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Al-Fatiha (الْفَاتِحَة) or The Opening or The Opener is the first chapter, or surah, of the Qur'an. It comprises seven verses and is recited at least once during each unit of each of the five daily Islamic prayers.
1:1 بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
1:2 الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
1:3 الرَّحْمـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
1:4 مَـالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
1:5 إِيَّاك نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
1:6 اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ
1:7 صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ
1:1 Bi-smi-llāhi -r-raḥmāni -r-raḥīm(i)
1:2 Al-ḥamdu -li-llāhi rabbi -l-`ālamīn(a)
1:3 Ar-raḥmāni -r-raḥīm(i)
1:4 Māliki yawmi -d-dīn(i)
1:5 'Iyyāka na`budu wa-'iyyāka nasta`īn(u)
1:6 Ihdinā -ṣ-ṣirāṭa -l-mustaqīm(a)
1:7 Ṣirāṭa -l-laḏīna 'an`amta `alayhim ġayri-l-maġḍūbi `alayhim wa-lā -ḍ-ḍāllīn(a)
1:1 In-name-GEN-of Allah-GEN-of the-merciful-GEN the-compassionate-(GEN)
1:2 The-praise-NOM to-Allah-GEN lord-GEN-of the-world-PL-OBL
1:3 The-merciful-GEN the-compassionate-(GEN)
1:4 Ruler-GEN-of day-GEN-of the-judgement-(GEN)
1:5 ? serve-IMPF-2PL and-? <implore for help>-IMPF-2PL
1:6 Guide-IMPR-2S-OBJ-2PL the-path-ACC-of the-straight-ACC
1:7 Path-ACC-of the-<those who>-2M.PL favor-PERF-2M.S upon-OBJ-2M.PL <other than>-GEN anger-PART-PASS-S-GEN upon-OBJ-2M.PL and-not the-<gone astray>-PL-OBL
1:1 In the name of Allah, the merciful and compassionate
1:2 Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds
1:3 The merciful and compassionate
1:4 Ruler of the day of judgment
1:5 [It is thee] we serve and [it is thee] we implore for help
1:6 Guide us to (or show us) the path of the straight (i.e., righteous)
1:7 Path of those whom you favor, not those who anger you and not those who have gone astray
1:1 In بِسْمِ اللّهِ, "In the name of Allah", the basmala, the word "the" is implied. This would read well as "By the name of Allah".
1:2 Arabic generally does not use the copula, so the subjunctive "be" is implied.
1:3 This is a repetition of the last two words (not counting the definite articles) of 1:1.
1:4 مَـالِكِ ("ruler") can also be translated as "slave-master". Its use of the genitive indicates that it is a continuation of 1:3. The correct translation of دِّين, dīn is "judgement". Compare Hebrew dīn, "judgement, justice, law" from the root dyn, "to judge". The meaning of dīn as "faith" is unique to Arabic. Perhaps it is best understood as "law", as إﻣان, 'imān, from the root 'mn, means "faith". The Hebrew word for "faith" comes from the same root.
1:5 Already we have an ambiguity in the Qur'an. The words إِيَّاك ('īyāka) and وإِيَّاكَ (wa'īyāka) have no clear translation and no fewer than three variants. Arthur Jeffrey located several Qur'ans with different readings and one without any version of this sura. One of the variants is the pair حِيَّاك (ḥīyāka) and وإِيَّاكَ (wīyāaka). "[These] seem all to be independent attempts to interpret the unvoweled, unpointed skeleton term (rasm) that stood in the original codex." (Jeffrey) The most likely translation is a 2nd person masculine singular emphatic accusative (emphatic object).
As mentioned in Translation Notes, 1:5, Arthur Jeffrey identified several variant texts of this sura. Each has a very different wording, but all express similar sentiments.
In relation to positioning within the Qur'an
Several lines of evidence converge to show that this was a prayer prepended to the Qur'an, perhaps to be said before reading it. This prayer was composed orally before the printing of the Qur'an, and changed over time. This prayer may not have been included in the recension that produced the current longest-to-shortest ordering of the suras. When the Qur'an was printed the exact pronunciation had likely been forgotten, which would explain the ambiguity of 1:5.
