Before Marriage Gender Relations Qur'an

The Objectives of Surat al-Fatiha

A Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV | Part VPart VI | Part VII

314824237_5543c87647_bThe third objective of Surat al-Fatiha is that it trains us in the correct concept of worship and it causes us to love worship, as is shown by the verse “Iyaka na`budu, wa iyaka nasta`een (It is You we worship and You we ask for help). (Qur’an, 1:5)

The fourth objective is to show us how to purify our souls, i.e. tazkiyatul nafs or tassawuf, how to be pure. As Ibn Qayyim mentioned, human beings are going to be divided into three categories: al latheena an`amta `alayhim (those upon whom Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) has bestowed favor), al maghdoobi `alayhim (those who have invoked Allah’s anger), and ad-dalleen (those led astray). Everyone is in one of these three categories. Either they are from those whom Allah (swt) has favored, those whom His wrath is upon (we ask Allah (swt) to protect us), or those who went astray.

The last objective is stories and news. Stories of the righteous inform us of what happened to good people, or convey the stories of Fir`aun and Qaroon and others who were disobedient to Allah. The people in these stories can be broken down into three groups: those whom Allah (swt) has favored, those who have earned His wrath, and those who have gone astray. Apply this to any story in the Qur’an and you can categorize people accordingly. All of this is beautifully encapsulated in Surat al-Fatiha (1).

Where was al-Fatiha revealed?

Audience member: “During Isra and Miraaj?”

No, not in Isra and Miraaj, because salah (prayer) began in the very early days of Islam and Prophethood. In fact, who was the first person to pray in jama’a (congregation) with the Prophet ﷺ? It was Khadija radi Allahu `anha (may Allah be pleased with her). The first person to ever pray, and to be taught salah was Khadija bint Khuwaylid (ra).

Al-Fatiha came in the early days. Some `ulema (scholars) say that it was the first surah (chapter) of the Quran, but this is not generally accepted because most people agree that iqra (i.e. Surah Al Qalam, 68) was the first. But al-Fatiha was an early surah. Salah started in Makkah in the early days, twice a day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Through Isra and Miraaj, it was changed to five times a day.

Some `ulema said that al-Fatiha was revealed in Makkah, as it is mentioned in Surat al-Hijr. By the agreement of the scholars, Surat al-Hijr (15) is a Makkan Surah. In the surah, Allah says “And We have certainly given you, [O Muhammad], seven of the often repeated [verses] and the great Qur’an.” (15:87).

But at the same time we find a hadith in Sahih Muslim where the Prophet ﷺ was in Madina and Jibreel came to him. The Prophet ﷺ said suddenly Jibreel heard a noise, so Jibreel turned his head and said, “I heard today the sound of a door open that was never opened before in the Heavens.” Then an angel came who never came before. The angel said, “Assalaam `alaykum ya rasool Allah (Peace be upon you, oh Messenger of Allah)” to the Prophet ﷺ and then he said, “I give you the good news of two lights that have never been given to any Prophet before you: al-Fatiha and the end of Surat al-Baqarah.”

Here we find Fatiha sent in Madina. Fatiha was revealed twice.

But why? This is the trivia question. Why was Surah al-Fatiha sent twice?

The second question is – which angel always brought the Qur’an to the Prophet ﷺ? Jibreel. But here we find a special angel bringing al-Fatiha and the end of Surat al-Baqarah. Why?

So these are the trivia questions for next time, and we plan to talk about the dynamics of `ibada (worship) found in Surat al-Fatiha. After that, we’re going to talk about al-Fatiha and the purification of the soul, and then we’re going to talk about al-Fatiha and the university student. Because on campus, you can divide yourselves into three types of groups: those Allah has favored, those who have earned His wrath, and those who have gone astray.

For example, someone who goes to the club and dances with Shireen and you tell him, “Yo, Abdul, why are you dancing with Shireen?” And Abdul says, “Oh, I’m giving her da’wah (invitation to Islam).” Abdul is like those who have earned Allah’s wrath and those who have gone astray (we don’t say that he is one of them, we say that he is like them).

Muslim brothers who meet and say, “You know, let’s go play cricket, because now is the cricket world cup, so let’s go act like those cricket players.” And then they play cricket all night and miss Fajr. This is the quality of those who have gone astray.

