Qur'an Spiritual Purification Women

Cultivating Faith

A Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad

Surat Al-Fatiha Series: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart V | Part VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV

Alhamdullilah (praise be to Allah) this is our second gathering for the tafsir (interpretation and contextualization) of Surat al-Fatiha (The Opener, Quran 1) and its effects on the life and the tarbiya (disciplined upbringing) of the Muslim. Tarbiya comes from a word which means to plant a seed. In the last verse of Surat al-Fath, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) talks about tarbiya in the context of the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ. He mentions the example of the Companions of the Prophet as mentioned in the injeel (the Gospel). Allah says,

وَمَثَلُهُمْ فِي الْإِنجِيلِ كَزَرْعٍ أَخْرَجَ شَطْأَهُ فَآزَرَهُ فَاسْتَغْلَظَ فَاسْتَوَىٰ عَلَىٰ سُوقِهِ يُعْجِبُ الزُّرَّاعَ لِيَغِيظَ بِهِمُ الْكُفَّارَ

“And their description in the Gospel is as a plant which produces its offshoots and strengthens them so they grow firm and stand upon their stalks, delighting the sowers – so that Allah may enrage by them the disbelievers,” (Qur’an, 48:29).

Imam as-Sabooni, a scholar of tafsir, said the seed is a simile for Rasul Allah (the Messenger of Allah) ﷺ, and the stem is the Companions. So the Prophet ﷺ nurtured them from a very weak state to a strong state. This is the example of tarbiya. As the ulema (scholars) said, the Companions were very small in number in Makkah and they were very weak, then they became strong in Madinah. So this is tarbiya of the Muslim.

Al-Fatiha is like the seed, and we are like the stems. We want to take some things from Al-Fatiha that can make us strong so that in this university environment we can stand on our own. Because especially those people who are majoring in things like philosophy and physics, we are going to encounter people who are going to challenge their faith. Some people are going to read articles and opinions of people like Stephen Hawking and others which are going to shake the roots of their hearts. And if they are not nurtured in this tarbiya of Islam, it’s going to be difficult to survive.

For others, their challenge could be J Lo. J Lo can turn a man into a baby with one smile. For the sisters, Shahrukh Khan or Ben Affleck. One smile, one flash of his devilish blue eyes and the sister’s iman (faith) will be brought to its knees.

So Al-Fatiha is the seed and we are the stems. We want to drink the tarbiya. That’s why in many places in the Qur’an Allah (swt) uses the simile of the deen (religion) as rain. Rain is nurturing. It brings fruit. It brings vegetation. The same way this deen is to dead hearts and dead bodies. It brings them to life and also, something that’s important, is that it takes time to grow. Maybe a sister doesn’t wear hijab (headscarf). She says, “Man, I’m struggling.” It’s ok, everyone is growing.

Maybe one brother here says, “I’m struggling with my five prayers.” Subhan Allah (Glory be to Allah) if we ask most Muslim students how many times they pray they say, “four.” Fajr (pre-dawn prayer) at 8:30 then dhuhr (noon prayer), asr (afternoon prayer), maghrib (dusk prayer) and isha (night prayer). We want to grow. We want to make tarbiya. The main source of the tarbiya of the Muslim is the Qur’an, and the main source of tarbiya in the Qur’an is Al-Fatiha. That’s why it’s called Al-Fatiha, the Opener. It opens up things.

We began two weeks ago and we talked about the scope of the Qur’an, and then we talked about how familiar we are we with Al-Fatiha. And we discussed some of the names of Al-Fatiha. Then we discussed the objectives of the Qur’an and we said that the Qur’an has five major objectives. So today we’re going to talk about those five objectives quickly to remind ourselves, and then we’re going to talk about Al-Fatiha and its effects on the worship of a Muslim. What are the effects that Al-Fatiha should have on my worship?

Sisters, what’s the main role of a Muslim woman?

Audience: Raise the family.

Okay, good what else?

Audience: To be a teacher.

That’s good, masha’ Allah (what Allah wills). What else?

