Surah Al-Fatihah

The Tafsir of Surah Al-Fatihah (Chapter 1)

Which was revealed in Makkah

The Meaning of Al-Fatihah and its Various Names

This Surah is called Al-Fatihah, that is, the Opener of the Book, the Surah with which prayers are begun. It is also called, Umm Al-Kitab (the Mother of the Book), according to the majority of the scholars. In an authentic Hadith recorded by At-Tirmidhi, who graded it Sahih, Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Al-Hamdu lillahi Rabbil-`Alamin is the Mother of the Qur’an, the Mother of the Book, and the seven repeated Ayat of the Glorious Qur’an.”

It is also called Al-Hamd and As-Salah, because the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said that his Lord said:

“‘The prayer (i.e., Al-Fatihah) is divided into two halves between Me and My servants.’ When the servant says, ‘All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of existence,’ Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me.'” (Recorded in At-Tirmidhi 8:283)

Al-Fatihah was called the Salah, because reciting it is a condition for the correctness of Salah – the prayer. Al-Fatihah was also called Ash-Shifa’ (the Cure).

It is also called Ar-Ruqyah (remedy), since in the Sahih, there is the narration of Abu Sa`id telling the the story of the Companion who used Al-Fatihah as a remedy for the tribal chief who was poisoned. Later, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said to a Companion:

“How did you know that it was a Ruqyah?” (Fath Al-Bari 4:529)

Al-Fatihah was revealed in Makkah as Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah and Abu Al-`Aliyah stated. Allah said:

“And indeed, We have bestowed upon you the seven Mathani (seven repeatedly recited verses), (i.e. Surat Al-Fatihah) and the Grand Qur’an.” (Surah Al-Hijr 15:87).

Allah knows best.

The Reason it is called Umm Al-Kitab

In the beginning of the Book of Tafsir, in his Sahih, Al-Bukhari said; “It is called Umm Al-Kitab, because the Qur’an starts with it and because the prayer is started by reciting it.” It was also said that it is called Umm Al-Kitab, because it contains the meanings of the entire Qur’an. Ibn Jarir said, “The Arabs call every comprehensive matter that contains several specific areas an Umm. For instance, they call the skin that surrounds the brain, Umm Ar-Ra’s. They also call the flag that gathers the ranks of the army an Umm.” He also said, “Makkah was called Umm Al-Qura, (the Mother of the Villages) because it is the grandest and the leader of all villages. It was also said that the earth was made starting from Makkah.”

Further, Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Hurayrah narrated about Umm Al-Qur’an that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“It is Umm Al-Qur’an, the seven repeated (verses) and the Glorious Qur’an.” (Ahmad 2:448)

Also, Abu Ja`far, Muhammad bin Jarir At-Tabari recorded Abu Hurayrah saying that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said about Al-Fatihah:

“It is Umm Al-Qur’an, Al-Fatihah of the Book (the Opener of the Qur’an) and the seven repeated (verses).” (At-Tabarani 1:107)

Virtues of Al-Fatihah

Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal recorded in the Musnad that Abu Sa`id bin Al-Mu`alla said, “I was praying when the Prophet called me, so I did not answer him until I finished the prayer. I then went to him and he said, ‘What prevented you from coming?’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah ! I was praying.’ He said, `Didn’t Allah say’:

“O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life?”

He then said:

“I will teach you the greatest Surah in the Qur’an before you leave the Masjid.” He held my hand and when he was about to leave the Masjid, I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! You said: I will teach you the greatest Surah in the Qur’an.’ He said, “Yes.”:

“Al-Hamdu lillahi Rabbil-`Alamin”

It is the seven repeated (verses) and the Glorious Qur’an that I was given.” (Ahmad 4:211) Al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah also recorded this Hadith.

Also, Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Hurayrah said, “The Messenger of Allah went out while Ubayy bin Ka`b was praying and said, ‘O Ubayy!’ Ubayy did not answer him. The Prophet said, ‘O Ubayy!’ Ubayy prayed faster then went to the Messenger of Allah saying, ‘Peace be unto you, O Messenger of Allah!’ He said, ‘Peace be unto you. O Ubayy, what prevented you from answering me when I called you?’ He said, `O Messenger of Allah! I was praying.’ He said, ‘Did you not read among what Allah has sent down to me,’

“Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life.”

He said, `Yes, O Messenger of Allah! I will not do it again.’ The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

” Would you like me to teach you a Surah the likes of which nothing has been revealed in the Tawrah, the Injil, the Zabur (Psalms) or the Furqan (the Qur’an)?”

He said, ‘Yes, O Messenger of Allah!’ The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, “I hope that I will not leave through this door until you have learned it.” He (Ka`b) said, ‘The Messenger of Allah held my hand while speaking to me. Meanwhile I was slowing down fearing that he might reach the door before he finished his conversation. When we came close to the door, I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah ! What is the Surah that you have promised to teach me’ He said, “What do you read in the prayer.” Ubayy said, ‘So I recited Umm Al-Qur’an to him.’ He, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“By Him in Whose Hand is my soul! Allah has never revealed in the Tawrah, the Injil, the Zabur or the Furqan a Surah like it. It is the seven repeated verses that I was given.”

Also, At-Tirmidhi recorded this Hadith and in his narration, the Prophet said:

“It is the seven repeated verses and the Glorious Qur’an that I was given.” At-Tirmidhi then commented that this Hadith is Hasan Sahih.

Furthermore, in the chapter about the virtues of the Qur’an, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri said, “Once, we were on a journey when a female servant came and said, `The leader of this area has been poisoned and our people are away. Is there a healer among you’ Then a man whose healing expertise did not interest us stood for her, he read a Ruqyah for him, and he was healed. The chief gave him thirty sheep as a gift and some milk. When he came back to us we said to him, `You know of a (new) Ruqyah, or did you do this before’ He said, `I only used Umm Al-Kitab as Ruqyah.’ We said, `Do not do anything further until we ask the Messenger of Allah.’ When we went back to Al-Madinah we mentioned what had happened to the Prophet . The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Who told him that it is a Ruqyah? Divide (the sheep) and reserve a share for me.” (Fath Al Bari 8:671)

Also, Muslim recorded in his Sahih, and An-Nasa’i in his Sunan that Ibn `Abbas said, “While Jibril (Gabriel) was with the Messenger of Allah , he heard a noise from above. Jibril lifted his sight to the sky and said, `This is a door in heaven being opened, and it has never been opened before now.’ An angel descended from that door and came to the Prophet and said, `Receive the glad tidings of two lights that you have been given, which no other Prophet before you was given: the Opening of the Book and the last (three) Ayat of Surat Al-Baqarah. You will not read a letter of them, but will gain its benefit.”’ This is the wording collected by An-Nasa’i (Al-Kubra 5:12) and Muslim recorded similar wording (1:554).

Al-Fatihah and the Prayer

Muslim recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said,

“Whoever performs any prayer in which he did not read Umm Al-Qur’an, the his prayer is incomplete.” He said this thrice.

