Rahman in the Qur’an


This article is from The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation.

Almost all translations of the Qur’an render raḥmān as beneficent or most merciful or synonyms thereof.

While raḥmān and raḥīm (merciful) do, it is true, come from the same root (r-ḥ-m) it would be surprising if the Qur’an – a scripture characterized by economy of words – opened with and repeated a tautologous statement.

There is objective historical support for the value of almighty for raḥmān. The term is found in a eulogy carved in rock to a Nabataean king who had successfully destroyed his enemies. In it he is described as raḥmān – hardly the adjective of choice if beneficent or merciful were its value.

Since I connect Muḥammad with the city of Petra (at least in the sense that it was the location of the pilgrimage – an event he was expected to attend in order to witness to the truth of the One God – until such time as it was annulled for believers at 9:28) on the basis of both the Qur’anic narrative and historical data – and since Petra is in Northern Arabia and was occupied by the Nabataeans – this linguistic point supports the broader case for the Nabataean locus of at least part of the Qur’anic revelation also.

By reviewing all instances of raḥmān the reader will see that concepts of mercy cannot be sustained in a number of cases (for example 36:23), whereas almighty fits every context perfectly.

On this basis, I conclude that almighty is the correct value.

All instances in the text are footnoted.


1:1, 1:3, 2:163, 13:30, 17:110, 19:18, 19:26, 19:44, 19:45, 19:58, 19:61, 19:69, 19:75, 19:78, 19:85, 19:87, 19:88, 19:91, 19:92, 19:93, 19:96, 20:5, 20:90, 20:108, 20:109, 21:26, 21:36, 21:42, 21:112, 25:26, 25:59, 25:60, 25:60, 25:63, 26:5, 27:30, 36:11, 36:15, 36:23, 36:52, 41:2, 43:17, 43:19, 43:20, 43:33, 43:36, 43:45, 43:81, 50:33, 55:1, 59:22, 67:3, 67:19, 67:20, 67:29, 78:37, 78:38.

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and speaker with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

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