The Quran

Commentaries for 1.5

Al Fatiha (The opening) - الفاتحة

1.5 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Thee (alone) we worship), we turn to you as the only One God and we obey you; ((Thee alone) we ask for help), we ask for your help in worshipping You and from You we obtain confidence in obeying You.
1.5 Asrar - Kashf Al-Asrar
Thee alone we worship, and Thee alone we ask for help.
This alludes to two of the religion's great pillars, around which revolves the traveling of the re-
ligious. The first is to adorn the soul through worship and self-purification. It is to keep oneself adorned with a worship that has no eye-service and an obedience that has no hypocrisy. The other is to purify the soul of associating others with God and of paying attention to power and strength. It is to purify one's own soul, to keep it cleansed of associationism and corruption, and not to depend on one's own power and strength.
“Adornment” alludes to everything in the Shariah that ought to be, and “purification” alludes to everything in the Shariah that ought not to be.
Look carefully at these two short words: When someone's heart has familiarity and brightness, he will understand from them all the laws of the religion. The words of MuṣṬafā will be verified for you: “I was given the all-comprehensive words and my speech was made very concise.”
Thee alone we worship. It has been said that this is sheer tawḤīd, and that it is the belief that nothing other than God is worthy of worship. The worshiper knows that lordhood is fitting for God and that He is an object of worship without peer, for He is unique and one.
And Thee alone we ask for help. This is an allusion to the recognition of the recognizers. It is recognizing that He is solitary in all acts and that the servant cannot get along by himself without His help. The root of this tawḤīd and the basis of this recognition is that you recognize the Real's being and oneness; then His ability, knowledge, and loving kindness; then His beautiful doing, friendship, and nearness. The first is the foundation of the submission, the second the foundation of faith, the third the foundation of self-purification.
The road of the first recognition is to see the governance of the Artisan in loosening and tying the artifacts. The road of the second recognition is to see the wisdom of the Artisan in oneself and to recognize the correspondences. The road of the third recognition is to see the gentleness of the Patron in doing deeds and putting aside sins.
This is the playing field of the recognizers, the alchemy of the lovers, and the path of the elect.
Someone may ask, “What is the wisdom in putting the words Thee alone at the beginning? Why did He not say, 'We worship Thee'? That would be more concise and have the same meaning.”
The answer is this: This is God's alerting the servant that he should not let anything come before God. When he looks, he should look from God to himself, not from himself to God. He should look from God to his own worship, not from his own worship to God.
The Pir of the Tariqah, Shaykh al-Islām Anṣārī, said, “It is thus that the recognizer finds seeking from finding, not finding from seeking. He finds the cause from the meaning, not the meaning from the cause. The obedient person finds obedience from self-purification, not self-purification from obedience. The disobedient person finds disobedience from chastisement, not chastisement from disobedience.”
The reason for this is that the traveler has gone forth from what has preceded him-neither ability nor incapacity is in his hands. No one can get ahead of God in any deed. Anyone who fancies that he can get ahead of God knows nothing of God. This is why MuṣṬafā said to Abū Bakr when they were in the cave, “Grieve not; surely God is with us” [9:40]. He put the remembrance of the Worshiped One at the front and observed the courtesy of the address. Hence he was more excellent than Moses who said, “Surely with me is my Lord” [26:62]. Moses looked from himself to God, and MuṣṬafā looked from God to himself. The latter is the center point of togetherness, and the former dispersion itself. How different they are!
The Pir of the Tariqah said, “They should look from Him to Him, not from self to Him, for the eyes belong to what they saw at first and the heart to the first Friend.”
1.5 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
You [alone] we worship, and You [alone] we ask for help: that is to say, we reserve worship for You [alone] by way of acknowledging Your Oneness (tawhīd) and so on, and we ask for [Your] assistance in worship and in other things.
1.5 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Linguistic and Religious Meaning of `Ibadah
Linguistically, `Ibadah means subdued. For instance, a road is described as Mu`abbadah, meaning, `paved'. In religious terminology, `Ibadah implies the utmost love, humility and fear.
