There is only a minor difference which has to do with the respective object. These two words are often mistranslated and mixed up.
The two words al-Rahmān (الرَّحْمٰن) and al-Rahīm (الرَّحِيم) look almost the same and are both names strongly associated with Allah (مِنْ أَسْمَاءِ اللَّهِ الحُسْنَى).
The Arabic root r-h-m (ر–ح–م) means: to have mercy (upon s.o.); to have compassion. The dictionary by Hans Wehr translates both words with merciful.
However, there is a difference in meaning.
- al-Rahmān is more intensive, including in its objects the believer and the unbeliever, and may be rendered as The Compassionate. Or: The Most Merciful.
- Al-Rahīm has for its object the believer only and may be rendered as The Merciful. Or: the Most Beneficent [to the believers].
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