Surah Al-Fatihah: Meaning and Benefits

We recite Surah Al-Fatihah every day, particularly in our 5 daily prayers and yet, have we truly understood and appreciated the greatest Surah in the Quran?
by Ustazah Syafiqah Binte Mohammed 2022-09-02 • 19 min read
Syafiqah Mohammed is an alumni of Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah and Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. She graduated with a degree of Qur’an and Sunnah from International Islamic University Malaysia. She is currently taking the Postgraduate Certificate in Islam in Contemporary Societies (PCICS).
2022-09-02 • 19 min read

Alhamdulillah, we have now entered the Hijri month of Safar as well as the month of September from the conventional calendar. The beginning of every month often feels like a fresh start to renew our purpose and intention. 

Alfatihah, fatihah, Quran, Beginnings, Openings, Tafsir, Hadith

Likewise, our appreciation towards Surah Al-Fatihah needs to be renewed and refreshed constantly by revising its meanings and benefits. This process of revising Surah Al-Fatihah aims to ensure that we are frequently reminded of our purpose in this world. Having a purpose helps us a lot in going through life and staying focused despite having challenges and struggles. 

Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran,

كِتَـٰبٌ أَنزَلْنَـٰهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَـٰرَكٌۭ لِّيَدَّبَّرُوٓا۟ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْأَلْبَـٰبِ

A blessed Book that We sent down to you, that they may ponder its verses, and for those with intelligence to take heed. 

(Surah Sad, 38:29)

This verse indicates that every Quranic verse is meant to be reflected upon its meanings, purposes and rulings in order to attain both the understanding of its messages and contentment in hearts. It is about time for us to take this opportunity upon the arrival of every new beginning to assimilate and reflect on the wisdoms behind this greatest Surah that we repeatedly recite every day.

Read: How to Learn to Read Quran

The greatness of Surah Al-Fatihah was mentioned by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. himself. He told his companion, Abu Sa’id bin Mu’alla r.a. that he s.a.w. was going to teach him the greatest Surah before Abu Sa’id r.a. could leave the mosque. Later, when Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. intended to leave the mosque, Abu Sa’id reminded him by asking:

 أَلَمْ تَقُلْ ‏"لأُعَلِّمَنَّكَ سُورَةً هِيَ أَعْظَمُ سُورَةٍ فِي الْقُرْآنِ‏"‏‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏‏(‏الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ)‏ هِيَ السَّبْعُ الْمَثَانِي وَالْقُرْآنُ الْعَظِيمُ الَّذِي أُوتِيتُهُ‏"‏‏

Didn't you say to me, “I will teach you a Surah which is the greatest Surah in the Qur'an?” He (the Prophet) replied, "Alhamdulillahi Rabbi-l-'alamin (i.e. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds) which is Al-Sab'a Al-Mathani (i.e. seven repeatedly recited Verses) and the Grand Quran which has been given to me”.

(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Alfatihah, fatihah, Quran, Beginnings, Openings, Tafsir, Hadith

Just like its literal meaning, “The Opening”, Surah Al-Fatihah is an introduction that summarises the whole Quranic theme. We should look through the lens of Surah Al-Fatihah to aid us in understanding the rest of the Quran[1]. Even in prayer, no matter what part of the Surah you read, it needs to be paired with its introduction, which is Surah Al-Fatihah[2]. It is a Rukun (integral) in our prayers. Without reciting Surah Al-Fatihah, our prayers would be invalid. 

As the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. said,

‏ لاَ صَلاَةَ لِمَنْ لَمْ يَقْرَأْ بِفَاتِحَةِ الْكِتَابِ

Whoever does not recite Al-Fatihah in his prayer, his prayer is invalid.

(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

The Meaning of Surah Al-Fatihah

Let us delve into the meaning of Surah Al-Fatihah, part by part, so that we can comprehend the significance and beauty of why Allah s.w.t. specifically arranges the verses in such a manner. 

First Part of Al-Fatihah

The first part consists of verse 1-4:

Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran,

بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ. ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ. ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ. مَـٰلِكِ يَوْمِ ٱلدِّينِ

In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. All praise is for Allah, Lord of all worlds. The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgement.

(Surah Al-Fatihah, 1:1-4)

This first part of Surah Al-Fatihah introduces us to The Author of the Quran, Allah s.w.t.[3] It starts off with basmalah, which reminds us to begin every noble activity in the name of Allah as it contains many benefits [4]. He then describes himself as the Lord of the worlds who He alone deserves praise because of His kindness and limitless blessings towards His creations and whom He has guided to believe in Him[5]

Alfatihah, fatihah, Quran, Beginnings, Openings, Tafsir, Hadith

As human beings, we sometimes tend to forget to ascribe the success we experience to Allah s.w.t. whenever we pull off something good. When in fact, it is by His will and power that we are able to accomplish success (taufiq). 

