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Lesson - 1


Bis-mil-laa-hir Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Al-ham-du lil-laa-hi Rab-bil aa-la-meen. All Praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,
Ar-Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem The Beneficent, the Merciful,
Maa-li-ki yaw-mid-deen. Master of the Day of Requital.
Ee-yaa-ka na -bu-du wa ee-yaa-ka nas-ta- een. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Ih-di nas si-raa-tal mus-ta-qeem Guide us on the right path,
Si-raa-tal la-zee-na an- am-ta a-lay-him. The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours,
Ghay-ril magh-doo-bi a-lay-him wa-lad-daal-leen. Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.

This is my first lesson of the Holy Quran. I have started it with the same pure and sublime verses that mark the beginning of the Holy Quran. I have chosen these verses not only for the purpose of prayer and blessing, but it is my intent if Allah gives me the opportunity, to discuss those portions of the Holy Quran which are recited by Muslims in their daily lives and prayers. I also hope to comment on those verses that Allah has blessed me to understand. I have started this series of Quranic teaching sessions at the request of one of my friends who lives in another country. He has his own radio station and wants to broadcast, every week, a tutorial which should be of about fifteen minutes duration, and in simple language. Altogether there will be fifty-two sessions so that this program, with the grace of Allah, can continue all year round.

Attributes of Allah

Let us begin:

"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful."
(Bis-mil-laa-hir Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem).
With the exception of one, this verse is at the beginning of each chapter of the Holy Quran. It is not numerically included in the total verses of each chapter, because it contains a complete text in itself. It has been placed at the commencement of each chapter just like an imperial proclamation displaying the seal of an emperor giving his name and title. It is essential for a book to have the name of its author on its title page. Similarly it should be the first undertaking of any revealed scripture to give us the identity of one who has revealed it. Holy Quran is the only scripture, in the beginning of which is declared that it has been revealed by Allah. It is thus proclaimed in the Holy Quran, "Bis-mil-laa-hir Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem", in the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful. Indicating that this Book is from the Being whose name is Allah, and Who is Al-Rahman (the Beneficent) and Al-Raheem (the Merciful). Allah is the proper name meaning One Who is perfect in excellence and goodness'. By His excellence is meant His attributes which have reached their perfection in His Being. This is further on stated in the first chapter (Surah Fatiha) as: "All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the worlds (Rabb --- One who brings everything to perfection). By the 'perfection of goodness' in the name of Allah is meant that it is not confined to His own person, but all His creation benefits from it every moment. If, for example, someone possesses knowledge or wealth but its benefit is limited to his own person, and it contributes to the well-being of no one else, then that attribute is flawed. The goodness of Allah manifested by His attributes of:
  1. Rab-bil aa-la-meen (Lord of the worlds),
  2. Al-Rahman (the Beneficent),
  3. Al-Raheem (the Merciful),
  4. Maa-li-ki yaw-mid-deen (Master of the Day of Requital),
provides benefit for all creation at every moment in this world and the Hereafter.

There are numerous attributes of Allah; I will now elaborate on the reasons why the two attributes of Al-Rahman (the Beneficent) and Al-Raheem (the Merciful) are mentioned here. First let us understand the meaning of Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem. Both these words are derived from the root word rahmat, signifying tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence. Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem are both active participle nouns of different measures denoting intensiveness of significance; al-Rahman being of the measure of fa`lan in Arabic and indicating the greatest preponderance of the quality of mercy. In other words, there is so much predominance of mercy in Allah that He has created the whole universe and its wonders. In fact, He has created the means of subsistence for all His creation, guided it towards the purpose of its existence, and the means of obtaining this objective. Raheem is the measure of fa'il in the Arabic being expressive of the constant repetition and manifestation of the attribute, thus Allah's mercy is undergoing constant repetition. When proper use is made of the means which Allah has given us by His beneficence, His mercy flows in abundance and results in excellent reward of our effort again and again.

