Highlights On the meaning of Al-Fatiha


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  • Highlights On the meaning of Al-Fatiha


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    Introduction to 'Al-Fatiha':

     

    The short chapter known as 'Al-Fatiha' or 'The Opening Chapter' of the
    Qur'an is so named because it is the first chapter of the Qur'an and the key to
    the understanding of the whole Book. It is a seven-verse chapter or sura, which
    is described by the Prophet Muhammad as the greatest sura of the Qur'an
    (Al-Bukhari Vol. 6: 490). In his daily five prayers, a Muslim reads it at least
    seventeen times. In prayers, it has to be read in Arabic even by non-Arabs
    (Al-Bukhari Vol.l: 404). This probably explains why it is a very easy sura to
    read. It does not include many recitation rules. However, the sura is so rich
    that Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, said: "I could
    fill up to seventy volumes in explanation of Sura Al-Fatiha" (Ibn Ajiba
    629). Ath-Thaalibi quotes one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad in which
    the prophet states that the like of the Opening Chapter of the Qur'an has never
    been revealed to any of the prophets before him (Vol. 1:1).

    Writers agree that the verses of the Sura Al-Fatiha are seven. However,
    they disagree about the division into verses of the beginning and the ending of
    the sura. The most acceptable view is that the initial statement, "In the Name
    of Allah, the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate" counts as a separate verse in
    this sura only. In other suras of the Qur'an, this statement is not counted as
    a separate verse. It seems to be an initial statement that starts the Qur'an
    and which is repeatedly quoted before reading all the suras of the Qur'an
    except for Sura 9, At-Tawba. This notion is held by Ash-Shafiy and is based on
    the Prophet's statement that sura Al-Fatiha is seven verses and the first verse
    is "ln the name of Allah the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate" (Al-Baydawi Vol.]: 3). Abu-Hanifa,
    another great scholar, holds the other view which states that the verse
    "In the name of Allah, the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate' is
    not a verse by itself The last verse of Al-Fatiha, from Abu Haifa's point of
    view, is "Not of those who have incurred Your wrath or those who have gone
    astray" (Ar-Razi Vol.l: l63).

    Sura Al-Fatiha is given many names, which indicate its nature. lt is
    known as 'the treasure' for it includes all the elements of righteousness and
    truthfulness. It is also known as 'the protective sura' for it includes all the
    basics, which guarantee that a person will live rightly and be saved in the
    After-life.

    Al-Bay'haqi quotes Al-Hasan who said "whoever understands the
    meaning of Sura Al-Fatiha, will know the meaning of all the books revealed to
    the prophets and messengers of Allah. lt sums up the Qur'an and the Qur'an sums
    up all the books revealed to the prophets and messengers before the prophet
    Muhammad (Assyoti Vol.l:18).

    Al-Fatiha establishes the foundations of lslam, which are detailed in
    the Qur'an. lt deals with the basics of 'belief' 'worship' and 'conduct'. The first
    three verses deal with belief in Allah and His attributes. The next 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 sura are related to each
    other. When a Muslim believes in Allah as the God of mercy, he realizes that he
    should thankfully worship Him. A Muslim, will, then, follow the instructions of
    Allah and will discipline his life accordingly.

    Al-Fatiha 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, which gets an immediate
    response from Allah. It is recommended that we read the sura's verses
    separately so that we enjoy Allah's response to each of the verses, as Omar Ibn
    Abdel Aziz, the great Muslim leader, used to do. The Prophet Muhammad narrates
    that Allah responds bountifully to the verses of Al-Fatiha. When a Muslim reads
    the first part of the chapter, Allah will say: "My servant has praised, thanked
    and glorified me". When a Muslim reads the second part of the chapter,
    which is a supplication to Allah to guide him to the right way, Allah will
    respond positively to the supplication.

