بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Surah Fatiha is such an important surah that we are required to recite it at least seventeen times daily, in our obligatory prayers. It is a crucial part of any salah that we pray – without it there is no salah. The problem is that this surah is read so much and so often that we get used to reading it, and every time we read it we go on autopilot and stop taking in its meaning. That’s why we need to grab our concentration back while its wandering away during this beginning part of our prayers, so that the rest of our prayers don’t just become mundane exercise instead of a spiritual experience. Let us talk about a few points that we mind keep in mind and ponder about when reading surah Fatiha.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds—
Alhamdulillah is a very special word. It doesn’t just mean praise, as it is usually translated. It means a special kind of praise, a praise in which we praise someone who is praiseworthy by Himself, praise itself belongs to Him. Alhamdulillah also encompasses the meaning of shukr or gratitude. So we’re praising and thanking our Rabb, the One who owns us, who made us and nurtured us and continues to take care of us, and without whom we’re nothing. And He is not just our Rabb, He is the Rabb of everything that exists. He is the Rabb of the sun and the moon, the oceans and the mountains. He is the Rabb of our boss and the president of our country. It doesn’t matter someone believes He is their Rabb or not, He is still their Rabb. This is the One in front of whom we’re standing as we recite this verse.
The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful
Despite being such a powerful entity, despite being the Owner of the whole universe and whatever it contains, He is the most merciful. The word rahma comes from the same root as rahm, which means the mother’s womb. Our Lord protects us and keeps us safe 24/7 just like a baby is nurtured in safety inside the mother’s womb. There is a hadith which goes:
Some prisoners were brought to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and there was a woman among the prisoners who was searching (for her child). When she found her child she embraced him and put him to her breast. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to us, ‘Do you think that this woman would throw her child in the fire?’ We said, ‘No, by Allah, not if she is able not to.’ The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Allah is more merciful to His slaves than this woman is to her child.’” [Agreed upon]
مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
Sovereign of the Day of Recompense
He is the Owner of that day when all our deeds will weighed. Will we have the face to stand before Him on that day, as we’re standing before Him right now? Or will we be told to separate ourselves from His true slaves?
وَامْتَازُوا الْيَوْمَ أَيُّهَا الْمُجْرِمُونَ
[Then He will say], ‘But stand apart today, you criminals.’ [36:59]
May Allah save us all from the Fire.
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
The noun coming before the verb in a verbal sentence puts exclusivity on the noun, so that we’re saying here it is only You that we worship and it is only You that we ask for help. We’re begging Allah for help here, but do we really feel that when we’re standing in salah reciting this verse? What will you think of someone who comes to you and says, ‘Look, I really need your help, please help me,’ but from his attitude it’s very clear that he’s not really bothered? Put all your heart in begging to Allah and humbling yourself, making it clear how much you really need Allah’s help in every matter in your life.
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
Guide us to the straight path–
This is the most important dua we can ever make, and this is the most precious gift we can ever get. It is so crucial in our lives that we ask for it every few hours. It is very fragile, and so we need to take extra care of it. Even when we acquire it, we tend to lose it very quickly while becoming obsessed with dunya. Allah answered this dua in the next surah:
ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah. [2:2]
The Quran is the answer to the dua for guidance. How much effort do we put in understanding this amazing gift?