Basmalah | The Ultimate Prayer

بسم الله الرحن الرحيم

In the name of Allāh,the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. (Saheeh International)

I will render this verse as:

       By the lofty Ism of Allah, the Rahman, the Raheem; I begin  

(Note : All sources will have an image link attached to them showing the exact quote)


The word 'Ism/اسم' has been translated as 'Name' by Saheeh international.

It comes from the root س م و.

The Mu'jam al Ishtiqaaqi - a widely known and recognized classical lexicon says :

The word Ism comes from the root Simwun which means elevation and height. This either refers to a physical attribute of something or it can also refer to the most prominent and outstanding attribute of something by which it is symbolized. For example, when you hear the word branches, you immediately think of a tree. Because it is one of the outstanding attribute of a tree, that it branches and spreads. (Source)

Ism means the most prominent attribute of something by which it is symbolized. For example, the most prominent attribute of Makkah is that it has the Grand Mosque in it. When someone speaks of Makkah, you immediately think of the Grand Mosque. Makkah is symbolized by the Grand Mosque


The Quranic Name of God. There are a number of different opinions on the meaning of this word. Mainly because if the vowel markings on the root are changed, it creates a different meaning. These are the opinions on the root of the name Allah:

  1. The Arabs used to call anything they worshipped Ilaah like the sun, when they used to worship it. So Ilaah means something or someone who is worshipped as God. The definite article before this word makes it 'Allah' meaning the one and only true Ilaah/God. (Raghib, Lisan Al Arab)

    Quran says: (So be of knowledge! That there is no Ilaah but Allah...) 47:19
  2. The root meaning is to become confused, clueless and perplexed. (Raghib, Lisaan Al Arab)

It comes from the root which was used as a verb to seek help, protection and refuge in times of need and desperation. (Lisaan al Arab)

  1. It comes from the word Wilaah which means passionate and intense love. That is because Allah is the beloved of every being though we deny it outwards but deep inside there is a hole in our hearts which is only filled by the divine.(Raghib, Lisaan Al Arab)

    The Quran says: (The seven heavens and the earth and that in them exalt Him. There is nothing except that it exalts  by His praise (Hamd), but you do not understand their exalting.) 17:44
  2. It comes from the root which means to be high and lofty as well as unseen and hidden from the eyes. From the root (لاه يلوه). (Raghib)
    The Quran says: (No vision encompasses Him while He encompasses all vision.) 6:103
  3. The root means brilliant light, loftiness,being unseen but at the same time one can feel the influence of this unseen being. (Mu'jam Al Ishtiqaaqi)

The Quran says: " The Rahman ! Above the throne established.." (20:5)

The Quran affirms all these meanings for God in different places. We can say that Allah is

  • The only entity worthy of being worshipped
  • The refuge of the needy. Who everyone looks to in time of need and help.
  • The caretaker of everyone.
  • Who the mind is unable to fully comprehend.
  • The most high and most powerful entity of all
  • Hidden from the eyes but whose influence is visible.

Rahman & Raheem

Both the words Rahman and Raheem come from the same root Rahm/ ر ح م.

Root Meaning:

The womb of the mother was called Rahm. (Mu'jam Al Isthtiqaaqi, Raghib,  Muhit)

This root was also used for a water skin which had developed pores in it overtime due to excessive usage and  from which water escaped. (Mu'jam Al Ishtiqaaqi)

The root meaning is for something hard to become soft due to which it becomes flexible and expands. Just like the belly of the mother, for it expands for the fetus and like the water skin which got soft overtime so much so that pores formed in it. (Mu'jam Al Ishtiqaaqi)

From this root comes the word Rahmah, commonly translated as mercy. Rahmah, based on what is mentioned above, means softening of the heart. It is as if the heart softens, allowing it to expand and someone finds a place inside it, which leads to feelings of love and care. (Mu'jam Al Ishtiqaaqi, Raghib, Lisan al Arab)

It is also said that Rahmah refers to the action of providing good in abundance and averting harm. Or it may also refer to the intention of providing good and averting harm both. It  also means to forgive the one who deserves punishment.(Muhit al Muhit)

Raazi, the famous exegete said that Rahmah is a gift given in due amount without wanting anything in return and hence, it only belongs to Allah because only Allah provides and gifts without the intention of getting anything in return. (Muhit al Muhit)

Rahmah means kindness, compassion and care which fulfills the needs and wants of the other and prevents harm from reaching him.

Before getting into the words Rahman and Raheem, it is important  to mention the most common and accepted opinion regarding these two words which is:

Allah is the Rahman of this life and Raheem of the hereafter.



The word Rahman has been translated as The Entirely Merciful by Saheeh International.

