Tafseer

Rediscovering Surah Fatihah!

Hadith Qudsi about Surah Fatihah:

Abu Hurairah radhiyallahu anhu reported: I heard Rasoolullahi sallalahu alaihi wasallam narrating a Hadith Qudsi in which Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala has said, “I have divided Surah Fatihah into two halves between Me and My slave, and my slave will receive what he asks. So, when His slave says Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Aalameen (Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe), Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala says “My slave has praised Me!”. 

And when His slave says Arrahmanirraheem (The Compassionate, the Merciful), Allah Subhanahu  Wa Ta’ala says “My slave has extolled Me!” 

And when His slave says Maliki Yaumiddeen (Master of the Day of Judgement), Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala says “My slave has glorified Me! (or) entrusted Me!” 

And when His slave says Iyyaka Na’budu was iyyaka nasta’een (You alone do we worship and You alone do we seek for help), Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala says “This is between Me and My slave, so whatever he asks, it will be granted. 

And when His slave says Ihdinas Siratal mustaqeem siraatal ladhina an’amta ‘alaihim ghairil maghdhubi ‘alaihim wa laddaallin (Guide us to the straight path, the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favours and not of those who have incurred Your wrath and nor of those who have gone astray), Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala says, “This (part of the Surah is exclusively) for My slave and my slave shall receive whatever he has asked for.

[Source: Sahih Muslim]

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

﴿١﴾ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٢﴾ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ ﴿٣﴾ مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ ﴿٤﴾ إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ ﴿٥﴾ اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ﴿٦﴾ صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ ﴿٧﴾ـ

  • In the name of Allah (God), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

  • All the praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds (universe).

  • The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

  • Lord of the Day of Judgment.

  • You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help.

  • Guide us to the Straight Path.

  • The path of those You have blessed, not (the path) of those who earned Your Anger, nor of those who went astray.

    Fatiha is literally the opener because when we understand Fatiha, we understand faith.


    1. الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ


HAMD has two meanings:

1. Praise مدح

2. Gratitude شكر


Thanks/gratitude is usually in return of something done for us. e.g. we thank someone who has done a favour for us. Thanks is usually a reaction and acknowledgement.


Praise can be for anything that we find beautiful e.g. If we see a beautiful house, we praise it. Praise can even be fake in order to get some benefits e.g. we praise someone who has authority over us just to avoid getting into trouble or to exploit them for personal benefits.


Sometimes we praise without thanking or thank without praising. Hamd is a combination of praise and gratitude so it is always genuine and sincere. Moreover, Hamd does not have to be a reaction to something, but it is a constant internal feeling.

 

 

Why didn’t Allah say Madah and Shukar? 

The best kind of speech is that which is brief yet conveys the full meaning. Allah used ONE word hamd instead of using separate words for praise and gratitude. 

Secondly, saying Madah wa shukar would imply that BOTH do not have to be present simultaneously, so WA makes it optional. Hamd necessitates that BOTH have to be present at the same time. 

Alhamdulillah is not a verbal statement. It is an attitude towards life. It means as bad as things might seem, I know there is wisdom in it and I know it will be best for me , and I thank you for it. It forces us to think positively. When we praise and thank Allah in every situation, we stop complaining about things and are forced to think positively. This provides us with the right lens to see and appreciate Allah.

Hamd is a Noun!


1. Nouns do not have a tense while verbs have tenses. Allah used hamd which is a noun so it is constant, permanent and timeless. Verbs are temporary and associated with زمان. Hamd of Allah has always been there and will always be there. It is eternal. 


2.  A verb needs a subject/doer who performs the verb, but noun is not dependent on any doerAllah did not talk about hamd in a way that it depends on us. This makes us humble because we realise that Allah is independent  غنى of our praise. 


Moreover, Allah did not issue a command to us to praise Him. If Allah had given us a command, the ball would be in our court and the existence of HAMD would depend on our action. Allah merely said praise BELONGS to Allah, even if perform Hamd of Allah or not.

Why did Allah use Allah instead of any of his other names? 


How do your praise Allah in one word, acknowledging every single one of His attributes? This is only possible by using Allah, as this would automatically include ALL sifaat of Allah. Allah is introducing himself in the Fatiha so instead of using any of His descriptive names, He used his proper name to introduce himself. 


Allah comes before Rabb ul Aalimeen in Fatihah because people have different ideas of rabb in different religions and they might have not appreciated Tawheed by the use of rabb alone. So, Allah negates shirk through the use of “Allah” e.g. In the story of Musa AS, the magicians professed imaan to Allah and said: aamanna bi rabbil alimeen but Firaun also called himself rabb. He thought they are referring to him, so they clarified by saying rabbi harooni wa musaa and THEN it became clear. 



