Anas (radiallahu anh) reported: A man said: "O Messenger of Allah! I love Surat-Al-Ikhlas.'' The Prophet (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) replied, "Your love for it will admit you to Jannah.'' [at-Tirmidhi 2826/A, Riyad as-Salihin by Imam an-Nawawi Ch.183 #1013]
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (radiAllahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said about the surah,'By Him in Whose hand my soul is, it is equal to one third of the Qur'an!' [Sahih al-Bukhari 6:61 #533, Riyad as-Salihin by Imam an-Nawawi Ch.183 #1010]
"Qul Hu Allahu Ahad" (Surah Ikhlas) is equal to a third of the Qur'an and "Qul ya ayyuhal Kafirun" (Surah Kafiroon) is equal to a fourth of the Qur'an." [at-Tabarani, classed as Sahih]
Mu'adh bin Anas (radiAllahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, "Whoever recites (Qul Hu Allahu Ahad) ten times, Allah will build for him a house in Paradise."
Abu Huraira (radiAllahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said that "Surah Ikhlas is equal to a third of the Qur'an." [Muslim, Riyad as-Salihin by Imam an-Nawawi Ch.183 #1012]
Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas and Anas Ibn Malik (radiAllahu anhum) reported that the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, 'Whoever recited Surah Zilzilah (99) would get the reward of reciting half the Qur'an. Whoever recited surah al Kafirun (109) would get a reward as if reading a quarter of the Qur'an. Whoever recited Surah al Ikhlas (112) would get a reward as if reading one third of the Qur'an'. [at-Tirmidhi 2818/A]
Anas (radhi Allah anhu) said: "When you recite Surah Al-Fatihah and Surah Al-Ikhlas upon lying on your bed, you will be safeguarded and should become fearless of every thing except death." [Narrated by Baraa, Tafseer Mazhari 1:31]
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (radiAllahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said to his Companions, "Are any of you unable to recite a third of the Qur'an in a night?" That was difficult for them and they said, "Which of us is able to do that, Messenger of Allah?" He (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "Surah Iklhas constitutes a third of the Qur'an.'" [Sahih al-Bukhari 6:61 #534, Riyad as-Salihin by Imam an-Nawawi Ch.183 #1010]
Anas (radiAllahu anhu) reported the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) as saying, "If anyone recites two hundred times daily, Qul huwallahu ahad the minor sins of fifty years will be wiped out, unless he is in debt." [at-Tirmidhi and Darami].
The latter version has 'fifty times' and he did not mention 'unless he is in debt'
A'isha (radiAllahu anha) reported that whenever the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) went to bed every night, he used to cup his hands together and blow over it after reciting Surat Al-Ikhlas, Surat Al-Falaq and Surat An-Nas, and then rub his hands over whatever parts of his body he was able to rub, starting with his head, face and front of his body. He used to do that three times. [Sahih al-Bukhari 6:61 #536]
The Prophet (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, 'O Uqba, learn to recite Surah al Falaq, for you would never recite a surah more cherished by Allah and more profound in His sight that this surah' [Durais, Ibn al Anbari, Hakim, Dhahabi & Ibn Mardawaih]
The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) used to seek refuge from the jinn as well as from the evil eye until Surah al Falaq and An Naas were revealed. When they were sent down, he utilised them and left other things. [at-Tirmidhi #1984, Riyad as-Salihin by Imam an-Nawawi Ch.183 #1014]
'Uqba ibn 'Amir reported that the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, "Have you not seen the ayats sent down this night the like of which have never been seen before? 'Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of Daybreak,' and 'Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind.'"(113 & 114)
A'isha (radiAllahu anha) reported that whenever the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) became sick, he would recite Mu'awwidhat (Surat Al-Falaq and Surat An-Nas) and then blow his breath over his body. When he became seriously ill, I used to recite (these two Surahs) and rub his hands over his body hoping for its blessings. [Sahih al-Bukhari 6:61 #535]
'Uqbah Ibn 'Amir (radiAllahu anhu) reported that[ the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said 'No seeker of refuge can seek refuge with anything like these two' [abu Dawud]
With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.
Praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful, the Master of the Day of Judgment. You alone we worship, and from You alone we seek help. Guide us in the straight path -- the path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray."[1:1-7]
This Surah comprises seven verses. Of these, the first three are in praise of Allah, while the last three contain a request or a prayer on the part of man, which Allah himself has, in His infinite mercy, taught him. The verse in between the two sets has both the features -- there is an aspect of praise, and another of prayer.
The Sahih of Muslim reports from the blessed Companion Abu Hurayrah (radiallahu anh) a hadith (tradition) of the Holy Prophet (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) "Allah has said,'The salah (i.e., the Surah Al-Fatihah) is equally divided between Me and My servant. And My servant shall be given what he prays for."The Holy Prophet (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) continued:
"When the servant says:Praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds, Allah says:"My servant has paid his homage to Me."
When he says:The All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful, Allah says:"My servant has praised Me."
When the servant says:The Master of the Day of Judgment, Allah says,"My servant has proclaimed my greatness."
When the servant says:You alone we worship, and to You alone we pray for help,Allah says,"This verse is common to Me and My servant. He shall be given what he has prayed for." When the servant says:Guide us to the Straight Path, The path of those whom You have favoured, Not those who have incurred Your wrath, nor those who are astray,Allah says:"All this is there for My servant. He shall be given what he prays for."(Mazhari)
The Surah begins with the words Al-hamdulillah, signifying that all praise essentially belongs to Allah. Whosoever praises anything anywhere in the world is ultimately praising Allah. The sensible world contains millions of things which compel man's attention and admiration for their beauty and usefulness, but if one tries to look behind the veil of appearances, one would find in each and every thing the manifestation of the same creative power. Admiring anything that exists in the created world is no more than showing one's admiration for a work of art or craft, which in fact is a praise of the artist or the craftsman. This small statement of the Holy Qur'an opens a new perspective for man lost in the labyrinth of multiplicity, and shows him how the many are knit together in the same unity, and how all praise in reality belongs to One whose power is absolute, and that it is only in our ignorance or indifference that we regard this praise to be due to anyone else.
If there is only one Being in the whole universe who inherently deserves all praise, it necessarily follows from it that this Being alone should be worthy of adoration and worship. Thus we can see that although the phrase, Al-hamdulillah, has been used to signify praise, yet, by implication, it cuts the very root of polytheism or the worship of created beings, and at the same time brings out in a self-evident manner the first and the basic principle of the Islamic creed --Oneness of God.
The next phrase to follow in the Surah speaks of an attribute of Allah -- Lord of the Worlds. Lexically, the word, Rabb signifies 'one who nurtures'. And 'nurture' implies developing a thing by gradual stages in a manner which is conducive to its own good till it attains perfection. The word, Rabb is exclusive to the sacred Being of Allah, and cannot be employed in the case of any created being without adding some qualification, for a created being is itself in need of nurture', and cannot nurture anyone else.
