INVESTIGATING ALLAH’S STATEMENT:
“Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds; The Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Master of the Day of Judgment.”
The chapter begins with praise, with the words: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds.” This is why this chapter is sometimes called The Chapter of Praise.
Praise is the act of commending the praiseworthy on account of his or her graciousness and acts of kindness. It is different than the act of extolling someone (madh in Arabic), since extolment is always done by mentioning the virtues, good characteristics, and beauty of the one being extolled.
Therefore, praising Allah entails lauding Him for the great blessings that he has bestowed upon you and the good that He has given you.
The sentence “So-and-so has praised so-and-so” means that some person has thanked someone else on account of some good thing that he or she has done for that person. On the other hand, the sentence: “He extolled him” does not imply that the one being extolled did anything good to the one who extolled him. He could be extolled on account of his eloquence, beauty, or strength.
Extolment (madh) is more general than the Arabic notion of praise (hamd), because it encompasses all types of good qualities. Praise, on the other hand, implies thanks and admission to someone else’s beautiful conduct. Ibn al-Qayyim has observed another difference between the two. He says: “When one mentions the good qualities of another, this mention might be accompanied by love and affection for the one being talked about, or it might not be accompanied by such feelings. When it is not accompanied by the feelings of love and affection, it is extolment, and when it is accompanied by these feelings, and by a sense of aggrandizement and reverence, it is praise.”
The chapter begins with the recognition of a great meaning – the servant’s confession of his utter helplessness, dependency, and need, while recognizing the perfection, graciousness, and kindness of Allah. This is one of the greatest qualities of true worship, because a person might engage in worship in a misguided manner by becoming conceited on account of his own acts of devotion. Such worship will be rejected and come to naught due to conceit, which is contradictory to the recognition of Allah and humility before Him.
A servant cannot approach his Lord through a wider door than the door of humility. This is the very meaning exemplified by the words: “You alone we worship.”
When the Arabs want to say: “The road is well worn by the feet passing over it”, they use the word mu`abbad to describe it, a word implying submission and humility that comes from the same entomological root as the Arabic word for worship (`ibâdah). Thus, humility before Allah is one of the most important concepts to be understood from the meaning of worship.
This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) would often admit his deficiency, weakness, and iniquity before Allah. He used to say – and he instructed Abû Bakr to do the same – “O Allah, I have greatly wronged my own soul, and no one forgives sins except for You, so grant me Your forgiveness and have mercy upon me. Verily you are the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
He also used to say: “O Allah, you are my Lord. There is no God but You. You created me and I am your servant, and I abide by Your covenant and promise as much as I am able. I seek refuge with You from the evil that I do. I come back to Yo u from Your grace upon me, and I come back to you with my sins. So forgive me, because none forgives sins except for You.”
Even the phrase: “O Allah, forgive me” contains an admission of a person’s sins and deficiency and recognition of the fact that Allah is Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful.
The chapter begins with the words “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds” that contain within them recognition of Allah’s great blessings. Without doubt, the opposite of such recognition is denial and ingratitude. The sin that turned Satan into an unbeliever was none other than this, since Satan knows who his Lord is and calls on Him by His name. He even swears by Allah, as can be seen in the following verse where Allah says about him: “He (Satan) said: ‘Then – (I swear) by Your power – I will seduce them all’.” [Sûrah Sâd: 82] Satan also petitions Allah and believes in the Day of Resurrection. The Qur’ân makes this clear: “(Satan) said: ‘O my Lord! Grant me respite until the day that the dead are raised’.” [Sûrah Sâd: 79] His sin, then, is his obstinate denial and his pride that keeps him away from obeying Allah and worshipping Him. Allah says the same thing about Pharaoh and his people: “And they rejected those signs in iniquity and arrogance, though their souls were convinced thereof.” [Sûrah al-Naml: 14]
When a servant says: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds”, he absolves himself of all of this. It is as if he is saying: “I recognize that I am a servant in need. I am dependant, humble, and deficient, and you are Allah, my gracious and beneficent Lord”. This encompasses the meaning of praise, because the servant praises his Lord on account of the gracious blessings that He has bestowed upon him in his faith and his worldly life.