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IOK Ramadan Reflections Series: #2

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Transcript: Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, the Opening. It is also known as Umm al-Kitāb (the Essence of the Book), al-Sabʿ al-Mathānī (the Seven Oft Repeated Verses), al-Shifa (the Cure), and al-Asās (the Foundation). Without a doubt, Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is the most widely memorized and most often recited Sūrah of the Quran. The Prophet ﷺ called it the “greatest Sūrah of the Quran.” I want you to think about that for a moment. Out of the 114 Sūrahs in the Quran, the Prophet ﷺ referred to Sūrah al-Fātiḥah as the greatest. 

It is considered to be a brief introduction to the Quran. Whenever an author writes a book, they start it off with an introduction. Usually, in an introduction, the author writes about why they chose to write the book, how it’s structured, and what the book will cover. Similarly, al-Fātiḥah can be thought of as a very brief, yet comprehensive, introduction to the Quran. It’s inclusive of the general meanings of the Quran. It talks about the fundamental issues of our religion and its subsidiaries. It includes a discussion of belief, the attributes of Allah ﷻ, worship, legislation, faith in resurrection, sincerity, worship, reliance upon Allah ﷻ, seeking guidance, the straight path, and the path of those who went astray. It’s an extremely comprehensive Sūrah covering a number of different topics in just seven verses. The first three verses give us a description of Allah ﷻ; they introduce us to Allah ﷻ through some of His divine names and attributes. The middle verse deals with two very important and central topics and themes; worship and reliance. The last three verses deal with the various states of human beings; particularly guidance and misguidance. 

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One of the things that make it so unique is that we’re obligated to recite it in every single unit of every single prayer. If we pray the bare minimum, just the Farā’iḍ, we recite it seventeen times a day. In the month of Ramaḍān, add on another 8 or 20 units for tarāwīḥ, and that means we’re reciting it either 25 or 37 times a day! So it’s extremely important for us to understand this Sūrah, have a deep connection with it, and understand its meanings.

One of the most powerful aspects of Surah Al-Fatiha is that when we recite it in prayer it is an actual conversation between us and Allah ﷻ. 

فَإِنِّي سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏”‏ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى قَسَمْتُ الصَّلاَةَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي نِصْفَيْنِ فَنِصْفُهَا لِي وَنِصْفُهَا لِعَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ يَقُومُ الْعَبْدُ فَيَقْرَأُ ‏:‏ ‏(‏الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ‏)‏ فَيَقُولُ اللَّهُ حَمِدَنِي عَبْدِي فَيَقُولُ ‏:‏ ‏(‏الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ ‏)‏ فَيَقُولُ اللَّهُ أَثْنَى عَلَىَّ عَبْدِي فَيَقُولُ ‏:‏ ‏(‏ مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ ‏)‏ فَيَقُولُ مَجَّدَنِي عَبْدِي وَهَذَا لِي وَبَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي ‏:‏ ‏(‏إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ ‏)‏ وَآخِرُ السُّورَةِ لِعَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ يَقُولُ ‏:‏ ‏(‏اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ * صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ ‏)‏ ‏”‏ ‏.

For indeed I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying: Allah, the Most High said: “I have divided the Salat between Myself and My slaves into two halves. Half of it is for Me, and half of it for My slave, and My slave shall have what he asks for. My slave stands and says: All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of All that exists.” So Allah, Blessed is He and Most High says: “My slave has expressed his gratitude to Me.” He says: “The Merciful, the Beneficent. So he says: “My slave has praised Me.” He says: Owner of the Day of Reckoning. He says: “My slave has glorified Me. And this is for Me, and between Me and My slave is: It is You alone whom we worship and it is You alone from whom we seek aid” until the end of the Surah “This is for My slave and My slave shall have what he asks for.” So he says: Guide us to the straight path. The path of those upon whom You have bestowed your favor, not those with whom is Your wrath, now those who are astray.”‘

This is a very powerful ḥadīth that highlights a very profound aspect of our prayer and worship; it is an actual conversation between us and our Creator. Imagine, our Lord and Creator acknowledges what we say in ṣalāh and responds! This is perhaps one of the best tools we can use to increase our concentration and focus in prayer.

