Light from the Holy Quran

by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui

Quranic Lesson No. 2 [The Holy Quran, 1:1]

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۱﴾ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ ۙ﴿۲﴾ مٰلِکِ یَوۡمِ الدِّیۡنِ ؕ﴿۳﴾ اِیَّاکَ نَعۡبُدُ وَ اِیَّاکَ نَسۡتَعِیۡنُ ؕ﴿۴﴾ اِہۡدِ نَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ ۙ﴿۵﴾ صِرَاطَ الَّذِیۡنَ اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ ۙ۬ غَیۡرِ الۡمَغۡضُوۡبِ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا الضَّآلِّیۡنَ ٪﴿۷﴾

I seek the protection of Allah from the accursed devil.

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

“Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, The Beneficent, the Merciful, Master of the day of Requital. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help. Guide us on the right path, The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.” (The Holy Quran, Chapter 1:1–7)

The Wisdom of Al-Fatihah:

This is a translation of the well-known chapter of the Holy Quran known as Al-Fatihah, which is memorized and recited by every Muslim in every raka (unit) of his prayer. It is essentially read by anyone beginning the study of the Holy Quran, and also on other occasions. I, therefore, feel it is appropriate, in fact necessary to include it in my tutorials. The Holy Prophet [Muhammad] (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

“I have been given two blessings that no other prophet has received, one of these is the Al-Fatihah and the other is the last ruku (section) of Al-Baqarah, the second chapter of the Holy Quran.”

How very true was his statement, because these two portions of the Holy Quran contain a sea of knowledge, wisdom and guidance. I am not going to go into the intricate depths of these verses so as to keep the present discourse 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 AlFatihah because it is recited several times a day by every Muslim. Besides calling it the most excellent revelation, the like of which was not given to any other prophet, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) 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 AlFatihah unique in being the opening of the Holy Quran, but it is also the most excellent prayer for a person 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 Bismi Allahi Al Rahman Al Rahim (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful). I will briefly summarize its meaning again 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

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

‘In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful,’

being at the beginning of every chapter but one, 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 also granted us the extraordinary and splendid gift of the ‘spirit’ for a life everlasting and for the development and progress of our eternal spiritual life He revealed the Holy Quran. All this is inclusive in the word Al-Rahman (the Beneficent). The attribute of Al-Rahim (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-lahi 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 Sura Fatihah. This sura (chapter) has been named in the Holy Quran and the Hadith of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) by different names. The most well-known name is AlFatihah (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, its treasures do not get depleted; I will only briefly mention a few important issues so that you can have some appreciation of this.

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 whether the Creator and Sustainer of this great universe are two separate entities, or is it the work of 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 exert in order to attain the objective of his creation? Different people and nations are following their own direction, and 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? Scriptures were revealed to all nations, before the Holy Quran, but today there are nations in which no trace of these revelations can be found, and they are following their own individual ways. What are the adverse consequences of doing so? This chapter has unveiled all these secrets in such a brief, but concise manner that no human being could have possibly accomplished this, as you will be able to soon appreciate yourself.

All Praise is for Allah:

In the Arabic word, Al-ham-du-lil-lah (All praise is due to Allah), letters Alif, Lam (A, L) indicate comprehensiveness 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 the One Who is responsible for its revelation, and the purpose behind it. The Holy Quran is the only revealed scripture which tells us in its very beginning, in the verse

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

“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 its 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.

Proof of Existence of the Divine Being:

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 that which was revealed by Him? I shall insha-Allah (if Allah pleases) address this question in the discussion of the first verse of Al-Fatihah, i.e.,

اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۱﴾

“All Praise is due to Allah, the Lord (Rabb) of the worlds.”

Before this, 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 (this is on basis of a Hadith — tradition), in addition to that of millions of righteous servants of Allah (whose truthfulness was established), and the evidence provided by revealed scriptures is such a powerful argument in support of this truth that it cannot be denied by an intelligent person. Courts of law can decide even matters of great contention on the basis of one truthful witness. Here we have the testimony of thousands of truthful ones, that there is a Divine Being with whom they were able to establish communion. Further proof of their truthfulness is that those who follow them with complete submission also achieve this blessing.

If we use our common sense, it becomes quite apparent that every atom in the immense and intriguing universe evidences, and clearly manifests the presence of the Divine Being. For this very reason scientific inquiry which initially assumed an atheistic philosophy, has now been forced to admit that this universe has one Creator, because the whole creation is made of the same matter, and is obligated to follow the same universal laws. Every man’s nature provides the ultimate testimony of 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 (if Allah pleases), provide the answer to this from the preliminary verses of Al-Fatihah in the next lesson.