The Essance of Surah Al-Fatihah

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

The Essence of Surah Al-Fatihah

 The Name

This Surah is named Al-Fatihah [The Opening] because of its subject matter. Fatihah is that which opens a subject, a book, or any other thing. In other words, Al-Fatihah is a sort of preface. The Surah is also called Ummul Qur’an.

The Period of Revelation

Al-Fatihah was revealed in Makkah as Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah and Abu Al-‘Aliyah stated.

Allah said:

“And indeed, We have bestowed upon you the seven Mathani” (seven repeatedly recited verses i.e. Surat Al-Fatihah) [Al-Hijir, 15:87].

It is one of the very earliest Revelations to the Holy Prophet. It was the first complete Surah which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s blessing peace be upon him). Before this, only a few miscellaneous verses were revealed which form parts of ‘Alaq, Muz-Zammil, Muddathir, Etc.

The Theme

•  The Surah is in fact a prayer which Allah 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 vis-à-vis the Muslims: 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 Muslims to seek guidance from the Lord of the Universe, Who alone can grant it. Thus Al-Fatihah directly 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- after-truth 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.

 • The 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 mankind, the servant and the Qur’an is the answer from the Master to his prayer. The servant prays to Allah 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 request from Me.”

 The Meaning of Surah

1. In the Name of Allâh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

2. All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord [1] of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists). [2]

3. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

4. The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)

5. You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).

6. Guide us to the Straight Way. [3]

7. The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace [4], not (the way) of those who incur Your wrath [5] (i.e. those who knew the Truth, but did not follow it) nor of those who went astray (i.e. those who did not follow the Truth out of ignorance and error). [6], [7]

Al-Fatihah and the Solah

Muslim recorded that Abu Hurairah r.a said that the Prophet SAW said,” Whoever performs any prayer in which he did not read Ummul Qur’an, then his prayer is incomplete.” He said it thrice.

Abu Hurayrah was asked, “[When] we stand behind the Imam” He said, “Read it to yourself, for I heard the Messenger of Allah SAW said:

“Allah, the Exalted, said, “I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatihah) into two halves between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asks for.”

If he says, “All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of existence.” Allah says, “My servant has praised Me.”

When the servant says, “The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” Allah says, “My servant has glorified Me.”

When he says, “The Owner of the Day of Recompense.” Allah says, “My servant has glorified Me,” or “My servant has related all matters to Me.”

When he says, “You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help.” Allah says, “This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.”

When he says, “Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom You have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray”, Allah says, ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.’ ’’

These are the words of An-Nasa’i, while both Muslim and An-Nasa’i collected the following wording, “A half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.”

The Basic Principles in Al-Fatihah

As an introduction to the Quran, Al-Fatihah contains all the basic principles that are given in detail in the Quran.

•  It tells us that we are surrounded by God’s grace and favours; He is the Source of all love and mercy, and for that, we should be thankful to Him.

•   It also teaches the following lessons: Life on earth is not permanent. Everyone will die one day and God will judge us. He alone is the Master of that Day and we must worship Him and Him alone.

•   It reminds us that God is the only One Who can really guide; We must seek His help and He has all the power to give us whatever we need.

•   It calls for righteous actions in this life. It speaks about life after death and the consequences of human action and behaviour. It tells us that the true guidance comes through God’s prophets and messengers. They were the people who were truly guided, and they received God’s grace and mercy. Those who turned away from that path were those who went astray and they incurred the wrath of God and His punishment.

After this introduction comes the rest of the Quran. Muslims consider Al-Fatihah as the prayer and the Quran as the answer to that prayer.


[1] Lord: The actual word used in the Qur’an is Rabb There is no proper equivalent for Rabb in English language. It means the One and the Only Lord for the entire universe, its Creator, Owner, Organizer, Provider, Master, Planner, Sustainer, Cherisher, and Giver of security. Rabb is also one of the Names of Allah. We have used the word “Lord” as the nearest to Rabb. All occurrences of “Lord” in the interpretation of the meanings of the Noble Qur’an actually mean Rabb and should be understood as such.

[2] Abu Sa‘id bin Al-Mu‘alla narrated: While I was praying in the mosque, Allah’s Messenger SAW called me but I did not respond to him. Later I said, “O Allah’s Messenger, I was praying.” He said, “Didn’t Allah say – Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and His Messenger when he SAW calls you.” (V.8:24). He then said to me, “I will teach you a Surah which is the greatest Surah in the Qur’an, before you leave the mosque.” Then he got hold of my hand, and when he intended to leave (the mosque), I said to him, “Didn’t you say to me, “I will teach you a Surah which is the greatest Surah in the Qur’an?” He said, ” Al-Hamdu lillahi Rabbil-‘alamin [i.e. all the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)], Surat Al-Fatihah which is As-Sab‘ Al-Mathani (i.e. the seven repeatedly recited Verses) and the Grand Qur’an which has been given to me.” (Sahih Al-Bukhâri, Vol.6, Hadîth No. 1).

[3] Guidance is of two kinds:

a) Guidance of Tawfiq i.e., totally from Allah, i.e. Allâh opens one’s heart to receive the truth (from disbelief to Belief in Islamic Monotheism).

b) Guidance of Irshad i.e. through preaching by Allâh’s Messengers and the pious preachers who preach the truth i.e. Islâmic Monotheism.

[4] i.e. the way of the Prophets, the Siddiqun (i.e. those followers of the Prophet, who were first and foremost to believe in him, like Abu Bakar As-Siddîq), the martyrs and the righteous, [as Allah SWT said: “And whoso obeys Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad SAW, then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets, the Siddiqun, the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are!” (Al-Haqqah,4:69)].

[5]  ‘Adi bin Hatim r.a narrated: I asked Allah’s Messenger SAW , about the Statement of Allah: 1. ” Ghairil-maghdhubi ‘alaihim (not the way of those who earned Your Anger),” he SAW “They are the Yehuds”. And 2. Wa la d-dhallin (nor of those who went astray),” he SAW replied: “The Christians, and they are the ones who went astray”[This Hadith is quoted by At-Tirmidzi and Abu Dawud].

[6] ‘Ubadah bin As-Samit r.a narrated that Allah’s Messenger SAW said, “Whoever does not recite Surah Al-Fatihah in his prayer, his prayer is invalid. [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol.1, Hadîth No. 723].

[7] Abu Hurayrah r.a narrated: Allah’s Messenger SAW said, “When the Imâm says: Ghairi l-maghdhubi ‘alaihim Wa la d-dhallin [i.e. not the way of those who earned Your Anger, nor the way of those who went astray (1:7)], then you must say, Amin, for if one’s utterance of Amin coincides with that of the angels, then his past sins will be forgiven.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol.6, Hadith No. 2].


About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

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