 رَبِّ  

RABB رب is primarily someone who owns something and is in charge of it. It is not necessary for someone to be an owner and in charge of something simultaneously. But, Rabb has both meanings simultaneously. It can be translated as Master.


Rabb is the OWNER (Malik مالك)


Rabb is the one who is in charge and in full control (SAYYID سيّد)


Other meanings of Rabb:

Rabb is someone who ensures the growth and takes care of something (MURABBI مربّى).

Allah not only owns us but He also takes perfect care of us. Allah does Tarbiyyah of the whole Universe i.e. He maintains the growth, progress and development of everything.

Rabb is the one who maintains existence and ensures things stay intact and don’t fall apart (QAYYIM قيّم), just like a gardener that maintains/takes care of delicate plants. If Allah stopped taking care of us and the world for even a second, then everything will fall apart.

 

Rabb is the one who gives gifts and benefits on top of what the other person deserves (MU’NIM منعم). We do not earn or are entitled to everything we receive, but rather Allah blesses us beyond measure. This means that if we received the gift, we should be grateful because we did not deserve it. It also means that if we didn’t receive the gift, we have no right to complain as we didn’t earn our right to it. 


We fail to appreciate the blessings and gifts we have been given. The whole world and all it contains has no comparison to what Allah has given us. Allah’s gifts are priceless and there is no way we can pay for them. e.g. we won’t exchange our hands or our legs for even the whole wealth in the world, as it is a priceless gift. 


When we put all of these meanings together, we get the complete meaning of Rabb.


RABB-ABD RELATIONSHIP

There are two partners in every relationship e.g.employee-employer relationship, teacher-student relationship, parent-child relationship etc. Similarly, when Allah calls himself Rabb, it establishes our relationship with Allah as His ABD. We have a RABB ABD relationship with Allah.

We unfortunately have a very negative connotation of slavery in our society. Human beings have an innate desire to be free from authority, and they hate being told what to do. We have a desire to be free. So, if we hear the word “slavery”, we want to run miles away from it. We hate being bossed around by teachers, our boss, our parents etc. We like freedom and independence. 

In reality, our worldly concept of “freedom” is a delusion. None of us are truly free. Some of us are enslaved by money, some by culture, some by power, some by peer pressure  some by fashion and so on. If we choose to become slaves of our Creator, it saves us from slavery of the creation. If we submit ourselves to Allah, it frees us from the pressure of our culture, society, people, trends etc. 


ABD IS A SLAVE


Abd is a SLAVE, and not a servant or a worshiper. 


Worship is performed at a certain time and place but slavery is not restricted to a specific time, rather it is a state of being. A slave does exactly what the master wants to do, and whenever he wants him to do it, and salah is merely a practical demonstration of that. Acts of worship are merely supposed to reinforce the fact that we are an abd. But we think that by performing worship, we have fulfilled our duty to Allah so now we can spend the rest of the day however we like. 


Servant is also the incorrect translation as service is usually performed in exchange of something e.g. people work for different organisations with a certain job description in exchange for something. Service is usually voluntary and we can negotiate the terms and conditions. Slavery is usually voluntary. We can only be a true slave if we know what the master wants from us. That is why we ask Allah to guide us to the straight path.


Dimensions of Slavery


According to Ibn Tayyimah, slavery includes the following dimensions:


1. Love

The slavery of Allah is beautiful as Allah is the best master. This slavery is not enforced but it is out of recognition and desire for Allah. To be a slave of Allah, we need to love Allah above and beyond everything else.


2. Obedience

There is no obedience to the creation while disobeying the creator. 


3. Sincerity

Every act and deed should be purely for the sake of Allah. 


4. Tawakkul

We have to develop absolute  tawakkul in Allah that whatever happens has chair in it. If we place our trust in people, we will always be disappointed but if we trust Allah,we will never face disappointment


5. Terms of slavery 

Allah decides the standards and conditions of slavery and we do not negotiate with Allah.

الْعَالَمِينَ

عالم= world

Plural: عوالم= worlds

عالمين= “een” is used to refer to creatures of intellect ذوى العقول  e.g. saaliheen, siddiqeen, saabireen, shakireen, saaiymeen etc. This does not refer to creatures without intellect.

So, a more appropriate translation would be: Rabb of different people/different nations/generations/cultures. Different generations and nations can be referred to as different worlds. e.g. when we visit a different country or converse with someone from a different generation, we say it is an altogether different world. Allah cares about all the different worlds of people, as Allah created all of them. We do Hamd of Allah for being the Rabb of all creation. 