The Merit of stating the Object of the Action before the Doer of the Act, and the Merit of these Negations
"You...'', means, we worship You alone and none else, and rely on You alone and none else. This is the perfect form of obedience and the entire religion is implied by these two ideas. Some of the Salaf said, Al-Fatihah is the secret of the Qur'an, while these words are the secret of Al-Fatihah,
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
(5 You we worship, and You we ask for help from.)
The first part is a declaration of innocence from Shirk (polytheism), while the second negates having any power or strength, displaying the recognition that all affairs are controlled by Allah alone. This meaning is reiterated in various instances in the Qur'an. For instance, Allah said,
فَاعْبُدْهُ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَيْهِ وَمَا رَبُّكَ بِغَـفِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
(So worship Him (O Muhammad ) and put your trust in Him. And your Lord is not unaware of what you (people) do.) (11:123),
قُلْ هُوَ الرَّحْمَـنُ ءَامَنَّا بِهِ وَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا
(Say: "He is the Most Gracious (Allah), in Him we believe, and in Him we put our trust.'') (67:29),
رَّبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ فَاتَّخِذْهُ وَكِيلاً
((He alone is) the Lord of the east and the west; La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He).
So take Him alone as Wakil (Disposer of your affairs)), (73:9), and,
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
(You we worship, and You we ask for help from).
We should mention that in this Ayah, the type of speech here changes from the third person to direct speech by using the Kaf in the statement Iyyaka (You). This is because after the servant praised and thanked Allah, he stands before Him, addressing Him directly;
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
(You we worship, and You we ask for help from).
So take Him alone as Wakil (Disposer of your affairs)), (73:9), and,
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
(You we worship, and You we ask for help from).
We should mention that in this Ayah, the type of speech here changes from the third person to direct speech by using the Kaf in the statement Iyyaka (You). This is because after the servant praised and thanked Allah, he stands before Him, addressing Him directly;
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
(You we worship, and You we ask for help from).
Al-Fatihah indicates the Necessity of praising Allah. It is required in every Prayer.
The beginning of Surat Al-Fatihah contains Allah's praise for Himself by His most beautiful Attributes and indicates to His servants that, they too, should praise Him in the same manner. Hence, the prayer is not valid unless one recites Al-Fatihah, if he is able. The Two Sahihs recorded that `Ubadah bin As-Samit said that the Messenger of Allah said,
«لَا صَلَاةَ لِمَنْ لَمْ يَقْرَأْ بِفَاتِحَةِ الْكِتَابِ»
(There is no valid prayer for whoever does not recite Al-Fatihah of the Book.)
Also, it is recorded in Sahih Muslim that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
«يَقُولُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى : قَسَمْتُ الصَّلَاةَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي نِصْفَيْنِ، فَنِصْفُهَا لِي وَنِصْفُهَا لِعَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ، إِذَا قَالَ الْعَبْدُ:
«الْحَمْدُ للَّهِ رَبّ الْعَـلَمِينَ يَوْمِ إِنَّ اللَّهُ يُؤْمِنُونَ كَفَرُواْ اللَّهُ يُؤْمِنُونَ غِشَـوَةٌ عَلَى الْمَغْضُوبِ يُنفِقُونَ اللَّهُ سَوَآء قُلُوبِهِمْ يُؤْمِنُونَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ قُلُوبِهِمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ يُوقِنُونَ اللَّهُ بِالْغَيْبِ سَمْعِهِمْ يُؤْمِنُونَ قُلُوبِهِمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ يَوْمِ أَمْ اللَّهُ لّلْمُتَّقِينَ قُلُوبِهِمْ بِمَآ اللَّهُ يُؤْمِنُونَ إِنَّ اللَّهُ يُؤْمِنُونَ كَفَرُواْ اللَّهُ الْمَغْضُوبِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ»
، قَالَ اللهُ: أَثْنى عَلَيَّ عَبْدِي فَإذَا قَالَ:
مَـلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ ، قَالَ اللهُ: مَجَّدَنِي عَبْدِي، وَإِذَا قَالَ:
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ ، قَالَ: هذَا بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي، وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ، فَإِذَا قَالَ:
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّآلِّينَ ، قَالَ: هذَا لِعَبْدِي، وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ»
(Allah said, `I divided the prayer into two halves between Myself and My servant, one half is for Me and one half for My servant. My servant shall have what he asks for.' When the servant says,
الْحَمْدُ للَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَـلَمِينَ
(All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of all that exists.), Allah says, `My servant has praised Me.' When the servant says,
الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
(The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful), Allah says, `My servant has praised Me.' When the servant says,
مَـلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
(The Owner of the Day of Recompense), Allah says, `My servant has glorified Me.' If the servant says,
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
(You we worship, and You we ask for help), Allah says, `This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked.' If the servant says,
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ - صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّآلِّينَ
(Guide us to the straight path. The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your grace, not (that) of those who have earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray), Allah says, `This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked.')