Abu Hurayrah was asked, “[When] we stand behind the Imam?” He said, “Read it to yourself, for I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, say:

“Allah, the Exalted, said, ‘I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatihah) into two halves between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asks for.’ If he says, ‘All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of existence.’ Allah says, `My servant has praised Me.’ When the servant says, ‘The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.’ Allah says, `My servant has glorified Me.’ When he says, ‘The Owner of the Day of Recompense.’ Allah says, `My servant has glorified Me,’ or `My servant has related all matters to Me.’ When he says, ‘You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help.’ Allah says, `This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.’ When he says, ‘Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom You have granted 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 acquire what he asked for.”’ (Muslim 1:296, An-Nasai in Al-Kubra 5:11,12)

Reciting Al-Fatihah is required in every Rakah of the Prayer

All of these facts testify to the requirement that reciting the Qur’an (Al-Fatihah) in the prayer is required, and there is a consensus between the scholars on this ruling. The Hadith that we mentioned also testifies to this fact, for the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said:

“Whoever performs any prayer in which he did not recite Umm Al-Qur’an, his prayer is incomplete.” (Ahmad 2:250)

Also, the Two Sahihs recorded that `Ubadah bin As-Samit said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said,

“There is no prayer for whoever does not recite the Opening of the Book.” (Muslim 1:295)

There are many other Hadiths on this subject. Therefore, reciting the Opening of the Book, during the prayer by the Imam and those praying behind him, is required in every prayer, and in every Rak`ah.

The Tafsir of Isti’adhah (seeking Refuge)

Allah said:

“Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and stay away from the foolish (i.e. don’t punish them). And if an evil whisper comes to you from Shaytan (Satan), then seek refuge with Allah. Verily, He is Hearing, Knowing.” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:199-200)

“Repel evil with that which is better. We are Best-Acquainted with things they utter. And say: “My Lord! I seek refuge with You from the whisperings (suggestions) of the Shayatin (devils). And I seek refuge with You, My Lord! lest they should come near me.” (Surah Al-Mu’minoon 23:96-98) and

“Repel (an evil) with one which is better, then verily he with whom there was enmity between you, (will become) as though he was a close friend. But none is granted it except those who are patient – and none is granted it except the owner of the great portion (of happiness in the Hereafter, i.e. Paradise and of a high moral character) in this world. And if an evil whisper from Shaytan tries to turn you away (O Muhammad ) (from doing good), then seek refuge in Allah. Verily, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” (Surah Fussilat 41:34-36)

These are the only three Ayat that carry this meaning. Allah commanded that we be lenient human enemy, so that his soft nature might make him an ally and a supporter. He also commanded that we seek refuge from the satanic enemy, because the devil does not relent in his enmity if we treat him with kindness and leniency. The devil only seeks the destruction of the Son of Adam due to the vicious enmity and hatred he has always had towards man’s father, Adam. Allah said”

“O Children of Adam! Let not Shaytan deceive you, as he got your parents [Adam and Hawwa’ (Eve)] out of Paradise.” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:27),

“Surely, Shaytan is an enemy to you, so take (treat) him as an enemy. He only invites his Hizb (followers) that they may become the dwellers of the blazing Fire.” (Surah Fatir 35:6) and,

“Will you then take him (Iblis) and his offspring as protectors and helpers rather than Me while they are enemies to you What an evil is the exchange for the Zalimun (polytheists, and wrongdoers, etc)” (Surah Al-Khaf 18:50).

The devil assured Adam that he wanted to advise him, but he was lying. Hence, how would he treat us after he had vowed:

“By Your might, then I will surely, mislead them all. Except Your chosen servants among them (i.e. faithful, obedient, true believers of Islamic Monotheism).” (Surah Sad 38:82-83)

Also, Allah said:

“So when you [want to] recite the Qur’an, seek refuge with Allah from Shaytan, the outcast (the cursed one). Verily, he has no power over those who believe and put their trust only in their Lord (Allah). His power is only over those who obey and follow him (Satan), and those who join partners with Him.” (Surah An-Nahl 16:98-100).

Seeking Refuge before reciting the Qur’an

Allah said,

“So when you [want to] recite the Qur’an, seek refuge with Allah from Shaytan, the outcast (the cursed one).” meaning, before you recite the Qur’an. Similarly, Allah said,

“When you intend to offer As-Salah (the prayer), wash your faces and your hands (forearms)” (Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:6)

meaning, before you stand in prayer, as evident by the Hadiths that we mentioned. Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri said, “When the Messenger of Allah would stand up in prayer at night, he would start his prayer with the Takbir (saying “Allahu Akbar”; Allah is Greater) and would then supplicate,

“All praise is due to You, O Allah, and also the thanks. Blessed be Your Name, Exalted be Your sovereignty, and there is no deity worthy of worship except You.

He would then say thrice,

“There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.”

He would then say,

“I seek refuge with Allah, the Hearing, the Knowing, from the cursed Satan, from his coercion, lures to arrogance and poems.”

The four collectors of the Sunan recorded this Hadith, which At-Tirmidhi considered the most famous Hadith on this subject.

Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah recorded that Jubayr bin Mut`im said that his father said, “When the Messenger of Allah started the prayer, he said:

“Allah is the Greater, truly the Greatest (thrice); all praise is due to Allah always (thrice); and all praise is due to Allah day and night (thrice). O Allah! I seek refuge with You from the cursed Satan, from his Hamz, Nafkh and Nafth.”

Amr said, “The Hamz means asphyxiation, the Nafkh means arrogance, and the Nafth means poetry.”

Seeking Refuge with Allah when One is Angry

In his Musnad, Al-Hafiz Abu Ya`la Ahmad bin `Ali bin Al-Muthanna Al-Mawsili reported that Ubayy bin Ka`b said, “Two men disputed with each other in the presence of the Messenger of Allah and the nose of one of them became swollen because of extreme anger. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said,

“I know of some words that if he said them, what he feels will go away, ‘I seek refuge with Allah from the cursed Satan.”’ (An-Nasai in Al-Kubra 10233)

There are many other Hadiths about seeking refuge with Allah. One can find this subject in the books on supplication and the virtues of righteous, good deeds.

Is the Isti’dhah (seeking Refuge) required?

The majority of the scholars state that reciting the Isti`adhah (in the prayer and when reciting the Qur’an) is recommended and not required, and therefore, not reciting it does not constitute a sin. However, Ar-Razi recorded that `Ata’ bin Abi Rabah said that the Isti`adhah is required in the prayer and when one reads the Qur’an. In support of `Ata’s statement, Ar-Razi relied upon the apparent meaning of the Ayah, “Then seek refuge.” He said that the Ayah contains a command that requires implementation. Also, the Prophet always said the Isti`adhah. In addition, the Isti`adhah wards off the evil of Satan, which is neccessary, the rule is that the means needed to implement a requirement of the religion is itself also required. And when one says, “I seek refuge with Allah from the cursed devil.” Then this will suffice.

Virtues of the Isti’adhah

The Isti`adhah cleanses the mouth from the foul speech that it has indulged in. It also purifies the mouth and prepares it to recite the speech of Allah. Further, the Isti`adhah entails seeking Allah’s help and acknowledging His ability to do everything. The Isti`adhah also affirms the servant’s meekness, weakness and inability to face the enemy of his inner evil, whom Allah alone, Who created this enemy, is able to repel and defeat. This enemy does not accept kindness, unlike the human enemy. There are three Ayat in the Qur’an that affirm this fact. Also, Allah said,

“Verily, My servants (i.e. the true believers of Islamic Monotheism) ـ you have no authority over them. And sufficient is your Lord as a Guardian.” (Surah Al-Isra’ 17:65).

