Difference between "ar-Rahman" and "ar-Rahim"

Okay, I give up.

In the ever-present “Bismallah,” which states, “Bismi-'llahi-'r-rahmani-'r-rahim,” is usually translated as “In the name of God, the Beneficent/Compassionate, the Merciful.” Now, getting to the actual Arabic words, what’s the difference between “ar-Rahman” and “ar-Rahim”? I know they’re both adjectives, but what exactly differentiates them? It seems their roots are identical - R-H-M. How is this? (There are some who believe that one of the two was borrowed from Jewish liturgy, but I don’t know if the theory holds.) A linguistic/lexical answer would be as well!


There was a time when I could have walked you through the grammer of deciphering Arabic. You can often figure out the meaning of a word by identifying the root (in this case RHM) and then seeing how the word is pronounced around the root.

For you purposes, let me point out that you can dump the “ar-” prefix. It’s not really a prefix but a (corruption is the wrong word) corruption of “al” which means “the” or “of.” When you put “al” immediately before a word beginning with R or S in spoken Arabic the sounds kind of run together. The “al” remains in tact in written Arabic.

You’re looking for RaMan & RaHim. The best I can do without a dictionary is:

RHM = “forgive, show mercy or generosity toward”–all with a Godlike quality. In this format it is a past tense, masculine verb.
RaHMa (the “n” is spoken, but not written) = adj. of RHM. Describes anyone or anything showing qualities of RHM.
RaHiM = noun of RHM. In this context, someone is RaHim if they are the embodiment of RHM.

Pretty fine distinction, especially when translated into English. To translate the spirit of the phrase you might say “(I peceive and identify this situation) with conscious recognition of and relative defence to the name of God, who is beneficient and compassionate, and who IS beneficient and compassionate (and without whom beneficience and compassion would not exist).”

But the Arabic rolls off the tongue a bit easier. English is flexible, but Arabic, well, you can get a lot more done peotically with better verbal economy.

ahem …

“relative deference to the name of God”

God needs no defending.

Former Muslim checking in…

The way it was explained to me was that “ar-Rah.man” (the dot should be under the “h”) means Godlike beneficence, as in God provides infinite bounty, without our even requesting or deserving it. “ar-Rah.eem”, on the other hand, applies to God being the most forgiving when one turns to Him in repentance. So “ar-Rah.man” has more of (as much as I hate the term) a proactive connotation, of God’s constant benevolence and generosity, while “ar-Rah.eem” is more reactive to our repentance and prayers.

Exactly. Ar-Rahman refers to God’s qualities as the “most-beneficient”. Essentially as a Creator that has created a habitable environment fit for humankind.

Ar-Rahim refers to God’s qualities as the “most-merciful” - in His aspect as the Lord of the Day of Judgement, where mercy will be shown to those who are repentant.