Al-`alamin is the plural of `alam (world, universe, kingdom). "The worlds" include all possible forms of -- existence: the sky, the earth, the sun, the moon, stars, wind and rain, the angels, the jinns, animals, plants, minerals, and, of course, men. So, 'the Lord of all 'the worlds" means that Allah alone gives nurture to all the forms of existents that are to be found in this universe, or in the millions of universes that may lie beyond our own universe in the outer space. Imam Razi, the great commentator of the Holy Qur'an, says that the existence of an indefinite space beyond our universe can be proved on the basis of rational argument, and it is also certain that Allah is All-Powerful, so it should not be at all difficult for Him to have .created millions of other universes in this endless space. It has been reported from the Companion Abu Said al-Khudri Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him, that there are forty thousand worlds; our world, stretching from the East to the West, is only one of them, there being many more besides it. According to the well-known commentator Muqatil, the number of worlds is eighty thousand. (See Qurtubi)
As for the objection that no man or animal can live in the outer space owing to the lack of the kind of air which should be compatible with the physical make-up of man, Imam Razi replies that the inhabitants of the worlds in the outer space need not necessarily have the same physical make-up as that of the inhabitants of our world which should make existence in space impossible for them, and suggests that their organic composition and the requirements for its nourishment and sustenance might just be totally different.
Imam Razi postulated these possibilities some eight hundred years ago without the help of the modern facilities for observation and exploration, yet the speculations of the scientists in the age of space travel endorse his view.
Seen in the light of this short phrase, 'Lord of the worlds', the universe reveals itself to be an incredibly complex, yet perfectly integrated order. From the heavens to the earth, from the planets and the stars to the particles of dust, everything is bound in a chain of being, and is performing the function assigned to it by Divine Wisdom. Man cannot obtain a little morsel of food unless a thousand forces of the sky and the earth work together to produce it. The universal order is there for man to contemplate, and to realize that, if Allah has put millions of His creatures in the service of man, man in his turn cannot be worthless or purposeless or meaningless.
[As do proclaim the current Western philosophies of the Absurd and of Unreason.]
The Holy Qur'an is indeed very explicit and very insistent in reminding us that the universe is not absurd:
"We have not created in vain the heavens and the earth and what lies between them. That is the fancy of the disbelievers. But woe to the disbelievers in the fire of Hell."(38:27)
If the universe is not in vain or absurd, man too, whose purposes the universe has been made to serve, cannot be purposeless and meaningless. The Holy Qur'an defines the Divine purpose in creating man and the goal of his existence in these words.
"I have not created the jinn and mankind except to worship Me."(51:56)
It may be said that the phrase the Lord of all the worlds' is in a way the proof of the claim made in the earlier phrase (all praise belongs to Allah). When Allah alone is the ultimate cause for the nurture of the whole universe, He alone can, in reality, be worthy of praise. Thus, the first verse of the Surah, as we said before, combines in itself the praise of Allah and a subtle indication of the first and basic principle of the Islamic creed -- the oneness of God.
The second verse speaks of the Divine quality of mercy, employing two adjectives Rahman and Rahim, both of which are hyperbolic terms in Arabic, and respectively connote the superabundance and perfection of Divine mercy. The reference to this particular attribute in this situation is perhaps intended to be a reminder of the fact that it is not through any external compulsion or inner need or any kind of necessity whatsoever that Allah has assumed the responsibility of nurturing the whole of His creation, but in response to the demand of His own quality of mercy. If this whole universe did not exist, He would suffer no loss; if it does exist, it is no burden to Him.
The third verse pays homage to Allah as the Master of the Day of Judgment or Requital'. The word Malik has been derived from the root, 'milk' which signifies possessing a thing in such a manner that one has the right and power to dispose of it as one likes (See Qamus). The word Din signifies 'Requital'. So, the phrase 'Master of the Day of Requital' implies total mastery on the Day of Requital. But there is no mention of the thing or things to which this mastery or possession would apply. According to the commentary, 'al-Kashshaf the phrase makes a general reference to cover everything. That is to say, on the Day of Requital the mastery over everything that exists will belong to Allah alone.
[Ma'ariful Qur'an, Volume 1]
Bismillah is a verse of the Holy Qur'an
There is consensus of all the Muslims on the fact that Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem is a verse of the Holy Qur'an, being a part of the Surah al-Naml (The Ant); and there is also an agreement on that this verse is written at the head of every Surah except the Surah al-Taubah. But there is a difference of opinion among the Mujtahids (the authentic scholars who are entitled to express an opinion in such matters) as to whether this verse is an integral part of the Surah al-Fatihah or of all the Surahs or not. According to the great Imam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullahi alaih), it is not an integral part of any Surah, except al-Naml, rather it is in itself an independent verse of the Holy Qur'an which has been revealed for being placed at the beginning of every Surah in order to separate and distinguish one Surah from another.
The merits of Bismillah
It was a custom in the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyyah) before the advent of Islam that people began everything they did with the names of their idols or gods. It was to eradicate this practice that the first verse of the Holy Qur'an which the Archangel Jibra'il brought down to the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him commanded him to begin the Qur'an with the name of Allah "Read with the name of your Lord."
The famous commentator al-Suyuti says that beside the Holy Qur'an all the other divine books too begin with Bismillah. Certain other scholars are of the opinion that Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim is peculiar to the Qur'an and to the followers of Muhammad. The two views can be brought into agreement with each other if we say that all the divine books share the common trait of beginning with the name of Allah, but the words Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim are peculiar to the Holy Qur'an, as is evident from certain Traditions (Ahadith) which report that in order to begin with the name of Allah anything he. undertook, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him used to say the words (Bismika Allahumma), but when the verse Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim was revealed, he adopted these words. Since then this practice was established through the verbal command of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him or through his act or tacit approval. (See Qurtubi and Ruh al-Ma'ani)
The Holy Qur'an again and again instructs us to begin what we do with the name. of Allah. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him has said that no important work receives the blessings of Allah, unless it is begun with His name. According to yet another hadith (Tradition), closing the door of one's house, putting out the lamp, covering a vessel, should all be done with the recitation of Bismillah. The Holy Qur'an and the ahadith (Traditions) repeatedly instruct us to recite this verse while taking food, drinking water, performing the wudu (ablution), getting on a carriage or getting down from it. (See Qurtubi)
By instructing man to begin everything with the name of Allah, Islam has given to the whole of his life an orientation towards Allah so that he may, with each step he takes, renew his allegiance to the covenant with Allah that nothing he does, not even his very being can come into existence without the will and the help of Allah. Thus, all the economic and worldly activities of man, each movement and gesture becomes transformed into an act of worship. How brief is the action, which consumes neither time nor energy, and yet how immense is the gain -- it is a regular alchemy, transmuting the profane (dunya) into the sacred (din); a disbeliever eats and drinks just as a Muslim does but in saying 'Bismillah' as he begins to eat, the Muslim affirms that it was not in his power to obtain this little morsel of food which has passed through innumerable stages from the sowing of the seed to the reaping of the grain corn, and which has during this process required the labours of the wind, the rain, the sun, of the heavens and of the earth, and of a thousand men -- and that it is Allah alone who has granted him this morsel of food or this draught of water by making it go through all these stages. A disbeliever goes to sleep, wakes up and goes about as much as a Muslim. But while going to sleep or waking up, the Muslim mentions the name of Allah, renewing his relationship with Him. Thus his economic and worldly needs and activities acquire the nature of the remembrance of Allah, and are counted as acts of worship.
