Tafseer of Surah Faatihah

بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ رَبِّ الْعٰلَمِينَ ‎﴿١﴾‏ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ مٰلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ ‎﴿٣﴾‏ اِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَاِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ‎﴿٥﴾‏ صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ اَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ ﴿٦﴾‏ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّآلِّينَ ‎﴿٧﴾‏

All praise be to Allah, the Rabb of the worlds. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgement. You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help. Show us the straight path – the path of those whom You have favoured (with Your grace), not the path of those upon whom is Your wrath nor the path of those who have gone astray.

The First Surah

Surah Faatihah is the first surah of the Holy Qur’aan. It is not only the first surah in the present sequence of the surahs of the Qur’aan, but is also the first surah to be revealed by Allah Ta‘ala. Prior to the revelation of Surah Faatihah, though the beginning verses of Surah Alaq and Surah Muddassir were revealed, however no complete Surah had been revealed before it.

The reason for Surah Faatihah being placed before every other Surah of the Qur’aan Majeed is that Surah Faatihah is the essence of the Qur’aan Majeed, and in its subject matter, it encapsulates the three main themes of the Qur’aan Majeed. Therefore, it is as though the rest of the Qur’aan Majeed which follows Surah Faatihah is like its commentary in expounding upon its three main themes.

The Three Main Themes of the Qur’aan Majeed

In essence, the knowledge contained in the entire Qur’aan Majeed relates to either one of three main themes; (1) bringing imaan in the Oneness of Allah Ta‘ala and in His divine attributes, (2) carrying out a’amaal-e-saalihah (righteous deeds), (3) the life of the Hereafter.

The basic principles of all these three main themes have been referred and indicated to in Surah Faatihah. It is for this reason that among the titles that Surah Faatihah has been granted, as mentioned in the Mubaarak Ahaadith, are the titles “Ummul Qur’aan” (the Essence of the Qur’aan), “Ummul Kitaab” (the Essence of the Book), and “Al-Qur’aan-ul-Azeem (the Glorious Qur’aan)”.

The Message of Surah Faatihah

When one examines the subject matter of this surah, one realizes that it is a message from Allah Ta‘ala to man in regard to how he should supplicate to Allah Ta‘ala and seek guidance from Him. Hence, in this surah, one is begging Allah Ta‘ala to show him the path of those who have been favoured by Allah Ta‘ala and save him from the path of those who have earned His wrath and the path of those who have gone astray.

Allah Ta‘ala answers this supplication of man by providing him with the guidance that was revealed in the rest of the Qur’aan Majeed. Hence, it is as though the rest of the Qur’aan Majeed is an answer to this supplication of man in Surah Faatihah.

The Focus of the Message of Surah Faatihah

The focus of the message of this surah is that in order for one to benefit from the Qur’aan Majeed, one is required to bring imaan in the basic articles of faith e.g. (1) believing in the Oneness of Allah Ta‘ala (2) believing in all His divine and beautiful attributes (3) believing in the Hereafter (4) believing in the reckoning on the Day of Judgment (5) believing in the risaalah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) (6) following the path of Allah Ta‘ala’s chosen servants (the Ambiyaa[‘alaihimus salaam]) (7) refraining from the pathways of His enemies which lead to His disobedience.

Similarly, this surah directs man towards achieving his goal through turning completely to Allah Ta‘ala through worshipping Him, seeking guidance and assistance from Him.

If one recites this surah and studies it with an open mind and sincere heart, as a true seeker of the truth, he will certainly be blessed with true guidance from Allah Ta‘ala.

The Virtues of Surah Faatihah

In regard to the virtues of Surah Faatihah, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has said that this surah is a cure for all kinds of illnesses. According to another Hadith, this surah is also named “As-Shifaa” (the Cure for all Illnesses).

It is also reported from Hazrat Anas (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has called this surah the greatest surah among all the surahs of the Qur’aan Majeed.

In yet another Hadith, Hazrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “I swear by Allah Ta‘ala, who is the Master of my life, that neither the Towrah, nor the Injeel nor the Zaboor nor any other portion of the Quraan can be compared with Surah Faatihah.”

The Ulama explain that the heavenly scriptures number approximately 104, and the messages of all these scriptures are contained in the four famous books; the Zaboor, Towrah, Injeel and the Qur’aan. The divine message of all these books is condensed into the Qur’aan, and the fundamental message of the Qur’aan is encapsulated in Surah Faatihah. Furthermore, the gist and essence of Surah Faatihah can be found in the words “Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem”.

