Alhamdulillah, I’m finally able to take a break and get back to the grind of writing! I’ve been able to write sporadically over the past week, yes, but it isn’t quite the amount of writing I’d like to do. Ah but what with getting back to school, teaching tuitions, and midterms revision after the Langkawi trip, I’ll be honest, sleep seems slightly more important. Hey, a lady has got to get her priorities right! 😛
Now I actually have the time to write again, I’ve been trying to figure out what to write. I know I’ve left off my Europe leg of the EyesofWonder journey hanging (I’ll head right back to Cordoba’s Mezquita-Cathedral soon enough) and I also have the Langkawi journey to share BUT I’ve decided to get one major thing done and settled first: Rediscovering the Fatihah.
It’s been a while since the talk actually happened but not to worry, I have my trusty notebook to refer to! I remember posting the following up on Facebook/Instagram before the talk and I cannot emphasise it more:
If you’re heading to the Nouman Ali Khan talk at Suntec City tonight, here’s a little something I’d like to share: Bring along a pen & notebook. Write down notes. Be an active learner. Type out on your phone or tablet if you don’t like using a notebook. Do something.An ustadz I met during my time in Manchester told this and it has stuck with me since: “You enter an academic lecture or a class in school prepared to take notes, why do you come to a lecture about your Deen empty-handed?”If you are a passive learner, chances are, you’re going to forget most of what you’ve heard within 3 days. Write down notes so you’ll be able to reflect, remember & act out the things you’ve learnt in days, weeks & years to come, inshaAllah.Be responsible learners. It’s time we take learning our Deen seriously. May Allah bless every single one of us with the barakah of learning! (:
See, thanks to the fact that I actually took notes, I can refer to it again and share with you the amazing gems that was shared that night, alhamdulillah!
So yes, let’s go back to the talk. For those of you who’d miss the first part I’ve already written, you can find it here.
The surah starts off with ‘All thanks and praise be to Allah’. Allah introduces himself in the verse to form the foundation of the Muslim’s understanding. Specifically, the use of ‘Allah’ is crucial – we now know His name.
It then progresses to Robbil Alamin. Following His first introduction, Allah asserts His position and relationship with us. He is the Master of the Worlds. Being ‘Master’ means He has ownership over everything. It also means caring for His properties and ensuring it doesn’t fall apart. He has full authority and as a Master, He also has the ability to give out gifts. By definition, this means that everything else is His slave. We are His slaves. We are entirely and constantly dependent on Him. Whatever we have isn’t ours nor was it earned, they are all His gifts.
Having said that, it goes on to follow that there is no such thing as slavery until the Master gives instruction. Further down in the surah, there is a call for guidance to the right path. There is a natural relationship between the Rabb (Master) and giving of guidance. We have only begun to accept His Mastery after we accept His guidance.
It is also stated that He is Master of the Worlds. This includes generations AND nations. It is He who had created all the different nations, civilisations and languages.
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). – [al-Hujurat: 13]
He is Master over everyone; we are all slaves, all of equal status to start off with!
This is then followed by Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim. The insight Ustaz Nouman gave was essentially a summary of the Surah Rahman talk he gave in KL, which I’ve written about here, so you might want to have a read of that. An additional point he added for this though, was the temporal aspect of the two words. Ar-Rahman holds the connotations: a) extreme love, b) immediacy (i.e. happening right now) and c) temporary (can be taken away). Ar-Rahim, on the other hand, holds the connotations: a) permanence, b) not necessarily right now. Here, Allah describes the love He has for us to be extreme, immediate and permanent! Immediate and now for everyone, and permanent for those who do not take advantage of His love.
When Ibn ‘Abbas, the first Mufassir, was asked about Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim, his reply was: Ar-Rahman is for this world, while Ar-Rahim is for the hereafter.
Personally, I find this line the most comforting. Every time I go through a rough patch, I’ll be reminded of the majesty of His love multiple times during solat. How can anyone dwell upon their misery when Allah has already promised that His love is always present?
Ok moving on… After expressing the extent of His love and grace over us, Allah then introduces himself as Maliki Yaumiddin, the Master of the Day of Judgment. This is apt as it puts us back into our place. We should not take advantage of His Love and are made aware that He will deal with us justly. We are made conscious of His blessings and aware of our deeds that are being recorded and will be handed to us in the Hereafter. For those who receive their book with their right hands, they will find ease during judgment, for those who receive their book from their backs will be thoroughly be accounted. In short, we will either get Allah’s love and mercy or Allah’s justice on the day of judgement. Allah is fair.
So there we have it. The first three verses are the most complete introduction of Allah.
After Allah talks about Himself and His love, He moves on to talk about us as slaves.
Iyya kana’ budu wa iyya kanas ta’in. (It is You we worship and You we ask for help.)
There is a note of willingness, a kind of self-submission in this verse. We have to come to the conclusion ourselves; we have to make a conscious choice to submit to Allah. It isn’t just about reciting it emptily every single time, it is about living it in our daily lives – an acceptance that what Allah wants for us is better than what we want for ourselves.
After we’ve already decided to submit to Him as slaves, we need to realise that it is a huge commitment and that we need help. The word used for ‘help’ here is a specific kind of help – it is help that is rendered after we have tried and put in the effort. We need to work for it first. An important takeaway here is that Allah will help us when we make the effort ourselves. Success comes from putting in the effort then asking Allah for help.
An interesting thing that Ustaz Nouman pointed out was the use of the word for ‘help’. Besides the connotation of help rendered after we’ve put in the effort, the fact that the ‘help’ isn’t specified counts for something. You kow when we ask for help, it is always specific? We need to say what we need help with? But in this surah, it isn’t specified because it conveys desperation and the magnitude/extent of the help we as humans need.