This word Rahman occurs on a specific pattern. In Arabic, we can use a root and add different letters in it to create different meanings in it. Rahman occurs on the Fa'laan pattern, which is formed by adding the letters ALIF and NOON after the three root letters.

This pattern is used for a quality which is

  • Active and operating in the present in such a way that it is apparent.
  • In extreme and abundant amounts
  • Is temporal and hence not permanent

From this pattern we get the words :

  • غضبان - Someone who is extremely angry such that his anger is shown by his actions such as frowning or facial expressions etc.
  • غليان - To boil.
  • خفقان - Accelerated heartbeats
  • عطشان - Someone extremely thirsty.

This pattern is not used for permanent and intrinsic qualities and attributes. Extreme thirst goes away, extreme anger settles down. Water does not boil forever. This quality, of extreme anger or thirst has to be displayed and occuring right now,as we speak. These are the meanings of this pattern.

This explains why people said Allah is the Rahman of this world. Because this world is temporary. The Rahmah of Allah is permanent. Rahman refers to the Rahmah of Allah in this temporary world. This Rahmah - love and care-  of Allah is manifest and in operation right now in this world as we speak in extremely high amounts.

Rahman is the entity whose Rahmah exceeds all other forms of Rahmah. (Lisan al Arab).
Whose Rahmah is manifest right now as we speak in extreme and huge amounts in ways we can perceive it.


The word Raheem has been translated as the The Especially Merciful by Saheeh International.

This word Raheem occurs on the Fa'eel/فعيل pattern.

This pattern is used for describing intrinsic and personal attributes and qualities. These qualites unlike the previous pattern, are permanent and continuous.

From this pattern come words such as these:

  • عليم - The ever knowing of everything
  • سميع - The ever hearing of everything.
  • مليك - The eternal owner of everything.

So Raheem refers to the eternal Rahmah of Allah which is eternal and continuous. This is why it was accepted that Raheem refers to the Rahmah of Allah in the hereafter since the hereafter is eternal.

Raheem is the entity whose love and care is constant and ever existing. This Rahmah exists eternally. And though it may not necessarily be manifest or in operation in the present, it does exist and has done so eternally.

The Meaning of Basmalah:

We start with the high name of Allah, the Rahman,the Raheem. Ism refers to the most outstanding and prominent attribute of a being. The Ism of Allah that we emphasize that we need the most when we begin  our tasks is his Rahmah - his love and care. We begin by asking Allah to be loving and caring to us right now immediately, during our task that we begin, to take care of it, to see it to fruition, to bring benefit to us in it and hoping for more, ask him to not limit his Rahmah to this instant,to this task, but also take care of our future needs, tasks and situations whatever they may be,whenever we may need it.

It is a timeless prayer. A call to Allah to take us under the shade of his love now and forever. This life and the next. It is a prayer that covers everything and anything that we could possibly need. Every need now, in the future, in this world, in the hereafter whenever and however needed. It is the ultimate prayer that covers everything we desire in four words.

Secondly, there is a grammatical nuance here. The words 'Beginning by the Ism of Allah' are brought before they would normally appear. Normally it would be

'I begin this by the lofty Ism of Allah, the Rahman, the Raheem.'

But in this case it is

'In the high and lofty Ism of Allah, the Rahman, the Raheem, I begin...'.

Even in normal English usage, this is rather odd.

This is the concept of Taqdeem and Ta'kheer in Arabic. This is used to create meanings of  emphasis and exclusivity.

By bringing the phrase "Beginning by  the Ism of Allah...' earlier than where it should normally appear, we are declaring that it is only and only by the Rahmah of Allah, that we can achieve and receive any benefit or good from our efforts. Whatever we do will not yield good now or ever, if Allah does not take us under the shade of his love and care. It is only by the virtue of Allah's Rahmah, that our efforts bear good and bring us benefit. This is precisely why we ask for Allah's Rahmah now and forever. We cannot succeed without it anywhere, anytime, anyhow.

By bringing the phase ' In the Ism of Allah...' earlier than where it should normally appear, Allah creates the meaning of emphasis and exclusivity. Our efforts will only bear fruit and good if and only we receive the Rahmah of Allah. Nothing good will come our way no matter our efforts unless Allah takes us under the care of his love and compassion.

To Conclude:

Basmalah is a timeless prayer for the love and care of Allah to take care of us whenever and wherever; now and in the future. This world and the next. Both.

It is the ultimate prayer that covers every need and desire of a human being forever whilst highlighting at the same time the need for humans to be loyal to Allah. For they cannot achieve any good without his care and for which they need to obey him.

This also acts as the preface to the Quran. That whatever comes next in this book needs to be followed and obeyed, so that we may gain the love and care of Allah


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