Based on the meanings explained by the Salaf, and the Ahlus Sunnah (Ash'ari & Maturidi) scholars.
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Beginning with the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
FOOTNOTES: Beginning with the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
Nahmaduhu wa nussalli ‘ala rasulihil karim – Him alone we praise and to His Blessed Messenger ﷺ we salute.
Names of Surah Al-Fatihah –
This surah has a few names 1) Fatihah 2) Fatihatil Kitab 3) Ummul Quran 4) Suratul Kanz 5) Kafia 6) Wafia 7) Shafia 8.) Shifa 9) Sab’a Mathani 10) Noor 11) Ruqiya 12) Suratil Hamd 13) Suratid Du’aa 14) Ta’alim Al-Mas-ala 15) Surat Al-Munajat 16) Surat At-Tafwid 17) Surat As-Suaal 18) Ummul Kitab 19) Fatihatil Quran 20) Suratis Salah
This surah has 7 verses, 27 words (Arabic), 140 letters (Arabic).
No verse of this ayah is nasikh (abrogator) or mansukh (abrogated).
Circumstances of Revelation:
This surah was revealed in Makkah Al-Mukarramah or Madinatul Munawwarah or both. It is narrated from ‘Amru bin Shirjiil that the Blessed Prophet, sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, elucidated to Ummuna Khadija, radi Allahu ‘anha, that “I hear a call saying ‘iqra’ (read)”. Waraqa bin Nawfal was informed; he humbly said, “when this call is heard, you listen calmly”; thereafter, the Archangel Jibreel appeared at his service and said “Say [O Master Rasulullah]: (بِسۡمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ – ٱلۡحَمۡدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ) Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem. Alhamdulillaahi Rabbil ‘Aalameen” From this we understand that this is the first surah to have descended. However, from other narrations, we learn that the first surah to descend was Surah Iqra/’Alaq (Surah 96). In this surah, to teach, communication is in the language of humans [that is, utilizing their personal pronouns].
Mas-ala (Case): It is wajib (compulsory) to read this surah in the salah. For the imam and the munfarid (the person who is praying alone by himself), it has to be read personally; and for the muqtadi (the person standing in a congregation, praying behind the imam) it is accomplished at the tongue of the imam (that is, the imam’s recitation is deemed to be the muqtadi’s recitation). It states in Sahih Hadith (قراءة الامام له قراءة) meaning that the recitation of the imam is the [de facto] recitation of the muqtadi. The Quran commands the muqtadi to stay silent and listen to the recitation of the imam – (إِذَا قُرِئَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ وَأَنصِتُو) (when the Quran is recited, listen to it and pay attention – 7:204). It is stated in Sahih Muslim (اذا قرأ فانصتو) (When the imam recites, you stay silent) and in many other ahadith contain this topic.
Mas-ala (Case): If one does not know the dua to be recited in the janaza prayer, then it is permissible to read the Surah Fatihah with the intention of dua, but NOT permissible to read it with the intention of Quran recitation. [Fatawa Hindiyyah]
The Virtues of Surah Fatihah:
In ahadith, plenty of virtues of this surah, have been mentioned.
The Blessed Prophet has said that a surah such as this has not been revealed in the Torah (Old Testament), the Injiil (New Testament) and the Zaboor (Psalms). [Tirmidhi]
An angel descended from the sky, and greeted the Blessed Prophet with the salam, and then he gave the Prophet the glad tidings of two lights that had not been bestowed to any prophet before him ﷺ- One is Surah Fatihah, and the other is the last verses of Surah Baqarah (Surah 2). [Sahih Muslim]
Surah Fatihah is the cure for every disease. [Darimi]
If one reads Surah Fatihah a 100 times and then supplicates (dua) to Allah for something, it is accepted by Allah. [Darimi]
Isti’aadhah (Seeking refuge with Allah against shaytan) –
Mas-ala (Case): Before starting with recitation, it is Sunnah to read (اعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم) (A’oodhu billahi min ash-shaytaan ir-rajeem – I seek refuge with Allah against the dejected shaytan). [Khazen] – But if a student is reading following a teacher, then it is NOT Sunnah for the student. [Ibn ‘Abidin Shami]
Mas-ala (Case): In the salah, for the imam and the munfarid (the one who is praying by himself), after finishing with the Thana (Subhanak Allahumma wa bi hamdika…), reading the ta’awwudh (A’oodhu billahi min ash-shaytan ir-rajeem) softly is Sunnah. [Ibn ‘Abidin Shami]
Tasmiyah (The Bismillah) –
Mas-ala (Case): بِسۡمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ IS a verse of the Quran, but [as a solitary verse] it is NOT a part of Surah Fatihah or any other surah. Therefore, it must NOT be recited loudly [by the imam] in the salah. It is narrated in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim that the Blessed Prophet ﷺ, and the noble Abu Bakr Siddiiq and ‘Umar Farooq radi Allahu ‘anhumaa, used to start the [loud recitation of the] salah with ٱلۡحَمۡدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ.
