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The Qur’an: To Start from the Beginning

By Haya Muhammad Eid

Al-fatihah

Short and concise as it is, Al-Fatihah adroitly contains the totality of the Islamic creed

Reading the Qur’an gives the feeling that the speaker is all around, seeing and hearing everything; all-knowing of us – every feeling, every thought, every memory, every good or evil tendency; all-knowing of the heavens and earth – every atom, every breath of air, every grain of sand, every fruit on every tree; and all-knowing of the past, present, and future – every moment, every event, every detail:

He knows what enters into the earth and what comes forth from it, what descends from the sky and what ascends to it. He is with you wherever you may be. And Allah  is the All-Seer of what you do. (Al-Hadid 57:4-6)

The tone is that of supreme authority, full lordship, and absolute sufficiency:

Allah, there is no god except Him, the Ever Living, the Self-Sufficient Master Who sustains and protects all that exists. Neither slumber nor sleep overtake Him. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. (Al-Baqarah 2:255)

Despite its grandeur and majesty, the Qur’an does not evoke a sense of distance or strangeness, but rather affinity with the divine words because of their familiarity with human nature, its needs, its fears, its pains, and its desires:

Indeed, We (Allah) have created the human, and We know what his own self whispers to him. And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. (Qaf 50:16)

Reading and rereading it, each time with more purpose and focus, eventually forms a rope safely tying us to our Creator, as depicted by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

“Truly, this Qur’an is a rope; one end of it is in Allah’s Hand and the other end is in yours. Hold fast to it. Indeed, you will never go astray or be ruined after it (after holding on to it).”  (Ibn Hibban)

Al-Fatihah

In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful.

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)

Al-Fatihah (the Opening) is so named because it is the chapter with which the Qur’an begins. It is also named Umm Al-Qur’an (the Mother of the Qur’an) and As-Sab`-ul-Mathani (Seven Oft-recited Verses).

Short and concise as it is, this Qur’anic chapter adroitly contains the totality of the Islamic creed, which reveals the wisdom behind the divine ruling that Al-Fatihah be recited in every unit of salah (prayer) and the invalidity of salah without it.

“In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful.”

The start of anything, as Allah guides, should be in His name; everything in this universe is in His name and happens by His will and permission. Starting any action with Allah’s Name means taking Him as one’s helper and supporter in that action.

The mention of Allah’s name is accompanied by His two sublime Attributes, the All-Merciful and the Ever-Merciful, as a constant reminder of the open doors of His mercy; thus, no one should feel unwelcome.

“Praise be to Allah, the Lord of existence.”

Coming into existence out of nothing is a bounty from the Lord of existence, Who gives to all, and takes nothing for Himself. With every breath, His endless and continuous blessings flow by day and night, which can render the tongue speechless, at a loss for the right words. But Allah teaches that thanking Him is done with only two words, “Alhamdu lillah” (Praise be to Allah). This is a favor in itself.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) expressed the human inability to fully thank our Creator, when he said: “I cannot praise You enough. You are as You have praised Yourself.” (Muslim)

“The Owner (Master) of the Day of Judgment.”

This is what gives balance to the whole world. Without it, the world would be a jungle. Without it, human life could not be elevated. Only through belief in the Day of Judgment can hearts find rest; what humans receive in this world is not their final portion. There is a world to come that is worth striving for, unrestricted by the limits of a lifetime or the scope of this earth.

Believers and disbelievers in this Day are not the same in their emotions, thoughts, behavior, or actions. Their attitude towards it splits them into two totally different types of people. Believers rarely lose sight of their inevitable meeting with Allah and retain Him in their thoughts and actions, for they know they will be judged. Disbelievers do not have Allah in any of their thoughts or actions. About them, Allah says:

As for those who disbelieve, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert which a thirsty one thinks is water until, when he comes to it, he finds it to be nothing. Instead he finds Allah before him, Who will pay him in full his due. And Allah is swift in account. (An-Nur 24:39)

“It is You we worship, and You we ask for help.”

As long as people worship only their Creator and seek only His Help, they are free and immune to subjugation by regimes, circumstances, or other humans. They will not fall prey to superstitions, myths, or fancies. Filled with feelings of submission to and reliance on Allah alone, Muslims live in this world free, with no fear of – or for – anything. They bow to Allah (Exalted be He) with humility and stand with their heads raised before everything else.

“Guide us to the Straight Path.”

This is the first and most important supplication a believer can pray for to continue to adhere to and practice Allah’s true religion, Islam, to attain happiness in this life and the next.

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The article is excerpted from the Book “A Brief Tour through the Qur’an” by Haya Muhammad Eid, edited by Emily Richardson. To read or download the book click here.

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