Previously, I had written about the Basmalah, both in the section about al-Fatiha in The Essential Principals of Islam and in earlier chapters in this book. This time, I would like to expound another aspect of it…
In congregational prayer, the Basmalah is not recited by the Imam, even though it is the first verse of the chapter al-Fatiha. The Imam always begins reciting from the verse “Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil alameen.” Why does the Imam not recite the Basmalah first? I presume this is something most people don’t really think about… Indeed, the general practice entails the Imam reciting from the second verse of chapter al-Fatiha, skipping the first verse, the Basmalah, whereby the people in the congregation each recite the Basmalah to themselves in order to complete (!) the recitation!
Let us first clarify an age-old discussion: Some say the chapter al-Fatiha comprises seven verses and its first verse is the Basmalah. Some say the first verse of al-Fatiha is not the Basmalah, it is “Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil alameen” and that the Basmalah at the beginning is placed there to highlight the productiveness of the prayer.
Those with an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the topic all agree that the Basmalah is indeed the first verse of the chapter al-Fatiha. This is my understanding also.
In this case, one questions, why after reciting “Rahman-ar-Rahim” in the Basmalah, the verse after “Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil alameen” repeats “Rahman-ar-Rahim”?
The first verse: “Bismillah-ar-Rahman-ar-Rahim”
The second verse: “Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil alameen”
The third verse: “Ar-Rahman-ar-Rahim.”
As I had mentioned in a previous article about Rahman and Rahim, the subtle reality here is that the person engaged in salat, must experience the meaning of the Basmalah, in respect of the secret denoted by the letter ‘B’, if they want their salat to become an ascension (miraj)!
As such, it is insufficient for the Imam to recite the Basmalah on behalf of the congregation. The Basmalah must be recited and experienced by the person personally, so they can commence their prayer with that appreciation.
In other words, the Imam cannot recite the Basmalah on behalf of the congregation. For ascension (miraj) to take place, every individual must experience the reality of the Basmalah in person!
Blessed are those who can experience the reality of the Basmalah at least once every day!
10 April 2004
Raleigh – NC, USA