We should state here that the believers, whom the human enemies kill, become martyrs, while those who fall victim to the inner enemy – Satan – become bandits. Further, the believers who are defeated by the apparent enemy – disbelievers – gain a reward, while those defeated by the inner enemy earn a sin and become misguided. Since Satan sees man where man cannot see him, it is befitting that the believers seek refuge from Satan with Whom Satan cannot see. The Isti`adhah is a form of drawing closer to Allah and seeking refuge with Him from the evil of every evil creature.

What does Isti’adhah mean?

Isti`adhah means, “I seek refuge with Allah from the cursed Satan so that he is prevented from affecting my religious or worldly affairs, or hindering me from adhering to what I was commanded, or luring me into what I was prohibited from.” Indeed, only Allah is able to prevent the evil of Satan from touching the son of Adam. This is why Allah allowed us to be lenient and kind with the human devil, so that his soft nature might cause him to refrain from the evil he is indulging in. However, Allah required us to seek refuge with Him from the evil of Satan, because he neither accepts bribes nor does kindness affect him, for he is pure evil. Thus, only He Who created Satan is able to stop his evil. This meaning is reiterated in only three Ayat in the Qur’an. Allah said in Surat Al-A`raf:

“Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish (i.e. don’t punish them).” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:199)

This is about dealing with human beings. He then said in the same Surah:

“And if an evil whisper comes to you from Shaytan, then seek refuge with Allah. Verily, He is Hearing, Knowing.” (Surah Al-A’raf 7: 200).

Allah also said in Surat Al-Mu’minun,

“Repel evil with that which is better. We are Best-Acquainted with the things they utter. And say: “My Lord! I seek refuge with You from the whisperings (suggestions) of the Shayatin (devils). And I seek refuge with You, My Lord! lest they should come near me.” (Surah Al-Muminun 23:96-98).

Why the Devil is called Shaytan

In the Arabic language, Shaytan is derived from Shatana, which means the far thing. Hence, the Shaytan has a different nature than mankind, and his sinful ways are far away from every type of righteousness. It was also said that Shaytan is derived from Shata, (literally `burned’), because it was created from fire. Some scholars said that both meanings are correct, although they state that the first meaning is more plausible. This is why they call those who are rebellious (or mischievous) from among the Jinns and mankind a `Shaytan’. Allah said,

“And so We have appointed for every Prophet enemies – Shayatin (devils) among mankind and Jinn, inspiring one another with adorned speech as a delusion (or by way of deception).” (Surah Al-An’am 6:112).

In addition, the Musnad by Imam Ahmad records that Abu Dharr said that the Messenger of Allah said,

“O Abu Dharr! Seek refuge with Allah from the devils of mankind and the Jinns.” Abu Dharr said, “I asked him , ‘Are there human devils?’ He said, ‘Yes.’” (Ahmad 5:178)

Furthermore, it is recorded in Sahih Muslim that Abu Dharr said that the Messenger of Allah said,

“The woman, the donkey and the black dog interrupt the prayer (if they pass in front of those who do not pray behind a Sutrah, i.e. a barrier).” Abu Dharr said, “I said, ‘What is the difference between the black dog and the red or yellow dog?’ He said,

“The black dog is a devil.” (Muslim 1:365)

Also, Ibn Jarir At-Tabari recorded that `Umar bin Al-Khattab once rode a Berthawn (huge camel) which started to proceed arrogantly. `Umar kept striking the animal, but the animal kept walking in an arrogant manner. `Umar dismounted the animal and said, “By Allah! You have carried me on a Shaytan. I did not come down from it until after I had felt something strange in my heart.” This Hadith has an authentic chain of narrators.(At-Tabarani 1:111)

The Meaning of Ar-Rajim

Ar-Rajim means, being expelled from all types of righteousness. Allah said,

“And indeed We have adorned the nearest heaven with lamps, and We have made such lamps Rujuman (as missiles) to drive away the Shayatin (devils)” (Surah Al-An’am 67:5).

Allah also said,

“Verily, We have adorned the near heaven with the stars (for beauty). And to guard against every rebellious devil. They cannot listen to the higher group (angels) for they are pelted from every side. Outcast, and theirs is a constant (or painful) torment. Except such as snatch away something by stealing, and they are pursued by a flaming fire of piercing brightness.” (Surah As-Saffat 37:6-10).

There are several similar Ayat.

Bismillah is the First Ayat of Al-Fatihah

The Companions started the Book of Allah with Bismillah:

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”

The scholars also agree that Bismillah is a part of an Ayah in Surat An-Naml (chapter 27). They disagree over whether it is a separate Ayah before every Surah, or if it is an Ayah, or a part of an Ayah, included in every Surah where the Bismillah appears in its beginning. The opinion that Bismillah is an Ayah of every Surah, except Al-Bara’ah [Surah At-Taubah] was attributed to (the Companions) Ibn `Abbas, Ibn `Umar, Ibn Az-Zubayr, Abu Hurayrah and `Ali. This is also the view of `Abdullah bin Al-Mubarak, Ash-Shafi`i, Ahmad bin Hanbal, (in one report from him) Ishaq bin Rahwayh and Abu `Ubayd Al-Qasim bin Salam. On the other hand, Malik, Abu Hanifah and their followers said that Bismillah is not an Ayah in Al-Fatihah or any other Surah. Dawud said that it is a separate Ayah in the beginning of every Surah, not part of the Surah itself, and this opinion was also attributed to Ahmad bin Hanbal.

Basmalah aloud in the Prayer

As for Basmalah aloud during the prayer, those who did not agree that it is a part of Al-Fatihah, state that the Basmalah should not be aloud. The scholars who stated that Bismillah is a part of every Surah (except chapter 9) had different opinions; some of them, such as Ash-Shafi`i, said that one should recite Bismillah with Al-Fatihah aloud. This is also the opinion of many among the Companions, the Tabi`in and the Imams of Muslims from the Salaf and the later generations. The proof that these scholars relied on is that, since Bismillah is a part of Al-Fatihah, it should be recited aloud like the rest of Al-Fatihah. Also, An-Nasa’i recorded in his Sunan, Ibn Hibban and Ibn Khuzaymah in their Sahihs and Al-Hakim in the Mustadrak, that Abu Hurayrah once performed the prayer and recited Bismillah aloud. After he finished the prayer, he said, “Among you, I perform the prayer that is the closest to the prayer of the Messenger of Allah .”  (An-Nasai 2:134) Furthermore, in Sahih Al-Bukhari it is recorded that Anas bin Malik was asked about the recitation of the Prophet . He said, “His recitation was unhurried.” He then demonstrated that and recited, while lengthening the recitation of Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim. The Hadiths mentioned above provide sufficient proof for the opinion that the Bismillah is recited aloud. Other scholars stated that the Bismillah should not be recited aloud in the prayer, and this is the established practice of the Four Khalifahs, as well as `Abdullah bin Mughaffal and several scholars among the Tabi`in and later generations. It is also the Madhhab (view) of Abu Hanifah, Ath-Thawri and Ahmad bin Hanbal.

Imam Malik stated that the Bismillah is not recited aloud or silently. This group based their view upon what Imam Muslim recorded that `A’ishah said that the Messenger of Allah used to start the prayer by reciting the Takbir (Allahu Akbar; Allah is Greater) and then recite,

“All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of all that exists.” (Ibn Abi Hatim 1:12).

