You Don’t Need To Be “Good Enough” to Begin Your Path to God
Apr 1, 2022
Noor Suleiman
staff writer
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Editor's Note: This Ramadan we will be exploring various names and attributes of Allah (S) in a series, which will be featured throughout the holy month. This post focuses on Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem.
“It suddenly became clear to me that the whole purpose of faith is not to be “good enough” before we begin on the path to God, but to come with all our deficiencies to God, knowing that only He can fill in our gaps through His mercy.” [A. Helwa, Secrets of Divine Love: A Spiritual Journey into the Heart of Islam]
Isn’t that the very thing we all need to hear and understand as the holy month descends upon us?
Oh Allah (S), how much we need you.
We are at Ramadan’s doors, the holy month that our souls crave, that strengthens our spiritual connection to you. Soften our hardened hearts and allow your light and mercy to enter, ya Allah (S).
After all, we are but heavenly souls temporarily living in earthly bodies, and what our souls really want and need is to be connected to YOU. That is home. That is love. That is essential to our very being.
That is what we were created for.
And yet …
You know that feeling when you’re SO over exhausted that you find it hard to sleep, despite the fact that you really really need it? That’s kind of where I’m at with this Ramadan. Try as I may, I can’t get my heart to open up and understand that the holy month is here, Insha’Allah.
It’s weird. Maybe the past two years’ circumstances have burnt us out more than we realize, and the manifestation of all that is a lack of preparedness for Ramadan. But that’s when we need it most.
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And then I read the above quote. SubhanAllah, Allah (S) doesn’t expect us to be perfect and “ready” to come to Him. He wants us to come as we are. How loving and merciful is He?
To know Him is to love Him, and that’s why this Ramadan, at Haute Hijab, we’re embarking on a journey together to get to know some of Allah (S) names and attributes better, starting with two of His chosen names: Al-Rahman Al-Raheem.
We know that Allah (S) has 99 names that describe His attributes and help us get to know Him better. But, He chose two of His names/attributes to be associated most with his own (Allah). They are said by Muslims before we do anything (Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem), before any surah (except Surat al-Tawbah) is recited. Why? This is one of my favorite topics to study, so let’s learn together.
Author’s note: the following is what I’ve learned over the years from various credible scholars, imams and teachers on the topic. I am in no way a scholar myself.
The word Rahma (n.) is loosely translated as mercy in the English language. But it’s much more than that. In Arabic, the word Rahima (v.) means showing mercy in order to bring benefit to. The mercy is shown in action, not just in theory.
Rahma actually is derived from the word Rahm, meaning the womb of a mother. So, in order to understand the word Rahma, we have to understand the womb of a mother and her unconditional eternal love for the child that grows in her womb – and subsequently also causes her pain, taking more than it’s giving.
What does that tell us about the way Allah (S) loves us and has mercy upon us? He is always giving, loving, caring and protecting us, regardless of what we do to push ourselves away from Him. It is not conditional. We don’t earn His mercy, He IS all merciful towards us, even when we don’t know or understand it. He is merciful even when we think He is not.
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Allah (S) says in Surat al-Aaraaf, verse 156:
{ۖ وَرَحْمَتِى وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَىْءٍۢ ۚ}
“My mercy encompasses everything.”
And in a hadith Qudsi, On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah (S) be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
When Allah decreed the Creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: My mercy prevails over my wrath.
Related by Muslim (also by al-Bukhari, an-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah)
Allah (S), in his book which He wrote for Himself, pledged that His mercy outweighs His anger. I think that tells us everything we need to know. Alhamdulillah for Al-Rahman Al-Raheem.
Now that we’ve established Allah’s bountiful and never ending mercy, let’s talk about the difference between these two names. Why did He choose TWO names to describe His mercy?
Because of the way Al-Rahman is spelled in Arabic, with the “–an” at the end, by definition it becomes very extreme – extremely loving, extremely merciful. It also makes it present tense: It’s happening right now. Scholars also say that it encompasses everyone in this world – whether they “deserve” it or not.
Al-Rahman is also the only name that Allah (S) has equated with His name, Allah (S).
In Surat Al-Israa, verse 110, Allah (S) says,
قُلِ ادْعُوا اللَّهَ أَوِ ادْعُوا الرَّحْمَٰنَ ۖ أَيًّا مَا تَدْعُوا فَلَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ
"Say: 'Call upon Allah, or call upon the Merciful; whichever (Name) you call upon, to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names … '"
It is also the one name of Allah (S) that He revealed an entire surah in the Quran to explain (Surat Al-Rahman) – every verse explains what Al-Rahman means. This name is also the only name other than “Allah” that typically occurs by itself, instead of in a duality like His other names (ie. Al-Samee’ Al-Aleem, Al-Ghafoor Al-Raheem, Al-Aziz Al-Hakim and so on).
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Al-Raheem extends far beyond the “now.” It is also for the future – it’s forever, even in the hereafter. In deriving two different names from the same word, Allah (S) is emphasizing His eternal merciful nature.
Some scholars say that while Al-Rahman means He is merciful to all creation, Al-Raheem means He shows an extra special mercy to those who believe in Him. Others say Rahman indicates He is merciful by nature, while Raheem indicates He is merciful by action.
As Ramadan begins, even if you don’t feel worthy of Allah (S) or aren’t ready to open your heart to Him this month, remember that Allah (S) has never stopped loving, protecting or caring for you – even in hardship, even in calamity. And, He never will. How loving is He? Seek Him in His month of mercy, for He is Al-Rahman Al-Raheem, ready for you to come back to Him, as you are.
May we be of those who are enveloped in Allah’s (S) mercy in this life and in the next. May Allah (S) soften our hearts and forgive us of our sins and shortcomings, and may this month bring us nothing but barakah (blessings) and goodness. May our fasts, prayers, good deeds and du’as be accepted, and may Allah (S) use us as agents of change in our communities, and in the world. Ameen.
Ramadan Mubarak from all of us here at Haute Hijab!
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