Overview - Surah 1: al-Fatihah (The Opening)

Surah Introduction

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This is the first Surah of the Qur'an, although it is not the first in the order of revelation. It was revealed to the Prophet (saw) in Makkah in the early period of his mission. The Surah has seven Ayat and is both a Du'a (prayer) and an introduction of the Qur'an. It teaches the basic principles of Islamic faith. All praise and thanks are for Allah who is the Lord of all the worlds. Allah is most merciful and most compassionate. Allah is also the Master of the Day of Judgment.  We should pray to Allah only and we should seek His help.  We seek His guidance and help to walk on the straight path.  This is the path of those who received Allah's favors, not the path of those who incurred His anger or who went astray.

Surah al-Fatihah has a number of names:

  • Fatihah al-Kitab - 'Opening of the Book’
  • Umm al-Kitab - ‘Mother of the Book'
  • Umm al-Qur’an - ‘Mother of the Qur’an’
  • Sab’a al-Mathani - ‘Seven oft-repeated Ayat’
  • Surah al-Salah - ‘Surah of Prayer’
  • Surah ar-Ruqyah - ‘Surah of Cure.’

 

Overview

Total Ayat7
Total Words *24
Root Words *19
Unique Root Words *0
Makki / MadaniMakki
Chronological Order* 5th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 1st-3rd year of Prophethood
Events during/before this Surah*
Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam
Events during/after still to occur*
Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam ,Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam ,Public Invitation to Islam - Persecution of Muslims; antagonism - ridicule - derision - accusation - abuse and false propaganda.,Physical beating and torture of some Muslims - 1st Migration of Muslims to Abyssinia,2nd Migration to Abyssinia,Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 1,Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 2,Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 3,Death of Abu Talib - Death of Khadijah - Stoning at Ta'if - al-Isra wal Mi'raj - Night Journey,1st Pledge of Aqabah,2nd Pledge of Aqabah,,Migration from Makkah to Madinah - Building of Masjid Nabi in Madinah - Treaty with Jews of Madinah - Marriage of Prophet to Aishah,Change of Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah - Battle of Badr,Battle of Uhud,,Battle of Ahzab - Expedition of Banu Quraydhah,Treaty of Hudaiybiyah - Letters to Kings and Rulers,,Conquest of Makkah - Battle of Hunain,Hajj led by Abu Bakr - Expedition of Tabuk,Farewell Hajj by Prophet - Death of Prophet - End of Divine Revelation
Names of Prophets Mentioned
No Prophets names are mentioned in this Surah
Surah Index
Data is awaiting to be uploaded

Central Theme

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It can be said that Surah al-Fatihah's central theme is ‘the clarification of the way to worship Allah Alone’ and the Qur’an as a whole. The Makkan and Madinan revelations revolve around this central theme. This Prayer is for all those who want to study His Message. It is placed at the very beginning to teach the reader that if he sincerely wants to benefit from the Qur'an, he should offer this prayer to the Rabb of the Universe.

Al-Fatiha teaches that the best thing for a man is to pray for "Guidance towards the Right Way" and to study the Qur'an with the mental attitude of a seeker of truth, and to recognize that the Rabb of the Universe is the source of all knowledge. They should, therefore, begin the study of Al-Qur'an with a prayer to Allah for guidance. It is important to know that the real relation between Al-Fatiha and the Qur'an is of a prayer and its answer. Al-Fatiha is the prayer from the devotee and the rest of the Qur'an is the answer from Allah. The devotee prays to Allah to show the "Right Way" and Allah places the whole of the Qur'an before him in answer to his prayer, as if to say: "This is the Guidance that you have asked for".

It can also be said the Qur'an is the tafsir [explanation] of al-Fatihah, where ideas and themes are expounded upon and explained.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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  • Al-Fatihah (The Opening) – It is named Al-Fatihah, the Opening – because it opens the Book and by it the recitation in prayer commences.
  • Umm al-Quran (Mother of the Quran) – According to At-Tirmidhi on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “The chapter commencing with] “All praises and thanks are due to Allah the Lord of the Worlds” is the Mother of the Quran, the Mother of the Book, the Seven Oft Repeated Verses and the Great Quran.” Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said that it was named so because the meaning of the entire Quran is summarized therein. The Arabs named anything that concisely summarizes something or comprises its most important part, Umm, or Mother.
  • Umm al-Kitab (Mother of the Book) – Al-Bukhari said in the beginning of the Book of Tafsir in his Sahih: “It is named Umm al-Quran because it is the first chapter written in the Quranic texts and the recitation in prayer commences with it.”
  • Sab’ul-Mathani (The Seven Oft Repeated Verses) – It is also named Sab’ul-Mathani, the Seven Oft Repeated Verses, because they are frequently recited and indeed recited in every rakaah of the prayer. Allah says in the Quran: "And We have certainly given you, seven of the often repeated [verses] and the great Qur'an." (15:87). Surah al-Fatihah is seven Ayat.
  • Al-Hamd (Praises to Allah) – It is also named Al-Hamd, the Praise, because it contains mention of hamd just as Al-Baqarah is named so because it contains mention of the cow. Some scholars also gave the reasoning that Al-Hamd comprises heart of Al-Fatihah.
  • As-Salah (The Prayer) – It is named the Prayer because its recitation is a condition for the validity of the prayer. Narrated ‘Ubâdah bin As-Sâmit Allâh’s Messenger said, “Whoever does not recite Sûrat Al-Fâtihah in his prayer, his prayer is invalid. (Sahih Al-Bukhâri, Vol.1, Hadîth No. 723)
    The prayer is taught by Allah(SWT) Himself as a favour to mankind to let them know the format of prayer which is acceptable to Him. Allah(SWT) also responds to each segment of the prayer
    Al Fatihah is the prayer from the reader and the rest of the Qur’an is the answer from Allah  
  • Ash-Shifa – It is also named Ash-Shifa’, the Cure, due to what Ad-Darimi reports on the authority of Abu Sa’id that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The Opening of the Book is a cure to every poison.”
  • Ar-Ruqyah – It is also named Ar-Ruqya, the Spiritual Cure due to the hadith of Abu Sa’id reported by Bukhari that after he had recited it to cure a person who had been bitten by a scorpion, the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) asked him, “…And what made you to know that it was a ruqya.”
  • Asas al-Quran (the Foundation of the Quran) – Ash-Sha’bi records on the authority of Ibn Abbas that he named it , and that he said, “The foundation of Al-Fatihah is, “Bismillah…” (with the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful.)
  • Other scholars have also named it as Al-Kanz (the Treasure), Ash-Shukr (Gratitude), ad-Dua (Supplication), Ash-Shafiyah (the sufficient), Al-Kafiyah (the Sufficient), Al-Wafiyah, the Fulfillment and more.

Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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  •  It is understood any dua that begins with Hamd (praise) of Allah is likely to be accepted and answered. The Surah begins with Hamd (praise) of Allah and it ends with a dua. The Prophet is reported to have said, "The best Dhikr is 'La ilah ila Allah' and the best dua is 'Alhamdulillah'" (Tirmidhee).

Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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  • In Surah al-Fatihah, one asks for guidance and the following Surah begins with an answer to this prayer, as a guidance for the Muttaqin (2:2).
     
  • In Surah al-Fatihah, one asks to be guided on the way/path of those who have been favoured by Allah and not those who have earnt the anger of Allah nor those who are misguided. Hence, Surah al-Baqarah begins with describing the first category of people and then the second category of people.
     
  • Based on the Hadith of the Prophet, amongst the Maghdub [those whom have the anger of Allah] are the Jews and the Dhal [astray] are the Christians. Therefore, in the following two Surah’s both communities are addressed in same sequence, with al-Baqarah (2) addressing the Jews and ale-Imran (3) addressing the Christians.

The Virtues of the Surah

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  1. Surah al-Fatihah is the greatest surah in the Qur’an.

    Abu Sa’ad ibn Al-Mu’alla narrated the Apostle ﷺ of Allah saying as:

    “…I will teach a Surah which is the greatest Surah in the Quran before you leave the Masjid.’ Then he took hold of my hand and when he intended to leave [the Masjid], I asked him, “Did you not say that you would teach me a Surah which is the greatest Surah in the Qur’an?” He replied, ‘Yes. It is [the Surah commencing with], “All praise and thanks are due to Allah.” It is the Seven Oft-Repeated verses and the Great Qur’an that has been given to me.’ “(Ahmad)

    In another narration “Would you like me to teach you a Surah the likes of which nothing has been revealed in the Tawrah, the Injil, the Zabur (Psalms) or the Furqan (the Qur'an)) He said, `Yes, O Messenger of Allah!' The Messenger of Allah said, (I hope that I will not leave through this door until you have learned it.) He (Ka`b) said, `The Messenger of Allah held my hand while speaking to me. Meanwhile, I was slowing down fearing that he might reach the door before he finished his conversation. When we came close to the door, I said: O Messenger of Allah! What is the Surah that you have promised to teach me' He said, (What do you read in the prayer.) Ubayy said, `So I recited Umm Al-Qur'an to him.”

  2. It results in the answering of your prayer by Allah (SWT) directly

    “Allah, the Glorious and Exalted said, “I have divided the prayer between Myself and my servant equally and My servant shall be granted what he asked for.”

    Therefore, when the servant says, ‘All praises and thanks are due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds’, Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me.’

    When he says, ’The All-Merciful, the Most Merciful, ‘Allah says, ‘My servant has extolled Me.’

    When he says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgment,’ Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’

    When he says, ‘You Alone we worship and Your aid Alone do we seek,’ Allah says, ‘this is between Me and My servant and My servant shall have what he requested.’

    When he says, ‘Guide us to the Straight Path, the Path of those whom You have favored, not [the path] of those who have earned [Your] anger, nor of those who have gone astray,’ Allah says, ‘this is for My servant and My servant shall have what he asked for.’ “(Muslim)

     
  3. Nothing similar to Surah al-Fatihah was ever revealed in any of the previous Scriptures
    Anas (R.A) reported the Holy Prophet ﷺ saying as: “Should I not inform you of the most noble and excellent part of the Quran?” He then recited “All praise and thanks are due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds” (An Nisai)
     
  4. Surah al-Fatihah is Light
    “While the Messenger of Allah was sitting with Jibril he heard a creaking sound above him. Jibril looked up and said, “This is [the sound of] a gate that has been opened in heaven today and has never been previously opened.” Then an Angel descended through it and came to the Prophet and said, ‘Rejoice in the good news of two lights that have been given to you such as no Prophet before you has been given. [They are] Surah Al-Fatihah and the concluding [two] verses of Surah Al-Baqarah. You will never recite a word from them without being given the blessings they contain.’ “
     
  5. Surah al-Fatihah is a cure, treatment for illness – be they spiritual, physical or otherwise
    Ad-Darimi reports on the authority of Abu Sa’id that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The Opening of the Book is a cure to every poison.”
     
  6. No Salah (prayer) is valid with reciting Surah al-Fatihah
    The Prophet is reported to have said, "(There) is no Salah for the one that does not recite with the Fatihah of the Book" (Bukhari and Muslim)
     
  7. The most noble part of the Qur'an

    Anas (R.A) reported the Holy Prophet ﷺ saying as: “Should I not inform you of the most noble and excellent part of the Quran?” He then recited “All praise and thanks are due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds” (An Nisai)

Special Features of the Surah

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  • Al-Fatiha teaches that the best thing for a man is to pray for "Guidance towards the Right Way"
    … and to study the Qur'an with the mental attitude of a seeker of truth
    … and to recognize that the Rubb of the Universe is the source of all knowledge.
  • Special instruction for mankind: The clarification of the way to worship Allah Alone and to study His Word is that … he should approach this book with a mind cleansed of all his previous thoughts and opinions, seeking nothing but the Truth and the right path, praying to Allah for being guided in the right path.
  • This Prayer is for all those who want to study His Message. It is placed at the very beginning to teach the reader that if he sincerely wants to benefit from the Qur'an, he should offer this prayer to the Rubb of the Universe.

