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The Meaning and Virtues of Al-Fatihah (The Opening of the Book)

By: Editorial Staff

Surat Al-Fatihah is the first chapter of the Qur’an. It is a Makkan chapter; revealed in Makkah. Al-Fatihah is full of blessings. In this surah we praise to Allah, declare His glory and majesty, declare our sincerity to worship Him alone (You alone we worship and You alone we seek help from).

In the second half of the surah we pray for Allah for guidance and steadfastness upon the straight path of those who are guided not of those who had gone astray:

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of existence, the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful, the Owner (Master) of the Day of Judgment. It is You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help. Guide us to the Straight Path, the Path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not the path of those who have incurred Your Anger, nor of those who have gone astray. (Al-Fatihah 1:1-7)

Various Names

This Surah is called Al-Fatihah, that is, the Opener of the Book, the Surah with which prayers are begun. It is also called, Um Al-Kitab (the Mother of the Book), according to the majority of the scholars.

It is also called “as-sab` al-mathani” (the seven verses that are repeatedly recited). We recite this surah in all rak`ahs of every prayer. Allah says:

And indeed, We have bestowed upon you as-sab` al-mathani (the seven repeatedly recited verses), (i.e. Surat Al-Fatihah) and the Grand Qur’an. (Al-Hijr 15:87)

Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said, “(Al-Hamdu lillahi Rabbi Al-`alamin) is the Mother of the Qur’an, the Mother of the Book, and the seven repeated ayahs of the Qur’an.” (At-Tirmidhi)

It is also called Al-Hamd and As-Salah, because the Prophet said that his Lord said,

“The prayer (i.e. , Al-Fatihah) is divided into two halves between Me and My servants. When the servant says, `All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of existence,’ Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me.’”

Al-Fatihah was called the Salah, because reciting it is a condition for the correctness of Salah – the prayer.

Al-Fatihah was also called Ash-Shifa’ (the Cure).

It is also called Ar-Ruqyah (remedy), since in the Hadith, there is the narration of Abu Sa`id telling the story of the Companion who used Al-Fatihah as a remedy for the tribal chief who was poisoned. Later, the Messenger of Allah said to a Companion, (How did you know that it is a Ruqyah)

A Must in Every Prayer     

Abu Hurairah said that the Prophet said: “Whoever performs any prayer in which he did not read Um Al-Qur’an, then his prayer is incomplete.” He said it thrice. (Muslim)

The Prophet said: “There is no prayer for whoever does not recite the Opening of the Book.” (AL-Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said, “The prayer during which Um Al-Qur’an is not recited is invalid.” (Ibn Khuzaymah and Ibn Hibban)

Abu Hurayrah said, “When­ we stand behind the Imam” He said, “Read it to yourself, for I heard the Messenger of Allah say, (Allah, the Exalted, said, ` I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatihah) into two halves between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asks for.’ If he says, (All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of existence.)

Allah says, ` My servant has praised Me. When the servant says, “The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” Allah says, “My servant has glorified Me.” When he says, “The Owner of the Day of Recompense.” Allah says, “My servant has glorified Me,” or ` My servant has related all matters to Me.” When he says, “You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help.” Allah says, “A half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for”. When he says, “Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom You have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray”, Allah says, “This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.’).’” (Muslim and An-Nasa’i)

The last hadith used the word ­ Salah­ ”prayer” in reference to reciting the Qur’an, (Al-Fatihah in this case) just as Allah said in another Ayah, “And offer your Salah (prayer) neither aloud nor in a low voice, but follow a way between” (Al-Israa’ 17:110) meaning, with your recitation of the Qur’an.

Therefore, reciting the Opening of the Book, during the prayer by the Imam and those praying behind him, is required in every prayer, and in every rak`ah.

The Virtues of Al-Fatihah

– Ibn ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported:

While Jibril (Gabriel) was sitting with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), he heard a sound above him. He lifted his head, and said: “This is a gate which has been opened in heaven today. It was never opened before.” Then an angel descended through it, he said: “This is an angel who has come down to earth. He never came down before.” He sent greetings and said: “Rejoice with two lights given to you. Such lights were not given to any Prophet before you. These (lights) are: Fatihat Al-Kitab (Surat Al-Fatihah), and the concluding ayahs (verses) of Surat Al-Baqarah. You will never recite a word from them without being given the blessings it contains.” (Muslim)

Abu Sa` id ibn Al-Mu`alla said, “I was praying when the Prophet called me, so I did not answer him until I finished the prayer. I then went to him and he said, (What prevented you from coming) I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah ! I was praying. ‘ He said, (Didn’t Allah say), “O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life” (Al-Anfal 8:24)

He then said, “I will teach you the greatest Surah in the Qur’an before you leave the masjid.” He held my hand and when he was about to leave the masjid, I said, `O Messenger of Allah! You said: I will teach you the greatest Surah in the Qur’an. ‘ He said, “Yes.” “Al-Hamdu lillahi Rabbi Al-`Alamin” (It is the seven repeated (verses) and the Glorious Qur’an that I was given. )” (Al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i Ahmad, and Ibn Majah)

– In another hadith, Abu Hurayrah said, “The Messenger of Allah went out while Ubay ibn Ka` b was praying and said, (O Ubay! ) Ubay did not answer him. The Prophet said, (O Ubay! ) Ubay prayed faster then went to the Messenger of Allah saying, ` Peace be unto you, O Messenger of Allah! ‘ He said, (Peace be unto you. O Ubay, what prevented you from answering me when I called you) He said, `O Messenger of Allah! I was praying. ‘ He said, (Did you not read among what Allah has sent down to me,)

“O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life” (Al-Anfal 8:24).  He said, ‘Yes, O Messenger of Allah! I will not do it again.’ The Prophet said, “Would you like me to teach you a Surah the likes of which nothing has been revealed in the Tawrah, the Injeel, the Zabur (Psalms) or the Furqan (the Qur’an)” He said, ‘Yes, O Messenger of Allah!’ The Messenger of Allah said, “I hope that I will not leave through this door until you have learned it.” He (Ka`b) said, ‘The Messenger of Allah held my hand while speaking to me.

Meanwhile I was slowing down fearing that he might reach the door before he finished his conversation. When we came close to the door, I said: O Messenger of Allah ! What is the Surah that you have promised to teach me’ He said, (What do you read in the prayer. ) Ubay said, ‘So I recited Um Al-Qur’an to him. ‘ He said, “By Him in Whose Hand is my soul! Allah has never revealed in the Tawrah, the Injeel, the Zabur or the Furqan a Surah like it . It is the seven repeated verses that I was given.” (Ahmad)

– Abu Hurayrah recorded from Ubay ibn Ka`b that the Messenger of Allah said, “Allah has never revealed in the Tawrah or the Inj il anything similar to Umm Al-Qur’an. It is the seven repeated verses and it is divided into two halves between Allah and His servant .” (An-Nasa’i and At-Tirmidhi)

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One thought on “The Meaning and Virtues of Al-Fatihah (The Opening of the Book)

Jalal HB

Thank you for this resourceful blog. In fact I too have embarked upon writing a nerw blog on Islam in a layman’s language. And this blog surely provides volume of information which I would like to use as reference.

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