This verse is set as a reminder for us to realise that we are just nothing without Him and to remain humble by rightfully giving the credit and thanks to Allah s.w.t. whenever we are complimented for our success, beauty, talent, intelligence or anything that is praiseworthy. 

He then describes Himself as Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim, which means that He is both entirely and especially Merciful. His mercy is not limited to Muslims only, but it extends to His entire creations.[6] Indeed, His mercy is limitless as it prevails over His wrath.

As the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. said,

لَمَّا قَضَى اللَّهُ الْخَلْقَ كَتَبَ عِنْدَهُ فَوْقَ عَرْشِهِ، إِنَّ رَحْمَتِي سَبَقَتْ غَضَبِي

When Allah created the creations, He wrote with Him on His Throne: 'My Mercy has preceded My Anger

(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Ask yourself, what were some ways Allah s.w.t. showed His kindness to you? I bet that there are innumerable!

Next, He describes himself as the master of the Day of Judgement who will reward His servants through His Mercy and punish others by His Justice.[7] It is beautiful when He pairs the verse on mercy with the verse on justice. It is a perfect balance between mercy and justice so that people neither take advantage of His love and mercy nor lose hope of Allah.[8]

Alfatihah, fatihah, Quran, Beginnings, Openings, Tafsir, Hadith, hope, mercy

Middle Part of Al-Fatihah

Moving on to the next part, which consists of verse 5:

Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran,

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

You (alone) we worship and You (alone) we ask for help.

(Surah Al-Fatihah, 1:5)

The middle part of Surah Al-Fatihah shifts the focus to the bond between Allah and us. It is about what we want to give Allah and what we want from Him.[9] After acknowledging the greatness of Allah s.w.t, we declare to obey and worship Him only.[10] But it does not stop there. 

This verse also teaches us about humility and that we should seek help from Him in every matter that we do. It's important to come to terms with ourselves and realise that we are weak and incapable of succeeding on our own.

The pairing of the first and middle part of the Surah is truly amazing because it indicates that knowledge and action are subsequent to each other for a true believer. Without knowing how great Allah is, a servant may not be hopeful and thus, become fearful to love and obey Him. Likewise, without submission to Him, a servant may be unfaithful and ungrateful for all the favours bestowed upon him.

Final Part of Al-Fatihah

Finally, onto the last part of Surah Al-Fatihah, which consists of verse 6-7:

Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran, 

ٱهْدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٰطَ ٱلْمُسْتَقِيمَ. صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ ٱلْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ

Guide us along the Straight Path. The Path of those You have blessed—not those You are displeased with, or those who are astray.

(Surah Al-Fatihah, 1:6-7)

The final part of this Surah is for us, as the servants of Allah s.w.t, to ask Him for guidance to keep us on the straight path until we meet Him.[11] It is a path of Islam that leads to success in both this world and the Hereafter, which truly successful people tread it. According to a Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Imam At-Tabari refers it to the path of the virtuous, like the Prophets a.s.[12] 

They have set examples for us to follow on how to navigate life as faithful believers. Therefore, it is important for us to read their stories for inspiration and ask Allah for guidance to be like them. 

We should also seek protection from falling into the two groups of people.[13] The first is those who provoked His rage: they had the right knowledge but did not act upon it. And one who was lost: they did not acquire the right knowledge and have probably done good deeds but acted upon it without knowledge.

Let us take the time to check ourselves and reflect on whether we demonstrate one of the mentioned negative traits. If you do and you want to rise from it, it is an indication of guidance and faith.

Alfatihah, fatihah, Quran, Beginnings, Openings, Tafsir, Hadith, path

From this whole Surah, we can conclude that it reminds us of the power and majesty of Allah s.w.t. that we should hold on to the purpose of life to serve Him. It also allows us to reflect on the state of our faith and deeds in order to become better servants by learning about Islam deeper and developing a stronger connection with Allah s.w.t.

The Benefits of Surah Al-Fatihah

This surah contains several incredible benefits for those who recite it, as follows:

1. Surah Al-Fatihah is a cure

By Allah’s will, reciting Surah Al-Fatihah can cure illnesses. This is based on a narration by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri r.a. He reported that some of the companions went on a journey and landed at a place where a woman came to them and asked for help because their chief was bitten by a scorpion. So one of the companions recited Surah Al-Fatihah, and the chief then regained his health. The incident was reported to the Prophet s.a.w. because they were unsure whether they could accept the reward from Ruqyah (a type of spiritual healing). He s.a.w. then said:

مَا كَانَ يُدْرِيهِ أَنَّهَا رُقْيَةٌ اقْسِمُوا وَاضْرِبُوا لِي بِسَهْمٍ مَعَكُمْ 

How did you come to know that this (Sura al-Fatihah) could be used as a Ruqyah? So distribute them (amongst those who had been present there with him) and allocate a share of mine also.

(Sahih Muslim)

The Hadith above indicates that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. approved the act of Ruqyah. This is why this Surah is also called syifa’ or cure.

