Al-Fātihah (The Opening) – Part 3

Guide us to the straight path. The phrase, the path (al-ṣirāṭ), concerning which there are two recitations. The first is with the letter sīn (س) as in sirāt and another with the letter ṣād (ص), as it is here in the verse. The meaning of the word al-ṣirāt is the way or path. Guide us (ihdinā) refers to showing and directing to the right path as well as the guidance of granting success. Therefore, by reciting guide us to the straight path a person is asking Allah for beneficial knowledge and righteous actions. Straight (al-mustaqīm) refers to the correct path that is absent of any crookedness or deviation.

The benefits from the verse are the following:

  1. Humanity turning to Allah. After asking Allah for help in fulfilling His worship, as found in the previous verse, people are now asking Allah to guide them to the straight path. Sincerity must be solely for Allah, as indicated by, you alone we worship, while help must be sought to fulfill this worship, as indicated by, You alone we ask for help. Additionally, one must follow the Islamic legislation as indicated by, guide us to the straight path, since the straight path is the complete legislation that the Messenger came with.
  2. Shows the eloquence of the Qur’an, as no preposition is found after guiding us in the original text. This is so that the verse can combine between both types of seeking guidance: guidance of knowledge and direction, and guidance of success and action. The first type is directing and showing to the straight path, which Allah guides all humanity with, as He says, “The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed as a guidance for the people.” (Q, 2:185) The second type is the granting of success in conjunction with the first type, and the following of the Islamic legislation. Allah says, “That is the Book, in which there is no doubt, a guidance for those who are conscious of Allah.” (Q, 2:2) This second type of guidance may not be achieved by some people, as Allah says, “As for Thamūd, we guided them, but they preferred misguidance over guidance.” (Q, 41:17)
  3. Paths are of two types: straight or crooked. Whatever is in accordance with the truth is the straight path, as Allah tells the Prophet to say, “This is my straight path, so follow it and do not follow other paths, for they will separate you away from His path.” (Q, 6:153) Whatever is in opposition to the truth is on the crooked path.

The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. This verse is linked with the previous verse and provides clarification for the straight path. Concerning, those upon whom You have bestowed favor (al-ladhīna an’amta ‘alayhim), they are the same people that Allah mentions elsewhere in the Qur’an when He says, “Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger – those will be with the ones upon whom Allah has bestowed favor of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs, and the righteous. Excellent are those as companions.” (Q, 4:69) Not of those who have evoked [Your] anger (ghayri al-maghḍubī ‘alayhim), such as the Jews and anyone else who refuses to act upon the truth after knowing it. Or of those who are astray (wa lā al-ḍālīn), such as the Christians prior to the mission of the Prophet, and anyone chooses to remain ignorant and work in opposition to the truth.

Concerning the word ‘alayhim, it has, from the seven forms, two acceptable recitations: 1) with a dammah on the , making the reading ‘alyhum, and 2) with a kasrah on the , which would make it read as ‘alayhim, which is the common one. It is important to note here that any form of recitation, which is permissible, but is not found in the copies of the Qur’an that is with the people should not be recited among the laymen who may not be aware of it. There are three reasons for this:

  1. The laymen, while being unware of the different forms of recitation, hold the Qur’an in high esteem, and their hearts are filled with its greatness and respect. If they hear it read in one way and then another time in a different way, this may cause the status of the Qur’an to become lower than what they initially held it at. This is because they are unaware of the various recitations and are unable to distinguish between them.
  2. The one who recites with different forms of recitation may be accused of having made a mistake and not known how to properly recite the Qur’an, as he recites it in a manner that is unknown to the people. Thus, the reciter will be spoken about in a negative way among the people even though his recitation was correct.
  3. Even if the one listening to the recitation holds that the one reciting knows what he is doing, he may blindly follow him in one of his recitations during his own recitation, but he may make mistakes in it, while thinking that it is from one of the seven recitations. This is a form of distortion and corruption. 

‘Alī [b. Abī Ṭālib] said, “Speak to people according to what they have knowledge of. Would you like that they deny what Allah and His Messenger say.”[1] Ibn Mas’ūd said, “You will never speak to a people with something that they are unable to comprehend, except that it will become a fitnah (tribulation) for some of them.”[2] This is why when ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb heard Hishām b. Ḥakīm recite a verse in a manner that he had never heard before, he dragged him to the Prophet and informed him of it. The Prophet said to Hishām, “Recite.” When he finished reciting, the Prophet said, “It was revealed in this manner.” The Prophet then said to ‘Umar, “Recite,” and when he finished, he said, “It was also revealed in this manner.”[3] The Qur’an was revealed in seven different dialects, and it was recited in those dialects by the people until ‘Uthmān gathered them together on one recitation. This is because the people began to differ and dispute with one another concerning their recitations. Fearing that the differences would become severe and divide the people, he gathered them on one recitation, which was based on the dialect of the Quraysh, since the Prophet, upon whom the Qur’an was revealed, was from among the Quraysh. Thus, if ‘Umar did what he did to another Companions, then what would a layman do, who hears another recite it in a manner that is not found in his copy of the Qur’an? All praises are due to Allah, as the scholars have always been in agreement that it is not obligatory for people to recite in all the different permissible manners. If a person continues with only one particular recitation, then there is no wrong in this. Thus, problems and their causes should be avoided.

The benefits derived from these verses are:

  1. The mentioning of specific descriptive details after a general description. The verse, guide us to the straight path, is a general one, while the verse, the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, is more specific and details the description of that path. The benefit of first mentioning something general and then giving specifics about it is because when a person hears something of a general nature, he eagerly anticipates more specifics about it. Once he becomes aware of the specifics, then he is more ready to accept them and hopes to obtain them. Another benefit is to provide specifics of who the people, upon whom Allah has bestowed His favors and grave, are; those who are upon the straight path as a result of this blessing.
  2. The blessing of guidance, which some have been blessed with, is directly from Allah, and it is a pure blessing from Him.
  3. People fall within one of three categories: those who have received Allah’s favor, those who have earned His anger, and those who have gone astray. Each category has previously been explained. The paths that lead away from the straight path are a result of ignorance or arrogant disobedience. Those who were taken away from the straight path because of arrogance and disobedience, who earned anger, are the Jews. Those who left the straight path because of ignorance, who do not know the truth, and they are mainly the Christians. However, this was the case of the Christians prior to the advent of the Prophet, because after the establishment of his mission, they became aware of the truth, but in spite of that they still opposed it. Thus, the Christians became like the Jews, and both have earned Allah’s anger upon themselves.
  4. The last two verses illustrate the eloquence of the Qur’an, as the word used to refers to those who have earned anger upon themselves is maghḍūb, which is known as maf’ūl, and indicates that the anger upon them has already begun and will occur continuously from Allah and His allies.
  5. The most misguided group is the first, then followed in severity by the next. Allah mentioned those who earned anger upon themselves before those who went astray, because the first are more severe in their opposition to the truth than the ones who has strayed and are misguided. It is much harder to return from opposing something while being fully aware of it, than opposing something simply out of ignorance for it.

In conclusion, this is a remarkable surah and it is not possible for anyone to fully encompass all of its great meaning and virtues. What I have mentioned is only a drop from an ocean, and whoever would like more details on this topic should refers to ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah’s book, Madārij al-Sālikīn.


[1] Al-Bukhārī, no. 127.

[2] Muslim, no. 14.

[3] Al-Bukhārī, no. 4992; Muslim, no. 818.

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