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Offline munir rana

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Meaning of AR RAHMAN
« on: July 02, 2014, 10:46:50 AM »
Dear All


Recently read an article in about the meaning of AR RAHMAN. The writer proposed that according the usages in the Quran the meaning of AR RAHMAN should be and is THE MOST POWERFUL. Generally we read it as MOST GRACIOUS.

Here is the link

What's your opinion.

best regards.

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Meaning of AR RAHMAN
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2014, 03:19:04 PM »
Wa alaikum assalam Munir Rana,

The Quran remains the primary criterion to ascertain best meanings of a word. Indeed, the language of the Arabs must be understood in its rich context through all appropriate tools, but the best definition must be consistent with Quranic usage.

In my humble view, the article does have some credible support in that there appear to be instances in the Quran where the term 'Al-Rahman' as commonly understood 'All-merciful / All-compassionate' does appear to be at odds with its usage in the Quran given the context.

There is also a plausible argument that given the usages in the Quran, that the most appropriate rendition appears to lean towards God's power, His ultimate authority and His absolute Mightiness.

Please note my position only of ‘plausibility’.

Certainly within the context of the creation of the Universe, God's Sovereignty and Power, this understanding / rendition of ‘Al-Rahman as the ‘All Powerful’ remains consistent.

020:005     "The Al-Rahman (All-Powerful) is firmly established on the throne (of authority)."
020:108     "...And voices will be hushed / humbled for the Al-Rahman (All-Powerful)..."
021:042     "who shall guard / protect you in the night and the daytime from the Al-Rahman (All Powerful)?"
025:026     "The Sovereignty that day, will truly be for the Al-Rahman (All-Powerful) and it will be a hard / difficult Day for the disbelievers”
078:037     "...the Al-Rahman (All Powerful) of whom they have no power to speak / address"

This is also supported by a Surah that starts with ‘Ar-Rahman’ (Surah 55) and bears this name as commonly understood as a reference to the Surah. Throughout this surah one notes numerous bounties of God being alluded to, underpinning God’s supreme power and control over all things.

The initial verses of this Surah speak of God’s creative power with which He has blessed His creation, followed by the onset of judgment which will afflict the wrongdoers. The latter part of the Surah once again alludes to God’s creative essence in which He has gifted an abode to those pious souls who reach the state of felicity. Indeed, God remains All-powerful over all things.

In terms of chastisement, one also finds the term 'Al-Rahman' as an indication of God’s absolute power (All-Powerful) a better rendition from a Quran's perspective, rather than the commonly understood 'All Compassionate' in that context.

019:045     "...Indeed I fear that a punishment from the ‘Al-Rahman’ (All Powerful / Compassionate?) will smite you..."
019:075     "Say, "Whoever is in error, then the 'Al-Rahman'  (All Powerful / Compassionate?) will prolong his term for him..."
036:023     "If the 'Al-Rahman' (All Powerful / Compassionate?) desires affliction / harm for me..."

As one notes, the rendition ‘All-Powerful’ appears more appropriate / befitting than ‘Compassionate’ in these instances.

It does appear that Classical lexicographers were not averse to a discussion on the best meaning of the term and one even notes Lanes tacitly hinting at caution with his non-committal prefix ‘may’ when rendering the term Al-Rahman as ‘Compassionate’.

  • الرَّحْمٰنُ [thus generally written when it has the article ال prefixed to it, but in other cases رَحْمَانُ, imperfectly decl.,] and ↓ الرَّحِيمُ are names [or epithets] applied to God: (TA:) [the former, considered as belonging to a large class of words expressive of passion or sensation, such as غَضْبَانُ and عَطْشَانُ &c., but, being applied to God, as being used tropically, or anthropopathically, may be rendered The Compassionate:  [1]

Penrice also notes an interrelationship between the two words which are commonly found together and only goes so far as to posit a suggestion of intensity but doesn’t appear necessarily committed.

  • “Ar Rahman and Raheem Merciful and compassionate; The two words are constantly found together, as if to add intensity one to the other…” [2]

Both commentaries appear to be subject to a wide acceptance of the meaning of the terms (popular accepted rendition) as opposed to a conviction formed from cogent analysis.

However, one does note in a Quranic verse that Al-Rahman was a term that the People of the Book may have been familiar with, certainly if verses 17:104ff are read in context till the end of the surah.

017:110 (part)
“Say: "Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: by whatever name ye call upon Him, (it is well): for to Him belong the most beautiful names…”

This historicity of the usage of ‘ha-Rahaman’ in Hebrew texts is even acknowledged by some Muslim writers.

