Tafseer Surah 001 Al-Fatihah – The Opening

1|1|In the name of Allāh ﷻ, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

Connection between āyāt  

The first three āyāt of this sūrah give us knowledge of Allāh ﷻ and His attributes. The last three āyāt of this sūrah are a prayer to Allāh ﷻ. The verse in the middle is a combination of praise of Allāh ﷻ and a prayer to Allāh ﷻ. 

ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ

1|2|[All] praise is [due] to Allāh ﷻ, Lord of the worlds –

Linguistic Analysis

The word ٱلْحَمْدُ means to praise and to be grateful. When you praise someone you are not necessarily grateful to them for example if someone excelled in their test, you praise them, but are not necessarily thankful to them. Similarly when you are grateful to someone you are not necessarily praising them. For example, Allāh ﷻ says to be grateful to be parents, therefore Ibrahim (as) was grateful to his father who raised him, but he did not necessarily praise him, as his act of idol-making was not praiseworthy. Likewise Mūsā (as) was grateful to Firawn but he did not praise him. Therefore one can translate the āyah as All praise and thanks is due to Allāh ﷻ, Lord of the worlds. 

What is the difference between الحمد لله and المدح و شكر لله

Firstly, as the word ٱلْحَمْدُ combines both praise and gratefulness in one word as opposed to saying المدح و شكر لله (praise and thanks belong to Allāh ﷻ), this is more eloquent in the Arabic language.  

Secondly, madh can be done for insincere reasons, e.g. praising one’s seniors or when seeking a favour. However ٱلْحَمْدُ is only done with sincerity. 

Furthermore, madh can be done for living and non-living things. For example one can praise the beauty of a garden using the word madh, however this would not be done with the word ٱلْحَمْدُ, as hamd is only for living things. Therefore the word ٱلْحَمْدُ is more befitting for Allāh ﷻ. 

The difference between using ٱلْحَمْدُ as a noun and as a verb

Allāh ﷻ did not say إحمد الله , i.e. the command to praise Allāh ﷻ. If this was a command then the onus is on the person being commanded to praise Allāh ﷻ. For example if a tyrant asked his servants to praise him, the praise depends on the servants. However, as Allāh ﷻ is always deserving of praise, his praise does not depend on anyone, and therefore a command would not be as appropriate.

Furthermore, wording using verbs such as I praise Allāh ﷻ, or we praise Allāh ﷻ are restricted to time. As is commonly known verbs are either, past, present or future tense and therefore restricted to a time. However the praise of Allāh ﷻ is not restricted to time, rather he is always deserving of praise, therefore the use of a noun is more appropriate here, as it will give the meaning that praise always belongs to Allāh ﷻ.

Furthermore a verb is in need of a doer, for example if it said Zaid got hit, there is someone who has hit Zaid. This doer can be known or unknown, but every verb is in need of doer to carry out the verb. However Allāh ﷻ is not in need of anyone to praise him, rather all praise belongs to him, and this is not dependent on anyone or anything.

Different meanings of the word رَبِّ

The word رَبِّ encompasses many different meanings in Arabic. From among these meanings are the meaning of owner, the one in charge, the caretaker, the giver of gifts and the maintainer.

The different meanings of the word رَبِّ denote our relationship with Allāh ﷻ, such that when we recognise that Allāh ﷻ is the master then this ultimately means that we are His slaves. Similarly when we recognise that Allāh ﷻ is the giver of gifts, then we should know that we are the receiver of these gifts. 

Furthermore, the meaning of owning does not necessarily mean that you take care of it. For example you may own a house or garden, but you may not necessarily look after it. Likewise a person in charge of something may not necessarily look after his subjects. However Allāh ﷻ is not just an owner, or the one in charge, but He is also the one who takes care of and maintains his creation.

The meaning of the word ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ

The word ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ which is commonly translated as worlds. However the word ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ is usually reserved for species i.e. humankind and  jinn. This is different to the word ‘awālim  which is plural of the word ‘alam.

ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

1|3|The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,

Linguistic Analysis

Both of these words come from the root letters ر ح م which means to be merciful, but both encompass different. meanings.

The word ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ

Firstly the ان in the word ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ denotes extreme, i.e. Allāh ﷻ is extremely merciful. 

Secondly the word ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ also indicates mercy at this moment in time. 

Furthermore the word ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ also gives the meaning of temporary mercy. For example in arabic words on a similar scale such as عطشان, جوعان and غضبان meaning hungry, thirsty and angry are only temporary qualities. 

The word ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The word ٱلرَّحِيمِ is a permanent quality, meaning that Allāh ﷻ is always merciful. 

Furthermore the word ٱلرَّحِيمِ does not necessarily mean that mercy is being shown at this moment time. 

Ibn Abbas says that Allāh ﷻ is ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ for all creatures in this world, however he is ٱلرَّحِيمِ only for the believers in the hereafter.

