The first chapter of the Qur'an, known as "Al- Fatiha" is essential to the proper understanding of Islam, the religion for around two billion people. This chapter or sura is only seven short verses; yet, it includes the basics of Islam and introduces the Muslims' conception of God. The sura starts with praise of Allah for being so kind and merciful. Muslims thank Allah for being the Lord of all human beings, without any discrimination or favoritism. As the sura indicates, Muslims do not believe that they are a chosen people or a favored nation. They think of Allah as the Lord of beings. They believe that Allah is a God of Justice as well as of love. Hence Islam is presented in this sura as a religion of balance that can function forever.
The first three verses of the chapter explain the reasons why Muslims thank praise and worship Allah. He is the fair and merciful god in both this life and the one after. When a Muslim understands the fair and loving nature of God, he gets into a direct relationship with Him. Hence, in Verse Five a Muslim addresses Allah using the pronoun "You,", rather than "He", to point out the direct relationship between Allah and human beings.
Verse Five and Verse Six use the collective pronoun "we" rather than the first person singular pronoun "I" to indicate that a Muslim should think collectively and should be concerned about his fellow human beings as well.
Religion from a Muslim's point of view. Unites human beings. A Muslim, thus, prays not only for his own reformation, but also for the reformation and betterment of all the members of the human race.
The seven short verses of Sura Al-Fatiha, thus, deal with the three important basics of Islam, belief, worship and conduct. When a Muslim believes that Allah is a God of mercy and justice, he worships Him lovingly and dutifully. With this love and sense of duty in mind and at heart, a Muslim disciplines his life and acts according to the instructions of his fair and loving Creator.
Working on this little book on Sura Al-Fatiha, I referred to several important interpretations of the Qur'an. Some of these interpretations, like At-Tabari's were written over a thousand years ago. Some other interpretations used here were written by distinguished contemporary writers, as Ash-Shaarawi and Shihata.
I do not claim that this booklet offers a complete explanation of Sura Al-Fatiha, but I only hope that it will throw some light, however slight, on the important short sura under consideration.
Such attempts to understand the real message of the Qur'an are necessary for presenting the true image of a good Muslim to non-Muslims and non-Arabs. It will bring believers together, in an attempt to heal the breach between cultures. This book, which addresses both Muslims and non-Muslims, attempts to explain the true message of the religion of Islam. It comes to the conclusion that Islam is a religion of justice and love. It is the religion, which unites people and brings them together in the love of their Benefactor.
Salah Nefeily, Cairo. August, 2004.