Tawhid Al-Uluhiyyah
Ad-Dahhak narrated that Ibn `Abbas said,
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ
(You we worship) means, "It is You whom we single out, Whom we fear and Whom we hope in, You alone, our Lord, and none else.
Tawhid Ar-Rububiyyah
وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
(And You we ask for help from), to obey you and in all of our affairs.'' Further, Qatadah said that the Ayah,
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
(You we worship, and You we ask for help from) "Contains Allah's command to us to perform sincere worship for Him and to seek His aid concerning all of our affairs.'' Allah mentioned,
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ
(You we worship) before,
وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
(And You we ask for help from), because the objective here is the worship, while Allah's help is the tool to implement this objective. Certainly, one first takes care of the most important aspects and then what is less important, and Allah knows best.
Allah called His Prophet an `Abd
Allah called His Messenger an `Abd (servant) when He mentioned sending down His Book, the Prophet's involvement in inviting to Him, and when mentioning the Isra' (overnight journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and then to heaven), and these are the Prophet's most honorable missions. Allah said,
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِى أَنْزَلَ عَلَى عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَـبَ
(All praise and thanks be to Allah, Who has sent down to His servant (Muhammad ) the Book (the Qur'an)) (18:1),
وَأَنَّهُ لَّمَا قَامَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ يَدْعُوهُ
(And when the servant of Allah (Muhammad ) stood up invoking Him (his Lord ـ Allah in prayer)), (72:19) and,
سُبْحَانَ الَّذِى أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً
(Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) (above all that they associate with Him) Who took His servant (Muhammad ) for a journey by night) (17:1).
Encouraging the Performance of the Acts of Worship during Times of Distress
Allah also recommended that His Prophet resort to acts of worship during times when he felt distressed because of the disbelievers who defied and denied him. Allah said,
وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ يَضِيقُ صَدْرُكَ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ - فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَكُنْ مِّنَ السَّـجِدِينَ - وَاعْبُدْ رَبَّكَ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَكَ الْيَقِينُ
(Indeed, We know that your breast is straitened at what they say. So glorify the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves (to Him). And worship your Lord until there comes unto you the certainty (i.e. death)) (15:97-99).
Why Praise was mentioned First
Since the praise of Allah, Who is being sought for help, was mentioned, it was appropriate that one follows the praise by asking for his need. We stated that Allah said,
«فَنِصْفُهَا لِي وَنِصْفُهَا لِعَبْدِي، وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ»
(One half for Myself and one half for My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked.)
This is the best method for seeking help, by first praising the one whom help is sought from and then asking for His aid, and help for one's self, and for his Muslim brethren by saying.
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
(Guide us to the straight path.)
This method is more appropriate and efficient in bringing about a positive answer to the pleas, and this is why Allah recommended this better method.
