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al-Fâtiha - The Opening
 

fatiha



1.  In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
2.  Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the world;
3.  Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
4.  Master of the Day of Judgment.
5.  Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.
6.  Show us the straight way,
7.  The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
     those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.

                                     -  translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali

 

Al-Fâtiha is the first sûrah (chapter) of the Qur'ân, and was one of the earliest portions of the Qur'ân revealed to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. The entire Qur'ân was revealed in the years from 610 to 632 AD.

The Arabic word fâtiha indicates an opening, beginning or commencement, and is derived from the root f-t-h which means to open, unlock, reveal, conquer.

The idea of opening or beginning is significant in several ways: first, this is the opening verse of the Qur'ân, secondly, this is said to be the first complete sûrah that was revealed to the Prophet, but more importantly this name also symbolizes the fact that the grace of Allâh has opened the doors of Life to us and that as we begin to live our lives in harmony with the ways of Allâh, the heart truly begins to open, thereby allowing us to begin to allow the Divine Presence of the One to consciously manifest openly through our daily lives, and thus, it is we that have been opened by the grace of the Opener.

In many ways, the verses of the Fatiha are virtually identical to a prayer that Jesus gave, called the Lord's Prayer, as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13, and are also nearly identical to the Gayatri Mantra which was given in the Rig Veda. In each of these glorious prayers, the opening lines sing praise of The One, while the final lines acknowledge the gift of Divine Guidance on the path of righteousness and understanding.

The Fatiha, the Lord's Prayer and the Gayatri Mantra all illustrate a specific manner of communion with the Divine. In each of these glorious supplications, the opening lines are a recognition of the Glory and Majesty of the The One, and then the prayer is closed by honoring the guidance of the One who guides us all... not a selfish request for specific things for the little "me", but a selfless recognition of the wondrous gifts which are continually being bestowed upon all of mankind.

For those who find it difficult to say the word Allah, it may be helpful to note that in the Semitic language of Aramaic which Jesus probably spoke, the Aramaic word which is translated as God in the European bible was actually Alaha. According to some linguists, the word Alaha which Jesus spoke would have had the ending "a" softened or not pronounced at all, leading to the pronunciation "alah". Since the Arabic language was largely derived from the earlier Aramaic (much the same as Aramaic was derived from the earlier Hebrew), the modern Arabic word Allah is likely derived from the earlier Aramaic pronunciation "alah". Indeed, Allah of the Qur'an and Alaha of Jesus refer to the same One. In contrast, the word God is a relatively new, and perhaps unfortunate, European invention which has been the source of much misunderstanding and conflict.

 

A deeper look into The Opening:
 

The following is the Fatiha, line-by-line in Arabic, followed by a simple transliteration, and four well-known English translations.

(Pronunciation guide: i as in sit, a as in bat, u as in put,  â as the a in father, î as the ee in reel, û as the oo in moot.)

 

line1

bismillâh ir-rahmân ir-rahîm

Yusuf Ali:  In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Pickthall:  In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Shakir:  In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Muhammad Ali:  In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

 

 

line2

al-hamdulillâhi rabb il-âlamîn

Yusuf Ali:  Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
Pickthall: Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,
Shakir: All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
Muhammad Ali:  Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds.

 

 

line3

ar-rahmân ir-rahîm

Yusuf Ali:  Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
Pickthall: The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Shakir:  The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Muhammad Ali: The Beneficent, the Merciful.

 

 

line4

mâliki yawm id-dîn

Yusuf Ali:  Master of the Day of Judgment.
Pickthall: Master of the Day of Judgment,
Shakir:  Master of the Day of Judgment.
Muhammad Ali: Master of the day of Requital.

 

 

 line5

iyyâka na`budu wa iyyâka nasta`în

Yusuf Ali:  Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.
Pickthall: Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help.
Shakir:  Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Muhammad Ali:  Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.

