Columnist Salman Abdul Majeed comments on Islamic Spirituality

Columnist Salman Abdul Majeed comments on Islamic Spirituality

I wanted to share with you some reflections on the very beginning of the Qur’an. Before I do so, I’d like to offer just an overly simplified explanation of this holy scripture. Muslims believe the Qur’an was authored by God Himself and revealed to Muhammad PBUH through the angel Gabriel as a means of guidance for mankind.

The beginning of the Qur’an—the very first verse—starts with God saying:

In the Name of God, the Rahman and the Raheem

I purposely did not completely translate the above verse because I feel the English language is simply not equipped to properly translate Arabic. Much of the meaning is lost in this translation process (one would notice this is the same case in most languages for that matter).

The words Rahman and Raheem seem quite similar just by looking at them: the reason being is that in Arabic, they have the same root. In other words, both Rahman and Raheem are derived words from the root word Rahmah, which means mercy. Let’s dig a little deeper: Rahman means the One who is abundantly and extremely merciful. When an individual thinks of this, he realizes no matter how many sins he may have ever committed, God is Rahman (in other words, God is Abundantly Merciful). The word Raheem means the One who is Consistently Merciful. When an individual thinks of this, he realizes that no matter how often he sins, or how often he falters, God will always be there to consistently forgive him so long as he comes back to Him.

So now we understand the translation of the very first verse in the Qur’an to be: In the Name of God, the most Abundantly Forgiving and the most Consistently Forgiving. It’s interesting; the first thing you introduce yourself as is usually the thing you consider your most notable attribute, be it your profession, your greatest accomplishment, your title, etc. This is why sometimes, you find people introducing themselves as a physician, mother, etc. Additionally, when we introduce ourselves, the first thing we say is usually the thing we want remembered the most (about us).

I personally find it so beautiful that when God introduces Himself to the reader, the first thing He mentions about Himself is that He is the most Abundantly Forgiving and the most Consistently Forgiving. He could have chosen anything else, any of His other names and attributes (the All Knowing, the Most Powerful, the Most Glorified, etc.), but He chose to introduce Himself as the most Abundantly and Consistently Forgiving. He decides that the first thing His reader ever learns about Him through His book is His mercy. That is so beautiful. He introduces Himself as the Rahman and Raheem because He wants His readers to remember that the most about Him.

Another interesting point is that the first impression of something—be it a person, class, seminar, etc.—usually impacts every experience to follow. So when we learn right at the beginning that God is the most Abundantly and Consistently Merciful, we see every verse after this verse as a mercy from Him.

I believe God’s mercy is something most people understand and appreciate, but when I learned this recently, it put into perspective how much God Himself prioritizes His mercy towards His creation. When we realize things like this, we can’t help but to fall in love with God and consequently live our lives according to His desires.

May we all be those who seek and love God.