These two names are derived from mercy ( rahma).
(The concept of) mercy necessitates one who is an object of mercy, for no one is an object of mercy unless he is in need. The mercy of God is perfect and all-inclusive. It is perfect in the sense that He not only wills the satisfaction of the needs of the needy but actually satisfies them. It is all-inclusive in that it includes the worthy and the unworthy, this life and that which is to come and encompasses the essentials, needs and advantages which go beyond them. Thus He is in truth the Compassionate absolutely.

Ar-Rahman is more specific than ar-Rahim and therefore is applied only to God, whereas ar-Rahirn may be applied to one other than He. In this respect it approximates the name "God" which functions as a proper noun, even though (ar-Rahman) is definitely derived from rahma. For this reason God combined the two when He said, Say (unto mankind): Cry unto God, or cry unto the Beneficent (ar-Rahman), unto whichsoever ye cry (it is the same). His are the most beautiful names

From this point of view and the fact that we have forbidden the synonymity of the names that are enumerated, it follows that a distinction should be made between the meanings of these two names. To be precise, the basic meaning to be understood from ar-Rahman is a kind of mercy quite beyond the reach of human potential since it is related to the bliss of that life which is to come. Ar-Rahman is the one favourably disposed towards man, firstly, by creating him; secondly, by guiding him to faith and the causes of happiness; thirdly, by making him happy in the life to come; and,fourthly, by bestowing upon him the vision of His gracious face. Man's portion of the name ar-Rahman is that he should have mercy upon the servants of God Most High who neglect Him. He should turn them from the way of negligence to God by public preaching and private counsel and do this gently, not harshly. He should look upon the sinners with eyes of mercy, not eyes of censure. This he should do in view of the fact that every act of disobedience occurring in the world is, as it were, his own disobedience. He must go to any length to remove it, to the fullest extent his ability permits, and do this out of mercy for that sinner, because he is now exposed to the anger of God and merits being removed from nearness to Him.

Man's portion of the name ar-Rahim is that he does not leave the poverty of the needy person without satisfying it to the best of his ability. He will not abandon the poor person. in his neighbourhood and city until he has provided for that person's maintenance and staved off his poverty. This he will do either by means of his own wealth, his influence in the area or the effort to intercede with a third party on behalf of the needy one. If he is unable to satisfy him, the merciful one will single out the needy person in his prayers.

Furthermore, he will manifest his sorrow on account of the poor man's need out of empathy and sympathy until he becomes, at it were, one who actually shares in his suffering and want.

                                                                                                                                  next >>