Al-Fatiha

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This article is about the Surah of the Quran. For the Muslim LGBT rights organization, see Al-Fatiha Foundation.
       Sura 1 of the Quran  
الفاتحة
Al-Fātiḥah
The Opening

Arabic text · English translation


Classification Meccan
Position Juz' 1
Structure 6 (7 counting tasmee') verses, 29 words, 139 letters

In Islam, Sūrat al-Fātiḥah (Arabic: سورة الفاتحة‎), is the first chapter of the Quran. Its seven ayat (verses) are a prayer for God's guidance, and stress His Lordship and Mercy.[1] This chapter has an essential role in Salaat (daily prayer).

Name[edit]

Sūrat al-Fātiḥah, "The Opener", also called “The Exordium”, has many names. This Surah is named Al-Fatihah because of its subject-matter. Fatihah is that which opens a subject or a book or any other thing. In other words, Al-Fatihah is a sort of preface.[1] It is also called, Umm Al-Kitab (the Mother of the Book), and Sab'a al Mathani (Seven repeated verses) according to the majority of the scholars, who refer it to a hadith and an ayah. It is also called Al-Hamd and As-Salah, as referred to in a hadith as referred below. Al-Fatihah was also called Ash-Shifa' (the Cure). It is also called Ar-Ruqyah (remedy), as referred to in a hadith as referred below.[2]

Timing and contextual background of revelation[edit]

Islamic scholarly tradition is concerned, amongst other things, with when and where verses and chapters of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad —for example, whether a verse was revealed while Muhammad was in Mecca or Medina.[citation needed] According to `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas and others, sura Al-Fatiha is a Meccan sura; while according to others it is a Medinan sura. The former view is more widely accepted, although some believe that it was revealed in both Mecca and Medina.[3][4]

The first few revelations to Muhammad were only first few Ayats (verses) of Surahs Alaq, Muzzammil, Al-Muddathir, etc. Most narrators recorded that Al-Fatihah was the first complete Surah (chapter) revealed to Muhammad.[1]

Theme and subject matter[edit]

Al-Fatihah in itself is a prayer at the very beginning of the Quran, which acts as a preface of the Quran and implies that the book is for a person who is a seeker of truth — a reader who is asking the only deity who is worthy of all praise (and is the creator, owner, sustainer of the worlds etc.) to guide him to the straight path.[1]

Commentary[edit]

The philosophy of the flow of Al-Fatihah[edit]

The flow of this Surah has another very logical explanation, which can be summarized as the philosophical background of the Surah.

As per the Quran, human beings are born with a combination of two things: soul and body. According to this view, a soul is a command of Allah, and therefore naturally recognizes the existence of its Lord and also has the love of its creator. It is the nature on which every child is born as Allah says: "and be steadfast on the Nature whereupon Allah has created mankind" (30:30).

Under this view, if the soul has not been perverted (e.g. by repeatedly ignoring its calls - or the calls of the conscience), it is a pure soul. When a person gets to age of maturity and begets a sound mind, then the combination of a pure soul, a pure heart and sound mind result in Wisdom (Hikmah) which discovers certain facts about the existence of the universe. It is this wisdom which determines that "All praise and thankfulness is to Allah, [The] Creator, Owner, Sustainer of the Worlds", who must be " the All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful" and also must have "no equal", who must be "almighty", "all-knowing", "free of flaws", "just", etc. (most of Allah's names are his qualities as well). Some Muslims believe that these qualities of Allah were recognized by people such as Confucius and Luqman who were not Prophets (i.e. did not receive revelations from Allah), but who acquired this knowledge by reason and wisdom.

Islam also holds that that wisdom demands to be true is that there must be an after-life, where actions of human beings are rewarded or punished for (which is a corollary of the quality of Allah being "Just"). Thus the next ayah calls Allah "Owner of the Day of Recompense."

Once the wisdom of a man brings him to these conclusions, he is then left with no choice but to ask this deity, who possesses all the above qualities (i.e. Allah), that "You alone do we worship and You alone we seek for help." The help required in this case is the guidance regarding the purpose of this life (i.e. how should the life be spent). To look for these answers, the wise person, who has already recognized the qualities of his Lord, turns to the Lord and asks Him to "Guide us to the Straight Path. The path of those whom Your blessings are upon, not of those who You have cursed nor of those who have gone astray."[5]

Summary of the Surah[edit]

The first four verses praise God and uses his God's personal name, AR-Rahman.[6]

The fifth verse affirms the oneness of God in Islam and asks for his aid.[7]

There are differing interpretations for verses 6 and 7.[8] The phrase "the Path journeyed by those upon whom You showered blessings" is usually seen as referring to Muslims. The phrase "those who made themselves liable to criminal cognizance/arrest" (more clearly translated as "those who have incurred Your wrath") is usually seen as referring to the Jews and the phrase "those who are the neglectful wanderers" (more clearly translated as "those who have gone astray") is seen as referring to the Christians.[9][10][11] The Quran: An Encyclopedia, authored by 43 Muslim and non-Muslim academics says, "The Prophet interpreted those who incurred God’s wrath as the Jews and the misguided as the Christians".[12] Other commentators suggest that these verses do not refer to any particular religious community.[9]

Relevant ahadith[edit]

Ahadith mentioning Tafsir or other details of the Surah[edit]

A hadith mentions Al Fatihah to be the prayers itself, because Muhammad said that his lord said:
قسمت الصلاة بيني وبين عبدي نصفين فإذا قال العبد الحمد لله رب العالمين قال الله تعالى حمدني عبدي [13]
("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'.")