Similarly, in saying 'Bismillah' while getting on to a carriage, the Muslim testifies to the fact that it is beyond the power of man to produce this carriage and to procure it for him, and that it is only the infallible and divinely-created order of things that has brought together from all the corners of the world the wood, the steel and other metals which have gone into the making of the carriage, as well as the mechanics who have given a particular shape to these components, and the driver -- and finally put all these into the service of man who can make use of the labour of this army of the creatures of man who can God by spending a few coins. And even these coins have not been created by him, it is Allah himself who has provided the complex ways and means of earning them. Veritably, 'Bismillah' is the legendary philosopher's stone which transmutes, not copper, but mere dust into the purest of gold. 'So then, praised be Allah for the religion of Islam and its teachings.'
'Before beginning to recite the Qur'an it is sunnah to first say, 'authoo billahi minashaitanir rajeem (I seek refuge with Allah from Satan -- the accursed) and then bismillahir rahmanir raheem (I begin with the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful). It is also Sunnah to do so during the tilawah (the recitation of the Holy Qur'an) as well, saying: 'Bismillah... at the beginning of each Surah, except the Surah Al-Bara'ah (al-Taubah).
'Bismillah': This phrase is composed of three words -- the letter 'Ba', 'Ism' and 'Allah'. The preposition 'Ba' has several connotations in Arabic, three of which are appropriate to the occasion. All the three are applicable here: (1) Contiguity, or the close proximity between one thing and the other; (2) Seeking the aid of someone or something; (3) To seek the blessings of someone.
The word 'Ism' has many lexical and intellectual nuances of meaning, the knowledge of which would not be essential for the average reader. It is sufficient to know that this word is translated in English as 'Name'.
The word, 'Allah' is the greatest and the most comprehensive of the divine names. According to some scholars, it is the 'Great Name', or 'Al-Ism al-A`zam'. (According to the Tradition (Hadith) , the Great Name carries with it such a benediction that a prayer is granted when this word has been uttered. Reports differ as to what this Great Name is). The word 'Allah' refers to the Essence, and hence this name cannot be given to anyone except Allah. That is why this word has neither a plural nor a dual, for Allah is One and has no associate. In short, Allah is the name of that Ultimate Reality which comprehends in Itself all the attributes of perfection, which is the creator and sustainer, unique and peerless.
Thus, the phrase 'Bismillah' has these three respective signification, according to the three connotations of the, preposition 'Ba':
(a) With the name of Allah
(b) With the help of the name of Allah
(c) With the barakah or benediction of the name of Allah.
But, in all the three forms, the phrase obviously remains incomplete unless one mentions the work which one intends to begin with the name of Allah or with its help or benediction. So, according to the rules of grammar, some verb is taken to be understood here which should be suitable for the occasion -- e.g., 'I begin or recite with the name of Allah.' Propriety demands that even this verb should be understood to occur after the phrase, so that one does actually begin with the name of Allah and the verb does not precede His name. The preposition 'Ba' has, however, to be placed before the name of Allah, for it is an exigency of the Arabic language. But even in this respect the `Uthmani manuscript of the Holy Qur'an prepared by the third Caliph `Uthman Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him has made the necessary modification in accordance with the consensus of the Companions of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him. The regular Arabic script requires the letter 'Ba' here to be joined with the letter 'Alif ', producing this shape -- Bismillah. But the `Uthmani manuscript has dropped the 'Alif', and joined the letter 'Ba' with the letter 'Seen', making the 'Ba' look like a part of the word 'Ism', so that the beginning is made, in effect, with the name of Allah.
That is why the letter 'Alif' is not dropped in other combinations between the preposition 'Ba' and the noun 'Ism' -- for example, in the verse (Iqra' biismi Rabbik), the Alif is written along with the 'Ba'. It is the peculiarity of 'Bismillah' alone that the letter 'Ba' has been joined with the letter 'Sin'.
Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim (Merciful) -- these two are the attribute of Allah Almighty. 'Rahman' signifies one whose mercy is common to all, and extends to the whole universe, to everything that will be created in the future. On the other hand, 'Rahim' signifies one whose mercy is perfect in all possible ways. That is why 'Rahman' is the exclusive attribute of Allah and the word is employed only when one is referring to him. It is not permissible to qualify any created being as 'Rahman', for there cannot possibly be anyone else, beside Allah, whose mercy should be all-embracing and all-inclusive. Just like the word 'Allah', there is no dual or plural for the word 'Rahman' too, because these words are in their signification exclusive to the One and Absolute Being which does not permit the existence of a second or a third. (Tafsir al-Qurtubi)
The signification of the word 'Rahim', on the contrary, does not contain anything which it should be impossible to find in a created being, for a man may be perfectly merciful in his dealings with another man. So, the word 'Rahim' may justifiably be employed in the case of a human being -- as the Qur'an itself has used the word in speaking of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him which is: (He is gentle and very merciful towards the Muslims).
This would easily show that those who shorten names such as `Abd al-Rahman or Fadl al-Rahman into 'Rahman' are doing what is not permissible and are thus committing a sin.
Out of the 'Beautiful Names' (Al-Asma' al-Husna) of Allah Almighty and His attributes of perfection, only two have been mentioned in this verse - namely, 'al-Rahman' and 'al-Rahim' -, and both have been derived from the root 'Rahmah' (mercy), indicating the all-pervasiveness and perfection of divine mercy. It points to the fact that the creation of the heavens and the earth and the sustenance of the whole universe has no other motivation than making manifest Allah's quality of mercy. He Himself had no need of these things, nor could anyone compel Him to create them. It is His own mercy which has required the creation and sustenance of the whole universal order.
How aptly this was put in Persian by poet Rumi:
There was nothing -- neither our being nor our claim to be; It was Thy mercy that heard our unsaid.
Injunctions and related considerations
The Holy Qur'an says: 'When you recite the Qur'an, seek the protection of Allah against Satan, the rejected one'.
