Thursday, April 10, 2008

Commentary of Surah al-Fatiha

Commentary of Surah al-Fatiha

Lecture delivered by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks on the morning of 'Eid al-Adha 20 – 12 – 2007,

Documented by Muhammad Allie Khalfe

There is something we recite 17 times a day and that is Surah Fatiha and it's important that one takes a moment to reflect on why we do things, to break the habit of reducing things to mechanics.

I am not saying that anyone does it, but it's a precaution one has to take especially when it comes to such important things as the Din.

We need to reflect on some of the meaning of the Fatiha and why it's called the fatiha (the opening).

Muhammad (saw) said to Abu Sa`id bin Al-Mu`alla said,

لَأُعَلِّمَنَّكَ أَعْظَمَ سُورَةٍ فِي الْقُرْآنِ

There is nothing in meaning greater than the fatiha

وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللهُ فِي التَّورَاةِ وَلَا فِي الْإِنْجِيلِ وَلَا فِي الزَّبُورِ وَلَا فِي الْفُرْقَانِ مِثْلَهَا إِنَّهَا السَّبْعُ الْمَثَانِي

What is so great about it?

Why is it in this Tartib?

Why is it constructed in this way?

We need to exert our efforts and look back as to what are the secrets within this surah.

We need to reflect upon this surah because with in this fatiha lies the futuh the opening, we cannot go on if one doesn't understanding the fundamentals or basics

الْحَمْدُ للَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَـلَمِينَ

It starts off with praise to Allah, but not just Allah, but Allah who is the Rabb of the 'Alamin.

We praise Allah with his greatest name as the Rabb of the entire created order

This entire surah sums up our relationship as human beings with Allah (S).

It starts with the Hamdalah – with that of praise.

Our condition therefore must be that of praising Allah (S).

We open what we do by praising Allah.

Anything you praise, anything you revere, you have then opened yourself up to it.

Whenever you stand back and admire something great, you are then in a state of hamd, this is a spiritual condition and without this state of hamd, there can be little appreciation of the greatness of Allah and hence, little appreciation of the Din.

Once we are in this state of hamd, we are then more capable of saying the attributes of Allah more clearly of Rabb of 'Alamin.

Rabb – Rabbaba – from the root word – comes from tarbiya education in Islam – tarbiya means to nature/nourish.

If you go to the Arab countries – the faculty of Tarbiya is the faculty of education.

Here it means a complete nourishment of the mind, the heart and the soul – it's a complete tarbiya.

Allah (S) tells us to praise him as the Rabb

The Nourisher of every single mind, heart and soul

'Alamin - the root or the primitive root of 'Alamin is the same as 'Ilm ('ayn – Lam and Mim)

'Alamamin – there are so many tafasir on this word

Nourisher of the cosmos and the entire created order

In tasawwuf terms we have the terms like the

Naasut – this world of humanity,

the malakut–the angelic order, & the Laaghut – the divine order

In other words, The 'Alamush-shahadah – the witnessed world, the ghayb – the unseen,

then the ghaybul ghayb – the unseen of the unseen, where even the angels do not have access to.

This is how we ought to respect and send hamd to Allah as Allah is in the dimension, the Rabb of the ghaybul ghayb, the Nourisher and sustainer of all.

The root (ayn – lam – mim) 'ilm – it is as if Allah is telling us the universe as created ought to be an object of knowledge, the universe should be an object of reflection. We praise Allah as the Rabb – the nourisher of every mind, body, heart, soul and everything in the cosmos and in that spirit of reflecting on what Allah has created as the Rabb, Say:

الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Derived from Rahim (the womb) – from where everything sprouts, from where everything is given birth, another reason why it's called the ummul kitab – the mother of the book as it contains or gives off the essence of what is to come.

This is the weight of the compassion and mercy Allah is trying to stress to us.

Ar-Rahman – these are intensive forms of the word Rahmah (meaning it is not compared to anything, it is rahma – mercy and compassion which is unsurpassed – incomparable.

What Allah is trying to communicate to us – once we have opened ourselves up to the praise of Allah (S) as the one, the Rabb – who nourishers, develops, sustains, that this Rabb has created the entire cosmos as an object of knowledge and has our attention,

and when he has our attention and we receive this Allah as the creator of the cosmos and the universe we do so as

the Ar-Rahman and the Ar-Rahim – the most compassionate and the most merciful – why?

