Al-Fātihah (The Opening) – Part 2

The Entirely Merciful (al-Raḥmān) the Especially Merciful (al-Raḥīm) are both attributes and proper names of Allah. Al-Raḥmān refers to the one who possesses an expansive mercy, and al-Raḥīm refers to the one who bestows mercy and is the source of all mercy. Therefore, al-Raḥmān refers to the attribute and al-Raḥīm refers to the action. Whenever these names come separated from one another, then they both indicate the attribute and action of mercy, but if they are joined together, then al-Raḥmān refers to the attribute of mercy while al-Raḥīm refers to the action of mercy.

The benefits of this verse are the following:

  1. These two names, al-Raḥmān and al-Raḥīm, are both established and confirmed for Allah, as is their associated descriptions: the description of mercy as an attribute and the description of mercy as an action.
  2. Allah’s Lordship is based on an all-encompassing mercy which always reaches the creation. This is because prior to this verse, Allah says, “Lord of the worlds,” which might cause someone to ask, “What is this Lordship based upon; is it Lordship of retribution and revenge or one of mercy and blessings?” Therefore, Allah immediately describes Himself with, “The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,” indicating that His Lordship is based on mercy.

Sovereign of the Day of Recompense is another description of Allah. The Day of Recompense refers to the Day of Resurrection or the Day of Judgement. Concerning the word Sovereign (Mālik), there are two different ways of reciting it, based on the seven permissible ways of Qur’anic recitation. [The first one is as we have mentioned, Mālik, and] the second way of reciting it is as Malik, which means king, and the word king is more specific than sovereign. Herein is a remarkable point that can be derived from these two different recitations. Allah’s kingdom and sovereignty are true and perfect. Even if someone from the creation is a king, he will still not be a true sovereign, because he is merely referred to as a king or a ruler but lacks real sovereignty or control over anything. Similarly, there are many people who have sovereignty over something but are not kings, which is the case of the majority of people. However, our Lords is the true and complete Sovereign and King. Recompense (al-dīn), meaning Allah is the only sovereign of that day on which the creation will be rewarded and recompensed. On that day there will be no other sovereign or decision maker. The word al-dīn is used to refer to recompense, as in this verse, and other times it refers to actions (religion), as in the verse, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.” (Q, 109:6) A form of the same word is also used to refer to both meanings, as can be seen in the well-known phrase, “Kamā tadīnu tudānu (As you act, so will you be recompensed).”

The benefits from the verse are the following:

  1. Confirmation of a true and perfect sovereignty for Allah, and His complete authority on the Day of Recompense. This is because on that day, all sovereignty, decision, judgement, and kingship of all others will disappear. It may be said, “But is Allah not the sovereign of this world and the Day of Recompense?” Yes, He is, without a doubt, but His complete sovereignty, kingship, and absolute authority will be completely apparent by all on that day. On that day, He will say, “To whom belongs the sovereignty this day.” No one will answer, so Allah will answer Himself, “To Allah, the One, the Omnipotent.” (Q, 40:16)
  2. Evidence of the resurrection after death, and that all will be recompensed according to what they earned of good or bad. This is based on the words, “Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.”
  3. Encouragement for people to work for that day on which they will be recompensed for that which they have earned.

It is You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help.” The phrase, you alone (iyyāka), is a grammatical structure in which the direct object comes before the verb we worship. When the direct object precedes the verb, it gives a sense of restriction, and so the meaning becomes, “We do not worship anyone or anything except You alone.” We worship (na’budu), humbling ourselves to You in complete humility. This is why you find the believers placing their most honorable part of their bodies at the level of their feet in humility to Allah, prostrating on the ground with their foreheads covered in dust. If someone was to say to the true believers that they will be given the whole world and what it contains if they would only prostrate to him, they would never accept this. This is because this type of humility is a form of worship that is exclusive to Allah only. The word worship includes performing all those things that Allah has commanded and avoiding all those things that He has forbidden. Whoever does not act in accordance to this is not a true worshipper and servant. A worshipper is one who obeys the one that he worships in all that he legislates. Therefore, worship requires people to carry out all that is commanded from them and to avoid all that is forbidden from them. However, it is not possible to fulfill these obligations without Allah’s help and assistance, which is why we say, you alone we ask for help. We do not seek help from anyone or anything else in worship. Seeking help means asking for aid and support. Allah conjoins worship and seeking help in many places in the Qur’an, since worship cannot be completely established with Allah’s help, entrusting the affairs to Him, and relying on Him.

The benefits from the verse are the following:

  1. Sincerity in worship for Allah alone, as is found in the statement, “You alone we worship.” According to the rules of grammar, the direct object, [You,] coming before the verb, [we worship,] proves that worship is due only to Allah.
  2. Seeking help is also sincerely and solely for Allah, and this is based on the statement, “You alone we ask for help.” Similarly, here the direct object also precedes the verb, thereby indicating a sense of restriction.

If someone was to ask how is it that seeking help is exclusive to Allah when it is mentioned in another verse, “Help one another in righteousness and piety.” (Q, 5:2) How can the previous statement about seeking help only from Allah be understood when in this verse Allah confirms that help can be sought from other than Himself? Similarly, the Prophet said, “Helping someone onto his riding animal, carrying him on to it, or lifting his belongs up to him while he is on it are all acts of charity.”[1] The answer is that the act of seeking help is of two types. The first is to request help while entrusting all your affairs to Him. For example, a person relies completely on Allah, realizing that anything he seeks does not come from his own power or ability. This type of seeking help is specific for Allah, and He alone is deserving of this type. The second type of seeking help is seeking in something that a person wishes to accomplish. This type is permitted to be asked of someone else with the condition that the one being asked is alive and has the ability to help. This would not be considered a form of worship and is the type that is referred to by Allah when He says, “Help one another in righteousness and piety.” (Q, 5:2)

If it is asked, “Is seeking help from the creation permitted in all circumstances?” The answer is no, seeking help from the creation is only permitted when the one being asked has the power to do what is being asked. Otherwise, seeking help from him is not permissible. For example, asking help from a deceased is forbidden—rather, it is major shirk—because the deceased does not even have the ability to bring about any benefit for himself, so how can he help the one asking? The same is the case for someone seeking help from another who is not present, thinking that someone in a faraway place is able to help him in his area. This is also major shirk, because the person whose help is being sought is in his land and is unable to help the one who is asking, who is in a different land.

If it is asked, “Is it permissible to seek help from the creation if the one being asked has the power to help?” The answer is that help should not be asked of anyone unless it is absolutely necessary or if it is known that the person would be happy to provide his help. Thus, under this scenario it is permissible to seek his help in order to please him. Additionally, the act in which help is being sought from another must not be something that is sinful or prohibited.


[1] Al-Bukhārī, no. 2891; Muslim, no. 1009.

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