According to the consensus of Ummah, it is a Sunnah to say ta`awwudh: before the recitation of the Holy Qur'an whether in Salah or out of Salah (Sharah al-munyah). Saying ta'awwudh is peculiar to the recitation of the Holy Qur'an. Therefore, with the exception of tilawah, all other chores should be taken up by first saying 'Bismillah' only. Saying ta'awwudh is not a sunnah there. (`Alamgiri, Chapter 4 - Al-Karahiyah)
One should begin the recitation of the Qur'an by reciting both a'udhubillah (I seek the protection of Allah) and (Bismillahi: I begin with the name of Allah). During the recitation, one should repeat 'Bismillah', but not 'A`udhubillah', when one comes to the end of a Surah (or Chapter) and begins the next Surah -- with the sole exception of the Surah 'Al-Bara'ah'.
If one comes upon this particular Surah in the course of the recitation, one should not say 'Bismillah' before reading it. But if one happens to begin the recitation of the Holy Qur'an with this Surah, one should recite 'A`udhubillah' and 'Bismillah' both (Alamgiriah from Al-Muhit).
'Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim' is a verse of the Holy Qur'an and a part of the verse in Surah 'al-Naml'; it is also a regular verse when it occurs between two Surahs. It must, therefore, be treated with as much respect as the Holy Qur'an itself, and it is not permissible to touch it without having performed wudu (ablution). In the state of major ritual impurity (e.g., after the emission of semen, or during menstruation, or after child-birth), it is not allowed to even read this verse as recitation of the Holy Qur'an before having taken a ritual bath. One may, however, recite it as a form of prayer before beginning a work, like taking one's meals or drinking water under all conditions.
(1) It is a Sunnah to recite 'Bismillah' after 'A`udhu-billah' at the very beginning of the first raka'ah in the salah. But views differ as to whether it should be recited in a loud or a low voice. Imam Abu Hanifah and certain other Imams prefer it to be done in a low voice. There is a consensus on the point that 'Bismillah' should be recited at the beginning of all the succeeding raka'ahs too. This is unanimously considered to be a Sunnah; however, in some narrations, the reciting of 'Bismillah' at the beginning of every raka'ah has been identified as wajib or necessary.
(2) In the course of salah, whether one is reciting the Holy Qur'an loudly or silently, one should not recite 'Bismillah' before beginning a Surah just after the Surah 'Fatihah'. Such a practice has not been reported either from the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him or from any of the first four Khulafa'. According to Sharh al-munyah, this is the view of imam Abu Hanifah and of Imam Abu Yusuf, and Shrah al-munyah, al-Durr al-Mukhtar, al-Burhan etc. prefer it to other views. But Imam Muhammad considers it to be preferable that one should recite 'Bismillah' if one is reciting the Holy Qur'an in a salah offered silently. Certain reports attribute this view even to Imam Abu Hanifah, and al-Shami has quoted some Muslim jurists in support of this view,-- which has been adopted even in 'Bahishti Zewar' of Maulana Thanavi. Anyhow, there is a complete agreement among the scholars that it is not makruh or reprehensible for some one to recite 'Bismillah' in this situation.
مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ "Master of the Day of Judgement."[Surah Fatiha]
Before we proceed, let us consider two important questions: Firstly, what is this Day of Requital? Secondly, Allah being the Master of everything, even today as much as on the Day of Requital, why does this verse specifically mention the Day of Requital? The Day of Requital or the Day of Judgment is the Day appointed by Allah to recompense good or evil deeds.
[The verse qualifies Allah specifically as 'Master of the Day of Requital', and thus emphasizes a principle which is in itself of the highest import, and is particularly relevant to certain tendencies in the modern habits of thought. Contrary to the modern conviction which one finds reflected even in the so called new interpretations of Islam, individual or collective well being is not the be-all and end-all of human existence, nor is the physical world the place where good or evil deeds are recompensed -- Translator]
The world is only the field of action, the place where one is required to perform one's duty, and not the place for receiving one's reward. The mere fact that man happens to be healthy and wealthy or powerful does not necessarily argue that he has won the pleasure and favour of Allah.
Similarly, the mere fact that a man happens to be ill or poor or weak or miserable does not by itself indicates that he is the object of Allah's wrath. Even in the case of worldly life, would it not be a platitude to remark that a man sweating in a factory or an office does not consider it a misfortune? In fact, try to deprive him of this opportunity to sweat, and you would have earned his deepest displeasure; for beyond all this toil he can glimpse the reward he is going to get after thirty days in the shape of his wages.
It proceeds from this principle that the greatest sufferings in this world are the lot of the Prophets (A.S) and, after, them, of the men of Allah, and yet we see them quite content and even happy. In short, physical well-being or worldly glory or luxury is no sure indication of one's virtue and truthfulness, nor is sorrow and suffering that of one's misdeeds and falsity. It may, however, happen that a man receives some punishment or reward for his deeds in this world. This never is the full recompense, but only a faint model which has been manifested to serve as an intimation or warning. The Holy Qur'an has spoken very clearly on this point:
"And We shall surely let them taste a nearer punishment (in this world) before the greater punishment (in the other world), so that they may return (to the right path)."(32:21)
"Such is the punishment; and the punishment of the other world is certainly greater, only if they knew."(68:33)
The sufferings of this world, as even its joys, are sometimes a trial, and sometimes a punishment, but never a full recompense, for the world is itself transitory. What really counts is the joy or suffering that will endure for ever, and which one will come to know in the other world beyond this world.
Given the fact that good or evil deeds are not fully recompensed in this world, and the rational and just principle that good and evil not being equal in value, every deed should be rewarded or punished according to its nature, it readily follows that beyond this world there should be another world where every deed, big or small, good or evil, is to be judged, and then, justly rewarded or punished. This the Holy Qur'an calls Al-Akhirah: (The world-to-come), or Al-Qiyamah: (Doomsday or the Day of Judgment), or 'Yawm ad-deen, (Day of Requital). The whole idea has been explained by the Holy Qur'an itself:
"The blind are not equal with the seeing, nor the wrong-doers with those who believe and do good deeds. Yet you seldom reflect. The hour of retribution is sure to come, no doubt about it, yet most people do not believe."(40:58-59)
Who is the Master?
Now, we come to the second question. It should be obvious, on a little reflection, to everyone that the real master of every particle of dust in the universe can only be He who has created and nurtured it, Whose mastery over everything is complete, having neither a beginning nor an end, covering the living and the dead, the apparent and the hidden, the seen and the unseen. On the contrary, the mastery of man is delimited by a beginning and an end; it has a 'before' when it did not exist, and an 'afer' when it will exist no more. Man's mastery and control extends to the living, not to the dead, to the seen, not to the unseen, to the external aspect of things, not to the internal. All this would show to those who can see that the real Master of the whole universe, not only on the Day of Requital but even in this world, is no other than Allah. Then why should this verse specify the Day of Requital?
The verses of the Surah al-Mu-'min / Ghafir (Chapter 40) serve as a commentary on the phrase under discussion, and provide a clear account of the Day of Requital. The real and complete mastery over everything, no doubt, belongs to Allah alone even in this world. Yet Allah Himself, in His beneficence and wisdom, has granted a kind of imperfect, temporary and apparent mastery to man as well; and the Shari`ah, in laying down laws for worldly affairs, has given due consideration to man's limited right to ownership. But today, in possessing lands or money or power, which has been given to him by way of trial, man has always been prone to get drunk with pride and vanity. [Specially the modern man living in the so-called 'humanistic civilization' when the sole drive and motivating force is the complacent belief in man's mastery.]
