Al-Fātihah (The Opening) – Part 1

In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

1All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. 2The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, 3Sovereign of the Day of Recompense. 4It is You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help. 5Guide us to the straight path. 6The path of those whom You have bestowed favor, 7not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.

Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is named as such because the Qur’an is opened and commences with it, and it is said that it is the first sūrah revealed in its completion. This is the sūrah, concerning which the scholars say that it contains the compete meaning of the Qur’an in regard to tawhīd, legislative rulings, rewards and recompense, the different paths that the progeny of Adam take, and other issues. Additionally, it is also been called Umm al-Qur’an (the Mother of the Qur’an)[1] as the foundation of something is often referred to as mother in Arabic.

This sūrah has some certain distinguishing characteristics that set it apart from other sūrahs. It is a main pillar for the ṣālāh, which are the most excellent Islamic pillars after the two testimonies of faith. Therefore, the ṣālāh of one who does not recite this opening sūrah of the Qur’an (i.e., al-Fatihah) is invalid. It also acts as a cure when recited over a sick person, who will be cured by Allah’s permission. The Prophet said to one who recited it over another as a cure from a scorpion sting, “How did you know that it was a cure?”[2]

However, some people today practice innovations with this sūrah, such as concluding their supplications with it, begin their speeches with it, and reading it in specific circumstances as they see fit. These are all incorrect. You may find, for example, when this type of person makes a supplication, he says to those who are around him, “al-Fātiḥah”, meaning, he wants them to recite al-Fātiḥah. Some begin their speeches with it or recite it in some situations they deem appropriate. This is incorrect, because worship is built upon stopping [where the evidence stops] and following [what the evidence dictates].

In the Name Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, is a prepositional phrase and the words are governed by a prepositional phrase to connect the omitted preposition; this omission is an appropriate estimate of a verb, which is delayed. So, when you say, “In the name of Allah,” and you want to eat, this is an estimate of the action: in the name of Allah, I eat. We say that it is obligatory to connect it with the missing portion because the preposition and the object governing the preposition must both refer to an action. This delayed action or verb is deferred until after mentioning the name of Allah for two benefits: 1) Seek the blessings of mentioning Allah’s Name first, and 2) it is an indication of restriction, because the act occurred later, and it is as if you are say, “I do not eat except in the name of Allah, and I do not seek blessings and help in any name except that of Allah.”

We say that the delayed missing word is a verb because words that pertain to actions are verbs, and this is well known among the grammarians. Therefore, according to this, nouns do not apply except with conditions. Our estimation of this is suitable due to the fact the statement itself indicates the intended verb, based on the situation. The Messenger of Allah specified the action when he said, “Whoever did not sacrifice, let him sacrifice in the Name of Allah.”[3] Or he said, “upon the Name of Allah.”[4]

Allah is the proper name for the Lord of all that exists, and no one else is called by this name. It is the source of all of [Allah’s] other Names, and all of them follow and describe this name.

The Entirely Merciful (al-Raḥmān) is a proper name of Allah and refers to the one who is described with expansive all-encompassing mercy. Even the root form of the word on which this name is based indicates a sense of expansiveness according to the rules of Arabic conjugation. The Especially Merciful (al-Raḥīm) is another name, and it refers to the one who bestows mercy to whomever He wills from His servants. Thus, the name al-Raḥmān indicates that mercy is one of Allah’s attributes, while al-Raḥim indicates that mercy is one of Allah’s actions—bestowing mercy on the creation.

Al-Raḥmān and al-Raḥīm are two of the names of Allah which He describes Himself with and proves [for Him] the attribute of mercy and its associated effect. The attribute of mercy that Allah has affirmed for Himself is an actual characteristic of mercy that is proven by Islamic legislation and intellect.

As for the legislative proofs, they are those that are found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which affirm the attribute of Allah’s mercy, and there are many. As for the intellect, then whatever occurs of blessings or whatever hardship is averted, then it is from the effects of Allah’s mercy.

