By: Salah Ed-Din A. Nefeily

Al-Fatiha, the Opening chapter of the muslims' glorious book Al -Quran.
Sura "Al-Fatiha"
Introduction to 'Al-Fatiha':
Al -Qur'an, The Muslim's Glorious Book:
Interpretation of the Qur'an (Tafsir)
Translating the meanings of the Qur'an
Sura Al-Fatiha Verse One
Verse Two
Verse Three
Verse Four
Verse Five
Verse six
Verse Seven
Translations of the meanings of the Quran are used in this book
The following interpretations 0f the Quran were used in the book

Islambasics Library: Highlights On the meaning of Al-Fatiha

Introduction to 'Al-Fatiha':


The short chapter known as 'Al-Fatiha' or 'The Opening Chapter' of the Qur'an is so named because it is the first chapter of the Qur'an and the key to the understanding of the whole Book. It is a seven-verse chapter or sura, which is described by the Prophet Muhammad as the greatest sura of the Qur'an (Al-Bukhari Vol. 6: 490). In his daily five prayers, a Muslim reads it at least seventeen times. In prayers, it has to be read in Arabic even by non-Arabs (Al-Bukhari Vol.l: 404). This probably explains why it is a very easy sura to read. It does not include many recitation rules. However, the sura is so rich that Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, said: "I could fill up to seventy volumes in explanation of Sura Al-Fatiha" (Ibn Ajiba 629). Ath-Thaalibi quotes one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad in which the prophet states that the like of the Opening Chapter of the Qur'an has never been revealed to any of the prophets before him (Vol. 1:1).

Writers agree that the verses of the Sura Al-Fatiha are seven. However, they disagree about the division into verses of the beginning and the ending of the sura. The most acceptable view is that the initial statement, "In the Name of Allah, the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate" counts as a separate verse in this sura only. In other suras of the Qur'an, this statement is not counted as a separate verse. It seems to be an initial statement that starts the Qur'an and which is repeatedly quoted before reading all the suras of the Qur'an except for Sura 9, At-Tawba. This notion is held by Ash-Shafiy and is based on the Prophet's statement that sura Al-Fatiha is seven verses and the first verse is "ln the name of Allah the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate" (Al-Baydawi Vol.]: 3). Abu-Hanifa, another great scholar, holds the other view which states that the verse "In the name of Allah, the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate' is not a verse by itself The last verse of Al-Fatiha, from Abu Haifa's point of view, is "Not of those who have incurred Your wrath or those who have gone astray" (Ar-Razi Vol.l: l63).

Sura Al-Fatiha is given many names, which indicate its nature. lt is known as 'the treasure' for it includes all the elements of righteousness and truthfulness. It is also known as 'the protective sura' for it includes all the basics, which guarantee that a person will live rightly and be saved in the After-life.

 Al-Bay'haqi quotes Al-Hasan who said "whoever understands the meaning of Sura Al-Fatiha, will know the meaning of all the books revealed to the prophets and messengers of Allah. lt sums up the Qur'an and the Qur'an sums up all the books revealed to the prophets and messengers before the prophet Muhammad (Assyoti Vol.l:18).

Al-Fatiha establishes the foundations of lslam, which are detailed in the Qur'an. lt deals with the basics of 'belief' 'worship' and 'conduct'. The first three verses deal with belief in Allah and His attributes. The next two verses deal with the worship of Allah. The last two verses deal with the practical aspect of a Muslim's conduct. These three parts of the sura are related to each other. When a Muslim believes in Allah as the God of mercy, he realizes that he should thankfully worship Him. A Muslim, will, then, follow the instructions of Allah and will discipline his life accordingly.

Al-Fatiha might also be divided into two equal sections. The first section is a praise of Allah and the second is a supplication to Allah to Guide human beings to the right way. It is a supplication, which gets an immediate response from Allah. It is recommended that we read the sura's verses separately so that we enjoy Allah's response to each of the verses, as Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz, the great Muslim leader, used to do. The Prophet Muhammad narrates that Allah responds bountifully to the verses of Al-Fatiha. When a Muslim reads the first part of the chapter, Allah will say: "My servant has praised, thanked and glorified me". When a Muslim reads the second part of the chapter, which is a supplication to Allah to guide him to the right way, Allah will respond positively to the supplication.

 The feature of the inclusiveness of Sura Al-Fatiha is noticed by lbn Ajiba who points out that this sura includes different kinds of knowledge. lt deals with theology in the two

الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ {الفاتحة/2} الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ {الفاتحة/3}

"Thanks and praise be to Allah, Lord of All beings. The All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate? Information about the After-life is included in the verse:

مَلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ {الفاتحة/4}                      

“King and possessor of the Day of Judgment? Religious rites are included in the verse:

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ {الفاتحة/5}

"You only do we worship" and religious submission is included in the verse "You only do we beseech for help". History and teachings taken from past nations are referred to in the verse:

صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ {الفاتحة/7}


"The way of those upon whom you have bestowed Your Grace and Favors, not of those who have incurred your wrath or those who have gone astray".