The phrase 'Master of the Day of Judgment' is a warning to man reeling in his forgetfulness and self-conceit, and an intimation that all his possessions, all his relationships with things and men are only short-lived, and that there shall come a Day when masters will no more be masters and slaves no more slaves, when no one will own anything even in appearance, and the ownership and mastery, apparent as well as real, of the whole universe will be seen to belong to none but Allah, the Exalted. The Holy Qur'an says:
"The day they will present themselves (before Allah), and nothing of theirs will remain hidden from Allah (even apparently). 'Whose is the kingdom today?' Of Allah alone, the One, the Mighty. Today everyone will be recompensed for what he has done. Today no one will be wronged. Allah's reckoning is surely swift."(40:17)
The fourth verse: 'You alone we worship, and from You alone we seek help' has a double aspect, one of praise and another of prayer. A man's life is subject to three states of time -- past, present and future.
The first two verses of the Surah, (All Praise belongs to Allah) and (the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful), remind man that, as far as his past and present are concerned, he owes everything to Allah alone, for it is Allah who created him out of nothing, endowed him with the best form in the universe, and with reason and intuition, and continues to sustain and nurture him in the present. The third verse: (Master of the Day of Judgment) tells him that in the future too he will have to depend on Allah alone, for on the Day of Requital; one cannot possibly have a helper other than Allah. The three verses having made it clear that man is totally and absolutely dependent on Allah in all the three states of his life, it logically and naturally leads to the conclusion that Allah alone is worthy of being worshipped, for in Arabic the word `ibadah (worship) connotes showing the utmost humility and submissiveness out of an intense respect and love for someone, and such an attitude of willing self-abasement cannot justly be adopted towards anyone except Allah. So, the phrase: (You alone we worship) expresses this very natural and logical conclusion. And once it has been understood that there is only one Being who can satisfy all our needs, it is equally natural and logical to turn for help in everything to Him alone.
Hence the phrase (You alone we pray for help). Beside these two aspects, the fourth verse has another dimension as well. It teaches man not to worship anyone except Allah, not to consider anyone else as being really capable of satisfying his needs, and not to beg anyone else to satisfy these needs. It does not, however, go against this principle if, in praying to Allah, one mentions the name of a prophet or a man of Allah by way of a medium (wasilah) for drawing the mercy of Allah upon oneself.
It may also be noticed that the phrase:- (to You alone we pray for help) does not mention the purpose for which help is being sought. F ccording to most of the commentators, it generalizes the idea of the request to cover everything from acts of worship to all possible worldly or other worldly concerns.
Then, acts of worship (`Ibadah) are not limited merely to prescribed prayers or fasting. Imam al-Ghazzali in his book 'Arba`in' has enumerated ten forms which worship can take:-
2. Prescribed Alms-giving.
4. Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah.
5. Reciting the Holy Qur'an.
6. Remembrance of Allah in all possible situations.
7. Earning one's livelihood in accordance with the regulations of the Shari'ah.
8. Fulfilling one's obligations towards one's companions and neighbours.
9. Persuading people to act righteously and dissuading them from what is reprehensible and forbidden.
10. To follow the Sunnah, or the practice of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him
Therefore, not associating anyone with Allah in worship means that one, should not love or fear or depend on anyone else as one loves or fears or depends on Allah, nor should one repose one's hope in anyone else, nor should one consider obedience or submission or service to another as obligatory as the worship of Allah, nor make a votive offering or consecrate or dedicate anything to anyone or take a vow in the name of anyone similar to the way one does these things in the case of Allah, nor should one show complete self-abasement and total humility before anyone as one is required to do before Allah, nor should one engage in the particular God-oriented acts of worship for anyone other than Allah, acts which symbolize the farthest limits of self-abasement, such as, ruku' and sajdah (the bowing and prostrating in salah).
[Ma'ariful Qur'an, Volume 1 - By Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani rahmatullahi alaih]
The last three verses of Surah al-Fatiha consist of a prayer on the part of man. In other words, Allah Himself, in His great mercy, has taught man what to pray for: صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ "Guide us in the straight path, the path of those on whom You have bestowed Your grace, not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray."
The Implications of Guidance
A problem of highest significance arises here. The teaching with regard to the prayer for being guided in the straight path is addressed equally to all men or all Muslims and to saints and prophets who have already received guidance and are even a source of guidance for other men. Why should these repeatedly pray for something they already possess? The answer to this question depends on knowing all that is implied by guidance. The answer would, at the same time, remove all difficulties and confusions which arise in the minds of those who, not being familiar with the true signification of guidance, begin to suspect that certain verses of the Holy Qur'an were contradicting certain others.
The Meaning of Hidayah or Guidance
The best explanation of the word, Hidayah (guidance) has been offered by Imam Raghib al-Isfahan in his Mufradat al-Qur'an, which can be summed up thus: Hidayah signifies leading someone towards his destination, gently and kindly; while guidance, in the real sense, issues forth from Allah alone, and it has several degrees.
The first degree of guidance is general, and covers everything that exists in the universe -- minerals, plants, animals etc. It would surprise many to hear of guidance in relation to minerals. But the Holy Qur'an makes it quite clear that all forms of existents in the universe, and every particle of dust possesses life, sensitivity, and even consciousness and understanding in its own degree and according to its own sphere of existence. Some of these existents possess more of this essence than others, and some less. Hence, those who have very little of it are considered to be inanimate and devoid of consciousness. The Shari`ah too has recognized this difference, and such creatures have not been made to bear the obligation of observing the injunctions of Allah. The creatures which show obvious signs of life but not those of consiousness and reason are considered to be living, but not rational; whereas, creatures showing the signs of consciousness and reason, along with those of life, are called rational beings.
Because of these differences in the degrees of consciousness, men and jinn alone, of all the existents in the universe, have been made subservient to the injunctions of the Shari'ah and accountable for their actions, for they alone have the necessary consciousness and understanding. But, it does not mean that other creatures or existents are totally devoid of life or sensitivity, or of consciousness and understanding. The Holy Qur'an is very explicit on this point:
"Nothing exists that does not celebrate His praise, but you do not understand their (mode of) praising."(17:44)
"Have you not seen that everything in the heavens and the earth proclaims Allah's purity, and the birds too that spread their wings? Each of them knows its prayer and its (mode of) praising. And Allah is aware of what they do."(24:41)
Evidently, one cannot extol and praise Allah without knowing Allah. It is equally evident that knowing Allah is the highest form of knowledge possible, and such a knowledge cannot be gained unless one possesses consciousness and understanding. These verses, therefore, show that everything that exists in the universe possesses life, sensitivity, understanding and consciousness, though it may not always be apparent to the ordinary observer -- a truth which has been endorsed by all the great religions, by certain ancient philosophers, and lately even by experimental science.
