Why are Allah’s attributes in the chapter of Saba not given in the usual order?

The Details of the Question

- Saba (34):2.
“He (Allah) knows all that goes into the earth, and all that comes out thereof; all that comes down from the sky and all that ascends thereto and He is the Most Merciful, the Oft-Forgiving.”
- In many verses of the Quran, Allah describes Himself as “oft-Forgiving and most Merciful”. However, the order is reversed in the verse above: “He is the Most Merciful, the Oft-Forgiving …”
- Allah generally describes Himself as “forgiving and very merciful” but in the verse above, the place of that attributes has been changed. How can it be explained? What is the wisdom behind it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We congratulate the person who asked the question due to his investigative approach of this nice question.

The words “Rahim and Ghafur” are mentioned together 72 times in the Quran, including their positions as subject and object. Although the name Ghafur (Oft-Forgiving) is mentioned before the name Rahim (Most Merciful) in all those verses, the name Rahim is mentioned before the name Ghafur in the second verse of the chapter of Saba.

This exception in the Quran, which is full of wisdom, has some/several instances of wisdom. The existence of Allah’s name “Hakim” in the first verse of the chapter may be a sign that the difference in the style of this verse has some wisdom.

- Another wisdom might be as follows:

It is indicated in the verse “He (Allah) knows all that goes into the earth, and all that comes out thereof; all that comes down from the sky and all that ascends thereto and He is the Most Merciful, the Oft-Forgiving” that first (sustenance) is sent down from the sky, and then (spirits and deeds) ascend to the sky.

The name Rahim is mentioned first since rain and sending down sustenance, which are an embodied mercy, are a work of mercy.

That the good deeds that are done and the spirits of the deceased ascend is a sign of divine grace and grant. The acceptance of deeds together with their faults and the acceptance of spirits with their sins is a manifestation of Allah’s name Ghafur, which expresses forgiveness. Therefore, the mention of this name in the second place is wonderful in terms of rhetoric, which means “consistence with the current state”. (cf. Razi, Mawardi, Maturidi, Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of the verse in question)

- The following wisdom can also be considered:

Since the station of angels, divine revelations, sustenance, rain and similar things descending from the sky have a kind of spiritual aspect, it is a direct manifestation of holy power, holy wisdom and pure mercy unaffected by causes. In order to indicate this, in accordance with this station, Allah’s name Rahim (Merciful), whose mercy is infinite, is mentioned first.

Then, the name Ghafur, meaning “forgiver of faults and mistakes”, is used in accordance with this state of property, which expresses the emergence of plants, treasures, the deceased and similar things from the ground, and which is affected by causes.

- Likewise, it can be said that the existence of every created being is briefly pointed out in this verse. The existence of the universe can be viewed from two aspects:

a) Creation of the universe out of nonexistence.

From this point of view, there is no doubt that infinite mercy lies in the background of everything. The position formed by infinite knowledge, power and wisdom is the composition of infinite mercy.

That the name Rahim is mentioned first while attention is drawn to this first stage of creation is consistent with this first stage of creation.

b) Its re-creation.

It is related to the existence of beings and continues in existence in the second phase of creation, and looks at the mystery of Self-Subsistence.

Since there are different causes and constructions at this stage, there are faults and deficiencies arising from them.

Despite these faults of the causes, the universe’s continuing to exist is the manifestation of the name Ghafur, which ignores the faults, makes corrections where necessary, and means forgiving.

For this reason, this name is included in the second sentence of the verse. And it shows the agreement of “distinguished words with distinguished meanings”, which is a very important mission of rhetoric and a glimmer conciseness. Fa subhanallah!..

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