Also, the Two Sahihs recorded that Anas bin Malik said, “I prayed behind the Prophet, Abu Bakr, `Umar and `Uthman and they used to start their prayer with,

“All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of all that exists.”

Muslim (1:299) added, “And they did not mention,

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”

whether in the beginning or the end of the recitation.”

These are the opinions held by the respected Imams, and their statements are similar in that they agree that the prayer of those who recite Al-Fatihah aloud or in secret is correct. All the favour is from Allah.

The Virtue of Al-Fatihah

Imam Ahmad recorded in his Musnad, that a person who was riding behind the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him,  said, “The Prophet’s animal tripped, so I said, ‘Cursed Shaytan.’ The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him,  said:

“Do not say, ‘Cursed Shaytan,’ for if you say these words, Satan becomes arrogant and says, ‘With my strength I made him fall.’ When you say, ‘Bismillah,’ Satan will become as small as a fly.” (Ahmad 5:59)

This is the blessing of reciting Bismillah.

Basmalah is Recommended before Performing any Deed

Basmalah (reciting Bismillah) is recommended before starting any action or deed. For instance, Basmalah is recommended before starting a Khutbah (speech). The Basmalah is also recommended before one enters the place where he wants to relieve himself, there is a Hadith concerning this practice. Further, Basmalah is recommended at the beginning of ablution, for Imam Ahmad and the Sunan compilers recorded that Abu Hurayrah, Sa`id bin Zayd and Abu Sa`id narrated from the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him:

“There is no valid ablution for he who did not mention Allah’s Name in it.” (Ahmad 3:41)

Also, the Basmalah is recommended before eating, for Muslim recorded in his Sahih that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said to `Umar bin Abi Salamah while he was a child under his care:

 “Say Bismillah, eat with your right hand and eat from whatever is next to you.” (Muslim 3:1600)

Some of the scholars stated that Basmalah before eating is obligatory. Basmalah before having sexual intercourse is also recommended. The Two Sahihs recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“If anyone of you before having sexual relations with his wife says, ‘In the Name of Allah. O Allah! Protect us from Satan and also protect what you grant us (meaning the coming offspring) from Satan,’ and if it is destined that they should have a child then, Satan will never be able to harm that child.” (Muslim 2:1058)

The Meaning of ‘Allah’

Allah is the Name of the Lord, the Exalted. It is said that Allah is the Greatest Name of Allah, because it is referred to when describing Allah by the various attributes. For instance, Allah said:

“He is Allah, beside Whom La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He) the Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. He is Allah, beside Whom La ilaha illa Huwa, the King, the Holy, the One free from all defects, the Giver of security, the Watcher over His creatures, the Almighty, the Compeller, the Supreme. Glory be to Allah! (High is He) above all that they associate as partners with Him. He is Allah, the Creator, the Inventor of all things, the Bestower of forms. To Him belong the Best Names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorify Him. And He is the Almighty, the Wise.” (Surah Al-Hashr 59:22-24)

Hence, Allah mentioned several of His Names as Attributes for His Name Allah. Similarly, Allah said:

“And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah, so call on Him by them.” (Surah Al- A’raf 7:180) and,

“Say (O Muhammad) “Invoke Allah or invoke the Most Gracious (Allah), by whatever name you invoke Him (it is the same), for to Him belong the Best Names.” (Surah Al ‘Isra 17:110)

Also, the Two Sahihs recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“Allah has ninety-nine Names, one hundred minus one, whoever counts (and preserves) them, will enter Paradise.” (Muslim 4:2062)

These Names were mentioned in a Hadith recorded by At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, and there are several differences between these two narrations.

The Meaning of Ar-Rahman Ar Rahim – the Most Gracious the Most Merciful

Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim are two names derived from Ar-Rahmah (the Mercy), but Rahman has more meanings that pertain to mercy than Ar-Rahim. There is a statement by Ibn Jarir that indicates that there is a consensus on this meaning. Further, Al-Qurtubi said, “The proof that these names are derived (from Ar-Rahmah), is what At-Tirmidhi recorded – and graded Sahih from ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Awf that he heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, say:

“Allah the Exalted said, ‘I Am Ar-Rahman. I created the Raham (womb, i.e. family relations) and derived a name for it from My Name. Hence, whoever keeps it, I will keep ties to him, and whoever severs it, I will sever ties with him.” (Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 6:33)

He then said, “This is a text that indicates the derivation.” He then said, “The Arabs denied the name Ar-Rahman, because of their ignorance about Allah and His Attributes.”

Al-Qurtubi said, “It was said that both Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim have the same meaning, such as the words Nadman and Nadim, as Abu ‘Ubayd has stated. Abu ‘Ali Al-Farisi said, Ar-Rahman, which is exclusively for Allah, is a name that encompasses every type of mercy that Allah has. Ar-Rahim is what effects the believers, for Allah said:

“And He is ever Rahim (merciful) to the believers.” (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:43)

Also, Ibn ‘Abbas said – about Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim, “They are two soft names, one of them is softer than the other (meaning it carries more implications of mercy).”’ (Tafsir Al-Qurtubi 1:105) Ibn Jarir said; As-Surri bin Yahya At-Tamimi narrated to me that `Uthman bin Zufar related that Al-`Azrami said about Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim, “He is Ar-Rahman with all creation and Ar-Rahim with the believers.” (At-Tabari 1:127) Hence, Allah’s statements:

“Then He rose over (Istawa) the Throne (in a manner that suits His majesty), Ar-Rahman.” (Surah Al Furqan 25:59) and,

“Ar-Rahman (Allah) rose over (Istawa) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His majesty).” (Surah Ta Ha 20:5)

Allah thus mentioned the Istawa – rising over the Throne – along with His Name Ar-Rahman, to indicate that His Mercy encompasses all of His creation. Allah also said:

And He is ever Rahim (merciful) to the believers (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:43)

thus encompassing the believers with His Name Ar-Rahim. They said, “This testifies to the fact that Ar-Rahman carries a broader scope of meanings pertaining to the mercy of Allah with His creation in both lives. Meanwhile, Ar-Rahim is exclusively for the believers.” Yet, we should mention that there is a supplication that reads: “The Rahman and the Rahim of this life and the Hereafter.”

Allah’s Name Ar-Rahman is exclusively His. For instance, Allah said:

“Say (O Muhammad ) “Invoke Allah or invoke Ar-Rahman (Allah), by whatever name you invoke Him (it is the same), for to Him belong the Best Names.” (Surah Al-Isra’ 17:110) and,

“And ask (O Muhammad ) those of Our Messengers whom We sent before you: “Did We ever appoint alihah (gods) to be worshipped besides Ar-Rahman (Most Gracious, Allah)” (Surah Az-Zukhruf 43:45).

Ar-Rahman, which no one else is allowed to use, as for Allah’s Name Ar-Rahim, Allah has described others by it. For instance, Allah said:

“Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger (Muhammad ) from amongst yourselves (i.e. whom you know well). It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He (Muhammad ) is anxious over you (to be rightly guided) for the believers (he is) kind (full of pity), and Rahim (merciful)” (Surah At-Taubah 9:128)

There are several of Allah’s Names that are used as names for others besides Allah. Further, some of Allah’s Names are exclusive for Allah alone, such as Allah, Ar-Rahman, Al-Khaliq (the Creator), Ar-Raziq (the Sustainer), and so forth.

