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Lesson - 2


Bis-mil-laa-hir Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Al-ham-du lil-laa-hi Rab-bil aa-la-meen. All Praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,
Ar-Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem The Beneficent, the Merciful,
Maa-li-ki yaw-mid-deen. Master of the Day of Requital.
Ee-yaa-ka na -bu-du wa ee-yaa-ka nas-ta- een. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Ih-di nas si-raa-tal mus-ta-qeem Guide us on the right path,
Si-raa-tal la-zee-na an- am-ta a-lay-him. The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours,
Ghay-ril magh-doo-bi a-lay-him wa-lad-daal-leen. Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.

The Wisdom of Al-Fatiha

This is a translation of the well-known Surah Al-Fatiha, which is memorized and recited by every Muslim with every rakat (unit) of his prayer. It is essentially read by anyone beginning the study of the Holy Quran, and also on other occasions. I therefore felt it was appropriate, in fact necessary, to include it in my tutorial. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
"I have been given two blessings that no other prophet has received, one of these is the Surah Fatiha and the other is the last ruku (segment) of Al-Baqarah (the second chapter of the Holy Quran)."
How very true his statement was, because these two portions of the Holy Quran contain a sea of know- ledge, wisdom and guidance. I am not going to intricate depths of this in order to keep it simple and easily understandable. I am, however, obligated to go into some detail otherwise I would not be doing justice to this most excellent chapter of the Holy Quran. It is important to be aware of the spiritual knowledge, wisdom and essential principles of guidance in the Surah Fatiha because it is recited several times a day by every Muslim. Besides calling it the most excellent revelation no other prophet received, the Holy Prophet also named it the Umm-Al-Kitab, i.e., the Basis of the Book. Thus we can appreciate the critical need to understand it. Towards the end of my discourse on this chapter I will point out that not only is the Al-Fatiha unique in being the opening of the Holy Quran, but it is also the most excellent prayer for mankind in difficult times of his life. It is therefore imperative to understand the vast and comprehensive subject matter of these verses.

I have previously discussed the verse Bis-mil-laah-hir-Rahman-nir-Raheem (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful). I will briefly summarize for the benefit of those who are not familiar with it. Every chapter of the Holy Quran contains a complete subject in it. The words "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful" being at the beginning of every chapter indicate that it has been revealed by Allah Who out of His grace has given us all the means for our physical existence and progress. Not only that, but He has granted us the extraordinary and splendid gift of the spirit' for a life everlasting. For the development and progress of our eternal spiritual life He revealed the Holy Quran. This is all-inclusive in the word Al-Rahman (the Beneficent). The attribute of Al-Raheem (the Merciful) indicates that if a reader of the Holy Quran acts upon its teachings, he will develop spiritually and morally, and will attain peace in this world and the Hereafter as a special gift. The letter ba in Bis- mil-laah also means that one is beginning in the name of Allah and seeking His assistance. He is requesting the Beneficent Who has revealed the Holy Quran, that He out of His mercy should bless the suppliant with its knowledge and comprehension, and give him the ability to act upon it, so that he is able to achieve the lofty goals of Quranic revelation.

Now I would like to discuss the Surah Fatiha. This surah (chapter) has been named in the Holy Quran and the Hadith of the Holy Prophet by different names. The most well-known name is Al-Fatiha (the Opening) or Fatiha-tul-Kitab (The Opening of the Book). By opening' is meant that it opens the door to the wisdom of the Holy Quran. Also opened up in this short chapter of seven verses is the path of guidance, Divine recognition and knowledge, which is unparalleled for all times. Although volumes have been written on this chapter, these treasures do not seem to get depleted. I shall briefly mention a few important issues so that you become aware of these.

Man's Quest after God

Man wonders who is the Originator of this great universe in which even a single atom is such a marvel of creation. Man wants to know Who or What He is? He would like to know the names and attributes of this Divine Being? Next arises the question if the Creator and Sustainer of this great universe are two separate entities or is it the work One Divine Being? Why did this Divine Being create the earth and all the life in it? What is the position of mankind in this creation? What is the relationship between man and the Divine Being? What is the purpose of man's creation? What kind of effort should one put in to attain the objective of his creation? Different powers and people are following their own direction. Everyone considers his way of thinking to be the correct one. Which then is the right path out of this maze? How can one find out, if the way he is following is the correct one? Has anyone achieved the purpose of his existence by treading on this path? What are the consequences of not following this path? After all, there were revealed scriptures for all previous nations, but today there are some in whom no trace of revelation can be found and they are following their own individual ways.

All Praise is for Allah

In Al-ham-du-lil-lah (All praise is due to Allah), letters Alif, Lam (AL) indicate engrossment in the sense of entirety (i.e. true, genuine and exclusive praise). Thus all praise is for Allah Who is the Rabb (Lord One Who is the Nourisher unto perfection) of the whole universe, all creation and every nation. Allah is the proper name of the Divine Being, as I have previously mentioned in my discussion of "In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful". It is the prime obligation of any revealed scripture that it should inform its reader about the identity of One Who is responsible for its revelation, and the purpose behind it. The Holy Quran is the only such book in its class which tells us in its very beginning in the verse "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful", that the name of its author is Allah. The preponderance of beneficence in His nature led to the creation of mankind, and the revelation of this book for his guidance. If man follows this guidance, it brings into action Allah's mercy and He rewards him in this life and the Hereafter with eternal bliss. The most notable of these blessings is the one for which man has been created and which will be mentioned later. Those familiar with the current state of world affairs know that communism and materialism have promoted the spread of atheism. How can those who do not believe in the existence of God, accept His revealing a Book? I shall Insha-Allah (by the grace of Allah) include this in the discussion of the first verse of Al-Fatiha, i.e. "All Praise is due to Allah, the Lord (Rabb) of the worlds".

Proof of Existence of the Divine Being

I would like to submit that the existence of the Divine Being is the basis of all faiths. The testimony of hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets, in addition to that of millions of righteous servants of Allah, and the evidence provided by revealed scriptures is such a powerful argument in support of the truth that it cannot be denied by an intelligent person. Courts of law can decide even matters of great contention on basis of one truthful witness. Here we have the testimony of thousands of truthful ones that there is a Divine Being with whom they have established communion. Those who follow them with complete submission are also able to achieve this blessing.

If we use our common sense, it becomes quite apparent that every atom in the immense and intri- guing universe is a witness of, and clearly manifests the presence of, the Divine Being. For this very reason, scientific inquiry which initially assumed atheistic philosophy, has now been forced to admit that this universe has a Creator Who is One, because the whole creation is obligated to follow the same universal law. Even man's own nature ultimately provides testimony towards the existence of a Divine Being. All human beings in times of distress and difficulty spontaneously cry out for Divine assistance.

Why, then, may one ask, has the denial of the existence of God become such a common practice in this day and age? I shall, Insha-Allah, provide the answer to this from the preliminary verses of Al-Fatiha in my next discussion, as my allotted time has now expired. "And no one is given opportunity unless permitted by Allah, the Most High, the Great."

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