In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

The Greatest Surah of the Qur'aan Al- Faatihah (The Opening)

(Friday Speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on November 25, 1988)


Today we will discuss the significance of one of the greatest surahs of the Qur'aan, Surat Al-Faatihah. In its short, seven verses, it packs together an eloquent supplication, as well as, a compilation of all of Islaam's beliefs and branches, and even several invocations of praise to the One Creator. It begins by having the believer utter words of praise and gratitude to our Lord, thereafter, words of glorification for Him and it ends with a supplication asking Him for His guidance to the Straight Path. Listen for these distinct parts as I recite a translation of Surat al-Fatihah, as Allaah says in what may be interpreted as:

In the name of Allaah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

"All the praises and thanks be to Allaah, the Lord of the 'Aaalamin (Mankind, Jinn, and all that exists).

The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. The only Owner (and the only Ruling Judge) Of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection).

You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).

Guide us to the straightway. The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray."

This is surat Al-Faatihah, the greatest surah in the Noble Qur'aan, the same surah the companions of the prophet chose to begin the Noble Qur'aan. The same surah Allaah (S.W.T.) chose to be repeated seventeen times a day in prayer and double this if a person prays the sunnah (the extra recommended prayers). Without this surah, prayers will not be accepted, as the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "There is no prayer for whoever does not read the Faatihah." [Reported by Imaams Bukhaari and Muslim]

It is prescribed that the reciter should precede this surah and any other suwar of the Noble Qur'aan by uttering "Audhu billaahi minash shaitanir rajim." Which means, "O Allaah, I seek Your refuge from the rejected Satan." This is not a part from the Qur'aan or even a verse but it is part of the etiquettes Allaah (S.W.T.) taught us, when we start reciting Qur'aan because Allaah (S.W.T.) says what may be interpreted as, "So when you want to recite the Qur'aan, seek refuge with Allaah from Satan, the outcast (the cursed one)." [surat An-Nahl, (verse 98)] It is also good to say this phrase whenever one feels the danger of Satan as Allaah (S.W.T.) says in what may be interpreted as, "And if an evil whisper from Satan tries to turn you away, then seek refuge in Allaah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-knower." [surat Fusselat (verse 36)]

Another important term to keep in mind is "Bas-malah" a term meaning "In the name of Allaah, the Most Gracious Most Merciful." It is also another important phrase to be recited at the beginning of each surah from the Qur'aan. There are varying opinions among scholars about whether or not this statement is considered a verse that should start each surah or whether it is simply an optional etiquette before Qur'aan recitations. The strongest of the opinions considers it a verse from surat Al-Faatihah and that it must be recited at the beginning of that surah. The evidence used to support this opinion comes directly from the words of Allaah (S.W.T.) in what may be interpreted as, "And indeed, we have bestowed upon you (O' Muhammad) seven of Al-Mthaani (the seven repeatedly recited verses of Surat al-Faatihah), and the Magnificent Qur'aan." [surat Al-Hijr, (verse 87)] This simply proves to us that there are seven complete verses in Surat Al-Faatihah and the term 'bas-malah' is the first of them to be recited with each recitation, especially during prayer.

In addition, when we say "Bismillaah" we are invoking the name of Allaah (S.W.T.) and remembering Him before asking Him for assistance and success. The prophet (S.A.W.) told us to start any important matter with "Bismillaah." The prophet said: "Any important work, which will be started without Bismillaah will not be complete and will not be blessed." Therefore, a Muslim should start with "Bismillaah" to be different from the non-Muslims of the pre-Islaamic age who used to invoke the names of their own false gods and statues, Al-Laat and 'Izzah. Even nowadays, we hear people beginning their endeavors by declaring the name of their nation or people that they are dedicated their effort.

