Basmala (Arabic: بسملة) or Bismillah (Arabic: بسم الله) is an Arabic noun that is used as the collective name of the whole of the recurring Islamic phrase b-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi. This phrase is recited before each sura except for the ninth sura; according to others it constitutes the first verse of 113 suras/chapters of the Qur'an, and is used in a number of contexts by Muslims. It is recited several times as part of Muslim daily prayers, and it is usually the first phrase in the preamble of the constitutions of Islamic countries.
Namequadriliteral consonantal root b-s-m-l (ب س م ل). This abstract consonantal root was used to derive the noun basmala, as well as related verb forms which mean "to recite the basmala". The practice of giving often-repeated phrases special names is paralleled by the phrase Allahu Akbar, which is referred to as the "Takbir" (also Ta'awwudh, etc.); and the method of coining a quadriliteral name from the consonants of such a phrase is paralleled by the name "Hamdala" for Alhamdulillah.
OccurrenceIn the Qur'an, the phrase is usually numbered as the first verse of the first sura, but according to the view adopted by Al-Tabari, it precedes the first verse. It occurs at the beginning of each subsequent sura of the Qur'an, except for the ninth sura (see, however, the discussion of the 8th and 9th chapters of the Qur'an at eighth sura), but is not numbered as a verse except, in the currently most common system, in the first sura (chapter). The Basmala occurs within the 27th sura: in verse 30, where it prefaces a letter from Sulayman to the Queen of Sheba, Bilqis.
SignificanceThe three definite nouns of the Basmala, Allah, ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim correspond to the first three of the traditional 99 names of God in Islam. Both ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim are from the same triliteral root, R-Ḥ-M "to feel sympathy or pity". According to Lane, ar-raḥmān is more intensive, including in its objects the believer and the unbeliever, and may be rendered as "The Compassionate", while ar-raḥīm has for its peculiar object the believer, considered as expressive of a constant attribute, and may be rendered as "The Merciful".
In a commentary on the Basmala in his Tafsir al-Tabari, al-Tabari writes:
- “The Messenger of Allah (the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that Jesus was handed by his mother Mary over to a school in order that he might be taught. [The teacher] said to him: ‘Write “Bism (In the name of)”.’ And Jesus said to him: ‘What is “Bism”?’ The teacher said: ‘I do not know.’ Jesus said: ‘The “Ba” is Baha’u'llah (the glory of Allah), the “Sin” is His Sana’ (radiance), and the “Mim” is His Mamlakah (sovereignty).”
- Aisha reported
- The Prophet said, “When any of you wants to eat, he should mention the Name of Allah in the beginning (Bismillah). If he forgets to do it in the beginning, he should say Bismillah awwalahu wa akhirahu (I begin with the Name of Allah at the beginning and at the end).” — From At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud
- Jabir reported
- I heard the Prophet saying, “if a person mentions the Name of Allah upon entering his house or eating, Satan says, addressing his followers: ‘you will find no where to spend the night and no dinner.’ But if he enters without mentioning the Name of Allah, Satan says to his followers; ‘you have found a place to spend the night in’, and if he does not mention the Name of Allah at the time of eating, Satan says; ‘you have found a place to spend the night in as well as food’”. — From Muslim
- Umaiyyah bin Makshi reported
- The Prophet was sitting while a man was eating food. That man did not mention the Name of Allah till only a morsel of food was left. When he raised it to his mouth, he said, Bismillah awwalahu wa akhirahu. The Prophet smiled at this and said, “Satan had been eating with him but when he mentioned the Name of Allah, Satan vomited all that was in his stomach.” — From Abu Dawud and Al-Nasa'i
- Wahshi bin Harb reported
- Some of the Sahaba of the Prophet said, "We eat but are not satisfied." He said, "Perhaps you eat separately." The Sahaba replied in the affirmative. He then said, "Eat together and mention the Name of Allah over your food. It will be blessed for you." — From Abu Dawood
Alternative Christian meaningArabic-speaking Christians sometimes use the word Basmala (Arabic: بسملة) to refer to the Christian liturgical formula "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (باسم الآب والابن والروح القدس, bismi-l-’abi wa-l-ibni wa-r-rūḥi l-qudusi), from Matthew 28:19.
NumerologyThe total value of the letters of "Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim" according to one Arabic system of numerology is 786. There are two methods of arranging the letters of the Arabic alphabet. One method is the most common alphabetical order (used for most ordinary purposes), beginning with the letters Alif ا, ba ب, ta ت, tha ث etc. The other method is known as the Abjad numerals' method or ordinal method. In this method the letters are arranged in the following order: Abjad, Hawwaz, Hutti, Kalaman, Sa'fas, Qarshat, Sakhaz, Zazagh; and each letter has an arithmetic value assigned to it from one to one thousand. (This arrangement was done, most probably in the 3rd century of Hijrah during the 'Abbasid period, following the practices of speakers of other Semitic languages such as Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldean etc.)
Taking into account the numeric values of all the letters of the Basmala, according to the Abjad order, the total is 786. In the Indian subcontinent the Abjad numerals have become quite popular. Some people, mostly in India and Pakistan, use 786 as a substitute for Bismillah ("In the name of Allah" or "In the name of God"). They write this number to avoid writing the name of God, or Qur'anic verses on ordinary papers, which can be subject to dirt or come in contact with unclean materials. This practice does not date from the time of Muhammad and is not universally accepted by Muslims.
In CalligraphyIn Arabic calligraphy, it is the most prevalent motif, more so even than the Shahadah.
Cultural referencesThe Iranian authorities permitted an album of songs by English rock band Queen to be released in Iran in August 2004, partly because the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" contained several exclamations of the word "Bismillah". The group's lead singer, Freddie Mercury, was born in Zanzibar as Farrokh Bulsara to Indian Parsi parents and was proud of his Persian ancestry. (Persian language lyrics appear in a second Queen song, "Mustapha", on the album Jazz.)
At the beginning of each of his albums, US rapper Mos Def recites Basmala.
Rapper Lupe Fiasco recites Basmala after during the first track on his album Food and Liquor.
BT's song "Firewater" features the phrase.
In 2008, the remix of hip hop artist Busta Rhymes' single "Arab Money" gained notoriety and controversy due to its use of Basmala in the chorus.
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