Tafsir: Surah Al-Fatihah

الفاتحة AL-FATIHAH

  • Place of revelation: Makkah
  • It is the greatest Surah.
  • Seven repeatedly-recited verses (minimum 17 times/day).  And We have certainly given you, [O Muhammad], seven of the often repeated [verses] and the great Qur’an. [Al-Hijr 15:87]
  • It is actually a prayer and the rest of the Qur’an is the answer.
  • It cures the believer from denial, ignorance and astray.
  • It is a proof that Islam is the greatest blessing of all. So anyone who knew the truth and obeyed it, then he is worthy for the Straight Path.

OTHER NAMES

  • Al-Fatihah because it is the Opener of the Book, the Surah with which prayers are begun.
  1. Um Al-Kitab because a) the Qur’an starts with it b) the prayer is started by reciting it c) it contains the meanings of the entire Qur’an.
  2. Al-Hamd because of a Hadith Qudsi, “The prayer [i.e. Al-Fatihah] is divided into two halves between Me and My servants.’ When the servant says, `All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of existence,’ Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me….
  3. As-Salah because reciting it is a condition for the correctness of Salah.
  4. Ash-Shifa (the cure) because it is a cure from every illness.
  5. Ar-Ruqyah (Asking Allah remedy through supplication). There is the story of the Sahabi (companion) who used Al-Fatihah as a remedy for the tribal chief who was poisoned.

ALLAH

  • Allah is the Greatest Name of Allah, because it is referred to when describing Allah by the various attributes.
  • Proper noun of  God which is exclusively His.
  • From Al + Ilah = Allah (The Only One True God worthy of worship).
  • The word ‘Allah’ is mentioned 4 times and 15 of His other names are mentioned in Surah Al-Hashr.

AR-RAHMAN, AR-RAHIM

  • Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim are two names derived from RAHMAH (mercy), but Ar-Rahman carries a broader scope of meanings pertaining to the mercy of Allah with His creation.
  • Ar-Rahman, which is exclusively for Allah, is a name that encompasses every type of mercy that Allah has. Ar-Rahim is what affects the believers.
  • Ar-Rahman is general, for all creations, in this world only. Ar-Rahim is specific, exclusively for believers, in the Hereafter. “He is Ar-Rahman with all the creation and Ar-Rahim with the believers.”

ALHAMDULILLAHI RABB AL-‘ALAMIN

  • Allah praise Himself and also ordering His slaves to praise Him that He is worthy of praise due to His blessings and guidance (faith and good deeds).
  • A praise that Allah praised Himself with, indicating to His servants that they too should praise Him, due to Allah’s innumerable favors and bounties.
  • The best Dhikr (remembering Allah) is LA ILAHA ILLALLAH and the best supplication is AL-HAMDU LILLAH.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AL-HAMD AND ASH-SHUKR

  • Al-Hamd is general, which is to praise someone who is praiseworthy for his characters without him done something good to you. This is only for Allah so we praise Him for His High Qualities and Supremacy. If someone asked how are you, you always have to answer ‘Alhamdulillah.’
  • The letters Alif and Lam before the word Hamd serve to encompass all types of thanks and appreciation for Allah.
  • Ash-Shukr is specific, which is to praise someone especially in return for a favor. If someone gave you money, you simply say ‘Thank You’ (not Alhamdulilah).

WHY PRAISE WAS MENTIONED FIRST?

  • Since the praise of Allah, Who is being sought for help, was mentioned, it was appropriate that one follows the praise by asking for his need. We stated that Allah said, “One half for Myself and one half for My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked….”
  • This is the best method for seeking help, by first praising the one whom help is sought from and then asking for His aid, and help for one’s self, and for his Muslim brethren by saying: “Guide us to the straight path.”
  • This method is more appropriate and efficient in bringing about a positive answer to the pleas, and this is why Allah recommended this better method.
  • Asking for help may take the form of conveying the condition of the person who is seeking help.
  • Also, one may first mention the attributes of whoever is being asked, such as what Dhun-Nun said:  (And [mention] the man of the fish, when he went off in anger and thought that We would not decree [anything] upon him. And he called out within the darknesses, “ LA ILAHA ILLA ANTA There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.” [Al-Anbiya  21:87]
  • Further, one may praise Him without mentioning what he needs. The meaning of guidance mentioned in the Surah implies being directed and guided to success.