The Essence of Bismillah

بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

It was the habit and way of the people in the pre-Islamic era that when they commenced any work or embarked on any project, they would take the names of their idols in order to acquire blessings. Allah Ta‘ala abolished these wrong practices of the pagans and instructed them that instead of taking the names of their false gods and deities, they should take the name of Allah Ta‘ala when commencing any work or embarking on any project.

In reality, the life of a believer is governed by the belief and conviction that it is only with the divine grace and divine assistance of Allah Ta‘ala that all works are accomplished. Hence, a believer is taught to recite Bismillah when opening or closing the door, when covering any utensil, when commencing eating or drinking, when embarking on a journey, when mounting or dismounting the conveyance, etc.

When we say “Bismillah” – in the name of Allah, we are in actual fact saying that we are commencing our work or task with the name of Allah Ta‘ala and with His divine assistance and blessings. In other words, we acknowledge that without Allah Ta‘ala, we cannot do any work nor complete any task, no matter how small the task may be.

In essence, every aspect of a believer’s life should commence with taking the name of Allah Ta‘ala. Hence, in the same way, before commencing the recitation of the Qur’aan Majeed, we are commanded to recite Bismillah. The reason for reciting Bismillah is in order to seek Allah Ta‘ala’s divine assistance and blessings to recite the Qur’aan Majeed correctly as well as to be able to comprehend the message of the Qur’aan Majeed and acquire special guidance through it.

Praising Allah Ta‘ala

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ

All praise be to Allah

This surah commences with the words “الحمد لله” (All praise be to Allah), signifying that all praise essentially belongs to Allah Ta‘ala alone. The person who praises any created entity anywhere in the world is ultimately praising the creator of all things – Allah Ta‘ala, as admiration of any object is, in actual fact, admiration of its producer.

Therefore, when Allah Ta‘ala is the One who has created everything, then praising that thing is in actual fact praising its Creator, as He is the One who bestowed it with beauty and splendour.

When one examines the world and the created entities of the world, then each thing draws man’s attention towards its beauty and splendour, but when one looks beyond the veil in order to see who is controlling everything in the universe and allowing it to function in harmony, one will certainly realize that it is none other than Allah Ta‘ala alone.

In essence, each and every creation, in its splendour and beauty, is a manifestation of the grandeur and majesty of Almighty Allah Ta‘ala alone.

Once man has realized that there is only one Being in the whole universe who is worthy of all praise, then he ought to understand that this great Being alone should be worthy of worship. Thus, we see that although the phrase “الحمد لله” (All praise be to Allah) has been used to signify praise, yet, by implication, it cuts the very root of shirk (polytheism) and the worship of all created entities, and at the same time, it establishes the belief of tawheed (bringing faith in the Oneness of Allah Ta‘ala).

Hence, we understand that the very first verse of the Holy Qur’aan establishes the foundational principle of Islam (i.e. Tawheed – the Oneness of Allah Ta‘ala).

The Rabb of the Worlds

رَبِّ الْعٰلَمِينَ

The Rabb of the worlds

The word “Rabb” refers to the Being who brings every creation into existence, and then nourishes and nurtures it and takes it gradually through the different levels of development, until it attains perfection. Hence, we understand that this attribute of Rabb is exclusive to the sacred being of Allah Ta‘ala and nobody else shares in it.

“عٰلمين” (the worlds) refers to the different worlds or the different planets that Allah Ta‘ala has created. One world is the world that we are presently living in. This world is visible to man. However, there are many other worlds or planets that are created by Allah Ta‘ala which are not visible to man.

The word “عٰلمين” can also refer to the different species of creation such as the human kingdom, the animal kingdom, the kingdom of the jinnaat and the kingdom of the Malaa’ikah, etc. These creations are at times referred to as the different worlds (the world of man, the world of jinn, the animal world, etc).

Hence, when Allah Ta’ala says “الحمد لله رب العٰلمين” (All Praise be to Allah, the Rabb of the worlds), it means that all praise is due to that Being who has given existence to every creation, nourishes and nurtures them and takes care of them from the beginning until the end in the world they live in.

The Most Gracious and the Most Merciful

الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ ‎﴿٢﴾

The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

“Ar-Rahmaan” and “Ar-Raheem” are both attributes of Allah Ta‘ala, denoting His extreme mercy. However, the difference between the two attributes is that “Ar-Rahmaan” indicates the extensive nature of His mercy, while “Ar-Raheem” refers to the intensive nature of His mercy.

