Mercy and compassion in Surah Al-Fatiha

Spreading respect, mercy and forgiveness to all those around us and in the society we live in, will elevate the status of the individual spiritually.

Spreading respect, mercy and forgiveness to all those around us and in the society we live in, will elevate the status of the individual spiritually.

The third verse of Surah Al-Fatiha reiterates and emphasises the Mercy and Compassion of Allah (swt). Again, amongst all the names and attributes He has, this specific one has been chosen, as the verse says: ‘The Beneficent, The Merciful’.

From one perspective, this verse is re-emphasising the extent of Allah’s Mercy, and from another perspective, it is one of the reasons we praise Allah (swt). In verse two we discussed why all praise belongs to the Lord, this verse is another reason why this is so; expressing that He has the attributes of Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim which are both praiseworthy characteristics, therefore praise belongs to Allah (swt). As His attributes are absolute, they originate from him and thus He is the one who gives them, therefore praise exclusively belongs to Him (swt).

As mentioned previously Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim both are derived from the root word Al-Rahma (Mercy and Giving[1]). Al-Rahman is a general attribute that refers to the Mercy of Allah (swt) encompassing the whole of creation without any exception; this term has been mentioned in the Qur’an 57 times. Al-Rahim, on the other hand, is a specific attribute (Sifat al-Khas) that denotes the Mercy of Allah (swt) specific to the sincere believers[2] and has been mentioned 95 times in the Holy Qur’an. Note that when Allah (swt) bestows His mercy upon the creation it is not due to an emotional reaction like that of the human being. He showers His infinite Mercy not because He is affected by the need of His creation; rather it is from His main characteristics to show mercy to His creation.

This Mercy of Allah (swt) also continues and is multiplied in the hereafter; the extent of this Mercy is so much that according to Imam Sadiq (as) Satan becomes tempted and greedy for Allah’s Mercy on the day of judgment[3]. Of course, such mercy requires the striving of the human beings to be deserving of it, as the Qur’an mentions: “…My mercy encompasses all things, so I will decree it [especially] for those who have taqwa (God consciousness) and give Zakat (Islamic Tax) and those who believe in our signs (verses)” (7:156).

Consider the example of the sun, it shines upon everyone and everything, however, if someone covers himself with a thick veil, such that the sun’s rays do not reach him, this is because he has blocked himself not because the sun is not shining. Similarly, the Mercy of Allah (swt) is extended to the whole creation, at the same time we need to observe our behaviour, so our evil actions do not become a veil and prevent Allah’s (swt) mercy from reaching us.

One of the reasons behind the selection of these two names of Allah (swt) over the other names is due to the fact that these attributes supersede His other attributes. This is the case with the divinely appointed messengers and leaders. We find that the Qur’an refers to the Holy Prophet Mohammad (saw) stating: “…We have not sent you [O Mohammad] except as a mercy to the worlds” (21:107).  Note the use of the word Alamin refers to the whole of creation. Yes, the love and mercy of the final Messenger goes beyond people’s religion, race or colour.

Furthermore, the infallible Imams (as) are referred to as “sources of mercy”[4]; one of the meanings of this is that the Ahlulbayt (as) are a manifestation of Allah’s Mercy. They channel and spread the Mercy of Allah (swt) both in this world[5] and in the next.[6]

We find that during the life of the Messenger of Mercy, Prophet Mohammad (as), his kindness and forgiveness encompassed even those who wanted to take his life. For example, a group of people had deceivingly convinced a Jewish lady by the name of Zainab to poison the messenger. Zainab cooks a lamb and poisons it, then takes it to the Holy Prophet as a gift. When the Prophet takes the first bite, he realises the food has been poisoned. The Messenger after having summoned this lady forgives her for what she had done and lets her go.[7] In another example, when Abdullah ibn Ubay, one of the greatest hypocrites of Madinah who did everything he could to hurt the prophet passed away, the holy messenger attended the burial ceremony of this individual and extended his condolences to Abdullah’s family.[8]

History is replete with such examples about the interaction, mercy and kindness of Prophet Mohammad (saw) and other fellow human beings. Such mercy, which is a manifestation of Allah’s mercy, needs be inculcated in every one of us.

Muslims recite this verse in every single prayer, thus for us to be amongst those who follow the tradition of the Holy Prophet and teachings of the Qur’an, we also need to show such characteristics. Spreading respect, mercy and forgiveness to all those around us and in the society we live in, will elevate the status of the individual spiritually. It will make us become true Muslims, allowing all creation to benefit from our presence and enjoy our company.

Finally, the Qur’an states: “… If you pardon and overlook and forgive – then indeed Allah (swt) is forgiving and merciful…” (64:14), illustrating that if we wish to be forgiven by God the Almighty for the sins we have committed, we also need to forgive and shower our mercy upon those who have wronged.

In the next part of this series, we will analyse verse 4 of this blessed chapter, discussing the meaning of the verse and how the belief in the day of judgment can have a practical implication on our lives.


by Mohammad Ehsan Rangiha for Voice of Unity.

[1] Mufradat al-Ragheb

[2] Tafsir al-Amthal, v1, p 28

[3] Mustadrak Safinat al-Bihar v.4, p.135

[4] Ziyarah Jami’a Kabirah ,  Mafatih al-jinan.

[5] Al-anwar al-Tali’a, p.46

[6] Bihar al-Anwar,v.23, p.333

[7] Bihar al-Anwar,  v.21, p.6.

[8] ‘Amid Zanjani, Islam and peaceful coexistence, p.105.