Asking for help may take the form of conveying the condition of the person who is seeking help. For instance, the Prophet Moses said,
رَبِّ إِنِّى لِمَآ أَنزَلْتَ إِلَىَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ
(My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!) (28:24).
Also, one may first mention the attributes of whoever is being asked, such as what Dhun-Nun said,
لاَّ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ أَنتَ سُبْحَـنَكَ إِنِّى كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّـلِمِينَ
(La ilaha illa Anta (none has the right to be worshipped but You (O Allah)), Glorified (and Exalted) be You (above all that they associate with You)! Truly, I have been of the wrongdoers) (21:87).
Further, one may praise Him without mentioning what he needs.
1.4-7 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The Arabic word ibadat is used in three senses: (a)worship and devotion, (b) submission and obedience, (c) subjection and servitude. Here it implies all the three, that is, We are Thy worshipers, Thy subjects and Thy slaves and We keep these relations with Thee and Thee alone and "We make none else the object of our worship in all the three senses."
It means, We ask for Thy help because we know that Thou art the Lord of the whole Universe and Thou hast all powers and Thou art the Master of every thing. Therefore we turn to Thee for help for the fulfillment of our needs and requirements.
That is, "Show us that way which may lead us aright in every walk of life and keep us absolutely free from errors and evil consequences and bring us success in the end.", This is the request which the servant of Allah makes to Him when he begins the study of the Qur'an. He prays to Him to guide him in every walk of life and save him from the labyrinths of doubt and uncertainty, which result from the lack of true knowledge. The servant also requests the Master to show him the right and the straight way of life from among the many by-paths and crooked ways.
The straight way for which we are praying is the way which has always been followed by the people favored by Thee and which has always brought Thy favors and blessings.
This is to show that the favored people are not those who go astray and incur the wrath of Allah, though apparently they might be enjoying the transitory good things of life. The really favored people are those who receive blessings on account of their righteous living. From this it also becomes clear that by favors are meant those real and permanent rewards, which result from righteous living and from winning the pleasure of Allah, and not those transitory good things of life which have been enjoyed even by the tyrants and worshipers of mammon and which are being enjoyed even today by all sorts of evildoers who have gone astray from the straight way.
1.5 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
You [alone] we worship and You [alone] we ask for help Its meaning is “we worship You and we ask for help through You” but beginning with the mention of the object of worship is better than beginning with the mention of the servant's attribute which is his worship and seeking help. This is a more eloquent wording and more pleasing to the ears. Worship is bringing the utmost humility in harmony muwāfaqa with the command standing wherever the law stands and asking for help in seeking the assistance of the Real. Worship ʿibāda refers to the exertion of effort and strength while asking for help istiʿāna indicates the search to attract power and grace. So in worship the honor of the servant becomes manifest and in asking for help kindness comes to the servant. In worship he finds his honor and in asking for help he is granted security from harm. The outward aspect of worship is humbling oneself tadhallul but its inward truth is becoming powerful taʿazzuz and beautiful tajammul: When necks are brought low dhallalat in being brought near between us their glory ʿizz is in their humility dhull. Its meaning is: As soon as you caused me to submit to dhāl and lām you met me in ʿayn and zāÌ. Worship is the promenade of the seekers qāṣidūn the recreation of the aspirants murīdūn the meadow of intimacy for the lovers muḥibbūn and the pasture of delight for those with deeper knowledge ʿārifūn. Their eyes are cooled by [worship] their hearts find joy in it and their spirits have rest from it. [The Prophet] ﷺ alluded to this in saying “Give us rest O Bilāl.” One created being said about another created being: O people my blood revenge belongs to my AsmāÌ. Anyone near and far knows it. Do not call upon me except by “O servant of her” For that is the most truthful of my names. To ask for help is to alight in the environs of His generosity to put your burden down in the courtyard of His munificence and to submit your burden to the hand of His rule. So you seek Him full of hope take long strides toward Him hope in Him with powerful anticipation have faith in His eternal generosity trust in what has already been chosen ikhtiyār sābiq and cling to the strong rope of His liberality.