Despite Al-Faatihah's smaller number of verses, each verse contains significant meaning and is therefore called Umm-ul-Qur'aan the (mother of the Qur'aan) It contains the foundations and the branches. It contains verses about belief, worship and shari'a (Islamic law). It includes the belief in the Day of Resurrection and Judgment. Also it includes the belief in the names of Allaah (S.W.T.), and orders us to worship and seek help from Him alone. And it includes asking Allaah (S.W.T.) for guidance and protection from the wrong path. The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "By whom my soul in His hand there is nothing like this surah in the Torah or in Injiil or in Zaboor, it is the seven verses and the Noble Qur'aan that Allaah had given to me." [Reported by Imaams Bukhaari, Muslim and Ahmad]

Surah (Al-Faatihah) starts with praising Allaah (S.W.T.) and in this there is a lesson to thank Allaah for all the blessings, which He (S.W.T.) has given us. And in this surah, we get some of the beautiful names of Allaah such as, Al-Rahmaan the Most Compassionate over all of His Creation and Al-Raheem meaning that He has continuous Mercy, especially towards His believers. This surah also declares Allaah as the Owner and the only Ruling Judge of the Day of Judgment and nobody else has this honor. We can also take from this surah that Allaah (S.W.T.) is the only One who must be worshipped, which is pure tawheed (oneness of Allaah) and at the end there is a supplication to ask Allaah (S.W.T.) to guide us to the Straight Path; to grant us His grace for those whom He has bestowed His grace, and not the way of those whom have earned His anger, nor of the way of those who went astray.

After this supplication we should say: "Aameen" which actually means O' Allaah, please answer our supplication. In fact, several ahaadeeth mention the benefits of uttering this simple but significant word, one of which the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "When the Imaam says: "Aameen" (the angels will say Aameen too) and whoever says Aameen with the angels, Allaah will forgive his sins. [Reported by Imaams Bukhaari and Muslim]

There are many ahadeeth that report the virtue of this surah (Al-Faatihah). The prophet (S.A.W.) told his companion, Abu Sa'eed "I will teach you the greatest surah in the Qur'aan, before you leave the masjid." Then the prophet took his hand and was going out of the masjid when Abu Sa'eed said: "O prophet, you told me that you are going to teach me the greatest surah in the Qur'aan." Then the prophet (S.A.W.) replied: "Yes, Al-Faatihah is the seven verses and the Noble Qur'aan which Allaah had given to me." [Reported by Imaam Bukhaari]

Also, the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) informed us about the enormous benefits that each verse from surat Al- Fatihah will bring to believers, as he described in verse by verse in the following hadeeth, where he said: "Allaah the Exalted had said: I have divided the prayer into two halves between Me and My servant; and My servant and Me will receive what he asks. When the servant says: "Praise is to Allaah, the Lord of the universe," Allaah the Most High says: "My servant has praised Me." And when he (the servant) says: "The Most Compassionate, the Merciful", Allaah, the Most High says: "My servant has lauded Me." And when he (the servant) says: "Master of the Day of Judgment," He remarks: "My servant has glorified Me," and sometimes He would say: "My servant entrusted (his affairs) to Me." And when he (the worshipper) says: "(You) we do worship and of (You) we do ask help," He (Allaah) says: "This is between My servant, and My servant and I will receive what he asks for." Then, when he (the worshipper) says: "Guide us to the straight path, the path of those to whom you have bestowed your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray." He (Allaah) says: "This is granted for My servant, and My servant will receive what he asked for." [Reported by Imaam Muslim]

Imaam Ibn Taymiyyah, "Considers it to be the greatest supplication from the Qur'aan and the most beneficial to people, since it brings together the best for the servant in his religion, this worldly life and the Hereafter." [Ra-saa'ell V. 2, P. 109]

As you can see, many of us utter this surah numerous times daily, yet are possibly totally unaware of the depth of its meaning and greatness.

I highly recommend that InshAllaah whenever you recite this surah, take a moment to understand and reflect upon its meaning, and use that time to communicate directly with your Lord, and Allaah (S.W.T.) will respond to you.

We ask Allaah (S.W.T.) to make us from among those who have listened to this speech and benefit from its message. Aameen.


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Last Updated December 18, 2000 at 2:00 A.M. / ema