Surah Al Fatihah -
The Seven Oft-repeated Verses
According to a Hadith in Bukhari (Kitabut Tafseer), the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said of Surah Fatihah, the opening Surah of the Quran, that it is the most important of all the Surahs of the Quran, and that it is the Sabul-Mathani (the Seven Oft-Repeated) and the great Quran brought to him. This Hadith elucidates the meaning of verse 87 of Surah Hijr (XV):
"We have given thee seven of the oft repeated (verses) and the great Quran".
Surah Al Fatihah is prescribed as the main part of the Muslim prayer. We find in it the gist of the teachings of the Quran, if we read it carefully. It teaches us also a most inspiring prayer. It is important that every believer should know the meaning of the seven verses of the Surah. Shah Rafiuddin's translation of the Quran in Urdu is unequalled for precision. Allama Abdullah Yousuf Ali's translating in English of the Surah is as follows:
"Praise be to God,
The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds;
Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
Master of the Day of Judgment.
Thee do we worship,
And Thine aid we seek.
Show us the Straight Way,
The Way of those on whom
Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
Those whose (portion)
Is not wrath,
And those who go not astray."
- Praise be to God, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds
All are His creatures, and praise belongs to Him. One who understands this saves himself from the miserable folly of worshipping false gods and the error of being overawed by the splendour of mere worldly success. One who understands the absolute supremacy of Allah acquires a balanced sense of values.
- Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Allah has created for us all that is in the earth (II-29). We are told in XLVI - 13:
"And He hath made of service unto you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; it is all from Him. Verily, here are portents for people who reflect."
Allah's bounties are endless. We are apt to over-look them and to make much of our petty troubles. If we keep our eyes open we see evidence of Allah's Beneficence and Mercy all around us. The oppression and want and distress which we also see are the result of our failures to seek Allah's bounty in accordance with His laws. In XLII-30 we are reminded:
"Whatever misfortune striketh you, it is what your right hands have earned. And He forgiveth much."
If we followed the laws of Allah which are the laws of Truth, Justice and Goodness, injustice and oppression would be suppressed and extravagance and waste would be avoided. There would be peace and plenty for all.
- Master of the Day of Judgment
Belief in the Day of Judgment is an important part of Faith. Man has been created by Allah as his viceroy on earth. (VI-166) We owe a duty to Allah to obey His laws and to show what He has forbidden. We shall be rewarded for good deeds, suffer for evil deeds. A believer who is conscious of the honoured position given to man in the scheme of creation, as Allah's viceroy on earth, will naturally strive to attain the highest moral standard in all his dealings. Belief in the Day of Judgment imparts to a believer a mental attitude of honest detachment which makes it easy for him to follow the path of moral rectitude regardless of loss or gain.
- Thee do we worship, and Thine aid do we seek
One who worships Allah alone and asks Him alone for help secures for himself a position of freedom and dignity which is otherwise not attainable. Such a person must necessarily have complete command of his own self, so that he finds it easy to adhere to the path of moral rectitude, regardless of dangers and difficulties. One who is a slave to his selfish desires cannot rightly claim to be a worshipper of Allah alone. There is a warning to this effect in XXV-43 and XLV-23:
"Hast thou seen him who maketh his desire his god."
One who worships Allah alone also seeks help from Him alone. It is not through prayer alone that one seeks Allah's help. Before prayer comes Sabr, which means steadfast endurance, as Shah Abdul Qadir puts it in Mazuhul Quran, Mehnat Saharna, that is enduring of hard work. In II-42 and 153 we are told:
"Seek help in sabr and salaat."
The predominance given in the verses to sabr over salaat is significant. Sabr means, besides endurance, also restraint of fear, grief, anger, and selfish desires, and acting reasonably. Sabr is repeatedly enjoined in the Quran. In LIII-39 we are told further that:
"Man hath only that for which he maketh effort."
- Show us the Straight Way
It is only through the Mercy of Allah that we can see the Straight Path so as to follow it resolutely. Hazrat Abdullah ibni Masood had related that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that Sirat-i-Mustaqim means Islam. Sirat-i-Mustaqim is specifically defined in the 19th Ruku (verses 152 to 154) of the sixth Surah (Al-Anaam). The gist of the verses is an injunction to follow the path of moral rectitude. Everyone who wants to know the meaning of Islam must learn the meaning of the verses in the Ruku.
- The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.
Muslims are known to have enjoyed for many centuries Allah's favours in generous abundance. They were then in the vanguard of the progress, excelling in arts and sciences, and trade and commerce. They set an example of virtue and integrity for which they were admired by all the peoples of the world with whom they had any dealings. In course of time they ceased to be grateful to Allah for His favours, and, straying from the Sirat-i-Mustaqim, that, is Islam, took to the soft and sinful way of life and incurred His displeasure. The misfortunes of Muslims almost all over the world in recent times are evidence of Allah's displeasure. In the present times many Muslims do not even know the meaning of Islam. That is because Muslims have, for a long time, ceased to seek guidance in the Quran which is the light which Allah has, in His Infinite Mercy, revealed through His Prophet (LXIV-8): The Quran has easy guidance for every seeker of guidance (LIV-22; 32; 40) - The Ayat-Muhkamat and verses of plain meaning which are the substance of the Book (III-7) need no explanation. It must not be forgotten that the Book is a guide to "Muttaqin" who believe in the unseen and are steadfast in prayer, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them" (II-2; 3). The word Muttaqin means those who ward off evil, or in other words those who practice self discipline.
It is hoped that readers of this article will commit to memory the meaning of Surah Fatihah and keep in mind the lessons which it teaches for guidance in life. Regular prayer is an effective safe-guard against all lewdness and evil (XX1X - 45). It is dis-heartening to see sometimes a person who is apparently regular in his prayer persistently straying from the Sirat-i-Mustaqim or the path of moral rectitude. Prayer is not a mere formality. Prayer like all other religious practices enjoined by the Quran, such as fasting, has the purpose of purifying believers. When they do not have that effect there is sure to hypocrisy or some other defect in the performance. Allah has no need of our prayer or fasting or zakat or Haj which have all been enjoined for our own good. They teach us Taqwa (warding off of evil) which is the first step in the Sirat-i-Mustaqim which leads to Falah or success and prosperity in this world and the Hereafter.