1.5 Tustari - Al-Tustari
You [alone] we worship…,That is, we submit to, and humble ourselves before, You alone. We recognise Your lordship and we affirm Your oneness, and You do we serve. From this word (naʿbudu) is derived the word ʿabd meaning ‘servant’. …And You [alone] we ask for help, that is, in what You have charged us with, which is [rightfully] Yours, [and over which] You exercise Your will (mashīʾa) and volition (irāda). Moreover, knowledge and sincerity are due only to You. We are incapable of [accomplishing that with which You have charged us] except through aid (maʿūna) and steadfastness (tasdīd) that come from You, for there is no power or strength except that which comes from You.
1.1-7 Wahidi - Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi
There is some scholarly disagreement concerning this Surah [i.e. concerning where it was revealed]; the majority is however of the opinion that it was revealed in Mecca, one among the first Surahs of the Qur'an to be revealed. Abu 'Uthman Sa'id ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Zahid informed us> his grandfather>Abu 'Amr al-Hiri> Ibrahim ibn al-Harith and 'Ali ibn Sahl ibn al-Mughirah who said: Yahya ibn Abi Bukayr informed us> Isra'il> Abu Ishaq> Abu Maysarah ['Amr ibn Shurahbil] who said: “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, whenever he went out, used to hear someone calling him 'O Muhammad!' And whenever he heard this, he used to flee. Waraqah ibn Nawfal advised the Prophet to remain in his place when the caller calls him so that he hears what he has to tell him. And so when he went out, he heard the calling: 'O Muhammad!' He said: 'Here I am! At your service!' The caller said: 'Say: I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah'. Then he said: 'Say (Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Owner of the Day of Judgement…)' and he read until the end of the Opening of the Book”. This is also the opinion of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib. Abu Ishaq Ahmad ibn Muhammad, the Qur'anic commentator, informed us>al-Hasan ibn Ja'far, the commentator who said: Abu'l-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmud al-Marwazi> 'Abd Allah ibn Mahmud al-Sa'di> Abu Yahya al-Qasri> Marwan ibn Mu'awiyah> al-'Ala' ibn al-Musayyab> al-Fudayl ibn 'Amr> 'Ali ibn Abi Talib who said: “The Opening of the Book was revealed in Mecca from a treasure beneath the divine Throne”. And through the same chain of transmission> al-Sa'di who said: 'Amr ibn Salih informed us> his father> al-Kalbi> Abu Salih> ibn 'Abbas who said: “The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, stood up once in Mecca and said: 'In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds'. The people of Quraysh said: 'May Allah strike your mouth' or something to this effect”. This was related by al-Hasan and Qatadah. But according to Mujahid, the Opening of the Book was revealed in Medina. About this opinion al-Husayn ibn al-Fadl said: “Every scholar has a lapse, and this is one lapse from Mujahid, since he is the only scholar who holds this opinion while all the other scholars disagree with him”. What makes the Opening of the Book categorically a Meccan Surah is the saying of Allah, exalted is He: (We have given thee seven of the oft-repeated (verses) and the great Qur'an), i.e. the Opening of the Book. Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Nahwi informed us> Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn 'Ali al-Hiri> Ahmad ibn 'Ali ibn al-Muthanna> Yahya ibn Ayyub> Isma'il ibn Ja'far> al-'Ala'> his father> Abu Hurayrah who said: “When Ubayy ibn Ka'b finished reading the Opening of the Book to him, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: 'By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, Allah has not revealed the like of it in the Torah, the Gospel, the Psalm or in the Qur'an. Verily, I was given the seven oft-repeated [i.e. al-Fatihah] and the great Qur'an' ”. Furthermore, there is no disagreement that Surah al-Hijr was revealed in Mecca. It follows therefore that Allah would not mention His bounty on the Prophet for giving him the Opening of the Book while in Mecca and then reveal this to him in Medina. Again, one cannot possibly say that Allah's Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, stayed over ten years in Mecca and prayed during this time without the Opening of the Book. This is inconceivable.