This, then, is the first degree of guidance which is common to minerals, plants, animals, men, jinns and all the forms of creation. The Holy Qur'an speaks of this primary and general guidance in these words:
"He gave to everything its distinctive form, and then guided it."(20:50)
Or, as we find in another Surah:
"Celebrate the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who has created all things, well proportioned them, and Who has determined and guided them."(87:1-2)
That is to say, Allah has given every creature a particular nature and function, and guided it in a way which should correspond to its station in the
scheme of things. Thanks to this general guidance, everything in the universe is performing its Allotted function with such marvellous efficiency. For example, it is the ears that hear a sound and not the eyes or the nose. Similarly, the nose smells but cannot see; the eyes see but cannot smell. In short:
"There is nothing in the heavens and the earth but comes to the All-Merciful as a servant."(19:93)
Unlike the first, the second degree of guidance is not general but particular. It is limited to those creatures which are considered to be rational, that is, men and jinns. This kind of guidance comes to every man through prophets and revealed books. Some accept this guidance, and become believers (Muslims): some reject it and become disbelievers (Kafirs).
The third degree of guidance is still more particular, being special to true believers (Mu'minin) and the God-fearing (Muttaqin). Like the first degree, the third kind of guidance too descends directly to the individual from Allah, and it is called, Tawfiq. That is to say, Allah's grace provides a man with internal and external means and circumstances which should make it easy, and even pleasant for him to accept and act upon the guidance of the Holy Qur'an, and difficult to ignore or oppose it. The scope of the third degree of guidance is limitless, and its levels indefinite.
[Contrary to all the modern fictions about man's Evolution or Perfectibility or Progress which may pass for sound philosophy or science.]
Here is the sphere in which man, not only can, but is required to make a progress in the veritable sense of the term. The agency of this progress is the performance of virtuous deeds.
[As defined, it goes without saying, by the Shar'iah and not by individual or collective fancy, or by custom and habits, or by fads and fashion of the day]
All increase in virtuous deeds brings with it an increase in divine guidance. The Holy Qur'an itself gives us the promise of such increase:
"As for those who follow the straight path, Allah will increase their guidance."(47:17)
"And whoever believes in Allah, He guides his heart."(64:11)
"Those who strive for (literally, 'in') Us, We will surely guide them in Our paths."(29:69)
It is in this field of progress that we see even the greatest prophets and men of Allah striving, and it is an increase in divine guidance and help that they keep seeking to their last breath.
Keeping in mind the three distinct degrees of guidance, one can easily see that guidance is a thing which everyone does possess in some way, and yet no one, not even the greatest, can do without wishing to attain more of its advanced and higher stages. Hence, of all the prayers man can address to Allah, the most important is the prayer for guidance, which has been taught to us in the very first Surah of the Holy Qur'an; and this prayer is as necessary for the greatest of prophets and men of Allah as for an ordinary Muslim.
That is why the Surah Al-Fath (Victory), in enumerating the material and spiritual benefits of the conquest of Makkah in the last days of the Holy Prophet (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) also says:"and to guide you on the straight path"(48:20). When these verses were revealed, the Holy Prophet (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) had already received guidance and was a source of guidance for others. The good tidings of receiving guidance can, in, this situation, have only one meaning that he attained some very high station of guidance at the time.
In concluding this discussion about the different implications of 'guidance' (Hidayah), we repeat points that would help the reader of the Holy Qur'an avoid certain confusions and errors:
1. The Holy Qur'an sometimes speaks of divine guidance as being general and common to believers and non-believers, in fact to all creatures, and sometimes makes it out to be particular and special to the God-fearing. So, the unwary may be led to sense a contradiction here. But once it is understood that one degree of guidance is common to all, whereas another degree is limited to particular cases, the doubt and confusion readily resolves itself.
2. On the one hand, the Holy Qur'an reminds us again and again that Allah does not grant guidance to the unjust and the unrighteous; on the other hand, it repeatedly declares that Allah guides all. The misunderstanding which may arise here is also dispelled by a knowledge of the degrees of guidance. Now we can easily see that the general guidance is given to all without any distinction, but the third and very special degree of guidance is not granted to the unjust and
3. The first and the third degrees of guidance pertain to a direct act of divine grace, and no prophet can have anything to do with it, for the function of the prophets is related only to the second degree.
Whenever the Holy Qur'an speaks of Prophets (A.S) as guides, it is always referring to this second degree, and to it alone. On the other hand, when the Holy Qur'an, addressing the noble Prophet (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), says: "You cannot guide whom you please" (28:56), it is the third degree of guidance which is intended, that is to say, it is neither the function of a prophet nor is it in his power to provide tawfiq to anyone, in other words, to make it easy for anyone to accept guidance.
[Translator's Note: In this context one should not overlook the popularity enjoyed in the West, since the rise of Protestantism, by the notion of a personal relationship with God on the part of the individual. This notion has in its turn produced a diffused yet very effective conviction that ethics can be made independent of religion, that the external or legislative aspect of religion is of no account, that prescribed rites are irrelevant to the so-called 'religious experience', and more monstrously still, that doctrines can be dispensed with altogether -- all of which betrays a total incomprehension of what constitutes a religion. The tendency has, in fact, begun to infect some of the modernist interpreters of Islam in one way or another, all of whom claim to be fulfilling the 'needs of the present age'. Attempts have been made even to exploit this notion for ulterior motives.
In persuading the Muslim countries to look upon themselves as 'the eastern-most part of the West', the London ECONOMIST argues that Islam 'also implies a one-to-one relationship between the believer and the God he believes in a direct contact without intermediary and in this relationship, in which a single God speaks directly to the core of a single man, is the basis of individualism. The Protestant ethic is grounded on precisely the same concept.' (May 17-23, 1975, page 82 of the Special Survey).
In the light of the discussion regarding the three degrees of guidance, it should not be difficult to see that the direct contact with God without intermediary pertains only to the first and third degrees, and not the second degree where the mediation of the prophets is indispensable. To attain the third degree may be necessary for making a spiritual progress, but Islam, or for that matter any authentic religion, is born out of the second degree of guidance. One cannot, indeed, enjoy the benefits of the third degree without having accepted the guidance of the second degree -- or, to use the Islamic terminology, without following the Shari`ah.]
To sum up, the Qur'anic prayer (guide us in the straight path) is most comprehensive, and certainly, one of the most important prayers taught to man. No member of the human family can claim not to need it. No success, no prosperity in this or in the other world can really come without being on the straight path. Particularly so, for man lost in the anxieties of mortal life, the prayer for the straight path is an elixir, though people do not realize it.
Which 'path' is 'straight'? Now, to come to the meaning of the 'straight path', it is the path which has no turns and twists. The term signifies the particular way of Faith which equally avoids the two extremes of excess and deficiency. One who follows the straight path would, in matters of doctrine and practice both, neither go beyond the limits nor fall short of them.