Master of the Day of Judgement

مٰلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ ‎﴿٣﴾

Master of the Day of Judgement

Despite Allah Ta‘ala being the Master and Owner of every creation and everything that is contained in the universe at all times, Allah Ta‘ala has described Himself in this verse as being the Master and Owner of the Day of Judgement in specific.

The Ulama explain that the reason for this is that in this world, Allah Ta‘ala had given man ownership of certain things in the world, and Allah Ta‘ala had granted certain people the authority and control to rule over people and certain parts of the land. However, on the Day of Judgement, every person’s ownership and authority will cease and there will be no creation who will have any control or authority over any person or anything. It will only be the judgement of Allah Ta‘ala that will prevail over one and all on that day. Hence, Allah Ta‘ala described Himself as the Master of the Day of Judgement.

The Nature of This World Compared to the Hereafter

Allah Ta‘ala has created the world as an abode for carrying out actions, and the Hereafter as an abode to be recompensed for one’s actions.

If one brings imaan and carries out righteous actions in this world, he will be rewarded with Jannah for the good actions he had done in this world. Accordingly, if one does not bring imaan and leads a life of kufr and shirk in this world, then he will be punished with Jahannum in the Hereafter for not believing in Allah Ta‘ala and the Deen of Islam.

When one examines the nature of this world, one finds that full justice cannot take place, as wealth, power and influence lies in the hands of both good people and evil people. Hence, at times, justice is meted out to the guilty, and at times, the guilty, due to his influence, is able to escape the laws of justice. The outcome is that the innocent are treated as criminals, and criminals are treated as innocent. Therefore, Allah Ta‘ala created the Hereafter as the abode where complete justice will be meted out to one and all.

Such will be the justice of Allah Ta‘ala on the Day of Judgement that if a horned animal had oppressed a hornless animal in the world by butting it with its horns, then Allah Ta‘ala will resurrect both animals and allow retribution to take place between them.

In essence, Allah Ta‘ala created the Hereafter as the abode where complete justice will be meted out to all His creation and all the creation will be recompensed for their actions. It is for this reason that Allah Ta‘ala referred to Himself as the Master of the Day of Judgement, as it will only be His decision and judgement that will prevail upon all.

Turning to Allah Ta‘ala Alone for Help

اِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَاِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help.

In the Arabic language, the word ibaadah (worship) connotes showing the utmost humility and submission out of an intense love and respect for someone. Such an attitude of showing wholehearted submission, with intense love and respect, cannot justly be adopted for anyone except Allah Ta’ala.

Hence, when we say, “You alone do we worship,” then in actual fact, we are declaring that we have submitted ourselves entirely to His obedience and worship, with a deep sense of love and respect, on account of the fact that He is our Creator and Sustainer.

When we say, “From You alone do we seek help,” we acknowledge that it is only through Allah’s decision and decree that any affair or matter can come into existence, and hence He alone is in complete control over all our affairs. Thus, if we adopt the worldly means, then it is on account of His command that we are doing so, and we will not regard the means to be effective in achieving our goal, rather we will understand that it is only through Allah’s permission that the means can prove effective.

Hence, any means that Allah Ta‘ala had prohibited one from adopting, one will refrain from adopting this means, as this will amount to opposing Allah Ta‘ala and placing one’s reliance on the haraam means e.g. taking interest-bearing loans from the bank to increase one’s livelihood or taking out insurance schemes to protect one’s wealth.

Essence of the First Three Verses

In the preceding three verses, man acknowledges his dependence on Allah Ta‘ala in the past, present and future.

In the first verse, Allah Ta‘ala explains that Allah is the Rabb of the worlds. Allah Ta‘ala says, “All praise be to Allah, the Rabb of the worlds”. From this verse, we come to know that Allah Ta’ala alone is the One who had given man his existence and Allah Ta’ala alone is the One who sustains him, nourishes him and takes care of him at every stage of life. Hence, man should acknowledge his dependence on Allah Ta‘ala in the past.

In the second verse, Allah Ta‘ala explains His divine quality of showing kindness and compassion to all of His creation. Allah Ta‘ala says, “The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” From this verse, we come to know that at every moment in man’s life in this world, man is entirely dependent upon Allah Ta‘ala for his continuity and survival. Hence, man should acknowledge his dependence on Allah Ta‘ala in the present as well.