Another hadith mentions it to be a remedy, as per the story of the Companion who used Al-Fatihah as a remedy for the tribal chief who was poisoned. Later, the Messenger of Allah said to a Companion, How did you know that it is a Ruqyah?[2] (i.e. Muhammad confirmed that it is a Ruqyah).

Ahadith mentioning the benefits of the Surah[edit]

Some suras are assigned special significance by adherents of Islam, because of their virtues and benefits (Arabic: فضائلfaḍāʾil) described in the hadiths. Acceptance of the different hadith stories varies between Sunni and Shia Muslims and there is a variety of terms to classify the different levels of confirmed authenticity of a hadith.

A 14th- or 15th-century manuscript of the chapter

One of the greatest suras[edit]

Ahmad ibn Hanbal recorded in his Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal (hadith collection) that Abu Sa`id bin Al-Mu`alla had 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 (Mosque)."
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 ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal[14]

Muhammad al-Bukhari, Abu Dawood, Al-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah also recorded this hadith.[14]

Al-fatiha used for cure[edit]

Muhammad al-Bukhari recorded in his collection:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
While we were on one of our journeys, we dismounted at a place where a slave girl came and said, "The chief of this tribe has been stung by a scorpion and our men are not present; is there anybody among you who can treat him (by reciting something)?" Then one of our men went along with her though we did not think that he knew any such treatment. But he treated the chief by reciting something, and the sick man recovered whereupon he gave him thirty sheep and gave us milk to drink (as a reward). When he returned, we asked our friend, "Did you know how to treat with the recitation of something?" He said, "No, but I treated him only with the recitation of the Mother of the Book (i.e., Al-Fatiha)." We said, "Do not say anything (about it) till we reach or ask the Prophet so when we reached Medina, we mentioned that to the Prophet (in order to know whether the sheep which we had taken were lawful to take or not). The Prophet said, "How did he come to know that it (Al-Fatiha) could be used for treatment? Distribute your reward and assign for me one share thereof as well."

—Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari[15][16]

Similar versions are found in: Al-Bukhari: 007.071.645[17]—medicine; Al-Bukhari: 007.071.633[18]—medicine; Al-Bukhari: 007.071.632[19] - medicine

Necessity in salat[edit]

Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj recorded that Abu Hurairah had told that Muhammad had said:

If anyone observes prayer in which he does not recite Umm al-Qur'an,[20] it is deficient [he said this three times] and not complete.

—Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim[14][21]

A similar story is found in Al-Bukhari: 001.012.723[22]—characteristics of prayer

One of the two lights[edit]

Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri recorded:

Ibn 'Abbas reported that while Gabriel was sitting with the Apostle (may peace be upon him) he heard a creaking sound above him. He lifted his head and said: This As a gate opened in heaven today which had never been opened before. Then when an angel descended through it, he said: This is an angel who came down to the earth who had-never come down before. He greeted and said: Rejoice in two lights given to you which have not been given to any prophet before you: Fatiha al-Kitab and the concluding verses of Surah al-Baqara. You will never recite a letter from them for which you will not be given (a reward).

—Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim[23]

Unauthentic, weak or Ḍaʻīf merits[edit]

When you lie your side on your bed [getting ready to sleep] and you recited {The Opening chapter of The Book} and {Qul Huwallaahu [Suratul al-Ikhlaas]}, then you have been secured from everything, except death...

—Weak. Dhaif at-Targheeb wa tarheeb: 347[16]

The Faatiha (Opening chapter) of The Book and the Ayaat ul Kursi; no slave will ever recite them in a house; except that no evil eye -from a Jinn or human – will ever affect them in that day...

—Dhaif al Jam i as-Sagheer: 3952; weak according to Scholar Albaanee[16]

The Faatiha (Opening chapter) of The Book is equal to a third of the Qur’an...

—Weak. Dhaif al Jam i as-Sagheer: 3949[16]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Maududi, Sayyid Abul Ala. Tafhim Al Quran. 
  2. ^ a b Ibn Kathir. Tafsir Ibn Kathir. 
  3. ^ Ahmad, Mirza Bahir Ud-Din (1988). The Quran with English Translation and Commentary. Islam International Publications Ltd. p. 1. ISBN 1-85372-045-3. 
  4. ^ English Translation and Commentary 5 Volumes
  5. ^ Ahmed, Dr Israr. Bayan-ul-Quran. p. 48. 
  6. ^ Quran 1:1–4
  7. ^ Quran 1:5
  8. ^ Quran 1:6–7
  9. ^ a b Ayoub, Mahmoud M. The Qur'an and Its Interpreters: v.1: Vol 1. State University of New York Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0873957274. 
  10. ^ "Surah Al-Fatihah". Dar-us-Salam Publications. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  11. ^ Mark Durie (2 Dec 2009). "The greatest recitation of surat al-fatihah". Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Leaman, Oliver, ed. (2006). "The Qur'an: an Encyclopedia". Routledge. p. 614. ISBN 0-415-32639-7. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  13. ^ al-ʾarbaʿīn min al-ʾāḥādīth an-nabawīyyah... islamweb.net
  14. ^ a b c The Meaning of Al-Fatihah and its Various Names
  15. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 6:61:529
  16. ^ a b c d The Virtues of Some Surahs
  17. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:71:645
  18. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:71:633
  19. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:71:632
  20. ^ The Reason it is Called Umm Al-Kitab
  21. ^ Sahih Muslim, 4:773
  22. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:12:723
  23. ^ Sahih Muslim, 4:1760

External links[edit]

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Sura 1 Next sura:
Al-Baqara
Arabic text