بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ﴿۱﴾
4. Ar-Rahman (The Gracious) and Ar-Rahim (The Merciful) are both derived from the same root Rahima meaning, he showed mercy; he was kind and good; he forgave. The word Rahmah combines the idea of Riqqah, i.e. 'tenderness' and Ihsan, i.e. 'goodness' (Mufradat). Ar-Rahman is in the measure of Fa‘lan and Ar-Rahim in the measure of Fa‘il. According to the rules of the Arabic language, the larger the number of letters added to the root-word, the more extensive or more intensive does the meaning become (Kashshaf). The measure of Fa‘lan conveys the idea of fullness and extensiveness, while the measure of Fa‘il denotes the idea of repetition and giving liberal reward to those who deserve it (Muhit). Thus, whereas the word Ar-Rahman would denote "mercy comprehending the entire universe", the word Ar-Rahim would denote "mercy limited in its scope but repeatedly shown." In view of the above meanings Ar-Rahman is One Who shows mercy gratuitously and extensively to all creation without regard to effort or work, and Ar-Rahim is One Who shows mercy in response to, and as a result of, the actions of man but shows it liberally and repeatedly. The former is applicable to God only, while the latter is applied to man also. The former extends not only to believers and disbelievers but also to the whole creation; the latter applies mostly to believers. According to a saying of the Holy Prophet, the former attribute generally pertains to this life, while the latter attribute generally pertains to the life to come (Muhit), meaning that as this world is mostly the world of actions and the next world is the world where actions will be particularly rewarded, God’s attribute Ar-Rahman provides man with material for his works in this life, and His attribute Ar-Rahim brings about results in the life to come. All things that we need and on which our life depends are purely a Divine favour and are provided for us before we do anything to deserve them or even before we are born, while the blessings in store for us in the life to come will be given to us as a reward of our actions. This shows that Ar-Rahman is the Bestower of gifts, which precede our birth, while Ar-Rahim is the Giver of blessings which follow our deeds as their reward.
Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim is the first verse of every Chapter of the Qur’an except Al-Bara’ah which, however, is not an independent Chapter but a continuation of the Chapter Al-Anfal. There is a saying, reported by Ibn-e- ‘Abbas, to the effect that whenever any new Surah was revealed, Bismillah was the first verse to be revealed, and without Bismillah the Holy Prophet did not know that a new Surah had begun (Dawud). This saying shows that (1) the verse Bismillah is a part of the Qur’an and not something supernumerary, and (2) that the Chapter Bara’ah is not an independent Chapter. It also refutes the belief expressed by some that Bismillah forms a part only of Suratul-Fatihah and not of all the Quranic Chapters. The Holy Prophet is reported to have further said that the verse Bismillah is a part of all the Quranic Chapters (Bukhari & Qutni). Its place in the beginning of every Chapter has the following significance:
The Qur’an is a treasure of Divine knowledge to which access cannot be had without the special favour of God: None shall touch it but the purified (56:80). Thus Bismillah has been placed at the beginning of every Chapter to remind a Muslim that in order to have access to, and benefit by, the treasures of Divine knowledge, contained in the Qur’an, he should not only approach it with a pure heart but should also constantly invoke the help of God. The verse Bismillah also serves another important purpose. It is a key to the meaning of each individual Chapter, as all questions affecting moral and spiritual matters are related in one way or the other to the fundamental Divine attributes Rahmaniyyah (grace) and Rahimiyyah (mercy). Thus each Chapter, in fact, forms a detailed exposition of some aspects of the Divine attributes mentioned in the verse. It is contended that the formula Bismillah was borrowed from earlier Scriptures. Whereas Sale says that it was borrowed from Zend-Avesta, Rodwell is of the opinion that the pre-Islamic Arabs borrowed it from the Jews and subsequently it became incorporated in the Qur’an. Both these views are obviously wrong. First, it has never been claimed by Muslims that the formula in this or similar form was not known before the revelation of the Qur’an. Secondly, it is wrong to argue that because the formula, in an identical or a similar form, was sometimes used by pre-Islamic Arabs even before it was revealed in the Qur’an, it could not be of Divine origin. As a matter of fact, the Qur’an itself states that Solomon used the formula in his letter to the Queen of Sheba (27:31). What Muslims claim—and this claim has never been refuted—is that the Qur’an was the first revealed Scripture to use it in the way it did. It is also wrong to say that the formula was in vogue among pre-Islamic Arabs, for it is a known fact that the Arabs had an aversion for the use of the name Ar-Rahman for God. Again, if such formulae were known before, it only corroborates the truth of the Quranic teaching that there has not been a people to whom a Teacher has not been sent (35:25) and that the Qur’an is a repository of all permanent truths contained in the previous revealed Books (98:5). It adds much more, of course, and whatever it takes over, it improves in form or use or in both. (close)
اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۲﴾
6A. Al-‘Alamin is the plural of al-‘Alam from the root ‘Ilm meaning 'to know'. The word has come to be applied to all beings or things by means of which one is able to know the Creator (Aqrab). It is applied not only to all kinds of the created beings or things but also to their classes collectively, so that one says ‘Alamul-Ins, i.e. the world of mankind, or ‘Alamul-Hayawan i.e. the animal kingdom. The word al-‘Alamin is not used to denote rational beings—men and angels—only. The Qur’an applies it to all created things (26:24-29 & 41:10). Sometimes, of course, it is used in a restricted sense (2:123). Here it is used in its widest sense and signifies 'all that is besides Allah', i.e. animate and inanimate things including heavenly bodies—the sun, the moon, the stars, etc.
The expression "All praise belongs to Allah alone" is much wider and deeper in significance than "I praise Allah", because man can praise God only according to his knowledge, but the clause "all praise belongs to Allah" comprises not only the praise which man knows, but also the praise which he does not know. God is worthy of praise at all times, independently of man’s imperfect knowledge or realization. Moreover, the word al-Hamd is an infinitive and as such can be interpreted both as a subject and as an object. Interpreted as a subject, al- Hamdu Lillahi means, God alone has the right to bestow true praise. Interpreted as an object, it signifies that all true praise and every kind of praise in its perfection is due to God alone. For the particle al see 5.
The verse points to the law of evolution in the world, viz. that all things undergo development and that this development is progressive and is brought about in stages, Rabb being One Who makes things grow and develop by stages. It also points out that the principle of evolution is not inconsistent with belief in God. But the process of evolution referred to here is not identical with the Theory of Evolution as generally understood. The words have been used in a general sense. Further, the verse points to the fact that man has been created for unlimited progress, because the expression Rabbul-‘Alamin implies that God develops everything from a lower to a higher stage and this is possible only if after every stage there is another stage in a never-ending process. (close)
الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ ۙ﴿۳﴾
7. In the expression Bismillah the attributes Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim serve as a key to the meaning of the whole Surah. Their mention here serves an additional purpose. They are used here as a link between the attribute Rabbul-‘Alamin and Maliki Yaumid-Din. (close)
مٰلِکِ یَوۡمِ الدِّیۡنِ ؕ﴿۴﴾
10. Din means, recompense or requital; judgment or reckoning; dominion or government; obedience; religion, etc. (Lane).
The four attributes of God, viz. "Lord of all the worlds", "Gracious", "Merciful" and "Master of the Day of Judgment" are fundamental attributes. The other attributes only explain and serve as a sort of commentary upon these four attributes, which are like four pillars on which the Throne of the Almighty rests.
