I Meaning & Morphology (الصرف
1. ‘ب’ of ‘بِاِسْمِ
The ‘ب’ in the expression
اللَّهِ’ signifies ‘authority and sanction’. Thus, much
like the phrase ‘in the name of the king …’, the expression ‘in the name
of Allah ….’ means ‘on the authority and through the sanction of Allah’.
(see ref. 1).
In the Qur’an, it is used in
a similar way in the following verse:
خَلَقَ (96: 1).
Read, on the authority of your Lord who created.
This expression as pointed out by
the author (ref. 2) is generally used in the Qur’an to express gratitude
to Allah. Some parallel examples are:
And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking
sense of injury – beneath them will be rivers flowing – and they shall
say: ‘Gratitude be to Allah, who has guided us to this [felicity]: never
could we have found guidance, had it not been for the guidance of Allah.
And the ending of their prayer will be: ‘Gratitude
be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds!’ (10:10)
‘Gratitude be to Allah, Who has granted unto
me in old age Ishmael and Isaac: for truly my Lord is He, the Hearer of
They will say: ‘Gratitude be to Allah, Who has
truly fulfilled His Promise to us, and has given us [this] land in heritage’.
And when you have embarked on the Ark – you and
those with you – say: ‘Gratitude be to Allah, Who has saved us from the
people who do wrong’. (23:28)
We gave knowledge to David and Solomon: and they
both said: ‘Gratitude be to Allah, Who has favored us above many of His
servants who believe!’ (27:15)
And they will say: ‘Gratitude be to Allah, who
has removed from us sorrow: for our Lord is indeed Oft-Forgiving ready
to appreciate [service]’. (35:34)
As pointed out by the author (ref.
2), the word
is made by appending the article ‘ال’
to the Arabic word ‘اله’.
As pointed out by the author (ref.
3), the word
has been stripped off its literal meaning of ‘sustainer’ and
‘cherisher’. It has come to be used in the sense of ‘lord’ or
‘master’. Thus expressions like ‘رَبُّ
are frequently used in Arabic.
The plural here does not signify any
meaning beyond its singular ‘اَلْعَالَمْ’. Both are used in Arabic to
imply ‘the world’. In other words, the plural form does not mean that ‘all
worlds’ are being implied.
The fact that this plural word can
be used in the singular sense is evident from its usage in the Qur’an.
Consider the following verses:
Of all the creatures in the world, will you approach
Blessed is He Who sent down the Criterion to
His servant, that it may be an admonition to the world. (25:1)
It is quite obvious that in both these
verses the word
is not meant in its plural sense and is equivalent to ‘اَلْعَالَمْ’.
It is evident from ref. 5 that in
the opinion of the author, commentators have generally failed to appreciate
the true relevance and usage of these attributes mentioned successively.
Zamakhshari for example says that
has more intensity and exaggeration than ‘الرَّحِِيْم’.i
As pointed out by the author, it is Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi who for the
first time has determined the true purport of these attributes. No doubt
both these attributes are intensive forms; however, both have specific
meanings to convey.
While pointing out the meaning of
this word, the author has written:
used in Arabic for ‘humility’ and ‘submission’. In the Qur’an it
is specifically used for the humility and servility a person shows to His
Creator. The basic manifestation of this trait is worship, however, since
man in this world is also a ‘man of action’ this worship necessarily relates
to his deeds and actions as well and in this way includes obedience.
II Syntax & Declensions & (النحو
1. Declension of
is used as an attribute and not as a nomen agentis ‘اِسْمُ
Therefore, its annexure
has made it a defined (مَعْرِفَه)
adjective. Hence, it can occur in conjugation with the defined adjectives
mentioned in the previous verses.
2. Declension of ‘غَيْرِ’
is declined in the genitive because it is a permutative (بَدَل)
found in the expression ‘صِرَاطَ
Thus the sense is ‘… الْمَغْضُوبِ
III Style & Eloquence (الاساليب
1. Suppression related to the particle
As pointed out by the author (ref.
1), the Bismillah verse is addressed to the Prophet (sws) and hence the
([O Prophet] read this surah out before these
people) are suppressed after the verse. This opinion of the author is in
contrast with most of the classical commentators who regard verbs such
(I begin) and ‘اَقْرَاُ’
(I read) to be suppressed
before or after the Bismillah verse.
2. Suppression of the Preposition
is suppressed after the verb ‘اِهْدِنَا’. In classical Arabic, prepositions
are suppressed to emphasize and add to the meaning of verbs after which
they are suppressed. The author has pointed this out in the following words:
The expression ‘اِهْدِنَا
now does not simply mean ‘give us guidance’. It means: ‘set our
hearts on this path; instill in us the desire to tread this path, give
us the resolve, determination and facility to stay on this path and guide
us forever through whatever circumstances we encounter while traversing
3. Shift in Address (اِلْتَفَات)
The first three verses of the surah
do not directly address anyone. Rather they are an expression of the various
attributes of the Almighty in general. It is the fourth verse with which
the address starts. This
(address shift) is very apt as
the attributes form a befitting prelude to the direct prayer that the subsequent
IV. Exegesis and Explanation (الشرح
1. The Connotation of
A study of the Qur’an and other
parallel verses in which these expressions occur reveals that the people
referred to by the words ‘اَلْمَغْضُوبِ
the Jews and Christians of the time of the Prophet Muhammad (sws). The
author has pointed this out in ref. 11 and ref. 12. Thus the context of
5:60 and 2:61 shows that Jews are addressed:
السَّبِيلِ (5 :60).
