Prior to telling us the message of the Qur’an—the purpose of life, how to live our lives, the nature of heaven and hell— Allah tells us who He is. Before we begin reading the Book, we are informed of some essential facts about who has sent it to us. This brief yet deeply profound introduction sets the tone for the whole Book. Allah tells us:
In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds.
The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.
First impressions are usually the most important, and Allah could have chosen any of His many names to introduce Himself to us: those related to His omnipotence and majesty, or His creation of the heavens and the earth. Yet in the first three verses of the Qur’an, He mentions these names twice:
Al-Raḥmān al-Raḥīm—the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
Sūrat al-Fātiḥah begins with the declaration, “In the name of Allah.” One might ask, “Well, who is Allah?” The following verses answer that. He is al-Raḥmān al-Raḥīm
. Not only does the opening chapter start with these names, we begin any recitation of the Book with these names in particular,
and not any others.
The root of both al-Raḥmān and al-Raḥīm
, which is translated as mercy—compassion, sympathy, and kindness.
If we want to know what mercy looks like in action, the Prophet ﷺ showed this to the companions through a scene that was happening before them. After one of the battles—there were women and children left behind—a woman began to nurse her child. The Prophet ﷺ pointed this out to the companions and asked, “Do you think this woman would throw her child into the fire?” The companions answered in the negative. He said, “Allah is more merciful to His servants than this mother is to her child.”
In combination, these two names tell us that Allah is consistently the most intensely caring, compassionate and clement. Al-Raḥmān
—in this morphological form—tells us that His mercy is overflowing, limitless, and incomparable.
Al-Ghazālī states that His mercy “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.”
In practical terms, this reminds us that whatever kindness we have felt from any human being, Allah’s kindness is infinitely greater than that. This is further emphasized in the saying of the Prophet ﷺ that, “Allah made mercy into one hundred parts. He kept ninety-nine parts with Himself and sent down one part to the earth. From that one part, the creation is merciful to each other, such that a horse raises its hoof over its child for fear of trampling it.”
Ibn al-Qayyim states beautifully that Allah being al-Raḥmān
means He does not neglect His servants.
He further mentions that whoever knows al-Raḥmān
knows that His mercy in sending prophets and revelation is even greater than His mercy in sending down rain because the former gives life to the hearts and soul, not just the bodies.
confirms that this attribute is permanent and constant. God is not erratic or ‘moody,’ and thus there is stability and certainty in His attributes and His all-encompassing mercy. Allah has a special mercy for those who believe, as He says, “And ever is He, to the believers, Merciful.”
No one is forcing Him to be merciful (as no one can). Allah tells us, “Your Lord has decreed upon Himself mercy.”
He Himself has chosen to decree this divine, extraordinary care for His servants.
Allah affirms that
[This is] a revelation from the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful- (41:2)
Since Allah is the Most Merciful towards His servants, He reminds us that He has sent this Book out of His mercy and affection, so that we may come out of darkness to the light, and that we may know Him, worship Him, and submit to Him. This Qur’an is an expression of mercy that connects us to the All-Merciful and that guides us to the abode of His mercy.
Everything in the Qur’an is from the raḥmah
—the intense, overwhelming care—that Allah has for us. This attribute is emphasized throughout the Qur’an, and when we are instructed to begin its recitation with these names, we understand that every letter in this Book is infused with divine mercy. Hence, the stories told are out of concern for us. The rulings proscribed are for our benefit. The warnings and admonishments are so that we do not suffer eternal pain. Out of His mercy, He sends the Qur’an to reveal the truth, to bring closer those who are far, and to comfort those who seek Allah with glad tidings and something to look forward to.
The Qur’an is a letter of care for those who reflect.
Some might still pause. The Qur’an may be from the One who is most merciful, loving, and kind towards us, but some things perhaps do not make sense to us. Thus Allah reminds us that not only is the Qur’an from the Most Merciful, but from the All-Knowing, the Most-Wise.
Knowledge and Wisdom
In five places in the Qur’an, Allah mentions that the tanzīl is from al-ʿAlīm or al-Ḥakīm—the All-Knowing or the Most Wise—coupled with His name al-ʿAzīz. He says, for example:
The revelation of this Book is from Allah—the Almighty, All-Knowing.
The revelation of this Book is from Allah—the Almighty, All-Wise.
(the All-Knowing) is He who has all-encompassing knowledge. The root is ʿayn-lām-mīm
, which encompasses knowledge, awareness, and certainty. Allah al-ʿAlīm
knows what is and what could be, what was and what could have been, the inner and the outer. What is hidden to people, to Him is manifest.
