What is basmala? Is there a hadith as follows?: "Basmala is the key to every book"?

Imam Suyuti says that there exists a hadith meaning  Basmala is the key to every book. (Fayzul-Qadir, III, 191). However, as Suyuti states, that hadith is weak.

Basmala is the name of, Bismillahirrahmanirrahim (In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful). To say Basmala means to recite Basmala. In Arabic, there is a tradition of shortening some widely used sentences comprised of a few words. Expressing words like that is based on a necessity. The need to repeat words that have detailed meanings led men to find ways of expressing them shortly. There are other examples like that. For instance; Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) is shortened as hamdala, salawat  sharifa (prayers for the Prophet) as salwala, la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah (there is no change or power except through Allah) as havqala, hasbunallah (Allah is enough for us) as hasbiya.

The widely used phrase Auzu Basmala means to say; Auzu billahi minash-shaytanirrajim (I take refuge in Allah from the accursed Devil) and Bismillahirrahmanirrahim.

In the Arab community before Islam, there were some words to meet that need in accordance with their own understanding and belief like the expression (bismil-Lat wal-Uzza: in the name of Lat and Uzza). The expression Bismikallahumma (in the name of you, O Allah) was used by Arabs before Islam, too. That word was used for some time after Islam but after the basmala verse, "Innahu min sulaymana wa innahu bismillahirrahmanirrahim" ("It is from Solomon, and is (as follows): `In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful) (an-Neml, 30) was revealed, our Prophet and all of the Muslims always used Bismillahirrahmanirrahim. In addition, Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) ordered nothing else to be written in the first line where basmala was written  (See DİA Basmala item. Qurtubi, I,92; Qalqashandi, VI, 211-215).

Basmala is a word that was especially made peculiar to this umma (community) after Sulaiman (pbuh) (Solomon). (See Qurtubi, Ahkam, Beirut, 1993, I, 88) Hazrat Prophet says the following regarding the issue: A verse was revealed to me that was not revealed to any other prophet except Sulaiman, son of Dawud (David) and me. That verse is 'Bismillahi'r-rahmanirrahim." ( Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, İstanbul, 1984, I, 33.)

The hadith Every important task that is not started with basmala becomes fruitless. (Fayzul-Qadir, V, 13.)  explains in a nice way the importance of basmala and how a Muslim should start his tasks.

Islamic culture makes it necessary for a person to start every task with the name of Allah. If it is done consciously and sincerely, it will yield the following three good results:

Firstly, it will keep a person away from evil deeds because the name of Allah will keep the person away from a bad intention or behavior and make him think about it.

Secondly, if a person mentions the name of Allah when starting a legitimate task, his each action will naturally be in compliance with the consent of Allah.

Thirdly, that person will receive the help and bounties of Allah and be protected from the seduction of the devil because Allah turns towards the person who turns towards Him. (Mawdudi, Tafhim, trns. Committee, İstanbul, 1996, I, 40.)

The most important element in Basmala is to recite the name of Allah and to mention it before starting to do something. Mentioning it before is to indicate that the help will be asked from Allah and to make the meaning peculiar to Allah. Leaving the thing to be done after basmala and mentioning the name of Allah first is to assign everything to the name of Allah.   Basmala means I start, I am starting this task with neither my name nor anothers name nor any name that can come to mind but with the name of Allah.(Elmalılı, I, 39-40)

When a Muslim says I start this task with Basmala, he actually says I am doing this task not for me but for Allah and with His order and for the sake of Him. A believer starts to eat, drink, read, speak, sit, stand up, lie down, sleep and all of his acts with Basmala. Basmala is a divine key granted to the believer. The believer opens all of the doors of his worldly and spiritual tasks with that key. All of the codes of the material and spiritual tasks that will make a person reach eternal happiness are deciphered by that key.  The doors of belief, knowledge, wisdom, ethics, virtue, in short, all of the values that take a man to perfection are opened by it.

A Muslim should recite basmala when he enters the mosque, his house, office, shop, factory, school, barracks, when he opens his shop, when he starts his speech and his class, when he works in his vineyard, garden, office and at work; he should make it his lifestyle. 

In the word Basmala, Allah is exalted and respect and honor are shown to Him. On the other hand, the devil, which Allah dismissed and excluded from His mercy, is damned, scorned and humiliated with it. Abu Mulayh reported that a man narrated the following: I was riding on a mount behind the Prophet (pbuh). It stumbled. Thereupon I said: May the devil perish! He said: Do not say: May the devil perish! for if you say that , he will swell so much so that he will be like a house, and say: By my power. But say: In the name of Allah; for when you say that, he will diminish so much so that he will be like a fly.. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 85; Ahmad b. Hanbal, V, 59- 71, 365)

Does everything say bismillah?

Yes, everything says bismillah. There is no being that does not glorify Allah, that does not mention His name in its own language and that does not move in His name. The following is stated in a verse: The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory! Verily He is Oft- Forbearing, Most Forgiving!. (Chapter al-Isra,17/44)

A lot has been written about the word thing that is mentioned in the verse. A lot has been said about what the word thing includes and what it expresses. Eventually, the following was concluded in general: It includes everything except Allah. There were even some people who said even Allah is included in the word thing.

