بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, most Merciful.
To commence any important task with Bismillah is a salient feature of Islam and a Mubaarak Sunnah of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said:
كل أمر ذي بال لم يبدأ فيه ببسم الله أقطع (أخرجه الخطيب في جامعه)
Every important task that is commenced without Bismillah is deficient (i.e. void of barakah).
It was a custom in the Age of Ignorance (Jaahiliyyah), before the advent of Islam, that whenever the pagans used to commence any work then before commencing, they would take the names of their idols and gods. It was to abolish this practice that Allah Ta’ala commanded us to take His name and recite Bismillah before commencing any work. Hence, we see that the first verse of the Holy Qur’aan which Hadhrat Jibraeel (Alayhis Salaam) brought down to Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) commanded him to begin the recitation of the Holy Qur’aan with the name of Allah Ta’ala. اقرأ باسم ربك – “Recite (O Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) with the name of your Rabb.”
The Qur’aan and Hadith instruct us to begin all our works with the name of Allah Ta’ala. Hence, Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) has taught us in his Mubaarak Ahaadith that whenever we close the door, put out the lamp or cover a utensil, we should do so with taking the name of Allah Ta’ala and reciting Bismillah. (Saheeh Bukhaari)
Similarly, we should also recite Bismillah when entering and exiting the home, when sitting in our vehicles and leaving our vehicles, when entering and exiting the musjid, before entering the toilet, before eating and drinking, before dressing and wearing shoes, before commencing our daily work and before conducting a transaction. In fact, every task and action should commence with Bismillah.
Likewise, women should also recite Bismillah before commencing their tasks such as cooking, serving the food, sewing, dressing the children, etc. The habit of reciting Bismillah should also be instilled in our children.
The reason for a Mu’min being commanded to commence any work with the name of Allah Ta’ala is to create the complete conviction in his heart that it is only with the grace and blessings of Allah Ta’ala that he is able to commence the work, and only with the grace of Allah Ta’ala that he will be able to complete the work.
If one makes it his habit to commence every task and action with reciting Bismillah, one will enjoy the blessings of Allah Ta’ala at all times and one will be able to transform his mundane activities into acts of worship through which he will earn great rewards.
Muslims and non-Muslims both carry out worldly activities, but there is a world of difference between the two. A non-Muslim relies on himself and his abilities when carrying out any work, while a Muslim relies on Allah entirely. Therefore, he takes the name of Allah Ta’ala and seeks His divine blessings and grace.
Other Divine Heavenly scriptures commencing with the name of Allah Ta’ala
The famous commentator of the Quraan, Allamah Suyuti (Rahmatullahi Alaihi), mentioned that besides the Holy Qur’an, all other divine scriptures also commenced with Bismillah. However, other scholars are of the opinion that بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ is exclusive to the Holy Qur’an and to the followers of Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Shafi (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) mentioned that these two views can be reconciled in this manner that all the divine scriptures commenced with the name of Allah, but the words بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ are exclusive to the Holy Qur’an. This is proven from certain Ahaadith which explain that prior to بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ being revealed, Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) used to recite بِاسْمِكَ اللَّهُمَّ (Bismikallahumma) when undertaking any task. However, when the verse بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ was revealed, he adopted these words and left out reciting Bismikallahumma.
The wisdom behind reciting Bismillah
By instructing man to begin everything with the name of Allah Ta’ala, Islam has given man a new direction in life. He is being taught that his entire effort and orientation should be focused towards Allah Ta’ala. It is as though with each step he takes, he is renewing his allegiance and covenant with Allah Ta’ala, bearing testimony that nothing he does can be accomplished without the help of Allah Ta’ala. Thus, all his domestic and social activities he carries out throughout his life, his mundane affairs and business transactions, all are done with keeping Allah Ta’ala in mind and taking His name before every action. In this way all his worldly engagements and dealings are transformed into acts of worship. How brief is the action, yet how immense is the gain. A disbeliever eats and drinks just as a Muslim does, but in saying ‘Bismillah’ as he begins to eat, the Muslim affirms that it was not in his power to obtain this little morsel of food which has passed through innumerable stages, from the sowing of the seed to the reaping of the grain and corn and which has (during this process) required the labours of the wind, the rain, the sun, the earth, the effort of man and of many creations of Allah Ta’ala. In essence, a Mu’min bears testimony that it is Allah Ta’ala alone who has granted him this morsel of food or this drink of water after making it pass through all these stages.