The Eighth Letter
A glimpse of the Divine Names the All-Merciful and the All-Compassionate
In His Name, Glory be to Him.
There is nothing that does not glorify Him with His praise.
THERE ARE MANY REASONS WHY THE DIVINE NAMES THE ALL-MERCIFUL and the All-Compassionate are included in the basmalah (In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate) said at the outset of every good deed and intention. I hope to explain some of them later. For now, I will talk about one impression they make upon me:
These two greatest Divine Names seem to own a light so comprehensive and splendid that it envelops the universe, satisfies everyone’s needs forever, and secures them against all hostility. They can enlighten people if they grasp their poverty and helplessness vis-à-vis God’s Riches and Power and, in return, thank Him for His limitless Compassion and Mercy. This is the way of sincere devotion to God and humility.
On this point I would like to emphasize, in opposition to some researchers, people of discernment and even Imam Rabbani, whom I consider my master in most subjects, that what Prophet Ya‘qub (Jacob) deeply felt for his son Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) was affection, not love. Affection is keener, purer, and more sublime than love, and thus more suited to Prophethood’s exalted rank. Love seems unsuitable, in my opinion, particularly when deeply felt for mortal beings.
Thus Prophet Jacob felt deep affection, so wonderfully expressed in the Qur’an, for Joseph. Moreover, affection enables one to manifest the Divine Name the All-Compassionate. Love can make one manifest the Divine Name the All-Loving when directed to the real Beloved One. This is how Zulayha, wife of the ‘Aziz of Egypt (Potiphar in the Bible), felt for Joseph. Compared with love, affection is so much more sublime and profound that the Qur’an regards Jacob’s feelings as being more exalted than Zulayha’s.
Imam Rabbani, understanding that Prophets feel no love for mortal beings, opined that Jacob’s love for Joseph was not a flaw, for he loved Joseph’s spiritual beauty and not his mortal person. However, Imam Rabbani ran into trouble when interpreting it. In reality, Jacob’s affection for Joseph is far brighter, purer, and more sublime than love. Indeed, affection is graceful and deeply felt, whereas in most cases love is not something to which we should lower ourselves.
In addition, affection is so comprehensive that people’s affection for their own children makes them feel some affection for all children and all living beings. They can become comprehensive mirrors in which the Divine Name the All-Compassionate manifests Itself, whereas love is restricted to the beloved and causes lovers to diminish others in order to prefer their beloveds. For example, a lover is reported to have said: “The sun feels ashamed because of my beloved’s beauty and veils itself behind the cloud so it cannot be seen.” What gives this lover the right to have the sun, which so brightly manifests eight of God’s Great Names, to feel ashamed?
Also, affection is a sincere feeling with no ulterior motive and seeking no return, while love demands repayment. The tears caused by love demand such a return, while even the lowest type of sincere affection (such as that felt by animals for their young) proves that affection does not demand any return. Jacob’s affection for Joseph, the finest aspect of Sura Yusuf, directs us to the Divine Names the All-Merciful and the All-Compassionate and shows that the way of affection leads to Divine Compassion. The remedy for the ailments of affection is the truth expressed in: God is the best guardian, and He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful (12:64).
The Everlasting: He is the Everlasting.