The Theme of Surah al-Fatihah

By Sh Ahsan Hanif

Surah Fatiha

Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is described as the ‘Mother of the Qur’an’ and the ‘Seven oft-repeated verses’. It is recited in every unit of every prayer. It is one of the chapters of the Qur’an that we memorised as children and one of the chapters that we will teach to our children. But just what makes this chapter so important? From the 114 chapters of the Qur’an, why is this the first chapter? What makes it so special? What is the message of this chapter?

Each and every one of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an has a single theme and subject. Every topic within that chapter will then relate to that single theme. So what is the theme of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah?

Overview

The theme of this chapter covers the basic tenets of Islam, being; belief in Allah (swt), following the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and the purification of the soul and exalted character that those principles should bring about. In many ways, Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is a summary of the main themes of the Qur’an. The scholars have mentioned that the Qur’an is broadly divided into 3 main themes. A third of the Qur’an speaks about Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), a third about the Prophets and past nations, and a third about the halal and haram.

To know Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Let us analyse Sūrah al-Fātiḥah. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) dedicates the first three verses of this chapter to speaking about Himself. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions His lordship, His creation, His power, His Names and His Attributes. Allah (swt) says in the first three verses, “All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all that exists. The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. Owner of the Day of Judgement.”

All three of these verses are dedicated to increasing our knowledge of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), because through the increase in knowledge we increase in our love, devotion and submission to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). It is human nature to learn about what we love most, and to love what we know most about. It is for this reason that we often love our parents, spouses and children most. We often love and are patriotic to our countries as they are most familiar to us. In terms of food, we often rate our own cuisine as most beloved to us as we’ve known it longest. Yet as Muslims, our love for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) should far outstrip all of the above. Indeed, this is a claim we often make, and for the most part sincerely. But in reality, and after deep thought, the question arises, what and how much do we know about Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)?

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Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants us to learn about Him and thereby come closer to Him. This is why Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) praises the scholars in the Qur’an, “Indeed only the scholars truly fear Allah”. This is because their knowledge of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), His names, attributes, power and abilities increases them in piety and righteousness. It is for this reason that most of the passages and chapters of the Qur’an which have added virtues relate to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Look at Āyat al-Kursī, the last two verses of Baqarah, Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, Sūrahs Falaq and Nās, all of them speak about Allah.

The pinnacle and height of that knowledge is to understand Tawḥīd; the abilities of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) which make Him alone worthy of all worship, and to seek nearness to Him by knowing, understanding and living by His names and attributes. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) shows this in verse number 4 of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, “You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek assistance”.

To follow the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) then speaks about the second principle of Islam; to follow the Prophet. This too requires knowledge and learning about the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), his life, character, sacrifices and way, as only through this can we increase on our love for him. That increase in love will then spur us into emulating him and clinging to his example. For this reason, Sūrah al-Fātiḥah only consists of one duʿā’, a duʿā’ which we make at least 17 times a day, “Guide us to the Straight Path”. The straight path is the path of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his Sunnah. A third of the Qur’an reminds us of the stories of the past Prophets and nations so that we may take heed from them. It is warning to not fall into the same errors as those nations who rejected their Prophets and a glimpse into the delight awaiting those who do follow them. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the best of the Prophets, and for us the best example to follow.

Halāl and Harām

Adhering to these first two principles; love and submission to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and love and following the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) leads to a better character, a purer heart and soul and a greater example for others. These are the people who adhere to the commandments of Allah and stay away from His prohibitions, to which the third category of the Qur’an is dedicated; the ḥalāl and ḥarām. The results of doing this is attaining Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) favour, grace and blessings, whereas the results of turning away from this path is misguidance and Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wrath and anger. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the final verse of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, “The path of those whom You have favoured, not those who have earned Your anger nor those who are misguided”.

Conclusion

Thus the beauty and message of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is the comprehensive summary of the message of the Qur’an. Each and every time we recite Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, whether in or out of the prayer, it should be a reminder of these three core principles of Islam, for which the Qur’an was revealed and the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) sent.

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18 responses to “The Theme of Surah al-Fatihah”

  1. Maisa says:

    I have very little knowledge but what I know I would like to share. In the last verse, according to Arabic grammar , it will be translated as and not among those whom anger has been shown, as maghdoob is mafool, and it will not be translated as on whom you hv shown anger. If I m wrong plz correct me.

  2. Kent Bayley says:

    By halal you mean the barbaric and cruel practice of killing animals. I note to apparently Allah get pretty hostile if you do the wrong thing. I have no idea how you people turn failures into heroes and darken the world. Islam is a complete program of subjugation and this poorly written offering reinforces that cult like mentality.