Sisters’ first job is to be the slave of Allah. Never with brothers do we say, “What’s the role of brothers? To be a husband.” Nobody says that. They say to be the slave of Allah. It’s the same with the sisters, as Sheikh Tariq Ramadan told us the main role of a sister is to be the servant of Allah, and the main role of a man is to be the servant of Allah. Being the servant of Allah means we do `ibadah (worship). Today we want to talk about the effects of Al-Fatiha on our servitude to Allah. Servitude is al-`ubudiya (worship).

Al-Fatiha is a reflection of the Qur’an, and the Qur’an has five major objectives. We said the first one is tawheed (declaring the Oneness of Allah) and there’s a reason for this. It is because we have different types of `ibadah. For example, somebody can worship something which is not really deserving of worship. So Al-Fatiha in the Qur’an elaborates on tawheed to make it clear as to who should be worshipped, and insha’ Allah (God willing) we’ll elaborate on that.

The second objective of the Quran is promises and warnings. Allah says,

وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ

“Give good news to those who believe and do good […]” (Qur’an, 2:25).

I was just on a trip; I came from the University of Michigan. At every lecture I gave for the MSA (Muslim Students’ Association) there were eight missionaries, four women and four men. They would go and mix with the Muslims and ask them some questions. One of the common questions the Muslims students received was “What is your promise of salvation?” For example, the missionaries would say that they believe Jesus Christ died for their sins, so this is their promise of salvation.

So what’s the promise of salvation for a Muslim? It’s right here. Allah says,

وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ مِنْهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

“…Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds among them forgiveness and a great reward,” (Quran 48:29).

Here “a great reward” means jannah (paradise). Also the Qur’an talks about punishment. Allah talks about sending the Qur’an to warn people (Qur’an, 32:2-3). Those people who failed to fulfill a major objective, we’ll talk about in tonight’s class. They will be punished, but those who fulfill this objective insha’ Allah they will be rewarded.

The third is that the Qur’an trains us on correct `ibadah. Is it possible for someone to worship their academic status? Could that possibly become an ilah (god)? We say la ilaha illa Allah—there’s no deity or object worthy of worship but Allah.

Would it be possible for someone to make their academic status an ilah or an object of worship? Yes. Would it be possible for someone to worship, for example, Shakira? Subhan Allah how many of these famous stars have taken people to court for stalking them? They say for example, “I gave a world tour and I did a concert in Tokyo and that guy was in Tokyo. Then a week later I was in Switzerland and that guy was in Switzerland. A week later I was in South Africa and this guy was in South Africa.” This is `ibadah. Al-Fatiha teaches us the correct `ibadah. How to worship Allah (swt) and how to worship correctly as human beings.

The fourth is that the Qur’an and Al-Fatiha expound on tazkiyatul nafs (purification of the soul). Allah (swt) says,


“He has succeeded who purifies it [i.e the soul],” (Qur’an, 91:9).

The fifth thing is stories and news. The Qur’an gives us so many stories. Junayd al-Baghdadi, from the arifina bil lah (the people who know and were cognizant of Allah (swt)) said that stories are jund min junood Allah (soldiers from the soldiers of Allah). It is by these stories that the heart will become strong. For example, as a brother goes to campus and suddenly a dazzling young damsel throws herself at him and she says, “You know, Abdul, I’ve been checking you out for the whole semester and I’m just completely drowning in the radiance of your handsomeness.” Abdul is thinking, “Man, what am I going to do?” Then she says, “We’re going out this Friday night and tomorrow I want an answer.” And the lady is very beautiful. So he goes home and he thinks, “Subhan Allah, is there anything that I can relate this to in my life?”

Then he opens the Qur’an and he finds Surah Yusuf. There in the twelfth chapter of the Qur’an he finds that lady trying to seduce Yusuf `alayhi assalaam (peace be upon him) and Yusuf’s reaction to this problem. In the Qur’an he finds this soldier from the soldiers of Allah that strengthens him. Then (hopefully he’s looking down) when he kind of sees the girl next time he’s strong enough to handle it, because he sees that Yusuf (as) said,


“My Lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. And if You do not avert from me their plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant,” (Qur’an, 12:33).

So Abdul says to himself, “Subhan Allah if Yusuf chose the prison over these women then the choice is easy for me.”

Maybe for a sister she feels that someone is asking her to do something that will shame Islam, and she has trouble doing this. For example someone asks her to join a club which is reprehensible according to our teachings as Muslims. She’s searching herself, thinking, “But I want to be successful academically and joining this club is one of the keys to be successful. But if I join this club and people see me as a Muslim woman involved in this club maybe it will bring some negative connotation to Islam.”

She doesn’t know what to do, but then she goes to the Qur’an and she reads the story of Maryam (as). This is amazing, this is really amazing. Maryam (as) knew that she was going to give birth to this child and she knew that no man touched her. After she gave birth to Isa (as) in Surah Maryam she said,

يَا لَيْتَنِي مِتُّ قَبْلَ هَٰذَا وَكُنتُ نَسْيًا مَّنسِيًّا

“Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten,” (Qur’an, 19:23).

We know that the Prophet ﷺ said “No one of you should wish for death.” But here we find Maryam doing so. Imam Qurtubi asked, “Why did the Prophet say this, but then you find in the Qur’an that Maryam said this?” He explains that there’s no contradiction, because there is one time when a Muslim is allowed to wish for death and that is when he or she believes their actions will shame Islam. Maryam is from the family of the Prophets and if she comes back with this baby and everybody knows that she didn’t have a husband, what would they say about her? They would say that she is a zanniyah (a fornicator). So she said she would rather die than shame Islam. So the sister reads this and she says, “Subhan Allah I found my answer.”

They used to say about the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ that even when they lost the reins of their camel they would go to the Qur’an for the answer to this problem. So the Qur’an gives us stories to make us strong. That’s why Ibn Qayyim al Jawzziyah said that knowledge is a person’s companion when he or she is alone. One has no one to talk to or get advice from so he or she goes to these stories. Allah (swt) said to the Prophet ﷺ,


“And each [story] We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We make firm your heart. And there has come to you, in this, the truth and an instruction and a reminder for the believers,” (Qur’an, 11:120).

We find these stories reflected in Al-Fatiha. How? Because Al-Fatiha is the format (for those who are in the computer sphere) of looking at stories. Because out of all the stories in the Qur’an people are going to fall into three categories:

  1. Those people whom Allah has favored, such as in the story of Ibrahim (as) and how Allah (swt) saved him from the fire.
  2. Those people who have earned Allah’s wrath. Like the people of Fir`awn (Pharoah) and how Allah (swt) drowned Fir`awn. We know that Fir`awn knew the truth, but he rejected it. We say that those people who know the truth then reject it are those who have earned Allah’s wrath.
  3. Those people who have gone astray. For example, if we go to the story of those people who said that Jesus is the son of Allah, people who say this without any knowledge are those who went astray.

In all of the stories of the Qur’an we can find one of these three categories.

Now today we’re going to talk about the scope of Al-Fatiha with regards to worship, and I gave everyone a riddle. Did anyone do it?

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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  • Subhanallah. This is absolutely amazing. Thank you for the transcription of the lecture.

    The transcriptions are really helpful. Now I know why learning directly from a scholar is important than merely reading books.

    May Allah reward you Imam Suhaib for the insight on Al-Fatiha, The Opener.

  • Salam Brother Suhaib

    May Allah swt bless you and increase you more in knowledge. I would like your help please regarding the following:

    “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, [a list of relatives], [household servants], or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss. > 24:31


    What are your views on this? I have been considering wearing the hijab lately, I am scared, worried and simply struggling.
    And I dont like it :((


    • This was an older post by Imam Suhaib:
      Ruling on Hijab

      The hijab is identified by all the scholars [Save a few non-Orthodox scholars over the last 20 years] as a fixed obligation which cannot change unless a qualified legal scholar deems that a sisters situation demands it. Examples would be the Inquisition in Spain and the recent wars in Bosnia and Rwanda. However, it should be noted that such a change is, at least most of the time, considered temporal at best as it would fall under what are known as Nawazil. The latter are identified as temporary trials who’s outcomes, at least for the most part, are not permanent.