Even after this, some still deny or reject ascribing to Allah a real and actual characteristic of mercy. They distort its true meaning and misinterpret it to mean: the bestowing of blessings, or, the intent to bestow blessings. They claim that it is impossible for the intellect to ascribe Allah with mercy; erroneously claiming that mercy is an emotion that consists of tenderness, humility, and sympathy, and that such things are not befitting of Allah. This statement of theirs is refuted from two angles:


  1. This is incorrect because the characteristic of mercy can be found among powerful kings, while they maintain no humility, sympathy, or being overcome with sorrow.
  2. Even if this was the case concerning the attribute of mercy and what it indicates, then it is concerning mercy that pertains to the creation. As for the mercy of the Creator, it is an attribute that is befitting of His Greatness and Majesty, and there is deficiency in it of any kind.


Thus, we say that the intellect does in fact indicate the affirmation of a real attribute of mercy to Allah. Whatever mercy we witness between the creation is in itself an indication of Allah’s mercy. It is a perfect attribute of mercy and Allah is the most deserving of the attributes of perfection. Additionally, we also witness particular acts of mercy that only pertain to Allah, such as the sending down of rain that removes drought, and other such acts, which are also an indication of His mercy.

The amazing thing is that those who deny the attribute of mercy for Allah base their claim that it is not supported by or rationalized by the intellect. You find the same people affirming an actual attribute of intent of decision to Allah based upon a similar intellectual proof, saying that since some of the creation have distinguishing characteristics specific to each one of them, then this is an indication, from the intellect, for the attribute of decision and will. There is no doubt this is correct, but this indication is less than the effects of mercy that we see among the creation. This is because noticing such small distinguishing features is specific to those in that field, while the effect of Allah’s mercy can be noticed by all. If a common uneducated person was asked in the morning after a night of rain, “Did we receive rain?” He would probably answer with, “Yes, by Allah’s blessing and His mercy.”

Is the basmallah a verse of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah? There is a difference of opinion between the scholars concerning this. Some of them say that the verse is part of al-Fātiḥah and so it should be pronounced aloud in the prayers that are recited aloud. They consider the recitation incorrect if the basmallah is not recited, since, according to them, it is part of al-Fātiḥah. Others hold the view that it is not part of al-Fātiḥah but is a separate verse from the Book of Allah. This is the correct opinion, and it is proven by other textual proofs as well as the context of the sūrah itself.

As for the textual proofs, then it is related on the authority of Abū Hurayrah that the Prophet said, “Allah says, ‘I have divided the prayer in two parts between myself and my servant.’ When the servant recites, ‘All praise is due Allah, Lord of the worlds,’ Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me.’ When he recites ‘The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,’ Allah says, ‘My servant has honored Me.’ When he recites, ‘Sovereign of the Day of Recompense,’ Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified me.’ When he recites, ‘It is You we worship and You we ask for help,’ Allah says, ‘This is two parts between my servant and I.’ When he recites, ‘Guide us to the straight 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,’ Allah says, ‘This is for My servant and he will have what he asks for.’”[5] This is a textual proof that the basmallah is not a part of al-Fātiḥah.

Also, it is recorded in the Ṣaḥīḥ of Muslim that Anas b. Mālik said, “I prayed behind the Messenger of Allah, Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthmān, and they began their recitation [aloud] with ‘All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds,’ and did not recite [aloud], ‘In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful’ at the beginning of the recitation or at the end of it.”[6] What is meant is that each of them did not recite the bismillah aloud, and the fact that there is a distinction of it not being recited aloud, while al-Fātiḥah is, is an indication that it is not actually part of the sūrah.

