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Reflections on Surat Al-Fatihah (Part One)


By  Dr. Salah Ed-Din A. Nefeily 


Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

"Every Prophet was given miracles because of which people believed, but what I have been given, is Divine Inspiration which Allah has revealed to me. So I hope that my followers will outnumber the followers of the other Prophets on the Day of Resurrection."(Al-Bukhari)


One of the greatest miracles that Allah bestowed upon His Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was surat Al-Fatihah. This short seven-verse Surah is also known as "The Opening Surah” because it is the first Surah of the Qur'an and the key to understanding the whole Book.


It is described by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as the greatest Surah of the Qur'an. He said "ShallI not teach you the most superior Surah in the Qur'an? It is 'Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds' (i.e. Surat Al-Fatihah). It is the seven repeatedly recited Verses and the magnificent Qur'an which was given to me."(Al-Bukhari)


In his daily five prayers, a Muslim must read it, in Arabic, at least seventeen times even if he/she is non-Arab. This probably explains why it is very easy to read.


However, this Surah is so rich that Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet's cousin (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "I could write up to seventy volumes in explanation of Surat Al-Fatihah".


Scholars agree that the verses of Surat Al-Fatihah are seven. However, they controvert about the division into verses of the beginning and the ending of the Surah. The most acceptable view is that the initial statement;(In the Name of Allah, the All and Ever-Merciful, and Compassionate) counts as an independent verse in this Surah only.


In the other Surahs of the Qur'an, this statement is not considered as an independent verse. It seems to be an initial statement that starts the Qur'an and which is, repeatedly, quoted before reading all the Surahs of the Qur'an except for Surah 9, At-Tawbah.


Surat Al-Fatihah is given many names, which indicate its nature. In addition to "The Opening Surah”, it is also known as "The Treasure" as it includes all the elements of righteousness and truthfulness and "The Protective Surah" as it includes all the basics which guarantee that a person will live rightly and be saved from punishment in the hereafter.


Al-Fatihah establishes the foundations of Islam, which are detailed in the rest of the Qur'an. It deals with the basics of belief, worship and conduct. The first three verses deal with the belief in Allah and His attributes. The following two verses deal with the worship of Allah. The last two verses deal with the practical aspect of a Muslim's conduct.


These three parts of the Surah are interrelated to each other. When a Muslim believes in Allah as the God of mercy, he realizes that he should thankfully worship Him. Then, he follows the commands of Allah and will discipline his life accordingly.


Al-Fatihah might also be divided into two equal sections. The first section is a praise of Allah and the second is a supplication to Allah to guide human beings to the right way. It is a supplication that gets an immediate response from Allah.


It is recommended that we should read the Surah's verses separately so that we can feel and enjoy Allah's response to each verse. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) narrates that Allah responds bountifully to each verse of Al-Fatihah.


Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,


"Allah the Exalted said: “I have divided the prayer into two halves between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for”. When the servant says: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe", Allah Almighty, says: “My servant has praised Me”. When the servant says: “The Most Compassionate, the Merciful”, Allah Almighty says: “My servant has lauded Me”. When the servant says: “Master of the Day of Judgment”, Allah Almighty remarks: “My servant has glorified Me”. And sometimes He would say: “My servant entrusted (his affairs) to Me”. When the servant says: “Thee do we worship and of Thee do we ask for help”, Allah says: “This is between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for”. Then, when the servant says: “Guide us to the straight path, the path of those to whom Thou hast been Gracious not of those who have incurred Thy displeasure, nor of those who have gone astray”, Allah says: “This is for My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for.”(Muslim)


Verse One


(In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.)


All Surahs of the Qur'an start with this verse except for Surah 9, At-Tawbah. However, it is considered as an introductory verse to the Surahs except for Al-Fatihah in which it is regarded as an independent verse.


The first verse of the Qur'an revealed to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) teaches us that we should start reading the Qur'an with the name of Allah;


(Read in the name of your Lord Who created.)(Al-`Alaq 96: 1)


Feeling the companionship of Allah, the reader of the Qur'an is likely to understand some of its secrets. As a matter of fact, Allah teaches Muslims that they should observe His presence in all of their actions.


In the Qur’an, Almighty Allah establishes this principle at the hearts of Muslims. He says,

(And say not of anything: Lo! I shall do that tomorrow, Unless Allah pleases) (Al-Kahf 18: 23-24). 


The fact that one will remember Allah before taking any decision will discourage him from doing evil. He will be ashamed to do wrong if he remembers his Lord beforehand.


The word “Allah” is unique in Arabic. It has no dual case nor does it have a plural. Moreover, it has no feminine case as most nouns in Arabic do. Hence, it is the morphological structure that implies the oneness of Allah.


The word ”Allah” refers to a concept, which is completely different from the Greco-Roman concept of God. The Greeks and the Romans had different gods for different concepts in life. They had a god of war, a goddess of nature, a god of love and other of hatred etc.


The word "Allah" can be divided (according to some scholars) into two Arabic words; ”aala”  and ”lahu”. The first word means "go back" and the second one means "to him". The combination of the two words means that Allah is the one to whom everyone goes back and relies on. The word Allah also refers to the word ”walaha” in Arabic which means ”to love intensely”. It is a kind of love, which brings peace of mind to the person who feels it. Almighty Allah says,


(Verily in the remembrance of Allah hearts do find rest!) (Ar-Ra`d 13: 28)


Allah, therefore, encourages people to seek refuge under His protection. He says,


(Therefore flee unto Allah.) (Adh-Dhariyat 51: 50)


In the first verse of Surat Al-Fatihah the name ”Allah” is used to refer to the Super power that is worthy of being worshipped. It is the name which implies all other names and attributes of Allah.


The word ”Ar-Rahman” which is translated here as ”the All and Ever Merciful” is an intensive form of the word "rahma," meaning general mercy. The word ”rahim”, meaning the compassionate, refers to the mercy of Allah which He bestows on people on the Day of Judgment. The first word ”rahman ” is more inclusive because it refers to Allah's mercy in this life and in the hereafter. It is more general than the adjective ”rahim” because it covers the good and the bad, whereas the word ”rahim” refers to Allah's mercy on the Day of Judgment which He bestows only on those who deserve it.


Sheikh Tantawi Gohary (a scholar of Tafseer) explains that the word ”rahman” refers to Allah's great blessings such as the creation of earth and the sky and that the word ”rahim” refers to the minute and specific blessings such as creating eyelashes for eyes in a perfect way to permit light to go through them and prevent dust from harming them.


The word ”rahman” is used only in connection with Allah, whereas the word "rahim" may be applied also to human beings. The word ”rahim”, for example, is used in the Qur’an to describe the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in his relationship with Muslims,  (For the believers (he is) full of pity, merciful.) (At-Tawbah 9: 128)


A Muslim is urged to praise and thank Allah whenever he remembers any of His blessings. Thanking Allah for His blessings makes a Muslim aware of the proper use of these blessings. Whenever he remembers the blessing of sight, for example, he thanks Allah for it. He should also know that Allah can take it away from him at any time. He should then make good use of it lest it should be gone.


When Allah is pleased with the way a person uses the blessing, He will keep His blessings on him and give him more. Almighty Allah says,


(If ye give thanks, I will give you more; but if ye are thankless, lo! My punishment is dire.) (Ibrahim 14: 7)


A Muslim knows that all the blessings he enjoys are from Allah,(And whatever favor is (bestowed) on you it is from Allah.) (An-Nahl 16: 53) 



Dr. Salah Ed-Din A. Nefeilyhas a Ph. D. in English Literature UND, USA. He is also an Associate Professor at Department of English, Faculty of Languages and Translation, Al-Azhar University. 


Lead us on straight path


By Edward Gibbon on 2009-05-28 07:05 (GMT)


A Muslim's subconscious mind is directed towards the great Allah and his final judgment. It is Allah that a Muslim wants to serve like a slave, in hope of attaining an eternal reward. He seeks help from him for a successful life, one that conforms to all the demands of Islam. He asks Allah to lead him daily in conformance to the letter of the Islamic law. He does not comprehend that he is sinful and wicked by nature. He believes that by being a Muslim he is on the right path and will be acceptable to Allah just as he is. For extra assurance, he prays for the ability to recognise the only true path and the wisdom to tread upon it.


The word for path in the Fatiha is a foreign term in the Arabic language. The root most likely stems from Latin and hints at the Roman cobblestone roads that passed through the Near East on their way to Rome. These wide roads made fast and comfortable travel possible. A light horse-drawn carriage could travel on them speedily, a vast improvement over the slow pace of camel caravans in the desert. The "broad way", the wide, straight and comfortable road that leads straight to paradise was Muhammad's ideal.        


Lead us on straight path


By ex Quranic recital on 2009-05-28 07:04 (GMT)


Muhammad knew nothing about Christ's words of the steep and narrow way that leads to life through salvation, nor of the broad and comfortable way that leads to death and damnation. Apparently, Muhammad had not heard much about self-denial in the area of sexuality. He legally had thirteen wives and several concubines. Carrying the cross was for him a foreign concept. He created a religion allowing his men the possibility of indulgence in their private lives. It is no problem for a pagan with several wives to become a Muslim, for Islam allows him this privilege. Those who acquire rich rewards through fighting in a holy war think that they are reaping Allah's blessing for being his victorious helpers.


The only right way for a Muslim is Islam, and the straight path is the Sharia, Islamic law. Virtually all areas of life are encompassed by this allegedly theocentric system: worship, family life, inheritance, economic matters, the keeping of slaves, rights in war and contracts with believers as well as unbelievers. Everything is regulated in detail, according to Muhammad's teachings and example. Whoever lives faithfully within the framework of these practical laws hopes to be successful in this world and the next. Islam is a religion of the law in which all areas of culture are permeated by the Islamic spirit. This is the straight path for a Muslim


Lead us on straight path


By qartha on 2009-05-28 07:02 (GMT)


However, the belief that a Muslim who keeps the Islamic law will be lead directly to paradise is the greatest self-betrayal possible. No man can fulfill the demands of the law. No Muslim has confessed his faith enough, prayed in all the obligatory prayer times, fasted faithfully, or honestly calculated his religious tax. Everyone has made mistakes concerning their family life and in relationships with fellow believers. The law does not save a Muslim but judges him mercilessly. The Sharia, on which all Muslims build their lives, will judge them and guide them straight to hell. There can be no greater error.


For this reason a Muslim really needs to pray. 'Lord lead me on the right path,' because Muhammad could not say that he himself was the way, the truth and the life. He confessed three times that he had to ask Allah for forgiveness. Every Muslim needs to find the way to Christ, who grants to every repentant believer everlasting forgiveness and his own nature.

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