The last two verses of the Surah Al-Fatihah define and identify that 'straight path', something man has been prompted to pray for immediately earlier. The verse says:"The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your grace."[1:7] As to who these people are, another verse of the Holy Qur'an gives us details in the following words:
"Those whom Allah has blessed, namely, the prophets, the Siddiqin, the Shuhada', and the righteous."(4:69)
These are the four categories of those who find favour with Allah. Among them all, the prophets are the greatest. The Siddiqin (the constantly true) are those who acquire spiritual perfection, and thus -- attain the highest rank among the followers of a prophet. In common parlance, they are called Men of Allah, or saints.
[If taken in an untainted religious sense, and certainly not if taken in one of the many modern vulgarized usages of the term where, for instance, you see the halo of spiritual glory over the head of a spy!]
The Shuhada' (martyrs) are those who sacrifice even their lives for the sake of their faith (or, who bear witness to the truth, as the word admits of both meanings). The righteous (the Salihin) are those who follow the Shari`ah completely, not only in the matter of obligations (Waijibat) but also with regard to commendable (mustahabb) actions. In everyday language they are called the pious or the virtuous or the good.
This verse, then, determines the straight path in a positive manner, identifying it with the path followed by men of these four categories. The next verse, by a process of elimination, does the same in a negative manner by saving:"Not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray."[1:7]
Those who have incurred Allah's wrath are the people, who inspite of being quite familiar with the commandments of Allah wilfully go against them out of a calculated perversity or in the service of their desires, or, in other words, who are deficient in obeying divine injunctions. This, for example, was the general condition of the Jews who were ready to sacrifice their religion for the sake of a petty worldly gain, and used to insult and sometimes even to kill their prophets.
As for ad-dhal-lin (those who go astray), they are the people who, out of ignorance or lack of thought, go beyond the limits appointed by Allah, and indulge in excess and exaggeration in religious matters. This, for example, has generally been the error of the Christians who exceeded the limits in their reverence for a prophet and turned him into a god. On the one hand, there is the rebelliousness of the Jews who not only refused to listen to the prophets of Allah but went on to kill them; on the other hand, there is the excessive zeal of the Christians who defied a prophet.
Thus, the essential meaning of the verse is that, in praying for the straight path, we do not ask for the path of those who are the slaves of their desires, perverse in thought and action, and deficient in performing their religious obligations, nor the path of those who are ignorant or unmindful or misled, and indulge in excess and exaggeration in religious matters, but wish for a path between these two extremes, which inclines neither towards excess nor towards deficiency, and which is as free of the promptings of desires as of doubts and confusions and of erroneous beliefs.
In short, the prayer for the straight path is the essence of the Surah Al-Fatihah. Since knowing and following the straight path is the real knowledge and the real achievement in this mortal world, a mistake in picking it up right takes peoples and nations to reins; otherwise, there are even non-Muslims who claim to be seeking God and undertake stupendous labours to attain this end. The Holy Qur an has, therefore, defined the straight path so explicitly from a positive as well as eliminative point of view.
But, before we proceed, there is another problem to be considered, the answer to which would open the door to a new and more comprehensive understanding. It would seem that in order to define the straight path it should have been sufficient to call it 'the path of the Prophet' Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him or 'the path of the Qur'an', which should also have been more succinct and more explicit, for the whole of the Holy Qur'an is really an explanation of the straight path, and the teachings of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him, an elaboration. But, setting aside the succinct and explicit form of expression, the Holy Qur'an has taken up two verses of this short Surah for defining and delimiting the straight path positively and negatively, and has thus indicated that if one wishes to follow the straight path, one should seek such and such men 'those on whom Allah has bestowed His grace...', and adopt their way.
Here, the Holy Qur'an does not ask us to follow the 'path of the Qur'an', for a book alone is not sufficient for the grooming of man; nor does it ask us to follow 'the path of the prophet', for the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him was not to be in this world for ever, and no other prophet was to come after him. So, in enumerating those whose teaching and example can help us attain the straight path, the Holy Qur'an has, besides the prophets (A.S) included those too, who will always be found living amongst us till the last day of the world -- namely, the Siddiqin, the Shuhada', and the righteous.
For the purpose of indicating the manner in which one can find the straight path, the Holy Qur'an has thus referred not to a book but to certain men. According to a hadith, when the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him informed his Companions that, like earlier communities, his 'Ummah' too would be divided into seventy or seventy-two sects, and that only one among them would be on the right path, they wanted to know as to which group it would be. The answer he gave also leads on to certain men of Allah, for he said: (That which follows my way and the way of my Companions). All this comes to mean that written books or oral traditions alone cannot teach, train and discipline man; for this, one has to be with knowing men, and learning from them. In yet other words, the real teacher and groomer of man has to be another man; a book cannot take that place all by itself. How curtly this was pointed out by Akbar, the famous Urdu poet-humourist, who said (roughly translated): "Courses teach words. But, men train men." This truth holds good even for spheres of everyday life.
No one has ever become a doctor, or an engineer, or even a cook or a tailor merely by reading a book. Similarly, studying the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith on one's own cannot by itself be sufficient for the moral-spiritual education and training of a man; such a study must be carried on under the guidance of a specialist or a genuine scholar before it can be useful. It is common observation that, [Under the influence of the West, particularly that of Protestantism.] many people today, though otherwise educated, cherish the erroneous notion that one can acquire a masterly knowledge of the Holy Qur'an and Hadith merely by reading a translation or at best a commentary. [The illusion has been encouraged by the modernistic or pseudo-modernistic interpretations of Islam.]
But the error of such an enterprise is self-evident. Had a book in itself been sufficient for the guidance of men, there was no need for the prophets to be sent. But, Allah in sending us His Book, has also sent His Prophet to serve as a teacher and guide. In defining the straight path too, He has also enumerated those of His servants who find special favour with Him -- all of which argues that, in trying to understand the Book of Allah and to act upon it, one cannot solely rely on one's own study and judgment, but must turn to someone who knows.
Two things are necessary for the physical and spiritual well-being and success of man -- the Book of Allah which contains guidance for every sphere of human life, and the Men of Allah who help in making this guidance effective. The way to profit from the Men of Allah is to assess them according to the well-known principles of the Book of Allah. Those who do not conform to these principles should just not be regarded as Men of Allah. But, when one has found Men of Allah, in the real sense, one should seek their guidance in order to understand the meaning of the Book of Allah and act upon it.
Why the Schism?
As to the sectarian differences on this point, we may remark that there are two kinds of deviations in this respect. Some people elected to follow the Book of Allah alone, ignored the Men of Allah totally and gave no value to their teachings and explanations. Conversely, others adopted the Men of Allah as the only criterion of truth and became indifferent to the Book of Allah. Both these ways lead to fatal error.