Important key and unique words of the Surah

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Basmala

It was a custom in the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyyah) before the advent of Islam that people began everything they did with the names of their idols or gods. It was to eradicate this practice that the first verse of the Holy Qur'an which the Archangel (AS) brought down to the Holy Prophet(SAW) commanded him to begin the Qur'an with the name of Allah – Iqra bismi Rubbik – Read with the name of your Lord.

By instructing man to begin everything with the name of Allah, Islam has given to the whole of his life an orientation towards Allah so that he may, with each step he takes, renew his allegiance to the covenant with Allah that nothing he does, not even his very being can come into existence without the will and the help of Allah. Thus, all the economic and worldly activities of man, each movement and gesture becomes transformed into an act of worship.

The letter "Baa" in the basmala itself has many meanings, including:

  1. Close proximity between one thing and the other – with the Name of Allah(SWT)
  2. Seeking the aid of someone or something – with the help of the Name of Allah(SWT)
  3. To seek the blessings of someone – with the blessings of the name of Allah(SWT)
  4. In Arabic language, when you delay the verb, it means exclusivity. So, when we place our action/verb after “With the name of Allah,” it means beginning exclusively with Allah’s Name, seeking His Help alone and solely for His Sake. The Basmalah is used for three primary reasons:
    1. Ikhlaas (Sincerity) – the action is for His Sake alone;
    2. Barakah – seeking His help/blessing for the action;
    3. Qabool (Acceptance) – that Allah accepts and is pleased with our action.

Allah(SWT) teaches us in the Qur'an to: “Recite the Qur'an seeking protection of Allah against Satan, the rejected one” and this Sunnah practise applies only to the recitation of the Qur’an so you start all other acts with just the Basmala.

It is reported from Abdullah bin Mas’ood that: “Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem” has 19 letters, and the angels of Jahannam are 19. Anyone who says Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem will be protected against the angels of Jahannam.” (Tafseer Qurtubi)

God has subjected the entire universe for our benefit.  Sadly, we are often under the misconception that we have power or true autonomy in this world. Moreover, and due to the reliability and monotony by which everything functions for us, we fall under the false impression that the physical laws of cause and effect, action and reaction are naturally inherent, and independent of their Creator.  However, the truth is that it is the will of God that allows these laws to function, and if He wills, He stops them.  For example, a domesticated camel or an enormous elephant can be led by a child.  But even a strong man cannot domesticate a small snake.  If taming an animal was done through our own powers -such as our physical and intellectual advantages- then we should easily be able to domesticate a small snake or an insect.

Similarly, a perfectly healthy married couple may not conceive children despite continually trying. This man and woman may have all the required health attributes to conceive, and all the physical conditions have been met for pregnancy. However, conditions do not create a human being, God does. If He wills he allows the laws to function and if He wills He stops their function. The lesson to take is, while we live our lives through causes and effects, and the laws of the universe, we should always keep in mind that these laws do not govern God, rather it is Him who creates and governs them at all time. Hence, everything and every action should begin with God’s name.

When you begin all your affairs with God’s name, it is as though you have chosen God to be on your side supporting you.  Any action you take requires many qualities.  For example, when you start a physical activity, such as running, you require eyesight, physical health, and strength.  Thus, if God Almighty had not informed us of the all-inclusive name for all his attributes, you would have needed to specify the help that you required.  You would have needed to say 'in the name of the All-Powerful, in the name of the Sustainer, in the name of the Responder to prayers, in the name of the Creator' and so on.  But God taught us his name that is inclusive of all of attributes of perfection: This name is "Allah".  Now you can begin all of our actions with "in the name of Allah"

When you begin every action with God's name, it will prevent you from doing any deed that displeases Him.  You cannot begin a task that will bring God's displeasure when you start with His name.  If you intend to commit theft or drink alcohol, and then you start with God's name, you will surely abstain from it.  You will feel ashamed of beginning a deed that angers God in His name.  Therefore, all your actions will be according to what God has made lawful.

When you begin reciting the Quran with God's name, it is a pledge that you will follow what He has ordered, abstain from what he has prohibited, and respect all that you read in this book.  It is he who gives life and death and to Him belongs the authority in this world and in the hereafter.  Before whom you will stand on the Day of Resurrection when He will call you to account for your good deeds and for your transgressions.

You may question, how then can you begin reciting with the name of God, while you have at one time or another disobeyed and opposed Him?  The answer is simple, God is the one who taught us how to approach the recitation of the Quran with His name, and more importantly, to start with the "The Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent".  God does not desert the disobedient; rather He opens the doors of repentance for him or her, and forgives all sin because he is the Most Merciful.  God is constantly calling every disobedient person to return to the enclosure of faith.  So begin reading the Quran with the name of God the Most Merciful the Most Benevolent because his mercy forgives all sin big and small, near and far.

Composition

This Surah comprises seven verses. Of these, the first three are in praise of Allah, while the last three contain a request or a prayer on the part of man, which Allah himself has, in His infinite mercy, taught him. The verse in between the two sets has both the features -- there is an aspect of praise, and another of prayer.

Alhamdulillah

Alhamdulillah - means perfect, most beautiful praise and thanks is only for Allah. We say ‘alhamdulillah’ out of love, honor, with humility, complete submission and sincere gratitude to Allah azza wa jal.

