HIGHLIGHTS ON THE MEANING OF AL FATIHA – Book Sample
Introduction to ‘Al-Fatiha’:
The short chapter known as ‘Al-Fatiha’ or ‘The Opening Chapter’ of the Qur’an is so named because it is the first chapter of the Qur’ an and the key to the understanding of the whole Book. It is a seven-verse chapter or sura, which is described by the Prophet Muhammad as the greatest sura of the Qur’an (Al-Bukhari Vol. 6: 490). In his daily five prayers, a Muslim reads it at least seventeen times. In prayers, it has to be read in Arabic even by non-Arabs (Al-Bukhari Vol.l: 404). This probably explains why it is a very easy sura to read. It does not include many recitation rules. However, the sura is so rich that Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, said: “I could fill up to seventy volumes in explanation of Sura Al-Fatiha” (Ibn Ajiba 629). AthThaalibi quotes one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad in which the prophet states that the like of the Opening Chapter of the Qur’an has never been revealed to any of the prophets before him (Vol. 1: 1).
Writers agree that the verses of the Sura Al-Fatiha are seven. However, they disagree about the division into verses of the beginning and the ending of the sura. The most acceptable view is that the initial statement, “In the Name of Allah, the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate” counts as a separate verse in this sura only. In other suras of the Qur’an, this statement is not counted as a separate verse.
It seems to be an initial statement that starts the Qur’ an and which is repeatedly quoted before reading all the suras of the Qur’an except for Sura 9, At-Tawba. This notion is held by Ash-Shafiy and is based on the Prophet’s statement that sura Al-Fatiha is seven verses and the first verse is “In the name of Allah the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate” (AlBaydawi Vol.1: 3).
Abu-Hanifa, another great scholar, holds the other view which states that the verse “In the name of Allah, the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate’ is not a verse by itself. The last verse of Al-Fatiha, from Abu Hanifa’s point of view, is “Not of those who have incurred Your wrath or those who have gone astray” (Ar-Razi Vol. I: 163).
Sura Al-Fatiha is given many names, which indicate its nature. It is known as ‘the treasure’ for it includes all the elements of righteousness and truthfulness. It is also known as ‘the protective sura’ for it includes all the basics, which guarantee that a person will live rightly and be saved in the After-life.
Al-Bay’haqi quotes Al-Hasan who said “whoever understands the meaning of Sura AI-Fatiha, will know the meaning of all the books revealed to the prophets and messengers of Allah. It sums up the Qur’ an and the Qur’an sums up all the books revealed to the prophets and messengers before the prophet Muhammad (Assyoti Vol. I: 18).
AI-Fatiha establishes the foundations of Islam, which are detailed in the Qur’an. It deals with the basics of ‘belief,’ ‘worship’ and ‘conduct’. The first three verses deal with belief in Allah and His attributes. The next two verses deal with the worship of Allah. The last two verses deal with the practical aspect of a Muslim’s conduct. These three parts of the sura are related to each other. When a Muslim believes in Allah as the God of mercy, he realizes that he should thankfully worship Him. A Muslim, will, then, follow the instructions of Allah and will discipline his life accordingly.
Al-Fatiha might also be divided into two equal sections. The first section is a praise of Allah and the second is a supplication to Allah to Guide human beings to the right way. It is a supplication, which gets an immediate response from Allah. It is recommended that we read the sura’s verses separately so that we enjoy Allah’s response to each of the verses, as Omar lbn Abdel Aziz, the great Muslim leader, used to do.
The Prophet Muhammad narrates that Allah responds bountifully to the verses of Al-Fatiha. When a Muslim reads the first part of the chapter, Allah will say: “My servant has praised, thanked and glorified Me”. When a Muslim reads the second part of the chapter, which is a supplication to Allah to guide him to the right way, Allah will respond positively to the supplication
The feature of the inclusiveness of Sura Al-Fatiha is noticed by lbn Ajiba who points out that this sura includes different kinds of knowledge. It deals with theology in the two verses:
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