Surah Al-Fatihah is the greatest chapter of the Qur’an. With this Surah the Qur’an begins, and with this Surah Salah (prayer) begins.
Al-Fatihah is the gist of the Qur’an, and the rest of the Qur’an is its explanation.
This Surah has many other names as well, like “Umm-al-Kitab” (mother of the Book), “Al-Salah” (the prayer), “Al-Hamd” (the praise), “Al-Shifa” (the cure), “Al-Ruqyah” (the remedy) etc.
Al-Fatihah is the first complete Surah that was revealed upon Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
SUMMARIZED INTERPRETATION OF SURAH AL-FATIHAH:
1) بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
[In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.]
All Surahs of the Qur’an begin with بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ except Surah At-Tawbah. It is recommended to take the name of Allah before starting any action or deed.
Allah is the personal name of God in Arabic language. According to one opinion, the term “Allah” is derived from a contraction of the Arabic definite article “Al” (the) and “Ilah” (deity or god), which means “The God”. Allah is the greatest name of God, because Allah refers Himself with this name while describing His various attributes.
The term “Ar-Rahman” means The Most Beneficent or The Uniquely Merciful One. The name “Ar-Rahman” is unique to Allah alone, so no one else can be named using this adjective. Al-Qurtubi, a famous commentator of the Qur’an mentioned that there are some scholars who believe that this name (Ar-Rahman) refers to Allah being merciful to everyone by giving them sustenance and wealth.
The name “Ar-Rahman” indicates that Allah has no equal whatsoever in His infinite mercy. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“There are one hundred (parts of) mercy of Allah and He has sent down out of these (one hundred parts), one part of mercy upon the jinn and human beings and the insects and it is because of this (one part) that they love one another, show kindness to one another and even the beast treats its young one with affection, and Allah has reserved ninety-nine parts of mercy with which He would treat His servants on the Day of Resurrection.” [Narrated by Muslim]
Allah describes Himself as “Ar-Raheem” after describing Him as “Ar-Rahman”. These two names refer to Allah’s attribute of Mercy. “Ar-Rahman” refers to the vastness of Allah’s mercy, and “Ar-Raheem” refers to its effect on His creation.
2) الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
[All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamîn (mankind, jinns and all that exists).]
All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone for His innumerable favors and bounties upon His creation, not any of the objects that are being worshipped instead of Him, nor any of His creation.
Allah describes Himself as “Rabb” of the “‘Alamîn”. There is no proper equivalent for “Rabb” in English language. “Rabb” means the One and the Only Lord for the entire universe, its Creator, Owner, Organizer, Provider, Master, Planner, Sustainer, Cherisher, and Giver of security. However, the word “Lord” can loosely be used to translate “Rabb” into English as the term is nearest to the original Arabic.
3) الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
[The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.]
4) مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
[The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection).]
It is an integral part of Islamic belief that there is another life after death where everyone will be accountable before Allah for his deeds of this life. On the Day of Recompense Allah will judge amongst people with His Divine justice. People who believed in Islamic Monotheism and did righteous deeds in this life will receive immense rewards and those who disbelieved in Islamic Monotheism and did wicked deeds in this life will receive terrible punishment in the next life.
The belief in life after death purifies a person from evil thoughts, desires and deeds, because he constantly fears a day when he will be recompensed for his beliefs and deeds of this life.
In this verse Allah describes Himself as “Malik” of the Day of Recompense. According to one meaning, “Al-Maalik” refers to the Owner of all things. According to another meaning, “Al-Malik” refers to The King who has power over all His creation. Allah is the only Owner and the only true King in this life and in the hereafter, particularly on the Day of Judgment.
5) إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
[You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).]
Allah is the Creator and Sustainer of everything, so none deserves to be worshipped except Allah. Explaining this concept, Abdullah ibn Abbas, the cousin of the Prophet and the great commentator of the Qur’an said, “It is You (Allah) Whom we single out (for worship), Whom we fear (from His punishment) and Whom we hope in (for His rewards), You alone, our Lord, and none else.” [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]
Allah created mankind and the jinn for no purpose except that they should worship Him alone. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).” [Al Qur’an 51:56]
In Islamic context, any action or deed that pleases Allah is considered as an act of worship. For any action or deed to be accepted by Allah, these conditions must be met:
a) The person must believe in Islamic Monotheism
b) The person must do it for no purpose but to please Allah
c) The person must do it according to the methodology of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
“You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything)” means all sorts of Divine help should be sought from none except Allah. Seeking Divine help from false deities, dead people, idols or any other object are contrary to this belief.
6) اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
[Guide us to the Straight Way.]
Here “Straight Way” means Islamic Monotheism. A believer should constantly make Du’a (supplication) to Allah that He guides him to the Straight Way and makes him steadfast on it, as none except Allah can guide to the truth.
7) صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ
[The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, Not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger, nor of those who went astray.]
“The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace” refers to those who have proper religious knowledge and they act upon it. The Prophets, the Siddîqûn (those followers of the Prophets who were first and foremost to believe in them, like Abu Bakr As-Siddîq), the martyrs and the righteous men of the past were included in this category of people. A Muslim must acquire basic knowledge of Islam and then he should strive to act upon this knowledge so that Allah includes him in this category of people.
“Not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger” refers to those who have religious knowledge, but they do not act upon it. Every Muslim should act upon the religious knowledge that he possesses, otherwise he may be included in this category of people and we seek refuge with Allah from that.
“Nor of those who went astray” refers to those who act without proper religious knowledge. Every Muslim should acquire basic religious knowledge, otherwise he may fall into this category of people and we seek refuge with Allah from that as well.
Al-Fatihah is a great Du’a (supplication) that Allah has taught the Muslims to say in every Rak’ah (unit) of Salah (prayer). Regarding this aspect of Al-Fatihah, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Allah said, “I divided the prayer (i.e. Al-Fatihah) into two halves between Myself and My servant, one half is for Me and one half for My servant. My servant shall have what he asks for.” When the servant says, “All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamîn (mankind, jinns and all that exists)”, Allah says, “My servant has praised Me.” When the servant says, “The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful”, Allah says, “My servant has praised Me.” When the servant says, “The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)”, Allah says, “My servant has glorified Me.” If the servant says, “You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything)”, Allah says, “This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked.” If the servant says, “Guide us to the Straight Way The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, Not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger, nor of those who went astray.” Allah says, “This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked.”” [Narrated by Muslim]
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