Islamic Studies Worship

Surah al-Fatiha – The Site Map of the Qur’an

fatihaImam Tahir ibn ‘Ashur is one of the scholars that I consider my sheikh. I have never met him, but I live with his books, sleep with his writing and turn to his works almost daily. His explanation of the Qur’an is a true gem, and one written in the modern era. Below is an adaptation of his thoughts on Surah al-Fatiha, a surah that my teacher of ten years would say to me, “Every day I learn something new from it.”

I have tried to abridge his thoughts in a language that is accessible and easy to follow, adding things I’ve heard from my teachers over the years. I did this hoping to illustrate what was mentioned above regarding the universals of the Qur’an and its divine purpose.

“In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” (Qur’an, 1:1)

By inference one can gather that this statement contains all of the noble names and attributes that belong exclusively to Allah. This is because the word “The” signifies genus (every type of praise), and the word due (which is li in Arabic) implies that it is His right alone – He is the only one who by right can receive such praise and adoration. This signifies that He alone is the master and possessor of the most perfect names and beautiful attributes.

“[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds,” (Qur’an, 1:2)

This verse implies that to Allah belongs the action of creating, shaping and maintaining.

“The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” (Qur’an, 1:3)

This verse contains the foundations for religious law: mercy and ease. Allah, through the prophecy of Muhammad (sal Allahu `alayhi wa sallam – peace be upon him), eased worship and practice upon those charged with such.

“Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.” (Qur’an, 1:4)

This verse entails everything that will happen in the Hereafter after death. When one reads this verse he should feel a sense of responsibility and hate sins like he hates cancer.

“It is You we worship…” (Qur’an, 1:5)

This verse contains two important concepts: spiritual development and following what Allah has legislated.

“…and You we ask for help.” (Qur’an, 1:5)

This implies sincerity to Allah coupled with practice.

‘Iz ad-Din ibn ‘Abdul as-Salam wrote:

“The way to Allah contains the outward and the inward acts. The outward is Shari’ah (Islamic judicial system) and the inner is its reality. Both imply that establishment of servitude to Allah according to the dictates of Islam, and both words are found in the statement, ‘You alone we worship, and You alone we implore for help.’ ‘You alone we worship’ is Shari’ah, and ‘You alone we implore for help’ is its inner reality.”

“(Please) Guide us to the straight path.” (Qur’an, 1:6)

This entails the different conditions of people and their corresponding rulings related to acts of worship, dealing with others and good character.

“The way of those whom You favored…” (Qur’an, 1:7)

This verse refers to the previous blessed communities and individuals who struggled to follow the correct way.

“Neither the way of those who earned wrath, nor (the way) of those who went astray.” (Qur’an, 1:7)

This verse refers to the previous nations and individuals who either knew what was right and refused to follow it, or allowed their emotions to seduce them towards acting without knowledge. The verse implies that there is more to come about both groups in the Qur’an; and to encourage the reader to search its noble pages in order to adorn oneself with the jewels of those of the “straight path,” and to remove the rags of those who earned wrath or those who went off target.

There is no doubt that this chapter contains the entire contents of the Qur’an. It acts as a zip file for the soul which, in seven short verses, reminds the Muslim of his Lord, His names and attributes, the Hereafter; it reminds one of asking for help and worship his Lord; and implants upon his heart the desire to be from those who Allah has favored and not of the opposite – the religion in its entirety. It is no wonder that we are obligated to recite in our daily prayers as its’ verses act like a site map for the Qur’an.

Want to do something amazing? Go through the Qur’an and find the verses that express the universals found in al-Fatiha. Impress me and I’ll send you something!

Allah knows best.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • سُوۡرَةُ الانشقاق
    يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدۡحً۬ا فَمُلَـٰقِيهِ (٦) فَأَمَّا مَنۡ أُوتِىَ كِتَـٰبَهُ ۥ بِيَمِينِهِۦ (٧) فَسَوۡفَ يُحَاسَبُ حِسَابً۬ا يَسِيرً۬ا (٨) وَيَنقَلِبُ إِلَىٰٓ أَهۡلِهِۦ مَسۡرُورً۬ا (٩) وَأَمَّا مَنۡ أُوتِىَ كِتَـٰبَهُ ۥ وَرَآءَ ظَهۡرِهِۦ (١٠) فَسَوۡفَ يَدۡعُواْ ثُبُورً۬ا (١١) وَيَصۡلَىٰ سَعِيرًا (١٢)

    O man! Verily, you are returning towards your Lord with your deeds and actions (good or bad), a sure returning, and you will meet (i.e. the results of your deeds which you did). (6) Then, as for him who will be given his Record in his right hand, (7) He surely will receive an easy reckoning, (8) And will return to his family in joy! (9) But whosoever is given his Record behind his back, (10) He will invoke (for his) destruction, (11) And he shall enter a blazing Fire, and be made to taste its burning. (12)

  • Assalamu Alaikum Sh Suhaib,

    May Allah reward you and increase your knowledge. I hope you don’t mind me leaving a short comment here regarding the pronoun ‘we’ in ‘You alone we worship’. I remember reading somewhere the significance or the benefits of Allah’s usage of the plural (we) in place of the singular (I) in verse five of the opening chapter of the Qur’an. Following are some of the benefits:
    1. It highlights the virtue of congregational prayer in the Mosque
    2. By using the plural everyone become intercessors for one another
    3. It emphasises the unity (Tawhid) of Allah
    4. It encourages Muslims to unite upon the Tawhid of Allah and discourages disunity
    5. It emphasises brotherhood and love between Muslims

