Basmala

“Bismi Allahi alrrahmani alrraheemi”, known as the Basmala, has various translations in English. Differences arise from the words ‘Rahman’ and ‘Raheem’. The root of both words is ‘rahmat’. ‘Rahmat’, commonly translated as ‘mercy’, is ‘mercy and compassion that requires being beneficent and charitable to those for whom you have mercy and compassion’. However, the word is sometimes used to refer only to ‘mercy and compassion’ or only to ‘beneficence and charity’. When used as an attribute of God, the term refers only to ‘beneficence and giving[1]’. [2]

‘Rahman’ is ‘the One whose mercy embraces everything’. This is exclusively an attribute of God. On the other hand, ‘Raheem’ means ‘one who is generous with mercy’. This quality can be found in others besides God as well. This is why the adjective ‘raheem’ was used in the Qur’an when referring to the Prophet Muhammad, too.

 

The Almighty God commands:

لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ.

“Indeed, there has come to you a messenger from among yourselves. He is concerned over your suffering, and is fond of you. Towards the believers, he is compassionate and merciful.” (At-Tawba/The Repentance; 9:128)

 

We have translated ‘Rahman’ as ‘Endlessly Beneficent’, since nobody else but God, can be of eternal goodness and help. [3]

‘Raheem’ has been translated as ‘Generous in giving’ because; the mercy of a powerful person is shown in life by his generosity in giving to others.

Consequently, the translation of the Basmala is:

“In the name of God, Endlessly Beneficent, Generous in giving…”

 

We think this is the most accurate translation.



[1] T.N.: Charity is done to the poor, ill, etc. However, God gives to everyone.

[2] Raghib al-Isfahani, Müfradat, art. رحم.

[3]Beneficence: ‘helping people and doing good acts’ ; http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/beneficent

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Date: Oct 11, 2015
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