Those on whom Allah has bestowed His favors
The last article we described the sirat, which is the straight path that we must follow in this life so that we can cross over the physical one in the next life. In Surat al-Fatiha, we then specify the path we want to take. We recite:
“The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor…” (Qur’an, 1:6)
When we recite this ayah (verse), our heart should soften because we remember those people whom Allah (subhana wa ta’ala – glory be unto Him) has bestowed His favor- the Prophets (alayhum salaatu wasalaam – may peace be upon them), the Companions, the righteous and so on. This verse gives us comfort that those who follow this path are those whom Allah is with – thus, do not be ashamed of your faith before those who belittle it; do not shrink back when you are the only person who does not drink or when your hijab is questioned. Many of the surahs in the Qur’an tell us the stories of the Prophets (as), almost as though to give comfort to our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ when he was going through hardship in delivering the message. This ayah too should do just that for us – we should know that as long as we are on this path, Allah is with us.
The continuation of this verse tells us:
“…not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.” (1:6-7)
Who are those who have evoked His anger? Ibn Kathir stated that it is a description of those who know the truth but do not follow it. And those who are astray are those who do things without knowledge. We need to be aware of these two paths so that we do not fall into them, and thus to be on the straight path, we need to combine both knowledge and actions.
Surat al-Fatiha also teaches us the proper order of du`a’ – that we should always start by praising Allah, and then asking for our need.
We talked briefly about “Ameen” in the last article, and how we should say it truly desiring for Allah to answer the du’a of Al-Fatiha. But something else happens when we say it. Abu Hurayra (radi Allahu` anhu – May Allah be pleased with him) related that the Prophet ﷺ said:
“When the Imam says, ‘ Ameen’, then say, ‘Ameen’, because whoever says, ‘Ameen’ with the angels, his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
We say “Ameen” meaning ‘O Allah please respond’, and the Angels in the heavens also say “Ameen.” If they coincide, then Allah forgives our sins. This is also why we should say it with all of our hearts – in order that Allah responds to our sinceredu`a’ and so that our sins are forgiven.
After reciting Al-Fatiha, we recite a brief surah afterwards. Unfortunately, sometimes we cannot even remember which surahwe read. For those of us who have this problem, we should heed Allah’s words:
“Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an, or are there locks upon [their] hearts?” (Qur’an, 47:24)
Look at how the Prophet ﷺ used to pray. Aisha (ra) related that sometimes the Prophet ﷺ would pray in the night untilFajr reciting just one ayah. One of the righteous, Muhammad bin Ka’b Al-Qardhi would say: “To read Surat al-Zalzala from night until morning and Surat al-Qari`ah and contemplating over them and repeating them is more beloved to me than just reading the entire Qur’an [i.e. without contemplation].”
A neighbor of Ibn Abbas (ra) mentioned that when he would pray tahajjud (the night prayer), he would recite an ayah and then pause. Then he would recite another ayah and pause. The neighbor asked him why he would do that, and he replied that it was so he could contemplate over the words. Oftentimes we focus on quantity and not on quality. Some of us may read an entire chapter of the Qur’an, but if we were asked what lessons we took, we would not be able to talk about even one. Ibn Al-Qayyim stated that if one wishes to benefit from the Qur’an, he needs to ensure that his heart is present; he needs to recite or listen to the words giving them their due importance, knowing that Allah is addressing him.
These words are so powerful that Allah (swt) has said:
“If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah…” (Qur’an, 59:21)
SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah), look at the parable that Allah (swt) has set for us. Look at the weight of this Qur’an that we recite every single day not realizing that the words are addressed to us and are there to guide us. Even if some of us say that we do not understand Arabic, many of us have certain ayaat and surahs that we have memorized and recite them in our prayers. We should try to read the tafseer (exegesis) and understand the meanings so that our hearts are moved when we recite. It should not even take very long if we make a commitment to read a few pages of tafseer every week of a surah that we know. We should even get together with others to do so and gain the baraka (blessing) of reflecting on the words of God in congregation.
Ibn Al-Qayyim said that we should be moving between the emotions of love, fear and hope. When we read the verses pertaining to Allah’s blessings, our hearts should fill with love, recognizing these blessings in our lives. When we read of those who were before us and of their punishment, we should feel fear because we could be of them. When we recite the verses telling us about how Allah (swt) forgives, we should fill with hope in His mercy. Let us not forget the prayer is not a monologue- it is an intimate dialogue with Allah. The Qur’an is His Words to us.
May Allah aid us in reflecting and taking lessons from the Qur’an and having a present heart in our prayers. Ameen.