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Basmala (Arabic: بسملة basmala) is an Arabic noun used as a collective name for the whole of the recurring Islamic phrase b-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi. It is sometimes translated as "In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful". The phrase may also be referred to by its first words, Bismillah (Arabic: بسم الله).1 This phrase is recited before each sura (chapter), except for the ninth (according to others it constitutes the first verse of 113 suras/chapters of the Qur'an), and is used in a number of contexts by Muslims. It is recited several times as part of daily prayers, and is usually the first phrase in the preamble of the constitutions of Islamic countries.
- بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
- bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm
- In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
The word basmala was derived from a slightly unusual procedure, in which the first four pronounced consonants of the phrase bismi-llāhi... were used as a quadriliteral consonantal root:2 b-s-m-l (ب س م ل). This abstract consonantal root was used to derive the noun basmala and its related verb forms, meaning "to recite the basmala". The practice of giving often-repeated phrases special names is paralleled by the phrase "Allāhu Akbar" (الله أكبر). (usually translated "God is [the] Greatest," or "God is Great"), which is referred to as the "Takbir" (also Ta'awwudh and others); this method of coining a quadriliteral name from the consonants of such a phrase is paralleled by the name Hamdala for Alhamdulillah.2
Recitation of the basmala is known as tasmiyya (تسمية).
In the Qur'an the phrase is usually numbered as the first verse of the first sura but, according to the view adopted by Al-Tabari, it precedes the first verse. It occurs at the beginning of each subsequent sura of the Qur'an, except for the ninth (see, however, the discussion of the eighth and ninth chapters of the Qur'an at the eighth sura); it is usually not numbered as a verse except (in the most common system as of 2011 CE) sometimes in the first sura. The Basmala occurs within the 27th sura in verse 30, where it prefaces a letter from Sulayman to the Queen of Sheba, Bilqis.
Basmalah is extensively used in Muslim everyday life, said as the opening of each action in order to receive blessing from God.3 Basmalah is a necessary requirement to Halal food and Islamic Slaughtering, used to requesting a permission to kill the animal for human benefits.
In the Indian subcontinent, a Bismillah ceremony is held for a child's initiation into Islam.
The three definite nouns of the Basmala—Allah, ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim—correspond to the first three of the traditional 99 names of God in Islam. Both ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim are from the same triliteral root R-Ḥ-M, "to feel sympathy, or pity". According to Lane, ar-raḥmān is more intensive (including in its objects the believer and the unbeliever) and may be rendered as "the Compassionate", while ar-raḥīm has for its peculiar object the believer (considered as expressive of a constant attribute), and may be rendered as "the Merciful".
The Basmala has a special significance for Muslims, who are to begin each task after reciting the verse. It is often preceded by Ta'awwudh. There are several ahadith encouraging Muslims to recite it before eating and drinking. For example:
- "The Prophet said, “When any of you wants to eat, he should mention the Name of God in the beginning (Bismillah). If he forgets to do it in the beginning, he should say Bismillah awwalahu wa akhirahu (I begin with the Name of God at the beginning and at the end)”.— From At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud
Umaiyyah bin Makshi reported:
- The Prophet was sitting while a man was eating food. That man did not mention the Name of God till only a morsel of food was left. When he raised it to his mouth, he said, Bismillah awwalahu wa akhirahu. The Prophet smiled at this and said, “Satan had been eating with him but when he mentioned the Name of God, Satan vomited all that was in his stomach”. — From Abu Dawud and Al-Nasa'i
Wahshi bin Harb reported:
