The first two Names in lists of Asma al-Husna are Ar Rahman and Ar Rahim, The Compassionate and The Most Merciful. Compassion and mercy are so connected, that the translations of these two Names overlap quite a bit. Almost every chapter in the Qur’an begins with a pronouncement of these two Names, reminding the reader of the greatest qualities of the Author and Creator of the universe. From a Christian viewpoint, the traits of Divine compassion and mercy are perhaps the most closely linked in our minds with the mission of Christ – our relationship with God should be one of comfort and security, with the realization that God welcomes all who approach in humility.
The palm trees symbolize an oasis, a place of comfort and refuge filled with cool, life-giving living water. In my studies, I discovered something that struck me as being rather cool. European alchemists and Muslim alchemists both sought for the secret of transmuting base matter into gold, as a metaphor for the transformation of the natural man into a being worthy of salvation. However, many Muslim alchemists also searched for the panacea, the perfect medicine which would heal all ills. This was a red powder and also referred to as the Scarlet Robed King. The vial in the “oasis” of palm trees is filled with a red powder, representing the universal medicine.
The pattern on the floor and back wall is made from a traditional Islamic eight-pointed star and cross pattern referred to the “Compassionate Breath” – the stars represent inhales and the crosses exhales, and the idea comes from a passage in the Qur’an reminding us that God looks upon His creations with Compassion in every breath He takes. The cycles of moons in the arches represent the passage of time and is a reminder that our Creator’s awareness of us extends through and beyond all time. The designs on the sides are construction diagrams for development of the “Compassionate Breath” motif, to suggest that God’s desires for our welfare, His Divine compassion for us, was a vital part of the very design of our universe.
All of us carry, to some degree or another, the desire to receive compassion – our hopes are strengthened and echoed as we show the compassion we desire to those around us. As with many truly worthwhile things, it seems the more we give the more we receive.