The meaning of al-Rahman & al-Rahim
What is the difference in meaning between Allah's names al-Rahman and al-Rahim?
Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
The name al-Rahmân, like the name Allah, is used only for Allah. No one else may be called by this name. Allah and al-Rahmân are His exclusive names. This is why Allah says: “Call upon Allah or call upon al-Rahmân; by whichever name you call upon Him, to Him belong the most excellent names.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 110]
Allah’s other names can be used as words to describe others: words like rahîm (merciful), samî` (hearing), and basîr (seeing). About the Prophet (peace be upon him) Allah says: “With the believers he is gentle and merciful (rahîm).” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 128]
Allah says: “Verily We created the human being from a drop of mingled sperm and made him hearing (samî`) and seeing (basîr)” [Sûrah al-Insân: 2]
These are different than the names Allah and al-Rahmân, which are names that can only be used for Allah.
Both the names al-Rahmân and al-Rahîm are derived from the Arabic word rahmah, meaning mercy. It has been advanced by some, like Abû `Alî al-Fârisî, and al-Warmî, that al-Rahmân denotes “general mercy for all of creation” while al-Rahîm denotes “specific mercy for the believers alone.” Allah says: “And he is merciful (rahîm) to the believers.” [Sûrah al-Ahzâb: 43]
Another opinion is that the difference between them is that al-Rahmân denotes the presence of the attribute of mercy, while al-Rahîm refers to the expression of Allah’s Mercy and its affects on Creation. This is the opinion of Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) as stated in his book Madârik al-Sâlikîn. Based on this opinion, Allah is al-Rahmân and al-Rahîm with respect to both this world and the next.
And Allah knows best.
Source: Islam Today