Surah Al-Fatiha is the opening chapter of the Quran. It is very significant for many reasons:
1) It is the first complete surah revealed to the Prophet (SAS), hence it is called “Fatih al-kitab.”
2) It is also called “the esteemed Quran”, “Umm-ul-kitab”, and also “Umm-ul-Quran.” Abu-Huraira (RU) narrarates that the Messenger of Allah (SAS) said, “I swear by the Lord, in whose hands is my life, that there has been no surah like this in the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms of David, and even in the Quran.” (Muslim & Tirmidhi)
3) Anas (RU) narrarates that the Messenger of Allah (SAS) said, “Among all the surahs of the Quran, Surah Al-Fatihah is supreme and the highest.”
4) This surah is also called “Surah Al-shifa” (curing surah).
Now we will try to understand the meanings of this surah, bit-by-bit.
“Al-hamdulil-ah” means that all forms of praise is for Allah (SWT) alone. It is not only praise and thankfulness to Allah (SWT), but also has in its meaning the oneness of Allah (SWT) (Tawheed) built in it. Hence, the logic or reason for praise is built in it. This is an example of the eloquence of The Quran.
“Indeed, all praise is due to Allah, who is the creator of every body and every thing.” Hence, the first pillar of Islam “Eeman” is built in this brief phrase.
Furthermore, the first verse of this Surah is also the logic for all forms of praise for Allah alone. It means Allah is the Creator, Nourisher, and Sustainer of all universes known and unknown.
Let us see how Allah describes his creations in the Quran. For example, Allah says in Surah Az- Zariyat # 47,48,49
We have built the Heavens with our own handicraft, and it is vast and expanding. And we laid down the earth and we are the best spreader. We created opposite pairs of everything so that you may reflect.
The earlier scholars did not understand the meaning of expanding universe and advised us to be quiet about it. Now, through space research, we are gradually learning more and more about the expanding universe. For example, our solar system is part of a galaxy. There are many galaxies bigger than this. All these galaxies are moving away from one another. In this way the universe is expanding. Unfortunately, these scientists do not want to reflect and seek inspiration from the signs described by Allah (SWT) in various parts of the Quran centuries ago.
Then, Allah (SWT) says in Surah Al-Waqia, # 68-73
Do you see the water which you drink? Is it you who cause it from the rainclouds to come down or are We the one who bring it down from the raincloud? If We wished, We would have made it bitter (and unusable). Why, then, don’t you thank Allah?
Do you see the fire which you light? Are you the one who grow the trees, or are We the grower of these trees? We have made this fire a reminder, as well as, a comfort for the dwellers in the wilderness.
Note that fire reminds us of hell fire. Here in this world Allah has enabled us to use this fire for our comfort and cooking as well.
Then, Allah speaks about the creation of the human being: Surah Al-Insan # 1,2,3
Has not a long time passed on human beings when he was not anything worth mentioning? We created the man from a drop of thickened fluid to test him, so we made him hearer and seer. Allah not only created human beings, but also showed them the right path whether he be grateful to Him or ungrateful.
A human being is a mini-universe with many systems working in harmony with each other. It is a great sign of the Creator. That is why Allah says in the Qur’an,
And there are signs within you; why don’t you reflect?
This gives us a brief description of the creations of Allah (SWT). Now let us examine the meaning of “Al-Rahman” and “Al-Raheem.” Both of these words are extracted from the same root “Al-Rahmah.”
“Al-Rahman” means the mercy from the beginning to the end. There is no plural for this word, and “Al-Rahman” can only be used for Allah (SWT).
“Al-Raheem” is the complete or total mercy, This word can be used for human beings, as well. For example, Allah described Prophet Mohammad (SAS). (Ar Rauf-ur-Raheem)
The Prophet (SAS) is the total embodiment of mercy for the believers.
Thirdly we say that Allah is the master of the Day of Judgement. This requires a seperate khutba. The next verse is.
You (Alone) we worship, and you (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).
Hence, all form of praise is for Allah who created us in the past, and who is totally merciful during the living present, and is the master of the Day of Judgement in the coming future. Why should we not say,
“Him alone we worship; we ask Him alone for help.” This verse is called the spirit of Surah Al-Fatiha. It is praise of Allah (SWT), as well as, a supplication to seek the help of Allah. Next, we start with our supplication. We pray to Allah to guide us to the right path. This word “guidance” needs explanation. Allah (SWT) provides His guidance in three forms: Allah provided guidance to all his creatures, as mentioned in various parts of the Quran. For example, Allah says in Surah Al-Isra (verse 44),
The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is ever Forbearing, Oft-Forgiving.
