Reminders about al-Fatiha
When we started discussing Surat al-Fatiha, we mentioned how with thissurah (chapter) in particular, we are having a conversation with Allah, and Allah responds with every verse we recite. This surah affirms Allah’sruboobiyah (lordship), but it also tells us that this lordship is based on mercy, which is why we recite “Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem” (the entirely Merciful, the especially Merciful) right after we praise Allah, the Lord of the worlds. His mercy is mentioned before we are told that He is the Sovereign of the Day of Judgment, so that we know that His mercy supersedes His wrath. Finally we talked about the key to being given this mercy, which is that we sincerely worship Him. In order to worship Him, we need His help, thus we say:
“It is You we worship and You we ask for help.” (Quran, 1:5)
And thus if we want to be guided, we should ask for guidance.
We have now entered into the realm of du`a’:
“Guide us to the straight path, the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.” (Qur’an, 1:6-7)
Ibn Taymiya stated that the du`a’ of Surat Al-Fatiha is the greatest, wisest and most beneficial du`a’. If Allah guides us to the straight path, He helps us to obey Him.
One may ask – why should I ask for guidance if I am already guided? ‘I pray, I fast, I read Qur’an – surely I am guided!‘ Firstly, the peak of guidance is to be at the level of the Prophet ﷺ, and none of us can claim to have reached that state, or even the level of the companions (ra). Thus we ask Allah to increase us in guidance. Secondly, being guided is dependent upon our reliance on Him and our humility before Him, and asking Allah to continue guiding us is expressing that. How can we claim to be guided by Allah when we do not ask Him? The Prophet ﷺ has told us:
“Whoever does not ask Allah, Allah is angry with him.” (Ibn Majah)
Ibn Al-Qayyim stated that the straight path we are asking to be guided upon consists of knowledge and actions, both internal and external. Yet a servant may not know all of the details, in terms of what to follow, what to avoid, and what earns Allah’s pleasure or displeasure. And what the servant doesn’t know may be more than what he does know. Thus, when we ask for guidance, we are also asking Allah to increase us in knowledge of these things. Moreover, even with the knowledge that we do have, we are capable of doing some things, and other things we are not. For example, we know that we must go for Hajj, but some of us just do not have the means. So when we ask for guidance, we are asking Allah to help us to beable to do the things we have knowledge of. Furthermore, even with those things that we have knowledge of and are able to do, our nafs may not incline us towards them. Perhaps we know the benefits of qiyaam al-layl (the night prayer), but are too lazy to attempt to wake up for it. When we ask Allah to guide us, we are asking Him to make our souls incline towards it.
A further point – perhaps we have the knowledge, ability, and desire to perform a good deed, yet we may not be sincere when we perform the act. Perhaps our intentions are mixed. Asking Allah for guidance is to ask Him to grant us sincerity too, because sincerity is what keeps us on the straight path. Asking Allah to guide us on this path means also asking Him to follow the footsteps of the Prophet ﷺ, and finally having thabaat (firmness) in these actions so that we do not waver.
As-Sirat Al-Mustaqeem: The Straight Path
Anas bin Malik (ra) narrates that he asked Allah’s Messenger ﷺ if he would intercede on his behalf on the Day of Judgement. “I will,” the Prophet ﷺ replied.
“So, where should I look for you on the Day of Judgement?” enquired Anas (ra).
“When you need me, first of all look for me at Sirat [the bridge],” said the Prophet ﷺ.
“And if I do not find you there?” asked Anas (ra).
“Look for me, then, at the Mizan [the Scales],” replied the Prophet ﷺ.
“Where may I seek you,” asked Anas (ra), “if you are not near the Mizan as well?”
“Then look for me at the Hawd [the Pond]. I will not go away from these three places at that time,” the Prophet ﷺ replied. (Tirmidhi)
Thus the first place to ask intercession from the Prophet ﷺ will be at the sirat. The sirat itself is a bridge over hell that one must pass to get to Paradise. It is described as a thin bridge – as thin as a hair – and is slippery. So how will we pass over it?
People pass over it according to their deeds: the first of them as fast as lighting, then as fast as wind, then as fast as birds, and then as fast as a running man. The Prophet ﷺ will be standing on the path saying “Lord, Save! Save!” as some people’s deeds will fall short. Some of them will come crawling. At both sides of the path there are hooks designed to take whom Allah wills: some are saved but bruised; others are thrown into Hell. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Ibn Al Qayyim stated that in this life, Allah has given us a straight path and has invited us all to it. Thus, whomever is guided to the straight path in this life, will make it over the straight path in the next life, insha’Allah. Our situation on the sirat,whether we fly over it or crawl, depends on our sticking to it on this life.
Can we see the importance of the du`a’ that we make in every prayer?
When we say “ameen” (‘O Allah please respond’) at the end of the du`a’ of Surat Al-Fatiha, we should say it with all of our heart, because after knowing all of these meanings, we should have true devotion and really desire for Allah to respond to this magnificent du`a’. However, if we are distracted, this du`a’ will not be answered. Why not? The Prophet ﷺ said:
“Make du`a’ to Allah with certainty that your du`a’ will be responded to, and know that Allah does not answer a du`a’ that originates from a negligent, inattentive heart.” (Tirmidhi)
Ibn Al-Qayyim said that when a person recites Surat al-Fatiha, he or she should give a short pause after every verse to anticipate the response of Allah. It was reported on the authority of Umm Salamah (ra) that the Prophet ﷺ would do that.
May Allah guide us to the straight path and enable us to have a present heart in our prayers. Ameen.