Whereas hamd means praise, the ‘al’ in al-hamd makes the praise definite and implies exclusivity. Al-hamd means all types of praise and every manner of thanks at all times is due to Allah ‘azza wa jall. Abu Ja`far bin Jarir said: The meaning of alhamdulillah is: all thanks are due purely to Allah, alone, not any of the objects that are being worshipped instead of Him, nor any of His creation. [Tafseer ibn Katheer]

Whosoever praises anything anywhere in the world is ultimately praising Allah because that praiseworthy quality relies wholly on Allah(SWT), regardless if it is genius intellect, immense physical ability or an outstanding feature.

Shukr is only expressed as a response to a favour whereas hamd is expressed both as a response to a favour as well as a spontaneous action of dhikr. It is in this respect that Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "Alhamdulillah is the statement of every thankful [servant]."

Some of the scholars said that shukr is more encompassing than hamd because praise is expressed by the tongue whereas thanks can be expressed by the tongue, heart and limbs. Thanks with the tongue is done by praising the Bestower of Blessings. Thanks by the limbs is done by acting in obedience to Him and abandoning actions of disobedience. Thanks in the heart is done by recognising the magnitude of the blessing and knowing that it has been given by the grace of Allah and not by the servants own merit.

Linguistically, the word Alhamduillah is an Ism and therefore does not require a time or doer. Its not an imperative command (Amr e.g. ihmadullah) as it does not require anyone and praise of Him happens with you in without you.

Significance

The Prophet salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: When He breathed into Adam and the soul reached his head, he sneezed and said: ‘Alhamdu lillahi Rubbil-‘Alamin.’ Allah answered him by saying: ‘Yarhamuk-Allah (Allah bestows His mercy upon you).’ [Saheeh Muslim]

In the Qur’an we learn that ‘alhamdulillah’ will be the last call of the believers, thanking Allah(SWT) for guiding them to Jannah, And the last of their call will be, Praise to Allah, Lord of the worlds! [Quran,10:10]

Virtues of alhamdulillah

1) Al-Hasan said, "There is no blessing except that [saying] Alhamdulillah is better and more virtuous than it."

Al-Bayhaqi commented saying: "This is because the servant does not attain [the station] of praising and thanking Allah except by His tawfiq. Therefore the greater excellence [of his praising Allah as compared to the initial blessing that Allah bestowed upon him] is by virtue of his being blessed with the [ability to] praise Allah and extol him and this did not exist in the initial blessing."

2) Muslim reports from Abu Musa al-Ash'ari that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "Purity is half of faith. (The statement) Alhamdulillah fills the scales and (the statement) subhanallah wa'l-hamdulillah fills what is between the heaven and the earth." (Muslim)

Ismul Jalalah

Surah Al-Fatihah is Allah (SWT) introducing Himself by name, without any confusion about other names eg.  Rubb, Raheem - Firown considered himself a lord.

The Grand Name: Allah. This is Allah’s Personal Name and this word has neither a plural nor a dual nor feminine form, for Allah is One and has no associate. This Name belongs only to Allah, no one else can have besides Allah and it is the Name, of the One True Ilaah. It appears more than 3,000 times in the Qur’an and no other name captures all of His name's and characteristics.

When we mention the Name “Allah” linguistically, we don’t say “the word Allah” or “the Name Allah” because it is not appropriate. It is only for Allah ta’ala, so we say: Lafdhul Jalaalah, the word that is Grand.

The letters of the Arabic alphabet are split between the letters which are dependent (and therefore weak) on dots to distinguish them vs those letters that do not have a dot. The word Allah has no dots, neither does the kalima, nor Muhammad or Rasoolullah.

There are 4 opinions regarding the linguistic meaning of lafdhul Jalaalah:

  1. The first opinion is that it is Allah’s Proper Name and it is not derived from any root, any noun, and has no meaning to it. It is just a Name that has no meaning to it, and this opinion is the minority opinion.
  2. The second opinion is that it comes from hamza-laam-ha, and the verb from the root is a-li-ha ََََاَلِهَ and it means to astonish, surprise and amaze someone. So Allah, from aliha, is the One who Astonishes and Amazes His Creation. How? Firstly through His Attributes, when you know about Allah, you are amazed. He is Ar Rahmaan (The All Merciful), and yet Al Azeez (The Mighty) and yet Al Jabbaar (The Compellor) all at the same time, it’s amazing! When you know about the Names and Attributes, you are astonished and impressed
    Another way that Allah amazes us is through all that He has created. When we learn about a bird or an ant, we are amazed and we say SubhanAllah (How Perfect is Allah and Far from any imperfection. Also, He amazes us through His Decisions, Words, Rulings, Actions and Planning for us. When things don’t work out the way we planned, or we see great coincidences, we think: how did this happen?! It is only by the will of Allah, He amazes us by His words and decisions for us. When we practice the ahkaam (rulings), we realize how much benefit there is in them. So truly He is the One who should be submitted too, the Most Amazing
    A farmer with an old horse releases it to out of pity rather than working it hard. All the villagers have condolences saying this was very bad news. But he responded – Allah knows best, we shall see. 2 days later, his horse returned with 12 new and younger horses. To congratulations, he said the same words. His son tried training the horses but they threw him and broke his leg. An army was coming and his son was saved from proscription. All the other men had died so he and his son became the busiest and richest farmers in the village  
  3. The third opinion is that it is from the same root, hamza laam ha, and the noun is al-la-ha اَلَهَ with a fathah (not li, with a kasrah, as the second opinion) and alaha means to worship, be humble and show dedication to someone. The noun would be ma’looh
    Allah is Ma’looh: One who is shown dedication too, One who everyone is humble too, One who is worshipped. Everyone is humble to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment the Mulk (Sovereignty) is only for Allah ta’ala.


