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Lesson - 7
| 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,
||The Beneficent, the Merciful,
||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
|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.
Closeness to God achieved through Islam
Today we will discuss the last two verses of this magnificent and
comprehensive prayer, Al-Fatiha. In the previous lesson, I
have discussed in detail the verse, "The path of those upon whom
Thou hast bestowed favors," and it was pointed out that these
were the people who attained the purpose of their creation, i.e.,
Allah Almighty. Whosoever achieves this goal is successful in this
world and the Hereafter. He does not have any sadness, worry or desire
left, because he has found the perpetual peace and happiness which
exists only in a relationship with God.
All religions have made this claim that they have come to inform
people about God, and to help them establish a relationship with
Him. There is no doubt that when these religions first came into
existence, they were actually revealed by God to fulfill this purpose.
Today, however, there does not exist within them a path which leads
directly to God, nor can He be reached by following them. For example,
association with God has crept into their beliefs. Belief in One
God lays down before mankind only the objective of reaching Him.
Polytheism, on the other hand, presents the concept of many gods
before man. Which one of these various deities should he be searching
for? None of these religions today can, therefore, truly claim to
have found God. In the beginning, when the straight path (siraat
al-mustaqeem) did exist within them, those who followed their
teachings were able to establish a relationship with God. An affirmative
sign of this was that He would communicate with them. Today, none
of the followers of these religions can make such a claim, nor can
they submit evidence that they are recipients of Divine communion
in the form of ilham or wahy (revelation from God).
According to an Urdu couplet of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (Reformer
of the 14th Century Hijra):
We have tasted this fruit only from the garden of Muhammad.
The Perfect Model of Righteousness
Now only by following Islam, the guidance of the Holy Quran, and the
living example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, people of different time
periods can become closer to God to the extent that He communicates
with them. In this age of materialism and atheism we have witnessed
a shining example of this in the life of the Reformer of the 14th
century, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. A living proof of this are the
thousands of Divine revelations (ilhams) and true visions bestowed
upon him, which are available in print. A great number of these were
fulfilled during his lifetime, and there are many that continue to
do so even today, after his death. It is essential to mention over
here "those upon whom favors are bestowed," and their leader,
the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who once again pointed out the straight
path to the world. He was the one to whom the Al-Fatiha was
revealed, and he reached his exalted spiritual status by acting upon
its guidance. By following, "Thee do we serve and Thee do we
beseech for help," he not only became the perfect exemplar of
one who serves with humility, but also the best of mankind and foremost
of all prophets. Who else is there who not only became beloved of
God himself, but also led others in this direction? Hazrat Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad has described this beautifully in one of his Persian couplets:
"In the person of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, all
excellences of prophethood have reached their full manifestation."
Therefore, he is inevitably the last of, and the seal of, the prophets
(khatam an-nabiyyin). No deficiency remains behind to be fulfilled
by another prophet. Think about the difficult task that was accomplished
by the Holy Prophet Muhammad. He became the best exemplar for the
whole of the human race, for all nations, and all ages till the Day
of Resurrection. ‘O! Allah exalt Muhammad and those who follow
him, and grant them peace and blessings.’
The Holy Prophet Muhammad was able to follow the straight path
in this life and reach his destination with unparalleled success.
The ultimate manifestation of this was the Mi‘raj (grand
vision of Spiritual Ascension) of the Holy Prophet in which he was
able to meet Allah face to face. A poet has put this so well in
an Urdu couplet:
"During the night of the Mi‘raj you ascended
above all the spiritual heavens, and the status you achieved was
not attained by any other prophet."
Also observe (by reading his life history) how well he imbued himself
in the color of Allah’s attributes described in the Al-Fatiha.
"All praise be to Allah" was not only a part of his physical
recitation, but he became a living manifestation of it.
The Holy Prophet, according to Hazrat Ayesha (his wife), emulated
the Divine attributes described in the Holy Quran to such an extent
that: "His character was the Holy Quran." If prophets
before him described it as "coming of the Lord," this
was the reason for it. He manifested the coloring of the Lord of
the Worlds (Rabb-il-aalameen) to such an extent that
he became the mercy for all nations (Rahmat-un lil-aalameen).
The spiritual and moral nurturing of the whole world for all times
is now dependent on his example. This is because he had the unique
distinction of being the only prophet who, out of his great concern
for all of humanity, cried and supplicated day and night for their
spiritual and moral welfare, and for their well-being in this world
and the Hereafter. It is for this reason that Allah Almighty has
said more than once in the Holy Quran, "Will you kill yourself
with this grief (that they do not come towards righteousness)."
This was mentioned in the Holy Quran also with the intent that if
we want to follow the footsteps of this holy person, we should also
borrow a spark from the fire of his yearning, to ignite this flame
in our hearts.
Along with his great concern for the human race, the Holy Prophet
also left behind a legacy of priceless treasures in the form of
his sunnat (example) and hadith (sayings) for the
benefit of mankind. This knowledge was acquired by him through his
extraordinary spiritual and moral progress. He thus became colored
in the spiritual beneficence of Al-Rahman. His conduct was,
therefore, purely selfless as the Holy Quran remarks, "I do
not ask of you any return on this". Despite being completely
imbued in the coloring of Allah, he did not give himself, or allow
anybody else to give him, a status beyond that of a humble servant.
