Al Fatiha: The Victorious Opening
Al Fatihah alludes to “the Opening” and also to “the Victory” in the life of the believer. It represents the opening but what is it opening us up to? There are many openings in life. The first major opening that we experienced as an individual creature was the opening that brought us into the reality of this material world. It was the opening that we experienced coming out of our mother’s womb. That opening brought us from one reality into a new reality and that new reality would then dictate the kind of growth, development and needs that that human life would thereafter long for. Therefore, Al Fatihah is an explanation from Allah to His human creature of what the creature’s true needs actually are once upon exiting the physical womb into the greater womb we call society.
Al Fatihah establishes our purpose. It addresses universal concerns. The precepts found in Al Fatihah are acceptable to any person who considers himself to be a believer in Almighty G-d. There is nothing in those verses to offend that belief. You can take it to a conscious Christian or recite it to a conscious Jew or even Buddhist and they should have no problem accepting the logic found within Al Fatihah. Allah has designed that particular surah or chapter to be universal in its scope and application. He has also designed it to reconcile what is in the outer world with the needs that He has placed in our ‘inner’ world or the world of the soul.
Al Fatihah is not the petition of an individual; it is the petition of the group: “You do we worship” and “Guide us on the Straight Path,” etc. Al Fatihah, in essence, is the soul’s requisitioning of Allah for its vital needs. It represents the linking of the concerns of the individual soul with the other souls that Allah has created in order to bring humanity as a ‘group soul’ to the destiny that Allah has intended. This is what Allah does as an “Evolver” or “Rabb”. He is not “Lord” like the British have lords or like your landlord; He is not lord because He is the owner of a piece of property. Allah is the owner of all property. He is the “Malik” or Owner of everything in existence that we know of and many more things that He has not even told us about. This is in the Qur’an.
So we have been taught by our leadership to say, “With Allah’s Name, The Merciful Benefactor – Ar Rahmaan,” because Allah is the Supplier of those benefits that we take advantage of on a daily basis. These are seemingly simple statements, but they hold tremendous weight in terms of fostering in us an ‘attitude of gratitude’ towards Him for allowing us access to those benefits.
He is also “The Merciful Redeemer—Ar Raheem” and that redemption is sent as a double portion of His Mercy. Both titles come from a root that signifies “mercy” – “rahmah” and it also signifies “wombs” – “arhaam”. Therefore, in essence–or at least philosophically speaking–aside from being delivered from the biological wombs of our mothers, we are born out of these other two wombs.
The first Mercy (Ar Rahmaan) gives us access to the creation itself which is life in the material world or universe. The material world is a womb unto itself where we are allowed to grow and develop as a mind or intellect. Every life gets a taste of that, but not everyone gets a taste of the second mercy.
The second Mercy (Ar Raheem) comes because Allah has created the human being as a multi-dimensional creature that is in need of more than just material achievements. Allah sees that His creature is struggling after having gone into the earth and into the sciences; that he has built cities and great monuments like the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt did and like the Greeks did before the dawning of Al Islam. However, extremely cruel and inhuman treatment of man towards man also existed right within the very framework of these fantastic material structures. This tells us that the knowledge necessary for building tremendous structures is not necessarily sufficient for building up the human edifice as a truly social and civilized creature. Allah refers to the construction of these material structures as the pushing up of mounds of dirt. Ants actually have similar achievements.
What then, is the purpose for the Qur’an? The purpose of the Qur’an is to introduce knowledge and insight to man that will complete him as a functioning soul. It was revealed in order to bring civilization to man’s inner core. I repeat; the human being has been created on multidimensional levels. There are physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual components to consider. There are your material needs and then there are the needs that the soul requisitions and the soul’s needs go way beyond food, clothing, shelter, work, play, sex and rest.
The soul’s needs have question marks at the end of each one of them. “What is my destiny?” “What is the destiny of this life?” “Where is my heaven?” “What allegiance do I owe my fellow human?” “Will I be punished for acting a certain way?” The soul needs education and enlightment to guide it in order to avoid the pitfalls of its selfish side and to strengthen its moral quest for excellence. Its excellence is in its contribution to civilized achievement.
There is a certain disposition in the soul that understands innately that it is wrong or that it acted rightly. As we grow older we call it the ‘moral nature’ and there are other names for it, but there is a native intelligence in the human makeup that allows us to make distinctions in our own mind when we know that we have done a good thing or when we know that we have done something that has gone contrary to the good, and the soul knows that at some point in time there has to be some restitution or some punishment for the good and the bad. And again, that idea is given to us throughout the Qur’an.