 2. الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ 


رحم= Womb of the mother. 

In the womb of a mother, the baby doesn’t have to worry about anything e.g. food, drink, survival, sleep etc.

Everything is being completely taken care of. The mother is taking care of every need of the child. The child is enveloped in the care and love of the mother. The child is not even capable of fully knowing and appreciating the thousands of ways in which he is being protected and taken care of. Allah loves us more than our mothers, and it is impossible for us to fathom Allah’s Rahma entirely. Allah is constantly taking care of us in countless unimaginable ways, but we are just as ignorant as the baby in the womb of the mother. The mother gives unconditional love and care to the child without any return.

الرَّحْمَـٰنِ 

1. مبالغه Extreme,beyond expectations, intense, incredible (Intense love)

2. حدث Something happening immediately (at the moment) i.e. Allah is extremely loving and caring right now

3. It is temporary and can be taken away e.g. عطشان atshaan means extremely thirsty, جوعان Jo’aan means extremely hungry, غضبان Ghazbaan means extremely angry

So, it means we may possibly be disqualified from it because of our actions in this world.


الرَّحِيمِ

1. Permanent and constant

2. It is not necessarily happening right now


Both combined together complete the meaning of rahmah. Al Rahman is intense like the strong tides and waves of the ocean, and Al Raheem is constant like the  ocean.


Al Rahman is mentioned first and Al Raheem is mentioned later. Why? 


Al Rahman means that Allah is completely taking care of our immediate needs. It is only when our immediate needs are satisfied, that we think of our future needs. It is only when our present needs are met, that we are able to think about our future. e.g. if we are really hungry and need food, we don’t care if we will get food a week later. We are only concerned about our present. But, when our immediate hunger is satisfied, then our mind goes to tomorrow or the next week.


Al Raheem means that Allah is constantly taking care of us and will continue to take care of us in our future, the way he took care of our immediate needs. 


Ibn Abbas R.A. said: Al Rahman is for everyone in this world and Al Raheem is for the believers in akhirah.

This world is temporary just like Al Rahman and the akhirah is permanent just like Al Raheem.

Allah is our Master but He is not like any other Master. Allah is a unique Master because He is unimaginably loving and caring, and He takes care of all our immediate and future needs. Our Rabb-Abd relationship is that based on love. Everything Allah commands us to do is for our good and it benefits our own selves Apparently, our niyyah is to please Allah but we don’t realise that it brings chair to our own selves. Allah merely wants to lighten our burdens and show us the way.


3. مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ

After mentioning His mercy, Allah immediately reminds us that He is the Master of the Day of judgement. If we identified Allah only as Rahman Raheem, we would take advantage of it and think that we can get away with everything e.g. Imagine there is master and a slave. The master tells the slave that he can enjoy as much as he wants within a huge designated area, but he shouldn’t go beyond the fence. The slave crosses the fence once by mistake and falls to the other side. He comes back and apologises to the master and the master does not punish him. He does it a few times repeatedly but the master doesn’t rebuke him. He thinks the master is too lenient and will not hold him accountable for anything. He continues to cross the fence and eventually begins to stay on the other side of the fence. The master just observes him quietly and doesn’t say anything so he assumes he has gotten away with it. Then one day the master calls him to account and tells him he was keeping a record of everything, and now he will be punished for his violations.


This example is about our Rabb Abd relationship. If we think Allah is full of rahmah, we can take advantage of it and cross the line, so Allah immediately balances the equation by reminding us of the Day of Judgement. 


مالك vs ملك


Malik has two pronunciations in Surah Fatihah:

MAALIK مالك = owner 

MALIKملك = king


They have different meanings e.g. we say: I own a pen/house, but we don’t say we are the king of the pen. 

King is usually used only for ownership of a huge thing e.g. King of a country, a nation. The KING usually only controls the Macro things, but not the Micro, and the OWNER usually takes care of Micro things, but not Macro things. The king doesn’t take care of the minor details, but he only takes care of the big things. Allah is the MAALIK and MALIK on the Day of Judgement, so He will be in control of everything on that day, be it little or big. 


Moreover, Allah says Allah is the Owner of the يوم. YAUM refers to day. Human beings do not have the ability to own time. We can own things, but we can never own or control time. Allah is the owner of time, and He can expand and contract it as he wishes. The Day of Judgement will be equal to 50000 years, and it is possible for Allah because Allah OWNS time. So, Allah will own everything on that day, including time.


