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

Naming Convention of the Surah

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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’

The Surah consists of 7 Ayaat. It has 70 words and 140 letters.

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 not that of an introduction to a book but that 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 themese are expounded upon and explained.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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  • al-Fatihah (The Opening) - The Qur'an is opened by this Surah
  • Umm al-Kitab (The Mother of the Book) - This Surah is the source for all the issues discussed in the Qur'an
  • Saba' al-Mathani (Seven oft-repeated) - As Allah says in the "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.

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. This is established by the Prophet Muhammad himself when he told one of the companions, ‘Shall I not teach you the greatest Surah in the Qur’an before you leave the Masjid....[he then recited Surah al-Fatihah].
  2. Nothing similar to Surah al-Fatihah was ever revealed in any of the previous Scriptures. The Prophet said, ‘Shall I not teach you a Surah which was not revealed in the Torah, Injeel, the Zabur nor in the Furqan and has any equivalent?’ then He told them about al-Fatihah.
  3. Surah al-Fatihah is Light. In the narration of Sahih Muslim, the Angel told the Prophet, ‘Glad tidings to you with two Lights given to you and not given to any Prophet before you, [Surah] Fatihah al-Kitab and end of al-Baqarah [last two ayaat?]. None recites [even a] letter from it except that he will be granted it.’
  4. Surah al-Fatihah is a cure, treatment for illness – be they spiritual, physical or otherwise.
  5. 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)
     

Special Features of the Surah

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Important key and unique words of the Surah

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123 Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat) *

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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