Even the brothers of Prophet Yusuf, upon him be peace, understood that one day their scheme was going to come to an end and they were going to have to deal with the consequences but they were willing to take that chance. And there are others who boasted in the Qur’an that, “The fire will not touch us but for a few numbered days.” They were calculating how long it would take for the punishment to come but nevertheless, they understood that a punishment would indeed come although they were foolish enough to gamble with the length of time it would take for it to reach them. Research these things for yourself in the Qur’an.
In Al Fatihah, we ask Allah to guide us along the “mustaqeem” or Straight Path. Many of us automatically think that the Straight Path is a horizontal path that we walk as in putting one foot in front of the other. However, “mustaqeem” means “upright”. It is a vertical challenge. It’s not the challenge of putting one foot in front of the other; it is the challenge of growing up balanced and perpendicular. It is related to the word “iqaama” which we are all familiar with, and the iqaama doesn’t beckon you to leave the room, but to stand up and present yourself as upright before your Lord. So “siraatal mustaqeem” means the siraat of ‘the upright ones’. There is nothing in that phrase that literally means “along,” “toward” or “on” the Straight Path. There is no “li’ or “’alaa” interposed between the idea of guiding and the object. If I were to give my humble interpretation, it would say: ‘Guide us, the straight and upright ones.’ On the street, we would just call it being ‘straight up’.
Then it says, “Siraatal latheena an’amta ‘alayhim.” “Ni’ma” alludes to the blessings of civilized thought and behavior according to the tafseer of Imam W. D. Mohammed, may Allah’s protection continue to be on him and his language. Therefore, this would be my paraphrased description of the straight up ones for the succeeding verse. It says: “The Straight Way of those who have received the blessings of civilized life”.
Muhammed the Prophet is our number one example of what a civil, upright being looks like. He was upright in his individual life, in his family life, in how he treated his neighbors, and even upright in terms of how he treated his enemies. And he was rational enough, even before Revelation, to abstain from following the popular pagan beliefs and practices of his day and time. Idol worship was running rampant so much so that it was an accepted part of the social fabric of the Arabian Peninsula just as it was in the days and land of Prophet Ibraheem, may peace be upon him, and his father, Azar. Allah missioned Muhammed (SAW) to totally do away with that kind of “shirk” which sets up partners with the One G-d Who has no partners.
I reiterate; Muhammed the Prophet was upright even prior to Revelation. He was a light even in the dark and became a greater light after the light of revelation dawned on that peninsula. Allah describes him in the Qur’an as being a “mercy to all creatures”. We should remember these things about our Prophet. Not only is he a conveyor of the message of the Qur’an, but his reality compliments our reality in that he is a mortal in all respects – just like us. Muhammed (SAW) is told to tell us: “Qul – annaa basharun mithlukum,” which means; “Say – I am a mortal person just like all of you.” His potential is our potential. The thing that distinguishes him from the rest of us mortals is that, he is the last in the series of prophets and that he was the one to receive the revelation of Qur’an. It wasn’t us, it wasn’t some other Muhammed, it wasn’t Ralph or Jesse – but Muhammed ibn Abdullah of 1400 years ago – born in Makkah and whose flesh body expired in Madinah; he was the one to receive the final word from Allah called the Qur’an and he is the one who is superbly and uniquely fit for us to follow. Al hamdu lillaah.
The second womb that we are born out of is also the one which brings us out of the darkness of ignorance into the light of pure Revelation. Allah says that He revealed it to his prophets so that they may bring us out of the darkness into the light. And darkness is oppression. If darkness is oppression then the light must equal liberation. These are simple analogies.
Revelation answers those previously unanswered questions pertaining to how life should be—not only defined—but lived. Revelation is sent as a compliment to the basic life that G-d has granted human beings. Our basic life is comprised of a moral nature and an ability to grow in knowledge, which we call ‘intellect’. Revelation opens up avenues of information to us that neither the moral nature nor the intellect could access without the permission and/or will of the Creator.
With the physical sciences, we can see into the makings of the stone or the tree, but revelation is what gives us insight into the metaphorical stone and the metaphorical tree that exists within us. It teaches us how to align the metaphorical objects in the psyche and soul of the human being, using the material object as the prototype or pattern, if you will.
There are cultures which use to worship the physical sun but have come to realize that there is a sun that rises and sets in their own being that is of as much consequence in the social world as that physical sun is in the material world. We call it the “light of intelligence” . And Revelation cautions us against worshipping either one. We should serve the Creator and Sustainer of both and that is Allah, Highly Glorified and Praised is He.
