Why is Bismillah written without an Alif? باسم الله

Anytime we look at the beginning of a chapter in the Quran (except for one), we find the statement بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم written. Ponder over the word بسم الله – notice how the alif is dropped? The origin is باسم الله. 

However, when we look to Allah’s statement,

اقرأ باسم ربك الذي خلق 

The alif remains. So why is there an alif in one instance and no alif in the other?

I will mention four possible reasons for this: 

One possible reason is because باسم is *mostly used* with the name Allah (لفظ الجلالة). Due to its reoccurance in speech and writing, the alif is dropped out of تخفيف. Therefore, we write: بسم الله, without the alif. 

As opposed to another Name of Allah, like الرب or الرزاق. In these cases, باسم is rarely used with these other Names, and because of that the alif remains in writing. For example:

باسم الرب, باسم الرزاق. 

This is what is mentioned by Imaam al-Qurtubee and others. 

But, if this is truly the reason, then I should mentioned that this rule is used most of the time, and not always. There are rare occurrences when the alif is written before Allah is mentioned. Like the hadith in Sahih Bukhari where the statement of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was written as,

 من لم يذبح فليذبح باسم الله. 

Here the alif is written although Allah is mentioned after. 

Another possible reason is that the baa in the statement اقرأ باسم ربك, is considered to be:

الباء الزائدة (تفيد توكيدا) 

In the case of الباء الزائدة if we were to leave the baa or erase it, the meaning would still have a *similar* and *sound meaning*. For example,

With the baa:

Read in the Name of your Lord (with emphasis in the sentence) = اقرأ باسم ربك 

Without the baa:

Read the Name of your Lord (without emphasis) = اقرأ اسم ربك 

In both of these cases – with and without baa – the meanings are STILL sound and have similar meanings. 

Like the statement: 

سود المحاجر لا يقرأن بالسور. 

والمراد: لا يقرأن السور. 

As oppose to بسم الله where the baa isn’t الزائدة but rather:

الباء الإستعانة, والمصاحبة. 

Here, the meaning of baa isn’t توكيد, but rather استعانة ومصاحبة. 

And if we erase the baa from بسم الله then the meaning of استعانة and مصاحبة also leave. 

Some scholars also say that the baa in بسم الله is a substitute for the alif, and that’s why the alif is dropped. 

While there are other who say that if the action or affair is attributed to Allah, then the alif is dropped. Like:

وقال اركبوا فيها بسم الله مجراها ومرساها إن ربي لغفور رحيم (هود : 41)

Embark in the Name of Allah, it is He who will cause the ship to take course and it is He Who will anchor it. 

إنه من سليمان وإنه بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم (النمل : 30)

The letter is from Sulayman, but the guidance within is from Allah.

But if the action is directed towards creation, then the alif remains. Like: 

فسبح باسم ربك العظيم (الواقعة : 74، 96، الحاقة : 52)

This is a command towards the Prophet (peace be upon him), and because it’s a command directed to creation – the alif remains. 

اقرأ باسم ربك الذي خلق ( العلق : 1)

Likewise, a command towards the Prophet (peace be upon him) – so the alif remains.

And Allah knows best! 

Written by:

Abu Awzaa’ee Abdus-Salaam
Makkah Al-Mukarramah
8th of Rajab, 1438AH

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