Other prophets, though lagging behind him in spiritual status, were
elevated by their followers to the status of a God or an associate
with Him. Despite being a virtual ruler of his community, the Holy
Prophet still kept himself and his household in a state of poverty
and hunger. He did not ask anything in return for his service and
benevolence to humanity. This is the meaning of being a servant
of Al-Rahman, who provides everything for His creation without
asking anything in return. If He asks for obedience with humility
in return, it is for the benefit of mankind. Unless man serves Allah
with humility, He is unable to nurture him spiritually, just like
the parents of a child are unable to contribute towards his development
unless he follows their guidance. Now consider the manifestation
of the attribute of Al-Raheem in his character. It is provided
in its most excellent form for the believer, as the Holy Quran states:
"To the believers (he is) compassionate, merciful" (9:128).
Those who joined the Holy Prophet and followed his footsteps, definitely
benefited from his bounteous nature and mercy. We also witnessed
the manifestation of the Divine attribute Maliki-yaum-id-deen
(Master of the Day of Requital) in his conduct. Thus on the day
when Makka was conquered, the day on which the victor and the vanquished
were to receive their due, he magnanimously forgave all his enemies.
Those who did not Benefit from Divine Guidance
Now let us consider the last verses of this chapter Al-Fatiha:
"Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those
who went astray."
This is the prayer seeking protection from falling into the ways of
those upon whom the wrath of Allah was brought down, or those who
went astray. When truth comes into this world, those who are presented
with it tend to fall into three categories. Those who accept it, and
act upon it, are included in the description of those "upon whom
Thou has bestowed favors." Some unfortunate ones, however, not
only reject the truth, but also attempt to destroy it along with its
followers. These people after being given ample opportunity for reform
and repentance are destroyed by Allah. The word used for ‘destruction’
in Arabic, besides conveying the meaning of ‘to annihilate,’ also
indicates the breaking of the power or hold of a people or nation.
If Allah does not destroy those planning the destruction of truth,
then truth itself and those that follow it would be eliminated. How
could this be acceptable to Allah Who has, "power over all things"?
Thus those who are destroyed, or whose power is eliminated, are the
ones, "upon whom wrath is brought down." There is also the
third category of people i.e., "those who went astray".
These are the ones who either ignore the truth and remain persistent
in their insubordination, or after having initially accepted the right
path, they later on reject it. Because of their action in pursuing
falsehood over truth, they are left by Allah to wander in their deviant
The Prophet of Allah gave the example of the Jews as "those
upon whom wrath is brought down." They did not accept Prophet
Jesus (Isa), in fact tried to destroy him. He cited the Christians
as an example of "those who went astray" because after
accepting Jesus they elevated him to the status of Son of God, or
in fact God. This is the way of excess or exaggeration (ifrat),
the way of the Jews being that of diminution (tafrit), both
of these being human weaknesses. Thus, for example, man either becomes
totally engrossed in pursuit of worldly gain and gives up his religion,
or follows the other extreme of becoming a monk, nun, or a sadhu
(Hindu ascetic). The Holy Prophet said: "The best way of
all is the middle course, which is the straight path." This
is why the Muslims are enjoined in their daily prayers to ask for
the straight path, so they can guard against the two extremes.
A Comprehensive Prayer
Al-Fatiha is such a broad and comprehensive prayer that it is useful
for man in all his conditions and times of need. For example, for
a student, "The Day of Requital" is the day when he sits
for an examination. "Those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors"
are the ones who qualified with flying colors. Those who do not succeed
are the ones "upon whom wrath is brought down," and "the
ones who go astray" are the ones who qualify with marginal grades
and stray around in life with the hope of achieving success. I would
like to give one other example of the general benefit of the Al-Fatiha,
and then close this discussion. In the case of a surgeon who decides
to operate on a patient, the day of surgery for both of them is the
day of requital. Those upon whom favors are bestowed would include
the surgeon who is successful, and the patient who regains his health.
The condition of those upon whom wrath is brought down would occur
when the patient dies, and thus is a source of disappointment for
the surgeon and ruins his reputation. For the relatives of the deceased
it becomes a day of irreplaceable loss and profound sadness. The state
of those who went astray would occur when the patient did not die,
but also did not fully recover.
Every individual has to face situations in life on a daily basis
where he is at a loss in deciding the appropriate course of action.
For example, in the case of a merchant making a crucial business
decision, or a parent giving the hand of his daughter away in marriage,
or a person trying to decide to travel to a certain destination.
If one considers these situations under yaum-id-deen and
asks for guidance towards the right path to avoid wrong decisions
and pitfalls, it becomes quite apparent how helpful Al-Fatiha
is in everyday life. In applying this to one’s mundane affairs one
should not, however, forget that the most excellent meaning of Al-Fatiha
is prayer for the moral and spiritual guidance of mankind. The answer
to the prayer "Guide us on the right path" comes subsequently
in the opening verse of Al-Baqarah:
"I, Allah, am the best Knower. This Book, there is
no doubt in it, is a guide to those who keep their duty."
The guidance asked for is thus provided by the revelation of the Holy
Quran. One can, therefore, appreciate the immense spiritual grandeur
of Al-Fatiha in answer to which the whole of the Quran was
Thus from whatever perspective we look at the saying of the Holy
Prophet that "I have been given two blessings that no other
prophet has received, Al-Fatiha and the last section (ruku)
of Al-Baqarah," it is so true. I have endeavored to
comment only briefly on Al-Fatiha, otherwise it is a sea
of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, the treasures of which are limitless.
"Glory be to Allah, all praise is His. Glory be to Allah, the