The Bismillah

Breaking Down Bismillah

Ever sat back and thought about the meaning of the words (Tafseer) of the Quran? In particularly, what does this statement ‘Bismillah’ mean, and when is it used. Let us in this article look at the Bismillah, how to use it, and how it can be used in our daily lives. The Bismillah, is mentioned 114 times, clearly a verse from the Qur’an, and is more of a phrase that is unique, it can be used at any time of the day and at the beginning of any action.

We recognise that every surah in the Qur’an begins with the ‘Bismillah’, which can be translated as ‘In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.”[1] The detailed breakdown of this can be seen on Islamic Courses online.

This phrase is primarily used to separate two surahs in the Qur’an, it clearly shows the ending of one and the beginning of the other. It is also often recited at the beginning of any action in order to place blessings and to protect the person from the corruption of the Devil, warding off evil spirits.  Further benefits of the Bismisllah will be mentioned shortly, after looking at each word in this sentence.

When we examine the ‘Bismillah’ more closely, we note that by itself it doesn’t equate to a meaningful sentence. Therefore, we come to know that there is actually a portion of the sentence which is in ellipsis. Scholars of the Arabic Language have come up with several responses to figure out what exactly has been omitted. And the most predominant opinion is that a verb at the beginning has been omitted for a great and noble wisdom. Through this omission the Bimillah is applied to all actions. For example, I READ in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, or I RUN in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, I LEAVE MY HOUSE in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. It is a great mercy from Allah that he didn’t restrict it to simply the recitation of the Holy Qur’an.

The Bismillah, begins with mentioning the greatest name of God, Allah. In a Hadith narrated by Anas ibn Malik:

“By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, he called upon Allah by His greatest Name, which, if He is called by it, He responds, and if He is asked by it, He gives.'”[2]

So, when one supplicates using the name of Allah, he will find his prayers answered to. The Bismillah then after mentioning the name Allah, then goes on to explain to the reader who is this Allah, what are his predominant attributes, and Allah states the first of the two, Ar Rahman (The Most Merciful, He who wills goodness and mercy for all his Creatures). This name is often repeated in the Qur’an, reflected the most dominant trait of Allah that he is love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and much more.  There are 169 mentions of Ar-Rahman throughout the entire Qur’an. The one most famously referenced in works as an example is:

Say, ‘Call, upon Allah or call upon the Most Meriful. Whichever name you call – to Him belong the best names.’ And do not recite too loudly in your prayer or too quietly but seek between that an intermediate way.” [3]

The second attribute of Allah mentioned is Ar-Raheem (He who acts with extreme kindness). Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem are two of the names of Allah which refer to Allah’s attribute of being Merciful. Although similarly related the meanings are different.  Ar-Rahman refers to the vastness of Allah’s mercy. And Ar-Raheem refers specifically to His mercy he bestows on His creation. A full explanation of this can be seen on an amazing course titled ‘Breaking down Bismillah’ on Islamic Courses Online.

There are six names that refer to His mercy, kindness and his generosity and they are Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem, Ar-Ra’uf, Al-Barr, Al-Karim, and Al-Wahhab. The Name Ar-Rahman is reserved for Allah alone, no man can be named with that title, it’s a quality that can’t be ascribed to anybody else.

Further benefits of reciting Bismillah at the beginning of let’s say eating, keeps the devil away from that which you put in your stomach. The Bismillah is also used to invoke the help of Allah, let’s say when one is sick and they need medical attention. It is also used when seeking protection from Jinn, upon opening or closing doors and windows, likewise when entering the bathroom. Finally it plays a significant role in the preparation of meat. Upon slaughter of an animal the name of Allah is mentioned rendering it halaal for consumption.

In conclusion, with this word, we are acknowledging Allah first as “The Most Gracious” before praising other aspects of his attributes as well. So, what does it mean to you? It means that your prayer before you start your ritual has already been directed towards Allah. The Bismillah, purifies one’s intention and renders the servant sincere and devoted to Allah’s cause.


[1] Abdel Haleem, M, The Qur’an, Oxford University Press, 2016

[2] Sunan an-asa’I 1300 – Sahih

[3] Abdel Haleem, M, The Qur’an, Oxford University Press, 2016

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