Ahmadiyyat The Holy Qur'an

At-Tafsīr-ul-Kabīr: The Grand Exegesis – The Names of Surah al-Fatihah

Chapter 1, Verse 1

Translated by Murtaza Ahmad, UK

The Review of Religions continues the serialization of At-Tafsīr-ul-Kabīr: The Grand Exegesisin English, written by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, the second head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. This is one of the most insightful and in-depth commentaries of the Holy Qur’an ever written, brought to English readers for the first time. 

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The name of this surah (chapter), namely, al-Fātiah, further has the distinction of being mentioned as a prophecy in past scriptures. Thus, in Revelations 10:2-3, it is written:

‘He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.’

The name of this sūrah and the number of verses it contains are recorded as a prophecy. Owing to the translator’s unfamiliarity with the essence of the prophecy, the Hebrew word פּתוּחַ patuaḥ[1]has been translated as a book ‘having been opened’,[2]whereas the Hebrew word Patuaḥ i.e.Fātiḥah– was mentioned as the name to be designated for this sūrah. In this prophecy, the expression ‘seven thunders uttered their voices’ actually refers to the seven verses of Sūrahal-Fātiḥah. Christian authors admit that the prophecy referring to the second advent of the Messiah [Jesus Christ] is found in the aforementioned verses of Revelations, and indeed this is an established fact. It is clear from the words of the prophecy that [the true meanings of] this sūrahwould remain sealed until the time of the advent of the Messiah. In other words, a detailed exegesis of this sūrahwould be made manifest during the era of the Promised Messiah. Therefore, it is written in Revelations that the Prophet heard a voice from the heavens, saying: ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.’[3]

I have enumerated the names of Sūrahal-Fātiahin detail to make it clear that these names have been designated by the Holy Prophetsahimself. As proven from some of the narrations regarding the names of Sūrahal-Fātiah, the Holy Prophetsagave these names on the basis of revelation from Allah the Almighty. 

Secondly, in listing these names, my objective is to show that they shed light on the vast and profound meanings of Sūrahal-Fātiah. In fact, these nine names allude to the ten subjects which are explained in Sūrahal-Fātiah.

  1. It is Fātiatul-Kitāb[The Opening Chapter of the Book], meaning that it has been enjoined that this chapter should be placed at the very beginning of the Holy Qur’an. It serves as a key through which the meanings of the Qur’an are disclosed.
  2. Sūrahal-Fātiahis also Sūrahal-amd[Chapter of Praise]. This sūrahsheds light on man’s relationship with God and the purpose of man’s creation. By doing so it brings to light that man has been created to attain the highest degree of progress, and that the relationship between God Almighty and man is one of Grace and Mercy.
  3. This chapter is Aalāh[The Prayer], signifying that it teaches a perfect prayer, which stands unparalleled.
  4.  It is also Ummul-Kitāb[The Mother of the Book] in that it addresses mankind through all forms of knowledge and insights. Further, the status of this chapter is akin to being the mother to the Noble Qur’an. This signifies that the heart-wrenching prayers contained in this chapter caused the revelation of Ummul-Qur’ān[The Mother of the Qur’an] to descend from the exalted throne of God.
  5. It is also known as Ummul-Qur’ān[The Mother of the Quran] because it provides man with all branches of knowledge that impact his moral and spiritual welfare.
  6. It is As-Sab‘ul-Mathānī[The Seven Oft-Repeated Verses], because even though the chapter comprises only seven verses,  it fulfils man’s every need and the answers to all questions pertaining to spirituality are shed light upon through these verses. Thus, the solution to any profound matter can be discovered by repeatedly pondering over them. Mathānī[Oft-repeated], indicates that this chapter must be recited in each rak‘ah[one unit] of the Prayer. 
  7. It is also Al-Qur’ānul- ‘Ażīm[The Great Qur’an], i.e., despite being called Ummul-Kitāband Ummul-Qur’ānit is also a part of the Holy Qur’an and not separate from it as some have erroneously considered it to be. Sūrahal-Fātiahis called the Great Qur’an in the same sense as when someone is asked to recite the Qur’an, the intention behind this is to recite a sūrahor a portion thereof and not to recite the entire Qur’an. 
  8. Sūrahal-Fātiahis also ‘a cure’ in the sense that it provides a remedy for all doubts and misgivings that pass through one’s mind concerning one’s faith.
  9. It is a Ruqyah[the charm], meaning that, besides being a general invocation, its recitation also protects man from the attacks of Satan and his followers, and inspires the heart with such strength that the temptations and ploys of Satan are rendered harmless.
  10. It is also a Kanz[treasure] in that streams of limitless knowledge flow from it. In Urdu, there is an idiom دریا کوزہ میں بند کرنا‘to squeeze a river into a bottle,’ which perhaps cannot be applied to anything except Sūrahal-Fātiah. In fact, it can be said of this sūrahthat an entire ocean has been squeezed into a bottle.