    Wallahu ‘alam


  • [Angels say] “Our Lord! Thy reach is over all things in Mercy, and Knowledge. Forgive, then, those who turn in repentance, and follow Thy Path: and preserve them from the Penalty of the Blazing Fire…” (40:7)!
    [Protection from hellfire is] “a hospitable gift from One Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful!” (41:32). When We give him a taste of some mercy from Ourselves, after some adversity has touched him, he is sure to say “This is due to my (merit)… (41:50).
    He is the One that sends down rain (even) after (men) have given up all hope and scatters His Mercy (far and wide)… (42:28).Thy duty is but to convey (the Message). And truly when We give man a taste of Mercy from Ourselves he doth exult thereat, but when some ill happens to him, on account of the deeds which His hands have sent forth, truly then is man ungrateful! (42:48)
    [Of false deities] they say “If it had been the will of (Allah), Most Gracious, We should not have worshipped such (deities)” (43:20)!
    Is it they who would portion out the Mercy of thy Lord? It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in the life of this world… But the Mercy of thy Lord is better than the (wealth) which they amass (43:32).
    Revelations are send “as a Mercy from thy Lord: for He hears and knows (all things)” (44:6). No protection on the day of judgement “except such as receive Allah’s Mercy: for He is exalted in Might, Most Merciful” (44:42).
    These are clear evidences to men, and a Guidance and Mercy to those of assured Faith (45:20). Then, as to those who believed and did righteous deeds, their Lord will admit them to His Mercy: that will be the Achievement for all to see (45:30).
    [On authenticity of the Qur’an] Or do they say! “He has forged it”? Say: “Had I forged it, then can ye obtain no single (blessing) for me from Allah. He knows best of that whereof ye talk (so glibly)! Enough is He for a witness between me and you! And He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (46:8). And before this, was the Book of Moses as a Guide and a Mercy; and this Book confirms (it) in the Arabic tongue; to admonish the unjust, and as Glad Tidings to those who do right (46:12).

  • Surat An-Nas has:

    *Seeking help from Allah from the evils of evil whispers (similar to iyaka Nasta’een)

    *Seeking help (isti3atha) is something we start the Fatiha and any verse with, it is also a worship of the external (tongue) and internal (heart)

    *The verse has some the greatest names of Allah Rab, Malik, and Ilah

    *acknowledging and seeing help frm the shaytan show that a person feels humbleness and need to stick to the straight path

    *The sura ends with showing that there are 2 sources of evil jinn and humans, and in surat Al Faitha we ask the path of those who Allah favoured and not path of those who didn’t stick on that same path and goal we aim to achieve

    *Surat An Nas starts with asking Allah and end with (Nas) and Surat Al Fatiha starts with praise and ends with du’aa (first half is about the creator and second half is about the creation)

    JAK sheikh Suhaib Webb you really inspire us to keep re-attaching and renewing our relationship with the Qur’an

  • Subhan Allah, that’s deep 🙂

    One of my favorite verses in the Quran is the last verse of Surah Muzammil (73). Allah says, “Indeed, your Lord knows, [O Muhammad], that you stand [in prayer] almost two thirds of the night or half of it or a third of it, and [so do] a group of those with you. And Allah determines [the extent of] the night and the day. He has known that you [Muslims] will not be able to do it and has turned to you in forgiveness, so recite what is easy [for you] of the Qur’an. He has known that there will be among you those who are ill and others traveling throughout the land seeking [something] of the bounty of Allah and others fighting for the cause of Allah . So recite what is easy from it and establish prayer and give zakah and loan Allah a goodly loan. And whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah . It is better and greater in reward. And seek forgiveness of Allah . Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

    I think it relates well to Surah Fatiha because the verse is all about ibadah (worship) Allah’s Mercy and His Forgiveness.

    Without us even asking Allah has extended His Mercy to us. We were created to worship Him, but He excuses the fact that we simply cannot pray even part of the night, let alone the whole night. And He allows us (or rather commands us) to follow a path of ease when praying in the night, and He forgives us our shortcomings. Without us even asking. Thus we must start each prayer with thanks and gratitude (hamd) to Allah because the prayer is not enough and He’s already promised to forgive that. Because He is ArRahman, ArRaheem.

    Br. Nouman Ali Khan in one of his lectures mentioned that the verse “Maliki youm al deen” is extremely powerful because it illustrates that Allah is sovereign over a day, a unit of time. No being, no creature, can make the claim that they are the owners/rulers of everything that occurs in even the smallest unit of time. The same (I think) is illustrated here when Allah says He determines night and day. Allah is in charge of something no one else can ever control: time.

    My favorite part of the verse are the examples that Allah gives of what keeps us occupied from qiyam al layl (praying during the night). Sickness, work, striving in His cause…these can all be considered acts of ibadah if done for the sake of Allah, and in all of them we need His Help. Allah continues to guide us as to acts of ibadah: prayer and zakah. Here Allah is offering us His help. This is the Guidance Allah gives us to stay on sirat al mustaqeem.

    And in His Mercy He even describes zakah as a loan to Him, never mind that the money we earn is from Allah. How Merciful that He accepts it back from us as a loan and (insha Allah) rewards us with jannah for this loan. And He promises that any good we do will be acknowledged and mutliplied with Allah. This is additional Mercy and Help from Allah, because no human being could have earned Allah’s Forgiveness without His Mercy and His Help. Thus the only way to stay on siratul mistaqeem is to pray, do good deeds, strive in the way of Allah, and beg for Allah’s Mercy and Forgiveness. As the ayah concludes, “…and seek forgiveness of Allah . Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” Alhamdullilahi rabil alameen 🙂

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