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Lesson 7

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Lesson - 7


Bis-mil-laa-hir Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Al-ham-du lil-laa-hi Rab-bil aa-la-meen. All Praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,
Ar-Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem The Beneficent, the Merciful,
Maa-li-ki yaw-mid-deen. Master of the Day of Requital.
Ee-yaa-ka na -bu-du wa ee-yaa-ka nas-ta- een. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Ih-di nas si-raa-tal mus-ta-qeem Guide us on the right path,
Si-raa-tal la-zee-na an- am-ta a-lay-him. The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours,
Ghay-ril magh-doo-bi a-lay-him wa-lad-daal-leen. Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.

Closeness to God achieved through Islam

Today we will discuss the last two verses of this magnificent and comprehensive prayer, Al-Fatiha. In the previous lesson, I have discussed in detail the verse, "The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors," and it was pointed out that these were the people who attained the purpose of their creation, i.e., Allah Almighty. Whosoever achieves this goal is successful in this world and the Hereafter. He does not have any sadness, worry or desire left, because he has found the perpetual peace and happiness which exists only in a relationship with God.

All religions have made this claim that they have come to inform people about God, and to help them establish a relationship with Him. There is no doubt that when these religions first came into existence, they were actually revealed by God to fulfill this purpose. Today, however, there does not exist within them a path which leads directly to God, nor can He be reached by following them. For example, association with God has crept into their beliefs. Belief in One God lays down before mankind only the objective of reaching Him. Polytheism, on the other hand, presents the concept of many gods before man. Which one of these various deities should he be searching for? None of these religions today can, therefore, truly claim to have found God. In the beginning, when the straight path (siraat al-mustaqeem) did exist within them, those who followed their teachings were able to establish a relationship with God. An affirmative sign of this was that He would communicate with them. Today, none of the followers of these religions can make such a claim, nor can they submit evidence that they are recipients of Divine communion in the form of ilham or wahy (revelation from God). According to an Urdu couplet of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (Reformer of the 14th Century Hijra):

We have tasted this fruit only from the garden of Muhammad.

The Perfect Model of Righteousness

Now only by following Islam, the guidance of the Holy Quran, and the living example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, people of different time periods can become closer to God to the extent that He communicates with them. In this age of materialism and atheism we have witnessed a shining example of this in the life of the Reformer of the 14th century, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. A living proof of this are the thousands of Divine revelations (ilhams) and true visions bestowed upon him, which are available in print. A great number of these were fulfilled during his lifetime, and there are many that continue to do so even today, after his death. It is essential to mention over here "those upon whom favors are bestowed," and their leader, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who once again pointed out the straight path to the world. He was the one to whom the Al-Fatiha was revealed, and he reached his exalted spiritual status by acting upon its guidance. By following, "Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help," he not only became the perfect exemplar of one who serves with humility, but also the best of mankind and foremost of all prophets. Who else is there who not only became beloved of God himself, but also led others in this direction? Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has described this beautifully in one of his Persian couplets:
"In the person of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, all excellences of prophethood have reached their full manifestation."
Therefore, he is inevitably the last of, and the seal of, the prophets (khatam an-nabiyyin). No deficiency remains behind to be fulfilled by another prophet. Think about the difficult task that was accomplished by the Holy Prophet Muhammad. He became the best exemplar for the whole of the human race, for all nations, and all ages till the Day of Resurrection. ‘O! Allah exalt Muhammad and those who follow him, and grant them peace and blessings.’

The Holy Prophet Muhammad was able to follow the straight path in this life and reach his destination with unparalleled success. The ultimate manifestation of this was the Mi‘raj (grand vision of Spiritual Ascension) of the Holy Prophet in which he was able to meet Allah face to face. A poet has put this so well in an Urdu couplet:

"During the night of the Mi‘raj you ascended above all the spiritual heavens, and the status you achieved was not attained by any other prophet."
Also observe (by reading his life history) how well he imbued himself in the color of Allah’s attributes described in the Al-Fatiha. "All praise be to Allah" was not only a part of his physical recitation, but he became a living manifestation of it.

The Holy Prophet, according to Hazrat Ayesha (his wife), emulated the Divine attributes described in the Holy Quran to such an extent that: "His character was the Holy Quran." If prophets before him described it as "coming of the Lord," this was the reason for it. He manifested the coloring of the Lord of the Worlds (Rabb-il-aalameen) to such an extent that he became the mercy for all nations (Rahmat-un lil-aalameen). The spiritual and moral nurturing of the whole world for all times is now dependent on his example. This is because he had the unique distinction of being the only prophet who, out of his great concern for all of humanity, cried and supplicated day and night for their spiritual and moral welfare, and for their well-being in this world and the Hereafter. It is for this reason that Allah Almighty has said more than once in the Holy Quran, "Will you kill yourself with this grief (that they do not come towards righteousness)." This was mentioned in the Holy Quran also with the intent that if we want to follow the footsteps of this holy person, we should also borrow a spark from the fire of his yearning, to ignite this flame in our hearts.