The order in which these four attributes have been mentioned throws light on how God manifests His attributes to man. The attribute Rabbul-‘Alamin (Lord of all the worlds) signifies that with the creation of man, God creates the necessary environment for his spiritual progress and development. The attribute, Ar-Rahman (The Gracious), comes into operation next and through it God, so to speak, hands over to man the means and material, required for his moral and spiritual advancement. And when man has made proper use of the means thus granted to him, the attribute Ar-Rahim begins to operate to reward his works. Last of all, the attribute Maliki Yaumid-Din (Master of the Day of Judgment) produces the final and collective results of man’s labours; and the process finds consummation. Though the last and perfect reckoning will take place on the Day of Judgment, the process of requital is going on even in this life with this difference that in this life human actions are often judged and rewarded by other men, kings, rulers, etc.; and there is, therefore, always the possibility of error. On the Day of Judgment, however, the mastery of God will be exclusive and absolute and the work of requital will lie entirely in His hands. There will be no error, no undue punishments, no undue rewards. The use of the word "Master" is also intended to point to the fact that God is not like a judge who is bound to give his judgment strictly in accordance with a prescribed law. Being Master, He can forgive and show mercy wherever and in whatever manner He may like. Taking Din as meaning 'religion' the words "Master of the time of religion" would signify that when a true religion is revealed, mankind witnesses an extraordinary manifestation of Divine power and decrees and when it declines, it looks as if the universe is running mechanically without control or regulation by a Creator and Master. (close)
اِیَّاکَ نَعۡبُدُ وَ اِیَّاکَ نَسۡتَعِیۡنُ ؕ﴿۵﴾
11. ‘Ibadah signifies complete and utmost humility, submissiveness, obedience and service. It also implies belief in God’s Unity and declaration of it. The word also signifies, the acceptance of the impress of a thing. In this sense ‘Ibadah would mean, receiving the impress of Divine attributes and imbibing and reflecting them in one’s own person. (close)
12. The words, Thee alone do we worship, have been placed before the words, Thee alone do we implore for help, to signify that after man becomes aware of God’s great attributes, his first impulse is to worship Him. The idea of invoking God’s help comes after the impulse to worship. Man wishes to worship God but he finds that for doing so he needs God’s help. The use of the plural number in the verse directs attention to two very important points; (a) that man is not alone in this world but is part and parcel of the society that surrounds him. He should, therefore, seek not to go alone but to carry others also with him on the path of God; (b) as long as man does not reform his environment, he is not safe.
It is worthy of note that God is spoken of in the first four verses in the third person, but in this verse He is suddenly addressed in the second person. The contemplation of the four Divine attributes creates in man such an irresistible longing for seeing his Creator and such an intense desire to offer his whole- hearted devotion to Him that, in order to satisfy this longing of the soul, the third person used in the first four verses has been changed into the second in the present verse. (close)
اِہۡدِ نَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ ۙ﴿۶﴾
a. 19:37; 36:62; 42:53-54. (close)
13. The prayer covers the entire field of man’s needs—material and spiritual, present and future. The believer prays for being shown the straight path—the shortest path. Sometimes a man is shown the right and straight path but is not led up to it, or, if he is led up to it, he fails to stick to it and follow it to the end. The prayer requires a believer not to be satisfied with only being shown a path, or even with being led up to it, but ever to go on following it till he reaches the destination, this being the significance of Hidayah which means, to show the right path (90:11), to lead to the right path (29:70) and to make one follow the right path (7:44), (Mufradat & Baqa’). In fact, man needs God’s help at every step and at every moment, and it is imperative that he should ever be offering to God the supplication embodied in the verse. Constant praying, therefore, is necessary. As long as we have requirements unfulfilled and needs unsatisfied and goals unattained, we stand in need of prayer. (close)
صِرَاطَ الَّذِیۡنَ اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ ۬ۙ غَیۡرِ الۡمَغۡضُوۡبِ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا الضَّآلِّیۡنَ ٪﴿۷﴾
b. 4:70; 5:21; 19:59. (close)
14. A true believer is not satisfied with only being guided to the right path or with doing certain acts of righteousness. He sets his goal much higher and tries to attain a position in which God begins to bestow His special favours upon His servants. He looks up to the examples of Divine favours bestowed upon God’s Elect and receives encouragement from them. He does not stop even there, but strives hard and prays to be included among God’s "Favoured Ones" and to become one of them. These "Favoured Ones" have been mentioned in (4:70). The prayer is general and not for any particular favour. The believer implores God to bestow the highest spiritual favour upon him and it rests with God to confer upon him the favour which He deems fit and which the believer deserves. (close)