Look at our limitations. Indeed Allah has provided guidance to trees, stars, and even stones.
Again Allah says in Surah An-Nur # 41, Don’t you see that everything in the heaven and earth, and specifically the birds which fly with their outspread wings praise Allah (SWT). Everything knows its prayer and its glorification for Allah, and Allah fully knows what they do.
Furthermore, Allah says in Surah Al-A’la, verse # 1-3 Glory the Name of your Lord, the most High. Who has created (everything), and then proportioned it, then balanced it, then guided it. Hence, everything has guidance to follow. For example, an ear cannot be used for seeing, and eyes for hearing. That is why Allah says in Surah Maryam,
Nothing comes in this universe, except as an obedient servant of Allah (SWT).
Secondly, Allah provides guidance through messengers and His holy books. Thirdly, Allah can provide direct guidance to his chosen people.
Amongst all the favors of Allah (SWT) to His creatures, the most important is providing His guidance to them. Without it, they will be lost and all systems will collapse. Now we see that everything has guidance from Allah. Why do we ask Allah to guide us to the right path? Furthermore, his messengers are indeed on the right path. Why should these messengers keep praying to Allah to provide them guidance towards the right path? The answer to this question is that Allah can increase his guidance to everybody and, hence, nobody can consider himself above this necessity. For example, Allah says to Prophet Muhammad (SAS) while describing the benefits of the Conquest of Makkah in Surah Fat’h,
“One benefit is to guide you to the right path”. In fact, All prophets strived for this higher and higher level of guidance from Allah (SWT).
is the most wonderful supplication stating,
Show us the path of those on whom Your blessing were showered. The explanation of this group is spelled out in Surah An-Nisa # 69
And whoso obey Allah and Prophet Mohammad (SAS), then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His grace, of the Prophets, the truthful, the martyrs and the pious people.
Note that we are not saying here “Show me the straight path of a messenger or the straight path described by the Quran”. In fact Allah (SWT) is guiding us to look for the straight path in the light of the Quran in the company of good people who are present in all ages.
Once the Messenger of Allah (SAS) said to his companions, “My followers will be divided into 70 groups. Only one of them is going to be on the right path.” A companion asked, “Who are they?” The Messenger of Allah replied, “Those who follow me and the way of my companions.” Hence the company of good people is essential. A poet said in Urduي
“Course work only provides vocabulary. It is the teachers who really shape the personality.”
Some Muslims followed the explanation of The Quran only and ignored the pious people around them. They forgot that Allah (SWT) always sent Prophets as teachers. Even for wordly skills, like medicine, just correspondence courses are not enough. It needs qualified teachers.
Other Muslims paid attention only to the pious people of their time and ignored the Quran. Hence, friction developed between these groups. In fact, we need the teachings of The Quran and the company of pious people, who are present in all ages. That is why Allah (SWT) is pointing towards those people in specifying the straight path for guidance.
Finally, we ask Allah (SWT) not to show us the path of those on whom his wrath was inflicted and also not the path of those who went astray. This is pointing towards Jews and Christians and needs a separate khutba to elaborate it.
Abu-Hurairah (RU) narrarates in Muslim that the Messenger of Allah (SAS) said, “Allah (SWT) says that I have divided ‘Salat’ between Myself and My servant in two parts I grant him whatever, he asks for”
When man says
Allah (SWT) says:
My servant thanks Me
My servant praises Me
My servant describes My greatness
It is direct connection between My servant and Me.
The first part of this verse is praise of Allah and the second part is a supplication.
Hence Allah (SWT) announces graciously and generously on hearing.
My servant will get all what he asks for.
Hence, Surah Al-Fatiha is praise of Allah (SWT) and is a supreme supplication to guide us towards the straight path. The rest of the Holy Qur’an deals with the explanation of this straight path. May Allah (SWT) show us and keep us on this straight path until our deathbed. Ameen.
We thank Allah for teaching us how to praise Him, how to ask Him, and what to ask Him for. Allah (SWT) has taught us to praise him by saying, “Al-hamdulil-ah Rabb-il a’lameen”. This will be the greeting of the people of Paradise, as described in the Quran. Allah has given us this priviledge to make use of this short form of praise of Allah in this world, as well. Indeed, Allah (SWT) is merciful to His obedient servants. It is most appropriate to conclude this khutba by saying Al-hamdulil-ah Rabb-il-a’lameen.