Hence, Allah started the Tasmiyah (meaning, ‘In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful’) with His Name, Allah, and described Himself as Ar-Rahman, (Most Gracious) which is softer and more general than Ar-Rahim. The most honorable Names are mentioned first, just as Allah did here.

A Hadith narrated by Umm Salamah stated that the recitation of the Messenger of Allah was slow and clear, letter by letter:

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of all that exists. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. The Owner of the Day of Recompense.” (Surah Al-Faitihah 1:1-4)

And this is how a group of scholars recite it. Others connected the recitation of the Tasmiyah to Al-Hamd.

{2. Al-Hamd be to Allah, the Lord of all that exists.} 

The Meaning of Al-Hamd 

Abu Ja`far bin Jarir said, “The meaning of ‘Al-Hamdu Lillah‘ (all praise and thanks be to Allah) is: all thanks are due purely to Allah, alone, not any of the objects that are being worshipped instead of Him, nor any of His creation. These thanks are due to Allah’s innumerable favors and bounties, that only He knows the amount of. Allah’s bounties include creating the tools that help the creation worship Him, the physical bodies with which they are able to implement His commands, the sustenance that He provides them in this life, and the comfortable life He has granted them, without anything or anyone compelling Him to do so. Allah also warned His creation and alerted them about the means and methods with which they can earn eternal dwelling in the residence of everlasting happiness. All thanks and praise are due to Allah for these favors from beginning to end.” (At-Tabari 1:135)

Further, Ibn Jarir commented on the Ayah, “Al-Hamdu Lillah’, that it means, “A praise that Allah praised Himself with, indicating to His servants that they too should praise Him, as if Allah had said, ‘Say: All thanks and praise is due to Allah.’ It was said that the statement, ‘All praise and thanks be to Allah’, entails praising Allah by mentioning His most beautiful Names and most honorable Attributes. When one proclaims, ‘All thanks are due to Allah,’ he will be thanking Him for His favors and bounties.” (At-Tabari 1:137)

The Difference Between Praise and Thanks

Hamd is more general, in that it is a statement of praise for one’s characteristics, or for what he has done. Thanks are given for what was done, not merely for characteristics.

The Statements of the Salaf about Al-Hamd

Hafs mentioned that `Umar said to ‘Ali, “We know La ilaha illallah, Subhan Allah and Allahu Akbar. What about Al-Hamdu Lillah” ‘Ali said, “A statement that Allah liked for Himself, was pleased with for Himself and He likes that it be repeated.” (At-Tabari 1:15) Also, Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Al-Hamdu Lillah is the statement of appreciation. When the servant says Al-Hamdu Lillah, Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me.” Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this Hadith. (At-Tabari 1:13)

The Virtues of Al-Hamd

Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal recorded that Al-Aswad bin Sari` said, “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Should I recite to you words of praise for My Lord, the Exalted, that I have collected’ He, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Verily, your Lord likes Al-Hamd.” (Ahmad 3:435)

Furthermore, Abu ‘Isa At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah recorded that Musa bin Ibrahim bin Kathir related that Talhah bin Khirash said that Jabir bin ‘Abdullah said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“The best Dhikr (remembering Allah) is La ilaha illallah and the best supplication is Al-Hamdu Lillah.” (Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 9:324)

Also, Ibn Majah recorded that Anas bin Malik said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said:

“No servant is blessed by Allah and says,’Al-Hamdu Lillah’, except that what he was given is better than that which he has himself acquired.” (Ibn Majah 2:1250)

Further, in his Sunan, Ibn Majah recorded that Ibn ‘Umar said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“A servant of Allah once said, ‘O Allah! Yours is the Hamd that is suitable for the grace of Your Face and the greatness of Your Supreme Authority.’ The two angels were confused as to how to write these words. They ascended to Allah and said, ‘O our Lord! A servant has just uttered a statement and we are unsure how to record it for him.’ Allah said while having more knowledge in what His servant has said, ‘What did My servant say?’ They said, ‘He said, ‘O Allah! Yours is the Hamd that is suitable for the grace of Your Face and the greatness of Your Supreme Authority.’ Allah said to them, ‘Write it as My servant has said it, until he meets Me and then I shall reward him for it.” (Ibn Majah 2:1249)

Al before Hamd encompasses all Types of Thanks and Appreciation for Allah

The letters Alif and Lam before the word Hamd serve to encompass all types of thanks and appreciation for Allah, the Exalted. A Hadith stated:

“O Allah! All of Al-Hamd is due to You, You own all the ownership, all types of good are in Your Hand and all affairs belong to You.” (At-Targhib wat-Tarhib 2:253)

The Meaning of Ar-Rabb, the Lord

Ar-Rabb is the owner who has full authority over his property. Ar-Rabb, linguistically means, the Master or the one who has the authority to lead. All of these meanings are correct for Allah. When it is alone, the word Rabb is used only for Allah. As for other than Allah, it can be used to say Rabb Ad-Dar, the master of such and such an object. Further, it was reported that Ar-Rabb is Allah’s Greatest Name.

The Meaning of Al-Alamin

Al-‘Alamin is plural for ‘Alam, which encompasses everything in existence except Allah. The word ‘Alam is itself a plural word, having no singular form. The ‘Alamin are different creations that exist in the heavens and the earth, on land and at sea. Every generation of creation is called an ‘Alam. Al-Farra` and Abu `Ubayd said, “‘Alam includes all that has a mind, the Jinns, mankind, the angels and the devils, but not the animals.” Also, Zayd bin Aslam and Abu Muhaysin said, “Alam includes all that Allah has created with a soul.” Further, Qatadah said about: “The Lord of the ‘Alamin”, “Every type of creation is an ‘Alam.” Az-Zajjaj also said, “Alam encompasses everything that Allah created, in this life and in the Hereafter.” Al-Qurtubi commented, “This is the correct meaning, that the ‘Alam encompasses everything that Allah created in both worlds. Similarly, Allah said:

“Fir’awn (Pharaoh) said: “And what is the Lord of the ‘Alamin?” Musa (Moses) said: “The Lord of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, if you seek to be convinced with certainty” (Surah Ash-Shurah 26:23-24)

Why is the Creation called ‘Alam?

‘Alam is derived from ‘Alamah, that is because it is a sign testifying to the existence of its Creator and to His Oneness.” (Al-Qurtubi 1:139)

 {3. Ar-Rahman (the Most Gracious), Ar-Rahim (the Most Merciful)}

Allah said next: “Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim” We explained these Names in the Bamalah. Al-Qurtubi said, “Allah described Himself by ‘Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim‘ after saying ‘the Lord of the Alamin’ so His statement includes a warning, and then an encouragement. Similarly, Allah said:

“Declare (O Muhammad) unto my servants, that truly, I am the Oft Forgiving, the Most Merciful. And that My torment is indeed the most painful torment.” (Surah Al-Hijr 49-50)

“Surely, your Lord is swift in retribution, and certainly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah Al-An’am 6:165)

Hence, Rabb contains a warning while Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim encourages. Further, Muslim recorded in his Sahih that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

If the believer knew what punishment Allah has, none would hop in acquiring His Paradise, and if the disbeliever knew what Mercy Allah has, none will lose hope of earning His earning.” (Muslim 4:2109)

{4. Owner of the Day of Recompense}

Indicating Sovereignty on the Day of Judgement

Allah mentioned His sovereignty of the Day of Resurrection, but this does not negate His sovereignty over all other things. For Allah mentioned that He is the Lord of existence, including this earthly life and the Hereafter. Allah only mentioned the Day of Recompense here because on that Day, no one except Him will be able to claim ownership of anything whatsoever. On that Day, no one will be allowed to speak without His permission. Similarly, Allah said,

“The Day that Ar-Ruh (Jibril (Gabriel) or another angel) and the angels will stand forth in rows, they will not speak except him whom the Most Gracious (Allah) allows, and he will speak what is right.” (Surah An-Naba’ 78:38)

“And all voices will be humbled for the Most Gracious (Allah), and nothing shall you hear but the low voice of their footsteps.” (Surah Ta Ha 20:108) and,

“On the Day when it comes, no person shall speak except by His (Allah’s) leave. Some among them will be wretched and (others) blessed.” (Surah Hud 11:105).

Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas commented, “Allah says, ‘On that Day, no one owns anything that they used to own in the world.”’

The Meaning of Yawm Ad-Din

Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Yawm Ad-Din is the Day of Recompense for the creatures, meaning the Day of Judgment. On that Day, Allah will reckon the creation for their deeds, evil for evil, good for good, except for those whom He pardons.” (Ibn Abi Hatim 1:19) In addition, several other Companions, Tabi`in and scholars of the Salaf, said similarly, for this meaning is apparent and clear from the Ayah.

Allah is Al-Malik (King or Owner)

Allah is the True Owner (Malik) (of everything and everyone). Allah said:

“He is Allah, beside Whom La ilaha illa Huwa, the King, the Holy, the One free from all defects.” (Surah Al-Hashr 59:23).

Also, the Two Sahihs recorded Abu Hurayrah saying that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“The most despicable name to Allah is a person who calls himself the king of kings, while there are no owners except Allah.” (Muslim 3:1688)

Also the Two Sahihs recorded that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“(On the Day of Judgement) Allah will grasp the earth and fold up the heavens with His Right Hand and proclaim, ‘I Am the King! Where are the kings of the earth? Where are the tyrants? Where are the arrogant’?” (Muslim 4:2148)

Also, in the the Glorious Qur’an:

“Whose is the kingdom this Day? Allah’s, the One, the Irresistible.”(Surah Ghafir 40:16).

As for calling someone other than Allah a king in this life, then it is done in a figure of speech. For instance Allah said:

“Indeed Allah appointed Talut (Saul) as a king over you.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:247),

“As there was a king behind them” (Surah Al-Khaf 18:79), and,

“When He made Prophets among you, and made you kings.” (Surah Al-Maidah 5:20).

The Meaning of Ad-Din

Ad-Din means the reckoning, the reward or punishment. Similarly, Allah said:

“On that Day Allah will pay them the (Dinahum) recompense (of their deeds) in full.” (Surah An-Nur 24:25), and,

“Shall we indeed (be raised up) to receive reward or punishment (according to our deeds)” (Surah As-Saffat 37:53).

A Hadith stated:

“The wise person is he who reckons himself and works for (his life) after death.” (Ibn Majah 2:1423)

meaning, he holds himself accountable. Also, `Umar said, “Hold yourself accountable before you are held accountable, weigh yourselves before you are weighed, and be prepared for the biggest gathering before He Whose knowledge encompasses your deeds,

“That Day shall you be brought to Judgement, not a secret of yours will be hidden” (Al-Haqqah 69:18).

{5. You we worship, and You we ask for help.}

The Linguistic and Religious Meaning of ‘Ibadah

Linguistically, ‘Ibadah means subdued. For instance, a road is described as Mu`abbadah, meaning, ‘paved’. In religious terminology, ‘Ibadah implies the utmost love, humility and fear.

The Merit of stating the Object of the Action before the Doer of the Act, and the Merit of these Negations

“You…”, means, we worship You alone and none else, and rely on You alone and none else. This is the perfect form of obedience and the entire religion is implied by these two ideas. Some of the Salaf said, Al-Fatihah is the secret of the Qur’an, while these words are the secret of Al-Fatihah,

“You we worship, and You we ask for help from.”

The first part is a declaration of innocence from Shirk (polytheism), while the second negates having any power or strength, displaying the recognition that all affairs are controlled by Allah alone. This meaning is reiterated in various instances in the Qur’an. For instance, Allah said:

“So worship Him (O Muhammad ) and put your trust in Him. And your Lord is not unaware of what you (people) do.” (Surah Hud 11:123)

“Say: “He is the Most Gracious (Allah), in Him we believe, and in Him we put our trust.” (Surah Al-Mulk 67:29)

“(He alone is) the Lord of the east and the west; La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). So take Him alone as Wakil (Disposer of your affairs)” (Surah Al-Muzzamil 73:9), and,

“You we worship, and You we ask for help from.”

We should mention that in this Ayah, the type of speech here changes from the third person to direct speech by using the Kaf in the statement Iyyaka (You). This is because after the servant praised and thanked Allah, he stands before Him, addressing Him directly:

“You we worship, and You we ask for help from.”

Al-Fatihah indicates the Necessity of praising Allah. It is required in every Prayer.

The beginning of Surat Al-Fatihah contains Allah’s praise for Himself by His most beautiful Attributes and indicates to His servants that, they too, should praise Him in the same manner. Hence, the prayer is not valid unless one recites Al-Fatihah, if he is able. The Two Sahihs recorded that `Ubadah bin As-Samit said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“There is no valid prayer for whoever does not recite Al-Fatihah of the Book.”

Also, it is recorded in Sahih Muslim that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Allah said, ‘I divided the prayer 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 praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of all that exists’, Allah says, `My servant has praised Me.’ When the servant says, ‘The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful’, Allah says, `My servant has praised Me.’ When the servant says, ‘The Owner of the Day of Recompense’, Allah says, `My servant has glorified Me.’ If the servant says, ‘You we worship, and You we ask for help’, 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 path. The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your grace, not (that) of those who have earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray’, Allah says, `This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked.'” (Muslim 1:297)

Tawhid Al-Uluhiyyah

Ad-Dahhak narrated that Ibn `Abbas said, “You we worship” means, “It is You whom we single out, Whom we fear and Whom we hope in, You alone, our Lord, and none else.”

Tawhid Ar-Rububiyyah

“And You we ask for help from”, to obey you and in all of our affairs.” (Ibn Abi Hatim 1:19) Further, Qatadah said that the Ayah, “You we worship, and You we ask for help from” “Contains Allah’s command to us to perform sincere worship for Him and to seek His aid concerning all of our affairs.” Allah mentioned: “You we worship” before, “And You we ask for help from”, because the objective here is the worship, while Allah’s help is the tool to implement this objective. Certainly, one first takes care of the most important aspects and then what is less important, and Allah knows best.

