THE OPENING: Musings on Chapter 1 of the Quran

Chapter 1 (Fatiha) is possibly the most read chapter of the Quran. It is an integral part of Muslim prayers and is repeated tens of times in a day. This Surah has been described as the "Prologue of the Holy Quran". It has been called the Quran in brief, a "veritable treasure-house of wisdom and philosophy.

While we know that all the words of the Qur’an are equally beautiful, Surah al Fatiha, also known as the mother of all the Qur’an, has to be the brightest of these beautiful stars

Yet, we must ask ourselves, what purpose does it serve? Why is it the very first chapter of the Quran? Why do we have to understand it?

The Need to Understand

I think the answers to those questions lie in Ch2 V2: Quran as a revealed message will only serve as a guide for the Muttaqeen (those who are conscious of God). This is because everyone else wouldn’t embrace the message holistically to allow it to have a meaningful and drastic impact in their life.

So, to me,  Chapter 1 demonstrates the attributes of a person who has metaphorically awoken from sleep, suddenly becoming conscious of God (Muttaqi). These 6 verses could be considered as universal truths of a spiritual awakening, regardless of the faith one subscribes to. They immediately grab the attention of the reader, and go onto demonstrate Islam in a nutshell.

When we’re standing in salah five times a day, repeating the same surah each time, non-native and native Arabic speakers alike tend to fall into the routine of simply saying the words we’re supposed to say when we’re supposed to say them, without true comprehension and meaning on our tongues.

But if we were to speak the meanings of the seven most oft-repeated verses from our hearts, we would not just earn ajr for our deeds, we’d also get the greatest benefit of them all— their impression on our lives. That’s why, as young, old, new, or born Muslims, it’s to our greatest benefit that we understand the Qur’an and Surah al Fatiha.

Spiritual Awakening

When reciting the opening of the book of Allah, we acknowledge the gifts of the lord of the people on us by giving thanks to Him: Al hamdulAllah, ar Rab al ‘lameen.

Notice that we’re not leading off with asking for forgiveness or with requests for our needs. We’re starting out by giving thanks. That acknowledgement not only gives thanks, but also puts us in a submissive role. After all, we are His slaves, right?

Then, we mention two of Allah’s (swt)  important names: The Beneficent, and The Merciful, yet another reference to submission. We are at His mercy and we have to be reminded of our place a lot because we forget it— a lot.

On the Day of Judgment, we will stand before Allah (swt) (Malik iyom ideen) and we’ll be judged based on our deeds and how we lived our lives according to His word— or not— and we recognize that in the next lines. This is a reminder to us that what we do matters. The decisions we make and the intentions we carry out are, in fact, written for us and will determine whether we spend our eternities in pain or Paradise. The remembrance of this fact five times a day (the minimum) serves as a protection for us if we listen, understand, and apply what we know of Al Qur’an. 

V5-6 is the prayer of the Muttaqi. What does he ask for?

This next section of Surah al Fatiha is probably one of the most misspoken of the whole opening. Iyakanaboudou w iyakanastaeen— “Only You we worship and only You we ask for help.” While it rings true to every Muslim on this planet, it’s more like “I want to worship only You” for many. What I mean is that we recite that part of the blessed Surah and we want it to be true, but every time we put off our salah when the athan sounds, we’re putting off Allah (swt).

When we put the TV show or our work or even our spouses first, we put them in front of al Ahad. Astughferallah. We may not see that as a worship, rather we see it as selfishness or even busy-ness, but, either way, it’s a dangerous place to be.

Setting up a trigger in our minds so that every time we hear the athan we’re getting up and making salah can cure that “worship” of whatever it is that we think we need to do before we make our salah. And focusing on each and every word of the Surah that opens the doors to Allah (swt) for us can help us engrain that trigger and let us complete our salah with khushoo.

The next two ayah, Ihdinahsirahtal mustaqeem siratal al-ladhina an’amta ‘alai-him gharyil mughdobi alayim w la dualeen, begs Allah (swt) to lead us along the path of those He has favored and not down the path of those that have earned His anger. And who earns Allah’s anger? Those who put others before Him.

 This short chapter includes much repeated key words in the Quran such as deen, ibadah, rabb and includes major themes of the Quran such as:

  1. Being grateful.
  2. The oneness and other predominant attributes of God.
  3.  Accountability for our actions.
  4. Dependence on a higher power.
  5. Avoiding Shirk (Association).
  6. Monotheism.
  7. Seeking guidance and aid.
  8. What Islam is as a system.

Conclusion

A grandeur introduction, isn’t it? So rich with detail, despite its briefness! Needless to say, I am completely awed!

At the risk of repeating myself, I would say that Chapter 1 is the Quran in a nutshell! If your Quran reading can be considered a spiritual workout, then Fatiha is the nutrient-dense pre-workout snack.

The Most Noble and excellent part of the Quran

An-Nisai records on the authority of Anas that the prophet said,

“Should I not inform you of the most noble and excellent part of the Quran?” He then recited “All praise and thanks are due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds”

 The Surah appears below in its entirety.




1 In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

2 All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the Alameen (mankind, jinns and all that exists).

3 The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

4 The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)

5 You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).

6 Guide us to the Straight Way

7 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. [Quran, Surah Al-Fatihah]

 

This article was compiled with the help of www.understandquran.com

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