- Some of the Sahaba of the Prophet said, "We eat but are not satisfied." He said, "Perhaps you eat separately." The Sahaba replied in the affirmative. He then said, "Eat together and mention the Name of God over your food. It will be blessed for you". — From Abu Dawood
In a commentary on the Basmala in his Tafsir al-Tabari, al-Tabari writes:
- “The Messenger of Allah (the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that Jesus was handed by his mother Mary over to a school in order that he might be taught. [The teacher] said to him: ‘Write “Bism (In the name of)”.’ And Jesus said to him: ‘What is “Bism”?’ The teacher said: ‘I do not know.’ Jesus said: ‘The “Ba” is Baha’u'llah (the glory of Allah), the “Sin” is His Sana’ (radiance), and the “Mim” is His Mamlakah (sovereignty).”4
Arabic-speaking Christians sometimes use the word Basmala (Arabic: بسملة) to refer to the Christian liturgical formula "In* the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (باسم الآب والابن والروح القدس, bismi-l-’ābi wa-l-ibni wa-r-rūḥi l-qudusi), from Matthew 28:19.*56 *Or, into.7
The total value of the letters of Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim, according to one Arabic system of numerology, is 786. There are two methods of arranging the letters of the Arabic alphabet. One method is in common alphabetical order (used for most ordinary purposes), beginning with the letters Alif ا, ba ب, ta ت, tha ث, etc. The other method is known as the Abjad numerals' (or ordinal) method. In this method, the letters are arranged in the following order: Abjad, Hawwaz, Hutti, Kalaman, Sa'fas, Qarshat, Sakhaz, Zazagh; each letter has an arithmetic value assigned to it, from 1 to 1,000. This arrangement was probably done during the 3rd century of Hijrah during the 'Abbasid period, following the practices of speakers of other Semitic languages such as Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac and Chaldean.
Taking into account the numeric values of all the letters of the Basmala, according to the Abjad order the total is 786. In the Indian subcontinent the Abjad numerals have become popular. Some people—mostly in India and Pakistan—use 786 as a substitute for Basmala ("In the name of God). They write this number to avoid writing the name of God or to avoid writing Qur'anic verses on ordinary paper (which can get dirty or come in contact with unclean materials). This practice does not date from the time of Muhammad, and is not universally accepted by Muslims.
The Iranian authorities permitted an album of songs by English rock band Queen to be released in Iran in August 2004, partly because the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" contained several exclamations of the word Bismillah.8 The group's lead singer, Freddie Mercury, was born in Zanzibar as Farrokh Bulsara to Indian Parsi parents and was proud of his Persian ancestry.8
BT's song "Firewater" also features the phrase.
- Six Kalimas
- List of Christian terms in Arabic
- List of Islamic terms in Arabic
- Besiyata Dishmaya
- Deus vult
- Shelquist, Richard (2008-01-03). "Bismillah al rahman al rahim". Living from the Heart. Wahiduddin. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
- A New Arabic Grammar of the Written Language by J.A. Haywood and H.M. Nahmad (London: Lund Humphries, 1965), ISBN 0-85331-585-X, p. 263.
- "Islamic-Dictionary.com Definition".
- Momen, M. (2000). Islam and the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. p. 242. ISBN 0-85398-446-8. In note 330 on page 274 of the same book Dr. Momen states the following: "At-Tabarí, Jámi’-al-Bayán, vol. 1, p.40. Some of the abbreviated editions of this work (such as the Mu’assasah ar-Risálah, Beirut, 1994 edition) omit this passage as does the translation by J. Cooper (Oxford University Press, 1987). Ibn kathír records this Tradition, Tafsír, vol. 1, p. 17. As-Suyútí in ad-Durr al-Manthúr, vol. 1, p. 8, also records this Tradition and gives a list of other scholars who have cited it including Abú Na’ím al-Isfahání in Hilyat al-Awliya’ and Ibn ‘Asákir in Taríkh Dimashq."
- Matthew 28:19 (Arabic) Retrieved 2011-07-25.
- Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic by Hans Wehr, edited by J.M. Cowan, 4th edition 1979 (ISBN 0-87950-003-4), p. 73.
- "English Standard Version (ESV) Footnote on Matthew 28:19.". Retrieved 27 November 2013.
- "Queen album brings rock to Iran". BBC News. 2004-08-24. Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor
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