Chapter One: The Opening (Al Fatiha)
Verses 6 & 7
Chapter 1, Verses 6 and 7
Guide us to the straight path.
The path of those whom You have blessed, not the way of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray.
As you recite "The Opening", you bring to mind God's gift of guidance, blessings of Lordship, and abundant mercy. You declare that there is no God besides Him; you do not associate anything with Him in worship and you rely on him in all your affairs. Thus you become from amongst God's servants. At that moment, God reaches out to you and teaches you one of the finest supplications a believer can learn. And as long as you remain in His company, He will respond to you, and answer your prayers as promised in the following verse:
When My servants ask you about Me, I am indeed nearmost. I answer the supplicant’s call when he calls Me. So let them respond to Me, and let them have faith in Me, so that they may fare rightly.(Chapter 2: Verse 186)
Given this golden opportunity, what do you ask God for? Would you ask for something temporary, or is this your chance to ask for everlasting good? A true believer does not ask God to grant him abundant wealth, property or a nice car for example; because these material things are short-lived. God teaches us that true life is in the Hereafter; therefore, he wants us to supplicate for guidance to the straight path; the path that will protect us from hellfire and admit us into the everlasting life and bliss of paradise.
There are two types of Guidance: first there is God's general guidance, and second there is His divine guidance. General guidance is universal for entire mankind. More specifically, God calls everyone to the right path; He sends prophets and messengers and supports them with miracles and scripture to deliver his message to everyone. God clarifies the outcome of following His path and that of abandoning it. Sowhoever wants to follow the right path can do so, and whoever chooses to abandon it can do so. Sadly, despite God’s guidance, many people who receive God’s message choose to take a different route. Let’s take an example from the Quran:
As for the tribe of Thamud: We showed them the straight path of guidance but they preferred blindness over guidance. So then the lightning-like punishment of humiliation seized them because of what they had been earning for themselves. (41:17)
These were people who, through the freedom of choice that God granted them, did not follow the straight path. But how about those who do follow it….what kind of support do they get? The Lord supports them with his divine guidance; he endears faith and piety to their hearts, and facilitates for them the actions that lead to paradise. God protects them from evil, and helps them through hardship. This divine guidance is specific for the believers as the Quran states:
As for those who follow true guidance, He leads them far ahead in their right ways and grants them piety and restraints from evil suited to their condition. (47:17)
The difference between God’s general guidance to all mankind and his divine guidance to the believers is like the difference between having a map, and having someone with you showing you the best way turn by turn. Whoever pursues the path of righteousness receives God's support in all aspects of his or her life. On the other hand, God abandons those who distance themselves from his path and leaves them astray as mentioned in the following verse:
Whoever turns a blind eye to the remembrance of the All-beneficent, We assign him a devil who remains his companion. (43:36)
As you study the Quran further, you will find three types of people who are deprived from God's divine guidance. They are listed in the following verses:
That is because they preferred the worldly life over the Hereafter and that God does not guide the disbelieving people. (16:107)
And in another verse:
that will make it more likely they will give true and proper testimony, or fear that their oaths might be refuted by others afterwards. Be mindful of God and listen; God does not guide those who are corrupt (5:108)
Did you not see him who argued with Abraham concerning his Lord, as Allah had given him the kingdom? When Abraham said, "My Lord is He who gives life and causes death", he answered, "I give life and cause death"; Abraham said, "So indeed it is Allah Who brings the sun from the East - you bring it from the West!" - the disbeliever was therefore baffled; and Allah does not guide the unjust. (2:258)
So, the disbelievers, the corrupt and the unjust are the ones who are expelled from God’s divine guidance on the straight path.
Now, let's take a closer look at the meaning of "the straight path". A path usually leads to a goal or a destination. When you plan a trip to your favorite vacation spot, you would naturally want to get there as soon as possible, so you choose the shortest road with no detours. As you well know, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line; it is -by definition- free from all curves and twists, because even a small curve can deviate you a great distance from your goal. Take for example a train track. When a train shifts from one destination to another, it does not veer off greatly all of a sudden; rather the track is shifted by only a few millimeters. At first this shift appears very small, but the more you travel on the track, the more apparent the difference becomes. In fact, as the train travels, that tiny shift widens to the extent that the train ends up at an entirely new city hundreds of miles away. Similarly, God has mapped for us the shortest route that leads to paradise. And any deviation from the straight path, regardless of how slight it may be, distances you from your goal. We ask God to guide us, and keep us on the straight path that leads directly to heaven.
Now, let’s continue with the last verse that states ‘the path of those whom You have blessed, not the way of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray’. Who are the people who have been blessed by God? We find the answer in the following verse:
Whoever obeys God and the Messenger will be among those He has blessed: the messengers, the truthful, those who bear witness to the truth, and the righteous- what excellent companions these are (4:69)
Meaning that as you recite ‘The Opening’, you supplicate God to guide you to the same path they took so you can join this great company at the highest levels in heaven. God assures you that in response, he will grant you the pleasure of the hereafter as He states in the following sacred narration: “When my servant says: ‘Guide us to the straight path’, He Almighty replies: 'This is for my servant, and my servant shall have what he has asked for.'”