servant. They are in His grasp and under His authority.

    al-Rahmân (the Most Gracious) and al-Rahîm (the Most Merciful)

    The name al-Rahmân, like the name Allah, is used only for Allah. No one else may be called by this name. Allah and al-Rahmân are His exclusive names. This is why Allah says: “Call upon Allah or call upon al-Rahmân; by whichever name you call upon Him, to Him belong the most excellent names.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 110]

    Allah’s other names can be used as words to describe others: words like rahîm (merciful), samî` (hearing), and basîr (seeing). About the Prophet (peace be upon him) Allah says: “With the believers he is gentle and merciful (rahîm).” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 128]

    Allah says: “Verily We created the human being from a drop of mingled sperm and made him hearing (samî`) and seeing (basîr)” [Sûrah al-Insân: 2]

    These are different than Allah and al- Rahmân, names that can only be used for Allah.

    Both the names al-Rahmân and al-Rahîm are derived from the Arabic word rahmah, meaning mercy. It has been advanced by some7 that al-Rahmân denotes “general mercy for all of creation” while al-Rahîm denotes “specific mercy for the believers alone.” Allah says: “And he is merciful (rahîm) to the believers.” [Sûrah al-Ahzâb: 43]

    Another opinion is that the difference between them is that al-Rahmân denotes the presence of the attribute of mercy, while al-Rahîm refers to the expression of Allah’s Mercy and its affects on Creation. This is the opinion of Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him).8 Based on this opinion, Allah is al-Rahmân and al-Rahîm with respect to both this world and the next.

    We should take note of a subtle point regarding the repetition of these two names – al-Rahmân and al-Rahîm. A person who wishes to enter a room or depart from it, says: “In the name of Allah.” A person begins to eat with the same words. If a person wants to speak or address someone, he or she begins by saying: “In the name of Allah.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Any matter of importance that does not start with Allah’s name is bereft of blessings. (In one narration of the hadîth it reads: “…with Allah’s praise” instead of “…with Allah’s name…”) 9

    Nevertheless, it is well known that the wording used is: “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful” (Bismillâh al-Rahmân al-Rahîm). No one has ever said: “In the name of Allah, the Severe in Punishment, the All Compelling” or “In the name of Allah, the Powerful, the Wise”, though these are all truly names of Allah. This is indicative of the meaning expressed in the following hadîth qudsî that is related by al-Bukhârî where Allah says: “Verily my mercy supercedes my punishment.”10

    In another authentic hadîth, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) says: “Allah’s mercy has one hundred shares, only one of which He sent down to be shared by human beings, jinn, and all forms of animals. With this share of mercy, they are able to show affection and mercy to one another, and with it, a wild beast is able to show affection to its young. Allah has reserved the other ninety-nine shares for His servants on the Day of Resurrection.”11 This shows just how great His mercy is and how it comes before his anger.

    This is why a person should never despair of Allah’s mercy, no matter how great his sins may be. Allah says: “Say: O my servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of Allah’s mercy, for Allah forgives all sins, and he is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Sûrah al-Zumar: 53]

    Allah says: “And who despairs of his Lord’s mercy save those who have gone astray?” {Sûrah al-Hijr: 56]

    And He says: “No one despairs of Allah’s mercy except those who are unbelievers.” [Sûrah Yûsuf : 87]

    For this reason, despairing of Allah’s mercy and feeling secure from Allah’s plan are among the characteristics of the hypocrites. This is also why a person should constantly and tenaciously ask for Allah’s mercy. Moreover, he or she should instruct others about how to be confident about the mercy of their Lord.

    The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to always teach his Companions to place their hopes in what is with Allah and to have more confidence in Allah and in His mercy than they have in their own good deeds. The reason for this is that their deeds might not be accepted. A person’s good deeds might be tainted by the tendency to show off or by pride. They might be not be in accordance with the manner prescribed by Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and for this reason be rejected. Instead, a servant must rely on Allah’s mercy. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “No one’s good deeds gets them into Paradise – not even my own, unless Allah covers me with His mercy.”12

    Therefore, all people – especially the sinners – should be invited to Allah by reminding them of His mercy as well as of His punishment. Allah says: “Tell my servants that I am indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful and that my punishment is indeed painful.” [Sûrah al-Hijr: 49-50]

    People are in constant need of being reminded about Allah’s mercy, especially since many people – including some students of knowledge and those who invite others to Islam – dwell so much on the threatening and fearful matters that their effect is the opposite of what they intended. The sinners consequently despair of Allah’s mercy, and instead of reforming themselves, lose hope and persevere in their disobedience, falling ever deeper into sin.

    On the other hand, inspiring hope in the hearts of the people is an important approach employed by the Qur’ân. We first encounter it at the very beginning of the Qur’ân, where it instructs us to begin in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Even if a person wishes to speak about the fire of Hell, he must begin his speech by saying these words. Likewise, a person who wishes to speak about the causes of apostasy must do the same. If a person wishes to talk about Allah’s prescribed punishments, he still begins by saying: “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.”

    Therefore, these words should be given proper consideration when talking to the people. They should be reminded about how they should always remain connected with Allah, the Most Gracious and Most Merciful.

    The names that form the basis for all of Allah’s beautiful names are mentioned in this chapter: Allah – al-Rabb – and al-Rahmân. The name Allah implies all the attributes of His being the One True God; the name al- Rabb (the Lord) implies all the qualities of His Lordship, while the name al-Rahmân implies all of the qualities of His generosity, kindness, and beneficence towards humanity.

    Allah’s Lordship is from Him to His servants. His worship is from his servants to Him. And His mercy is the connection between them and their Lord. On account of His mercy, He sent His Messengers to humanity and revealed to them His books. Due to His providence, pardon, and the blessings He bestowed on them, they have every reason to worship Him, and between them exists the reason for mercy. 13

    al-Mâlik (the Master)

    This comes in His statement: “Master of the Day of Judgment.” This is the day that people will be recompensed for their deeds. They will be requited for the good or the evil that they have done.

    When reading this chapter of the Qur’ân, the servant first gives recognition to Allah, saying: “Praise be to Allah.” Then he emphasizes and adds weight to this recognition by extolling Him with His names and attributes, saying: “, the Lord of All the Worlds; The Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment.

    Note: In one of the valid approaches to reciting the Qur’ân, the name al-Mâlik is read as al-Malik (with a short as opposed to one which is drawn out in pronunciation). Both are equally acceptable recitations for use in the prescribed prayers.

    This is the opinion of one group of scholars
    Abû `Alî al-Fârisî, al-Warmî, and others are of this opinion. Refer to the tafsîrs (Qur’anic commentaries) of al-Tabarî, al-Qurtubî, and Ibn Kathîr.
    Ibn al-Qayyim, Madârik al-Sâlik în 1/7 and thereafter.
    Ahmad (8300), Abû Dawûd (4840), Ibn Mâjah (1894). The same hadîth is related with a sound mursal chain from Zuhrî and with connected, but weak chains, from others. This is discussed in detail in the introduction of Subkî’s Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyyah al-Kubrâ. Refer also to the introduction of Irwâ’ al-`Alîl.
    10 Bukhârî (6872, 6899, 6999) and Muslim (4939, 4941).
    11 Muslim (4944).
    12 Bukhârî (5637) and Muslim (2861) on the authority of Abû Hurayrah.
    13 Introduction to Madârij al-Salikîn.

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