The Holy Qur'an

Principles for the Acceptance of Prayer through Surah al-Fatihah

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Chapter 1, Verse 1

The Review of Religions continues the serialisation of At-Tafsīr Ul Kabīr: The Grand Exegesis in English, written by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), 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.

Translated by Murtaza Ahmad

Bismillāh [In the Name of Allah]

The word bismillāh infers that the intent behind any prayer offered should be pious. It is not the case that the prayer of a thief, who supplicates to God for help in committing a crime, will be accepted. A prayer which is offered by invoking the name of God and by seeking His help should necessarily be for something which is worthy of Allah’s help. Consider how the concise words of bismillāh have elucidated the vast scope of prayer. 

I have observed that many people pray for the downfall or ruin of others, and then complain that their prayers are not been answered. Likewise, they pray for unlawful objectives and then bemoan that their prayers were not accepted. There are some who clad themselves in an artificial mantle of asceticism and piety, and yet give amulets[1] to other people to attain their forbidden desires. They then pray for this, while in fact all their supplications and amulets will be vehemently rejected.

Al-amdu Lillāh Rabbil Alimeen

The second principle for the acceptance of prayer is mentioned in al-amdu Lillāhi Rabbil Alimeen [2]. In other words, the prayer ought to be such that its outcome not only proves beneficial for the believers of God Almighty, but also the world at large, or at the very least, the prayer should not cause harm to anyone. Similarly, any prayer that would find acceptance ought to establish the glory of Allah and not bring any charge against the exalted Being of Allah.

Ar-Ramān [The Most Gracious]

The third principle for the acceptance of prayer is to stir the vast mercy of Allah the Almighty. The acceptance of the prayer ought to manifest the All-Encompassing Grace of Allah the Almighty.


The fourth principle is that the prayer should reflect  God’s attribute of raīmiyyah [The Ever Merciful]. This signifies that the prayer ought to lay such a foundation that its virtues should last a considerable period of time within the world. The outcome of such a prayer should continuously be beneficial for the pious and virtuous, or the very least, this prayer should not be a hindrance for others.

 Māliki Yawmid-Dīn

The fifth principle is that whilst praying, one ought to consider God’s attribute of Māliki Yawmid-Dīn [Master of the Day of Judgement]. That means that at the time of praying, one should not discard the material means that Allah the Almighty has provided to achieve successful results, since these very resources have been created by God. It is illogical to seek His Help but not use the means He has provided.

Therefore, as long as these material means are available for the supplicant to use, it is incumbent to avail themselves of these resources in conjunction with prayer. However, if the material means are not available to the supplicant, the attribute of māliki yawmid-dīn manifests itself beyond the realm of these material means.

It is also indicated in this verse that the one who supplicates should be forgiving to others, and not be obstinate or harsh in demanding their own rights.

Iyyāka Na‘budu [Thee Alone Do We Worship]

The sixth principle mentioned is that a person who offers prayers should have a perfect relationship with Allah the Almighty and be completely sincere to Him. They should be completely free from polytheistic and idolatrous thoughts.

Iyyāka nasta‘īn [I Beseech None But God Alone]

The seventh principle is that the supplicant should be devoted wholly to Allah. They should have complete trust and reliance on God Almighty. They should not turn to anyone besides Allah. They should reach such a stage that no matter what the circumstances or whatever calamity or difficulty befalls them, they always declare, ‘I beseech none but God alone.’

If one becomes firmly established upon these seven principles, they become a personification of the words لِعَبْدِيْ مَا سَأَلَ [for My servant is whatever he asks][3]. The truth is that it was the Holy Prophet (sa) and his sincere followers who perfectly demonstrated these principles of the acceptance of prayer. It is through these followers that such signs for the acceptance of prayer were witnessed by the world, that those bereft of sight were given eyes to see; those bereft of hearing were given ears to listen, and those bereft of speech were given tongues to speak. The status of becoming a sincere follower of the Holy Prophet (sa) is not unattainable. On the contrary, anyone who wishes can strive to achieve this rank.

Bukharī (rh) narrates a hadith on the authority of Sa‘īd bin al-Mu‘allā, the summary of which is that the Holy Prophet (sa) said that he would teach him the greatest chapter of the HolyQur’an,and subsequently taught him Sūrah al-Fātiḥah.[4]

The fact that the Holy Prophet (sa) called Sūrah al-Fātiḥah أَعْظَمُ السُوَرِ [‘the greatest chapter’] implies that its meaning and import is greater than the longest chapters of the Holy Qur’an.  And this was inevitable, for Sūrah al-Fātiḥah serves as the essence of the entire Holy Qur’an.

Here I would also like to relate one of my personal experiences. During my youth, I saw in a dream that I was standing with my face towards the East and there was a vast plain in front of me. In that expanse, a sound began to reverberate like the clanging of pots and pans. This sound then spread until the entire plain was echoing with its vibration. Following this, the sound waves began taking shape until it formed a picture-frame. Then faint colours began appearing on the canvas, gaining in intensity until they formed a portrait. This portrait then began to move and came to life. I realised that this was an angel. The angel addressed me and asked, ‘Shall I teach you the meanings of Sūrah al-Fātiah?’ At this, I replied, ‘Indeed, please do teach me its commentary.’ Then the angel began to teach me the commentary of Sūrah al-Fātiah until he reached إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ [Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help][5]. Having reached there, the angel informed me that all previous commentaries that had ever been written, had only covered up to this verse. No exegesis of the verses that followed it had ever been written. Then the angel asked me, ‘Should I teach you the meaning of the verses that follow?’ I replied in the affirmative. Thereupon, the angel began to teach me the commentary of اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ [Guide us in the right path][6] and of the verses that follow. When the angel had finished, I woke up from my sleep. Upon waking, I realised that I could only remember one or two points from this commentary. I immediately fell back to sleep again and upon reawakening, I could not recollect any points of the commentary. Some time after this incident, I had the opportunity to deliver a brief exposition on this chapter to a gathering. As I was delivering this exposition, ever-new meanings of Sūrah al-Fātiah were continuously revealed to me. I then realised that this is what was meant by the angel teaching me its commentary. From that day to this, new meanings are continuously being taught to me, hundreds of which I have mentioned in my books and lectures. Despite this, the treasures of this chapter have not been exhausted. As such, the principles regarding the acceptance of prayer, which were detailed above, were due to a similar experience. I was writing the commentary of this chapterwhen the thought crossed my mind that perhaps Allah the Almighty would disclose some new meanings of this chapter. Immediately, Allah the Almighty manifested these seven principles regarding [the acceptance of] prayer contained in this sūrah. فَالْحَمْدُ للهِ عَلَى ذَلِكَ [So praise be to Allah for this.] In fact, I have only summarised these principles, whereas there are many more insights hidden in them. ذَلِكَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ [That is Allah’s Grace; He bestows it on whom He pleases].[7]

[1] Amulet (Ta‘widh): In the sub-continent Qur’anic verses or other Islamic prayers and symbols are kept within a small locket or amulet. This is known as a Ta‘widh. Usually this amulet is worn by some Muslims to protect them from evil. [The Review of Religions]

[2] All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds (The Holy Qur’an, 1:2). [Publishers]

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

[4] Bukharī, Kitābu Faḍāi’lil-Qur’ān, Bābu Fātiḥatil-Kitāb.

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 1:5.

[6] The Holy Qur’an,  1:6.

[7] The Holy Qur’an,  62:5. [Publishers]

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