In the third verse, Allah Ta‘ala explains that He is the Master of the Day of Judgement. Allah Ta‘ala says, “Master of the Day of Judgement.” From this verse, we come to know that in the Hereafter, man will be entirely dependent upon Allah Ta‘ala for his salvation. Hence, man should acknowledge his dependence on Allah Ta‘ala in the future.

After man understands and acknowledges that he was dependent upon Allah Ta‘ala in the past, he continues to be dependent upon Allah Ta‘ala at present, and he will be dependent upon Allah Ta‘ala in the future, then the natural result and outcome of this dependence is that man should worship Him alone and seek help and assistance from Him alone as no one else can assist him, benefit him or avail him in any way besides Allah Ta‘ala.

This verse also teaches us that since man should worship Allah Ta‘ala alone and seek assistance from Him alone, then sajdah, tawaaf or making dua to anyone besides Allah Ta‘ala is not permissible. Rather, one’s love, fear and hope in Allah Ta‘ala should be greater than one’s love, fear and hope for any other being or entity. Nothing should be more important to man than his loyalty and relationship with Allah Ta‘ala.

By asking Allah Ta‘ala for His divine help, we are begging Him for His divine assistance, whether relating to any matter of this world or the Hereafter.

The Secret of Surah Faatihah

The Ulama of Tafseer explain that the essence of the entire Qur’aan is found in Surah Faatihah, and the essence of Surah Faatihah is found in this verse “إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين” (You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek help).

When we examine this verse, we find that it comprises of two parts. The first part is, “You alone do we worship”, and the second part is, “and from You alone do we seek help”.

The first part of this verse is a declaration of one’s being free from shirk and from associating anyone with Allah Ta‘ala.

The second part is a declaration of one placing one’s trust and reliance upon Allah Ta‘ala alone, and not placing one’s trust and reliance upon any of the creation to fulfil one’s needs and wishes.

The Explanation of the First Part (You alone do we worship)

As explained previously, the word ibaadah (worship) refers to showing utmost humility and submission to someone out of intense love and respect for him. Obviously, this level of submission cannot be adopted for anyone besides Allah Ta‘ala.

Accordingly, if one affords any person this type of unrestricted submission and obeys him him against the command of Allah Ta‘ala, then this will be regarded as shirk.

From this, we understand that shirk (associating partners with Allah Ta‘ala) is not restricted to acts of worship and does not only take place by worshipping stone and metal as the idolaters do, but also takes place through obeying, venerating or loving someone to the degree reserved for Allah Ta‘ala.

In the Qur’aan Majeed, Allah Ta‘ala speaks about the Jews and Christians, and the acts of shirk they were involved in by obeying and venerating their rabbis and priests against the commands of Allah Ta‘ala. Allah Ta‘ala says:

اتَّخَذُوٓا۟ اَحْبَارَهُمْ وَرُهْبَانَهُمْ أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ

They have taken their religious scholars and monks as lords apart from Allah Ta‘ala… (Surah Taubah v. 31)

Hazrat Adiyy bin Haatim (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was a Sahaabi of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) who was a Christian before embracing Islam. Once, he had come to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and enquired, “O Rasul of Allah! Why is it that the Holy Qur’aan condemns the Christians for having taken their religious scholars as lords, whereas they were never guilty of committing shirk by worshipping them?”

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) in turn asked him, “Is it true that when their religious scholars declared certain things as haraam, although Allah Ta‘ala had declared them as halaal, and declared many things as halaal whereas Allah Ta‘ala had declared them as haraam, then they obeyed their scholars against the command of Allah Ta‘ala?”

Hazrat Adiyy bin Haatim (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) admitted that this was true. Thereupon, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) remarked, “This was exactly how they worshipped their scholars.”

This goes to prove that Allah Ta‘ala alone has the right to establish what is halaal and haraam. Hence, if one believes that some person also has the right to declare halaal and haraam, then such a person has committed shirk, as he has ascribed someone else as the partner of Allah Ta‘ala in the right of declaring halaal and haraam, and thus it is as though he is worshipping that person.

Referring to Islamic Scholars for Guidance

This should not be misconstrued, in any way, to mean that it is not permissible for one to refer to religious scholars in matters of deen. The reason is that in the Qur’aan Majeed, Allah Ta‘ala has commanded those who lack knowledge to refer to those who possess knowledge to acquire deeni guidance. Allah Ta‘ala says:

فَسْـَٔلُوٓا۟ اَهْلَ ٱلذِّكْرِ اِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

Ask the men of knowledge if you do not know… (Surah Nahl v. 43)

Nevertheless, the men of knowledge should guide people according to the commands of Allah Ta‘ala, and they should not mislead them by distorting deen and inviting them to their own obedience.