Mas-ala (Case): In the khatma (complete recitation of the Quran) that is rendered in the Tarawiih salah in Ramadan, at ANY ONE instance, the Bismillah SHOULD be read loudly, so that one verse of the Quran does not get excluded.
Mas-ala (Case): Every surah of the Holy Quran MUST be started by the Bismillah, except Surah Bara’ah (Surah 9).
Mas-ala (Case): In Surah Al-Naml (Surah 27), after the verse of sajdah (prostration), there is Bismillah in an ayah (verse 30), it is not a wholesome ayah, but rather the portion of a larger ayah. Without a doubt, it will definitely be read as a part of that ayah, loudly in a prayer that necessitates loud recitation and softly in a prayer that necessitates soft recitation.
Mas-ala (Case): It is mustahib (preferable in Islam) to read the Bismillah before ANY permissible action one does. It is NOT allowed to read the Bismillah preceding a forbidden act.
The Topics of Surah Fatihah:
This surah entails a detailed and elaborate exposition on: praising and glorifying Allah, describing His being [The One & Only] God (rubuubiyyah), Mercy, Ownership [over all creation], His right to be worshipped, His granting capability towards goodness, guiding His slaves, turning their attention towards Himself, and His exclusivity in their worship, their seeking help from Him, begging His grace, the etiquettes of supplication (dua), resonance with the states of the pious, abstinence and hostility towards misguided people, the worldly life coming to an end, recompense and the Day of Judgment – AND a summary discussion on all matters [of life].
Hamd (Praising Allah) –
Mas-ala (Case): It is good to precede a permissible action with Hamd, as is the case with the Tasmiyah.
Mas-ala (Case): Sometimes Hamd is wajib (compulsory), such as in the khutbah (sermon) of Jumu’ah; sometimes it is mustahib (preferable) such as in the khutbah of a marriage ceremony, in the midst of a dua, preceding any good and worthy action, and after every eating and drinking; and sometimes it is Sunnah muakkada (emphasized Sunnah), such as after sneezing.[Tahtawi]
[Translator’s Note: The word “Alhamdulillah” (Praise be to Allah) qualifies as Hamd. Of course, one is free to add more praise and glorification, like “Alhamdu Lillahi Rabbil ‘Aalameen” and so on.]
رَبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ – Rabbil ‘Aalameen indicates to all universe being haadith (emergent, something that has emerged from non-existence to existence), mumkin (mumkin in the terminology of ‘aqaid and kalam means intrinsically possible, meaning that the universe’s existence is only a possibility in and of itself, subject to Allah’s Will), muhtaj (dependent, that is, all of universe is dependent on Allah’s help); and to Allah being qadeem (pre-eternally eternal with no beginning), azali (not going through any change or rise or fall), abadi (post-eternally eternal, with no end), Hayy (always and eternally attributed with life), Qayyuum (always and eternally present), Qadir (All-Powerful over all creation), ‘Aleem (All-Knowledgeable about all things) – all of which are necessitated by “rabbil ‘aalameen”. Two words have attained the important details of the knowledge of the Creator.
مَٰلِكِ يَوۡمِ ٱلدِّينِ – Maliki yaumid deen is a discussion and evidence on the absolute manifestation of absolute ownership by Allah, no one else being worthy of worship, because everything is absolutely owned by him, and the owned possession can NOT be worthy of worship. It also informs that the world is the field of action, and also that it has an end. Calling the universe as azali or qadeem is false. There is a day of reckoning after the end of the world, and from this such claims [alluding the world to be qadeem] are nullified.
إِيَّاكَ نَعۡبُدُ – Iyyaaka na’abudu (You Alone do we worship) – After elucidating on the Dhaat (Self) and Sifaat (Attributes) [of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala], saying this points to the fact that i’itiqad (creed and beliefs) supersede a’amaal (deeds) and are more important; and that the acceptance of ‘ibaadah (worship) is dependent and contingent on the soundness of the ‘aqiidah (beliefs/creed).
Mas-ala (Case): The word na’abud (we worship) is used in a plural pronoun and it is also valid and acceptable to be used at an individual level [according to the rules of the Arabic language]; and it also renders the ‘ibaadaat (worships) of the [Muslim] common folk as having attained a status of acceptability in unison with the worships of the near and dear ones [the pious slaves of Allah].
Mas-ala (Case): In it is also a nullification of shirk (paganhood, associating a partner to Allah) as ‘ibaadah (worship) simply can’t be directed to anyone other than Allah Ta’ala.