  • “Moreover, the Jews have a long history of using the name "ha-Raḥaman" in their liturgy.[43] Again ha-Raḥaman is the Hebrew equivalent of Sabaic Raḥmānān. The word rachuwm, meaning "merciful", is also to be found in many instances in the Hebrew Bible and is only used as an attribute of God [Figure 4(a)]. It is derived from the root rchm, (identical to Arabic root: rḥm) which means "soft, compassion, mercy" [Figure 4(b)]. The following entries are from the Gesenius's Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon To The Old Testament Scripture.

    Figure 4: The meaning of word (a) rachuwm and (b) its root racham in the Hebrew Bible.[44]

    Also, Hartwig Hirschfeld pointed out that the Syriac Christians employed Raḥmānā for Jesus.[45] It is not surprising that the Encyclopaedia Of Islam says:

    That al-Raḥmān should have been the name of a single God in central and southern Arabia is in no way incompatible with the fact that, when adopted by Islam, it assumes a grammatical form of a word derived from the root RḤM.[46]”

However, two immediate questions arise:

  • Was the Quran making use of a term with a meaning that was understood by the People of the Book, especially in light of the preceding verses which indicate the immediate reference to be the Biblical audience (17:108-109)? or
  • Was the Quran making use of a different meaning of ‘Rahman’ understood by the Arabs which differed from a phonetically similar Hebrew word?

In the end, the best meaning of the term is not only the best understanding of the Classical Arabs that conveyed its meaning to us, but also one which best fits the Quran’s usage. Both deserve scrutiny and it is in that remit, that I only submit grounds of ‘plausibility’ from my humble perspective.

I hope this helps. God willing


[1] LANE. E.W, Edward Lanes Lexicon, Williams and Norgate 1863; Librairie du Liban Beirut-Lebanon 1968, Volume 3, Page 1056
[2] PENRICE, J, A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran 1873; Reprint 1991 Adam Publishers & Distributors, Delhi, Page 56
[3] ISLAMIC AWARENESS, Raḥmānān (RḤMNN) - An Ancient South Arabian Moon God?, M S M Saifullah & ʿAbdullah David, Available at [online] [Accessed] 19th July 2014


  • [43] "God, Names Of", Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, Volume 7, Encyclopaedia Judaica Jerusalem, col. 684. A detailed study on the use of ha-Raḥaman in Jewish liturgy was done by J. C. Greenfield, "From ’LH RḤMN To AL-RAḤMĀN: The Source Of A Divine Epithet" in B. H. Hary, J. L. Hayes & F. Astren (Eds.), Judaism And Islam: Boundaries, Communication And Interaction - Essays In Honor Of William M. Brinner, 2000, op. cit., pp. 381-393.
    [44] S. P. Tregelles (Trans.), Gesenius's Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon To The Old Testament Scripture: Translated With Additions And Corrections From The Author's Thesaurus And Other Works, 1881, Samuel Bagster And Sons: London, for both rachuwm and racham see p. dcclxv; Also see F. Brown, S. Driver & C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew And English Lexicon Coded With Strong's Concordance Numbers, 2005 (9th Printing), Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody (MA), for rachuwm see p. 933, Strong's Concordance Number 7349 and for racham see p. 933, Strong's Concordance Number 7355.
    [45] H. Hirschfeld, New Researches Into The Composition And Exegesis Of The Qoran, 1902, Asiatic Monographs - Volume III, Royal Asiatic Society: London, p. 68.
    [46] B. C. de Vaux (L. Gardet), "Basmala" in H. A. R. Gibb, J. H. Kramers, E. Lévi-Provençal & J. Schacht (Eds.), Encyclopaedia Of Islam (New Edition), 1960, Volume 1, E. J. Brill (Leiden) & Luzac & Co. (London), p. 1085; Also see P. K. Hitti (Rev. Walid Khalidi), History Of The Arabs, 2002, Revised 10th Edition, Palgrave Macmillan: New York, p. 105. Hitti says: The word Raḥmān-ān is especially significant because its northern equivalent, al-Rahmān, became later a prominent attribute of Allah and one of His names in the Koran and in Islamic theology.
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Offline munir rana

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Re: Meaning of AR RAHMAN
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2014, 07:45:14 AM »
Dear brother Joseph


Thanks for your response.

Best wishes.

munir rana

Offline QM Moderators Team

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Re: Meaning of AR RAHMAN
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2014, 02:10:07 PM »

20th July 2014

This thread is now closed and a direct link to this post is now available at the dedicated Q&A page.