Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Essance of Surah Al-Fatihah

The Essence of Surah Al-Fatihāh

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.

The Name

This Surah is named Al-Fatihāh (The Opening) because of its subject matter. Fatihāh is that which opens a subject, a book, or any other thing. In other words, Al-Fatihāh is a sort of preface. The Surah is also called Ummul Qur’an.

The Period of Revelation

Al-Fatihāh was revealed in Makkah as Ibn ‘Abbās, Qatadah and Abu Al-‘Aliyah stated.

Allāh Subhānahu wa ta’ala Says:

“And indeed, We have bestowed upon you the seven Mathani” (seven repeatedly recited verses i.e. Surat Al-Fatihah) [Surah Al-Hijr, 15:87].

It is one of the very earliest Revelations to the Holy Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam). It was the first complete Surah which was revealed to Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam). Before this, only a few miscellaneous verses were revealed which form parts of ‘Alaq, Muzzammil, Muddathir, Etc.

The Theme

The Surah is in fact a prayer which Allāh has taught to all those who want to make a study of His book, Al-Qurān. It has been placed at the very beginning of the book to teach this lesson to the reader vis-à-vis the Muslims: if you sincerely want to benefit from the Qur’ān, you should offer this prayer to the Lord of the Universe.

This preface is meant to create a strong desire in the heart of the Muslims to seek guidance from the Lord of the Universe, Who alone can grant it. Thus Al-Fatihāh directly teaches that the best thing for a man is to pray for guidance to the straight path, to study the Qur’ān with the mental attitude of a seeker- after-truth and to recognize the fact that the Lord of the Universe is the source of all knowledge. He should, therefore, begin the study of the Qur’an with a prayer to him for guidance.

The relation between Al-Fatihāh and the Qur’ān is not that of an introduction to a book but that of a prayer and its answer. Al-Fatihāh is the prayer from the mankind, the servant and the Qur’ān is the answer from the Master to his prayer. The servant prays to Allāh for His guidance and the Master places the whole of the Qur’ān before him in answer to his prayer, as if to say, "This is the Guidance you begged from Me."

The Meaning of Surah

1. In the Name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

2. All the praises and thanks be to Allāh, the Lord [1] of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists). [2]

3. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

4. The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)

5. You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).

6. Guide us to the Straight Way. [3]

7. The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace [4], not (the way) of those who incur Your wrath [5] (i.e. those who knew the Truth, but did not follow it) nor of those who went astray (i.e. those who did not follow the Truth out of ignorance and error). [6], [7]

Al-Fatihāh and the Solāt

Muslim recorded that Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu)said that the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said," Whoever performs any solat in which he did not read Ummul Qur'ān, then his solāt is incomplete.” He said it thrice.

Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu)was asked, "[When] we stand behind the Imām'' He said, "Read it to yourself, for I heard the Messenger of Allāh Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said:

“Allāh, the Exalted, said, “I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatihāh) into two halves between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asks for.”

If he says, “All praise and thanks be to Allāh, the Lord of existence.” Allāh says, “My servant has praised Me.”

When the servant says, “The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” Allāh says, “My servant has glorified Me.”

When he says, “The Owner of the Day of Recompense.” Allāh says, “My servant has glorified Me,” or “My servant has related all matters to Me.”

When he says, “You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help.” Allāh says, “This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.”

When he says, “Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom You have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray”, Allāh says, ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.’ ’’

These are the words of An-Nasā'ie, while both Muslim and An-Nasa'i collected the following wording, "A half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.''

The Basic Principles in Al-Fatihah

As an introduction to the Qur’ān, Al-Fatihah contains all the basic principles that are given in detail in the Qur’ān.

It tells us that we are surrounded by God's grace and favours; He is the Source of all love and mercy, and for that, we should be thankful to Him.

It also teaches the following lessons: Life on earth is not permanent. Everyone will die one day and God will judge us. He alone is the Master of that Day and we must worship Him and Him alone.

It reminds us that God is the only One Who can really guide; We must seek His help and He has all the power to give us whatever we need.

