The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful

The Salah Series

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV | Part XXVI | Part XXVII | Part XXVIII

None holds them [aloft] except Ar-Rahman

The Sweetness of Al-Fatiha

As we discussed before, Al-Fatiha is a conversation between us and Allah subhana wa ta’ala (Glory be unto Him). It is perhaps when reciting this surah (chapter) that we should have the most khushoo’ (concentration) because we have been told that Allah (swt) responds. What usually happens though is that Surat al-Fatiha is the surah that we have least khushoo’ in because we repeat it so frequently, and this should change.

If we look at the order of the words in this surah, we ask ourselves: why did Allah (swt) follow the first ayah (verse) “[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds” with Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem “The Entirely Merciful, The Especially Merciful”? Ibn Uthaymeen stated that this is because Allah’s Lordship is based on mercy. When we read that He is the Lord of the worlds, a natural question comes up- what kind of Lord is He? He answers us in the following ayah:


“The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful” (Qur’an 1:3).

The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful

Many people who read Surat al-Fatiha will not know the difference between Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem. It is usually translated as “The Beneficent, the Most Merciful,” but most people who read that do not know the difference. A better translation would be “The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.”

Amr Khaled, a famous lecturer from Egypt, explained the difference in the following way:

Ar-Rahman (The Entirely Merciful) is when Allah bestows His mercy upon all the creatures in this universe. Allah says:


“Say, “Who can protect you at night or by day from the Most Merciful?” But they are, from the remembrance of their Lord, turning away” (Qur’an 21:42).

However, Ar-Raheem (The Especially Merciful) is when Allah bestows His special mercy upon the believers only. For example, eating and drinking is a general mercy, while worshiping Allah in Ramadan is a special one.

And why did Allah follow Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem with “Sovereign of the Day of Recompense”? If it had been the other way around, our hearts would fill with dread. We would read that Allah is the Lord, and then that He will judge us on the Day of Judgment, knowing very well our own spiritual state. Yet the All-Merciful tells us of His attributes of mercy first, so that we fill with hope and not dread. The All-Merciful is the Sovereign on that day.

Glimpses of Mercy

Are we still not feeling that mercy? Watch the following video:

Look at how the leopard cuddles the baby baboon- subhanAllah (Glory be unto Allah)! If this predator can be overcome with mercy towards what could be its prey, then how can we doubt the mercy of Allah (swt) towards His own creation? Look at what the Prophet () said about Allah’s mercy:

Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him):  “Some Sabi (i.e. war prisoners, children and women only) were brought before the Prophet () and behold, there was a woman amongst them whom whenever she found a child captive, she took it over her chest and nursed it (she had lost her child but later she found him) the Prophet () said to us, ‘Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?’ We replied, ‘No, if she has the power not to throw the baby (in the fire).’ The Prophet (ﷺ) then said, ‘Allah (swt) is more merciful to His slaves than this lady to her son.'” (Bukhari)

So we have immense hope in Allah’s forgiveness, forbearance, and mercy on the Day of Judgment. Yet we too have to work and remember that Allah has said:


“But indeed, I am the Perpetual Forgiver of whoever repents and believes and does righteousness and then continues in guidance” (Qur’an 20:82).

Will we be of the people whom Allah (swt) bestows His mercy on? We hope so, insha’Allah (if Allah wills), and that is why we must work- to show that we indeed want it.

Do you remember the secret key? Speak to Allah (swt). When you recite Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem, remember that Allah (swt) responds with “My servant has extolled me.” Let your heart soften with the knowledge that you are having an intimate conversation with the One who is the Most-Merciful to you.

About the author

Jinan Yousef

Jinan Yousef

Jinan's main interests within the field of Islamic Studies are the Names of Allah, the life and character of the Prophet ﷺ, tazkiya and Muslim personalities.

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