Other Examples of Shirk

Another example which enters under the category of shirk (associating partners with Allah Ta‘ala) is:

(1) to make offerings to someone other than Allah Ta‘ala e.g. to slaughter an animal in the name of a pious person

(2) to pray to someone other than Allah Ta‘ala at the time of need or distress

(3) to bow or prostrate oneself to anyone besides Allah Ta‘ala

(4) to make tawaaf around a person or thing besides the House of Allah Ta‘ala – Ka’bah Shareef

The Explanation of the Second Part (From You alone do we seek help)

The second part of this verse is a declaration of one placing one’s trust and reliance upon Allah Ta‘ala alone, and not placing one’s trust and reliance upon any of the creation to fulfil one’s needs and wishes.

It should be understood that this world is a world of cause and effect. Being a world of cause and effect, the shari’ah teaches one to adopt the halaal means to fulfil one’s needs. Hence, at the time of need, one adopts the services of a doctor, lawyer, carpenter, builder, etc. to fulfil one’s need.

Therefore, when we are asked to make the dua “from You alone do we seek help”, then does this verse prohibit us from benefiting from the services of people?

The answer to this question is that this verse is not prohibiting us from benefiting from the services of people, but rather, the meaning of this verse is that one should not believe that any of the creation, even if it is a prophet or saint, whether living or dead, has the power to administrate worldly affairs and fulfil one’s needs e.g. to believe that a certain pious person can bless one with children, or he is in charge of sustenance, etc. To subscribe to such a belief is haraam as it is ascribing partners to Allah Ta‘ala in His attributes of giving life and death, granting sustenance, etc.

The crux of the matter is that when we take assistance from people or employ their services, then we do not believe that they have the ability to fulfil our needs, but rather we believe that it is only Allah Ta‘ala who will make the means effective and cause our need to be fulfilled.

Seeking Guidance from Allah Ta‘ala

اِہۡدِ نَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ ۙ﴿۵﴾

Guide us to the straight path

In this verse, the word “اهدنا” is mentioned which stems from the word “هداية” referring to guidance. In other words, we are begging Allah Ta‘ala to bless us with divine guidance and show us the straight path.

Hidaayah (guidance) refers to guiding somebody to their destination with kindness. The reason for us making dua to Allah Ta‘ala to bless us with guidance to the straight path is that success in both worlds cannot be achieved without divine guidance.

The Three Levels of Guidance

The Ulama explain that there are three levels of guidance. The first level of guidance is general and incudes all creations that exist in the universe. This level of guidance is granted by Allah Ta‘ala to each creation, through which they are able to exist, continue and fulfil their function.

This level of guidance is mentioned in the following verse of the Qur’aan Majeed:

قَالَ رَبُّنَا الَّذِیۡۤ اَعۡطٰی کُلَّ شَیۡءٍ خَلۡقَہٗ  ثُمَّ  ہَدٰی ﴿۵۰﴾

He (Nabi Musa [‘alaihis salaam]) said (to Fir’aun), “Our Rabb is the One who gave everything its form and then guided it.” (Surah Taha v. 50)

Similarly, in the Qur’aan Majeed, Allah Ta‘ala makes mention of the honey bee being guided by Allah Ta‘ala to acquire nectar from plants and build its hive on rooftops and mountains. Another example is the birds which are guided by Allah Ta‘ala to build nests to protect their young from the cold, and to migrate to warmer climates in the winter months.

Many people regard this as instinctive behaviour in the animal, but in reality, it is Allah Ta‘ala that guides each creation to fulfil its function.

The Second Level of Guidance

The second level of guidance is not general, but is specific to that creation which is considered to be blessed with reason and intelligence. This creation refers to man and jinn.

This second type of guidance is sent to man and jinn by Allah Ta‘ala via the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) and the divinely revealed kitaabs and scriptures. Hence, man and jinn are obligated to believe in the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) and follow the shari’ah which they brought to their nations. Allah Ta‘ala says:

وَ مَا خَلَقۡتُ الۡجِنَّ وَ الۡاِنۡسَ  اِلَّا لِیَعۡبُدُوۡنِ ﴿۵۶﴾

I have not created jinn and man except to worship Me. (Surah Zaariyaat v. 56)

As for animals, then though they possess a degree of understanding, however since the level of their understanding is deficient compared to man, Allah Ta‘ala did not make them obligated to follow the shari’ah.