مَٰلِكِ يَوْمِ ٱلدِّينِ

1|4|Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.

After mentioning His mercy, Allāh ﷻ mentions that He is the master of the day of Judgement. 

Linguistic Analysis

The word مَٰلِكِ means owner. 

In a different recitation the alif in the word مَٰلِكِ is pronounced short. When pronounced in the short form the word مَلِكِ means king.

Connection between āyāt 

The first three āyah of this sūrah give us knowledge of Allāh ﷻ. This leads us to the following āyah which is a combination of praise of Allāh ﷻ and a prayer.  

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

1|5|It is You we worship and You we ask for help.

After declaring that we are slaves and worshippers of Allāh ﷻ, we ask for Allāh’s ﷻ help alone. 

Linguistic Analysis

The word نَعْبُدُ comes from the root letter ع ب دmeaning to worship and to be a slave. 

The word نَسْتَعِينُ comes from the root letters ع و ن meaning to help. However this help is after struggling. For example a person requires help to lift a heavy rock. They ask someone stronger than them to help them. One is that they sit back and watch the stronger person lift the rock, and the second is that they help the stronger person to lift the rock. Here the word نَسْتَعِينُ denotes the second of the two examples. Therefore this would give the meaning that Allāh ﷻ we are trying our best but seek your help. 

Omission of the object for the word نَسْتَعِينُ

Here the object of the word نَسْتَعِينُ is not mentioned, i.e. what is it that we seek Allāh ﷻ’s help with. Omitting the object of the word نَسْتَعِينُ gives three benefits. 

Firstly it indicates that Allāh ﷻ already knows that which we need help with. In speech, when the object for the verb help is omitted, it could be because it is obvious to the person being sought help from therefore there is no need for clarification. For example a person is carrying something heavy, and asks help from another. There is no need for clarification here as the person can see what is going on. Therefore by omitting the object it indicates that Allāh ﷻ in his infinite knowledge knows best what we need to seek help for. 

Secondly it could indicate that there are multiple things with which help is sought, therefore these are not mentioned as the list is too long.

Finally it gives the meaning of desperation, as very often in times of urgent need the object is not mentioned. For example a person is drowning, they will scream for help, as opposed to saying help, I can’t swim, I’m going to drown. Therefore the omission of the object for the word نَسْتَعِينُ indicates that we are in desperate need of Allāh ﷻ’s help. 

ٱهْدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٰطَ ٱلْمُسْتَقِيمَ

1|6|Guide us to the straight path

Allāh ﷻ teaches us that the most important thing we should ask for is guidance. It is for this reason that we constantly repeat our prayer for guidance multiple times a day. 

Linguistic Analysis

The word ٱلصِّرَٰطَ means straight path and does not have any plural. It means a path which does not have any alternative routes. This signifies that there is only one straight path which is submission to Allāh ﷻ. 

The word ٱلْمُسْتَقِيمَ comes from the root letter ق و م and also means straight, but it also gives the meaning of upright. 

صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ ٱلْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ

1|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.

Connection between āyāt 

Knowledge needs to be coupled with action

At the beginning of the sūrah Allāh ﷻ gives us knowledge of Himself and His attributes. This knowledge of Allāh ﷻ leads to action on our behalf, when we submit ourselves as slaves to Allāh ﷻ. This is manifested in the meaning of āyah number four, “You alone we worship, and you alone we ask for help”. Therefore those who have the correct knowledge of Allāh ﷻ and couple this with action will be on the straight path. 

Thereafter Allāh ﷻ mentions the two types of people who are not on the straight path, those who have earnt his wrath, and those who are misguided. The characteristics of these people is that the first group are people who had knowledge of Allāh ﷻ and His commandments yet still chose to disobey Him i.e. they lacked action. Whereas the second group of people are those who had action but did not have the correct knowledge of Allāh ﷻ and His commandments, and were therefore misguided. 

This shows that knowledge alone is not enough to attain success in the hereafter, nor is action alone sufficient, rather the Muslim needs to have both, that is true knowledge of Allāh ﷻ and His commands, as well as actions coupled with this knowledge. 

Linguistic Analysis

The word أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ indicates past

Allāh ﷻ uses the words أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ to allude to those whom have earnt his favour, i.e. those people who have earnt his favour in the past. This signifies that those people who are alive now and seem to have earnt Allāh’s ﷻ favour, may not necessarily earn his favour, as they are still prone to the whispers of the devil. 

The meaning of the word ٱلْمَغْضُوبِ 

The word ٱلْمَغْضُوبِ means those who have incurred anger, the person who is angry is not mentioned here. Allāh ﷻ distances Himself from this group of people. Furthermore, it is possible that this group of people have not only earned the anger of Allāh ﷻ but also others such as the angels.

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