Al Fathiha means “the opening.” Surah Fathiha is the opening chapter and introduction to the Quran. It was the first complete Surah revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Mecca, during the early period of prophethood. The main content of Surah Fathiha is the establishment of the fundamental principles of Islam. An angel asked Muhammad (SAW) about Surah Fathiha, to which the Prophet replied, "There are two lights from heaven, one is surah Fathiha and the other is surah Baqarah." (Sahih Al-Bukhari).

Surah Fathiha has many names that reflect its significance such as Umul-Kitab (mother of the book) because it includes the foundation of the entire religion. It is also called Al-Hamd (praise) as it begins with the praise of Allah. In Surah Al-Hijr, it is referred to as Sabah-Mathani (seven often repeated). “And We have certainly given you, [O Muhammad], seven of the often repeated [verses] and the great Qur'an.” (15:87). Fathiha is the only Surah recited at every salah, repeated more than 20 times a day. Prayer is incomplete without it. Thus, it is also known as Al-Kafiyah (sufficient). Surah Fathiha is also called Al-Shafiya (healer) because it acts as a cure for the heart and body. The Prophet (SAW) called it ruqya (incantation) (Sahih Al-Bukhari).

The first verse of Surah Fathiha praises Allah. "All praise is for Allah—Lord of all worlds." Through this verse, Allah introduces Himself as master of everything in the universe, including prophets, angels, jinn, and humans. In the next verse, "The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful," Allah informs that He is incredibly merciful to all human beings. In the following verse, "Master of the Day of Judgment," Allah states that he is the master of the day of judgment when every person will face Allah's justice. Good deeds will be rewarded as only He can reward, and evil will be punished as only He can punish.

In the middle of Surah Fathiha, we declare, "You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help." A believer makes this pledge multiple times every day. The last part of the Surah is a dua (supplication) focused on seeking guidance from Allah. We ask Him to guide us to the straight path and keep us away from the path of those who have gained His anger.

The messenger of Allah (SAW) said, "Allah has not revealed the likes of Umm Al-Kitab in the Tawrah, nor the Injil. It is the seven most repeated ayah (Sabah Mathani), and (Allah said), it is divided between myself and my slave, and my slave shall have what he asks for.” (Jamiat at-Tirmidhi). This means that Allah personally responds to us with every ayah of Surah Fathiha that we recite. "When the servant says, ‘praise be to Allah, the lord of the universe,’ Allah then says, ‘My servant has praised me.’ For the verse, ‘The most compassionate, the merciful,’ Allah responds, ‘My servant has lauded Me.’ For the verse, ‘Master of the day of judgment,’ Allah responds, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’ And for the final few verses, Allah responds, ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for.’” (Sahih Muslim) Surah Fathiha is a conversation between the reciter and Allah as well as a prayer for guidance. The rest of the Quran is the answer to this prayer.

The Alim Foundation: NPS / NH; September 18, 2020

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