Allah Called His Prophet an ‘Abd

Allah called His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, an ‘Abd (servant) when He mentioned sending down His Book, the Prophet’s involvement in inviting to Him, and when mentioning the Isra’ (overnight journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and then to heaven), and these are the Prophet’s most honorable missions. Allah said,

“All praise and thanks be to Allah, Who has sent down to His servant (Muhammad ) the Book (the Qur’an)” (Surah Al-Khaf 18:1)

“And when the servant of Allah (Muhammad ) stood up invoking Him (his Lord – Allah in prayer)” (Surah Al-Jinn 72:19) and,

“Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) (above all that they associate with Him) Who took His servant (Muhammad ) for a journey by night” (Surah Al-Isra’ 17:1)

Encouraging the Performance of Acts of Worship During Times of Distress

Allah also recommended that His Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, resort to acts of worship during times when he felt distressed because of the disbelievers who defied and denied him. Allah said,

“Indeed, We know that your breast is straitened at what they say. So glorify the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves (to Him). And worship your Lord until there comes unto you the certainty (i.e. death)” (Surah Al-Hijr 15:97-99)

Why Praise was Mentioned First

Since the praise of Allah, Who is being sought for help, was mentioned, it was appropriate that one follows the praise by asking for his need. We stated that Allah said,

“One half for Myself and one half for My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked.”

This is the best method for seeking help, by first praising the one whom help is sought from and then asking for His aid, and help for one’s self, and for his Muslim brethren by saying.

“Guide us to the straight path.”

This method is more appropriate and efficient in bringing about a positive answer to the pleas, and this is why Allah recommended this better method. Asking for help may take the form of conveying the condition of the person who is seeking help. For instance, the Prophet Moses said,

“My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!” (Surah Al-Qasas 28:24).

Also, one may first mention the attributes of whoever is being asked, such as what Dhun-Nun [Prophet Yunus] said,

“La ilaha illa Anta (none has the right to be worshipped but You (O Allah)), Glorified (and Exalted) be You (above all that they associate with You)! Truly, I have been of the wrongdoers.” (Surah Al-Anbiya 21:87)

Further, one may praise Him without mentioning what he needs.

The Meaning of Guidance mentioned in the Surah

The guidance mentioned in the Surah implies being directed and guided to success. Allah said, “Guide us to the straight path” meaning guide, direct, lead and grant us the correct guidance. Also,

“And shown him the two ways (good and evil)” (Surah Al-Balad 90:10), means, `We explained to him the paths of good and evil.’ Also, Allah said,

“He (Allah) chose him (as an intimate friend) and guided him to a straight path” (Surah An-Nahl 16:121), and,

“And lead them on to the way of flaming Fire (Hell)” (Surah As-Saffat 37:23). Similarly, Allah said,

“And verily, you (O Muhammad ) are indeed guiding (mankind) to the straight path” (Surah Al-Jathiyah 42:52), and,

“All praise and thanks be to Allah, Who has guided us to this.” (Surah Al-Araf 7:43), meaning, guided us and directed us and qualified us for this end – Paradise.

The Meaning of As-Sirat Al-Mustaqim, the Straight Path

As for the meaning of As-Sirat Al-Mustaqim, Imam Abu Ja`far At-Tabari said, “The Ummah agreed that Sirat Al-Mustaqim, is the clear path without branches, according to the language of the Arabs. For instance, Jarir bin `Atiyah Al-Khatafi said in a poem, `The Leader of the faithful is on a path that will remain straight even though the other paths are crooked.” At-Tabari also stated that, “There are many evidences to this fact.” At-Tabari then proceeded, “The Arabs use the term, Sirat in reference to every deed and statement whether righteous or wicked. Hence the Arabs would describe the honest person as being straight and the wicked person as being crooked. The straight path mentioned in the Qur’an refers to Islam. (At-Tabari 1:170)

Imam Ahmad recorded in his Musnad that An-Nawwas bin Sam`an said that the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said:

“Allah has set an example: a Sirat (straight path) that is surrounded by two walls on both sides, with several open doors within the walls covered with curtains. There is a caller on the gate of the Sirat who heralds, ‘O people! Stay on the path and do not deviate from it.’ Meanwhile, a caller from above the path is also warning any person who wants to open any of these doors, ‘Woe unto you! Do not open it, for if you open it you will pass through.’ The straight path is Islam, the two walls are Allah’s set limits, while the doors resemble what Allah has prohibited. The caller on the gate of the Sirat is the Book of Allah, while the caller above the Sirat is Allah’s admonishment in the heart of every Muslim.” (Ahmad 4:182)

The Faithful ask for and abide by Guidance

If someone asks, “Why does the believer ask Allah for guidance during every prayer and at other times, while he is already properly guided? Has he not already acquired guidance?” The answer to these questions is that if it were not a fact that the believer needs to keep asking for guidance day and night, Allah would not have directed him to invoke Him to acquire the guidance. The servant needs Allah the Exalted every hour of his life to help him remain firm on the path of guidance and to make him even more firm and persistent on it. The servant does not have the power to benefit or harm himself, except by Allah’s permission. Therefore, Allah directed the servant to invoke Him constantly, so that He provides him with His aid and with firmness and success. Indeed, the happy person is he whom Allah guides to ask of Him. This is especially the case if a person urgently needs Allah’s help day or night. Allah said,

“O you who believe! Believe in Allah, and His Messenger (Muhammad ), and the Book (the Qur’an) which He has sent down to His Messenger, and the Scripture which He sent down to those before (him)” (Surah An-Nisa 4:16).

Therefore, in this Ayah Allah commanded the believers to believe, and this command is not redundant since what is sought here is firmness and continuity of performing the deeds that help one remain on the path of faith. Also, Allah commanded His believing servants to proclaim,

“Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower.” (Surah Al-Imran 3:8). Hence,

“Guide us to the straight way” means, “Make us firm on the path of guidance and do not allow us to deviate from it.”

{7. The way of those upon whom You have bestowed Your grace, not (that) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray}

 

We mentioned the Hadith in which the servant proclaims,

“Guide us to the straight way” and Allah says, “This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asks for.” Allah’s statement.

“The way of those upon whom You have bestowed Your grace” defines the path. ‘Those upon whom Allah has bestowed His grace’ are those mentioned in Surat An-Nisa’, when Allah said,

“And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad ), then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His grace, the Prophets, the Siddiqin (the truly faithful), the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are! Such is the bounty from Allah, and Allah is sufficient to know” (Surah An-Nisa’ 4:69-70).

Allah’s statement,

“Not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray” meaning guide us to the straight path, the path of those upon whom you have bestowed Your grace, that is, the people of guidance, sincerity and obedience to Allah and His Messengers. They are the people who adhere to Allah’s commandments and refrain from committing what He has prohibited. But, help us to avoid the path of those whom Allah is angry with, whose intentions are corrupt, who know the truth, yet deviate from it. Also, help us avoid the path of those who were led astray, who lost the true knowledge and, as a result, are wandering in misguidance, unable to find the correct path. Allah asserted that the two paths He described here are both misguided when He repeated the negation `not’. These two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why `anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as `led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians. Those who know, but avoid implementing the truth, deserve the anger, unlike those who are ignorant. The Christians want to seek the true knowledge, but are unable to find it because they did not seek it from its proper resources. This is why they were led astray. We should also mention that both the Christians and the Jews have earned the anger and are led astray, but the anger is one of the attributes more particular of the Jews. Allah said about the Jews,

“Those (Jews) who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath” (Surah Al Maidah 5:60).

The attribute that the Christians deserve most is that of being led astray, just as Allah said about them,

“Who went astray before and who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the right path” (Surah Al Maidah 5:77).