Since Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is so important I encourage everyone to learn its translation as well as its meanings. In the short video, we don’t have time to do so, but we can briefly look at the opening verse.

“All thanks and praise belong to Allah, Lord of the worlds.” Allah ﷻ starts the Sūrah in a very beautiful, elegant, and eloquent way by teaching us how to be grateful for the infinite blessings of Allah ﷻ. The word al-ḥamd is translated as praise; however its meaning is much more comprehensive than simply praise.Ḥamd is praise along with acknowledgment of noteworthy qualities and actions done out of genuine love, veneration, reverence, gratitude, and appreciation. It includes extolling Allah ﷻ, praising Him, and giving thanks to Him for all of the favors and blessings He has given us in this world and for the reward that He will give us in the next.

Another way of looking at it is that ḥamd is praise coupled with gratitude done out of genuine love, reverence, and appreciation. It includes praising Allah ﷻ and giving thanks to Him for all of the favors and blessings He has given to human beings in this world and the reward He will give them in the next. Ibn ʿAbbās (ra) said, “Alḥamdulillah is the statement of every thankful servant.” 1Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ li Aḥkām al-Quran, 1:133 This is the phrase that Allah ﷻ has taught human beings to use in order to praise Him. Every single blessing a person enjoys in this world is directly from Allah ﷻ. “And every blessing you have is from Allah.” 216:53 – وَمَا بِكُم مِّن نِّعْمَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّـهِ Allah ﷻ is constantly showering us with His blessings, favors, and mercy. The reality is that Allah ﷻ has blessed us with an innumerable amount of gifts and blessings; they can’t be quantified. As Allah ﷻ Himself tell us in the Quran, “And if you were to count the blessings of Allah, you would not be able to quantify them. Truly mankind is unjust, ungrateful.” 314:34- وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّـهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ  Just take our bodies for example. In our eyes and our ability to see, our noses and ability to smell, our ears and ability to hear, our hands and feet and ability to feel, in every joint, every bone, every muscle, every organ, every vein, and every cell are countless blessings. Not only are we unable to count all of these blessings or even imagine them, we’re also unable to thank Allah ﷻ for them.

By starting with al-ḥamd lillāh Allah ﷻ is teaching us the best words to use to thank Him and express gratitude to Him. The Prophet ﷺ said, “When you say, ‘Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds,’ you will have thanked God and He will increase your bounty.” 4Ṭabarī, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, 1:136 cSimilarly the Prophet ﷺ when supplicating used to say, “There is no way to enumerate the praise due to You; You are as You have praised Yourself.” 5Bayhaqī, Shuʿab al-Īmān, 3837 Allah ﷻ is also reminding us that all praise and thanks exclusively belong to Him ﷻ. That’s why the word “ḥamd” is definite. Even the definite particle “al” in the Arabic Language carries meaning. One of the meanings it carries is that of istighrāq, or comprehensiveness. Literally every and all types of praise are for Allah ﷻ. Whenever we praise anything in this world we are ultimately praising Allah ﷻ because He is the source of every single thing that exists. The world is made of millions of things that attract our attention and admiration, and if we move beyond what we see physically or materially, we will find in each and every single thing the manifestation of the greatness of Allah ﷻ. All Praise is exclusively for Allah ﷻ because He is the one that is showering us with blessings at every single moment of our lives. Allah ﷻ praises Himself and the beginning and end of all affairs because He is the One who is constantly being praised. 

Footnotes:
 1-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ li Aḥkām al-Quran, 1:133

2- 16:53 – وَمَا بِكُم مِّن نِّعْمَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّـهِ

3- 14:34- وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّـهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ

4-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, 1:136

5-Bayhaqī, Shuʿab al-Īmān, 3837

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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