There is a popular lecture that Sh. Suhaib Webb (ha) gave on Sura Fatiha a while ago that gives us a taste from the overflowing waters of knowledge and purity of the Qur’an. Insha’Allah for my own and other peoples benefit I provide these notes to his lectures.

Sura Fatiha or (Chapter 1: The Opener)

“Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds
Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment.
Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way,
The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.” (Chapter 1: The Opener)

Sh. Suhaib started this lecture by stating that he relied on certain books:
Madarij As’Salikeen-“The Stations of those going to Allah,” Ibn Qayyim
Ihya Uluum Ad’Deen– “The Renewal of the Religious Sciences,” Imam Ghazzali
Mukhtasas fi Tazkiyat-ul-Anfus– “Specilization in Purification of the Souls,” Syed Howa
And the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Tabari, Qurtobi.

These are giant works in both exegesis and purification of the soul that can lead one to develop a relationship with the Quran and the One who brought it down.

Hasan Al-Basari (ra), stated that: “God Almighty sent hundreds of books and condensed them into four books, and those four books are all condensed into the Qur’an, and the Qur’an is condensed into Mufassil or the 49th chapter to the final chapter, and that is condensed into the chapter of Fatiha, which is condensed into the verse, “To You alone do we turn in worship, and to You alone do we seek all help.”

When we approach anything in life we should know its names and its definitions so we may have a clearer understanding of it. Sura Fatiha has 33 names which signify its importance and comprehensiveness.
Some of the names of Fatiha that were mentioned:
1. Umm al-Kitab-“The Mother of the Book” for its central role in Qur’an.
2. Shifa’– A “Healing” for the sick in heart and physical body.
3. Kafiya– The “Sufficient” sura.
4. Wafiya– The “Complete” sura.
5. Salah– “Connection” because it connects you with the Creator and helps you create a relationship with Him.
6. Dua’– “Prayer” because this Sura is also a prayer, and is “oft recited.”
7. Aa’dham al-Sura– “The Greatest Sura” for all its immense qualities and attributes.

The Fatiha is comprehensive because in this short Sura one finds all the goals of Qur’an condensed and encompassed.
1. Tawheed: Reflected in verse 1-3. He is the Rabb(Lord), His attributes are Rahman-er-Raheem(Most Compassionate, Most Beneficient), and He is the Owner of the Day of Recompense.
2. A promise and a warning
3. Correct concept of worship
4. How to purify the soul
5. Story and news
i. Those who Allah Favored
ii. Those who earned His anger
iii. Those who went Astray

Scope of Fatiha Regarding Worship

Regarding when Fatiha was revealed there is some dispute. Some say it was revealed in Mecca and some say it was revealed in Medina and both bring their evidences.

– The Salaf stated that Fatiha was revealed in Mecca. Surat al-Hijr, speaks of the 7 oft repeated verses, “And We have bestowed upon thee the Seven Oft-repeated (verses) and the Grand Qur’an”(15:87)
– Hadith in Sahih Muslim relates on the authority of Ibn Abbas (ra), “While Jibril (as) was sitting with the Prophet (p.b.u.h) a sound was heard from above. He raised his head and Jibril said: “This is a door in heaven opened today, it was never opened before, and an angel descended from it. This is an angel coming to the earth who never descended before.” Then he greeted and said : “Be happy, for two lights have been given to no other Prophet before you. The Opening Sura and the last ayat of Sura Baqarah. Every letter you read of it you will be rewarded for it.”

Ibn ‘Atiya (ra) resolves this by stating that Fatiha has the distinction of being revealed twice.

The question is why, for what purpose or wisdom was Fatiha revealed twice?

It was sent twice to show the comprehensiveness of worship. This becomes clearer when we see the transitions and growth of this deen from the Meccan to the Medinan periods. In Mecca we have only one ritual practice and when it was revealed again in Medina, He is talking about Jihad, Laws, and other additional acts of worship that were not present in Mecca.
Meccan Suras                     Medinan Suras
1. Tawheed                          Contains same six points but adds a few more laws
2. Revelation                       concerning Ahl-Kitab, Jihad, etc.
3. Prophethood
4. HereAfter
5. Sacrifice
6. Emotions

Essentially ‘Ibada (worship) is a term that comprises everything Allah loves (Jaami’ li-Kulli maa yuhibu-Allah).