We also learn from this that Allah is the Only One we should show humbleness too, we should be ‘ebaad, servants, to Allah. In surah Furqaan ayah 43, Allah tells us: ara ayta man ittakhatha ilaahahu hawaahu, have you seen the one who takes his desires as his ilaah? This ayah shows us the meaning of taking something as your ilaah, God. It meant that they gave their desires the utmost priority and everything else became unimportant and secondary. Their ilaah is the one whom the person never turns down. It became what they loved and feared the most. Allah is the One we should love most, fear most and give the most importance too. According to some linguists (ibn Manthoor of Sibawyh) this opinion is the strongest. Furthermore, when you attach ‘al’ with aliha and alaha, it becomes al-Ilaah, and that becomes Allah. According to this definition this translation would be:  Allah is the Only One worthy of worship. Notice: even His Name has tawheed in it, so how can there be other beings attached to Allah?

  1. The last opinion is that this word is from wow-laam-ha, the noun wilaah وِلَه comes. Wilaah means to turn to for protection. So Allah is the One Whom everyone turns to for help and protection. The One whose help and assistance is sought by the creation. This teaches us in times of difficulty and hardship, we turn to Allah azza wa jal, because the Name of Allah is the One whom ppl turn to for help and worship.

The Prophet (SAW) said: “To Allah(SWT) belongs a Grand Name (Ismul A’dham), that, if you make du’a with it, it will be responded to. And if you plead or request with it, it shall be answered.” [Recorded in Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi]

The scholars say there are two very strong opinions on what the Grand Name is:

  1. The name is Allah (Allah is mentioned by name over 3000 times in the Qur’an)
  2. The name is Al-Hayyu and Al-Qayyum (from Ayatul Kursi)

So, use both of them and His (SWT) other names when making dua.

Rubb

The first way that Allah(SWT) describes Himself is as Rubbil aalimeen so this is very significant. The word Rubb establishes a connecting relationship with Allah(SWT) and means:

  1. Owner: so we are His property and in essence, He owns everything)
  2. Murabbi: He (SWT) takes care of us and develops us gradually in the best manner, to fulfil our full potential.
  3. Mun'im: He(SWT) constantly showers us with gifts on top of our existence and sustenance
  4. Qayyim: He (SWT) maintains our existence ensuring our blood circulates, heart beats, eyes blink etc.
  5. Sayyid: Only He(SWT) has full authority and is not limited by any factors like speed, time, strength etc.

By recognising Him(SWT) as Rubb, we accept ourselves as slaves and indeed, the best type of slavery is to Allah(SWT) for all other enslavement is false and unworthy – fashion, culture, policy, people, desire.

Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The womb is derived from the Merciful, and Allah said: I will keep good relations with one who keeps good relations with your relatives, and I will sever relations with one who severs relations with your relatives.” Source: Sahih Bukhari 5642

Buraydah ibn Al-Husayb reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, heard a man supplicating, saying, “O Allah, I ask you by my testimony that you are Allah, there is no God but you, the One, the Eternal Refuge who does not give birth and was not born and to whom no one is equal.” The Prophet said, “By him in whose hand is my soul, he has asked Allah by his greatest name for which he answers when called upon and he gives when asked.” Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3745

Al-‘Aalameen

Al-Fara' and Abu Ubaydah said al-‘alam is a term referring to anything that possesses an intellect and these fall into four categories: Mankind, Jinn, Angels and Satans. Qatadah and At-Tabari said that it refers to every race or species of creation and to each generation of that race.

In Arabic language, the plural of the word ‘alam is ‘awaalim. This would include all possible forms of existence: the sky, the earth, the sun, the moon, stars, wind and rain, the angels, the jinns, animals, plants, minerals, and, of course, men. The universe is all of the galaxies – billions of them! According to the well-known commentator Muqatil, the number of worlds is eighty thousand. And, man is dependant on Allah(SWT) putting thousands of forces of the sky and the earth together to produce it. The universal order is there for man to contemplate, and to realize that, if Allah has put millions of His creatures in the service of man, man in his turn cannot be worthless or purposeless or meaningless.

Ibn Abbas said al-‘Aalameen refers to everything possessing a soul that walks on the earth. Qatadah said al-Alameen refers to everything in existence besides Allah. However, ‘Aalameen is usually used when specifically referring to those with intellect. This is significant as it shows how this reference is singling out mankind.

Our Solar System consists of our star, the Sun, and its orbiting planets (including Earth), along with numerous moons, asteroids, comet material, rocks, and dust. Our Sun is just one star among the hundreds of billions of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. The Milky Way is big, but some galaxies, like our Andromeda Galaxy neighbor, are much larger.

Rahmaan & Raheem

Respectively connote the superabundance and perfection of Divine mercy. Derived from rahma - if this whole universe did not exist, He would suffer no loss; if it does exist, it is no burden to Him.

In English, mercy tends to indicate forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm. This is not the case with the Arabic meaning – the root word Rahm refers to the womb of a mother where you were all taken care of without any worry about food, drink, rent or anything – a place without any problems. We are just as ignorant as the baby in the womb while He (SWT) provides for us – blood, air around our bodies. Love and care is probably a more appropriate understanding. In fact, the child almost kills their own mother at the point of childbirth but does she hate her child for it or instead, continue going to work immediately suckling and caring. Similarly, a baby knows its dependence on its mother and keeps returning back to its mother. So too, we must return to the One (SWT) we are entirely dependant on.

'Rahmaan' one whose mercy is common to all, and extends to the whole universe, to everything that will be created in the future. – Aan at the end of a word means:

  • Extreme
  • Right now - happening all the time
  • Temporary – keep going until someone removes the cause e.g. ‘Athshaan (extremely thirsty), Jaw’aan, Ghadhbaan

Ibn Abbas said: It’s for the people of this world

On the other hand, Raheem, signifies One whose mercy is perfect in all possible ways.