Yet, in our day-to-day interactions, we may be familiar with people who ‘know a lot,’ but are not the most perceptive or discerning. Allah is also al-Ḥakīm
—the Most Wise. One of the meanings of ḥikmah
is to put things in their appropriate place.
Because Allah is al-Ḥakīm
, He never engages in what is ugly,
and His actions are always measured and purposeful. Al-Rāzī states that these names are combined here as Allah is telling us that He sent down the Qur’an with His might and knowledge, and this can be seen in what it contains of benefits and miracles.
Ibn ʿĀshūr adds that because the Qur’an is the speech of the Almighty, the All-Knowing, no one but Allah has the ability and knowledge to come up with something similar.
When Allah informs us that this Qur’an is from the One who knows every detail—the past and future, the physical and metaphysical—and that He is the most wise and knowledgeable, He tells us that everything in this Book is beneficial for us in this life and the next. If we were to receive a book from someone who cares for us, the contents may satisfy us emotionally. But if we were told that the foremost authority on a particular topic had authored the book, we would naturally take it more seriously at an intellectual level as well. We would trust the advice given therein because we have faith in the knowledge and expertise of that human being (who is still fallible!).
When we internalize the fact of Allah’s knowledge and wisdom as the ‘author’ of the Qur’an—when we truly comprehend that the Qur’an is literally the word of God—we truly understand reality. The more we reflect on the Qur’an, the clearer our priorities become.
We have certainty that what He has ordained for us benefits us, and that what He has prohibited is harmful. When facing trouble, we know that the answer can be found in His Words. Since we know these verses are from the All-Knowing, the Most Wise, we trust in Him, and so when there are matters that we do not comprehend, we take the time to understand them as opposed to dismissing what we do not know. Allah tells us clearly that, “You may dislike something although it is good for you, or like something although it is bad for you: God knows and you do not.”
When Yūsuf (as), in the Qur’an, is finally reunited with his family, he says, “... My Lord is most subtle in achieving what He wills; He is the All Knowing, the Truly Wise.”
Yūsuf could see that everything that had happened in his life was purposeful and indeed necessary for him to be where he was in that moment. One may have questioned the mercy and wisdom in a child being separated from his family by jealous siblings, being sold into slavery, and then being falsely accused and thrown into jail for several years. Yet all those events led to Yūsuf becoming a trusted and beloved person of authority and stature. Allah elevated him because of his patience and God-consciousness. There was both wisdom and mercy in every single twist of his life.
While in Yūsuf’s case the wisdom of Allah became apparent in the final earthly outcome, wisdom is not confined to what is seen in this realm or even what is valued according to worldly standards. One who has a profitable business selling alcohol, for example, might decide to mend his or her ways and change careers. They may suffer materially as a result. Perhaps their standard of living declines. They start losing business contacts. If their family opposes this change, their relationships may even break down. These are all tangible losses. But no one knows the spiritual blessings descending upon this person because of what they gave up for God. No one knows the harms that were avoided at a personal and communal level because this person did the right thing. And no one will ever know what Allah has kept hidden for this person in Paradise as a result of their devotion to God and their steadfastness in the face of difficulty and temptation. Allah reminds us of all of this when He tells us that the Qur’an is sent from the All-Knowing, the Most Wise.
Power and Care
Of course, in this world, the attributes of mercy and knowledge may be highly regarded, yet the person who possesses them may also be weak. A weak person can be easily overpowered, and their advice unrealistic. Hence, Allah emphasizes that this Book is also from al-ʿAzīz and Rabb al-ʿĀlamīn.
Allah reminds the reciters of the Qur’an that, “This is a revelation from the Almighty, Most Merciful,”
and “The revelation of this Book is from Allah—the Almighty, All-Wise.”
Allah frequently mentions His ʿizzah
when referring to the tanzīl
of the Qur’an,
and the Qur’an itself is described as being ʿazīz
is a combination of might, nobility, invincibility, venerability, and uniqueness.
is the one who overpowers and cannot be overpowered, who is untouchable and all-powerful, completely unique, possessed of all glory and honor, and who grants strength and honor to whom He wills.
During the Battle of Badr, the Muslims were greatly outnumbered. Allah tells the believers that He sent them angels as reinforcements, and the Muslims were victorious during the battle. But Allah reminds us all: "And Allah only made it as a glad tiding, and so that your hearts should become serene thereby, for support
is only from Allah; indeed, Allah is Almighty (
ʿAzīz), All-Wise (Ḥakīm)
Might and victory are not from the angels; rather they are from Allah.