Injunctions and Related Considerations
To recapitulate, the Surah Al-Fatihah begins with the praise of Allah. Then comes an affirmation on the part of man that he worships Allah alone, and turns to him alone in the hour of need. That is, so to say, the oath of allegiance man offers to his Lord and Master. Finally, there is a prayer which covers all possible human needs and goals. Beside these, there are some related secondary considerations also which arise from the Surah. These are as follows.
The Proper Way of Praying to Allah
Through this particular mode of expression and through its structure, the Surah teaches man how to pray and how to make a request to Allah. The proper method is that one should begin by fulfilling one's obligation to praise Allah. Then, one should offer the pledge of complete allegiance to Allah to the effect that one does not regard anyone except Allah as being worthy of adoration and worship, nor does one look upon anyone except Allah as having the real power to give help in one's distress or need. Finally, one should pray for what one wishes to have. And there is every hope that a prayer made in this manner will be granted. (See Akham Al-jassas). The Surah also suggests that, in praying to Allah, one should pray for something so comprehensive that it includes in essence all possible human goals, for example, pray for being guided in the straight path, because if one can and does follow the straight path in everything that concerns this world or the other, one's material life or spiritual, one need not be afraid of stumbling or of being hurt.
"[All] praise is [due] to Allah , Lord of the worlds,"[Surah Fatiha]
The first verse of the Surah teaches man to praise Allah. We praise someone either for a quality inherent in him or for a favour received from him. But the verse mentions either. The implication is that the blessings of Allah are limitless. The Holy Qur'an says:"If you try to count the blessings of Allah, you will never be able to number them."(14:34 and 16:18).
Leaving aside other things, if man only considers his own being, he would find that it is a micromism -- in itself which contains in analogical form everything contained in the macrocosm, his body offers a parallel to the earth, the hair on it to the vegetation, his bones to the hills, his veins flowing with blood to the springs underground. [It may not be out of place to remark that this analogical view of man's relationship with the universe has been an essential feature of all traditional cosmologies. the Copernican cosmology, whatever its merits may otherwise be, has tended to dissolve this vision of things, leaving man, at least in the West, to grow more and more alienated fromt he universe -- till we have arrived at the viewers of the American television who are reported to have been more interested in a ball game than in man's first landing on the moon -- Translator]
Man, again, is composed of two parts, spirit and body, of which the spirit is obviously superior in value, while the body is subservient to it. In this inferior part alone, there are thousands of anatomical and biological wonders. There are supposed to be more than three hundred joints, but Allah has made each of them so strong that during the sixty or seventy years of an average man's life, they are in perpetual motion and yet do not need repairs. Of this Allah himself has reminded us:
"It is We Who created them, and it is We Who endowed their joints with strength."(76:28).
Or, take the example of the eye. One may spend a life-time and yet not fully know the manifestations of divine wisdom present in it. Or, take a single movement of the eye, and see how many blessings of Allah are involved in its functioning. Before the eye can see, internally it requires physical energy which in its turn is provided by food, air, water etc. And externally it requires the light of the sun which in its turn depends on a thousand other factors. That is to say, all the forces of the universe join together to make it possible for the eye to see even once. Now, try to calculate how many times does the eye see in a day, in a year, in a man's life-time. Similarly, the functions of the ears, the tongue, the hands and the feet, each brings into action the forces of the whole universe.
This is a kind of blessing which is equally available to every living man, be he a king or a beggar. In fact, all the greatest blessings of Allah are the common property of every living creature -- for example, air, water, light, the sun, the moon, the stars, in fact, everything that exists in the heavens and the earth, or between them, offers its benefits to all without distinction.
Then there are special blessings which divine wisdom has chosen to distribute unequally among men, some getting more and others less. This category includes wealth, honour, health, peace, knowledge and other acquisitions. Although the general blessings are obviously much more important and essential for human life than the special blessings, yet man in his naivete takes them for granted and never realizes what great gifts they are in spite of being common.
Now, human nature itself requires that in recognition of the innumerable blessings that keep descending on him at every moment of his life, man should, as far as_ he can, praise and continue to praise his Benefactor. It is to indicate this basic need of human nature that the Holy Qur'an employs the word : 'Al-hamd' (Praise) as the first word of the very first Surah.
Thus, the praise of Allah has been accorded a very high rank among the acts of worship. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him has said that when, on receiving some kind of a blessing from Allah, His servant says (Praise belongs to Allah), it is like giving something better in return for what he has taken (Qurtubi, from Ibn Majah, as narrated by Anas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him.
According to another hadith if a man, on receiving all possible blessings of the world, says: (Al-hamdulillah), his act is superior to all those blessings. Commenting on this hadith and citing certain scholars, al-Qurtubi says, the ability to repeat the phrase 'Al-hamdulillah' with one's tongue is in itself a blessing of Allah. According to another authentic hadith, saying this phrase fills half the scale on the side of good deeds in the Balance. As to what praising Allah should actually mean, Shaqiq ibn Ibrahim explains that when one receives some gift from Allah, one should first of all recognize the Benefactor, then be content with what He has given, and finally never disobey Him as long as one has some strength left in the body, which again is a gift from Allah. (See Qurtubi)
The second element in the phrase is Lillah, which is composed of the preposition Lam (Arabic equivalent of the letter L) and the noun 'Allah'. This preposition means 'for' and is used for particularization, showing the exclusive possession of a thing or quality. So, the phrase implies that not only is it the duty,of man to praise Allah, but in reality all praise belongs exclusively to Him, and no one else in the universe is worthy of it. At the same time, and by way of a further blessing, Allah has, for the purpose of teaching man how to behave with his fellow beings, commanded him to thank those too through whom the gifts of Allah come to him, for one who does not see the, need of thanking his human benefactor would not thank Allah too.
Self-Praise is not permitted
It is not permissible for a created being such as man to praise himself. the Holy Qur'an says:"Do not pretend to be pure; He knows best who is really God-fearing."(53:32). That is to say, a man can be praised only if he fears Allah, but Allah alone knows to what degree a particular man possesses this quality, known as Taqwa. As for Allah praising Himself, the reason is that man is not capable of praising the glory and greatness of Allah in a befitting manner. Not to speak of others, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him has exclaimed: "I cannot properly praise You!" Therefore, Allah Himself has taught man the mode of praising Him.
Rabb is the exclusive attribute of Allah
The Arabic word 'Rabb' (Lord) is applied to a person who not only possesses a certain thing, but is also fully capable of and responsible for nurturing it properly. Obviously, no one can act as 'Rabb' with regard to the whole universe except Allah. So, the word, used in an absolute sense, is exclusive to Allah, and it is not permissible to address or describe anyone other than Allah as 'Rabb'. A hadith in the Sahib of Muslim explicitly forbids a slave or servant to call his master a 'Rabb'. The word may, however, be employed in the case of a man too in a relative sense -- that is, in relation to a particular thing, for example, 'rabb al-dar' (master of the house) etc. (Qurtubi).
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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