  • Permanent – always living and caring
  • Not necessarily happening right now e.g. boss isn’t here right now when I need him but I know he’s reliable, someones knowledgable but not shared right now when he’s listening
  • Extreme quantity in future

And Raheem is for the people of the Hereafter

Zamakshari said an ocean with extreme, powerful waves and a calm ocean like the constant. You cant have both realities in one but Allah(SWT) is both.

That is why 'Rahmaan' is the exclusive attribute of Allah and the word is employed only when one is referring to Him. It is not permissible to qualify any created being as 'Rahmaan', for there cannot possibly be anyone else, beside Allah, whose mercy should be all-embracing and all-inclusive. Just like the word 'Allah', there is no dual or plural for the word “Rahmaan” too, because these words are in their signification exclusive to the One and Absolute Being which does not permit the existence of a second or a third. (Tafsir al-Qurtubi).

The signification of the word 'Rahim', on the contrary, does not contain anything which it should be impossible to find in a created being, for a man may be perfectly merciful in his dealings with another man. It is used in the Quran in relation to the Prophet (SAW) – bil mu’mineen ra’oof ur raheem – He is very gentle and very merciful to the Believers.

It is narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "None of you will enter Paradise by his deeds alone unless God showers you with Mercy." The companions asked, "Not even you, Messenger of God?" He replied, "Not even me." And in another narration, the prophet said "All children of Adam make mistakes,and the best of those who make mistakesare thosewho repent."  

If you take a moment to think about God's favors, you will quickly realize that they cannot be counted or comprehended.  So no matter how much eloquence any person may have, he or she cannot compile expressions of praise that befit God's grandeur and bounties.  Then how can we praise him while we cannot count His favors, or encompass His mercy?  The Messenger (peace be upon him) portrayed this picture for us in this statement: ‘Dear lord, I am unable to find sufficient words of praise that befit You. All I can say is: You are as You have praised Yourself.’  Therefore, one of God's greatest bounties is that He taught us to express our gratitude to Him in these simple words: (All praise is due to God)

Ali ibn Abi Talib -the prophet's cousin- (may God be pleased with him) said: "When a believer dies two places weep over him, one on earth and another in the heavens.  The place on earth where he used to pray weeps for him, and so does the place where his good deeds used to ascend to in Heaven."

Maaliki yawmid deen

Praise & thanks belongs to Allah(SWT) because He is Rubb-al aalimeen, Ar-Rahmaan, Ar-Raheem and Maalik Yawmid deen

Derived from the root, 'milk' (signifies possessing a thing in such a manner that one has the right and power to dispose of it as one likes (See Qamus). The other reading is Malik (King) – you control big picture but don’t control the detail (Owner/Sayyid). Maalik means both macro and micro in complete control.

Can you own time? No, only material things in this world. He owns it and can make it 50,000 years.

The word Deen – Daana, Yudeenu (how you deal with someone) here means something given in return/repayment/requital. Absolute justice does not exist in this Dunya. Rahma = positive and Punishment = negative but balance = neutral.

A warning to man reeling in his forgetfulness and self-conceit, and an intimation that all his possessions, all his relationships with things and men are only short-lived, and that there shall come a Day when masters will no more be masters and slaves no more slaves, when no one will own anything even in appearance, and the ownership and mastery, apparent as well as real, of the whole universe will be seen to belong to none but Allah, the Exalted.

Alhamdulillah = present  Rahma = past  This ayah = future

Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’een

As you recite "The Opening" and say "All praise is due to God", you recall all God’s favors that obligate praise.  And when you say "Lord of the worlds", you recall the blessings of Lordship to all His creations causing the universe to serve humans; and when you recite "The Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent" you remember God's compassion and mercy that meets your sins with forgiveness when you repent. And when you read "The Owner of the Day of Recompense", it brings to mind the Day that you will stand before The Lord so he may reward you for your deeds.  At that moment, having recalled all that obligates worship upon you, you recite 

The previous aayaat are you talking about Allah(SWT) and now there is your own statement – “you alone we worship…” showing that you don’t have to go through anyone, rather you MUST have a relationship with Him(SWT). Even to his own daughter, Yaa Faatimah Ittiqillah fa innee laa amliku laki minAllahi shay’an – you must have your own relationship. Messengers weren’t an intermediary to Allah, they were a reminder about connecting to Him(SWT)

It teaches man not to worship anyone except Allah, not to consider anyone else as being really capable of satisfying his needs, and not to beg anyone else to satisfy these needs.

In this ayah, the order is switched – you, we worshipped. This is odd like “a burger, I ate”. It is only to you that we give ourselves in slavery and worship. Every Al-Faatihah is like you restarting – revisiting why you believe in Allah(SWT).

‘Abd = enslave, we willingly enslave ourselves to you.

Isti’aana = asking for help when you are exhausted yourself. Put in effort and you will reap reward. Its extreme to blame failure on Allahs help not coming or to think you have done it all yourself. Rather because you made effort, results came.

Not mentioning what you want help in means help in everything – the longest list possible. Similarly, when you’re desperate for help, you don’t go into details – any and all help is required.

When we make this commitment to worship, we definitely need help hence the second statement. For all of us in need of tawbah but lacking in fulfilling it, we don’t need anything else except this statement – it kills procrastination.

Our purpose in life is to become a slave. It’s a benefit to get help. Good manners to give first and then take.

In the first four verses of Al Fatiha, ‘God’ is unseen, ‘the Lord of the Worlds’ is unseen, ‘the Most Merciful the Most Gracious’ is unseen and ‘the Owner of the Day of Recompense’ is also unseen.  Therefore, the grammar of the next verse requires the use of third person pronoun and should logically say: (He alone we worship, and from him alone we seek help).  But God changed the context and used the second person pronoun.  He said (You alone we worship, and from you alone we seek help.)This shows that the spiritual vision of the believer is as certain as what is in front of him or her at the present. 

