Chapter One: The Opening (Al Fatiha)

Verse 4

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Session 15

Chapter 1, verse 4

The Owner of the Day of Recompense.

If all of God's bounties warrant praise, then the bounty of {the Day of Recompense} deserves a greater praise; because if the Day of resurrection did not exist, then anyone who had filled the world with corruption would have escaped without being held accountable.  And anyone who adhered to justice and deprived him or herself from various worldly enjoyments for God's pleasure would have worked in vein.  By bestowing the Day of Judgment, God brought balance and justice to the entire existence.  The fact that there will be an afterlife -in essence a day of reckoning- protects the rights of the weak and prevents the world from turning into a jungle where the strong endlessly attacks and tyrannizes the weak. 

Have you noticed how the corrupt actions of a person are not limited to the victim of these actions?  They actually affect the society as a whole.  Even if you were not directly affected by the actions of a thief for example, you may start feeling unsafe when you hear about thefts in your neighborhood.  Here, the verse ‘Owner of the Day of Recompense’ brings a sense of balance as you become aware that the hereafter is waiting those who have no regard for people's rights in society.  No one will be able to escape that day regardless of his or her current power and influence.  Similarly, the integrity of a believer benefits the entire society.  When a person fears God, respects everyone’s rights, pardons and forgives, everyone that surrounds him or her benefits from this noble character and it’s standing for truth and equality.  The society as a whole becomes a better place.      

This verse has two different recitals (مالك يوم الدين) and (ملك يوم الدين).   They differ by only one vowel, and are both valid ways of reciting the Opening.  These readings translate to "Owner of the day of resurrection" and "king of the day of resurrection" respectively.  Let's take them one by one:

God describes himself in the Quran as the Owner of the Day of Recompense.  The true owner of something is alone responsible for managing it.  No one else has the right to interfere.  I own my clothes, my car and my home.  Therefore, I am the one responsible for these items, and I can do as I please with them.

The King of the Day of Recompense, on the other hand, implies that God will directly judge the affairs of the people that day with no interference from anyone.  In this world, God may grant temporary rule and sovereignty over a kingdom to a person or a group of people, but in the hereafter the rule and command will be his alone as stated in this verse:

Say, ‘O Allah, Master of all sovereignty! You give sovereignty to whomever You wish, and strip of sovereignty whomever You wish; You make mighty whomever You wish, and You abase whomever You wish; all good is in Your hand. Indeed You have power over all things. (Chapter 3: Verse 26)

Note that that God used the phrase (strips sovereignty) rather than (takes sovereignty) implying that no one in this world wants to willingly give up power.  But it has to be forcefully withdrawn from him or her. 

Here you may question:  Doesn't rule and control at all time -in this world and the hereafter- belong to God? The answer is simply yes.  However, God appoints some of His creation as successors and grants them authority on earth as He says in the Quran:                

Have you thought of the man who argued with Abraham about his Lord because God had given him a kingdom? When Abraham said: "My Lord is the giver of life and death," he replied: "I am the giver of life and death." And Abraham said: "God makes the sun rise from the East; so you make it rise from the West," and dumbfounded was the infidel. God does not guide those who are unjust. (2:258)

As you can see, true rule and sovereignty do not stem from the person who governs; rather they are the result of God's will.  If rule had stemmed from one's self, then power would have remained with him or her forever without changing hands.  Be always mindful that many people are put to the test through this type of grant.  God will take rulers to account on the Day of Resurrection.  How did they rule, and carry their conduct? What did they do with their power?  More importantly, people who were ruled are also tested regarding their conduct.  Did they remain silent about an unjust ruler?  Did they prefer corruption? Or did they stand for the truth? 

At first glance, you may get the impression that God is testing us so he would gain the knowledge of who is corrupt and who is upright.  But this could not be further from the truth; God is our creator and he is all knowledgeable, all aware of his creation.  Then, you may ask, why does he test us? He tests us so that we may bear witness against ourselves.  No one can come on the Day of Resurrection and say: Lord, if only you had given me a chance, I would have followed the right path and implemented your guidelines.

To further clarify this point, let’s take an example from everyday life:  Universities all over the world conduct exams for their students.  Are the professors who taught these students all year unaware of what their students know?  Do they intend to obtain this knowledge through the exam? Of course not! Every teacher can tell you who will Ace the test and who will fail well before the examination.  Testing is important because it presents the evidence to the students themselves.  If a student fails and then comes to argue, all the teacher has to do is point to the test result.  On the other hand, if the exam was not conducted, then every student can claim that he or she deserves high grades and honors.

So if you choose to recite "Owner of the day of resurrection", you testify that God will run the affairs of that day as He desires without interference at any level.  And if you recite "king of the day of resurrection", you testify that God will judge the affairs of his creations, even those who he had made kings and rulers temporarily in this world.  God wants to reassure you that if you had been afflicted by a governor or king, a tyrant or a dictator, then a day will come where there will be no owner and no king but God himself. 

Now, let's turn our attention to the word "day".  Astronomically, a day begins from sun rise until the next sun rise.  Linguistically, a “Day” is an adverb of time in which events take place.  Since the adverb of time cannot be owned, some scholars explain that the verse "Owner of the day of resurrection" means the owner of the affairs and events of that day, rather than the owner of the day itself.  We reply that this is according to our abilities and understanding as humans because we cannot possess time.  We are unable to bring back the past, nor bring on the future.  But God Almighty is the Creator of time and He is not restricted by time or place.  God Almighty states:     

They will challenge you to hasten the punishment. God will not fail in His promise- a Day with your Lord is like a thousand years by your reckoning.  (22:47)

and in another verse:

The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose length is fifty thousand years. (70:4)

As you consider these two verses, you quickly recognize the intended meaning of the word ‘day’.  God is the Creator of time, therefore, he is able create a day the duration of which is 24 hours, or a day the duration of which is a thousand, fifty thousand or a million years.  We identify a single day as twenty four hours, and as day and night.  But the fact is that day and night always exist on earth.  As the earth rotates, every minute movement signals the end of a day in a region the beginning of one in another.  Thus, if you view our planet a whole, you will realize that the day on earth never ends, neither does the night.  Even on our own planet, the succession of days and nights is a relative phenomenon.