The name Fatihah means that which opens a subject or a book or any other thing. It has several names among which one is the Foundation of Qur’an. It is also known as Umm-ul-Qur’an or the Mother of the Qur’an. It is because it contains seven often repeated ayaat and it is a summary of what the entire Qur’an is about.
Period of Revelation:
It is one of the very earliest Revelations to the Prophet ﷺ. We learn from authentic traditions that it was the first complete Surah which was revealed to the Prophet ﷺ.
The Surah is a du’a and the rest of the Qur’an that follows is the reply to this du’a. It has been placed at the very beginning of the book to teach this lesson to the reader: if you sincerely want to benefit from the Qur’an, you should offer this prayer to the Lord of the Worlds. In this Surah, we ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for ‘alssirata almustaqeem’ meaning ‘the Right Way’. In reply to this du’a, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala presents us the entire Qur’an as if to say if you want to walk on the path of the righteous people, then these are the instructions that you have to abide by.
The Virtues of Al-Fatihah:
Muslim recorded that Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever performs any prayer in which he did not read Umm-ul-Qur’an, then this prayer is incomplete.” He said it thrice.
Besides making its recitation compulsory for the validity of Salah, Al-Fatihah is the only Surah where Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala responds to us as we recite it.
Abu Huraira was asked, “When we stand behind the Imam?” He said, “Read it to yourself, for I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say,
Allah, the Exalted, said, ‘I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatihah) into two halves between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asks for.’
If he says,
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. (1:1)
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alameen
(mankind, jinns and all that exists). (1:2)
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, ‘My servant has praised Me.’
When the servant says,
The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. (1:3)
Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’
When he says,
مَـلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
The Owner of the Day of Recompense. (1:4)
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, ‘My servant has glorified Me,’ or ‘My servant has related all matters to Me.’
When he says,
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help. (1:5)
Allah says, ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.’
When he says,
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ – صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّآلِّينَ
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, ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.’”
Understanding the virtue of this Surah, we should not rush through its recitation in Salah, but rather pause after every ayah as if waiting for Allah’s response and then move on to the next ayah. While having human conversations we pause and give the other person a chance to respond. We don’t rush through the conversation without pausing in between. Then why do we have to rush while speaking to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, the Lord of the Worlds?
If you want your du’a to be heard, and responded to then relax, pause, think of the depth of your statement. Be in a state of spirituality. Shed some tears, be sincere in your repentance. By the time you finish your Salah, you will feel rejuvenated. In sha Allah!