One day the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw one of his companions named Harith bn Malik.  He asked him: 'Harith, How are you?' Harith replied, 'I woke up with my heart filled with true faith.' He (peace be upon him) said, 'Harith! Reflect on what you say.  What is the true essence of your faith?"  Harith replied: "I have detached myself from the love of this world; I spend my nights up in worship, and my days in fasting. It is as if I can look up and see God's Divine Throne; and as if I can see the inhabitants of Paradise visit one another and the inhabitants of hellfire shout at one another.'  The Prophet said, ' Harith, you have been enlightened with true knowledge. Now retain it firmly.'

If you make a choice to turn to your creator out of love, and if you choose to exercise your freedom according to his guidance, then you would avoid that which displeases Him, and do what He asks of you.  At that moment you attain worship and became one of God's servants, not God's slaves.  We are all slaves of God, in that we are all compelled to do certain things in life whether we choose to or not.  But God's servants are those who willingly surrender their freedom of choice to God’s will.

Ihdinas siraatal mustaqeem

Why would the Prophet(SAW) make this dua when he (SAW) is upon this guidance? Imam Raghib al-Asfahiini in his Mufradat al-Qur7an, which can be summed up thus: Hidayah signifies leading someone towards his destination, gently and kindly; while guidance, in the real sense, issues forth from Allah alone, and it has several degrees:

  1. Allah has given every creature a particular nature and function, and guided it in a way which should correspond to its station in the scheme of things. It is limited to those creatures which are considered to be rational, that is, men and jinns. This kind of guidance comes to every man through prophets and revealed books.
  2. Specific to True believers (Mu’minoon) and the God-fearing (Muttaqoon). Guidance is like our need for water. How desperate do you become when deprived of water. Attitude comes from the heart, not external.

The one thing you will only get if you don’t ask is guidance.

Its not something you get to keep or you can give it to your child. Its not found in a university or memorisation alone. Its constantly slipping away, hence the need to ask again and again.

If you are truly a slave, the first logical step is to ask for guidance.

When are you lost on a journey, what are you desperate for? More than water? Guidance to the correct destination.

Knowledge can be increased but guidance is only from Allah(SWT). How do you know if you’re guided? Emotional attachment to Allah(SWT) in your salaah – when you’re in conversation or engaged in something e.g. drama

In this life, your destination is the road, not the goal. I have to continuoyusly make progress. Once you reach a destination, you stop, however, if you want to be put on a track, you just keep moving forward. This is life is not about reaching perfect, rather its about continuously making progress.

Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself from yesterday. Seek knowledge, but don’t forget why you’re seeking knowledge … for guidance. Rather knowledge can make one arrogant and therefore misguidance.

Sirat is a straight path, so why need mustaqeem. Istiqaama from the word qiyaam means standing straight up. When you travel on this path, you are travelling upwards, in levels. Going upwards even slightly requires effort. Similarly, when you are going up, gravity is always pulling you down like the Dunya. If you stop making effort what happens, you will decline. The higher it gets, the more dangerous it gets so the one who realises they are at a real height becomes more aware. And if you fall, the deeper they fall and this is very dangerous.

You want to be on a path that others are on.

Siraat allatheena an’amta alayhim

An’aam are the cattle going on an easy path with all the time in the world.

Show us the path which of those YOU showered on them. They made the effort but Allah(SWT) gave them ease so it was like an escalator.

Who do you take advice from – graduates, professionals who made it. You don’t ask your peer students, you look for role models.

Ghayrill maghdoobi alayhim: Not those who were recipients of rage

Ad-Dhaaleen: The lost, not misguided (mudhall) – they are the ones who got lost of their own volition.

Why not mention the Jews and Christians specifically? They are the ones who were at the time of the Prophet(SAW), not today’s Jews or Christians.

Period of Revelation

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It is one of the very earliest revelations to the Prophet. As a matter of fact, we learn from authentic hadith that it was the first complete Surah which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Before this, only a few verses were revealed which form parts of Surah 96: al-‘Alaq (The Clinging Substance) Surah 68: al-Qalam (The Pen), Surah 73: al-Muzzammil (The Enwrapped One) and Surah 74: al-Muddathir (The Cloaked One).

Background Reasons for Revelation

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Relevant Hadith

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  • أَخْبَرَنَا الْحُسَيْنُ بْنُ حُرَيْثٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا الْفَضْلُ بْنُ مُوسَى، عَنْ عَبْدِ الْحَمِيدِ بْنِ جَعْفَرٍ، عَنِ الْعَلاَءِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنْ أُبَىِّ بْنِ كَعْبٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَلاَ فِي الإِنْجِيلِ مِثْلَ أُمِّ الْقُرْآنِ وَهِيَ السَّبْعُ الْمَثَانِي وَهِيَ مَقْسُومَةٌ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ

    It was narrated that Ubayy bin Ka'b said: "The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: 'Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, did not reveal in the Tawrah or the Injil anything like Umm Al-Quran (Al-Fatihah), which is the seven oft-recited, and (Allah said) it is divided between Myself and My slave will have what he asked for.'" Sunan an-Nasa'i no. 914

  • -وعن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال‏:‏ بينما جبريل عليه السلام قاعد عند النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم سمع نقيضًا من فوقه، فرفع رأسه فقال‏:‏ ‏ "‏هذا باب من السماء فتح اليوم ولم يفتح قط إلا اليوم، فنزل منه ملك فقال‏:‏ هذا ملك نزل إلى الأرض لم ينزل قط إلا اليوم، فسلم وقال‏:‏ أبشر بنورين أوتيتهما، لم يؤتهما نبي قبلك‏:‏ فاتحة الكتاب، وخواتيم سورة البقرة، لن تقرأ بحرف منها إلا أعطيته‏"‏ ‏

