An Analysis of Surah Al-Fatiha – Starting in The Name of The Most Merciful
Following the introduction presented regarding the significance and characteristics of Surah Al-Fatiha, here we shall discuss the first verse of this chapter; ‘In the Name of Allah The Beneficent, The Merciful’.
All of the chapters in the holy Qur’an except one begin with this verse. Scholars from the school of Ahlulbayt consider this verse part of the chapters in the Qur’an, highlighting the necessity for its recitation at the beginning of each chapter. This verse not only indicates the beginning of a new chapter but it is also recited with the intention of beginning the specific chapter that is to be read following this verse.
In fact, not only should the believer start the recitation of the Qur’an in the name of his Lord, rather, every action to be performed should be in His Name, otherwise it has no fruitful ending (Abtar) as narrated by the holy Prophet (saw). Listed below are a few of the reasons behind why it is recommended to begin what we do in the Name of God:
We now come to analyse the meaning of this significant verse. As suggested above, one of the reasons behind the recitation of this verse is to seek help from Allah (swt), however, we may find the following question arising; why seek assistance and begin in the Name (Ism) of Allah (swt) and not His essence for example? Some of the reasons for this are mentioned below:
The Name ‘Allah’ (swt) is the most encompassing name of the Creator.
An essence which perplexes and confuses the mind is also another meaning of the word Ilah. It denotes the fact that the essence of Allah (swt) is beyond the perception and comprehension of the human mind. However over the excessive use of this term, the Name Allah (swt) has become a known and specific name (Ism al-khas/‘alam) which only refers to The Absolute, necessary existence. In summary it could be said that Allah (swt) is the name of the essence (Ism al-Dhat), and the other names refer to the names of the attributes (Ism al-Sifat) of Allah (swt).
Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim are two main characteristics of Allah (swt) and they are both from the root word Al-Rahma (Mercy and Giving). There is a subtle difference between the two names:
Note that the specific Mercy of Allah (swt) is for those who have recognised and appreciated the general Mercy bestowed to them. They will then be able to benefit from a more special type of Mercy which is reserved for those who take an extra step towards moving to perfection and goodness.
As believers in The Creator, we also need to beautify our character with the attributes of perfection and take lesson from these names. Human beings need to extend their mercy and kindness to the whole of creation, regardless of people’s race, religion or colour. Mercy is not only limited to the human being, rather it goes beyond that, hence the rights of the animals, trees and environment in general have been mentioned in the divine teachings of Islam. This verse alone is sufficient to illustrate the essence of the divine message found in the Qur’an and the holy prophet, which is filled with infinite love, mercy and compassion.
In conclusion, the same way that Allah (swt) extends His immeasurable Mercy upon believers and non-believers, we also need to do the same and to be merciful to the whole of creation as Imam Ali (as) said: People are of two types, either your brothers in faith or your equals in humanity”, which also highlights the specific and general type of mercy. Therefore all need to be respected and ones mercy needs to encompass everything and everyone.
Written by Mohammad Ehsan Rangiha
 Surah al-Tawbah (Chapter 9)
 Tafsir al-Amthal, v 1, p 27
 Tafsir Noor al-Thaqalayn, v1, p 6
 Tafsir al-Tasnim, p.554
 Bihar al-Anwar, v 73, p 503.
 Note that this does not refer to the physical face and it is used as a metaphor.
 Qur’an 27: 29 – 30
 Majma’ al-Bayan, v 1, p 24
 Tafsir al-Tasnim, v1, p 554
 Qur’an 59: 24
 Qur’an 16: 51
 Qur’an 25: 43
 Qur’an 21: 62
 Tafsir al-Tasnim, v1, p 554
 Mufradat al-Ragheb
 Tafsir al-Amthal, v1, p 28
 Letter 3, Nahj al-Balagha
Previously in this series:
Part 1: An Analysis of Surah Al-Fatiha