Therefore, it was stated that the things that glorified Allah included every being from atoms to galaxies in the verse. However, since this glorification is done in the special language of those beings, their language of state, creation, standing and the tasks they do, not everybody can understand it.  However, those looking at things with the eye of knowledge, can even hear their glorification. When it is looked like that, the purring of a cat turns to O Rahim, O Rahim, O Rahim.

All things say this glorification beginning from atoms, alone and in units, to groups and congregations that they form. They say this glorification and basmala when they enter the world of being or life, in every period of their lives; for instance when they start a new day or a new task, they say: "In the Name of God" with the tongue of disposition, and they are in motion. That is, "I am moving in the name of God, for His sake, with His permission, and through His power." It is like our saying Bismillahirrahmanirrahim. Then, at the end of their motion, that is, when they leave the world or when they finish a task or when the day ends, each being or groups of being say with the tongue of disposition: "Alhamdu lillahi rabbil alamin.  That is, by saying All praise be to Allah, Sustainer of All the Worlds, we finished this task with His permission and with success, each being recites a kind of ode. That ode shows itself to be like the tip of a tiny pen of power tracing the embroideries of the skillfully-worked creatures. Maybe, each of them shows itself to be like the point of a needle turning on creatures, each of which is like the record of a mighty, immaterial, Dominical gramophone with innumerable arms; they cause those creatures to recite odes glorifying their Sustainer and to hymn praises to Allah. (See Nursi, Sözler, (Words) The end of Thirtieth Word)

Each good deed should be started with Basmala


There are orders and advices of our beloved Prophet that every good deed should be started with basmala. He also said in the hadith above that, something that was not started with basmala would not end well.

Sheikh Muhammad Abduh says the following regarding the issue:

"As it is known, in each nation, and also in Arab nation, when someone wants to do something on behalf of a chief or a great personality, he says, without mentioning his own name, in the name of such and such person. Then, mentions that persons name, which means, I would not have done it if it had not been for him and his order. We see the most obvious example of it in state courts. Before their oral judgments or decrees, the judges say, in the name of such and such king or chief.

Similarly, when a Muslim recites Basmala, he says "I am doing this task not for myself but in the name of Allah, with His order and permission and only for His sake."

Basmala cannot be translated

Basmala is, of course, a word that expresses a meaning. However, it is a symbol whose representative aspect outweighs its meaning. It represents the whole of our spiritual world. What it represents is more important than what its meaning is. What Basmala represents is in the forefront like a flag.  

In addition, Basmala is a word whose translation is almost impossible. Each word in basmala and the word order in basmala is a miracle. This sentence cannot be translated but can be interpreted. While translating, it is highly probable to face dangers in terms of belief, science, logic, etc at least to make mistakes. It is never possible to preserve the characteristics of basmala in translation in terms of the power of expression, literary art and harmony in pronunciation. The sweet music, rhythm and harmony it expresses in terms of place of articulation cannot be expressed in any way. How will you describe the beauty that starts with the labial B that goes down to the abdomen with H and ends in M in the lips again by traveling all of the places of articulation in man? The pronunciation of Basmala travels in us as explained above; similarly, its meaning goes down to the depth of our spirit.

Each Muslim child somewhat knows, understands and feels what that word expresses. Therefore, there remains nothing missing about it.

The possible translations of Basmala can be in one of the following ways:

1. In the name of Allah, who is the most gracious (Rahman)

2. With the name of Allah, who is Rahman and Rahim

3. In the name of Allah, who is Rahman, Rahim

4. In the name of Allah, who is Rahman and Rahim.

However, at first look, the relative pronoun who and the verb be (is) cause a misunderstanding.  The verb be may mean to exist and to happen (a change in the situation); as if He was not Rahman and Rahim in the beginning but became so later. It is not a good thing to use the relative pronoun here. Therefore, we can drop the relative pronoun and translate it as follows:

5. "In the name of Allah: Rahmân, Rahim, or;

6. In the name of Rahman, Rahim Allah will be better. However, here, the name of Allah does not take place in the beginning and with Rahim taking place in the middle, rahman and Allah stand far away from each other. Therefore, if we express the name Allah together with its attributes like names the translation can be expressed as follows;

7. With Allah rahman rahim name, or;

8. With the name of Allah rahman rahim. The name of Allah will be at the beginning but there will not be a connection of mercy.  To translate it as "With Allah, Rahman, Rahim name" will be fluent but it may bring to mind a doubt of trinity. As a matter of fact, saying with the name not names is enough to eliminate that doubt. Although the fact that the names and the attributes are more than one does not prevent oneness, listing three names one after the other may suggest three different persons.

Then, it is inevitable to use basmala in its original form and try to think its meaning through explanations and interpretations and not to try to translate basmala, which every Muslim knows very well and which has a concise meaning that every Muslim somewhat understands, which is impossible to translate word for word or as a whole, which is also impossible to report in terms of rhetoric and statement harmony, which starts in the lips travels throughout the abdomen and ends in the lips, and which is unique with its sweet order of letters. 

Consequently, it is the best to say basmala always in its original form and try to think its meaning through explanations and interpretations and not to try to translate it. (For more information, see Elmalılı M. Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini Kuran Dili, Fâtiha Sûresi)


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