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Basmala (the Bismillah phrase)

Basmala (or Bismillah, Arabic بسملة) is an Arabic language noun which is used as the collective name of the whole of the recurring Islamic phrase b-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi. It 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.

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

The Arab letters of the Basmala are encoded as one ligature by Unicode at codepoint U+FDFD


The Basmala artistically rendered in the shape of a pear

The word "basmala" itself was derived by a slightly unusual procedure in which the first four pronounced consonants of the phrase bismi-llāhi... were taken as a quadriliteral 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.


In 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 twenty-seventh sura: in verse 30, where it prefaces a letter from Sulayman to the Queen of Sheba, Bilqis.


The Basmala has a special significance for Muslims, who are to begin each task after reciting the verse. It is often preceded by Ta'awwudh. In Arabic calligraphy, it is the most prevalent motif, more so even than the Shahadah. The 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, is more intensive, including in its objects the believer and the unbeliever, and may be rendered as "The Compassionate", while 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).”

Alternative Christian meaning

Arabic-speaking Christians sometimes use the word Basmala ( ) to refer to the Christian liturgical formula "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" ( , ), from Matthew 28:19.


The 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.

Cultural references

The Iranianmarker 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 Zanzibarmarker as Farrokh Bulsara to Indian Farsi parents. Arabic language lyrics appear in another Queen song, "Mustapha" on the album Jazz.

At the beginning of each of his albums, USmarker rapper Mos Def recites Basmala.

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.

See also


  1. In note 330 on page 274 of the same book Dr. Momen states the following: "At-Tabarí, Jámi’-al-Bayán, vol. 1, p.40. Some of the abbreviated editions of this work (such as the Mu’assasah ar-Risálah, Beirut, 1994 edition) omit this passage as does the translation by J. Cooper (Oxford University Press, 1987). Ibn kathír records this Tradition, Tafsír, vol. 1, p. 17. As-Suyútí in ad-Durr al-Manthúr, vol. 1, p. 8, also records this Tradition and gives a list of other scholars who have cited it including Abú Na’ím al-Isfahání in Hilyat al-Awliya’ and Ibn ‘Asákir in Taríkh Dimashq."
  2. Queen album brings rock to Iran,

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