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The Basmalah (Bismillah Ar Rahmaan Ar Rahim)

The authenticity of the narration that "anything that does not begin with Bismillah is a waste" is disputed upon.

However, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would begin with it in his letters.  And the scholars continued this practice in their books.


Bi-Ism = with the name:

A verb has been omitted (mahdhuf) to allow it to remain open, for example, it could mean:

“I read with the name...”
“I begin with the name...”
“I set off with the name...”
“I leave with the name...”

Therefore it can be used to seek blessing with the name of Allah in any action.

The fact that this is placed first adds the meaning that the reason you are doing the action is for the sake of Allah.

Allah = Specific name for Allah alone, cannot be given to another:

Is the proper noun for Allah

Has the perfection of all the characteristics/names within it.

Derived from the word al-ilaaha, the one who is worshipped.

This is the greatest name for Allah according to the majority

Some go by the hadith that the greatest name of Allah by which du’aa is made to Him and He answers, al Hayy al Qayyoom
Ibn ul Qayyim said that Allah contains both al Hayy and al Qayyoom in one name therefore it is greater than them individually.

Why is Allah placed before Ar Rahmaan and Ar Raheem?

Allah is the name of Allah’s essence and Ar Rahmaan and Ar Raheem are attributes of Allah. The attributes cannot exist without the essence, thus they come after Allah.

Ar Rahmaan Ar Rahim:

Why is Ar Rahmaan placed before Ar Rahim?

1) Some said that Ar Rahmaan is also a name of Allah’s essence,

This is based on [Ar Rahmaan:1], where Ar Rahmaan is used instead of Allah,  [Al Israa:110], where Allah says: “Say: Call upon Allah or Ar Rahmaan...”, [Al Furqaan:60] where Allah says: “And when it is said to them, "Prostrate to the Most Merciful," they say, "And what is the Most Merciful?””

2) Some said that Ar Rahim is the attribute of Ar Rahmaan. Correct in terms of:

Ar Rahmaan is the possessor of mercy and Ar Rahim is the bestower of mercy

3) Some said that Ar Rahmaan is for the dunya and Ar Rahim is for the hereafter. Others said the opposite

4) Some said Ar Rahmaan is the one praised for his mercy and Ar Rahim is the one who shows mercy.

5) Ibn ul Qayyim said that Ar Rahmaan is the attribute of the essence whilst Ar Rahim is the attribute of the action.

Note that 1), 2), 4) and 5) are all similar and can be reconciled.

Further Issues

Is this an ayah of Qur’aan? Yes, [An Naml:30]

Is this an ayah before every surah? No, 2 common evidences:

Hadith: “There is a surah in the Qur’aan that has 30 aayaat, it will intercede for a person until it will have him forgiven and it is ‘tabbaarakalladhee bi yadihi il mulk’”  - there are only 30 aayaat in al mulk if you do not count the basmalah.
Hadith ibn Abbaas: “The prophet did not know the separation of two surahs until bismillah ar rahmaan ar raheem was revealed” – shows it was just to mark it and was not revealed as part of the surahs.

Is this an ayah of al faatihah? There is a difference of opinion on this.

Ibn Taymiyyah said it is not from al faatihah just like it is not part of any of the other surahs (where it appears at the beginning). And it is proven in the saheeh that the prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Allah says: “I have divided the prayer between me and my slaves into two halves, half is for me and half is for my slave and for my slave is what he asks”, when a person says Alhamdulillahi rabbil ‘aalameen...”

This suggests that al faatihah begins with “al hamdulillahi...”

Based on this, the basmalah is not the first ayah of al faatihah.

Also proven in the saheehayn from the hadith of Anas that he said that the messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr and Umar would not start their recitation with bismillahir rahmaan ar raheem. – reported with various wordings.

Conclusion: It is not the first ayah of al faatihah but is there to demarcate the separation between surahs and is also part of an ayah in an Naml.