      In the West

      Scholars state that there is nothing that meets this requirement in the West that would allow our sisters, in the general sense, to remove their hijabs . Thus, I hold the opinion of all major scholars, males and females, that sister must observe the Hijab.

      A Look at the Hadith of Asmah and other Sound Texts that Support Hijab/Niqab

      I certainly understand people’s contentions about the hadith of Asmah narrated by Abu Dawod where the Prophet [sa] scolded her saying that the only thing a pubescent woman should show is “These two” pointing to his face and hands.

      Proofs for Hijab and Niqab

      In a sound hadith we have the Prophet telling Sawda, his wife, “Cover yourself in front of him.” The word he used is Ihjabi which means “Cover Yourself.” It is an order, and in Islamic law an order means an obligation.

      A proof for Hijab is found in al-Bukhari’s collection where one of the companions, trying to remember a woman’s name couldn’t and said, “I cannot recall her name, but I remember the mole on her face.” This shows that Hijab was required and, as is the case with Sawda, and women, if she wanted could wear Niqab as it was the practice of the Prophet’s wives [sa].

      The hadith of Asmah bin Abi Bakr, mentioned above, found in the Sunnan of Abid Dawood is strengthened by the narrations above as well as the Hadith of Fadil ‘Abbas, the brother of Ibn ‘Abbas, found in Bukhari’s collection that clearly mentions him seeing the face of a woman. Thus, in the face of those two sound narrations, the narration of Asmah found in Abi Dawod’s collection, where the Prophet scolded, her telling her the only thing a pubescent woman should show is, “These two pointing to his face and hands” is at least Hassan li Gharihi or, as our scholars noted, sound.”

      One of Proofs for Niqab

      In another narration, found in al-Bukhari’s collection as well as Malik’s Muwatta, we find the hadith of Habibba bin Sahl. She needed to speak to the Prophet [sa] so she waited for him after the morning prayer. When the prophet approached her he could not recognize her because she was completely covered [Niqab] as noted by al-Baji. The Prophet [sa] said to her, “Who are you.” This is one of the many proofs that, as the Hanbali school holds, a woman should cover her entire body save her eyes.

      What we don’t have is a third option. Namely: wearing nothing, showing the neck and the like. There are not authentic reports of the Companions taking off their Hijabs at all.

      Where I would advice you is to wear the Hjiab instead of the Niqab. I base this on the fact that it is a contentious issue and we have a legal axiom that allows us, in the face of contentious issues, to take the more appropriate for our time and place. Secondly, adapt the method you wear the Hijab. There is nothing wrong with wearing Western clothes as long as the meet the Islamic requirements. I hold this opinion is at is articulated by the Maliki school. Abu Barkat in al-Sharh al-Saghir [one of the most reliable books for Fatwa in the school] states that a woman’s ‘Awrah is in general, “Everything save her face and hands.” See al-Sharh al-Saghir volume 1.

      Islam means to surrender and surrender involves struggle. I would want to encourage you to struggle and continue to ask Allah for His help.

      Your brother


  • I always like how Imam Suhaib can relate things to make it appear to be more applicable in living nowadays. And on this Al-Fatiha especially, when we recited it on regular basis but did not realise on how many ways it may reflect in our daily life and such. Thank you for that 🙂

    And thank you Fuseina for the transcribe. 😀 Jazakallahu Khayran 🙂

  • […] I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part VIX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV| Part […]

  • salam, May Allah (swt) bless you abundantly brother, i know this is an old session but am just getting to know brother Suhaib, you are truly amazing in how you explain the Qur’an and how we should apply it in our lives.

    jazakallahu khayran

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