The Third Level of Guidance

The third level of guidance is more specific compared to the second level. This level of guidance is blessed to the true believers who fear Allah Ta‘ala and lead a life of taqwa.

Just as the first level of guidance comes directly from Allah Ta‘ala to the various creations, similarly this third level of guidance also descends directly from Allah Ta‘ala to certain individuals, inspiring and motivating them to tread on the straight path, unlike the second level of guidance which is dependent on man to make an effort to follow it.

In essence, the difference between the second and third levels of guidance is that the second level of guidance can be resembled to verbally or physically directing one to the path of guidance, after which it is dependent upon the person to follow the guidance and tread on that path. As far as the third level of guidance is concerned, then it can be compared to taking a person by the hand and physically taking him onto the path of guidance.

Hence, in this verse, when we beg Allah Ta‘ala for guidance by saying “اهدنا الصراط المستقيم” (Guide us to the straight path), then it is this level of guidance that we are begging Allah Ta‘ala for.

In the Qur’aan Majeed, when Allah Ta‘ala attributes guidance to Himself and no one else, it is this third level of guidance that is referred to. When the uncle of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), Abu Taalib, passed away on kufr, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) grieved over his condition.

On that occasion, Allah Ta‘ala addressed Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) saying :

اِنَّکَ لَا تَہۡدِیۡ مَنۡ  اَحۡبَبۡتَ وَ لٰکِنَّ اللّٰہَ یَہۡدِیۡ مَنۡ یَّشَآءُ

Indeed, (O Muhammed [sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam],) you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills (to the straight path). (Surah Qasas v. 56)

However, in certain verses of the Qur’aan Majeed, when Allah Ta‘ala attributes hidaayah and guidance to the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) or the pious servants, then it is the second level of guidance that is referred to. For example, Allah Ta‘ala praises the Ulama of the Banu Israa’eel saying:

وَ جَعَلۡنَا مِنۡہُمۡ  اَئِمَّۃً  یَّہۡدُوۡنَ  بِاَمۡرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُوۡا ۟ؕ  وَ کَانُوۡا بِاٰیٰتِنَا یُوۡقِنُوۡنَ ﴿۲۴﴾

And We made them leaders guiding their people (towards the straight path) with our command when they learnt endurance (and steadfastness upon their deen), and they had full conviction in our verses. (Surah Sajdah v. 24)

The Special Group who Have been Favoured by Allah Ta‘ala

صِرَاطَ الَّذِیۡنَ اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ ۙ۬

The path of those whom You have favoured (with Your special grace)

In the previous verse, we are commanded to make dua for Allah Ta‘ala to guide us to the straight path. In this verse, Allah Ta‘ala explains to us which path is the straight path of deen. Allah Ta‘ala says, “The path of those whom You have favoured (with Your special grace).” In other words, the straight path of deen is the path which was followed by those who have been favoured and chosen by Allah Ta‘ala.

In another verse of the Qur’aan Majeed, Allah Ta‘ala enumerates four categories of servants as being those whom He has favoured with His special grace. Allah Ta‘ala says:

وَ مَنۡ یُّطِعِ اللّٰہَ وَ الرَّسُوۡلَ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ مَعَ الَّذِیۡنَ اَنۡعَمَ اللّٰہُ عَلَیۡہِمۡ مِّنَ النَّبِیّٖنَ وَ الصِّدِّیۡقِیۡنَ وَ الشُّہَدَآءِ وَ الصّٰلِحِیۡنَ ۚ وَ حَسُنَ اُولٰٓئِکَ رَفِیۡقًا ﴿ؕ۶۹﴾

Whoever obeys Allah and the Rasul, then (in the Hereafter,) they will be in the company of those whom Allah has favoured (with His special grace) viz. the Messengers, the siddeeqeen, the martyrs and the righteous servants. How excellent are these companions! (Surah Nisaa v.69)

From all these four categories of chosen servants, the Messengers are the greatest in rank, followed by the siddeeqeen. The siddeeqeen are those who have acquired spiritual perfection in deen and the internal and external condition of their lives remain upon constant truth and loyalty to Allah Ta‘ala. The third in rank are the martyrs – those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of deen, and fourth in rank are the righteous servants of Allah Ta‘ala.