When Allah tells us that this Book is from al-
He is telling us that He has protected the Qur’an from change or alteration.
This should inspire confidence in its eternal message.
It urges people to walk the path of truth and guidance without weakness, and it issues warnings and threats against disobedience and disbelief.
When we see injustice in the world around us, when we ourselves feel weak, the Qur’an reminds us that it is from al-
, and thus we can draw strength and comfort from it.
The Qur’an shows us the fate of those who transgress and do harm; they will not be left to their ways indefinitely. Allah is al-
—when He warns,
He is able to follow through.
Furthermore, His might is not like human might. People who have overpowering strength may express it rashly or cruelly, oppressing others, but Allah is the Most Wise, the Most Merciful. His might is measured in its expression, just in its outcome, for the best reasons, and with utmost mercy.
Allah also reminds us that the Qur’an is tanzīl
from Rabb al-ʿālamīn
, the Lord of the worlds, stating “[This is] the revelation of the Book about which there is no doubt from the Lord of the worlds.”
Allah being Rabb al-ʿālamīn
means that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all, caretaker of all affairs, the Nurturer, who brings into existence and takes out of existence; it means He alone is God, worthy of worship, the true refuge, and the sanctuary during calamity; indeed, there is no lord but Him, and no god but Him.
The word tarbiyah
, from the same root, is about nurturing, and Allah al-Rabb
is He who gently moves one from one condition to another until the fulfillment of the end goal.
Telling us that the tanzīl
is from Rabb al-ʿālamīn
reminds us that Allah is nurturing us through the Qur’an. We are given this “revelation from the One who created the earth and the high heaven,”
and He is teaching us how best to be in this world and how best to be with Him to attain our final goal: Paradise with Him. Our purpose in this world is elaborated upon, the nature of tests as well as good and evil explained. We are exhorted to overcome our base desires and pursue loftier goals, and most importantly, we are told who He is.
Moreover, He is Rabb al-ʿālamīn—the Lord of all the worlds—not just the Lord of a certain race, nationality, language, gender, or social class. He sustains and raises everyone, and what is contained in this Book is guidance that is not only relevant but crucial for all of us.
Finally, we are told about the Qur’an that “Falsehood cannot approach it from before it or from behind it; [it is] a revelation from a [Lord who is] Wise (Ḥakīm
) and Praiseworthy (Ḥamīd
is the opposite of blame (dhamm
is the One who is praised for His essence, His names and attributes, and His actions.
Every single thing that emanates from Him is deserving of praise. In practical terms, this means that everything from al-Ḥamīd
is not only good, but of an utter perfection that gives rise to a sense of awe. Allah reminds us in the Qur’an: ‘Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Him; God alone is self-sufficient, worthy of all praise (al-Ḥamīd
We say, “All praise (alḥamd
) is to Allah,” which is more comprehensive than saying words of shukr
(thanks), as the latter is expressed for a specific deed or favor. Ḥamd
, on the other hand, encompasses thankfulness and
praise, not only for specific favors, but for the inherent qualities of the praiseworthy one. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ made a beautiful supplication when he stood for the tahajjud
(late night) prayer:
O Allah! For you is all praise (laka al-ḥamd). You are the sustainer of the heavens and the Earth and all that they contain. And for You is all praise. Yours is the dominion of the heavens and the Earth and all that they contain. And for You is all praise. You are the light of the heavens and the Earth and all that they contain. And for You is all praise. You are the king of the heavens and the Earth. And for You is all praise. You are the Truth. Your promise is true. The meeting with You is true. Your word is true. Paradise is true and the Fire is true. The prophets are true. Muhammad is true. The Hour is true…
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was in constant in gratitude, awe, and reverence for Allah—and this is encompassed in the supplication that he made.
This revelation is tanzīl
from the All-Wise as He directs us to what is in our interests, and He is Praiseworthy in the favors that He blesses us with.
Because Allah is Praiseworthy (ḥamīd
) in His perfection and majesty, and for His justice and benevolence, His book necessarily provides the means to attain good and ward off evil.
When we recite the Qur’an, we have to remind ourselves that since Allah is al-Ḥamīd,
everything in the Qur’an must be so essentially good that we cannot help but praise Him when we reflect upon its verses. If it does not cause us to praise Him, we have to ask ourselves, what are we missing? What are we not understanding?