As from the angle of the context of the meaning of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, then it comprises of seven verses, as is unanimously agreed upon. If you wanted to measure the seven verses as regards to their subject matter of the sūrah, you will find that the middle verse is, “It is You we worship and You we ask for help,” is the same verse concerning which Allah replies, “This is two parts between My servant and I,” as found in the previous mentioned ḥadīth. This is because the first verse is, “All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds.” The second verse is, “The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” The third is, “Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.” All of these three verses are concerning the right of Allah. The fourth and middle verse is, “It is You we worship and You we ask for help,” which itself can be divided into two parts: one part for Allah and the second part for the servant. [The fifth verse,] “Guide us to the straight path,” is for the servant. [The sixth verse,] “The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor” is also for the servant. [The seventh verse,] “Not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray” is also for the servant. Thus, the first three verses are for Allah, and the last three are for the servants, while the fourth and middle one is for both the servant and His Lord.

As for the proof from the context of the wordings, then if we were to say that the bismillah is a part of al-Fātiḥah, then the seventh verse would be a very long one, one that would be as long as two of the other verses, and it is well know that the principle of the verses being similar to each other is also in regards to their length. Therefore, the correct view, in which there is no doubt, is that the bismillah is not a verse of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, just as it is not a part of every other sūrah of the Qur’an.

All praise is for to Allah, Lord of the worlds. The phrase, all praise (al-ḥamd), is used to describe someone, out of love and honor, with complete perfection of self, attributes, and actions. Thus, Allah is perfect in His Self, attributes, and actions. However, this praising is dependent on the condition that it is done with love and honor. The people of knowledge say that simply describing someone with perfection while not doing so with love and honor is not truly called ḥamd, but in this case would only be called madḥ. This latter type of praise occurs often among people, as they may not truly love the one that they are praising, but only desire something from him. For example, some people stand in front of their leaders and praise them with words of eulogy while not having any love for them. Their love is for the wealth that they will be given in return or they do so because of a fear that they may have of them. Conversely, our praise for our Lord comes about from our love and honor for Him. Thus, al-ḥamd is to praise the one who has total perfection with love and honor. The al (the) in al-ḥamd is inclusive, meaning that it is inclusive of all forms of praise. Is for to Allah (lillāhi), where the word for (li) is used to show possession and a sense of deserving. The name Allah is the proper name of our Lord, and no one is given that name other than Him. The meaning of it is: the one God that is worshipped out of love and honor. Lord (Rabb) comprises three main attributes: Creator, Owner, and Disposer of all the affairs. Therefore, He is the Creator, Owner, and Disposer of all that exists. Of all the worlds (al-‘ālamīn), concerning which the scholars say that it refers to everything other than Allah. Everything besides Allah is described with this word because their very existence is an indication that they have a Creator. In everything from the creation there is a sign to demonstrate the existence of its Creator, His capability, wisdom, mercy, power, and the rest of the attributes of Lordship.

The benefits found in the verse are the following:

  1. Affirmation of praise of perfection for Allah, and this is evident from the definite article al (the) in al-ḥamd, since the definite article includes all forms of praise
  2. Allah alone deserves all forms of praise. This is why the Prophet would say whenever something happened that would bring him joy, “All praise is for Allah by whose favor righteous deeds are completed.” Whenever something occurred that did not please him, he would say, “All praise is for Allah in all situations.”[7]
  3. Describing Allah as having the sole right to be worshipped before describing Him with Lordship. This is because Allah is a proper name that is specific to Him and the source of all the rest of His Names, and because the people that the Messengers were sent to only denied Allah’s sole right to be worshipped, as the majority of them did not deny Allah’s Lordship.
  4. Allah’s complete Lordship over the entire creation, as mentioned by the words, “The Lord of all the worlds.”


[1] Al-Bukhārī, no. 772; Muslim, no. 395; al-Tirmidhī, no. 3124.

[2] Al-Bukhārī, no. 2276; Muslim, no. 2201.

[3] Al-Bukhārī, no. 985; Muslim, no. 1960.

[4] Al-Bukhārī, no. 5500; Muslim, no. 1960.

[5] Muslim, no. 395.

[6] Muslim, no. 399.

[7] Ibn Mājah, no. 3803; al-Ḥākim, in al-Mustadrak, 1/449, and he said that it has a ṣaḥīḥ isnād, and al-Dhahabī agreed with him.

Related Articles


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *