Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim

For the Sufi, all things begin and end with the name of Allah. So the first phrase from the lips of the Sufi Gnostic is Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim. Meaning - beginning with the Name (and thereby, hopefully, with the Remembrance of the Truth and Reality) of Allah (God), The Compassionate,  (Whose Compassion extends to all creation, comprehensible and non-comprehensible, and all creatures, no matter how near or how far), The Merciful. (Whose Mercy is available to all who supplicate). 

All praise is due to Allah (God), who created with no diminishment of Divine Resource. Who supports His Creation without expending any strength, and Who allows it to continue for an appointed term, that His Purpose might be accomplished. And He needs not do this at all, but for His pleasure, and that He, in all his Might and Glory, might be known by his Creation. And Glory be unto Him, Who in His Wisdom, created mankind of a living animal kind, and placed upon his head the crown of Reason, and into his heart, the essence of His Love. Glory be unto Him, Who is high above all that is attributed to Him. And May His Divine Peace be upon all of His messengers, and all Praise and Gratitude is due unto Allah (God), Lord and Creator of ALL Worlds. 

The understanding of the subtle distinction between the generally operational mercy and the direct personal attention from the Divine Reality is represented in the Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim. The Rahmah of Allah is such that existence exists, people exist, and equal opportunity to do good or evil with one's life exists. It is such a general and diffuse and easily (even unnoticeably) available form of mercy and understanding that mankind is easily misled into thinking that he need only seek out his own personal well-being and that that is all there is to life. But it is also so comprehensive as to include within itself the aspect of responsiveness (al Mujib), and guidance (Al-Hadi) and this personally responsive aspect of Ar-Rahman is Ar-Rahim. 

The nature of God and the nature of creation are so vast as to be invisible and thereby incomprehensible. This incomprehensibility is the reason for the obligation upon The Creator to provide guidance. Creation and all its aspects are from the Rahmah (Mercy) of Allah. This includes, of course, free will, or the ability to choose, which implies the necessity for all the equally alluring opportunities for wrong-doing, and therefore the necessity for the presence of temptation to evil, the benefit of which is only in its repulsion. 

While the general diffused, equally everywhere existence of Rahmah, or Divine Benevolence, available equally to the good and the bad alike,  is the observable manifestation of Ar-Rahman and the Overall Mercy from which creation springs, its magnetic aspect, its specific, individually responsive nature is called Rahimiyyah and its palpable manifestation is called Barakah which can actually be accumulated with no depletion or shift in its original source. It can also be dispensed, and that is the work of the sufis, particularly the masters. A major carrier and manifestation of Barakah is Knowledge (`Ilm), both outward and inward. Another is Presence. 

Rahmah, or Divine Benevolence, is the source of what is known to us as Universal or Unconditional Love and Caring. Rahimiyyah is its responsive nature that pours out very careful and personal attention upon them who supplicate or seek. Rahmah is the supportive creative ingenuity and reliability of the good man and devoted father, Rahimiyyah is the caring love and consistent personal maternal care of the good woman and devoted mother to her immediate family. Neither is exclusive to the other. 

Tawajjuh (facing, turning toward with healing love and benevolence), or Divine Attention, is the primary response of Al-Rahim. This is why we begin everything with 'Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim'. 

The first thing we do with this invocation is invoke the Name of the ESSENCE of the Essential Being, That without Which there would be nothing, but Which would exist anyway. The Manifestor without manifestation; Allah, The Divinity, Being as It was before Creation, So is It now and So will It forever be. 

Next remembered is the Nature of His Intention for Manifesting, Benevolence. 

Completion of the invocation is with the remembrance of His Foresight and Responsiveness to Individual Needs; the Nature of Personal Attention from The Divine. Hence the Divine purpose of giving us this invocation is to cause us to remember the Essence, Allah, His intention, the Manifestation of Divine Benevolence, and the personal effect of His remembrance, i. e. personal attention in the form of Peace, patience and the fulfillment of your needs. In other words, to attract more (open yourself up to the realization of) Divine Attention. The palpable, acquirable and dispensable manifestation of Divine Attention is known as Barakah, and is commonly felt as Love. 

Invoking the name of Allah satisfies a primal and general religious requirement to begin everything in the Name of God, the reward of which is no small thing but in truth depends upon your intention.  Secondly, and depending upon you level of awareness (which increases with study), it brings to mind and to heart the awareness of the Reality of God with the invocation of the name of Allah alone. Then with the invocation of the name and primary, all-inclusive attribute Al-Rahman, one is reminded of the Source of Creation and the infinite and benevolent nature thereof, as well as of the endless oceans of Universal love and Compassion available to all who seek it. 

With the invocation of His name Ar-Rahim, one is actually reminding oneself of the availability of Immeasurable Bounty and Grace that is one's very birthright and personal freewill gift from the Infinite Ocean of Mercy known as Ar-Rahman, bestowed upon one personally by Ar-Rahim. After that come all the various manifestations of attention, called barakat (pl. blessings), which you may use, spend, or give away, the very act of which may be devoted to the cause of increasing Barakah. 

We begin with the invocation of Allah, opening ourselves to His Existence, Help and Guidance in all our endeavors, large and small. We realize that we are totally dependent upon Allah for our very existence, and upon the Mercy and Wisdom of Divinity for our situation in Allah's Magnificent and Benevolent Creation. Ya Rahman. 

By the invocation of the name and attribute Ar-Rahim, we are consciously supplicating (requesting) the Divine Grace (Barakah) that He knows we need in order to be successful and guided in this life. We are affirming that He knows what the true success is and He knows what we need by way of guidance and willingness (Himma) to follow it. So our intention (niyyat) with this invocation is to ask for Surrender to Allah's (Divine) Will (Islam), because Allah is Knowing (`Alim) and we are not. 

For this reason and in response to this request, Allah sends to us and to all humanity the universally accessible guidance of Islam, which means primarily "Surrender to Divine Will" and implies secondarily "acceptance of Islamic  (human and humane) principles and lifestyle". He does this that we may receive and dispense Divine Grace (Barakah) and become fully realized and functional human beings and intermediaries with a heart in heaven (the next world, al-akhirah) and feet firmly on the earth (in this world, ad-dunyah); in other words, Sufis. 

And if we seek it, Allah will gift us with the understanding to embrace Islam properly, that we not be led astray by our own misunderstandings from its True Source and Proper Purpose. For the purpose of this guidance and true understanding Allah has guaranteed us the existence of a certain minimal number of teaching masters with both outward and inward proofs that are convincing enough, to which we may be drawn, insha'llah (if Allah wills). 

So sufis begin their praises with Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim and end with the praise of Him from Him, "Al Hamdu lillahi `ala Ni`matul Islami wa kafa biha ni`mah. " "Praise be to Allah for the favor of Islam and it is a sufficient favor. " 


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