Say: ‘Shall I point out to you something much
worse than this, [as judged] by the treatment it received from God? Those
who were cursed by God and incurred His wrath, those from whom some he
transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped Evil; – these are
[many times] worse in rank, and far more astray from the even Path!’ (5:60)
And remember you said: O Moses! we cannot endure
one kind of food; so ask your Lord for us to produce for us of what the
earth grows, – its pot-herbs, and cucumbers, its garlic, lentils, and onions.’
He said: ‘Will you exchange the better for the worse? Go you down to any
town, and you shall find what you want!’ They were covered with humiliation
and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of God. (2:61)
Similarly, it is evident from the context
of 5:77 that Christians of the times of the Prophet (sws) have been addressed
in it. They are the ones who have gone astray (as indicated by the underlined
portion). So on the basis of 5:77 one can conclude that the word
(who have gone astray) in Surah Fatihah refers to these Christians.
السَّبِيلِ (5 :77).
Say: ‘O People of the Book! Exceed not in your
religion the bounds [of what is proper], trespassing beyond the truth,
nor follow the vain desires of people who have gone astray in times gone
by, – who misled many, and strayed [themselves] from the even Way. (5:77)
2. The Connotation of
As pointed out by the author (ref
10), the Qur’an itself points out who are implied by the words
And those who obey Allah and the Prophet shall
be among those whom God has blessed like the Prophets, the upright, the
witnesses [to the truth] and the righteous. And how excellent these companions
3. The Status of the Bismillah verse
In the opinion of the author (ref.
1), the Bismillah verse, though a part of the Qur’an, is not part
of any Qur’anic Surah including Surah Fatihah. It is addressed to
the Prophet Muhammad (sws) with the indication that he is required to read
out before his addressees the surah that follows these words.
3. The First Revelation
According to the author, Surah Fatihah
is the first revelation of the Qur’an. It is the only surah of
the Qur’an which is not directed to any addressee of the Prophet
(sws). Its addresser is every person in the time of the Prophet who yearned
for fresh guidance from the Almighty after the Jews and Christians – the
People of the Book – had corrupted and interpolated the divine guidance
they had been blessed with.
4. Is Surah Fatihah
Certain Ahadith say that Surah Fatihah is ‘سَبْعًا
الْمَثَانِي’. This expression is interpreted to mean ‘the seven oft-repeated ones’.
This is because it is suggested that the number seven means the seven verses
of Surah Fatihah and since the surah is read in all the prayers it is befittingly
called the ‘seven oft-repeated ones’. However, a first reading of the surah
shows that is does not have seven verses; they are actually six. Since
the expression ‘سَبْعًا
الْمَثَانِي’ was understood to mean ‘the seven
repeated ones’ and thus the Hadith seemingly says that Surah
Fatihah has seven verses, scholars tried to solve the problem by either
counting the Bismillah verse as part of Surah Fatihah or splitting
the last verse into two verses.
It is submitted that the expression
also occurs in the Qur’an (15:87):
We have bestowed upon you sab‘an mina’l-mathani
and the great Qur’an. (15:87)
A deliberation on its meanings shows that the expression does not mean ‘the
seven repeated ones’. The word ‘مَثَانِي’
is the plural of ‘مَثْني’,
which means ‘in two’s’ or ‘in pairs’. In other words the expression
means ‘… seven of those
composed of pairs. As pointed out by Islahiiii,
this refers to the seven groups of the Qur’an in which the surahs
occur as pairs. As for the conjunctive ‘و’ that precedes the words
in 15:87, its grammatical function is ‘explication’ (tafsir), and so
the verse means: ‘… seven of those composed of pairs, i.e. the great Qur’an.
In other words, as per 15:87, it is the Qur’an itself which is the ‘سَبْعًا
Now the question arises that why do
certain Ahadith call Surah Fatihah
الْمَثَانِي’. The reason, it seems,
is that the surah epitomises the Qur’an, and, as such, can be taken
as the Qur’an in miniature. It is this character of the surah that
the Ahadith seek to bring out.
V. Scriptures and Testaments (العهود
و الصحف )
1. Surah Fatihah in the Previous Scriptures
It seems that the Old and New Testaments
contains verses which closely resemble Surah Fatihah.
The Old Testament contains the following
‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious
God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love
to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does
not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children
fro the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’ (Exodus
Upon a request from one of his disciples
Jesus (sws) taught the following prayer to the disciples:
‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom
come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also
forgive those who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ (Luke,
Farahi in his exegesis has explained how
closely these words of Jesus (sws) resemble Surah Fatihah.iv
Those interested in this comparison are advised to read it.
See how closely the following Palm
of David (sws) resembles the content of Surah Fatihah:
1. Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for
I am poor and needy.
A prayer of David
2. Guard my life, for I am devoted
to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.
3. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I
call to you all day long.
4. Bring joy to your servant, for
to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5. You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
6. Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen
to my cry for mercy.
7. In the day of my trouble I will
call to you, for you will answer me.
8. Among the gods there is none like
you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.
9. All the nations you have made will
come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
10. For you are great and do marvelous
deeds; you alone are God.
11. Teach me your way, O Lord, and
I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear
12. I will praise you, O Lord my God,
with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
13. For great is your love towards
me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.
14. The arrogant are attacking me,
O God; a band of ruthless men seeks my life – men without regard for you.
15. But you, O Lord, are a compassionate
and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16. Turn to me and have mercy on me;
grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant.
17. Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O Lord, have helped
me and comforted me.