Tafseer by Dr Israr Ahmad
Surah Al-Fatihah is one of the very earliest revelations. Infact, we learn from
authentic traditions that it was the first complete surah revealed to the Prophet
(Peace be upon him). Before this, only a few miscellaneous verses were revealed
which form parts of surah Al-Alaq, Al-Muzzammil and Al-Muddathir.
This surah is called Al-Fatihah; the Opener of the Book, and the surah with
which prayers are begun. It is the greatest surah in the Qur’an, and it is also
called Umm Al-Kitab (Mother of the Book), because it contains the meanings of
the entire Qur’an. Other names for this surah are; Salah, Al-hamd, Umm al-
Qur'an, Al-Sab al-Mathani, As-Shifa, Ar-Ruqya, and so on. Infact more than fifty
names have been enumerated by Jalal Al-Din Al-Suyuti , in his famous book
"Al Itqan fi Ulum al Qur'an”.
Number of Ayat
There is consensus of majority of the scholars; from early generations that
surah Al-Fatihah contains seven ayat. However, they disagree over whether
Bismillah is a part of Al-Fatihah, and likewise every surah, or it is a separate
ayah. The first opinion, that Bismillah is a part of every surah except surah Al-
Tauba, is attributed to some Companions (May Allah be pleased with them all),
Imam Az-Zuhri, Imam As-Shafi, and Abdullah bin Al-Mubarak. They state that
Bismillah is a part of Al-Fatihah and the last ayat; “The Way of those whom You
have favored” and “not of those who have earned Your wrath, or of those who
have lost The Way.” are not separate ayat but a single ayah. On the other
hand, Imam Malik, Imam Abu Hanifa and their followers say that Bismillah is
not an ayah in Al-Fatihah or any other surah, and it is a separate ayah in the
beginning of every ayah. But there is no disagreement over the matter that Al-
Fatihah has seven ayat. Those who consider last two ayat as one ayah, include
Bismillah in it, and those who consider the last two as separate say Bismillah is
not a part of it.
Virtues of Al-Fatihah
This is the most important surah in the Qur’an, and there are a lot of Ahadith
which narrate the virtues of this surah. In Musnad of Imam Ahmed, he
recorded that Abu Hurayrah (May Allah be pleased with him), said, “The
Messenger of Allah went out while Ubayy bin Ka‘b was praying and said, “O’
Ubayy!”, Ubayy did not answer him. The Prophet said, “O’ Ubayy!”, Ubayy
prayed faster then went to the Messenger of Allah saying, “Peace be unto you,
O’ Messenger of Allah!” He said, “Peace be unto you. O’ Ubayy, what prevented
you from answering me when I called you”, Ubayy said, “O’ Messenger of Allah! I
was praying”. He said, “Did you not read among what Allah has sent down to
‘Answer Allah and Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life’.
He said, “Yes, O’ Messenger of Allah! I will not do it again.” the Prophet (Peace
be upon him) said; “Would you like me to teach you a surah the likes of which
nothing has been revealed in the Torah, the Injeel, the Zabur (Psalms) or the
Furqan (the Qur’an)”, He said, “Yes, O’ Messenger of Allah!”, the Messenger of
Allah said, “I hope that I will not leave through this door until you have learned
it.” He (Ubayy) said, “The Messenger of Allah held my hand while speaking to
me, meanwhile I was slowing down fearing that he might reach the door before
he finished his conversation. When we came close to the door, I said: “O’
Messenger of Allah! what is the surah that you have promised to teach me”. He
said, “What do you read in the prayer”. Ubayy said, “So I recited Umm Al-Qur’an
to him”. He said, “By Him in Whose Hand is my soul! Allah has never revealed in
the Torah, Injeel, Zabur or the Furqan a surah like it. It is the seven repeated
verses that I was given”.
Al-Fatihah and Salah
Al-Fatihah is also called Salah, because it is itself a prayer and reciting it is a
condition for the correctness of Salah-The Prayer, as recorded by Muslim that
Abu Hurayrah (May Allah be pleased with him) said, that the Prophet(Peace be
upon him) said;
“Whoever performs any prayer in which he did not read Umm Al-Qur’an (Al-
Fatihah), then his prayer is incomplete.” He said it thrice. 
There is another hadith, narrated by Abu Hurayrah (May Allah be pleased with
him) that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said; “Allah the exalted said, ‘I have
divided the prayer (Al-Fatihah) into two halves between Me and My servant. A
half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what
he asked for.
If he says, ‘All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of existence’, Allah says,
‘My servant has praised Me.’
When the servant says, ‘The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.’
Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’
When he says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgment.’
Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’
When he says, ‘You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help.’,
Allah says, ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire
what he sought.’
When he says, ‘Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom You
have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of
those who went astray’,
Allah says, ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked
for.’ ” 
In the above hadith, the word Salah is used in reference to the Qur’an (Al-
Fatihah), which also testifies the importance of this surah and reciting it during
every prayer, in every rak’ah.