    Ibn 'Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: While Jibril (Gabriel) was sitting with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), he heard a sound above him. He lifted his head, and said: "This is a gate which has been opened in heaven today. It was never opened before." Then an angel descended through it, he said: "This is an angel who has come down to earth. He never came down before." He sent greetings and said: "Rejoice with two lights given to you. Such lights were not given to any Prophet before you. These (lights) are: Fatihah-til-Kitab (Surat Al-Fatihah), and the concluding Ayat of Surat Al-Baqarah. You will never recite a word from them without being given the blessings it contains." Sahih Muslim - Riyadh as-Saliheen

  • عن أبي سعيد رافع بن المعلى رضي الله عنه قال ‏:‏ قال لي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏:‏‏"‏ألا أعلمك أعظم سورة في القرآن قبل أن تخرج من المسجد‏؟‏ فأخذ بيدي ، فلما أردنا أن نخرج قلت ‏:‏ يا رسول الله إنك قلت لأعلمنك أعظم سورة في القرآن ‏؟‏ قال‏:‏ ‏"‏الحمد لله رب العالمين هي السبع المثاني، والقرآن العظيم الذي أوتيته ‏"‏‏‏‏
    ‏‏
    Abu Sa'id Ar-Rafi' bin Al-Mu'alla (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: "The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "Shall I teach you the greatest Surah in the Qur'an before you leave the mosque?" Then he (ﷺ), took me by the hand, and when we were about to step out, I reminded him of his promise to teach me the greatest Surah in the Qur'an. He (ﷺ) said, "It is 'Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil 'Alamin (i.e., Surat Al-Fatihah) which is As-Sab' Al-Mathani (i.e., the seven oft- repeated Ayat) and the Great Qur'an which is given to me." Bukhari - Riyadh as-Saliheen

  • حَدَّثَنَا مُسَدَّدٌ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَوَانَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي بِشْرٍ، عَنْ أَبِي الْمُتَوَكِّلِ، عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ، أَنَّ رَهْطًا، مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم انْطَلَقُوا فِي سَفْرَةٍ سَافَرُوهَا فَنَزَلُوا بِحَىٍّ مِنْ أَحْيَاءِ الْعَرَبِ فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِنَّ سَيِّدَنَا لُدِغَ فَهَلْ عِنْدَ أَحَدٍ مِنْكُمْ شَىْءٌ يَنْفَعُ صَاحِبَنَا فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ نَعَمْ وَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لأَرْقِي وَلَكِنِ اسْتَضَفْنَاكُمْ فَأَبَيْتُمْ أَنْ تُضَيِّفُونَا مَا أَنَا بِرَاقٍ حَتَّى تَجْعَلُوا لِي جُعْلاً ‏.‏ فَجَعَلُوا لَهُ قَطِيعًا مِنَ الشَّاءِ فَأَتَاهُ فَقَرَأَ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّ الْكِتَابِ وَيَتْفُلُ حَتَّى بَرَأَ كَأَنَّمَا أُنْشِطَ مِنْ عِقَالٍ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَأَوْفَاهُمْ جُعْلَهُمُ الَّذِي صَالَحُوهُمْ عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا اقْتَسِمُوا ‏.‏ فَقَالَ الَّذِي رَقَى لاَ تَفْعَلُوا حَتَّى نَأْتِيَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَنَسْتَأْمِرَهُ ‏.‏ فَغَدَوْا عَلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَذَكَرُوا لَهُ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ مِنْ أَيْنَ عَلِمْتُمْ أَنَّهَا رُقْيَةٌ أَحْسَنْتُمُ اقْتَسِمُوا وَاضْرِبُوا لِي مَعَكُمْ بِسَهْمٍ ‏"‏ ‏‏

    Abu Sa’d al-Khudri said: "Some of the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) went on a journey. They alighted with a certain clan of the Arabs. Someone of them said : Our chief has been stung by a scorpion or bitten by a snake. Has any of you something which gives relief to our chief? A man of the people said : Yes, I swear by Allah. I shall apply charm ; but we asked you for hospitality and you denied it to us. I shall not apply charm until you give me some payment. So they promised to give some sheep to him. He came to him and recited Surat al-Fatihah over him and spat till he was cured, and ha seemed as if he were set free from a bond. So they gave him the payment that was agreed between them. They said : Apportion them. The man who applied charm said : Do not do it until we approach the Apostle of allah (ﷺ) said: From where did you learn that it was a charm? you have done right. Apportion them, and give me a share along with you." Abu Dawud no. 3900

Lessons/Guidance/Major-Issues/Reflections

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  1. It is called Umm-ul-Kitab (Mother of the Book), foundation and essence of the Qur'an.
  2. The Surah mentions two actions of the Heart. Ikhlas (pure sincerity) in "You alone we worship" and Tawakul (reliance) in "You alone we seek help"
  3. It is a mandatory part of each Islamic Prayer (Salah), recited at least seventeen times daily in the five obligatory prayers.
  4. This Prayer is taught by Allah Himself to mankind, as a favour, to let them know the format of a Prayer which is acceptable to Him  
  5. This Surah is known as "Seven Oft-Repeated Verses"  [Sab'a Mathani]  
  6. Upon the completion of the recitation of this Surah the Angels also say Ameen and according to a narration from Bukhari [no. 772], if their saying of Ameen and your saying of Ameen are in sync your past sins will be forgiven  
  7. The importance of being constant in making dua for steadfastness upon the Deen [religion] – repeating the dua ‘Guide us to the Straight Path’. Indeed the hearts of the sons of Adam are between the two fingers of ar-Rahman and He turns them as He wishes.’  One of the most often repeated duas of the Prophet was ‘O Allah O turner of the Hearts, make my heart firm upon Your Deen [religion].’
  8. We learn in this Surah that before the supplication is made, we mention the Asma al-Husna [beautiful names] of Allah and these are used as a means to gain closeness to Him and way to gain the supplication to be answered  
  9. When  we supplicate in this Surah [despite us praying alone] we always pray and use the plural for seeking Guidance for ‘Us’ as opposed to ‘Me’.

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