Chapter One: The Opening (Al Fatiha)

Verses 6 & 7.....Part 2

(This session is also available in audio and video)

Session 20

Chapter 1, verses 6 and 7, a continuation

Take a moment to think about all the luxuries and pleasures in our world…..the fancy hotels you want to stay in, the fine restaurants you would like to eat at, the beach resorts and spas you would love to visit, the designer clothes, luxury and sport cars and so on.  All these items and experiences are the work of humans, and they are limited by our capabilities and imagination.  Now compare that to the pleasures and luxuries that God Almighty, who is limitless in his knowledge and capability, has prepared for you in Paradise.  Everything pales in comparison.  God says describing the heavens:

There they will have whatever they wish, and with Us there is yet more (50:35)

In paradise, not only will you find what you desire the instance it crosses your mind, but the Lord will also furnish you with unexpected pleasures that you have not known, or even thought of before.  All of this…..all the descriptions of paradise in the Quran are only a metaphor, so that you may picture the pleasures of the hereafter in your mind.  In reality, heaven contains that which no eye has seen, no ear has heardand no man hasever imagined.

An idea or a concept must exist in one's mind first in order to express it through words.  For example we did not know the name of the television, or the mobile phone until it was invented and introduced.    Similarly, there aren't any words in any human language that express the pleasures of paradise because no eye has seen these pleasures, and no mind has conceived them.  Therefore, everything we recite in the Quran only approximates the luxuries of paradise and does not provide us with true details as mentioned in the following verse: 

A likeness of Paradise which the God-revering, pious are promised is this: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; and rivers of milk whose taste never changes; and rivers of wine delicious for the drinkers; and rivers of pure, clear honey. And in it there are also fruits of every kind for them, as well as forgiveness from their Lord.  Are those who will enjoy all this like the ones who will abide in the Fire and be given boiling water to drink, so that it rends their bowels? (Chapter 47: Verse 15)

As you can see, this not the actuality of paradise, it is only a resemblance so our minds can perceive it.  

In "The Opening", we begin our supplication in verse six by asking God to guide us to paradise.  Then we appeal to Him to protect us from falling from his path and to help us stay away from those who have angered him.  We recite: ‘Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom You have blessed, Not the way of those who earned Your anger, nor those who went astray’.   

How does one earn God’s anger? You may ask.  It is through constant and repeated transgression and wrongdoing despite receiving God’s guidance.   An example is given in the following verse:

Say: Shall I point out something to you much worse than this, judging by the treatment it received from God? Those who received the curse from God and His anger, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped Evil and false gods— These are worse in rank, and far more astray from the even Path (5:60)

This verse refers to a tribe from the Israelites around the time of Prophet David.  They had received God’s message and believed in it.  However, they earned His anger by repeatedly devouring people’s rights and altering the scriptures in order to obtain temporary wealth and power. 

The last part of our supplication in ‘The Opening’ states: (nor of those who went astray).  This phrase alludes to two types of people: those who lost their way, and those who mislead others.  

The person who loses his or her way acts and indulges without taking the hereafter into account.  The words 'astray' or 'lost' are typically associated with a road, meaning a person who goes on a journey while not knowing or losing track of the destination.  As for the one who misleads others, he or she is not content by abandoning God’s path, rather this person strives to tempt and drag others in the wrong direction as well.  All sinners will come on the Day of Resurrection burdened with their own sins, except for the misleaders; they will come bearing their sins and the sins of those whom they led astray as the mentioned in the following verse:

Hence, they will bear their own burdens in full on the Day of Resurrection and some of the burdens of those whom they, being ignorant, caused to go astray. Look now! How evil is the burden they load upon themselves (16:25)

Note that in "The Opening",you ask for God’s protection from being amongst those who went astray, but you do not explicitly mention the word (misleaders).  This is because a person must be astray first in order to become a misleader.  Hence, seeking God’s protection from misguidance protects you from both: being astray and from misleading others. 

Now, as we come to the conclusion of this chapter, we follow Prophet Muhammad’s example.  He was taught by the Angel Gabriel to say “Amen” after reciting "The opening".  Keep in mind that "Amen" is from the words of Gabriel to the Messenger, not from the words of the Quran.  It means "Lord, Accept our supplication when we said ‘Guide us to the straight path. The path of those whom You have blessed’.   This is because our need for guidance and protection does not end by asking for them; rather we also need to ask for acceptance of our supplication.  The word ‘Amen’ fulfills this need.  

The same applies during congregation prayers.  When the leader of the prayers (also known as Imam) finishes reciting "The Opening",  we say "Amen" because the supplication the imam recited in the last two verses also applies to all those who follow him in prayer.  When Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) supplicated the Lord to destroy the wealth of the people of Pharaoh, God Almighty replied in the following verse:    

God said: The prayer of you both has indeed been accepted, therefore continue in the right way and do not follow the path of those who do not know. (10:89)

Note that, while Prophet Moses was the one who supplicated, God addressed both Prophets Moses and Aaron (peace be upon them) in response.  This is because, prophet Aaron followed his brother’s supplication by saying ‘Amen’, and thus he became one of the supplicants.