Currently speaking, Al Islam is probably the most misunderstood way of life on planet earth and I believe that that is by design. What it does is put what we believe in the arena with people who have been taught to see things through jaundiced eyes and with ignorant judgment. Therefore, we are now charged, just as the prophets and messengers were, with bringing the true light of understanding to that dark world.
Every single one of us as individuals should be busy. All of us are obligated to clear up the misconceptions that some people within popular media, government, and that the enemies of our religion have been conveying to the public for many years now. It didn’t just begin with 9-11. This is something that has been in the works for the last 1400 years. There is only one way to rectify that particular problem and that is to gain more and more knowledge of what it is we believe, especially through the filter of a sober-minded source like Imam W. D. Mohammed.
We know that the first verses revealed to Muhammed the Prophet began with “Iqra” or “Read”. That alone should tell us that Allah intended for the Muslims to be an educated community and to be educators. Allah would not give us the word “Read” as the first word in the revelation if He did not intend for us to be insightful people. G-d said to the Prophet, “Read, with the Name of your Lord Who created.” With that, He immediately linked the Prophet’s intellect with the creation itself. The “Lord” that is spoken of is the One Who created. He is called in other places in the Qur’an, “Al Khaaliq” translated as “The Creator”.
And that Lord connected Muhammed’s mind with the matter. That’s connecting the male with the female. We use to say that ‘Man Means Mind’. The mental capabilities represent the male principle because the intellect goes out in search of, and brings back useful information. And we call the world, ‘matter’. The words “mother” and “matter” come from the same root and represents the female principle because the earth takes the life germ into herself and produces then nurtures. We still say, “Mother Earth” and “Mother Nature,” don’t we?
In the Qur’an, both the Heavens (as samawaati) and the Earth (al ard) are given feminine status. The created world is seen in a feminine context, wherein the mind that involves itself in that material world is seen as a masculine entity or in a masculine context. The interaction of the two brings about the birth of the physical sciences as well as the birth of the social sciences.
Furthermore, Allah goes on to say that, He created the human being from an “’alaq” or a “clinging substance”. A clinging substance is an adhering substance and, as believers, we call ourselves ‘adherents’ don’t we? That is a very decent word. It probably has more significance for us than even the word ‘believers’ because the success of any creature in the area of growth and development depends on its ability to cling to its source of nutrition and information. Isn’t that what the baby does? Allah has clocked it into the nature of that baby to cling to its mother.
The infant clings to its mother’s breasts for nourishment. And even after that child becomes a toddler and begins to walk, the mother still has to hold that child by the hand until that child is able to stabilize him- or herself and walk comfortably on his or her own two feet. Additionally, she is supplying that child with emotional and mental nourishment as well.
When we read, the information that we are taking in is also clinging. We say, “Wow! I finally understand the lesson. It took a while, but it’s now beginning to stick.” What we mean is that we now remember it. Therefore, memory itself is an “’alaq”. If Allah says that he created “al insaana” from an “alaq” then, whatever ‘al insaana” means, it is qualified by what an “’alaq” is. So, if “’alaq” is a “clinging substance” then we cannot limit “’alaq” to one specific concept or idea like “clot of blood” as some translators have done. We have to look at “’alaq” on various levels of science, philosophy, intellectual development, and etcetera. It operates on these levels in order to give us the full range of understanding that the word represents. The more we understand the various levels that it can take on, the more we will appreciate the vastness of our identity as “al insaana” which they simply translate as “the human being” or “man”.
Make no mistake about it; this world has researched the Qur’an and has extracted gems of wisdom which they apply in their various sciences but pretend as though it was their own invention or discovery. They call the human being “homo sapien”. The word “sap” is contained within “homo sapien”. Do you know what “sap” is? It’s that sticky substance that you find running down the sides of trees, right? But when they translate the “sap” in homo sapien, they say that it means, “wise” man. That lets us know that “sap” stands for “intelligence” and “wisdom”.
Therefore, if Allah said that He created us from a clinging substance, then Allah created “al insaana” from something that—when you connect with it—it provides wisdom and insight for you. That is exactly what reading in a repetitive manner does for the human mind. So, the entire Qur’an should be an “’alaq” for you. The word “Qur’an” is from the same root as “iqraa” and means, “that which should be read over and over again.”
We should go into the Qur’an with the purpose of having what’s in the Book – stick. From that attachment will grow new life, just like from the attachment of the sperm to the ovum there then develops new life, new possibilities and new potentials. This is what Allah is telling us. And the attachment, in and of itself, is telling us that something “social” has occurred.