    The feature of the inclusiveness of Sura Al-Fatiha is noticed by lbn
    Ajiba who points out that this sura includes different kinds of knowledge. lt
    deals with theology in the two

    الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ {الفاتحة/2} الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ {الفاتحة/3}

    "Thanks and praise be to Allah, Lord of All beings. The All and
    Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate? Information about the After-life is included
    in the verse:

    مَلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ {الفاتحة/4}

    “King and possessor of the Day of Judgment? Religious rites are included
    in the verse:

    إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ {الفاتحة/5}

    "You only do we worship" and religious submission is included
    in the verse "You only do we beseech for help". History and teachings
    taken from past nations are referred to in the verse:

    صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ
    عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ {الفاتحة/7}

     

    "The way of those upon whom you have bestowed Your Grace and
    Favors, not of those who have incurred your wrath or those who have gone astray".

    As quoted by Ibn Ajiba, Al-Ghazali refers in his book Renovation of
    Theology, to the inclusiveness of the sura. He says: "if you read:


    بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
    {الفاتحة/1}

     

    'In the name of Allah the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate' you
    will understand that all life is owing to Allah. You then will realize that you
    will thank and praise Him for being the loving and compassionate God he is.
    When you read:

    الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ {الفاتحة/3}

    "The All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate? You will realize
    that He is so Merciful in this life and in the after-life. You will think of
    Him as:

    مَلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ {الفاتحة/4}

    "The Master and Possessor 0f the Day of Judgment". Once you
    realize that He is so loving and compassionate you will attest to His right to
    be worshipped. You will say:

    إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ {الفاتحة/5}

    "You only do we worship". You will also realize that you need
    His help and support to worship Him, and so you say: "You only do we
    beseech for help". You will also realize that you need to be in His
    companionship and seek the way, which brings you closer to Him. You ask Allah
    to lead you to the right way, the shortest way to Him. You ask Him to keep you
    away from the way of those who have incurred His wrath or those who have gone
    astray.

    اهدِنَا
    الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ {الفاتحة/6} صِرَاطَ
    الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ {الفاتحة/7}

     

    In his detailed interpretation of the Qur'an, Ar-Razi relates the seven
    verses of Sura Al-Fatiha with the seven movements performed in a Muslim's
    prayer. He bases his notion on the verses 14 and 15 of Sura 87, which go as follows:

    قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى {الأعلى/14} وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى {الأعلى/15}

    "lndeed whosoever purifies himself (by avoiding polytheism and
    accepting Islamic Monotheism) shall achieve success (14). He is also saved who
    glorifies the Name of his Lord and properly performs his prayers". (l5) Ar-Razi
    explains that a Muslim starts his prayers in a standing position which
    corresponds with the first verse of Al-Fatiha,

    بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

    "In the Name of Allah, the All and Ever-Merciful, the
    Compassionate? A person feels strong when he thinks of Allah's mercy and
    compassion. The second verse

    الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ {الفاتحة/2}

     

    Is a verse of thanking and praise, so it fits the position of kneeling
    down to Allah. Verse Three

    الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ {الفاتحة/3}

    "The All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate" which emphasizes
    the meaning of the first verse, corresponds with the position of standing, for
    we feel strong when we feel the mercy of Allah, as is the case with verse One.

    Verse F our

    مَلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ {الفاتحة/4}

    is a reminder of the Day of Judgment, a horrendous situation which is
    fit for prostrating oneself to Allah, the Master of that Day. Verse Five,

    إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ {الفاتحة/5}َ

    "You only do we worship and you only do we beseech for help"
    is a combination of both glorification of Allah and of His mercy, so it fits
    the position of sitting. When the person asks Allah to guide him to the right
    way,

    اهدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ {الفاتحة/6}

    He prostrates himself in modesty so that Allah may accept his prayers.
    The last verse

    صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ
    عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ {الفاتحة/7}

     

    Is a reminder of Allah's blessings to the good and of His punishment of
    the sinners. This situation fits the middle position of sitting. A person will
    then be ready to pronounce his greetings to Allah and to His messenger, Muhammad
    (Vol. l: 220).

    Ar-razi also finds some correspondence between the seven verses of Sura
    Al-Fatiha and the seven stages of the Prophet Muhan1mad's ascendance to heaven
    where he paid his devotion to Allah with the words "Greetings and prayers
    to Allah," a statement which also ends a Muslim's prayer (Vol. l: 220).
    Al-Fatiha is thus seen by Ar-Razi as a spiritual ascendance to the presence of
    our Lord.