So we’ve asked Allah for help… Right. Next, we ask him for guidance.
Ihdina (Guide us)
Y’know, when we ask someone for guidance, that means we are ready to work on it. We can’t just ask and when guidance is given, we ignore it. There are several important points in this short verse:
1) Guide US.
We are asking Allah for the ultimate guidance COLLECTIVELY. We need other people for guidance as well when we want to have a good relationship with Allah.
2) Allah’s guidance is more than information. More often than not, it’s the strength to make the right decisions.
I’m sure you feel me on this. More often than not, we know what’s right but we’re too scared to carry it out. We fear judgement, we fear failure, we fear solitude. Hence it becomes necessary to ask Allah for strength to make things right.
3) We need to keep asking Allah for guidance.
Guidance isn’t something that we keep. It is an act that requires constant action, and we have to keep asking for it again and again. We may have been guided once but may easily fall off track again so it’s important to keep asking.
4) Just because we know it doesn’t make it easy to do it.
That’s why it’s important to ask Him to help us and not let us burn out halfway.
Siratul Mustaqeem (The straight path)
We ask Allah to guide us TO, THROUGH and ALL THE WAY on the straight path. We ask Allah not to a destination but to a path. There is only one destination (akhirah) and there is only one straight path. We ask Allah to stay with us and not let us be alone. We ask Him to make sure we get all the way to the end.
The qualities of ‘sirat’ are: wide, straight, long and dangerous. ‘Mustaqeem’ means straight up.
What do these mean?
It means that whoever is travelling on this path is rising, leaving the world/love for the world behind. When we rise higher, our view changes and we’ll be able to see and comprehend better. It also means that as we rise higher and the more progress we make, the more susceptible we become to the different dangers. The fall is harder – which is exactly why as we rise higher, we should be more concerned with not falling. We become more aware and conscious of the choices that we make and do our best to maintain our stature.
There are no guarantees that we will be safe till we reach the end, so we keep asking for guidance. Keep asking. (Notice how much I keep repeating this?)
Siratul ladzina an’am ta ‘alaihim (The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor)
Allah knows that the path isn’t easy, which is exactly why He gives us roles models to look to! Look at the Quran, there are stories of the prophets who have gone through the path and succeeded. Find out how Allah made it easy for them. Praise Allah for helping them. We look too at the people who have not succeeded and ask for guidance to not be like them. The focus is the behaviour.
We also need to be aware that the successful ones are those whom He has bestowed His favour upon. It is entirely up to Him to guide you or lead you astray, so keep asking.
After asking to be guided to the straight path, we ask him to keep us away from the destructive path:
Ghairil maghdu bi ‘alaihim walad dhollin. [not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.]
This last verse refers to our risk of making the wrong decision after having the knowledge. It is only when we do something wrong with the knowledge that it is wrong, that we deserve anger. There is a difference between having knowledge but still doing wrong, and not having knowledge at all. The second part of the last verse talks about the people who do not have knowledge. BUT IT IS NOT AN EXCUSE to not have knowledge because it is our responsibility to seek it!
We can’t go on and say, “Oh, I don’t want to seek knowledge lest I’ll be responsible for it.”
Dudeeeee, you’re talking like a child.
So, to wrap everything up with a nice ribbon on top, here is what the Fatihah is about:
There are two things in the Fatihah: Knowledge (verses 1-3) and Action (verse 4-7).
There is knowledge that leads to action (be on the straight path), there is knowledge that does not translate to action and there is action that does not have the correct knowledge.
Linguistically, the Fatihah is broken up into two: Noun-based and verb-based. The former carries the note of permanence, the latter, temporary. The three parts of the Fatihah essentially are: 1) About Allah, 2) An agreement between us and Allah and 3) About us. In the first part, nouns are used, signally the permanence of Allah. In the second part, there is a mixture of nouns and verbs, signalling the nature of Allah and us. In the third part, verbs ares used, highlighting our temporal nature.
Remember, the Quran was spoken. There was no editorial process (read previous writeups for more comments on this). The ultimate balance between Creator and creation in the surah is unbelievable. There is a balance between knowledge and spirituality.
We have all these insights in just the opening surah of the Quran – can you imagine what the rest of the Quran holds? The Quran is not the work of men. It’s a gift from above. Subhanallah!
You know, after listening and reflecting on all his talks about the intricacies of the Quran, I finally understand why it’s so important for us to learn Arabic. We need it to really discover the Quran and get connected to it. It’s not the same when we read the translation. Each word choice, each verse, each passage – there’s just so much detail. So now there’s something to add on to my bucketlist: Learn the Arabic language!
Here, I thought I’d give a heads up for Baiyyinah TV!
Bayyinah TV is an online video library with materials to expand your knowledge of the Arabic language and the Qur’an. I think it’s a brilliant effort, especially the video series where you get to learn together with Husna, Ustaz Nouman’s daughter!
I won’t lie, I know it will not be an easy. An uphill task even, for most of us, especially those who are so busy with so many other things. But I pray Allah makes it easier for all us. This is gold. And I sincerely pray Allah will bless Ustaz Nouman Ali Khan, his Bayyinah team and their families for the amazing work they are doing for the ummah!
I give thanks and praise to Allah for making it easy for me to share all the talks with you! I hope they will be of benefit. (: As usual, if you found that you have benefited from this, do pass it forward and share with others! Hopefully the light of the Quran shines into each and every one of our hearts. ❤