Chapter One: The Opening (Al Fatiha)
“You alone we worship, and you alone we ask for help”
Let’s expand on the concept of spiritual vision. One day the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw one of his companions named Harith bn Malik. He asked him: 'Harith, How are you?' Harith replied, 'I woke up with my heart filled with true faith.' He (peace be upon him) said, 'Harith! Reflect on what you say. What is the true essence of your faith?" Harith replied: "I have detached myself from the love of this world; I spend my nights up in worship, and my days in fasting. It is as if I can look up and see God's Divine Throne; and as if I can see the inhabitants of Paradise visit one another and the inhabitants of hellfire shout at one another.' The Prophet said, ' Harith, you have been enlightened with true knowledge. Now retain it firmly.'
In another example, God addresses the Prophet in the following verse:
Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the people of the elephants? (Chapter 105: Verse 1)
Some critics cite this verse to challenge the authenticity of the Quran. Prophet Muhammad was born in the year of the battle of the elephant. God addressed him by using the phrase "didn't you see?", although the prophet, an infant at the time, could not have seen the incident. If God had used the phrase ‘Didn't you know?’ or 'Haven’t you heard?’ it would have made sense, as the prophet could have overheard the story. But The Lord used the phrase "Have you not seen?" instead. We reply that this is from amongst the elements of Islamic creed. To the believer, what God says is as true as one's own eyesight. The Quran is God's word and the verse "Have you not seen?" implies that this vision is continuous for every believer who recites the verse. With spiritual vision, man sees through his faith what his eyes fail to see.
Let's apply this concept to “The Opening”:
In grammar, there are three person pronouns, the first person, the second person and the third person pronouns. The first person (typically I or we) is the narrator of the story. The second person (you or yours for example) is present at the time of the narration, and the third person (typically he or her) is not present while we narrate about him or her. For example, when I say: "This is your pen", it means you are standing right in front of me. But when I say: "This is her pen", it implies that the pen's owner is not present at this time. Matters of faith are not based on what you observe; rather they are based on belief in that which is unseen.
In the first four verses of Al Fatiha, ‘God’ is unseen, ‘the Lord of the Worlds’ is unseen, ‘the Most Merciful the Most Gracious’ is unseen and ‘the Owner of the Day of Recompense’ is also unseen. Therefore, the grammar of the next verse requires the use of third person pronoun and should logically say: (He alone we worship, and from him alone we seek help). But God changed the context and used the second person pronoun. He said (You alone we worship, and from you alone we seek help.)This shows that the spiritual vision of the believer is as certain as what is in front of him or her at the present.
Now, when you recite these verses, you are in the presence of The Lord who blessed you with all the favors that surround you as He is the “Lord of the Worlds”. You feel assured regarding His judgments because he is”the Most Merciful the Most Gracious”. And if you do not hold gratitude in your heart for the bounties that He has given you, then beware of violating His commands because He is the “Owner of the day of Recompense”. You have, in essence, and as you recite "The Opening" started to see the unseen through your spiritual vision. On the Day of Resurrection when God Almighty reveals himself with all his attributes of perfection, you will be transformed from the state of spiritual vision to the state of eyewitness vision.
The phrase "You alone we worship" indicates exclusiveness. For example, if I say "I will meet you" this may mean that I may meet with you alone, or with a crowd of people. But when I say "you alone I will meet", it means that the meeting is personal and exclusive.
Similarly, If the verse had read ‘we worship you alone’ it could mean that we worship you alone for now, but later on we may worship so and so. Thus, when we recite "You alone we worship" we acknowledge that God alone is worthy of worship, and no one can be coupled with him. God says in the Quran:
If there had been any gods besides Allah in heaven or earth, they would both be ruined. Glory be to Allah, Lord of the Throne, beyond what they describe! (21:22)
The word 'worship' means submission to God in all His commandments. Therefore, He made prayer the basis of worship, as the act of prostration during prayer reflects ultimate humility before God. During prostration, you place your face -the most beloved and noble part of your being- on the ground. You and I, the rich, the poor, the young and old are all equal in servitude to the extent that each expels pride and arrogance from his or her heart in front of all to see.
As you recite "The Opening" and say "All praise is due to God", you recall all God’s favors that obligate praise. And when you say "Lord of the worlds", you recall the blessings of Lordship to all His creations causing the universe to serve humans; and when you recite "The Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent" you remember God's compassion and mercy that meets your sins with forgiveness when you repent. And when you read "The Owner of the Day of Recompense", it brings to mind the Day that you will stand before The Lord so he may reward you for your deeds. At that moment, having recalled all that obligates worship upon you, you recite "You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help"