    • fatih says:

      I dunno if this is barbaric and cruel…

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dU3O5rykwe4

    • Tadar says:

      Read “THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS”? All forms of being within creation have what we call life in it. And whether one believes in a Supreme Being or not does not change the fact that all living things must eat. And what do they eat, other things that have life, or had life in them. For one to live something must die. And when done with the proper attitude one avoids getting a big head about taking life. All cells are less than 1% different in their physical makeup, and they all communicate.

      • Kent Bayley says:

        What on earth are you going on about. I am talking about the barbaric way Muslims butcher cattle. Its cruel and primitive. I have no idea what you are talking about but I guess you must be a Muslim. Oh dear.

    • Abeerah says:

      I have a question if you think that about Islam then what are you doing in a Islamic site ???!!!!

  3. fatih says:

    @ maisa

    I think you are right, because “your anger” would be Idafah and that is not the case.

    I remember a Video of NAK when he said that Earned anger means that they have earned anger form evebody. Like Allah, the engels, past generations, future generations.

  4. Aafia says:

    @Kent Bayley
    May Allah guide you. Are you a Vegetarian?
    By the Way Halal Meat are healthy than other methods of Slaughtered Meat because the blood doesn’t coagulate inside the Animal.Morever since the Carotid Artery is cut the Animal doesn’t feel much Pain as it does in other Methods.
    You need more research brother.

    • M.Mahmud says:

      It is stunning insults to the Messenger are allowed on this forum.

      1) Animals must be killed in a humane way-Muslims do a nice clean cut which ought to remove the pain.

      2) if the animal shakes it isnt necessarily due to pain but it can be just a normal reaction after death.

      3) stunning isnt banned by all scholars and not all Muslims have access to stun gun technology. Muslims live in poverty. It does not mean they ought to stop eating animals

      3) as for civilization, the most primitive and savage of Muslims is better then the most “civilized” of disbelievers because the former is eligble for Paradise and the latter will never enter it.

      • Dear Mahmud

        It is stunning insults to the Messenger are allowed on this forum.

        They are not… just that moderators are humans and need time to get to comments that are in violation… usually it is once a day.

      • Kent Bayley says:

        You mean your imaginary paradise where the men get 72 virgins and the women get nothing. Is this the paradise to which you refer. Without love you will get nothing.

      • Mustafa says:

        (You mean your imaginary paradise where the men get 72 virgins and the women get nothing. Is this the paradise to which you refer. Without love you will get nothing.)

        Men and women will be completely satisfied. As Allah says,

        لَا يَسْمَعُونَ حَسِيسَهَا ۖ وَهُمْ فِي مَا اشْتَهَتْ أَنفُسُهُمْ خَالِدُونَ
        They will not hear its perceptible (hissing) sound, and they are eternally (abiding) in whatever their selves craved for. (Literally: lusted for) (Dr. Ghali)

        And the Muslims enjoying themselves in Paradise have eternity and wont JUST be busy with sensual pleasures 24/7. There will be family/friends fun and more. There will be plenty of other types of joy to add to it. That is for Muslims alone and no one else. Of course they have love-they are love one another and are loved in Paradise. They are the only people in the next life who are loved and have love.

    • Maisa says:

      You must have seen some ignorant muslims who might be using barbaric methods to kill animals. But you must not have seen any muslim desregarding other religions and on top of it the Lord. What education your religion has given to you is very disappointing who is ready to degrade the lord for the animals without taking the pain to research. Actually when you see muslims doing something wrong you blame the religion , but it is simply that they havent studied their religion well. But islam is degraded. Then by seeing your mentality , it reflects the teachings of your religion who has love for the animals then the lord. Islamic method of sacrificing animals is the best method which gives least pain to the animals as compared to other religions methods who simply throw living animals in the machine or give them electric shocks . If by civilized nations you mean people humiliating God then than please change the definition of civilization.

  5. M.Mahmud says:

    The way you translated ulama can be a cause of confusion for Muslims
    Firstly, its possible the poor villagers who know little of Islam are the most fearful of Allah due to the knowledge of Himself He provided them

    Secondly, its possible many scholars are arrogant and self rightious and not fearing Allah.

    Allah alone judges which Muslim has more taqwa than another. Only the ones fear Allah are actually Ulama-and this can be a layman in a village or a faqih in a city.

  6. […] mentioned in a previous article, Sūrah al-Fātiḥah revolves around discussing the three basic principles of Islam. Namely, […]

  7. shoaib says:

    @kent if you have an explanation of your denial than do provide them. and if you’re answer less in this manner than i assume its a debate between literate and illiterate. and from my point of view, you’re the one who’s showing illiteracy. as you are just denying without a valid reason. from my pont of view, you’re the lost soul. illiterate always speaks uselessly while the wise stay’s quite.

  8. Zia-e-Taiba says:

    Nice Article!! Everybody should also visit the link for complete online Quran Tilawat with Translation

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