Surah 1: al-Fatihah

Period of Revelation

It is one of the very earliest Revelations to the Prophet. As a matter of fact we learn from authentic Hadith

(traditions) that it was the first complete Surah which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Before

this only a few verses were revealed which form parts of Surah Alaq, Nun, Muzzammil and Muddathir.

Theme

This Surah is in fact a prayer which God has taught to all those who want to make a study of His Book.

It has been placed at the very beginning of the Book to teach this lesson to the reader: if you sincerely

want to benefit from the Qur’an, you should offer this prayer to the Lord of the Universe.

This preface is meant to create a strong desire in the heart of the reader to seek guidance from the Lord

of the Universe, who alone can grant it. Thus al-Fatihah indirectly teaches that the best thing for a man is

to pray for guidance to the straight path, to study the Qur’an with the mental attitude of a seeker-aftertruth

and to recognize the fact that the Lord of the Universe is the source of all knowledge. He should,

therefore, begin the study of the Qur’an with a prayer to him for guidance.

From this theme, it becomes clear that the real relation between al-Fatihah and the Qur’an is not that of

an introduction to a book but that of a prayer and its answer. Al-Fatihah is the prayer from the servant

and the Qur’an is the answer from the the Master to his prayer. The servant prays to God to show him

guidance and the Master places the whole of the Qur’an before him in answer to his prayer, as if to say,

“This is the Guidance you begged from Me.”

Surah 1: al-Fatihah www.quranproject.org 1: The Opening

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Surah 1: al-Fatihah1

  1. In the name of God,2 the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.3
  2. [All] praise is [due] to God, Lord4 of the worlds –
  3. The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,
  4. Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.5
  5. It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
  6. Guide us to the straight path –
  7. The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have

evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.

1 Al-Fatihah: The Opening (of the Qur’an). Note: Surah titles are not an integral part of the Qur’an.

A distinguishing word in a particular surah or a word defining its subject matter often became a

common means of identification among the Prophet’s companions and later scholars. Although

some names, such as al-Fatihah, were used by the Prophet in reference to a particular surah, they

were not specifically designated by him as titles.

2 God, Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth and all that is within them, the Eternal

and Absolute, to whom alone all worship is due.

3 Ar-Rahman and ar-Raheem are two names of God derived from the word “rahmah” (mercy). In

Arabic grammar both are intensive forms of “merciful” (i.e., extremely merciful). A complimentary

and comprehensive meaning is intended by using both together.

Rahman is used only to describe God, while raheem might be used to describe a person as well. The

Prophet was described in the Qur’an as raheem. Rahman is above the human level (i.e., intensely

merciful). Since one usually understands intensity to be something of short duration, God describes

Himself also as raheem (i.e., continually merciful).

Rahman also carries a wider meaning – merciful to all creation. Justice is a part of this mercy. Raheem

includes the concept of speciality – especially and specifically merciful to the believers. Forgiveness

is a part of this mercy. (See al-Qurtubi’s al-Jami’u li Ahkamil-Qur’an, pp.103-107.)

However we will incorporate the translation henceforth, ‘In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate,

the Most Merciful’

4 When referring to God, the Arabic term “rabb” (translated as “Lord”) includes all of the following

meanings: “owner, master, ruler, controller, sustainer, provider, guardian and caretaker.”

5 i.e., repayment and compensation for whatever was earned of good or evil during life on this earth.

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