The Divine System of Almighty Allah Ta‘ala

In this verse, Allah Ta‘ala has commanded us to follow His pious servants, as they are the ones who have understood the straight path. The reason is that these pious servants have learnt the knowledge of deen and the book of Allah Ta‘ala from their seniors, who in turn, acquired it from their seniors, until this series of acquiring deen reached the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) who acquired it from Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

Hence, we understand that in deen, we are in need of the Kitaabullah (the divine heavenly Books) as well as the Rijaalullah (the favoured servants of Allah Ta‘ala). If one has to study history, one will find that since time immemorial, it has always been the divine system of Almighty Allah Ta‘ala that He sent down Kitaabullah (the divine heavenly Books) together with Rijaalullah (the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) and their pious followers). There has never been a period witnessed in the history of humanity wherein Allah Ta‘ala revealed a kitaab to a nation without sending a Nabi to them.

The mission of the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) was to explain the correct application of the kitaab of Allah Ta‘ala to the people and show them how to live their lives in accordance to its dictates.

The Responsibility of this Ummah

Since there is no Rasul or Nabi to come with a new Shari’ah after the advent of Islam (as Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) is the last and final messenger of Allah Ta‘ala and the seal of all prophets), Allah Ta‘ala has conferred a special honour upon this Ummah by making each Ummati a trustee of this Deen.

On the day of Qiyaamah, each Ummati will be questioned regarding whether or not he had protected and safeguarded this great, divine trust of Deen according to his capacity and capability. In addition to this honour, Allah Ta‘ala has favoured the Ulama of this Ummah by making them the true heirs and vicegerents of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) in preserving his Deen and his Mubaarak Sunnah.

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said:

العلماء ورثة الأنبياء

The Ulama are the heirs of the Ambiyaa. (Saheeh Ibnu Hibbaan #88)

Hence, in this day and age, if the Ulama of the Ummah uphold the Deen of Allah Ta‘ala and preserve the Mubaarak Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) in the true sense of the word, they will be truly worthy and deserving of the title “true heirs and vicegerents of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).”

The Difference between the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) and the Ulama

As far as the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) are concerned, they are an exclusive class of Allah Ta‘ala’s servants who are sinless. They received divine revelation and never disobeyed Allah Ta‘ala for even a moment in their entire lives. They fulfilled every command of Allah Ta‘ala in the manner they were commanded. There was always total conformity witnessed between the Book of Allah Ta‘ala and the actions of the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam). In essence, the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam) were the fountainheads of guidance (hidaayat) in the world.

As far as the Ulama are concerned, they neither receive divine revelation nor are they sinless. Therefore, they cannot be equated to the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam). Rather, they will only be followed as long as their actions conform to the Shar’iah (the Book of Allah Ta‘ala and the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)). In the case where there is a contradiction between their actions and the Shari’ah, they will not be followed. Instead, the Shari’ah will be given preference over them.

Hence, we understand that the Ulama of the Ummah are not regarded as independent sources of guidance (hidaayat), as is the position of the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam). Rather, they will only be considered as guides so long as they continue to follow the Book of Allah Ta‘ala and the Mubaarak Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

On the converse, if they give the Ummah commands and instructions that are against the Book of Allah Ta‘ala and the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), they will not be obeyed.

The Chosen Servants of Allah Ta‘ala

It is the divine system of Almighty Allah Ta‘ala that Deen will have to be learnt and acquired from those who have been blessed with Deen. For this purpose, one will have to search for the chosen servants of Allah Ta‘ala whom Allah Ta‘ala has divinely selected and appointed as the true bearers of His Deen.

In the process of acquiring Deen from the chosen servants of Allah Ta‘ala, it is insufficient for one to suffice on merely studying the words of the Qur’aan Majeed and Mubaarak Hadith. Rather, one will also have to learn the practical application from them in the spirit of the Sunnah. Since this is not possible without remaining in the company of the pious, chosen servants of Allah Ta‘ala for some while, Allah Ta‘ala has commanded us in the Qur’aan Majeed to constantly remain with the pious. Allah Ta‘ala says:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ وَ کُوۡنُوۡا مَعَ  الصّٰدِقِیۡنَ

O you who believe! Fear Allah and remain with the truthful servants (i.e. the pious servants, those who are truthful in word and deed). (Surah Tawbah verse 119)

Similarly, we see that the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum), through remaining in the mubaarak company of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and acquiring Deen from his mubaarak heart, earned the esteemed title of ‘Sahaabah’ (the illustrious companions of Rasulullah [sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam]).

