Translation of the basmala


In the Majestic Qur’an, you have translated the Basmala “I begin with the name of Allah, the Kind, the Caring” this is different from other translations, why?


Most translators have used ‘Merciful’ or ‘mercy giving’ for Rahman and Rahim, I translated Rahman as “the Kind”. The word Rahman is derived from the Arabic verb RHM meaning kindness not merciful. The Shorter Oxford English dictionary SOED defines mercy as: A) “compassion forbearance shown to enemies or offenders in one’s power” B) God’s forbearance and forgiveness of sins. According to the SOED ‘kind’ means, feeling other people’s sufferings as one’s own experience, a feeling of closeness and connection with the other person and relieving them of their suffering. To be kind implies to have sympathy, be gentle or have benevolent disposition and having considerations for others. So, neither Rahman nor Rahim mean merciful, my translation ‘the Kind’ is accurate English rendering of Rahman.

For Rahim, I used ‘the Caring’, care means to pay serious attention, have regard and inclination. It implies protective oversight, to take charge of someone and guardianship. Care means, to have regard for and interest in someone, to provide for and to look after them. Therefore, it is a special type of kindness. For the believers, it is this exceptional kindness of Allah that makes Allah Caring.

Exegetes disagree about the differences between Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim; Some say that the Divine Name Al-Rahman does not require an object, whilst Al-Rahim requires an object to receive the kindness. This means that Al-Rahman is kind in His Essence, and Al-Rahim is caring in His actions. However, both names effectively convey Allah’s care and love.

Why not Most Kind, Most Caring?

The Words Al-Rahman and Al- Rahim in the Basmala are both exaggerations, hyperbolic. In English exaggeration is any statement that creates a worse, or better image than it really is. It’s used to highlight points and add emphasis to a feeling, an idea, an action. Using exaggeration in your writing lets you describe something to a heightened way making it more remarkable. Modern non-fiction English writers are not keen to use exaggerations, it has a negative connotation. I have therefore, avoided translating Al-Rahman and Al- Rahim as the most Kind and the most Caring. By Using “the” I have made it definite this readily creates an emphasis: the Kind, the Caring, thus there is no need to add ‘most’.

This Fatwa is written by Dr Musharraf Husain Al-Azhari

Director of British Fatwa Council UK

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