Because the most central virtue in Islam is Rahma

The virtue of mercy and compassion

Therefore it is haram to refer to anyone as a Rahman. Why? Because Rahman is the epitimy of mercy, a condition which exists without there being a need for it.

Because Allah (S) is beyond need. He is the only deity, our Rabb who has that capacity to give off such mercy when he does not need to give it off.

Therefore every creature coming into existing comes in without Allah having a need for it but through his infinite Rahma.

Rahim is different – it is a responsive one – when you see the plight of poverty and suffering and one needs help or support then this is a particularized response, a merciful response to a particular condition and this is the aspect of Rahim

Rahman is exclusive to Allah but Rahim is a quality we as human beings are capable of effecting within ourselves.

Once we recognize that our Rabb – who has stressed the most central of his qualities (Rahma – compassion – mercy), once we realize that he is the Rabb of Rahmah and complete compassion, then he turns our attention to

مَـلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ

The owner, the master, the commander of the Day of Judgment

The important thing here is that Allah first informs us about his Rahman and Rahim – his incomparable mercy and compassion before he establishes himself as a Malik as the King or Master,

He establishes himself as the compassionate and merciful

and that is of critical importance for us to understand,

that grace and mercy and compassion in our daily living, must precede power and authority.

Before we even speak or lay claim to power and authority we have to establish ourselves on the basis of mercy and compassion because that stands at the heart of a justice which is acceptable to everyone else.

We have to understand that Allah (S) has done his duty here as telling us that he is a compassionate and a Merciful Allah before He is a powerful King and this is critical to our understanding of the very ethos of Islam.

The way we as human beings ought to conduct ourselves in our daily lives whether we are the kings of businesses, the head of institutions, a father or mother, regardless, which ever position we have of authority or influence and power, we as Muslims need to continuously remind ourselves that Allah (S) has first established himself as the Rahman and the Rahim before he established himself as the Maliki Yaumi Din

and this is what those who rose up to become the greatest examples in our history embraced as the spirit of Islam.

We tend to see mercy and forgiveness as a weakness

and aggression and violence and attacking with large numbers as a strength. Mercy is our greatest strength.

So it is after we recognize that the Maliki Yaumi din – the king who will judge us on Qiyama, is a king infused with compassion and Rahama, One who has given us on the Duya 1% of his mercy and saved 99% for Qiyama, when we recognize this, we then say:

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

That it is that deity, not just any authority, not just a powerful God that we are bending down to.

It is a power that we now understand to be infused with the spirit of mercy and compassion and a spirit of mercy and compassion that is incomparable with any type of mercy and compassion that we are capable of providing and it is to that deity that we say إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

That we bow down to.

It is only after we have recognized Allah (S) as the king, the praised king who is infused with so much compassion and mercy, that leads us to bend our backs in humility to this mercy, this Ar-Rahman, we submit with open hearts.

We then express in words bending down to show our need of an Allah, a compassionate Allah to whom we say:

you alone do we worship and you alone do we turn to for help.

Allah is not in need of any of this because he is the Samad and we are the samadiyya of Allah, he needs nothing, we bend down with this realization.

One who needs nothing wants us to be those who recognize his mercy. And when bow down and prostrate to him and him alone once we recognize that he alone needs nothing and he alone is the giver, the compassionate and merciful, we submit as we realize what he has given us.

Therefore when we think of the Maliki yaumi din – the lord of the last day, we think not of a tyrannical lord but we think of a power that is filled with mercy and forgiveness and compassion and that the Justice that we will meet with on that day will be absolute and complete justice

You alone do we worship, this is in the plural.

Having recognized your infinite justice and your infinite power accompanied by your infinite mercy, we say:

I in my self, alone am not even capable of worshipping you alone as you are supposed to be worshipped,

but what I would like to do is to worship you along with so many others, along with an entire community and in that sense we strengthen each other and we bow down to you Allah

with unity and in that sujud we are, what Yusu 'Ali refers to so beautifully as, 'a fellowship of faith'.

And through this fellowship of faith,

we strengthen each other in worshipping you.

It is as if we are saying that I alone am too week to show and pay the kind of respect that is due to Allah and together maybe we, together can show some respect by bending together to the deity, the Arahman, the Arahim, the Maliki yaumi din.

