By Imam Musa Oladapo Raji
I seek refuge in Allah from the devil the accursed and I start in the name of Allah The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful. I testify that there is no any deity worthy of worship save Allah, I also testify that Prophet Mohammed (SAW) is His messenger. May His benediction be upon His (Muhammad) soul, member of His household, His companions and those who follow His ways till the day of reckoning.
O you who believe, fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not expect in a state of Islam. (Quran 3:102).
Suratul Fatihah (The opening chapter) is the first chapter of the entire Qur’an, it comprises of seven verses. The chapter must be recited in both the obligatory prayers (five daily prayers) and all supererogatory prayers, funeral prayer inclusive.
Suratul Fatihah is also known as As-sab’Al-mathani (i.e. the seven repeatedly recited verses) and the Grand Qur’an or ‘Ummul Kitaab. The Prophet (SAW) in his usual characteristic to impress the importance of the Surah on us was quoted, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (RAA), to have said that a prayer performed by someone who has not recited the “Essence of the Qur’an (i.e. Al Fatihah) is deficient . According to that narration, (he repeated the word three times) incomplete. Someone said to Abu Hurayrah (even though) we are behind the Imam. He said recite it to yourself, for I have heard the prophet (SAW) saying: Allah The Most High has said; I have divided prayer (Fatihah) between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. When the servant says; Al-hamdulillahi Rabbil ‘alamiin” praise be to Allah Lord of the world” Allah The Most High says: My servant has praised me. And when he says Ar-rahman ar-rahim, “The Merciful the Compassionate” Allah The Most High says: My servant has exalted Me, and when he says Maliki Yaomi d-diin “Master of the day of Judgment” Allah says: My servant has glorified Me.
With this recitation, the worshipper is communicating with his creator directly without any intermediary submitting himself to only being, acknowledging His grace over him, proclaiming his inability to provide for himself and reaffirming his/her consciousness of the coming of the Day of Judgment when everybody will be called to give account of his deeds on earth. This serves as a reminder to every worshiper that this ephemeral world will come to an end one day. And whatever misdeeds one might have done would be forgiven hence; the need for him to undertake to change henceforth for a better way of life.
And when he says Iyyaka na’budu wa yyaka nastainn – “it is You we worship and it is You we ask for help”, Allah says “this is between me and My servant and My servant shall have what he had asked for. At this juncture, the reciter is making a strong covenant before his creator and probably many of us do not comprehend the semantic purpose of the verse. That is why we see many people shuttling here and there looking for assistance from those who also depend on Allah. By uttering such statement, it is not expected of him to still believe that assistance can come from any other quarter. He is the sole assistant and helper. Muslims should therefore, glue themselves to only Allah who is capable of doing that.
And where he says: Ihdina s-siraatal Mustaquma, siraata ladhiina an’am ta’alayhim ghayril-maghdubi ‘alayhim waladdalliina – “Guide us to the straight path, the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favour, not of those against whom You are angry, not of those who are astray”. Allah says, My servant shall have what he has asked for”.
Guidance is totally from Allah, He opens one’s heart to receive the truth (from disbelief to belief in Islamic monotheism). One needs the phrase of prayer always because the devil too is canvassing for more members on a daily basis. And if Allah be with one and makes his heart to remain firm in Him, the devil has no way to make him go astray. It is pertinent to clarify this because of the observed erroneous and misconstruction in some quarters that says: If the Muslims are truly on the right path, they will not ask Allah to guide them. They are saying that because (i) they do not care about what follows it “the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favours” and (ii) they do not know that Allah alone is infallible. Should Allah leave one for a second, one may fall into the antic of the devil (shaytan) because he too is ever prepared to receive people into his fold.
The Prophet says; “Ghayril Maghdubi ‘alayhim waladdlliina” You must say Aamin for if one’s utterance of Aamin comes with that of the angels, then his past sins will be forgiven” This is the only place where this expression is permitted in prayer. It is also a pointer to the importance of the Surah. Looking at those expressions again, one will appreciate the wisdom of Allah in giving us the most appropriate way to adorn and praise Him. Otherwise, people would have employed some unspeakable and unsavoury encomium in their worship. This is apparent nowadays among the unbelievers in their attempt to worship Him. But for the adherents of Islam, recitation of this chapter is the uniform and universal way of worshipping Him.
Still on the importance of Suratul Fatihah, Abu Sa’eed Rafai’ bn Al-Mualla relates that The Holy Prophet (SAW) said to me; before you go out of the mosque, may I tell you which is the greatest (most important) Surah of the Holy Qur’an? And thereafter, he grasped my hand when we were just going out of the mosque and I submitted: O Messenger of Allah, you had just promised to tell me as to what is the greatest Surah of the Qur’an. He said: it is the Suratul-Al Fatihah, seven verses which are so frequently used in prayers and the Qur’an has been revealed upon me” (Bukhari).
Apart from the above, the surah was used by one of the companions of the Prophet (SAW) to cure a snake bite and it enjoyed the approval of the prophet.
Lastly, I want to enjoin all Muslims across the globe to strive hard and know the meaning of the Surah in their mother tongue, knowing of its meaning will clean our heart more, and appreciate what we are saying while standing before our creator and with today’s sermon realize the fact that Allah listens and responds to our supplication each time we pray.
And the close of our requests will be Al-hamdu liLlahi Rabb-il-Alamin. I seek forgiveness of Allah that is worthy of reliance on. I seek forgiveness of Allah from my sins and yours. Glorified is your Lord, the Lord of Honour and Power. (He is free) from what they attribute to Him, and peace be on the Messenger. And all praise and thanks are Allah’s the Lord of Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exist).