Bismallah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim
Having explored the name “Allah” in my endeavor to discuss the depths of the 99 Names of Allah, the current post is dedicated to the first 3 of such names: Rahman, Rahim, and Malik.
“Called the gateway to all the other Names” (83), the first of the 99 Divine Names, ar-Rahman is simply, “endless love…the infinite, unconditional reality of love” (38) is Rahman is compassionate love, the kind of love involving “the sense of beneficially connecting with all beings” (83) and is to be considered “the inner self of God” as it “expresses the inherent love within the heart of Allah that must be there for Allah to be Allah” (84).
Whereas Rahman embodies the compassionate love of Allah, Rahim embodies merciful love which is “intensely…poured into every being and thing, without exception” (84).
When one opens the Bible to its opening verse, one reads “In beginning….” When one opens the Qur’an to its opening verse, one reads “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful” (Bismallah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim) and thus while separately treating Rahman and Rahim in brief, here I will discuss the terms in a bit more depth, for they may be better understood in relation for whereas Rahman’s compassion is embodied likened to “the radiant manner of the sun,” Rahim’s mercy is “in the reflective manner of the moon” (83).
Furthermore, both Names stem from the root R-H-M, rahm, “which means the womb of love” (83), a love that is at once “embracing, nourishing, and unconditional” (84).
Together these two names “address the deepest wound in the human psyche…the wound…engendered by an experience of disconnection with God” (84). The opening of the Qur’an does not introduce a reader to “Allah,” it identifies the two most fundamental qualities of Allah. It says upfront God is merciful and compassionate and thus, taking the understanding that these names “address the deepest wound…”, the Qur’an opens, in a way, with the declaration that God heals, that God heals, namely, through mercy and compassion.
This fundamental woundedness, say the authors of Physicians of the Heart, “leads to defensiveness, self-loathing, shame, hate, rejection, and a deep sense of being abandoned by God” (84).
Have you ever felt this way?
I know I have.
What about alienated, or defiant?
I know I have.
Compassion and Mercy; Rahman and Rahim.
In this Sufi perspective, only Rahman and Rahim, only compassion and mercy “can heal this primary wound and allow you to become fully connected with the source…as well as a healing of our relationships with others and the world” (84).
I would like to pause and reiterate for a moment, just to let the statement sink in:
Healing, of ourselves, our relations with others and the world, comes through mercy and compassion, a mercy and compassion that is, as quoted above:
(As a side note, if you, dear Reader, have read any of my work from my novel, The Story of the Four, the name Rahim may sound familiar, as it is the name given to one of my main characters–his “complete” name being Rahim ibn-Rahman, or “Mercy, Son of compassion.”)
The third of the 99 Names is Malik, often translated as “the Sovereign.” It is easy to see why a quality such as sovereignty would be applied to God, but the translation of Malik as “sovereign” is a little misleading, for while “sovereign” means, in English, “a supreme ruler; supreme power/authority” and thus is appropriate to God, the translation as “sovereign” misses the nuances of “Malik,” the quality of God which holds “everything in the universe” in an “all-inclusive and majestic embrace” (39).
These “hands” are not some “iron fists” of a king ruling with absolute authority over his servants. These are the “hands” that hold “the inner essence of each and every thing. Each thing’s essence never leaves this majestic embrace and never returns to it because it is permanently rooted in it” (39).
Derived from the root work malaka, meaning “to hold in the hands”, the name Malik is related to the Arabic word for angel, malak, beings which, in the Islamic tradition, are created of light.
Yes, Malik is “Sovereign,” is King, as God is the ruler of all creation. But whereas in a democratic society we have certain ideas/fantasies of what a king is, and what a king is like, the notion of “majestic” in “majestic embrace” is to be understood in relation to God’s majesty, jalal, which, while to be explored further when I discuss the name Dhal Jalili wal ‘Ikram, embodies the “flow of divine strength…into everything everywhere, without distinction” (70).
As such, Malik, as a Name of Allah, suggests that the inner essence of all things are continually held within and by the divine at all times, everywhere.