The lines of evidence to support this hypothesis are:
1. Unlike every other surah, Allah is in the second person. That is, Allah is spoken to. It would be bizarre for the supposed divine author of a revelatory work to speak to himself, particularly, to pledge to serve and seek help from himself.
2. The major textual variations indicate that this surah was recorded after the period of "revelation". Moreover, they indicate that this surah fell into disuse and its pronunciation had to be reconstructed.
3. This surah violates the longest-to-shortest organization rule.
One variant lacks the basmala, so it is unlikely to have originated in this surah.
In relation to Jews and Christians
Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan and Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali specify Jews and Christians within their translation of Ayah 6-7, which reads: Guide us to the Straight Way. The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).
Dr. Zohurul Hoque's commentary on Ayah 5-7 reads:
6 the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favors (4:69, and taken into Your mercy);7 not (the path) of those upon whom wrath is brought down (like the Jews, 2:61,90; 3:111; 5:60, who not only rejected 'Isa Masih, but also tried to kill him on the cross, 2:72; 3:53), nor of those gone-astray (from the Right Path, like the Christians, who not only exaggerated 'Isa Masih, 5:77, but also raised the human prophet to godhead, 4:171; 5:73).
Dr. Mark Durie, the author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom, comments:
This is a prayer asking Allah’s help to lead the believer along the ‘straight path’. As such it is true to the heart of Islam’s message of guidance.
But who are those who are said to have earned Allah’s wrath, or gone astray from the straight path? Who are these people who deserve to be stigmatized in every Muslim’s prayers, each day, hundreds of thousands of times in many Muslims’ lifetimes?
Ibn Kathir’s commentary explains the meaning of this verse as follows:
These two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. … the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians. … We should also mention that both the Christians and the Jews have earned the anger and are led astray, but the anger is one of the attributes more particular of the Jews. Allah said about the Jews, ‘Those (Jews) who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath’ (Sura 5:60). The attribute that the Christians deserve most is that of being led astray, just as Allah said about them, ‘Who went astray before and who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the right path’ (Sura 5:77).
Ibn Kathir goes on to cite a hadith in which Muhammad clarified the meaning of this sura: Imam Ahmad recorded that ‘Adi bin Hatim said, … he [Muhammad] said: ‘Those who have earned the anger are the Jews and those who are led astray are the Christians.’
The verse from Sura 5 which Ibn Kathir refers to concerning Jews is:
Shall I tell you of a recompense with Allah, worse than that? Whomsoever Allah has cursed, and with whom He is wroth, and made some of them apes and swine, and worshippers of idols – they are worse situated, and have gone further astray from the right way. (Sura 5:60)
And the verse concerning Christians:
People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, other than the truth, and follow not the caprices of a people who went astray before, and led astray many, and now again have gone astray from the right way. (Sura 5:77)
It is remarkable that the daily prayers of every Muslim, part of the core of Islam, include a rejection of Christians and Jews as misguided and objects of Allah’s wrath.”To be genuine and effective, reconciliation between Muslims and those they refer to as 'People of the Book' (Jews and Christians), requires that Al-Fatihah and its meaning be discussed openly. That devout Muslims are daily declaring before Allah that Christians have gone astray and Jews are objects of divine wrath, must be considered a matter of central importance for interfaith relations. This is all the more so because the interpretation of verse 7 which relates it to Christians and Jews is soundly based upon the words of Muhammad himself. As Al-Fatihah is the daily worship of Muslims, and represents the very essence of Islam itself, the meaning of these words cannot be ignored or glossed over.
- Arabic text and original transliteration are from Al-Fatiha, accessed September 5, 2008.
- Jeffrey, Author, "A Variant Text of the Fatiha", The Muslim World, Volume 29 (1939), pp. 158-162.
- Sunan Abi Dawood, narrated by Adi ibn Hatim
- Sunan al-Tirmidhi, narrated by Adi ibn Hatim
- Hoque, Dr Zohural, "Translation and Commentary of the Holy Qur'an", Quran Today, http://www.qurantoday.com/fatihah.htm.
- Durie, Mark, "Greatest recitation of surat al fatiha", 3 December 2009, http://blog.markdurie.com/2009/12/greatest-recitation-of-surat-al-fatiha.html.