Along with his great concern for the human race, the Holy Prophet also left behind a legacy of priceless treasures in the form of his sunnat (example) and hadith (sayings) for the benefit of mankind. This knowledge was acquired by him through his extraordinary spiritual and moral progress. He thus became colored in the spiritual beneficence of Al-Rahman. His conduct was, therefore, purely selfless as the Holy Quran remarks, "I do not ask of you any return on this". Despite being completely imbued in the coloring of Allah, he did not give himself, or allow anybody else to give him, a status beyond that of a humble servant. Other prophets, though lagging behind him in spiritual status, were elevated by their followers to the status of a God or an associate with Him. Despite being a virtual ruler of his community, the Holy Prophet still kept himself and his household in a state of poverty and hunger. He did not ask anything in return for his service and benevolence to humanity. This is the meaning of being a servant of Al-Rahman, who provides everything for His creation without asking anything in return. If He asks for obedience with humility in return, it is for the benefit of mankind. Unless man serves Allah with humility, He is unable to nurture him spiritually, just like the parents of a child are unable to contribute towards his development unless he follows their guidance. Now consider the manifestation of the attribute of Al-Raheem in his character. It is provided in its most excellent form for the believer, as the Holy Quran states: "To the believers (he is) compassionate, merciful" (9:128). Those who joined the Holy Prophet and followed his footsteps, definitely benefited from his bounteous nature and mercy. We also witnessed the manifestation of the Divine attribute Maliki-yaum-id-deen (Master of the Day of Requital) in his conduct. Thus on the day when Makka was conquered, the day on which the victor and the vanquished were to receive their due, he magnanimously forgave all his enemies.

Those who did not Benefit from Divine Guidance

Now let us consider the last verses of this chapter Al-Fatiha:
"Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who went astray."
This is the prayer seeking protection from falling into the ways of those upon whom the wrath of Allah was brought down, or those who went astray. When truth comes into this world, those who are presented with it tend to fall into three categories. Those who accept it, and act upon it, are included in the description of those "upon whom Thou has bestowed favors." Some unfortunate ones, however, not only reject the truth, but also attempt to destroy it along with its followers. These people after being given ample opportunity for reform and repentance are destroyed by Allah. The word used for ‘destruction’ in Arabic, besides conveying the meaning of ‘to annihilate,’ also indicates the breaking of the power or hold of a people or nation. If Allah does not destroy those planning the destruction of truth, then truth itself and those that follow it would be eliminated. How could this be acceptable to Allah Who has, "power over all things"? Thus those who are destroyed, or whose power is eliminated, are the ones, "upon whom wrath is brought down." There is also the third category of people i.e., "those who went astray". These are the ones who either ignore the truth and remain persistent in their insubordination, or after having initially accepted the right path, they later on reject it. Because of their action in pursuing falsehood over truth, they are left by Allah to wander in their deviant ways.

The Prophet of Allah gave the example of the Jews as "those upon whom wrath is brought down." They did not accept Prophet Jesus (Isa), in fact tried to destroy him. He cited the Christians as an example of "those who went astray" because after accepting Jesus they elevated him to the status of Son of God, or in fact God. This is the way of excess or exaggeration (ifrat), the way of the Jews being that of diminution (tafrit), both of these being human weaknesses. Thus, for example, man either becomes totally engrossed in pursuit of worldly gain and gives up his religion, or follows the other extreme of becoming a monk, nun, or a sadhu (Hindu ascetic). The Holy Prophet said: "The best way of all is the middle course, which is the straight path." This is why the Muslims are enjoined in their daily prayers to ask for the straight path, so they can guard against the two extremes.

A Comprehensive Prayer

Al-Fatiha is such a broad and comprehensive prayer that it is useful for man in all his conditions and times of need. For example, for a student, "The Day of Requital" is the day when he sits for an examination. "Those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors" are the ones who qualified with flying colors. Those who do not succeed are the ones "upon whom wrath is brought down," and "the ones who go astray" are the ones who qualify with marginal grades and stray around in life with the hope of achieving success. I would like to give one other example of the general benefit of the Al-Fatiha, and then close this discussion. In the case of a surgeon who decides to operate on a patient, the day of surgery for both of them is the day of requital. Those upon whom favors are bestowed would include the surgeon who is successful, and the patient who regains his health. The condition of those upon whom wrath is brought down would occur when the patient dies, and thus is a source of disappointment for the surgeon and ruins his reputation. For the relatives of the deceased it becomes a day of irreplaceable loss and profound sadness. The state of those who went astray would occur when the patient did not die, but also did not fully recover.

Every individual has to face situations in life on a daily basis where he is at a loss in deciding the appropriate course of action. For example, in the case of a merchant making a crucial business decision, or a parent giving the hand of his daughter away in marriage, or a person trying to decide to travel to a certain destination. If one considers these situations under yaum-id-deen and asks for guidance towards the right path to avoid wrong decisions and pitfalls, it becomes quite apparent how helpful Al-Fatiha is in everyday life. In applying this to one’s mundane affairs one should not, however, forget that the most excellent meaning of Al-Fatiha is prayer for the moral and spiritual guidance of mankind. The answer to the prayer "Guide us on the right path" comes subsequently in the opening verse of Al-Baqarah:

"I, Allah, am the best Knower. This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guide to those who keep their duty."
The guidance asked for is thus provided by the revelation of the Holy Quran. One can, therefore, appreciate the immense spiritual grandeur of Al-Fatiha in answer to which the whole of the Quran was revealed.

Thus from whatever perspective we look at the saying of the Holy Prophet that "I have been given two blessings that no other prophet has received, Al-Fatiha and the last section (ruku) of Al-Baqarah," it is so true. I have endeavored to comment only briefly on Al-Fatiha, otherwise it is a sea of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, the treasures of which are limitless. "Glory be to Allah, all praise is His. Glory be to Allah, the Great."

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