Surat Al-Fatihah is the first surah of the Qur'an. According to most of the scholars this was the first complete surah that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) when he was in Makkah. Before this he received some verses of Surat Al-`Alaq, Surat Al-Muzzammil and Surat Al-Muddaththir , but as a complete surah , Al-Fatihah was the first one. The word Al-Fatihah means “opener”. So this surah is the “opener” of the Qur'an. It has seven verses that are repeated by every Muslim many times during the course of his or her daily prayers. Thus the surah is also called the As -Sab` Al-Mathani (Al-Hijr:87), that is “The Seven Oft-Repeated.” This surah also has many other names: Umm Al - Qur'an (the Essence of the Qur'an), Al-Asas (the Foundation), Ash-Shafiyah (the Healer), Al-Kafiyah (the Sufficient), and so on. In Al-Bukhari it is mentioned that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that Al-Fatihah was “the greatest surah in the Qur'an.”
It is also reported on the authority of Ubayy ibn Ka`b that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah did not reveal in the Torah, nor Injil, the like of Umm Al-Qur'an, and these seven oft-repeated verses, and it is (the one about which Allah said), ‘It is divided between Me and My servant and for My servant whatever he asks." (At-Tirmidhi)
Surat Al-Fatihah is both a prayer and a full introduction to the message of the Qur'an.
As a prayer it contains the praise and glorification of Allah and the human request for Allah's guidance, direction, and blessings. It is reported that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) say, “Allah says, I' have divided the prayer between Me and My servant in two halves and for My servant is whatever He asks for.' When the servant says, ‘Praise be to Allah the Lord of the worlds,' Allah says, ‘My servant has thanked Me.' When he says, ‘the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate,' Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me.' When he says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgment,' Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.' And He says, ‘My servant has submitted to Me.' When he says, ‘You Alone we worship and You we ask for help,' Allah says, ‘This is between Me and My servant and for My servant whatever he asks.' When he says, ‘Guide us to the straight path' Allah says, ‘This is for My servant and for My servant whatever he asks for” (Muslim).
As an introduction to the Qur'an, Al-Fatihah contains all the basic principles that are given in detail in the Qur'an. It tells us that we are surrounded by Allah's grace and favors. He is the Source of all love and mercy. We should be thankful to Him. Our life is not permanent. We will die one day and He will judge us. He alone is the Master of that Day and We must worship Him and Him alone. We must seek His help and He has all the power to give us whatever we need. It reminds us that Allah is the only One Who can really guide. It calls for righteous actions in this life. It speaks about life after death and the consequences of human action and behavior. It tells us that the true guidance comes through Allah's prophets and messengers. They were the people who were truly guided, and they received Allah's grace and mercy. Those who turned away from that path were those who went astray and they incurred the wrath of Allah and His punishment.
The surah tells us:
- The essence of religion is thankfulness to Allah.
- Allah is the Lord and Sustainer of the whole universe.
- Allah is very kind, loving, and merciful.
- Allah is also the Judge, and He does not tolerate injustice, evil, and sin.
- The Day of Judgment will inevitably come.
- Worship should be only for Allah, and all prayers for requests should be directed to Him alone.
- One should continuously seek Allah's guidance and remain on the path of truth and righteousness.
- True righteousness comes when we follow the example of those who were righteous and who were under Allah's grace: the prophets, messengers, and pious and devoted people of Allah.
- 9. One should always be careful not to make the Most Merciful angry.
- 10. One should never ignore the path of guidance and should always be careful not to go astray.
After this introduction comes the whole Qur'an. Al-Fatihah is the prayer and the Qur'an is the answer to that prayer.