It calls for righteous actions in this life. It speaks about life after death and the consequences of human action and behaviour. It tells us that the true guidance comes through God's prophets and messengers. They were the people who were truly guided, and they received God's grace and mercy. Those who turned away from that path were those who went astray and they incurred the wrath of God and His punishment.

After this introduction comes the rest of the Qur’ān. Muslims consider Al-Fatihāh as the prayer and the Qur’ān as the answer to that prayer.


[1] (Al-Fatihah, 1:2
) Lord: The actual word used in the Qur’ān is Rabb There is no proper equivalent for Rabb in English language. It means the One and the Only Lord for the entire universe, its Creator, Owner, Organizer, Provider, Master, Planner, Sustainer, Cherisher, and Giver of security. Rabb is also one of the Names of Allāh. We have used the word "Lord" as the nearest to Rabb. All occurrences of "Lord" in the interpretation of the meanings of the Noble Qur’ān actually mean Rabb and should be understood as such.

[2] (Al-Fatihah, 1:2
). Narrated Abu Sa‘id bin Al-Mu‘alla: While I was praying in the mosque, Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) called me but I did not respond to him. Later I said, "O Allāh’s Messenger, I was praying." He said, "Didn’t Allāh say - Answer Allāh (by obeying Him) and His Messenger when he (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) calls you." (Al-Anfal, .8:24). He then said to me, "I will teach you a Surah which is the greatest Surah in the Qur’ān, before you leave the mosque." Then he got hold of my hand, and when he intended to leave (the mosque), I said to him, "Didn’t you say to me, "I will teach you a Surah which is the greatest Surah in the Qur’an?" He said, " Al-Hamdu lillāhi Rabbil-‘alamin [i.e. all the praises and thanks be to Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)], Surat Al-Fatihāh which is As-Sab ‘Al-Mathani (i.e. the seven repeatedly recited Verses) and the Grand Qur’ān which has been given to me." [Sahih Al-Bukhāri, Vol.6, Hadīth No. 1].

[3] (
Al-Fatihah, 1:6) Guidance is of two kinds:

a) Guidance of Tawfiq i.e., totally from Allāh, i.e. Allâh opens one’s heart to receive the truth (from disbelief to Belief in Islamic Monotheism).

b) Guidance of Irshad i.e. through preaching by Allâh’s Messengers and the pious preachers who preach the truth i.e. Islâmic Monotheism.

[4] (Al-Fatihah ,
1:7) i.e. the way of the Prophets, the Siddiqun (i.e. those followers of the Prophet, who were first and foremost to believe in him, like Abu Bakar As-Siddîq), the martyrs and the righteous, [as Allāh Subhānahu wa Ta’āla said: "And whoso obeys Allāh and the Messenger (Muhammad (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), then they will be in the company of those on whom Allāh has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets, the Siddiqun, the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are!" (Al-Nisā’, 4:69)].

[5] (Al-Fatihah, 1:7
) Narrated ‘Adi bin Hatim r.a: I asked Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), about the Statement of Allāh: 1. " Ghairil-maghdhubi ‘alaihim (not the way of those who earned Your Anger)," he (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) "They are the Yehuds". And 2. Wa la d-dhallin (nor of those who went astray)," he (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) replied: "The Christians, and they are the ones who went astray" [This Hadith is quoted by At-Tirmidzi and Abu Dawūd].

[6] (Al-Fatihah,
.1:7): Narrated ‘Ubadah bin As-Samit (radiallāhu`anhu) Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, "Whoever does not recite Surah Al-Fatihāh in his Solāt, his Solāt is invalid. (Sahih Al-Bukhāri, Vol.1, Hadîth No. 723).

[7] (Al-Fatihah,
.1:7): Narrated Abu Hurairah (radiallāhu`anhu): Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, "When the Imām says: Ghairi l-maghdhubi ‘alaihim Wa lad-dhallin [i.e. not the way of those who earned Your Anger, nor the way of those who went astray (1:7)], then you must say, Amin , for if one’s utterance of Amin coincides with that of the angels, then his past sins will be forgiven." [Sahih Al-Bukhāri, Vol.6, Hadith No. 2].


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