إِيَّاكَ نَسۡتَعِينُ – Iyyaaka nasta’een (from You Alone do we seek help) – It is taught in this that isti’aanah (help), whether it is direct or through a means, comes exclusively from Allah Ta’ala Alone, and He Alone is the Real and Only Helper (Musta’aan). Then the rest of the things like objects, tools, means, servants, His dear slaves, etc. are nothing but a manifestation of His Own Mercy. A slave should keep this in mind and in every matter he experiences, try to notice and observe and relegate it to Allah’s Mercy & Power. From this then, we know that the ‘aqiidah that seeking help from prophets or awliyaa (pious Muslim saints) is shirk – is simply wrong – because the help rendered at the hands of those near and dear to Allah is in fact the help that comes from Allah. It is NOT seeking help from other than Allah, for if such was the case as stated by the wahabis (a sect of non-Sunni innovators), then why would the Quran state [(وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ) (and seek help from patience and salah – 2:45)] and [(فَأَعِينُونِي بِقُوَّةٍ) (then help me with strength – 18:95)] and why would ahadiith teach one to seek help from the ahl Allah (the people of Allah, i.e., pious people)?!
[Translator’s Note: The Quran also explicitly says (وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضٍ) (The believing men and women are friends/helpers/supporters of each other – 9:71)]
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ – Ihdinas siraat al-mustaqeem (Guide us onto the straight path) – After elucidating on the Dhat (Self) and Sifaat (Attributes) [of Allah], and then on worship, a dua (supplication) is taught. From this we learn that a slave must be immersed in supplication once he is done rendering his worships (which are preceded by rectification of one’s creed/beliefs). Even in hadith, we are taught to supplicate after the salah. [Tabarani, Bayhaqi].
By siraat al-mustaqeem (the straight path), the implication is towards Islam and/or Quran and/or the sublime character of the Blessed Prophet ﷺ and/or his noble companions (sahaba) and the members of his blessed household (ahl al-bayt). From this it is established that the siraat al-mustaqeem (the straight path) is the way of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah, who adhere to all of the Quran and the Sunnah and the ways of the Sahaba and the ways of the Ahl Al-Bayt and the greatest [and most authentic] sect (sawad al-a’azdham).
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ – Siraat al-ladheena an’amta ‘alaihim (The path of those whom You have blessed.) – It is the exegesis of the preceding sentence since siraat al-mustaqeem refers to the path of Muslims. This solves many issues since the matters which the elders of deen (religion) had practiced, they are included in the siraat al-mustaqeem.
غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ – Ghayril maghdoobi ‘alaihim wala-ddaalleen (Not that of those upon whom is wrath, nor that of those who are astray.) – In it is the guidance that:
Mas-ala (Case): It is incumbent upon the seeker of the truth to adhere to abstinence from the enemies of Allah and their ways, traditions, demeanors and conventions. Tirmidhi narrates that maghdoobi ‘alaihim (those upon whom is [Your] wrath) refers to jews and daalleen (astray) refers to the christians.
Mas-ala (Case): ض and ظ have inherently different qualities in usage in words; and in many cases they simply can’t be used one instead of the other [according to the rules of the language]. Therefore, if one reads (غَيْرِ الْمَغْظُوبِ) (ghayril maghzdhoobi) deliberately, it is tampering with the Quran and KUFR; otherwise it is forbidden.
[Translator’s Note: Please note dear brothers and sisters that it is FARD on Muslims to learn the pronunciation of the Arabic alphabets properly as this is a condition for proper rendering of salah and recitations. Therefore, please do not take this issue lightly, and most urgently, find your nearest recitation teacher and learn the proper pronunciation of the alphabet and the rules of tajweed (Quranic recitation in Arabic in the manner taught to Sahaba) ASAP.]
Mas-ala (Case): A person who reads ظ instead of ض – [due to an impediment or not knowing or not having learnt the correct pronunciation] – his being an imam to lead prayers is IMPERMISSIBLE. [Al-Muhit Al-Burhani]
Aameen – It means ‘do thusly [O Allah]’ or ‘accept it [O Allah]’.
Mas-ala (Case): It (aameen) is NOT a word of the Quran.
Mas-ala (Case): It is Sunnah to say aameen at the end of Surah Fatihah, both inside the salah, as well as outside of it.
Mas-ala (Case): The madhhab of Imam Al-A’azdham [Abu Hanifah] states that during the salah, aameen must be said softly. After observing and analyzing all the ahadith, this is the conclusion that is arrived at. In the narrations mentioning saying it loudly, only the narration of Wael is sahih; containing the word mad-biha (prolongation with the letter ه) which emphatically does not evidence towards loud utterance. As likely as there is a possibility of loud utterance, equally likely and in fact more emphatically there is a possibility of mad-hamza (prolongation with letter ء). Therefore this narration can’t be used as evidence for a loud utterance. The other narrations which mention loud and uplifting utterances, there are details on their asnad (chains of narrations), notwithstanding that they are interpretational narrations and the personal interpretation/understanding of a narrator is simply not a hadith. Therefore, uttering aameen softly is the soundest and most correct opinion.