As quoted by Ibn Ajiba, Al-Ghazali refers in his book Renovation of Theology, to the inclusiveness of the sura. He says: "if you read:

                                بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ {الفاتحة/1}


'In the name of Allah the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate' you will understand that all life is owing to Allah. You then will realize that you will thank and praise Him for being the loving and compassionate God he is. When you read:

الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ {الفاتحة/3}

"The All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate? You will realize that He is so Merciful in this life and in the after-life. You will think of Him as:

مَلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ {الفاتحة/4}

"The Master and Possessor 0f the Day of Judgment". Once you realize that He is so loving and compassionate you will attest to His right to be worshipped. You will say:

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ {الفاتحة/5}

"You only do we worship". You will also realize that you need His help and support to worship Him, and so you say: "You only do we beseech for help". You will also realize that you need to be in His companionship and seek the way, which brings you closer to Him. You ask Allah to lead you to the right way, the shortest way to Him. You ask Him to keep you away from the way of those who have incurred His wrath or those who have gone astray.

اهدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ {الفاتحة/6} صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ {الفاتحة/7}


In his detailed interpretation of the Qur'an, Ar-Razi relates the seven verses of Sura Al-Fatiha with the seven movements performed in a Muslim's prayer. He bases his notion on the verses 14 and 15 of Sura 87, which go as follows:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى {الأعلى/14} وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى {الأعلى/15}

"lndeed whosoever purifies himself (by avoiding polytheism and accepting Islamic Monotheism) shall achieve success (14). He is also saved who glorifies the Name of his Lord and properly performs his prayers". (l5) Ar-Razi explains that a Muslim starts his prayers in a standing position which corresponds with the first verse of Al-Fatiha,

بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

"In the Name of Allah, the All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate? A person feels strong when he thinks of Allah's mercy and compassion. The second verse

الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ {الفاتحة/2}


Is a verse of thanking and praise, so it fits the position of kneeling down to Allah. Verse Three

الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ {الفاتحة/3}

"The All and Ever-Merciful, the Compassionate" which emphasizes the meaning of the first verse, corresponds with the position of standing, for we feel strong when we feel the mercy of Allah, as is the case with verse One.

Verse F our

مَلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ {الفاتحة/4}

is a reminder of the Day of Judgment, a horrendous situation which is fit for prostrating oneself to Allah, the Master of that Day. Verse Five,

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ {الفاتحة/5}َ

"You only do we worship and you only do we beseech for help" is a combination of both glorification of Allah and of His mercy, so it fits the position of sitting. When the person asks Allah to guide him to the right way,

اهدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ {الفاتحة/6}

He prostrates himself in modesty so that Allah may accept his prayers. The last verse

صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ {الفاتحة/7}


Is a reminder of Allah's blessings to the good and of His punishment of the sinners. This situation fits the middle position of sitting. A person will then be ready to pronounce his greetings to Allah and to His messenger, Muhammad (Vol. l: 220).

Ar-razi also finds some correspondence between the seven verses of Sura Al-Fatiha and the seven stages of the Prophet Muhan1mad's ascendance to heaven where he paid his devotion to Allah with the words "Greetings and prayers to Allah," a statement which also ends a Muslim's prayer (Vol. l: 220). Al-Fatiha is thus seen by Ar-Razi as a spiritual ascendance to the presence of our Lord.

 Ar-Razi Ends another correspondence between the number of the verses of Sura Al-Fatiha and the number of the doors of Paradise. He says that Paradise has eight doors. The first is that of knowledge which corresponds with the statement of seeking refuge in Allah. Muslims are requested to say this statement before they read Al-Fatiha or any part of the Qur'an. In Sura 16. Allah says:

فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ {النحل/98}

"So, when you want to recite the Qur'an, seek refuge with Allah from Satan, the outcast and cursed one" (Verse 98). The seven verses of Sura Al-Fatiha, according to Ar-Razi, correspond with the seven remaining doors of paradise. These seven doors of paradise are those of remembrance and glorification of Allah, thanking, hope, fear of punishment, sincerity, invocation and emulation. Each of these doors corresponds, as Ar-Razi says, with one of the verses of Sura Al-Fatiha.

In his book The Opening Chapter of the Qur'an and the Prophet's Last Sermon: A Study and Analysis Muhammad M. Mansour explain that Al-Fatiha comprises many aspects of Islam. It refers to some of the attributes of Allah and to man's duties towards his creator. (16) Al Fatiha introduces Allah to readers as a loving God of mercy who cares for His creation. As a sign of His mercy, Allah sent His prophets and His books to human beings for their own good. Abud-Dardaa, as quoted by Assyoti, said that Sura Al-Fatiha overweighs the rest of the Qur'an (Vol.l: 16).