The Human Soul

I will explain further the meaning of Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem in the commentary of the first chapter Al-Fatiha. At this point I would like to point out the special reason why the attributes of Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem are mentioned at the very beginning of the Holy Quran. It is because Allah has blessed mankind with something He has blessed none of His other creation with, and that is the spirit (Ruh) which the Holy Quran mentions further on as:

"So when I have made him complete and breathed into him My spirit." (15:29)
This material world with all that is in it including the human body will one day cease to exist, what remains behind is the human spirit which Allah has given to mankind. This spirit, while in the human body, shares all the circumstances, good and evil actions, experienced by the body, forming a personality of its own, and has been called the Nafs (soul) by the Holy Quran. This Nafs (soul) is taken at the time of death and goes into the world Hereafter to exist forever. It is the real essence of mankind. What, one may ask, is the Divine program for the nurturing, reformation, protection, and the realization of purpose, for which this precious entity has been granted? Mankind is unable to see his spirit although awareness of its existence is there. Where does this spirit go after it departs from the body at the time of death? What is the nature of that spiritual cosmos, and the circumstances encountering it? Our physical existence ends over here, but the spirit has to remain forever, what should one do to maintain its health and growth to realize the objective it has been given for? How has Allah's attribute of Beneficence fulfilled this urgent and most essential need? The Holy Quran states:
"The Beneficent, taught the Quran" (55:1-2)
indicating that in order to give this most excellent knowledge the Beneficence of Allah has made full provision in the Holy Quran. When a person utilizing this knowledge acts upon it, then according to the Holy Quran, "And He is Merciful to the believers." (33:43). That is, for those who believe and act upon the Holy Quran, Allah is often returning to mercy and rewards mankind with those fine moral and spiritual blessings called the gifts of paradise. It thus becomes apparent how splendid and profoundly meaningful the verse "Bis-mil-laa-hir-Rah-maa nir-Raheem." (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) is at the beginning of the Holy Quran.

Knowledge of the Holy Quran

One of the meanings of the letter ba in Bis-mil-laah is seeking the help of. The reader of the Holy Quran is thus taught to ask the help of Allah, Whose beneficence has granted us a blessing like the Holy Quran. We beg of His Mercy that He may give us all the blessings spiritual, moral, temporal, and those pertaining to the Hereafter, and award us with His pleasure and content which can only be attained by following the Holy Quran. Included in this also is the prayer imploring the Beneficent, Who has given us the Holy Quran, to create all the conditions and circumstances conducive to our satisfactory completion of its study. These would include a healthy body, a mind free of worries, and inclined towards the Holy Quran. Also required would be presence of mind and its inclination towards obedience, and absence of any circumstances that would disturb the peace and comfort of the reader.

Appealing to Allah's attribute of Mercy involves supplication before the One Who possesses infinite goodness, so that His mercy opens up one's mind towards Divine guidance and complete submission. It also safeguards human effort from being wasted and protects him from the temptations and whisperings of the devil. Besides commencing the recitation of the Holy Quran, the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him) has encouraged the Muslims to say Bis-mil-laah-hir-Rah-maa-nir-Ra-heem (in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) at the beginning of every task, in the following words:

"Any task that is not started with the recitation of Bis-mil-laa-hir-Rah-maa-nir-Ra-heem is devoid of blessing."
Thus when a person recites it in this manner he pleads with Allah, for His Beneficence to improvise for every task to be accomplished and completed, and to turn towards the suppliant with His Mercy. His quality of Mercy thus invoked, rewards human endeavor with results only He is capable of bestowing.

It is noticeable that the Holy Prophet has used the word blessing in his statement above. The Arabic word for blessing is barkat, which means goodness that lasts forever. A person who recites Bis-mil-laah-hir-Rahman-nir-Raheem with any of his undertaking, by invoking the name of Allah, dedicates it to Allah. If he then meets with success or failure in its accomplishments, he is still rewarded by Allah for his effort. The rewards of this life are, of course, temporary, for one whose work is for Allah, the real bonus will be in the Hereafter which is everlasting.

By commanding the recitation of Bis-mil-laah-hir-Rahman-nir-Raheem a great reformation of mankind is also desired. A person who before beginning a task, thoughtfully and with understanding recites, "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful", will abstain from any such action that is evil or displeasing to Allah. This is Taqwa (abstaining from evil, keeping one's duty), which is mentioned repeatedly in the Holy Quran and Hadith.

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