Anuska Fatima explores the deeper meaning of the Divine Attribute of Ar-Rahman, The Most Gracious.
In the first chapter of the Holy Quran, the Divine attributes of Allah are introduced, which all extend from four imperative principal attributes: Lord of All the Worlds, The Gracious, The Merciful, and The Master of the Day of Judgment.
The central focus of this article will be the second Divine attribute we are acquainted with in Surah Al-Fatihah – Ar-Rahman, or The Gracious. This name, consequently, follows the attribute of Lord of All the worlds. This sequence signifies that after creating the universe, God created man, the apex and crown of all creation, and that the creation of man was the result of God’s Graciousness. After creating things, Allah leads them progressively to higher stages of development. The word “Ar-Rahman” means that God not only provides all the necessary means, but also all the faculties needed for the development of man, thus, opening unending avenues of progress and development for him.
The Arabic phrase “Ar-Rahman” emerges from the Arabic root word of ‘rahm’ which in English directly translates to womb. And it is through this root word a multitude of wisdom and meaning can be derived concerning the attribute of The Gracious.
Allah has magnificently used the word ‘rahm’ to derive His Blessed Name, so that His creation can comprehend the nature of His attribute of Ar-Rahman. The womb of a mother beautifully exemplifies the concept of Ar-Rahman as it is a source of protection, a place where life grows in an unparalleled way. The relationship between a mother and child, in this state, is one that is extraordinary, also. Within the womb in every way, the entire world of the child is taken care of by the mother. However, the child has no ounce of knowledge for the immense love its mother holds and how the mother will protect it from every danger and harm. Comparably, the Promised Messiah (as) explained that Allah facilitates the requirements of each living thing in accordance with its specific needs and provides all that is necessary for its physical and spiritual survival, as would a mother for her child.
The heavens and the earth were brought into existence thousands of years in advance before living things were created. The Beneficent God fostered the whole universe to be subservient to Him. The heavens with all the celestial bodies, and the Earth with all its treasures, the deep seas and high mountains were all created for His worship. Mankind receive the greatest share from God’s “Rahmaniyyat” for everything is pressed in service for them.
This is further explained in the Holy Quran when the disbelievers question Allah’s Rahmaniyyat in Surah Al Furqan:
“And when it is said to them, ‘Submit to the Gracious God,’ they say, ‘And who is the Gracious God?…Blessed is He Who has made mansions in the heaven and has placed therein a Lamp and a Moon giving light. And He it is Who has made the night and the day, each following the other, for the benefit of him who desires to remember, or desires to be grateful.” [25: 61-63]
Another insight that can be gathered from the attribute of Ar-Rahman is that it rules out the doctrine of atonement. This is because Ar-Rahman signifies that God can bestow unearned favours on His creatures, whereas the doctrine of atonement is based on the common belief that God is, as it were, bound to treat men only according to their merits.
Islam teaches that God is bound by no such restrictions. Allah possesses the power to forgive sins and treat His creation as He likes, because being Ar-Rahman He can reward a person beyond his deficiencies. The quality of Rahmaniyyat is pure favour and munificence sanctioned by Allah and is not caused by any good act and is not the fruit or reward of anything.
This is such a tremendous favour that as a sign of thankfulness man should be ever inclined to God and always turn to Him. However, in practice, majority of humanity does not follow this, and yet they receive God’s beneficence. Allah’s Rahmaniyyat remains overwhelming. If it were not for this Divine quality, majority of humanity would have been destroyed because of its misdemeanours and sins.
By virtue of the favour of the Gracious God, He has been guiding people through His prophets over the ages. 1400 years ago, He made arrangement for the guidance of all humanity. Then in this age, He sent the Promised Messiah (as) for guidance. On one hand the Muslims are articulating that they are in dire strait and that a reformer is needed. On the other hand, they are effectively and in practical terms rejecting the Divine attribute. The light of the Promised Messiah (as) is from the Gracious God, and through the rejection of such a figure unconsciously man also rejects this divine attribute.