Al-Fatiha, according to Mansour, introduces the religion of Islam to readers. It includes reference to the way of righteousness and of truthfulness. It is the way, which Islam came to revive. It is the duty of a Muslim or a righteous person to thank Allah and to praise Him for the great blessings He has bestowed on him. The other duty of the righteous person, according to the sura. is to worship Allah alone. Allah is the One Whom we seek for help and support. Allah also requests that human beings should ask Him for help. Verse 60 of sura 40 urges Muslims to request Allah's help and blessings. It reads:

وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ {غافر/60}

"And your Lord said: 'lnvoke me and I will respond to your invocation. Those who do not invoke me out of pride will surely enter Hell in humiliation". Al-Fatiha, as Mansour explains, teaches us how to ask Allah for help. Such supplication and invocation should be preceded with praise of Allah and with thanks for His blessings. (22)

The whole Qur'an, in this sense, might be read as a kind of explanation of Al-Fatiha. Verse nine of Sura seventeen says:

إِنَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ يِهْدِي لِلَّتِي هِيَ أَقْوَمُ وَيُبَشِّرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا كَبِيرًا {الإسراء/9}

"Verily, this Qur'an guides to that which is most just and right and gives glad tidings to the believers who perform deeds of righteousness, that they shall have great rewards in Paradise" (17: 9).

Scholars disagree about the time and place of the revelation of Al-Fatiha. Some writers say that Al-Fatiha is a Meccan sura. Others say that it is a Medinian sura. Some other writers say that part of it was revealed t0 the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca and pan of it was revealed to him in Medina. (Al-Qurtobi Vol.l: l) Ibn Kathir quotes some writers who say that Sura Al-Fatiha was revealed twice, once in Mecca and once in Medina (Vol.]: 3). Abdallah Shihata says that it was the first full Sura revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (ll). Al-Qurtobi quotes Amr Ibn Sharhabil who tells the story in which Khadij a, wife of the Prophet Muhammad, advises him to go to Waraqa Ibn Nawfal to tell him about Gabriel and about his first revelations. The Prophet told Waraqa that he hears some voice which seems to follow him and that he used to flee from the voice. Waraqa asked him to stay and see what the angel would tell him. Mohammed followed the advice of Waraqa. Later on, Muhammad told Waraqa that the angel came to him and asked him to repeat Sura Al-Fatiha after him. (Al-Qurtobi Vol.l: l). this story is used to prove that Al-Fatiha is a Meccan sura.

Ibn Kathir quotes the Prophet Muhammad who said that Gabriel told him that he has been given two bonuses which have not been given to any prophet before him. They are Srua Al-Fatiha and the last verses of Sura Al- Baqara. (Vol.1: 3). It should be noticed here that the last verses of Sura two (Al-Baqara) are in many ways similar to Sura Al-Fatiha. The last three verses of Sura- Al-Baqara go as follows:

لِّلَّهِ ما فِي السَّمَاواتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ وَإِن تُبْدُواْ مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ اللّهُ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ {البقرة/284} آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَمَلآئِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ وَقَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ {البقرة/285} لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ رَبَّنَا لاَ تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لاَ طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَآ أَنتَ مَوْلاَنَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ {البقرة/286}

To Allah belong all that is in heavens and all that is on earth, and whether you disclose what is in your ownselves or conceal it, Allah will call you to account for it. Then He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills. Allah is Omnipotent (284). The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His messengers. They say, "We make no distinction between His messengers'- and they say, 'we hear, and we obey. We seek Your Forgiveness, our Lord, and to you is the return of all' (285). Allah burdens nobody beyond his scope. A person gets reward for the good, which he has earned, and he is ' punished, for that evil which he has done. Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error. Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which you did lay on those before us. Our Lord! Put not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Pardon us and grant us Forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Patron (and protector) and support us against nonbelievers" (286).

The first of the three above quoted verses from Sura Al-Baqara attests to the fact mentioned in the second verse of Sura Al-Fatiha, that Allah is the Lord and possessor of all Beings. The same verse emphasizes the fact that Allah will be the sole Judge on the Day of Resurrection. This is the same idea mentioned in verse 4 of Sura Al-Fatiha:

مَلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ {الفاتحة/4}

"Master and Possessor of the Day of Judgment". The next verse 285, of Sura Al-Baqara explains verse five of Sura Al-Fatiha:

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ {الفاتحة/5} اهدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ {الفاتحة/6}

"You only do we worship and you only do we beseech for help". The verse from Sura Al-Baqara explains the meaning of worshipping Allah. lt emphasizes that a Muslim should believe in what was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad as well as in the prophets before him. The verse explains that Muslims will not only believe in the instructions of Islam, but they will also put this belief into practice. The last verse of Sura Al-Baqara stresses the attribute of mercy, which is emphasized in Al-Fatiha. Allah says that He does not burden a person beyond his ability. This last verse of Sura Al-Baqara ends with supplication to Allah, very much like Sura Al-Fatiha.

It is also important to note that Al-Fatiha speaks for all Muslims and probably for all human beings. It does not say 'guide me,' but "Guide us". The Qur'an, which follows Al-Fatiha, is an explanation of the right way, which Muslims ask Allah to guide them to. We should also note that the last sura of the Qur'an is entitled /An- Nass/ or 'Mankind' This last sura, very much like the one is concerned with mankind or people at large. It emphasizes the idea of seeking refuge in Allah from the devil, which "whispers at the hearts of mankind". The two suras indicate that the religion of Islam is not concerned with the good of its people only. It is rather concerned with the good of the whole race.


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