Why does Allah use دين, instead of Qiyamah?

It comes from دان يدين. It means: to deal with. Allah is the owner of the day of Judgement, on which everything will be dealt with. All records will be set straight. This world is imperfect and unjust. Sometimes, good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. It is not possible to have absolute justice in this world. Allah tells us that everything will be accounted for on that day, and nobody will escape the justice of Allah.


Justice vs. Punishment

Rahmah is positive, punishment is negative. Judgement is in the middle and is entirely neutral. The natural expectation was that Allah would balance His Rahmah with His Punishment. But, Allah chose to mention His justice instead. Allah’s punishment is never negative, unfair or based on emotions. Rather, Allah’s justice is absolutely fair. We beg Allah for His mercy on Judgement Day and not His justice, because if we get questioned on Judgement day, we will not stand a chance. Nobody will be able to enter Jannah based on his Amal alone, we need Allah’s rahmah to qualify for Jannah. 


Some people get their book of deeds in their right hand. Some people will get their book of deeds in their left hand. Even if we have our book in our right hand, we would be extremely nervous on that day, but Allah will make our حساب easy for us and overlook out shortcomings. Allah will give us حسابا يسيرا. The ones who are given their book in their left hands will be hiding their books, and if Allah opens their books, they will be exposed and punished. 


4.  إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ

After Allah has introduced Himself through the first 3 ayaat, it is our turn to speak to Allah directly, without any barriers. 

The arrangement of this sentence is flipped so this adds emphasis to it. It means: it is only to you that we willingly give ourselves in slavery and worship.

Some decisions are based on our heart and some decisions are based on intellect. Alhamdulillah is both emotional and intellectual (Inshaiya and Khabriya). While reading the first three ayaat of Surah Fatihah, we are so emotionally shaken and intellectually convinced that we give ourselves to Allah in aboodiyah. Surah Fatihah reinforces our faith over and over again and reminds us of why we came to Allah to begin with. If we forget the message of the Fatiha, our religion will be reduced to rites and rituals, and it will become an empty shell.

وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

After committing to be His Abd, we realise that we are unable to fulfil this task on our own. This realisation makes us turn to Allah for help, Allah will be sufficient as a helper. نستعين comes from استعانة and it means to seek help when you’ve already exerted yourself in mujahida. It means that we are making our own effort but we are seeking additional help to fulfil our task e.g. if you have a flat tyre and you are trying to fix it, but you need some additional help, that is istaana. If you’re just sitting in the car doing nothing and waiting for help, then that is not istana. 


Some people blame Allah for everything and wait for Allah’s help without making any personal effort. They think Allah will solve everything for them without moving a muscle. The opposite extreme is of those people who think they can do everything on their own and they do not need Allah’s help at all. We need to remember that actions depend on us and outcome/results depend on Allah. Allah only gives the outcome to those who make effort. Allah only helps those who help themselves. e.g. Ibrahim AS was also thrown in the fire and THEN the fire cooled.

Moreover, we only ask for Allah’s help after committing to our responsibilities of being an Abd. Once we make that commitment, only then are we in a position to ask for help. Another way to look at it is that iyyaka nabudu is FOR Allah while iyyaka Nastaeen is FOR us, so it is proper Adab that we do something for Allah first, before asking something for ourselves. 

We don’t specify what kind of help we need. Why? We are dependent on Allah’s help at every step of the way, and we need Allah’s help in so many ways that it is not possible to specify everything. Imagine that you are hanging off a cliff and about to fall. You will not specify in detail the kind of help you need at that point but you will just call out for “HELP!!!!” in desperation. When we are exasperated, we cannot even properly express ourselves. Surah Fatiha reflects our desperate need for Allah’s help.


5. اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ 


After asking Allah for help, the only help we specify is: Guide us to Siraat ul Mustaqeem. This is the most desperate need we have, out of all our needs. Hidaya is something we need at every step of our lives. It is very precious and can be taken from us at any time, so we need to repeatedly ask Allah for it daily in our five salah. We can never claim that once we have been guided, we don’t need any more of it OR we will remain on that guidance for life. 


Imagine you need a glass of water while you’re dying of thirst, how will you ask for help in that state? Will it be different for asking for water generally? Definitely. We need to have the right attitude while asking Allah for hidaya. This prayer needs to come from our heart. There should be a thirst for guidance like there is a thirst for water. It is needed over and over again. Guidance is the one thing that we need to beg from Allah, as it is not gifted without asking. 


