Surat al-Fatiha is the surah (chapter) we recite in every rak`ah (unit) of every prayer – over 17 times a day. Thus it is crucial to know the detailed meanings of every verse so that we can connect with what we recite.
Today we will embark on a unique venture to inculcate within us awe of God and, interestingly, the path of this particular endeavor is trodden by few.
Allah (Glory be unto Him) says:
“Say, ‘Observe what is in the heavens and earth’…” (Qur’an, 10:101).
Allah has ordered us to observe and to think. The following video takes us on a breathtaking journey:
It is unfathomable how tiny we are compared to creation at large. Did we ever stop to think about the distance between us and the heavens? Allah has said:
“Indeed, your Lord is Allah , who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne” (Qur’an, 7:54).
Of course, we do not know the true meaning of how Allah (swt) established Himself above the Throne, as Allah (swt) also says “There is nothing like unto Him” (Qur’an, 42:11). Nevertheless, this is not the topic of our discussion today. If what we saw in that video is just the samaa ad-dunya (the lowest heaven), can we imagine that there are seven heavens, and finally above those seven heavens, is the Kursi (translated as “footstool”) and Throne of Allah (Al-`Arsh)?
Can we imagine the Kursi? The Prophet ﷺ told us:
“The seven heavens are no more in comparison to the Kursi than a ring thrown in a desert.” (Ibn Hajar)
If that is the Kursi, then what of the magnificent Throne?
He then said:
“And the superiority of the Throne over the Kursi is like that desert compared to that ring.”
Can we even begin to imagine this? How can we then be arrogant? How can we stand before Allah (swt) and not feel the sheer magnanimity of the situation we face? Sometimes we marvel at human accomplishments like building the tallest tower, flying on airplanes or cloning, but then we discover Allah’s natural untouched creation (like the video shown above) and we can only be in awe. After pondering over this, read this hadith of the Prophet ﷺ:
“When you pray, do not turn here and there because Allah (swt) directs His face to the face of His servant, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi)
So how can we turn away? Compare what we saw here to what we saw in the last post about the cell. All of these things work without needing us, and as we go about our day Allah moves them and ensures they function. We can only say, “Al-hamdu lilahi Rabb al-`alameen” (all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds).
The Prayer is a conversation
Allah has said in a hadith qudsi (sacred tradition) about Surat al-Fatiha:
“I have divided the prayer between Myself and My servant, into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. When the servant says, “[All] praise is [due] to Allah , Lord of the worlds,” Allah says, “My servant has praised Me.”
When the servant says “The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,” Allah says, “My servant has extolled me.”
When the servant says “Sovereign of the Day of Recompense,” Allah says, “My servant has glorified me.”
When the servant says “It is 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 for.”
When the servant says “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,” Allah says, “All these are for My servant, and My servant shall have what he asked for.” (Muslim)
What a beautiful conversation to be having with our Lord. Ibn al-Qayyim said the most beautiful thing is that Allah refers to us as His servants. Remember that when Allah (swt) raised the Prophet ﷺ during the Isra and Mi’raj, He said:
“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Qur’an, 17:1)
Servitude to people brings humiliation, but servitude to Allah, coupled with love, is the highest of honor.
May we all come to the prayer with this feeling of awe of our Creator. Ameen.