c. 2:62, 91; 3:113; 5:61, 79. (close)
a. 3:91; 5:78; 18:105. (close)
15. Suratul-Fatihah reveals a beautiful order in the arrangement of its words and sentences. It is divided into two halves. The first half pertains to God, the second to man, and the different parts of each portion correspond to one another in a remarkable manner. Corresponding to the name "Allah" which stands for the Being possessing all noble attributes in the first half, we have the words, Thee alone do we worship, in the second half. As soon as the devotee thinks of God as being free from all defects and possessing all perfect attributes, the cry, Thee alone do we worship, spontaneously rises from the depths of his heart. And corresponding to the attribute "Lord of all the worlds" are the words, Thee alone do we implore for help, in the second part. When a Muslim knows God to be the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds and the Source of all development, he at once takes shelter in Him, saying, Thee alone do we implore for help. Then, corresponding to the attribute Ar-Rahman, i.e. the Giver of innumerable blessings and the Liberal Provider of our needs, occur the words, Guide us in the straight path, in the second; for the greatest of the blessings provided for man is guidance which God provides for him by sending revelation through His Messengers. Corresponding to the attribute Ar- Rahim i.e. the Giver of the best rewards for man’s works in the first part, we have the words, The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours, in the second, for it is Ar-Rahim Who bestows merited blessings on His favoured servants. Again, corresponding to "Master of the Day of Judgment" we have, Those who have not incurred Thy displeasure, and those who have not gone astray. When man thinks of giving an account of his deeds, he dreads failure; so, pondering over the attribute, Master of the Day of Judgment, he begins to pray to God to be saved from His displeasure and from straying away from the right path.
Another special feature of the prayer contained in this Surah is that it appeals to the inner instincts of man in a perfectly natural manner. There are two fundamental motives in human nature which prompt submission, viz. love and fear. Some people are touched by love, while others are moved by fear. The motive of love is certainly nobler but there may be—indeed there are— men to whom love makes no appeal. They only submit through fear. In Al- Fatihah an appeal has been made to both these human motives. First come those attributes of God which inspire love, "the Creator and Sustainer of the world," "the Gracious" and "the Merciful." Then in their wake, as it were, follows the attribute, "Master of the Day of Judgment," which reminds man that if he does not mend his ways and does not respond to love, he should be prepared to render account of his deeds before God. Thus the motive of fear is brought into play side by side with that of love. But as God’s mercy far excels His anger, even this attribute which is the only fundamental attribute designed to evoke fear, has not been left without a reference to mercy. In fact, here too God’s mercy transcends His anger, for it is implicit in this attribute that we are not appearing before a Judge but before a Master Who has the power to forgive and Who will punish only where punishment is absolutely necessary.
In short, Al-Fatihah is a wonderful storehouse of spiritual knowledge. It is a short Chapter of seven brief verses, but it is a veritable mine of knowledge and wisdom. Aptly called "Mother of the Book," it is the very essence of the Qur’an. Beginning with the name of Allah, the Fountain-head of all blessings, the Chapter goes on to narrate the four fundamental attributes of God, i.e. (1) The Creator and Sustainer of the world; (2) The Gracious, Who provides for all the requirements of man even before he is born and without any effort on his part for them; (3) The Merciful, Who determines the best possible results of man’s labour and Who rewards him most liberally; and (4) Master of the Day of Judgment before Whom all will have to give an account of their actions, Who will punish the wicked but will not treat His creatures as a mere judge but as a master, tempering justice with mercy, and Who is eager to forgive whenever forgiveness is calculated to bring about good results. This is the portrait of the God of Islam as given in the very beginning of the Qur’an— a God Whose power and dominion know no bounds and Whose mercy and beneficence have no limitations. Then comes the declaration by man that, his God being the Possessor of such lofty attributes, he is ready, nay eager, to worship Him and throw himself at His feet in complete submission; but God knows that man is weak and liable to err, so mercifully He exhorts His servant to seek His help at every step in his onward march and for every need that may confront him. Finally, comes a prayer—comprehensive and far- reaching—a prayer in which man supplicates his Maker to lead him to the straight path in all matters, spiritual or temporal, whether relating to his present or future needs. He prays to God that he may not only successfully stand all trials but, like His "Chosen Ones", do so with credit and become the recipient of His most bounteous favours; that he may for ever go on treading the straight path, pressing on nearer and yet nearer to his Lord and Master without stumbling on the way, as did many of those who have gone before. This is the theme of the opening chapter of the Qur’an which is constantly repeated, in one form or another, in the main body of the Holy Book. (close)