I can attach to a wife, then we can attach to our children, then we all can attach to our neighbors, and we and our neighbors can attach and also contribute to the business life and development in our community. Attachment takes on dimension in a social environment, and that’s how insaana came to mean, not only man, but the “social” man or, the man that becomes “familiar” with his social environment. The anti-social man and the sociopath do not fall under the definition of “al insaana” because Allah did not create the anti-social man or the sociopath. Satan created the anti-social man, the sociopath and every other deviation.
Allah created us with a nature that loves being around other people – on the most part. But he created us to not want to be around bad people. The newborn doesn’t even want to be around negative vibrations. The baby, without even expressing a verbal language, will express difficulty when in the presence of someone whose soul is not compatible or whose personality and spirit seems strange to it. She will push herself away from someone who she feels might do her some harm. It doesn’t have to be a bad person for the baby to feel some trepidation about being in that person’s presence. Sometimes they’ll make you feel bad and you know you’re not a bad guy. Nevertheless, this tells us that we are all born with this pure nature that rejects what it perceives as potential harm.
Now, to grow up and accept that bad people be allowed to perpetuate their lowdown lifestyles in our neighborhoods or that we ourselves do things that negative people do like involve ourselves in criminal activities and other activities that tear away at the healthy social climate that Allah intended for us to live in, then we are acting against our own nature. And what punishes us is not necessarily G-d; what punishes us are the dynamics that Allah has set in motion in the very nature of the creation itself.
So again, if this siraatal mustaqeem or “Straight Path” is vertical and internal, then it points to the development of the true morals, the true intellect, the true emotions and the true psyche and instincts of the human being. All of those represent an upward path. The more morally inclined we are, the higher we grow as moral creatures; the more we read and study, the higher we grow as an intellect. The more we try to gain insight and get this noise that this world has put into our brains out of our brains, the more we try to get back in touch with natural reality, the more our psychic powers and instincts will even work for us. You’ll be able to feel when something is wrong even before you know for a fact that it’s wrong. And you will know within your heart that something is right before you even have the proof that it is right. Because Allah has created instinct to go out ahead of us as a first monitor of what is right and wrong. Then it brings it back to the intellect so that the intellect can make a decision as to whether it wants to engage that thing or not.
These are all part and parcel of the siraat al mustaqeem, and when we remove ourselves from that path, we become like the following verses: “Ghayril maghdoobi ‘alayhim, wa laddaaaleeeen.” ‘Not of those who have earned wrath and not of those who have gone extremely off course.’
This wrath comes about when we take ourselves off, or allow others to take us off of the path of natural human growth and development. This idea is given to us in Al Fatihah to let us know that there are two paths that we can travel as human beings; one will lead to our ultimate success and the other will lead to our failure. Our success is defined as that which pleases Allah and thereby earns the rewards of His Peace and Paradise. He is “Maliki yawmiddeen.” ‘Owner of the Day of Religion.’
Imam Mohammed stated that, “When Allah gave us the term ‘deen,’ He gave the world a new description of religion.” He also said that, “When religion was born, Satan was born.” That hit me in a way that will always stick with me. What it says to me is that, whenever human beings embark upon certain ideas that take them along a certain path of righteous growth and development, within the context of that development comes Satan. That’s your challenge. He’s your personal trainer.
Satan comes to you and says, “I think you can bench press 300 today.” The difference is, he likes to give you an amount that he believes will topple you. He wants to challenge your muscles to the point of exhaustion and collapse. Then he can say to G-d, “You see, he wasn’t as good as You thought he was. I bench pressed 300 but he could only do 250. I told You he wasn’t as good as I am.” So, Satan’s role is to constantly seek ways to disprove man’s ability to be Khalifah or G-d’s Caretaker in the earth. In a subtle way he is trying to show G-d that He was wrong. Now, that is the epitome of arrogance, isn’t it? Allah is telling him what He is going to do by appointing the human nature as the ruler in the earth and although Satan, who was called Iblees at the time, was leading, Allah said that when He has breathed into this soul of His Spirit, then all previous contenders to the throne should prostrate in the direction of this new one. This is that day and time.
We are living in the Day of Religion when religion itself must be made right for G-d. And those who remain true to the nature which Allah created them in will be victorious and that victory opens the way for unlimited progress, hence the term, “Al Fatihah”, The Victorious Opening.
As salaamu ‘alaikum.
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Thank you for your kind comments. This is indeed a classic work of excellence done by Imam Ben Bilal. May ALLAH reward him for his excellent work. You mentioned about works like that which can ruminate in our minds, we have many on this website and I suggest that you check out some of the related articles listed below. I highly recommend this one: