THE SEVEN OFT-REPEATED VERSES
By Sheikh Salman b. Fahd al-Oadah
General Supervisor for the IslamToday Website
1. In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
2. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds;
3. The Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
4. Master of the Day of Judgment.
5. You alone we worship and from You alone we seek help.
6. Guide us to the straight way,
7. The way of those on whom you have bestowed Your grace, not the way of those who earn Your anger, nor of those who go astray.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment. And may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His servant and Messenger – our Prophet Muhammad – and upon all of his family and Companions.
A Muslim reads this magnificent chapter of the Qur’ân many times throughout the day with every unit of prayer that he or she performs. This is because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There is no prayer without the opening chapter of the Book.”1 The commentators of this hadîth explain to us that this chapter must be read in every unit of the formal prayers. This shows just how important and esteemed this chapter is. All Muslims – not to mention the students of knowledge among them – should contemplate the meanings found within it, because Allah chose it from among all the chapters and verses of the Qur’ân for us to repeat in our prayers, and He did so from His divine wisdom.
THE MANY TITLES OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter has numerous titles, which is another indication of how important it is. It is called The Opening (al-Fâtihah). 2 The Prophet (peace be upon him) called it “The Opening of the Book.” The reason for this is that it is the first chapter that one reads when one opens the Qur’ân, though it was not the first chapter to be revealed. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also called it The Mother of the Qur’ân(Umm al-Qur’ân).3 The reason for this – and Allah knows best – is that it contains within it the general meaning of the Qur’ân. It embraces all the principles and major themes that the Qur’ân addresses.
It is called The Seven Oft-Repeated Verses (al-Sab` al-Mathânî), because its seven verses are read over and over. Another way that these verses are repeated is through the repetition of their general meanings throughout the Qur’ân.
It is called The Glorious Recital (al-Qur’ân al-`Azîm). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “They are the Seven Oft-Repeated Verses and the Glorious Recital that I have been given.”4
It is The Chapter of Praise (Sûrah al-Hamd), because it begins by praising Allah: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds.”
Allah even refers to it as The Prayer (al-Salâh). This comes in a hadîth qudsî (a hadîth where the Prophet relates the words of his Lord) where Allah says:
“I have split The Prayer into two parts, one for me and one for My servant, and My servant will have what he asks for. When the servant says: Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds, I say: ‘My servant has praised Me.’ When he says: The Most Gracious, Most Merciful, I say: ‘My servant has extolled Me.’ When he says Master of the Day of Judgment, I say: ‘My servant has glorified Me’ or ‘My servant has deferred to Me.’ When he says: You alone we worship and from You alone we seek help, I say: ‘This is between Me and My servant, and my servant will have what he asks for.’ When he says: Guide us to the straight way, The way of those on whom you have bestowed Your grace, not the way of those who earn Your anger, nor of those who go astray, I say: ‘This is for My servant, and My servant will have what he asks for.”5
Allah calls it The Prayer. One reason for this is that the chapter is part remembrance and part supplication. It contains a supplication in utmost devotion for the greatest thing that can be asked for – divine guidance. This is contained in the verse: “Guide us to the straight way.” In this manner, the chapter is named for part of what it contains, since supplication is called prayer in the Arabic language.
Allah, elsewhere in the Qur’ân, says: “Verily your prayers are a source of security for them.” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 103] He is here referring to supplications for them.
This usage is also found in the following verses of classical poetry penned by al-A`shâ:
My daughter says when I am about to depart,
“O Lord, keep away from my father all hardships and ailments.”
May you have all that you have prayed for me,
And sleep…for truly this man is lying down on his side.
The verse: ‘May you have all that you have prayed for me’ means ‘you have from my supplications the same as you have offered for me in yours.’ The word prayer was used in the verse to mean supplication.
There is another possible reason why this chapter of the Qur’ân is called The Prayer, and that is that the formal prescribed prayers are not va lid unless it is recited within them. As mentioned before, reciting this chapter is a fundamental part of the prescribed prayer.
This chapter of the Qur’ân has other titles as well, all of which indicate its lofty status and the esteem in which it is held. These names also show how important it is to reflect upon this chapter and to give it ample consideration. A clear indication of it status is the fact that there is scarcely a Muslim in the world who has not committed it to memory. Even when a person fir st accepts Islam and gives the testimony of faith, the first thing that he or she memorizes is this opening chapter - the Fâtihah. This is so he or she can perform the prescribed prayers. If a person recites only this chapter in prayer, it is sufficient for the prayer to be valid. Reciting more is an optional act; it is preferred, but it is not obligatory.
Due to its importance, we shall investigate and study the verses of the Fâtihah, breaking our study into five sections. We shall explain the meanings of these verses and we ask Allah to grant us success in doing so.
1 Bukhârî (714) and Muslim (595).
3 Bukhârî (4335): The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Mother of the Book: they are the Seven Oft -Repeated Verses and the Glorious Recital.”
4 Bukhârî (4114).
5 Muslim (598).