The Bismillāh Verse
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Is the Bismillāh verse part of the various sūrahs of the Qur’ān or is it an independent verse. Also we have been told by our parents and Islamic Studies tutor to begin the Qur’ān by first reading this verse. Now, if this verse is not part of the Qur’ān why should we read it before reading the Qur’ān?


I will answer both  parts of your question by quoting relevant portions of Islāhī’s exegesis of this verse:1

An important question which arises regarding this verse is its real place in the Qur’ān. This question arises because of the fact that though it is written in the beginning of every sūrah (except Sūrah Tawbah) as an independent verse, yet apparently in none of the sūrahs except Sūrah Naml is it included in the text of the sūrah. For this very reason, there is a difference of opinions among scholars on whether it is part of some particular sūrah or whether it is written on top of every sūrah merely to invoke the blessings of the Almighty. The opinion of the readers (Qurrā’) and jurists of Madīnah, Basrah and Damascus is that it is not part of any sūrah including Sūrah Fātihah and it is merely a means to obtain the blessings of Allah and serves to separate the various sūrahs of the Qur’ān. As such it differentiates between various sūrahs of the Qur’ān and a reciter earns the favours and blessings of Allah by reading it before reciting a particular sūrah. Imam Abū Hanīfah also holds this view.

On the other hand, the Makkan and Kufan jurists believe that it is part of every sūrah of the Qur’ān including Sūrah Fātihah. Imam Shāfi‘ī also subscribes to this view.

In the opinion of my mentor, Imam Farāhī, this verse is part of Sūrah Fātihah and a preamble of the other sūrahs of the Qur’ān. As for myself, I prefer the view of the Madinan reciters. The reason for my preference is that it is the Prophet (sws) himself who has arranged the Qur’ān in the light of the guidance provided by the Almighty. As such, this verse has also been divinely placed. In the arranged sequence of the Qur’ān, no difference has been made in writing this verse whether it is the case of Sūrah Fātihah or any other sūrah. In every case, it stands out from each sūrah as an independent verse.

Even though this verse may not be part of the Qur’ānic sūrahs, yet reading it before reciting the Qur’ān has special significance. While pointing this out, Islāhī writes:2

Firstly, when a person says  بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم before reciting the Qur’ān, he actually obeys the directive revealed in the first Wahī in the words: ‘Read in the name of your Lord’, (96:1).

Secondly, these blessed words remind man of the reality that the greatest favour of the Almighty on human beings is that He has blessed them with the faculty of speech because of which they became the recipients of this Book. The attribute Rahmān mentioned in the verse alludes to this fact. At another place in the Qur’ān, it is specified that it is this attribute of the Almighty which made Him create man, grant him the ability to speak and as a result taught him the Qur’ān: ‘It is the Most Gracious who has taught the Quran [because] He created man and taught him speech [so that he can receive guidance from this Blessed Message],’ (55:1-4).

Thirdly, this verse testifies to the veracity of a prediction that was made about the Prophet Muhammad (sws) found in previous scriptures. According to this prediction, he would teach and instruct people in the name of Allah:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to My words that the prophet speaks in My name, I myself will call him to account. (Deuteronomy 18:18)

Fourthly, just as the Qur’ān is the manifestation of the attribute Rahmān of the Almighty, it is this very attribute which helps a person in understanding it. Difficult verses and passages unfold their meaning to a reciter if he seeks help from this attribute. Also, he would be protected through these words from the incursions of Satan while deciphering the meanings of its verse and be shielded from various evil suggestions of his own soul.




1. Islāhī, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 3rd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1985), p. 49

2. Islāhī, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 3rd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1985), p. 46-7

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