Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem. This is translated as “In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy!” in English, according to the Abdul Haleem translation, but there are subtle meanings that we just cannot get from a word by word translation. The difference between Al Rahman and Al Raheem is vague in a word by word translation for example. Many scholars explain the difference in terms of who the mercy encompasses, explaining that Al Rahman is mercy that extends to all creation whilst Al Raheem refers to mercy that is only given to the believers. The first form of mercy is how birds can fly:
“Do they not see the birds above them spreading and closing their wings? It is only the Lord of Mercy who holds them up: He watches over everything.”[Qur’an 67:19]
Scholars stress often that this world is just a reflection of the names and attributes of Allah SWT and wherever we look we can see those names if we are mindful.
When we feel the sun shining and warming our skin, when we drink clean water and eat food that nourishes us we are being shown this mercy. There’s so many blessings that the creation is given freely and indiscriminately regardless of faith, and so each and every human being has a lot to be grateful to Allah SWT for, because even those who don’t worship Allah SWT still have their hearts kept beating by the will of Allah SWT and most likely still eat and drink and have people they love in their lives. The Lord is so patient with us that He doesn’t take away all His Mercy in this life from us, even if we reject Him and do wrong and mess up. Al Rahman extends His Mercy to all of His Creation until the day of Judgement – only in Hell does that Mercy get completely taken away. May we all be protected from that, Ameen.
The second form of mercy, is exclusive to believers only, however, and is given through the guidance that the Prophets are sent down with,
“Do you find it so strange that a message should come from your Lord- through a man in your midst- to warn you and make you aware of God so that you may be given mercy?”[Qur’an 7:63]
This form of mercy includes help on the day of Judgement,
“The Day of Decision is the time appointed for all; a Day when no friend can take another’s place. No one will receive any help except for those to whom God shows mercy: He is the Mighty, the Merciful Lord.”[Qur’an 44:40-42]
Guidance is itself a mercy from Allah SWT, but it’s a mercy that we can choose to seek In Sha Allah through prayer and reading Qur’an and mindful remembrance of the Lord. This second mercy is a deep human need, we can’t do without it, we are desperately in need of it because the alternative is too unbearable to think about. This form of mercy is our gateway to heaven and our only hope to be at peace and feel true contentment- it goes beyond just what our bodies need to stay alive and safe, it is the key to what our souls truly need which is closeness to Allah SWT.
Although there is debate, these names of Allah SWT are said to have links to the Arabic word for womb and that link can be incredibly powerful to think about. Our world as we know it now, our Earth could in some ways be seen as a giant womb. After all we are here for just a limited time, and the purpose of us being here is to learn and worship Allah SWT, protect our souls and strengthen the lights within them so that we can be close to Allah SWT in the hereafter. This way of thinking about the world might help those who struggle with anxiety. This world was not made to break you, it was made especially to be a place where you are guided and where you grow and learn. It has been optimised to guide you- you experience what is Written for you and only Allah SWT knows what you need to experience in this world and what you need to learn in this world to become more mindful of Him. There is nothing to fear in this world. It was made by a Merciful Lord and a Lord that wants you to seek out more of His Mercy.
As we grow in faith this world might seem to be more constricting, like a foetus might feel trapped and uncomfortable in such a small space at 9 months, our souls will yearn to leave this world and meet our Lord but until our time comes, the time we have now is a gift we can use, to receive as much as we can of Allah SWT’s Mercy.