Al-Fatihah: The Prayer and the Message
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ ا لرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ(1)الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ(2)مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ(3)إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ(4)
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ(5)صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ (6) غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ(7)
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Praise belong to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. 2. Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 3. Master of the Day of Judgment. 4. It is You we worship, and it is You we ask for help, 5. Guide us to the straight path, 6. The path of those you have blessed. 7.Those who incurred no anger, and who have not gone astray. ( al-Fatihah 1:1-7)
Surah al-Fatihah is the first Surah of the Qur’an. According to most of the authorities this was the first Surah that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad –peace be upon him- when he was in Makkah. Before this he received some verses of Surah al-‘Alaq, Surah al-Muzammil and Surah al-Muddathir, but as a complete Surah, al-Fatihah was the first one. The word al-Fatihah means “opener”. So this Surah is the opener of the Qur’an. It has seven verses that are repeated by every Muslim many times during the course of his/her daily prayers. Thus the Surah is also called the “al-Sab’ al-Mathani” (al-Hijr 15:87) that is “the Seven Oft-repeated.” This Surah has many other names: Umm al-Qur’an (the Essence of the Qur’an), Al-Asas (the Foundation), Al-Shafiyah (the Healer), Al-Kafiyah (the Sufficient) etc. In Al-Bukhari it is mentioned that the Prophet –peace be upon him- said that this was “the greatest Surah in the Qur’an”
أعظم سورة في القرآن (al-Bukhari 4114) It is also reported:
عَنْ أُبَيِّ بْنِ كَعْبٍ قَالَ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَلَا فِي الْإِنْجِيلِ مِثْلَ أُمِّ الْقُرْآنِ وَهِيَ السَّبْعُ الْمَثَانِي وَهِيَ مَقْسُومَةٌ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ (الترمذي 3050)
Ubayy ibn Ka’b reported that the Prophet –peace be upon him- said, “Allah did not reveal in the Torah, nor Injil like Umm al-Qur’an and this is the Seven Oft-repeated and it is (the one about which Allah said) ‘it is divided between Me and My servant and for My servant is whatever he asks.’ (al-Tirmidhi 3050)
Surah al-Fatihah is both a prayer and a full introduction to the message of the Qur’an.
As a prayer it contains the praise and glorification of Allah and the human request for Allah’s guidance, direction and blessings. According to a Hadith:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قال... إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى قَسَمْتُ الصَّلَاةَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي نِصْفَيْنِ وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ فَإِذَا قَالَ الْعَبْدُ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى حَمِدَنِي عَبْدِي وَإِذَا قَالَ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى أَثْنَى عَلَيَّ عَبْدِي وَإِذَا قَالَ مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ قَالَ مَجَّدَنِي عَبْدِي وَقَالَ مَرَّةً فَوَّضَ إِلَيَّ عَبْدِي فَإِذَا قَالَ إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ قَالَ هَذَا بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ فَإِذَا قَالَ اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ قَالَ هَذَا لِعَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ (مسلم 598)
Abu Hurairah says, “I heard the Messenger of Allah says, ‘Allah says, I have divided the prayer between Me and My servant in two halves and for My servant is whatever He asks for. When the Servant says, ‘Praise be to Allah the Lord of the worlds,’ Allah says, ‘My servant has thanked Me.’ When he says,’ the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate’ Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me.’ When he says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgment’ Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’ And He says, “My servant has submitted to Me.’ When he says, ‘You we worship and You we ask for help.’ Allah says, ‘This is between Me and My servant and for My servant is whatever he asks.’ When he says, ‘Guide us to the straight path…’ Allah says, ‘This is for My servant and for My servant is whatever he asks.’ (Muslim 598)
As an introduction to the Qur’an it contains all the basic principles that are given in detail in the Qur’an. It tells us that we are surrounded by Allah’s grace and favors. He is the Source of all love and mercy. We should be thankful to Him. Our life is not permanent. We shall die one day and He will judge us. He alone is the Master of that Day. We must worship Him and Him alone. We must seek His help and He has all the power to give us whatever we need. It reminds that Allah is the only one who can really guide to the straight path. It calls for righteous actions in this life. It speaks about life after death and of the consequences of human action and behavior. It tells that the true guidance comes through God’s Prophets and Messengers. They were the people who were truly guided and they received Allah’s grace and mercy. Those who turned away from that path were those who went astray and they incurred the wrath of God and His punishment.
The Surah tells us:
- The essence of religion is thankfulness to Allah.
- Allah is the Lord and Sustainer of the whole universe.
- Allah is very kind, loving and merciful.
- Allah is also the Judge and He does not tolerate injustice, evil and sin.
- The Day of Judgment will come.
- Worship should be only to Allah and all prayerful requests should be directed to Him alone.
- One should continuously seek Allah’s guidance and remain on the path of truth and righteousness.
- True righteousness comes when we follow the example of those who were righteous and who were under Allah’s grace: the Prophets, Messengers, and pious and devoted people of Allah.
- One should always be careful not to make the most Merciful angry with him.
- One should never ignore the path of guidance and should always be careful not to go astray.
After this introduction comes the whole Qur’an. Al-Fatihah is the prayer and the Qur’an is the answer to our prayers. Al-Fatihah is the introduction to the Qur’an and then we have the whole Qur’an.
(Khutbah at ISOC – Dhul Qi’dah 1, 1421/ January 26, 2001)