 

 

line6

ihdinâ s-sirât al-mustaqîm

Yusuf Ali: Show us the straight way,
Pickthall: Show us the straight path,
Shakir:  Keep us on the right path.
Muhammad Ali:  Guide us on the right path,

 

 

line7a

line7b

sirât al-ladhîna an`amta `alayhim

ghayr il-maghdûbi `alayhim wa la d-dâlîn

Yusuf Ali:  The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
                   those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.
Pickthall: The path of those whom Thou hast favoured;
                  Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger
                   nor of those who go astray.
Shakir:  The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors.
               Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down,
               nor of those who go astray.
Muhammad Ali:  The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours,
                             not those upon whom wrath is brought down,
                             nor those who go astray.

 

Going even deeper into 'The Opening'....


No simple literal translation can capture the magnificence or the delicate nuances of these Arabic verses. Every word has multiple levels of meaning, and each line brings new insights and inspirations with every reading. To begin to discover the deeper meanings of these verses, let's look at the deeper meanings of the words, line by line:

(Pronunciation guide: i as in sit, a as in bat, u as in put,  â as the a in father, î as the ee in reel, û as the oo in moot.) 

 

bismillâh ir-rahmân ir-rahîm

bismillâh = for the glory of Allah, in the name of Allah, by means of the Light of Allah
   There are three parts to this beautiful word:  (see also the bismillah web page)
   1) bi : by, for, by means of, with the aid of, through (pointing towards the idea of what happens next)
   2) ism :  name, reputation, glory (root indicates light, vibration, essence)
   3) Allah

ir-rahmân = the beneficent, the merciful, the compassionate, the One who continually showers all of creation with blessings, nourishment and prosperity
   Root r-h-m: womb, kinship, mercy, compassion, tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence.

ir-rahîm = the compassionate, the merciful, the One who gives even more to those who live in loving harmony and righteousness
   Root r-h-m:  womb, kinship, mercy, compassion, tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence.

 

al-hamdulillâhi rabb il-âlamîn

al-hamdulillâhi = all praise is to Allah, all praise is for Allah
  hamd :  praise, commendation, laudation
   continual praise with a feeling of pleasure,  continual praise for the sake of Allah (not for any specific action)

rabb = lord, master, owner, nourisher, cherisher, guardian
     Root r-b-b:  indicates the idea of fostering something in such a manner as to help it to attain one condition after another until it reaches the goal of completion

il-âlamîn = all the worlds, all that exists, all that Allah has created
   (plural of 'alam)

 

ar-rahmân ir-rahîm

ar-rahmân = the beneficent, the merciful, the compassionate, the loving One who continually showers all of creation with blessings, nourishment and prosperity
   Root r-h-m:  womb, kinship, mercy, compassion, tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence.

ir-rahîm = the compassionate, the merciful, the One who gives even more to those who live in loving harmony and righteousness
   Root r-h-m: womb, kinship, mercy, compassion, tenderness requiring the exercise of beneficence.

 

mâliki yawm id-dîn

mâliki = lord, master, owner, controller
   Root m-l-k:  to own, possess, acquire, control, rule,  have dominion over, lord over,  to be master of.

yawm = day, age, era, time, a period of time, moment

id-dîn = religion, faith, creed, sovereignty, submission, belief, accountability
   Root d-â-n: to be indebted, to owe, to be subject, be under someone's power, owe allegiance; to repay. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen said: dîn means the light which is perfectly pure, dîn is what existed in the beginning, the "ancient thing" which was with God originally and is always with Him.