After we recognize these things, this greatness, we then say:

اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

Guide us to the straight path

What is the Sirat al-Mustaqim?

Imam Ghazali says in the Ihya, if there is any reason why we recite this surah 17 times a day and sometimes even more, it is because of this verse. Why? Because of the importance of Istiqama in Islam

Mustaqim/Istiqama, what is this Istiqamah? We ask Allah to guide us along the path (Sirat) of Istiqamah. What does Istiqama mean?

Imam Ghazali relates in the Ihya a dream of one of the Salihin, where this person dreamt of Muhammad (saw) and he said to Muhammad (saw), 'Ya Rasululullah, you said' shayya batni Hud, surah Hud made you grey, fa lima qulta dhalik, why did you say that?' and the prophet responds in his dream and says,

'fali qauli Ta'ala, ' Fastiqim kama umirt'.

Be upright as you have been ordered to.

And if the prophet turned grey because of this command then what about us? The importance here is on the command of Istiqama. Guide us on the Sirat of Istiqamah.

If we look at the meanings of istiqama, we find a host of words including, upright, straight, correct, sound, in order, even – this is one set of words.

We also fins another set, 'symmetry, proportionality, harmony,

Another set, 'honesty, righteousness, honorableness.'

These are all the meanings, which infuse the word 'Istiqamah'.

It is only through all these words that we can comprehend the meaning of the word istiqama.

What ever we do and how ever we live, this is the path we must choose.

The vision of the Quran is to turn the human being into a being of compassion and balance not one of hatred and anger and sadness.

The one line engraved on the 'Arsh of Allah (My Rahma outstrips my Wrath). Out of all the great sayings we find in the Quran, Allah has chosen this line, 'Sabaqat Rahmati Ghadabi'.

Quote Shaykh Seraj, 'I don't think there is any Din that could have done its duty more than this.

No one will have an excuse to say that no, I thought the right way was anger and revenge.

I don't think we will have an excuse on Qiyama to say that Allah (S) and Muhammad (saw) have not done their duty by making the path of mercy, justice and compassion clear to us.' Unquote

We can differ on fiqh as much as we want, we can debate and argue the differences of salah and wudhu which is a raham, these differences, but about the spirit of the Din, A king who is so compassionate and wants us to embrace his Rahama, we cannot differ on, and I think in the past 100 years, this essence of the Din is a side which has become clouded.

The human being is more sacred to Allah than a nuclear bomb; the human being is more sacred than the Ka'ba itself, as Muhammad (saw) himself had said.

But do we treat the next person as sacred when we have power, when we are at the ka,ba, do we fight the human being to get to it, or do we realize that treating the human being with respect and honor is what Allah really wants?

How far have we not grown from this spirit?

How great and full of awe don't we feel if we stand in front of the ka,ba?

Why don't we feel this way when we are next to our brother or sister Muslim? How far from this spirit have we grown?

صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ

We ask Allah to guide us on the Sirat of honesty, sincerity, beauty and equilibrium.

Our appeal is always for guidance, when we turn the page of the Fatiha and we see Alif Laam Mim, it is as if the guidance we are pleading for is right there, the rest of the Quran is Huda (guidance we are pleading for).

This Sirat is the path of blessedness

غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّآلِّينَ

The maghdub alayhim are those who have deliberately defiled the laws of Allah

Dhalin – those who have gone astray out of negligence, they couldn't care less, they don't what to violate things, but they deteriorate

We have the blessed path which is an'amta, with the N'ima of Allah and the bad path of the Maghdub and Dahlin, here is where Allah's wroth and anger lies…

The term Nur (light, the truth) is never found in the Quran in the plural form of Nuran or Anwar because there is only one Nur and truth and that is the truth of Allah but the term Dhulm (oppression) is mostly in plural (Dhulumat)

The paths of darkness are many; the path of Nur is 1, the path of Mustaqim

Islam is a way we have to journey on

Once we recognize that the basics and fundamentals are here in the surah fatiha

all these things of praise, the compassion, the mercy, the king, this Rahim we bow down too, we then plea for the path of righteousness and honesty – we then say Amin (Amana) meaning security – we feel secure – or so be it – or it is so – the deeper understanding is 'deeper security' – we feel secure and at peace with this justice, and this fatiha is the key that can open your heart up – the secrets of futuh lie in this Surah – Surah al-Fatiha.

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