There are several Hadiths and reports from the Salaf on this subject. Imam Ahmad recorded that `Adi bin Hatim said, “The horsemen of the Messenger of Allah seized my paternal aunt and some other people. When they brought them to the Messenger of Allah, they were made to stand in line before him. My aunt said, `O Messenger of Allah! The supporter is far away, the offspring have stopped coming and I am an old woman, unable to serve. Grant me your favor, may Allah grant you His favor.’ He said, `Who is your supporter?’ She said, `Adi bin Hatim.’ He said, `The one who ran away from Allah and His Messenger?’ She said, `So, the Prophet freed me.’ When the Prophet came back, there was a man next to him, I think that he was `Ali, who said to her, ‘Ask him for a means of transportation.’ She asked the Prophet, and he ordered that she be given an animal. `Adi then said, “Later on, she came to me and said, `He (Muhammad ) has done a favor that your father (who was a generous man) would never have done. So-and-so person came to him and he granted him his favor, and so-and-so came to him and he granted him his favor.’ So I went to the Prophet and found that some women and children were gathering with him, so close that I knew that he was not a king like Kisra (King of Persia) or Caesar. He said, `O `Adi! What made you run away, so that La ilaha illallah is not proclaimed? Is there a deity worthy of worship except Allah? What made you run away, so that Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greater) is not proclaimed? Is there anything Greater than Allah?’ I proclaimed my Islam and I saw his face radiate with pleasure and he said:

“Those who have earned the anger are the Jews and those who are led astray are the Christians.” (Ahmad 4:378)

Also, when Zayd bin `Amr bin Nufayl went with some of his friends – before Islam – to Ash-Sham seeking the true religion, the Jews said to him, “You will not become a Jew unless you carry a share of the anger of Allah that we have earned.” He said, “I am seeking to escape Allah’s anger.” Also, the Christians said to him, “If you become one of us you will carry a share in Allah’s discontent.” He said, “I cannot bear it.” So he remained in his pure nature and avoided worshipping the idols and the polytheistic practices. He became neither a Jew, nor Christian. As for his companions, they became Christians because they found it more pure than Judaism. Waraqah bin Nawfal was among these people until Allah guided him by the hand of His Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, when he was sent as Prophet, and Waraqah believed in the revelation that was sent to the Prophet may Allah be pleased with him.

The Summary of Al-Fatihah

The honorable Surah Al-Fatihah contains seven Ayat including the praise and thanks of Allah, glorifying Him and praising Him by mentioning His most Beautiful Names and most high Attributes. It also mentions the Hereafter, which is the Day of Resurrection, and directs Allah’s servants to ask of Him, invoking Him and declaring that all power and strength comes from Him. It also calls to the sincerity of the worship of Allah alone, singling Him out in His divinity, believing in His perfection, being free from the need of any partners, having no rivals nor equals. Al-Fatihah directs the believers to invoke Allah to guide them to the straight path, which is the true religion, and to help them remain on that path in this life, and to pass over the actual Sirat (bridge over hell that everyone must pass over) on the Day of Judgment. On that Day, the believers will be directed to the gardens of comfort in the company of the Prophets, the truthful ones, the martyrs and the righteous. Al-Fatihah also encourages performing good deeds, so that the believers will be in the company of the good-doers on the Day of Resurrection. The Surah also warns against following the paths of misguidance, so that one does not end up being gathered with those who indulge in sin, on the Day of Resurrection, including those who have earned the anger and those who were led astray.

The Bounties are because of Allah, not the Deviations

Allah said, “The way of those upon whom you have bestowed Your grace”, when He mentioned His favor. On mentioning anger, Allah said, “Not (that) of those who earned Your anger”, without mentioning the subject, although it is He Who has sent down the anger on them, just as Allah stated in another Ayah,

“Have you (O Muhammad ) not seen those (hypocrites) who take as friends a people upon whom is the wrath of Allah (i.e. Jews)” (Surah Al-Mujadilah 58:14).

Also, Allah relates the misguidance of those who indulged in it, although they were justly misguided according to Allah’s appointed destiny. For instance, Allah said,

“He whom Allah guides, he is the rightly-guided; but he whom He sends astray, for him you will find no Wali (guiding friend) to lead him (to the right path)” (Surah Al-Khaf 18:17) and,

“Whomsoever Allah sends astray, none can guide him; and He lets them wander blindly in their transgression.” (Surah Al-Araf 7:186).

These and several other Ayat testify to the fact that Allah alone is the One Who guides and misguides, contrary to the belief of the Qadariyyah sect, who claimed that the servants choose and create their own destiny. They rely on some unclear Ayat avoiding what is clear and contradicts their desires. Theirs, is the method of the people who follow their lust, desire and wickedness. An authentic Hadith narrated,

“When you see those who follow what is not so clear in it (the Qur’an), then they are those whom Allah has mentioned (refer to 3:7). Hence, avoid them.” (Fath Al Bari 8:57)

The Prophet was referring to Allah’s statement,

“So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation (from the truth) they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah (polytheism and trials), and seeking for its hidden meanings.” (3:7).

Verily, no innovator in the religion could ever rely on any authentic evidence in the Qur’an that testifies to his innovation. The Qur’an came to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and guidance and misguidance. The Qur’an does not contain any discrepancies or contradictions, because it is a revelation from the Most Wise, Worthy of all praise.

Saying Amin

It is recommended to say Amin after finishing the recitation of Al-Fatihah. Amin means, “O Allah! Accept our invocation.” The evidence that saying Amin is recommended is contained in what Imams Ahmad, Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi recorded, that Wa’il bin Hujr said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah recite, “Not (that) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray”, and he said `Amin’ extending it with his voice.” (Ahmad 4:315)

Also, Abu Hurayrah narrated that whenever the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, would recite, “Not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray”, he would say Amin until those who were behind him in the first line could hear him.” (Abu Dawud 1:575)

Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah recorded this Hadith with the addition, “Then the Masjid would shake because of (those behind the Prophet ) reciting Amin.” (Abu Dawud 1:575)

Saying Amin is recommended for those who are not praying (when reciting Al-Fatihah) and is strongly recommended for those who are praying, whether alone or behind the Imam. The Two Sahihs recorded that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“When the Imam says, ‘ Amin’, then say, ‘Amin’, because whoever says, Amin’ with the angels, his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Fath Al Bari 11:203)

Muslim recorded that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said,

“When any of you says in the prayer, ‘Amin’ and the angels in heaven say, `Amin’, in unison, his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Muslim 1:307)

It was said that the Hadith talks about both the angels and the Muslims saying Amin at the same time. The Hadith also refers to when the Amins said by the angels and the Muslims are equally sincere (thus bringing about forgiveness). Further, it is recorded in Sahih Muslim that Abu Musa related to the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, that he said,

“When the Imam says, `Walad-dallin’, say, `Amin’ and Allah will answer your invocation.” (Muslim 1:303)

In addition, At-Tirmidhi said that ‘Amin’ means, “Do not disappoint our hope”, while the majority of scholars said that it means. “Answer our invocation.”

Also, in his Musnad, Imam Ahmad recorded that `A’ishah said that when the Jews were mentioned to him, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“They will not envy us for anything more than they envy us for Friday which we have been guided to, while they were led astray from it, and for the Qiblah which we were guided to, while they were led astray from it, and for our saying `Amin’ behind the Imam.” (Ahmad 6:134)

Also, Ibn Majah recorded this Hadith with the wording,

“The Jews have never envied you more than for your saying the Salam (Islamic greeting) and for saying Amin.”  (Ibn Majah 2:278)

This completes the Tafsir of Surah Al-Fatihah la hawla wa la quwatta illah billah.

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