    Ar-Razi Ends another correspondence between the number of the verses of
    Sura Al-Fatiha and the number of the doors of Paradise. He says that Paradise
    has eight doors. The first is that of knowledge which corresponds with the
    statement of seeking refuge in Allah. Muslims are requested to say this
    statement before they read Al-Fatiha or any part of the Qur'an. In Sura 16.
    Allah says:

    فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللّهِ
    مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ {النحل/98}

    "So, when you want to recite the Qur'an, seek refuge with Allah
    from Satan, the outcast and cursed one" (Verse 98). The seven verses of
    Sura Al-Fatiha, according to Ar-Razi, correspond with the seven remaining doors
    of paradise. These seven doors of paradise are those of remembrance and
    glorification of Allah, thanking, hope, fear of punishment, sincerity,
    invocation and emulation. Each of these doors corresponds, as Ar-Razi says,
    with one of the verses of Sura Al-Fatiha.

    In his book The Opening Chapter of the Qur'an and the Prophet's Last
    Sermon: A Study and Analysis Muhammad M. Mansour explain that Al-Fatiha comprises
    many aspects of Islam. It refers to some of the attributes of Allah and to man's
    duties towards his creator. (16) Al Fatiha introduces Allah to readers as a
    loving God of mercy who cares for His creation. As a sign of His mercy, Allah
    sent His prophets and His books to human beings for their own good.
    Abud-Dardaa, as quoted by Assyoti, said that Sura Al-Fatiha overweighs the rest
    of the Qur'an (Vol.l: 16).

    Al-Fatiha, according to Mansour, introduces the religion of Islam to
    readers. It includes reference to the way of righteousness and of truthfulness.
    It is the way, which Islam came to revive. It is the duty of a Muslim or a
    righteous person to thank Allah and to praise Him for the great blessings He
    has bestowed on him. The other duty of the righteous person, according to the
    sura. is to worship Allah alone. Allah is the One Whom we seek for help and support.
    Allah also requests that human beings should ask Him for help. Verse 60 of sura
    40 urges Muslims to request Allah's help and blessings. It reads:

    وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ
    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
    {غافر/60}

    "And your Lord said: 'lnvoke me and I will respond to your
    invocation. Those who do not invoke me out of pride will surely enter Hell in
    humiliation". Al-Fatiha, as Mansour explains, teaches us how to ask Allah
    for help. Such supplication and invocation should be preceded with praise of
    Allah and with thanks for His blessings. (22)

    The whole Qur'an, in this sense, might be read as a kind of explanation
    of Al-Fatiha. Verse nine of Sura seventeen says:

    إِنَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ يِهْدِي لِلَّتِي هِيَ
    أَقْوَمُ وَيُبَشِّرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ
    أَجْرًا كَبِيرًا {الإسراء/9}

    "Verily, this Qur'an
    guides to that which is most just and right and gives glad tidings to the
    believers who perform deeds of righteousness, that they shall have great
    rewards in Paradise" (17: 9).

    Scholars disagree about the time and place of the revelation of
    Al-Fatiha. Some writers say that Al-Fatiha is a Meccan sura. Others say that it
    is a Medinian sura. Some other writers say that part of it was revealed t0 the
    Prophet Muhammad in Mecca and pan of it was revealed to him in Medina. (Al-Qurtobi
    Vol.l: l) Ibn Kathir quotes some writers who say that Sura Al-Fatiha was
    revealed twice, once in Mecca and once in Medina (Vol.]: 3). Abdallah Shihata
    says that it was the first full Sura revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (ll).
    Al-Qurtobi quotes Amr Ibn Sharhabil who tells the story in which Khadij a, wife
    of the Prophet Muhammad, advises him to go to Waraqa Ibn Nawfal to tell him
    about Gabriel and about his first revelations. The Prophet told Waraqa that he
    hears some voice which seems to follow him and that he used to flee from the
    voice. Waraqa asked him to stay and see what the angel would tell him. Mohammed
    followed the advice of Waraqa. Later on, Muhammad told Waraqa that the angel
    came to him and asked him to repeat Sura Al-Fatiha after him. (Al-Qurtobi
    Vol.l: l). this story is used to prove that Al-Fatiha is a Meccan sura.

