Dawah (Outreach) Non-Muslims Qur'an Seeking Knowledge

Why Was Surat al-Fatiha Sent Twice?

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

prayer rug

Umar Nasir (c)

Now, the answer to our riddle. Why was Al-Fatiha sent twice?

If we go to the makkan surah, and the makkan style of the Qur’an we find six things which stick out about the makki surah. For example Surah al- An`am, the sixth chapter of the Qur’an, is makki. The seventh chapter, Al-‘A`raf, is makki. The tenth chapter, Surah Yunus, is makki, and so forth. These Surahs have six special qualities:

1. Tawheed(the Oneness of Allah). They always talk about tawheed.

2. Al-wahi(revelation from Allah) and the fact that human beings need revelation from Allah (prophets and books and so forth).

3. Prophethood. Revelation and prophethood could be together but we put it as a third to emphasize it.

4. The hereafter. The makkan surahs talk a lot about the hereafter because many of the makkans were complete atheists. They denied resurrection.

5. Sacrifice—struggling in the cause of Allah (swt).

6. Emotions. What do we mean by emotions? The love of Allah, the fear of Allah, the hope we put in Allah. Ibn Qayim al-Jawziya said, “The love of Allah (swt) is like the head of a bird, and fearing Allah and hoping in Him are like two wings.” So we find a lot of emotions in the makkan surahs, such as “trust in Allah if you are indeed believers,” or “Allah loves the people of excellence.” Those are the people who love Allah, who fear Allah, who want to be close to Allah, and who repent to Allah. All of this is dealing with emotions. This is one of the trademarks of the makkan surah.

The madani surahs have the same six, but a few more concepts are also talked about:

  1. Munafiqeen (hypocrites).
  2. Ahl al-Kitab (the People of the Book, i.e. Christian and Jews).
  3. Jihad (fighting/struggling in the cause of Allah).
  4. And most importantly, laws of such things like Hajj, fasting, inheritance, menstruation, divorce.

All of this was sent in Madina.

Now from this we can deduce the answer to our question, why was Surah Fatiha sent twice, once in Makkah and once in Madina?

We go to Surah al-Fatiha and we find the verse, “It is You we worship and You we seek for help,” (Qur’an 1:5). So for those Muslims who say that `ibadah is only the ritualistic acts of Islam, how many ritualistic acts of Islam were revealed in Makkah? Only one: salah. If they say that only ritualistic acts of Islam are `ibadah then how come in Makkah Allah said“It is You alone we worship,” and we find that for thirteen years there are no ritualistic acts of worship sent in Makkah? In Makkah we don’t have hajj, fasting, zakah, etc. But still in Makkah Allah revealed this verse saying, “It is You alone we worship.” In fact, in Makkah Allah sent the verse in the fifty-first chapter of the Quran saying, “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me,” (Qur’an 51:56).

If we think hard we can deduce that everything that was sent in Makkah constitutes worship. That means even emotions are worship.

Then we go to Madinah and we have hajj, fasting, zakah, inheritance, divorce, and marriage. That means those also constitute worship. That’s why Allah sent Surah al-Fatiha twice – to show you the comprehensiveness of worship.

I’m going to explain it one more time. In Makkah, Allah (swt) sent verses that talked about worshipping Him. But in Makkah we don’t have any ritualistic acts of worship except prayer, which was twice a day until the tenth or twelfth year. Yet there in Makkah Allah is talking about worshiping Him. We said that in Makkah there were six things (tawheed, al-wahi, the Prophets, the hereafter, sacrifice, and emotions) so that means that all of these things are worship. When Allah used the term worship in the Makkan period He was talking about these six things, and when He used the term in Madinah He was talking about laws too. That means that `ibadah is comprehensive. How I feel internally is worship, what I hope in is worship, what I trust in is worship, what I love is worship. That’s why many `ulema’ focus on purification of the soul. Additionally, praying, hajj, fasting, inheritance are also worship.

Got it? One more time. My teacher used to do this, I used to love it about him. He would ask us if we understood, and we would say, “Yes, yes we know, let’s move on,” but he would still explain it again and we would catch some finer points. So, we said that in Makkah Allah sent verses about love, hope, fear, trust, repentance, etc. In Madinah Allah sent verses about jihad, about how to pray (for example how to combine prayers), zakah in certain situations, divorce, etc. So we can conclude that everything in Makkah is worship, and everything in Madinah is worship. Everything in Makkah had little to do with rituals, it dealt with behavior and emotions, so that means that behavior and emotions are worship. Ritualistic acts of worship, from the Madani period, are also worship and they are brought together.

That’s why we take the definition of Ibn Taymiyyah. Now, someone might say, “Oh Ibn Taymiyyah, he’s kafir, he’s the son of Jews,” and so on. That’s nonsense. You know how you should approach scholars? First of all, we should say rahimahu Allah (may Allah have mercy on him) about everyone; my teacher, who I memorized some of the Qur’an from, used to tell me if you see your worst enemy you will not want him in the Hellfire. Not even your worst enemy. And I remember my teacher used to read Surat al-Qari`ah (101) and he used to start crying. So how should we approach any scholar, if we’re not comfortable with him? We should approach it like we’re in the garden and we want to take some fruit. If we notice there’s some rotten fruit, we don’t cut down the tree. We take what we need. Like Imam Ghazali. One time I was giving a lecture and I mentioned Imam Ghazali and this one guy exclaimed, “Astaghfir’Allah! (I seek refuge from Allah).” I thought, “Did you commit a sin, brother? I guess you did something wrong since you’re saying astaghfir’Allah.”

Unfortunately this is something that we do that’s not good. We should take good from everyone. We find good in them as long as they are Muslim and they pray, they say there is no God but Allah, and they follow the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. We should take the fruit we can benefit from.

Really, Ibn Taymiyyah’s definition of worship is very beautiful. He said, “`Ibadah is a term that comprises every single thing that Allah loves.” Does Allah love us to be active in the MSA (Muslim Students Association)? Yes. Does Allah love us waking up in the night to pray? Yes. One time I was on my campus and this lady was carrying all these bags. I thought that I should help her, but then shaytan started whispering, “But she’s a kafir (disbeliever). You can’t help a kafir girl. Astaghfir’Allah!” She was also older, so I went to her and I said, “Would you like me to help you with your bags?” She said, “Yes, please.” So I took her bags. Afterwards she asked me if I am Muslim and I said yes. Subhan’Allah, you can plant the seed and you never know what will happen. Allah loves us to be kind to people. Allah loves us to be active politically – like now about Iraq. Allah loves us to do so many things. That’s why Ibn Tamiyyah said `ibadah is everything that Allah loves from actions, whether open or hidden. Basically a lot of the madani worship was open actions, and a lot of makki worship was hidden actions.

So we’ll stop now, insha’Allah and give you one last riddle for next week. Whose job was it to send the Qur’an to the Prophet ﷺ? Jibreel. But here we found another angel bringing al-Fatiha. In the hadith, Jibreel was sitting with the Prophet ﷺ. He heard something and looked up and he saw another angel coming. This angel brought al-Fatiha and the end of Surah al-Baqarah. Why? This is your riddle.

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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