2. Surah Al-Fatihah is a light from the Heavens

Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. reported that upon hearing a sound above him, Jibril a.s. said to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w:

‏ "‏هذا باب من السماء فتح اليوم ولم يفتح قط إلا اليوم"، فنزل منه ملك فقال‏:‏ هذا ملك نزل إلى الأرض لم ينزل قط إلا اليوم، فسلم وقال‏:‏ أبشر بنورين أوتيتهما، لم يؤتهما نبي قبلك‏:‏ فاتحة الكتاب، وخواتيم سورة البقرة، لن تقرأ بحرف منها إلا أعطيته‏.

“This is a gate which has been opened in the Heavens today. It was never opened before." Then an angel descended through it, he said: "This is an angel who has come down to earth. He never came down before." He sent greetings and said: "Rejoice with two lights given to you. Such lights were not given to any Prophet before you. These (lights) are: Fatihah-til-Kitab (Surah Al-Fatihah), and the concluding Ayat of Surat Al-Baqarah. You will never recite a word from them without being given the blessings it contains."

(Sahih Muslim)

Alfatihah, fatihah, Quran, Beginnings, Openings, Tafsir, Hadith

3. Allah s.w.t. responds to every line of Surah Al-Fatihah

In a Hadith Qudsi, one of the Prophet's companions, Abu Huraira r.a. had heard the Rasulullah s.a.w. declared that Allah the Exalted had said: 

I have divided the prayer into two halves between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks. 

When the servant says: Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe, Allah the Most High says: My servant has praised Me. 

And when he (the servant) says: The Most Compassionate, the Merciful, Allah the Most High says: My servant has lauded Me. 

And when he (the servant) says: Master of the Day of judgement, He remarks: My servant has glorified Me. and sometimes He would say: My servant entrusted (his affairs) to Me. 

And when he (the worshipper) says: You (alone) we worship and You (alone) we ask help, He (Allah) says: This is between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for. 

Then, when he (the worshipper) says: Guide us along the Straight Path. The Path of those You have blessed—not those You are displeased with, or those who are astray, He (Allah) says: This is for My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for. 

(Sahih Al-Muslim)

Isn't it an honour to get a response from Allah? And imagine reading it with full comprehension of its meanings and awareness of His response. Wouldn’t it be a meaningful conversation between You and Him? Ma shaa Allah.

This Hadith also indicates that it elevates one’s spiritual state as He mentioned that the person who recites it will receive what he or she asks for: guidance to the straight path.

Pondering upon the Surah Al-Fatihah, helps us refocus our lens on our purpose in life. It will foster a closer relationship with Him and increase faith in Him. When we find ourselves in circumstances where we feel lost, press the pause button and take the time to reflect on Surah Al-Fatihah. By His will, it will bring you back to your purpose in the nick of time.

Let us make a resolution to renew and refresh our appreciation towards Surah Al-Fatihah constantly as it serves as healing or a charging effect on our souls. 

May we strive to be those who read and understand the Quran.

Alfatihah, fatihah, Quran, Beginnings, Openings, Tafsir, Hadith
 

 


References:

[1] Khan, N. (2016). Get To Know: Ep. 1 - Surah Al-Fatihah - Nouman Ali Khan - Quran Weekly. Retrieved from Quran Weekly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8I6BZQED7E
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Fayaz, M. (n.d.). Surah Fatihah, Your way to Life! Part-2. Retrieved from Understand Al-Quran Academy: https://understandquran.com/surah-fatihah-your-way-to-life-part-2/
[5] Tafsir Al-Miqbas. Retrieved from altafsir.com: https://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=2&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=1&tAyahNo=7&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2
[6] Abid, R. (2018). Surah Al-Fatihah: A Brief Explanation. Retrieved from The Thinking Muslim: https://thethinkingmuslim.com/2018/03/07/surah-al-fatihah-a-brief-explanation/
[7] Ibid
[8] Khan, N. (2016). Get To Know: Ep. 1 - Surah Al-Fatihah - Nouman Ali Khan - Quran Weekly. Retrieved from Quran Weekly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8I6BZQED7E
[9] Khan, N. (2014). Surah Al Fatihah | Quran Gems. Retrieved from FreeQuranEducation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgcOIJCCNy4
[10] Tafsir Al-Miqbas. Retrieved from altafsir.com: https://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=2&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=1&tAyahNo=7&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2
[11] Abid, R. (2018). Surah Al-Fatihah: A Brief Explanation. Retrieved from The Thinking Muslim: https://thethinkingmuslim.com/2018/03/07/surah-al-fatihah-a-brief-explanation/
[12] Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Imam Ismail Ibn Umar Ibn Kathir, (Surah Al-Fatihah, 1:6)
[13] Abid, R. (2018). Surah Al-Fatihah: A Brief Explanation. Retrieved from The Thinking Muslim: https://thethinkingmuslim.com/2018/03/07/surah-al-fatihah-a-brief-explanation/
 

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