The story of Bismillah

bismillahir Rehmaanir Raheem

He had only two dirhams in his pocket, and no other possession.

Bashar bin Harith gave the two dirhams to a perfumer and asked him to provide the best perfume he had. The fragrance was indeed refreshing to his whole existence. Bashar left the perfumery, and sat down comfortably in a corner, took out a piece of paper from his pocket, and started putting the perfume on that piece of paper with fondness, because on the piece of paper was written:

“bismillahir Rehmaanir Raheem”

The Qureish used to begin their writings with “be Ismika Allahumma”, meaning “O Allah! (we start) in your name.” The prophet (saw) had also kept to this because its meanings are in total conformity with Islamic teachings. Then the following Ayah of Surah Hood was revealed:

“wa qaalarkubu feeha bimillahi marjaha wa mursaha”

meaning: Embark on this! With the name of Allah this boat will sail as well as stop…”. This is the story of Nuh {Noah} (as). Here Allah (swt) is teaching His vice-regents to start all lawful activities with His name by saying “bismillah”, whether quietly or audibly.

After the revelation of this Ayah, the prophet [saw] started using “bismillah”. When Surah bani Israel was revealed, in which there is an Ayah with the meaning: “(It is the same) whether you call Allah or Rehman,, (because) all of His names are Elegant”, he started writing: “bismillahir Rehmaan”. After that was revealed the Ayah of Surah Niml, in which there is a reference to the letter written by Suleman {Solomon} (as) to queen Bilqees of Saba. The Quran tells us that letter started this way: “Innahu minas Suleman wa innahu bismillahir Rehmaanir Raheem” meaning: “Definitely this letter is from Sulemaan and he begins it with the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful”.

Now the prophet [saw] also started using this sentence in full. It is very comprehensive, plain and simple but sweet at the same time. The placing of words and their phonetics are such that it charms the heart. The smallest kid is easily able to say it. No other language and no other book carried such a sentence. The first person to use this phrase was Suleman (as).

Bashar bin Harith says that he was a very intolerant and prejudiced person, always ready to pick a fight. He started going somewhere from home, when he found a piece of paper lying on the road (remember, the road then were not paved or metalled like today, they were dirt tracks). On it was written this: “bismillahir Rehmaanir Raheem”. This sentence is an ayah of the Quran, and also appears at the start of every Surah, to distinguish it from the previous one. Except Surah Taubah, every Surah starts with this sentence. Respecting the words of the Quran (which is the Word of Allah) is part of our Faith. When Bashar slept that night, he was given the glad tidings that: “you made fragrant our name; We will also make your name fragrant in this world and in the Hereafter.

What we need to understand here is that “bismillah” means the way of the deen of Allah. To make it fragrant means to act according to Islam’s way. In Islam, everything depends on your action, which are determined by the intention.

In Surah alHajj, Allah says something like: “Allah does not get the meat or blood of your sacrifice, but He receives your piety.”

Abu Hureirah relates something like: “Indeed Allah Subhanahu Ta`ala does not (judge) your bodies or your faces, but He judges your hearts.

Muaad bin Jabl was being sent as governor of Yemen. Before departure, he asked the prophet [saw] to give him some words of advice. The prophet said” “Do not let your intention be corrupted. Whatever you do, do it for the sake of gaining Allah’s pleasure. Even the littlest action will suffice for you then”.

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