Allah (SwT), the Glorified and the Exalted One, has said,
... so that He may bring you out of utter darkness and into the light. (Qur’an, 57:9).
Linguistically, this Attribute is derived from ra’fa, intense mercy or compassion which is the ultimate limit of rahma. When applied to the Almighty, it means His warding off all types of evil.
The Attribute ar-Ra’uf refers to the One Who does not cease being kind and compassionate to the sinners by accepting their repentance, and to His friends by protecting them from committing sins. It conveys the same meaning conveyed by the Attribute ar-Rahim with an intensification of the meaning embedded in the latter.
Among the manifestations of His mercy towards His servants is that He protects them against committing what incurs His penalty. Such a protection from slipping away from the right path carries a stronger sense of mercy than His forgiveness for sins already committed.
He may be Merciful unto one of His servants by outwardly exposing him to hardship, but inwardly there may be a great deal of bliss and blessing hidden for him in such hardship, while he does not know it. How often has a servant of Allah (SwT) been pitied by people for the harm from which he suffers, the harm of poverty, want and misery, while in reality he is enjoying a blessing for which the angels envy him?
The Most Exalted One has advanced the Attribute ar-Ra’uf over that of ar-Rahim, preferring ra’fah رأفة over rahmah رحمة and giving precedence to the first over the latter in the following glorious verses:
Most surely Allah is Affectionate, Merciful, to people. (Qur’an, 2:143)
... And We put in the hearts of those who followed him kindness and mercy. (Qur’an, 57:27)
... To the believers he is compassionate, merciful. (Qur’an, 9:128)
This Attribute is derived from”mercy” and”compassion”. This requires us to distinguish between both of these words. Also, whenever the Almighty uses both of these words, He mentions the Attribute ar-Ra’uf before ar-Rahim; therefore, we have to explain the difference between both of them and the reason for such a preference.
The Messenger of Allah (S) was travelling once when he happened to pass by a woman baking bread. Her young son was with her. She was told that the Messenger of Allah (S) was passing by, so she came to him and said,”O Messenger of Allah (S)! It has come to my knowledge that you have said, ‘Allah (SwT) is more compassionate towards His servants than a mother towards her son.’ Is this the correct statement which you have spoken?”
He answered her in the affirmative, whereupon she said,”A mother does not hurl her son in an oven like this one.” Having heard her say so, the Messenger of Allah (S) wept, then he said,”Allah (SwT) does not torment anyone by the fire [of hell] except one who is too arrogant to bear witness that there is no god but He.”
If a servant of Allah (SwT) wishes to model his conduct after the inspiration of this Attribute, he has first to remember and mention it quite often, hence the light of ar-Ra’uf will manifest itself to his heart, so much so that he will become compassionate towards all people, the commoners as well as the elite, always remembering the saying of the Messenger of Allah (S),”Be merciful to the people of the earth so that the people of the heavens may be merciful to you.”