By closely studying and examining the chain through which Deen has reached us, one will realize that just as Deen was conveyed through words and actions, it was also conveyed in spirit from heart to heart. The Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) acquired Deen from the mubaarak heart of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), and the Taabi’een (rahimahumullah) from the mubaarak hearts of the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum), and this continued from generation to generation until Deen has finally reached us today.

Why Did Allah Ta‘ala Not Command Us to Follow the Path of the Qur’aan and Hadith?

The crucial question that arises at this juncture is, “Why did Allah Ta‘ala not command us to adopt the path of the Qur’aan Majeed or the path of the Hadith, whereas these two are the primary sources of guidance in deen?”

The answer to this critical question is that if each person was to refer directly to the Qur’aan Majeed and the Mubaarak Ahaadith and try to reach his own conclusions based on his own intellect, Deen would no longer be preserved in the way Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) had conveyed it to us.

Rather, it would become a mixture of acts of worship diluted with man’s whims and fancies, thus leading to the destruction and ruin of Deen. Hence, for the protection and preservation of Deen till the day of Qiyaamah, Allah Ta‘ala has commanded that the path of His chosen and rightly guided servants be adopted, as they are the ones who have truly understood the Qur’aan Majeed and the Sunnah.

The Path of the Jews and Christians

غَیۡرِ الۡمَغۡضُوۡبِ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا الضَّآلِّیۡنَ ٪﴿۷﴾

not the path of those upon whom is Your wrath nor the path of those who have gone astray.

In this verse, Allah Ta‘ala further elucidates the straight path as not being the path followed by those who earned the anger of Allah Ta‘ala, and nor the path of those who went astray.

In certain Ahaadith, it is recorded that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned that these two classes of people refer to the Jews and Christians. (Sunan Tirmizi #2954)

The Ulama explain that though Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned that these two classes refer to the Jews and Christians, this verse is not confined to them in its purport, but rather all disbelievers who emulate the jews and Christians in treading on the path of disbelief will also be included in this verse.

Generally, there are two causes for one not following the path of guidance. The first cause is where one possesses the knowledge of the truth, yet one opposes it, and the second cause is where one fails to search for the truth due to which one wilfully treads on the path of misguidance.

As far as the Jews were concerned, then they possessed knowledge, yet they defiantly opposed and rejected the truth and wilfully treaded on the path of misguidance. Hence, Allah Ta‘ala refers to them in this verse as being “those upon whom is Your wrath”.

As for the Christians, then they did not possess knowledge of the truth like the Jews, nor were they interested in finding out the truth. Hence, they wilfully treaded on the path of ignorance and followed their desires. Therefore, Allah Ta‘ala refers to them as “those who have gone astray”.

From this verse, we understand that for one to be rightly guided, just as it is necessary for one to carry out righteous deeds and fulfil the commands of shari’ah, similarly it is equally important for one to refrain from disobeying Allah Ta‘ala by committing sins, thereby emulating the enemies of Allah Ta‘ala

Hadith-e-Qudsi Regarding Surah Faatihah

The Hadith-e-Qudsi mentions that the first three verses of Surah Faatihah are in praise of Allah Ta‘ala, while the last three verses of Surah Faatihah are duas for the benefit of the servants. As for the middle verse of Surah Faatihah (the fourth verse), then this verse contains both the praise of Allah Ta‘ala as well as dua.

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned that Allah Ta‘ala says:

I have divided Surah Faatihah into two halves between Me and My servant, and for My servant will be that which he asks for. When the servant (recites the first verse and) says, “All praise be to Allah Ta‘ala, the Rabb of the worlds,” then Allah Ta‘ala says, “My servant has praised Me.”

When the servant (recites the second verse and) says, “the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,” then Allah Ta‘ala says, “My servant has extolled My virtue.”

When the servant (recites the third verse and) says, “Master of the Day of Judgment,” then Allah Ta‘ala says, “My servant has glorified Me.”

When the servant (recites the fourth verse and) says, “You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help,” then Allah Ta‘ala says, “This is between Me and My servant (i.e. in this is My praise as well as a supplication from his side to Me), and for My servant will be that which he asks for.”

When the servant (recites the last three verses and) says, “Guide us to the straight path – the path of those whom You have favoured (with Your special grace), not the path of those upon whom is Your wrath nor the path of those who have gone astray,” then Allah Ta‘ala says, “This is for My servant, and for My servant will be that which he asks for (i.e. I will grant him guidance to the straight path and save him from treading on the path of whose who incurred My wrath and the path of those who went astray).” (Saheeh Muslim #395)

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