RABB

  • Ar-Rabb is the owner who has full authority over his property. Ar-Rabb, linguistically means, the master or the one who has the authority to lead. All of these meanings are correct for Allah.
  • When it is alone, the word Rabb is used only for Allah. As for other than Allah, it can be used to say Rabb Ad-Dar, the master of such and such object.
  •  He is Lord because of His Actions, as being the Creator, Administrator, Caretaker, Sustainer, Guide…
  • Rabb contains a warning while Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim encourages. Allah has described Himself by AR-RAHMAN, AR-RAHIM after saying RABB AL-‘ALAMIN, so His statement here includes a warning, and then an encouragement. Surely, your Lord is swift in retribution, and certainly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. [Al-An’am 6:165]

AL-‘ALAMIN

  • Al-‘Alamin is plural for ‘Alam, which encompasses everything in existence except Allah. The word ‘Alam is itself a plural word, having no singular form. The ‘Alamin are all the different creations in the heavens and the earth, on land and at sea (mankind, jinn, angels, animals, all that exists…)
  • “Every type of creation is an ‘Alam.” Allah also said: “Alam encompasses everything that Allah created, in this life and in the Hereafter.”
  • ‘Alam (CREATION) is derived from ‘Alamah (SIGN) because it is a sign testifying to the existence of its Creator and to His Oneness.’

MALIKI YAW-MID DIN

  • Allah mentioned His sovereignty of the Day of Resurrection, but this does not negate His sovereignty over all other things. For Allah mentioned that He is the Lord of existence, including this earthly life and the Hereafter.
  • Allah only mentioned the Day of Recompense here because on that Day, no one except Him will be able to claim ownership of anything whatsoever. On that Day, no one will be allowed to speak without His permission.
  • Malik:  the only true King/Owner (of everything and everyone) on the Day of Judgment. He owns everything, no one owns anything even the smallest of things
  • The most despicable name to Allah is a person who calls himself the king of kings, while there are no owners except Allah.
  • Yawmid-Din: the reckoning (reward and punishment).
  • It reminds the believer of this Day so he will prepare for it by doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds.

IYYAKA NA’BUDU WA IYYAKA NASTA’IN

  • ‘Ibadah (literal: subdued), implies the utmost love, humility and fear.
  • We obey and worship Allah alone and we ask help in all our needs only to Him.
  • It proves that all kinds of worship cannot be directed to anyone except Him.
  • It removes negative feelings as abuse, arrogance, show-off.

IH-DINAS SIRATAL MUSTAQIM

  • Asking Him to teach us and lead us to the right way.
  • Asking Him to let us be strong in this way until we meet Him.
  • No other straight way except Islam, the enlightened way to eternal happiness, to Jannah, to Allah.
  • Why does the believer ask Allah for guidance during every prayer and at other times, while he is already properly guided? Has he not already acquired guidance?
  • The answer to these questions is that if it were not a fact that the believer needs to keep asking for guidance day and night, Allah would not have directed him to invoke Him to acquire the guidance. The servant needs Allah the Exalted every hour of his life to help him remain firm on the path of guidance and to make him even more firm and persistent on it.
  • It describes the honest person as being straight and the wicked person as being crooked.

SIRATAL LADHINA AN’AMTA ‘ALAYHIM

  • Refers to the way of those who are guided (prophets, martyrs, righteous…)

GHAYRIL MAGHDUBI ‘ALAYHIM

  • Refers to those who knew the truth but denied it. They earned Allah’s anger (Jews and anyone like them)

WA LAD-DALLIN

  • Refers to those who went astray (Christians and anyone like them)

AMIN

  • Not an Ayah of Al-Fatihah
  • Sunnah to say it after reciting Al-Fatihah (recommended for those who are not in Salah and strongly recommended for those who are in Salah)
  • Asking Allah to accept our supplication
  • When any of you says in the prayer ‘Amin’, and the angels in heaven say ‘Amin’ in unison, his previous sins will be forgiven. [Muslim 1:307]

[Main source: Tafsir Ibn Kathir, other different sources including my own notes accumulated from long years of study]

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