In short, my objective for listing these names has been that I should draw the attention of the readers to those vast meanings that have been elucidated by the Holy Prophetsathrough them. Indeed, the names alone of a sūrah, be they nine or even a hundred, can serve no purpose if they are devoid of meaning. Undoubtedly, it is impossible for the Holy Prophetsato have stated something futile; and therefore these names, for all those who ponder over them, possess a brilliant light and perfect guidance. 

The Excellences of Sūrahal-Fātiah:

Many of the excellences of this sūrahhave been mentioned in the Hadith[narrations of the Holy Prophetsa], some of which I have indicated in the aforementioned names of the sūrah. I shallnow discuss those excellences of thissūrahwhich have been elucidated in greater detail. Imam Nisā’ī narrates on the authority of Ubayy bin Ka‘b that the Holy Prophetsasaid:

مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَلَا فِي الْإِنْجِيلِ مِثْلَ أُمِّ الْقُرْآنِ وَهِيَ السَّبْعُ الْمَثَانِي وَهِيَ مَقْسُومَةٌ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ[4]

‘Neither in the Torah nor in the Gospel has Allah the Almighty revealed any chapter like that of Ummul-Qur’ān(Sūrahal-Fātiah), also referred to as The Seven oft-Repeated Verses. Allah the Almighty has informed me that this chapter has been divided equally between Me and My servant. Through this chapter any prayer of My servants will certainly be granted acceptance.’

This particular quality of this chapter is of great significance because it contains a practical remedy to benefit one, both in this world and in the hereafter. Any prayer offered using this remedy will find acceptance. 

It is evident that this does not mean that every prayer offered through Sūrahal-Fātiahwill certainly be accepted. Rather, it signifies that one who adopts the means of prayer found in this chapter will indeed find their prayer accepted.    

Now the question arises as to what are those means? It is clear from the composition of the chapter that these means are: 

  1. Bismillāh[In the name of Allah]
  2. al-amdu Lillāh[All Praise belongs to Allah]
  3. ar-Ramān[the Most Gracious]
  4. ar-Raīm[the Ever Merciful]
  5. Māliki yawmid-dīn[Master of the Day of Judgement]
  6. Iyyāka na‘budu[Thee alone do we worship]
  7. Iyyāka nasta‘īn[Thee alone do we implore for help] 

Just as this sūrahconsists of seven verses, there are also seven principles for the acceptance of prayer contained within this chapter. 

[1]The Hebrew word פּתוּחַ patuah is a passive participle referring to something that is opened or open.

[2]The Koine Greek in the book of Revelation reads avoíyw anoígōwhich is a perfect passive participle meaning ‘having been opened’. 

[3]The Bible, Revelations 10:4. [Publishers]

[4]Nisā’ī, Kitābul-Iftitāḥ, Faḍlu Fātiḥatil-Kitāb.