Chapter One: The Opening (Al Fatiha)
Chapter 1 Verse 1, a continuation.
As we discussed in the previous session, God Almighty -the creator of the universe- can make the laws of the universe function and cease to function. He is also able to go beyond the laws. Take, for example, the story of Prophet Zechariah (peace be upon him) who was responsible for providing for Virgin Mary. He used to bring her all her daily needs as she secluded for worship. One day, when he walked into her room, he was surprised to find food he did not bring, nor seen the likes of before.
Naturally, he questioned Mary the sainted worshiper who had never departed her chamber as mentioned in the following verse:
"Where has this come from, O Mary?" (Chapter 3: Verse 37)
This scenario presents us with two important lessons, first , and as you will see later from Virgin Mary's answer, God can overrule the laws of cause and effect and provide from nothing. Second, we should learn from Prophet Zechariah to always be watchful and proactive when we see signs of possible corruption in our surroundings. It is the lack of vigilance in enquiring about suspicious matters, especially those regarding sudden and unexplained wealth, that lead to corruption. As a society, we recognize possessions that are not in line with the capabilities of the person who attains them. For example, a wife sees her husband spending more than his salary, or sees her daughter wearing something that exceeds her income; if the mother questions her family about how they obtained these goods, then there would be no corruption in society. Corruption spreads when we shut our eyes from seeing illegal acts and unlawful wealth. Prophet Zechariah, while having no doubt about Mary's piety and character, still exercised vigilance and asked her "Where did you get this from?" Her reply came in the following verse:
and she said, ‘They are from God: God provides limitlessly for whoever He will.’(3:37)
Mary pointed out that it was God who provided for her, highlighting the fact that the laws of cause and effect do not govern his freedom and authority. She drew Zechariah's attention towards the limitlessness of God's power. At that moment, Zechariah supplicated his Lord regarding an issue where only this freedom from all physical laws could intercede. He wanted a child while he was an aged man and so was his wife, aged and barren. Reproduction is only effective at a young age of fertile couples. So when both the male and the female reach old age they cannot reproduce. And let's not forget the fact that Prophet Zechariah's wife was infertile and could not bear children even when she was young. This matter is against the laws that govern humans, even by today's modern medical standards. But it is God alone who is capable in going beyond any set laws. When Prophet Zechariah supplicated, with certainty in his heart that all things are possible, God granted him a son named "John".
So everything in this world begins with the name of God, and concludes with His name. Yes, the universe is managed by a set of laws, but God's will is above all.
When you begin all your affairs with God’s name, it is as though you have chosen God to be on your side supporting you. Any action you take requires many qualities. For example, when you start a physical activity, such as running, you require eyesight, physical health, and strength. Thus, if God Almighty had not informed us of the all-inclusive name for all his attributes, you would have needed to specify the help that you required. You would have needed to say 'in the name of the All-Powerful, in the name of the Sustainer, in the name of the Responder to prayers, in the name of the Creator' and so on. But God taught us his name that is inclusive of all of attributes of perfection: This name is "Allah". Now you can begin all of our actions with "in the name of Allah"
Sadly, those who do not begin their actions with the name of God, only seek materialistic or worldly compensation. A true believer, on the other hand, has higher aspirations and begins all his or her actions with God in mind. Each earns from this world based on his or her knowledge and effort, because God is the sustainer of everyone regardless of their faith. But this is not the true lasting life for man, rather it is the hereafter. The person who has the world in his mind limits his or her reward to this world; and the one who keeps God in mind gets the reward in this world and a far greater and everlasting return in the hereafter. God the Almighty says:
Praise be to God, to whom belongs all that is in the heavens and earth, and praise be to Him in the life to come. He is the All Wise, the All Aware. (34:1)
The believer praises God for His bounties in this world, and then praises him in the hereafter when God saves him from hellfire and admits him into paradise.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was quoted saying:
"Any important work that does not begin with the name of God is flawed."
When you start an action without God in mind, you are under the false impression that it is you who subjected your surroundings to serve and respond to your will. More importantly, it is as though you have decided to forgo your reward in the hereafter and settle for a much lower compensation limited to this world. So if you desire the bounty of this world and the reward of the hereafter for everything that you do, then approach each and every task with God’s name. Before you begin eating, start with the name of God because He created this food and provided for you. When you enter the examination hall say: 'in the name of Allah', and he will help you towards success. When you marry say 'in the name of Allah', because He has created your spouse for you and made him or her lawful.
Perhaps most importantly, when you begin every action with God's name, it will prevent you from doing any deed that displeases Him. You cannot begin a task that will bring God's displeasure when you start with His name. If you intend to commit theft or drink alcohol, and then you start with God's name, you will surely abstain from it. You will feel ashamed of beginning a deed that angers God in His name. Therefore, all your actions will be according to what God has made lawful.
When you begin reciting the Quran with God's name, it is a pledge that you will follow what He has ordered, abstain from what he has prohibited, and respect all that you read in this book. It is he who gives life and death and to Him belongs the authority in this world and in the hereafter. Before whom you will stand on the Day of Resurrection when He will call you to account for your good deeds and for your transgressions.
You may question, how then can you begin reciting with the name of God, while you have at one time or another disobeyed and opposed Him? The answer is simple, God is the one who taught us how to approach the recitation of the Quran with His name, and more importantly, to start with the "The Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent". God does not desert the disobedient; rather He opens the doors of repentance for him or her, and forgives all sin because he is the Most Merciful. God is constantly calling every disobedient person to return to the enclosure of faith. So begin reading the Quran with the name of God the Most Merciful the Most Benevolent because his mercy forgives all sin big and small, near and far.