 

iyyâka na`budu wa iyyâka nasta`în

iyyâka = to you and only you, to you alone, unto thee only, unto thee and none other
   iyyâ : with you , unto you
   ka : you (2nd person masculine singular suffix)

na'budu = we worship, we serve, we adore
   na: (imperfect prefix)
   Root  '-b-d:  to serve, worship, adore, venerate, submit
   u: (indicative suffix, 1st person plural)

wa = and, and also, while, whilst, but, together, with

nasta'în = we seek help from
   Root '-A-n: to aid, to assistance, help
   

 

ihdinâ s-sirât al-mustaqîm

ihdi-nâ = guide us, show us, lead us
   ihdi: Root h-d-y: guide, show, direct, be made aware, to be led back, to be rightly led with kindness until one reaches the goal. This is also the root of al-Hâdî, the Guide, the Leader.
   nâ: pronoun, referring to we, or us.

s-sirât = course, path, way
   specifically, a path which is even, wide and can be easily followed to the goal.

al-mustaqîm = straight, shortest, smooth, exact, right
   Root q-m: get up. stand up, stand erect: make straight, correct, reform, lift up, resurrect, appoint, arouse. This is also the root of al-Qayyûm, the Self-existing, the One who stands alone.

 

sirât al-ladhîna an`amta `alayhim

ghayr il-maghdûbi `alayhim wa la d-dâlîn

sirât = course, path, way
    specifically, a path which is even, wide and can be easily followed to the goal.

al-ladhîna = those who, whoever
     some early manuscripts read man rather than al-ladhîna      

an'amta = you have have bestowed grace, you have favored, you have blessed
   Root n-`-m: to bestow favor, be graciously disposed, to make comfortable, to take great pains; to live in comfort and luxury, life of ease
   ta : you (subject, 2nd person masc sing)

'alayhim = unto them, upon them, over them
   (prep) `alâ  on, upon, over, toward, for

ghayr =  unlike, different from, other than

il-maghdûbi = the recipient of anger, frustration, annoyance
   Root gh-d-b:  means to be cross, angry, irritated, furious, annoyed, enraged.

'alayhim = unto them, upon them, over them
   (prep) 'alâ:  on, upon, over, toward, for

wa la =and not, nor, neither, not even

d-dâlîn =  one who diverges from the goal,  one who goes astray, one who is diverted
   Root d-l-l:  means to lose one's way, go astray, to err, to be misled, to be deceived.


Armed with these definitions and your own insight, you may enjoy creating your own poetic interpretation of al-Fâtiha in order to explore some of the many meanings and interpretations... just go through the Fâtiha word-by-word, inserting the meaning of each word that seems to speak to your heart, such as:

1) In the name of Allah, the Ever-Merciful One Who is endlessly Beneficent, and Who Graciously rewards those who live in Divine harmony,
2) every manner of this praise and joyful gratitude is for the glory of Allah, the one Lord of all of creation,
3) the One who is forever lovingly beneficent and who rewards those who surrender to a life of harmony and righteousness,
4) Owner of the Moment of Awakening,
5) You alone do we adore and from You alone do we seek aid.
6) (You are) guiding us on the glorious path of harmony and righteousness,
7) the way of those who have accepted your loving blessings and not the way of those who have anger over them nor of those who have gone astray.

                          - a rendering by wahiduddin

 

This has been only a brief introduction to al-Fâtiha... there are entire books written to explore the significance of al-Fâtiha more fully.

Click this link to hear al-Fatiha recited by the renowned Saudi qari Shaykh Saad al-Ghamdi.

References:
   Tafsir Ibn Kathir (10 Volumes; Abridged), commentary by ibn Kathir, in English
   Towards Understanding the Quran, Vol. I, by Sayyid Abdul'ala Maududi
   Dictionary of the Holy Quran, by Abul Omar Mannan

        

 

with love,
     wahiduddin

     

updated: 18-Oct-2005

quran surah al-fatiha al-fatihah
bismillah ir-rahman ir-rahim
al-hamdulillahi rabbi al-alamin
ar-rahman ir-rahim
maliki yawm id-din
iyyaka na'budu wa iyyaka nasta'in
ihdina as-sirat al-mustaqim
sirat al-ladhina an 'amta 'alayhim ghayr il-maghdubi 'alayhim wa la d-dalin