The basic identity name of God is Allah, and ninety nine or more other names of Allah are adjective names describing His personality.
These names, attributed to Allah by Himself in the Quran, have in depth, multidimensional meanings. Like the amazing Quran, whose verses hold tremendous meanings; so is true for the attributes assigned to Allah by Himself, as He is the One with intricate wisdom.
The names Rahman and Raheem are traditionally translated as ‘the most gracious and the most merciful’; these are correct meanings, but there is more meaning to the names than that.
The root word ra-ha-meem, from which Rahman and Raheem are derived, literally means the ‘womb’. Therefore, the words Rahman and Raheem would mean ‘the holder of the womb’.
Allah is the holder of all wombs. He is the conceptual conceiver, the designer, the assembler, the securer, the nurturer, the deliverer of all wombs. He does not hold a womb within Him, as He is free and exalted of all worldly attributes, but He is the intricate knower of all that goes inside the womb stationed in its secondary holder, and He, quote: ‘makes it as He wills.’ (3:6).
To start with, Allah made the womb of this universe, created the baby, and then made it grow into a full-fledged universe that we live in today. He is the holder, the nurturer and supporter of the universe to its full lifetime. Furthermore, Allah is the creator and holder of all wombs of the galaxies and stars that experience birth in time and die in time.
‘Verily, Allah grasps the heavens and the earth that they deviate not, and if they were to deviate there is not one that could grasp them after Him. Surely, He is ever Clement, Forgiving.’ (35:41)
Therefore, it is Allah, Who holds the immense multitude of wombs of all creatures living on earth; from bacteria, to ants, to worms, to sheep, to whales, to men. All these wombs are in His storehouses in some mysterious form, quote: ‘there is nothing but with Allah are its storehouses upon storehouses.’ (15:21). These wombs are delivered in the wombs of their mothers, and delivered onto the face of the earth in time.
To realize the greatness of the ultimate Lord of the universe, one needs to close his/her eyes and start imagining the galaxies, each of which is holding billions of stars, each millions and millions of miles apart; and that this universe holds in it billions of such galaxies, all webbed in gigantic, cosmological walls and filaments. Only our own tiny galaxy is just 100,000 light years across, and only the observable universe is close to 93 billion light years across. Yet, all these stars, planets, galaxies, are all wombs to our Creator; some delivered, some yet to be delivered, some that have returned to the Lord after completing their life cycle. Again, just imagine the complexity of the creation of the One, the Mighty, holding this immense web of wombs; nothing errs in His numbers, nothing moves an inch away except as measured in His Book.
Such huge numbers do make you dizzy, but what about the non-observable, not even through the strongest microscopes? They, too, are made out of wombs; the number of such particles in the universe is simply inconceivable. The Rahman and Raheem reaches every dimension, He realizes every reality, every existence, He forms and fashions each and gives to each the love and meaning of life. Everything associates itself with Him and perceives Him in the mirror of its self. Every galaxy, every super-cluster, every wave, every particle will, therefore, willfully bow down to the Gracious, the most Beneficent.
Alas! Man alone finds the courage to break away from the strings of mercy and fulfillment, from the web that connects the atoms to the stars; that connects matter to knowledge; that connects Man to his Lord.
Therefore, Allah is the unimaginably immense holder of all the wombs; but this meaning is supplemented with feelings inherently associated with the womb. Feeling of love, protection, nourishment, giving and foregoing and forgiving of all pain and toil suffered by the holder of the womb. Therefore, in time, the feelings associated with the word became part and parcel of the meaning of the word, which is a correct way of connoting meaning to words.
Why the two names then, Rahman and Raheeem? They are different from each other in the sense that the word Rahman tends to have a somewhat sturdy weightage, whereas Raheem has a softer value to it. Rahman is bold and resourceful, therefore the giver, the provider, the strengthener and the gracious.
Raheem is the foregoer, the forgiver, the one who hides the baby in the cloak of mercy. Like a mother – loving, suffering, toiling, returning, and wishing for the welfare of the child even when it is haughty and corrupt.
To imagine a mighty and absolute king of the universe, Who creates, holds, sustains billions upon billions of wombs, still He says to us, ‘… surely your Lord is near and answering’ (11:61), gives a shiver to the heart! Is such a One holding us from one eternity to another, is such a One holding us in His strings of mercy and grace!
Are we associated with such immensity, such brilliance, such wealth, as our Lord is capable of! Yet, should we feel disgraced, empty and alone, when we should be feeling drenched in enormity and numerosity of the creative realms of the ever-graceful Rahman and Raheem?!
Ya Rahman, Ya Raheem; we surrender our souls to Your mercy and grace!