Al-Fatihah is not merely an introduction to Qur’an, rather it is a prayer from
man and the Qur’an is the answer from his Lord. Thus it has a relationship of a
prayer and a response. If a person is an earnest seeker after truth, and
recognizes that the Lord of the Universe is the source of all knowledge, then he
prays to Allah to show him guidance and Allah places the whole of the Qur’an
before him in answer to his prayer.
All praise is for Allah, the Sustainer and Cherisher of the Worlds. Al-Fatihah
starts with the praise of Allah, who is the Lord and Creator of this world and
the Hereafter. It states that all thanks and praise are due purely to Allah alone,
and nothing is to be worshipped except Him. He is the Sustainer and Owner of
all that He has created in both Alams (Worlds).
The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Ar-Rahman (Most Gracious) and Ar-
Raheem (Most Merciful) are two words of the same root Ar-Rahmah (the mercy).
One of them is softer than the other, meaning, it carries more implications of
mercy. Allah is Ar-Rahman for all humankind irrespective of their belief in
Allah, whether they are good-doers or evil-doers; they all obtain their
sustenance from Allah, this is because Allah is Ar-Rahman. Allah is also Ar-
Raheem for the believers in Him. They receive special blessings from Allah, that
is, happiness and contentment in this life and reward in the Hereafter.
Master of the Day of Judgment. After Allah describes that He is Ar-Rahman and
Ar-Raheem, He immediately gives a warning, that along with His mercy, He is
also the Master of the Day of Judgment. So that a person should not forget that
along with His mercy He is also Just.
You Alone we worship and You Alone we call on for help. After the person has
praised Allah and thanked Him, now he stands before Him, addressing Him
directly; O’ Allah our worship, obedience, submission and devotion is only for
You alone, and we only serve You. O’ Allah we know that You are the Lord of
the Universe and You have the power over everything, therefore, we only turn
to You for help, for our needs and requirements.
Guide us to The Right Way. i.e. Make us firm on the straight path and don’t let
us deviate. The straight path mentioned here and elsewhere in the Qur’an
refers to Islam. We already mentioned the hadith in which the servant
proclaims, ‘Guide us to The Right Way’ , and Allah says, “This is for My servant
and My servant shall acquire what he has asked for.
The Way of those whom You have favored. i.e. The servant prays to Allah to
guide him towards the straight path in every walk of life, and the path of those
upon whom You have bestowed Your mercy i.e. people who are obedient to
Allah and His Messengers.
Not of those who have earned Your wrath, or of those who have lost The Way.
A servant also prays to Allah, to help him avoid the path of those whom Allah is
angry with, whose intentions are corrupt and who know the truth, yet they
deviate. And also help us to avoid the path of those who were led astray. These
two paths are of Jews and Christians. ‘Not of those who have earned Your
wrath’, refers the Jews and “ or of those who have lost The Way” is for the
After finishing Al-Fatihah, it is recommended to say Amin, which means, ‘O’
Allah accept our invocation’, for those who are not praying and strongly
recommended for those who are praying. As the Messenger of Allah (Peace be
upon him) said:
“ When any of you says in the prayer Amin, and the angels in the heaven say,
Amin, in unison, his previous sins will be forgiven.”
 The Arabic word 'qur'an' is derived from the root qara'a, which has various meanings, such as to read, [Sura 17: 93.]
to recite, [Sura 75:18:17: 46.] etc. Qur'an is a verbal noun and hence means the 'reading' or 'recitation'. As used in the
Qur'an itself, the word refers to the revelation from Allah in the broad sense [Sura 17: 82.] and is not always restricted to
the written form in the shape of a book, as we have it before us today.
 Surah Al-Hijr(15) : 9.
Surah Burooj(85) : 21, 22. Al-Lawh: every wide, flat surface or sheet of wood.
Al-Azhari said: al-Lawh is a flat surface of wood, and a shoulder-blade [of an animal], if it is written on, may be called a
lawh. Al-Lawh is something that is written on. Al-Lawh: al-Lawh al-Mahfooz, as in the ayah means, the place where the
decrees of Allah are kept. Every wide bone is a lawh. The plural form is alwaah.
(Lisaan al-‘Arab, 2/584).
 Surah Al-Waqi’ah(56) : 77, 78.
 (al-Tabyaan fi Aqsaam al-Qur’an, p. 62).
 Surah Bani Israel (17) and Surah Al-Furqan (25).
 The last section of the Qur'an beginning with surah Qaf, (50-114).
 Musnad Ahmed, Sunan Abi Dawood, Ibn Majah in his sunan.
 The Qur’an in a single volume.
 Kitab al-masahif by Ibn Abi Dawud.
 The Life of Muhammad, Ibn Hisham.
 Abd al-Rahman ibn Kamal al-Din Abi Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Sabiq al-Din, Jalal al-Din al-Misri al-Suyuti, also
known as Ibn al-Asyuti (849-911), the mujtahid imam and renewer of the tenth Islamic century, foremost hadith master,
jurist, and historian, he authored works in virtually every Islamic science.
 Sahih Muslim.
 Sahih Muslim and Sunan An-Nisai.
 Sahih Muslim 1:307.