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Reflections on Al Fatiha

The first and last statement of the believers

The first thing you should know about Allah is He is rabbil aalimeen. The Prophet salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “When He breathed into Adam and the soul reached his head, he sneezed and said: ‘Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil-‘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]

Meanings of Rubb

This name of Allah(SWT) was used by many of the Prophets and some scholars say that even Shaytaans dua was answered because he used this name

Rabbee fa andhirnee ilaa yawmi yub’athoon

He said,”My Lord, then reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.” Surah Hijr 15:36

Rubb means:

  • Maalik Owner : so I’m his property and you don’t own anything
  • Murabbi : take care of it although possible you don’t take care of your garden or room) who does not neglect. Developing something gradually in a manner which is conducive to its own good till it attains perfection. Exclusive to Allah(SWT) as a created being is itself in need of ‘nurture’, and cannot nurture anyone else.
  • Mun’im : giver of gifts on top of your salary
  • Qayyim : maintains the existence – our blood circulating,  heart beating
  • Sayyid : have full authority eg. You own a car but can’t drive at any speed you want and you have no authority

Some titles have a fixed relationship eg. Teacher, boss, parent. Intelligent, kind does not have a relationship but Rubb is something that builds a relationship – we have many relationships with Allah but this is the first and most important – rabb and slave. We accept Him as Rabb when we say iyyaka na’budu. A slave has no choice but can only do something under instruction and is constantly at service.

The best type of slavery is to Allah(SWT) for all other enslavement is false and unworthy – fashion, culture, policy, people, desire.

Just look at yourself. Think first of all of the physiological systems within your own body running in beautiful order to sustain you [blood system, immune system, nervous system, hormones, heart beats, respiration, firing neurons, skin cells, liver cells, spleen, kidneys, etc]. Move out now to what’s around you. The marvels of our plant world, the animal world, the seven seas, the insect world, the microbial world. Further out to what surrounds you. The miraculous precision of the planets and our sun – our solar system, our galaxy. Further out still to the infinite star constellations, nebulas, galaxies. 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. The universe is all of the galaxies – billions of them! According to the well-known commentator Muqatil, the number of worlds is eighty thousand. (see Qurtubi)

This may not be the end of it, but we have reached the limits of our knowledge, so start zooming back down. Back through all of that and back to where you were standing in prayer. Would you say you’re just a speck in Allah’s canvas above? Nowhere even close…..You are no longer even visible in relation to the magnificent size of Allah’s universe! And imagine, this is just our heaven. The Quran tells us there are six more! And Allah presides above all of that!

And He is The One and Only, orchestrating the perfect order and function of it all!

The worlds 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.

Man cannot obtain a little morsel of food unless a thousand forces of the sky and the earth work 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.

Ar-Rahman & Ar-Raheem

These words are often translated as Merciful but mercy is when someone is about to harm you but spares you – this isnt what is intended and is a meaning lost in translation. The root word, rahm means the womb of a mother where you don’t worry about food, drink, rent or anything – no problems. We are just as ignorant as the baby in the womb while He (SWT) provides for us – blood, air around our bodies. Love, care and compassion is probably more appropriate. The child does not thank mum and almost kills her on coming out. Does she hate the child or continue going to work immediately suckling and caring. Baby cries and keeps going back to the mum.

‘Ar-Rahmaan’ refers to One whose love 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 Ar-Rahmaan is It’s for the people of this world

On the other hand, Ar-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 likened this to an ocean with extreme, powerful waves and a calm, tranquil, constant ocean – although we struggle to reoncile the two in a single entity, 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).

As to Allah’s kindness and favours upon us, just close your eyes momentarily to appreciate just the gift of sight alone. If we were to count His favours upon us, never will we be able to enumerate them. And sometimes we gripe when a favour has not been granted us. Don’t we then realize in hindsight, that it was much better for us this way? The denial of this favour, we realize later, was a favour in itself. For Allah has nothing but good.

And imagine. When we dare and sin against Him, we sin using the very gifts and blessings He has given us! But out of His love and mercy for us, He continues to guard over us and protect us, even while we’re in the act! You will not find anyone more kind; you will not find anyone more giving. You will not find anyone more worthy of your love than He.

Remember this: The sweetness of this life lies in remembering Him, the sweetness of the next life lies in seeing Him! The next time you proceed for prayer, go because you love Him, go because you miss Him and long to be with Him.

Maaliki yawm ad-deen

The word Deen is derived from Daana-Yudeenu and refers to how you deal with someone. Everything we have been gifted with in life is a loan to us. The day of judgement will be payback time – time to show how we have used these gifts and what we gave in return/repayment/requital.

In this world, absolute justice does not exist and often times this can be a means of great anguish. On the Day of Judgement, Allah(SWT) will set the balance right.

Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’een

The aayaat up till now have been recognising Allah(SWT) and now is the time to show what you have brought forward. “You alone we worship…” shows that you don’t have to go through anyone to build a relationship with Allah(SWT), rather you MUST have a relationship with Him(SWT) directly. Even to his own daughter, the Prophet(SAW) said Yaa Faatimah Ittiqillah fa innee laa amliku laki minAllahi shay’an – O Fatimah, fear Allah(SWT) as I cannot protect you from Him(SWT) in anything. Messengers weren’t an intermediary to Allah, they were a reminder about connecting to Him(SWT)

This ayah is a summary of Al Fatiha which is a summary of the whole Qur’an. 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 thought and action “You alone we worship” is an unconditional commitment to the service of Allah, and none else, in order to live and die as it would please our Rubb.

Whether we like it or not, we are all totally dependent on Allah(SWT) – not a heart beat or a breath can occur without His Permission. So the question is, when will we accept that we are an ‘abd? And when will willingly enslave ourselves to Allah(SWT)?

Its interesting that in a society which prides itself on freedom, everyone seems to be culturally enslaved. We are pressured to conform to the status quo – the clothes, the hairstyle, the language, the friends, the music, the car. We are so obsessed with how we are perceived by others, it enslaves us. It takes a brave man to ask who he wants to enslave himself to.

Hasan al-Basri was asked “Why do you appear unconcerned with what people say about you? He replied, “When I was born I was born alone, When I shall die I shall die alone, When I am placed in my grave I will be alone and when I am taken to account before God I shall be alone. If I then enter the fire it will be alone. If I then enter paradise it will be alone. So what business do I have with the people?”

It’s narrated that Desmond Tutu said “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ So we closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

Likewise, when social networking came, they gave us Whatsapp and Facebook and we had freedom. They said it’s free. We closed our eyes for a moment. When we opened them, we had Whatsapp and Facebook and they had our freedom. When anything is free, your freedom is the price…

Isti’aana refers to asking for help when you are exhausted yourself and in a desperate state. By using ‘nasta’een’, we’re claiming: “Ya Allah, I’m already trying everything I can, I ask for Your Help because I can’t do it by myself”. This ayah teaches us that we must put our best effort to get Allah’s help.

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 are in need of tawbah but lacking in fulfilling it, and this statement should kill procrastination – putting things of till later as we recognise our needy statement and put our trust in the Almighty. The whole deen comes back to these 2 principles – worship and dependence.

A brother recently approached me and asked for my dua as he was about to leave for Umrah in Ramadan. However, this was not lip-service – it was apparent from his face and his meek words that he was genuinely desperate for forgiveness and uncertain if he was worthy of this blessed opportunity.


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