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Reflections on Surah al-Fatiha (part 1 of 3)


Description: An interpretation of the most oft-recited verses of the Holy Qur’an. Part 1: Translation of Surah al-Fatiha and the significance of the names given to it.

By Imam Mufti

Published on 20 Feb 2012 - Last modified on 25 Jun 2019

Printed: 731 - Emailed: 0 - Viewed: 29020 (daily average: 7)

Category: Lessons > The Holy Quran > Explanation of Selected Passages


·       To appreciate the significance of Surah al-Fatiha in comparison to other surahs in the Quran.

·       To understand the translation of Surah al-Fatiha.

·       To know the names of Surah al-Fatiha and their significance.

Arabic Terms

·       Rakah - unit of prayer.

·       Surah - chapter of the Quran.

·       Hadith - (plural – ahadith) is a piece of information or a story. In Islam it is a narrative record of the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad and his companions.

The Quran consists of 114 chapters or surahs of unequal length.  Surah al-Fatiha is the first surah in the Quran and is recited in each rakah of every prayer as the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, declared:

“There is no prayer (valid) without the opening chapter of the Book.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari. Saheeh Muslim)

It was revealed to the Prophet in Mecca.  From all the verses of the Quran Allah chose this surah for us to read in every prayer for some divine wisdom.  Almost every Muslim in the world has committed it to memory.  When a person accepts Islam, the first thing that he or she memorizes is this opening chapter - the Fatiha.  This is so they can perform the prescribed prayers.  Its meaning should be learnt and contemplated on every time we offer salah (ritual prayer).  When a person recites Surah al-Fatiha in his salah (ritual prayer), the Lord of heavens and earth responds to every verse he says!

Text of Surah al-Fatiha

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ
1. In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful,  The Especially Merciful.


الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
2. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds;


الرَّحْمـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
3. The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful.


مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
4. Master of the Day of Judgment.


إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
5. You alone we worship and from You alone we seek help.


اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ
6. Guide us to the straight way,


صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ
7. The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your grace, not the way of those who earn Your anger, nor of those who go astray.


Names of Surah al-Fatiha & their Significance

This surah has other names like The Opening[1], the Essence of the Quran[2], the Seven Oft-Repeated Verses[3], and the Glorious Recital[4].

Indeed this surah holds the essence of the Quran and contains its principles and major themes.  It incorporates, in a condensed form, all the fundamental principles laid down in the Quran: the principle of God’s oneness and uniqueness, of His being the originator of the universe, the fountain of all life-giving grace, the One to whom man is ultimately responsible, the only power that can guide and help; the principle of life after death and of the consequences of man’s behavior; the principle of guidance through God’s message-bearers and, flowing from it, the principle of the continuity of all true religions (implied in the allusion to people who have lived - and erred - in the past); and, finally, the need for  self-surrender to the will of the Supreme Being and, thus, for worshipping Him alone.  It is for this reason that this surah has been formulated as a prayer, to be constantly repeated and reflected upon by the believer.

It is also called the Prayer, as in the Prophetic hadith[5]:

“I have split The Prayer (meaning Surah al-Fatiha) into two parts; one for Me and one for My slave, and My slave will have what he asks for.  When the slave says: Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds, I say: ‘My slave has praised Me.’ When he says: The Most Gracious, The dispenser of grace, I say: ‘My slave has extolled Me.’ When he says Master of the Day of Judgment, I say: ‘My slave has glorified Me’ or ‘My slave has deferred to Me.’ When he says: You alone we worship and from You alone we seek help, I say: ‘This is between Me and My slave, and my slave will have what he asks for.’ When he says: Guide us to the straight way, The way of those on whom you have bestowed Your grace, not the way of those who earn Your anger, nor of those who go astray, I say: ‘This is for My slave, and My slave will have what he asks for.’” (Saheeh Muslim)

One reason it is called Prayer is because the surah is part remembrance and part supplication.  ‘Guide us to the straight way’ is supplication for the greatest gift one can ask from Allah: divine guidance.


[1] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim

[3] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim

[4] Saheeh Al-Bukhari

[5] Hadîth Qudsî is a hadîth where the Prophet relates the words of his Lord.

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