Chapter One: The Opening (Al Fatiha)

Verses 2 & 3

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Session 11

Chapter 1 Verses 2 and 3

All praise is due to God, Lord of the worlds;   the Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent.

When reading these verses, we immediately note that three of God’s names are mentioned and repeated in the first three verses of "The Opening" chapter.  The names: God "Allah", 'the Most Merciful' الرحمنand 'the Most Benevolent' الرحيم are mentioned in the first verse, and then repeated in the second and third.  Keep in mind that since the Quran is God's word, there is no pointless repetition in its words, and when a word is repeated, it serves a specific purpose each time.  God employs every word in its proper place to carry a precise meaning.  Let's look at the indication of God’s names in these verses:

The phrase of the first verse: 'in the name of God' is an expression for asking for God’s help when we begin an act.  We are requesting support from God who subjected the universe for our service.  But when, in the second verse, we say: 'All praise is due to God' it expresses our gratitude to him for what He has done for us.  As we mentioned previously, when we seek assistance or express gratitude to God, we use the name "Allah" because it is all-inclusive of his attributes.  More specifically, there is no need to say: all praise is due to the Sustainer, all praise is due to the All-Giver, all praise is due to the Most Merciful and so on.  'In the name of Allah' in the first verse is a request for help from God with all the perfection of His attributes.  And 'all praise is due to Allah' in the secondis showing gratitude to God with all the perfection of His attributes.

Similarly, ' the Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent'in first verse,and then in the third, both indicate a different meaning.  Let's take them one by one: 

The firstverse reminds us of God's mercy and forgiveness so we do not shy away from seeking his assistance if we have committed sin.  God wants us to seek him in all our actions, and wants us to know that his doors of compassion and mercy are wide open.  We always want to seek refuge in God and appeal to his mercy, not His justness, because God's justness does not spare sin big or small, while his mercy pardons all.  As stated in the following verse:

The Book will be set in place and you will see the evildoers fearful of what is in it. They will say, ‘Alas for us! What is this Book which does not pass over any action, small or great, without recording it?’ They will find there everything they did and your Lord will not wrong anyone at all. (Chapter 18: Verse 49)

And if God's mercy did not prevail over His justness, then we would have all perished for our sins as stated in this verse:

If God took people to task for the evil they do, He would not leave one living creature on earth, but He reprieves them until an appointed time: when their time comes they cannot delay it for a moment nor can they bring it forward.(16:61)

 It is narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "None of you will enter Paradise by his deeds alone unless God showers you with Mercy." The companions asked, "Not even you, Messenger of God?" He replied, "Not even me."

And in another narration, the prophet said "All children of Adammake mistakes,and the best of those who make mistakesare thosewho repent."  We are often weak and impatient, and we commit sins to different degrees.  When wejudge, we may treat unjustly; when we assume, we often think ill; and when we speak, we lie or backbite.  None of us can claim perfection, even those of us who spare no efforts in mindfulness.  Perfection is the attribute of God alone.  God Almighty says:

He has granted you from all that you ask Him. Were you to attempt to count God’s blessings, you could not compute them. But for sure humankind are much prone to wrongdoing and to ingratitude.(14:34)

However, God did not want sin to prevent us from carrying on with our life in His name.  Thus, He taught us in the very first verse of the Quran to say: (in the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent) so that we remember that the door is always open for seeking his help.

In the third verse of (الفاتحة), 'the Most Merciful' and 'the Most Benevolent' follow the phrase ‘Lord of the Worlds’ meaning the One who created us from nonexistence and provided us with countless bounties.  God is the Lord of the believer and the disbeliever alike.  He created and brought both to existence.  Thus, he grants sustenance and bounties to all.  The sun rises on the believer and the disbeliever alike.  Rain falls on those who worship God and those who worship idols.  These bounties, and countless more, are from the grants of Lordship.  They are for all God's creation in this world, and within lays immense mercy.  Hence, 'the Most Merciful and the Most Benevolent' in the third verse imply God’s mercy in His Lordship towards all creations.  We praise God for these bounties which we all enjoy through His mercy and His lordship.     

It is through God's mercy that He has made it effortless for us to pay him gratitude with two simple words: " الحمد لله "  'All praise is due to God'.  Think about when you want to show sincere appreciation to a person for a favor that he or she has done for you.   You may spend hours preparing the words of praise.  You edit, omit a word here, add one there, and consult others until you finally prepare a letter or speech expressing your gratitude.    

If you take a moment to think about God's favors, you will quickly realize that they cannot be counted or comprehended.  So no matter how much eloquence any person may have, he or she cannot compile expressions of praise that befit God's grandeur and bounties.  Then how can we praise him while we cannot count His favors, or encompass His mercy?  The Messenger (peace be upon him) portrayed this picture for us in this statement: ‘Dear lord, I am unable to find sufficient words of praise that befit You. All I can say is: You are as You have praised Yourself.’  Therefore, one of God's greatest bounties is that He taught us to express our gratitude to Him in these simple words: (All praise is due to God) " الحمد لله ".  And by specifying these words, God made it equal for all human beings; otherwise, the degree of praise among people would differ based on their abilities.  For instance, an illiterate person who cannot read or write would be unable to find proper words to praise God.  A scholar of literature, on the other hand, would express his or her gratitude with eloquence.  But God's fairness granted all of us this equal expression; and he placed these words in the first few verses of the first chapter of the Quran.  Now, the learned, the illiterate, the eloquent and the one with speaking disability can be equal in expressing their gratitude.  We thank God Almighty for all He has taught us and we remain in his praise at all times. 

As a rule, exaggeration in praise and show of gratitude to a person or a group of people is discouraged as it may lead that person or group towards arrogance, hypocrisy and transgression.  When we put in perspective that we thank God for all His great bounties with only two words   " الحمد لله ", then it is only natural that we lessen and balance our praise to other human beings.