Explanation of Fatiha and it’s Effects on the Soul

In Islam we don’t have an abstract idea of spirituality. It is something very real and concrete. It is tangible.
The evidence for tazkiyatul nafs (purification of the soul) is found in the Sharia (Islamic Law).

Ibrahim (as) makes his dua’ (prayer) for the children of Isma’el and that region from which we can deduce four points,
“Our Lord! and raise up in them a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Thy signs and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them; surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise.” (2:129)
1. Read Your verses
2. Book
3. Wisdom (Sunna)
4. Purify them

In the same Sura we see the realization and manifestation of this dua’,
“Even as We have sent among you a Messenger from among you who recites to you Our signs and purifies you and teaches you the Book and the wisdom and teaches you that which you did not know.” (2:151)
Here we see that Allah has taken tazkiyah from #4 to #2 in the order of the verse, this is repeated in Sura Jumua and Al-e Imran. The purpose for this elevation in the order is to highlight the importance of tazkiyah.

The Sura Shams also relates the importance of tazkiya. In this Sura Allah swears by many things of His creation. Whenever Allah swears by something it is always to emphasize a point, there is always a Jawab al-Qasim or answer to His swearing. In this Sura Allah swears eight times in order to mention and highlight the soul and the importance of purifying it. By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour; By the Moon as she follows him; By the Day as it shows up (the Sun’s) glory; By the Night as it conceals it; By the Firmament and its (wonderful) structure; By the Earth and its (wide) expanse: By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;- Truly he succeeds that purifies it, And he fails that corrupts it!” (91:1-10)

The tazkiyah of the nafs is intricately related to the tazkiya of the heart. As the Prophet (pbuh) related to us that, There is a piece of flesh that if it is clean the whole body is clean. That is the heart.”

In Sura Ibrahim Allah gives us a parable,
“Seest thou not how Allah sets forth a parable? – A goodly word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens,- of its Lord. So Allah sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition.” (14:24)
According to Ibn Abbas (ra), this is a simile of a believer. The foundation, the “root” is the heart and the branches that reach up to heavens are the actions, i.e. the fruit, of the believer whose heart is “saleem.”

All the true Tariqas of Tasawwuf (Paths of Sufism) are based upon Sharia’. It is important to guard the Sharia’ and the leaving of it is a form of corrupting the soul. As both Shakyh Abdul Qadir Jilani and Junaid Baghdadi (ra) stated that, “Our Path is built upon the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger” (“Tariqatuna mabniyun ‘ala Kitab-ul-Allah wa ‘ala Sunnat-ir-Rasool”).

Sura Fatiha, the title itself is indicative of purification of the heart. As the word Fatiha, is an Ism Fa’il which indicates that it means more than just “Opening” as it is usually translated and actually means the “Opener.” It is the Sura that Opens up the hearts.

Sura Fatiha begins in the 3rd person, from verse 1-3, then switches to the 1st person. This is a very interesting aspect of the Sura and Ibn Kathir mentions this.
Verse 1-3, mentions Tawheed and the three aspects of Tawheed:
V.2-Names and Attributes
V.3-His Actions, no one can judge like Him.
Ibn Kathir says, when you recite “Alhamdu” (All praise…) you have taken a step closer to Allah as you have approached Him by His Lordship, and when you recite “Ar’Rahman-er-Raheem” (The Beneficient, The Compassionate) you have taken another step towards Allah as you have approached Him by His names and attributes. Some Ulema have said regarding this verse and the attribute of Rahman that it is in fact a synonym for Allah and not an attribute. It is an actual name.
So then you recite “Maliki Yawm-e-Deen” (Owner of the Day of Recompense) and you have approached Him through His actions and taken a step closer to Him and then the next verse it switches from third person to first person and it is as if you are in front of the Most High and Glorious and you are speaking and asking of Him directly.

You approached Allah through His Oneness and in verse four the door of dua’ is opened. This is also a teaching on the adab and correct way of making dua’.

These were the gems I gleamed from these lectures as pertaining to Surah Fatiha, but there was a lot more ground that Sh. Suhaib Webb covered and I would recommend you listen to the actual lectures to get the full taste. He covers: How to Approach the Qur’an, The attacks of Shaytan, the disease of arrogance and many other things.