    Ibn Kathir quotes the Prophet Muhammad who said that Gabriel told him
    that he has been given two bonuses which have not been given to any prophet
    before him. They are Srua Al-Fatiha and the last verses of Sura Al- Baqara.
    (Vol.1: 3). It should be noticed here that the last verses of Sura two
    (Al-Baqara) are in many ways similar to Sura Al-Fatiha. The last three verses
    of Sura- Al-Baqara go as follows:

    لِّلَّهِ ما فِي السَّمَاواتِ
    وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ وَإِن تُبْدُواْ مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم
    بِهِ اللّهُ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ
    شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ {البقرة/284} آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا
    أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَمَلآئِكَتِهِ
    وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ وَقَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا
    وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ {البقرة/285}
    لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا
    اكْتَسَبَتْ رَبَّنَا لاَ تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ
    تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا
    وَلاَ تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لاَ طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَآ
    أَنتَ مَوْلاَنَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ {البقرة/286
    }

    To Allah belong all that is in heavens and all that is on earth, and
    whether you disclose what is in your ownselves or conceal it, Allah will call
    you to account for it. Then He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He
    wills. Allah is Omnipotent (284). The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has
    been revealed to him from his Lord and (so do) the believers. Each one believes
    in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His messengers. They say, "We make no
    distinction between His messengers'- and they say, 'we hear, and we obey. We
    seek Your Forgiveness, our Lord, and to you is the return of all' (285). Allah
    burdens nobody beyond his scope. A person gets reward for the good, which he
    has earned, and he is ' punished, for that evil which he has done. Our Lord!
    Punish us not if we forget or fall into error. Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden
    like that which you did lay on those before us. Our Lord! Put not on us a
    burden greater than we have strength to bear. Pardon us and grant us Forgiveness.
    Have mercy on us. You are our Patron (and protector) and support us against nonbelievers"
    (286).

    The first of the three above quoted verses from Sura Al-Baqara attests
    to the fact mentioned in the second verse of Sura Al-Fatiha, that Allah is the
    Lord and possessor of all Beings. The same verse emphasizes the fact that Allah
    will be the sole Judge on the Day of Resurrection. This is the same idea mentioned
    in verse 4 of Sura Al-Fatiha:

    مَلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ {الفاتحة/4}

    "Master and Possessor of the Day of Judgment". The next verse 285, of Sura
    Al-Baqara explains verse five of Sura Al-Fatiha:

    إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ {الفاتحة/5} اهدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ {الفاتحة/6}

    "You only do we worship and you only do we beseech for help".
    The verse from Sura Al-Baqara explains the meaning of worshipping Allah. lt
    emphasizes that a Muslim should believe in what was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad
    as well as in the prophets before him. The verse explains that Muslims will not
    only believe in the instructions of Islam, but they will also put this belief
    into practice. The last verse of Sura Al-Baqara stresses the attribute of
    mercy, which is emphasized in Al-Fatiha. Allah says that He does not burden a
    person beyond his ability. This last verse of Sura Al-Baqara ends with supplication
    to Allah, very much like Sura Al-Fatiha.

    It is also important to note that Al-Fatiha speaks for all Muslims and
    probably for all human beings. It does not say 'guide me,' but "Guide
    us". The Qur'an, which follows Al-Fatiha, is an explanation of the right
    way, which Muslims ask Allah to guide them to. We should also note that the
    last sura of the Qur'an is entitled /An- Nass/ or 'Mankind' This last sura,
    very much like the one is concerned with mankind or people at large. It emphasizes
    the idea of seeking refuge in Allah from the devil, which "whispers at the
    hearts of mankind". The two suras indicate that the religion of Islam is
    not concerned with the good of its people only. It is rather concerned with the
    good of the whole race.

     

     

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