Huda comes from hadiya and it means gift. When Arabs got lost in the desert and found guidance(someone to show them the way), it was a gift for them. We ask Allah for the greatest of all gifts because we are lost without His guidance.

Why do we ask Allah specifically for guidance? 


Our relationship with Allah was Rabb-Abd relationship. One of the most important consequences of this relationship is that the slave needs a set of instructions to follow. It is not possible to be an abd if we don’t know what our Master requires of us. We need instructions to be able to follow our Master as this relationship is defined by our Master. 

Guidance vs. Knowledge


Guidance is not the same as information/knowledge. We may have a lot of knowledge of the Qur’an but lack guidance. Shahadah was our first step towards guidance. In every moment of our lives, we face choices and we ask Allah to guide us in all those choices. We may be muslims and may have knowledge but we may not be on guidance. Guidance includes the strength to make the right decisions based on our knowledge. Seek knowledge, but never forget why you’re seeking knowledge. Knowledge is not the goal. Guidance is the ultimate goal. If we don’t have the right intentions, our knowledge misguides us and leads to arrogance. When we develop arrogance, we’ve lost slavery.


We say اهدنا, plural, which means we need the company of other people on this path towards Hidaya. We need collective guidance and suhbah to stay firm on this path. We also  wish guidance for others.


 الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

صراط is a specific kind of path. It has the following features:

1. Wide path

2. Straight path

3. Long path


When we ask someone for directions, we usually ask for directions to a specific destination. In Surah Fatihah, we don’t ask for directions/guidance to our ultimate destination but we ask Allah for guidance to remain on the path.  Our life as Muslims is not about attaining a level of perfection, but it is about continual progress. This is a gift from Allah, because if Allah had specified a certain finishing line, some people would be able to reach it and some would be left behind. Allah values us, so long as we are on the path, even though we may be behind others. Allah did not create everybody the same way, but we are all unique and have our individual journeys to Allah.

Mustaqeem means straight up and it comes from استقامة which means: to stand straight. So whoever travels upon this straight path, rises towards Allah and leaves the love of this world behind. The higher up we go, the greater danger there is of falling. Gravity will always be trying to pull us back to towards the Earth, so we continuously need to resist it to follow Siraat ul Mustaqeem. Also, when we go up on this path, our vision broadens and we get a better view of the reality of this world. 

We ask Allah for Guidance TO and THROUGH and ALL the way to the Sirat ul mustaqeem. e.g. If we have to go to a destination, we first ask someone for directions, then preferably we ask someone to stay with us during the journey so we don’t have to travel alone. We ask our guide to remain with us till the end so that we don’t get lost. This is the ultimate hidaya we ask for, after which there is no misguidance.

 6. صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ


We need a role model who has already been on this path, so that he can guide us through this path. We take advice from graduates of the past, not from freshmen. We ask Allah for the path of those Allah has done انعام upon. In’am refers to making things smooth, easy and luxurious. This word is also used for cattle. How can a path that requires us to go upwards against gravity be easy? These people made effort, and Allah made this path easy like an elevator/escalator for them. We ask Allah to introduce us to those people whom this path was made easy for. Allah introduces them in the Qur’an through stories, so we can learn from their companionship.

الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ


غير (change). We want to be on the path of those people whom you favoured and not those who were the recipients of rage or those who were lost.


The people whom Allah favoured, we only look for them in the past, but the people who are lost or recipients of rage, we look for them in the past, present and future. Allah has used nouns مغضوب and ضالّين. Nouns are timeless and permanent. 

When someone does something wrong, while knowing that the act was wrong, we feel very angry towards them. This refers to the Jews. Jews were the recipients of Allah’s anger because they were very knowledgable in religion but they still kept making the wrong decisions. They had knowledge without actions. This refers to us because we also know things are wrong and do them anyway. 

Allah is so angry with them that Allah does not even want to associate Himself with them, so Allah doesn’t even say that they will face HIS rage. Moreover, they will also be the recipient of anger from those people who became lost because of their misguidance.

When someone does something wrong because they didn’t know any better, we do not hold them responsible to that extent. They are considered “lost”. This refers to the Christians. They had action without knowledge. Some people don’t want to be of those who earn Allah’s rage so they prefer being ضالّين. They avoid acquiring knowledge and prefer to remain ignorant, so that they will not be held accountable for the knowledge they didn’t act upon. Allah mentions both to complete the equation, so that we learn knowledge and act upon it.


This does not mean that all the Jews and Christians in the world are under Allah’s wrath. It just means that Allah has mentioned their case studies in the Qur’an so that we can learn from their mistakes, and not repeat their behaviour.

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