Imam Tahir ibn ‘Ashur is one of the scholars that I consider my sheikh. I have never met him, but I live with his books, sleep with his writing and turn to his works almost daily. His explanation of the Qur’an is a true gem, and one written in the modern era. Below is an adaptation of his thoughts on Surah al-Fatiha, a surah that my teacher of ten years would say to me, “Every day I learn something new from it.”
I have tried to abridge his thoughts in a language that is accessible and easy to follow, adding things I’ve heard from my teachers over the years. I did this hoping to illustrate what was mentioned above regarding the universals of the Qur’an and its divine purpose.
“In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” (Qur’an, 1:1)
By inference one can gather that this statement contains all of the noble names and attributes that belong exclusively to Allah. This is because the word “The” signifies genus (every type of praise), and the word due (which is li in Arabic) implies that it is His right alone – He is the only one who by right can receive such praise and adoration. This signifies that He alone is the master and possessor of the most perfect names and beautiful attributes.
“[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds,” (Qur’an, 1:2)
This verse implies that to Allah belongs the action of creating, shaping and maintaining.
“The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” (Qur’an, 1:3)
This verse contains the foundations for religious law: mercy and ease. Allah, through the prophecy of Muhammad (sal Allahu `alayhi wa sallam – peace be upon him), eased worship and practice upon those charged with such.
“Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.” (Qur’an, 1:4)
This verse entails everything that will happen in the Hereafter after death. When one reads this verse he should feel a sense of responsibility and hate sins like he hates cancer.
“It is You we worship…” (Qur’an, 1:5)
This verse contains two important concepts: spiritual development and following what Allah has legislated.
“…and You we ask for help.” (Qur’an, 1:5)
This implies sincerity to Allah coupled with practice.
‘Iz ad-Din ibn ‘Abdul as-Salam wrote:
“The way to Allah contains the outward and the inward acts. The outward is Shari’ah (Islamic judicial system) and the inner is its reality. Both imply that establishment of servitude to Allah according to the dictates of Islam, and both words are found in the statement, ‘You alone we worship, and You alone we implore for help.’ ‘You alone we worship’ is Shari’ah, and ‘You alone we implore for help’ is its inner reality.”
“(Please) Guide us to the straight path.” (Qur’an, 1:6)
This entails the different conditions of people and their corresponding rulings related to acts of worship, dealing with others and good character.
“The way of those whom You favored…” (Qur’an, 1:7)
This verse refers to the previous blessed communities and individuals who struggled to follow the correct way.
“Neither the way of those who earned wrath, nor (the way) of those who went astray.” (Qur’an, 1:7)
This verse refers to the previous nations and individuals who either knew what was right and refused to follow it, or allowed their emotions to seduce them towards acting without knowledge. The verse implies that there is more to come about both groups in the Qur’an; and to encourage the reader to search its noble pages in order to adorn oneself with the jewels of those of the “straight path,” and to remove the rags of those who earned wrath or those who went off target.
There is no doubt that this chapter contains the entire contents of the Qur’an. It acts as a zip file for the soul which, in seven short verses, reminds the Muslim of his Lord, His names and attributes, the Hereafter; it reminds one of asking for help and worship his Lord; and implants upon his heart the desire to be from those who Allah has favored and not of the opposite – the religion in its entirety. It is no wonder that we are obligated to recite in our daily prayers as its’ verses act like a site map for the Qur’an.
Want to do something amazing? Go through the Qur’an and find the verses that express the universals found in al-Fatiha. Impress me and I’ll send you something!
Allah knows best.