A sister who hangs out with guys and she knows she’s not supposed to hang out with guys and she gets herself into trouble. Now, astaghfir Allah (I seek refuge in Allah), we have some cases of AIDS among Muslims on campuses. We have some cases of pregnancy among Muslim women on campus. This is like those who have earned Allah’s wrath, because they know that they’re not supposed to do that. And the first thing that happens when a woman discovers that she’s pregnant is she says, “I know I should never have done that.” Exactly. Whenever we make any sin the person will say, “I should never have done that.” Exactly! Another example is Muslims who drink. They are like those who have earned Allah’s anger. Those who have been led astray are like Muslims who don’t know how to pray.

Then we’ll talk about the twelve proofs of Prophethood found in al-Fatiha. For example, when we say ar-Rahman ar-Raheem (Allah is Most Gracious, Most Merciful), would Allah be Most Gracious and Most Merciful if He put us in this life without any connection to Him? So ar-Rahman ar-Raheem is indicative of the fact that Allah (swt) has sent us Prophets, because He is ar-Rahman ar-Raheem.

After that, we’ll talk about everyone’s favorite: al-Fatiha and the attacks of Shaytan (Satan). Shaytan has seven ways to try and throw you in Hell and he uses three doors to come at you from these seven ways. I’ll give you the three doors as an appetizer. The first one is the door of anger, the second is the door of desires, and the third (probably the most common in California) is neglect. This is called al-ghafla (a state of negligence).

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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  • Salaam,

    Jazak’Allah as always for the great articles.

    But I think there is a mistake in this, it states:

    “most people agree that iqra (i.e. Surah Al Qalam, 68) was the first..”

    Does the writer not mean Sura ‘Alaq?

    • Asalamu alaykum,

      Excellent question, akhi.

      While Alaq was the first verses sent, al-Fatiha was the first complete chapter sent according to some.


      • Walaikum Salaam Sheikh,

        What I was trying to say was that in the article it states the Surah beginning with “Iqra'” is Surat al-Qalam, is it not ‘Alaq that begins with this?

        Wa Salaam, apologies for any confusion.

        • Sura Al-Alaq is sometimes called ‘Iqra’ also.

          There are some sura in the Quran with two names and this is one of them. Hope this helps.

    • Asalamu alaykum,

      While I don’t agree with them on most things, they have the right to support or criticize who/what they want. What is sad is a simple minded community that will allow their support or lack thereof of an event, to dictate for that community what is good and vice versa. Perhaps, instead of worry about their foundation, Muslims should be busying doing what they’ve done; getting involved in the public sphere, addressing community issues and creating a place for Muslims in that sphere. The same applies to the Rand report. Our community simply acts of that report and bases anything that happens on it as well. Instead, we need to see a bigger picture and define our own course of action instead of simply reacting to others.


      • Salaam!

        JazakAllahu khair for the article. Really good subhanAllaah.

        Imam Suhaib – those wore almost the exact same words my father had told me when I had asked him a similar question about different organisations and their associations!

        That means that either he’s in touch with you….or….could this be the moment where darth vader tells luke, he is his father? 😛


      • Alhamdulillah everyone is busy in the community working to improve our condition. Part of that is to be aware of the challenges that face us. The Quilliam Foundation have been criticising Tabligi Jamaat in the media for being ‘anti gay’, they launched a which hunt against the Islam Channel recently due to one of the Imam’s on that channel telling a viewer that the women needs to have the permission of her husband before leaving the house and the examples of how they are working towards harming Islam and Muslims is endless. I would disagree with you on the point that the Quilliam Foundation have a ‘right’ to criticise on these points or on the many other established matters of this deen which they are attacking.

        There is a clear consensus among all Muslim organisations in the UK not to have anything to do with the Quilliam Foundation. However a few people have been happy to associate themselves with Quillaim, including some of those on the ‘Inspired by Muhammad’ campaign. Furthermore the Quilliam foundation used many people’s names on their websites without permission and put up talks of scholars until they were told to remove them as these scholars did not want to be associated to them in any way.

        I urge you to reconsider your position regarding the Quilliam Foundation as there is no fence to sit on when it comes to them and any indifference in this matter would be shocking for Muslims who know that the Quilliam Foundation stands for.

  • MashaALLAH and jazakALLAH may Allah reward u 4 thz beneficial article. Actually ive gain alot that i didnt knw alhamdulilah. The Prophet(pbuh) said ‘pass my knowledge even if its one verse’

  • I agree with Mohammed. The ayah, “Iqra bismi rabbi kal ladhi khalaq” is in Surah Al-Alaq (96), not Surah Al Qalam (68).

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