A Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad
Surat Al-Fatiha Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI| Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX| Part 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,
“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,
“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,
“…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,
“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:
- Those people whom Allah has favored, such as in the story of Ibrahim (as) and how Allah (swt) saved him from the fire.
- 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.
- 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?