Al-Fatiha is the perfect template for du’a. It can be viewed as a prayer within a prayer since it is obligatory to be recited as a supplication in each unit of every regular prayer. In this manner, it builds the awareness and the skill of performing du’a.
Prophet Mohammad (S) designated it as the “mother of the book.” One may interpret this as an incentive to aspire for the climax. In fact, the name Al-Fatiha is derived from “al-fatih” which means liberation, and so Al-Fatiha opens before us all the possible venues and hopes for development and advancement in life.
We will approach Al-Fatiha in an organismic rather than a mechanistic manner. This means that the whole is more than the sum of the individual parts. Each verse is looked at as a Unit, and the seven units of Al-Fatiha collectively construct a complete unit or template.
In preparation for Al-Fatiha, like with other chapters in Qur’an, we start by declaring that Allah is our ultimate refuge: “When you do read the Qur’an, seek Allah’s protection from Satan, the rejected one.”[16:98] Why is this necessary? Man lives an active and dynamic life full of challenges and conflicts. Foe must be precisely separated from friend. The foe, exemplified by Satan, is obstructive, deprived of mercy, and fails to give and deliver. On the other hand, Allah is man’s real Friend. He assists and supports, and is Merciful, Compassionate, and All-giving. Mercy and Compassion, emphasized in unit one (Aya 1), are essential for human journey to be fulfilled and the guarantee for the human beings to reach safely their destination.
In unit two (Aya 2), al-hamd is the highest level of human gratitude, the invocation of their aspired destination, and the realization of real victory and liberation: “And their last supplication will be: Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds.” [10:10] Allah is known to people through His many and various names. Allah is not the property of any one individual or group. He is the Lord of all worlds, known and unknown, seen and unseen. Since Allah is the ultimate and the loftiest goal of the human endeavor, a widespread assistance from all the worlds is required to get closer to Him.
Unit three reflects the awareness of the long and difficult journey and the lofty goal ahead. Mercy and compassion are needed all through. Every time mercy is exercised by man, the environment of mercy is enlarged and intensified.
Unit four fosters the ability to invoke the Judgment Day while we are still in this world. It should not be denied, for the repercussions of its denial are closely observed and experienced in social life: “What led you to hell-fire? They will say: We were not of those who prayed, nor were we of those who fed the indigent, but we used to follow the vain talkers, and we used to deny the Day of Judgment.” [74:42-46]
As we reach unit five, we have already known the God that we worship and truly ask for support and assistance in order to achieve real victory, liberation, and permanent happiness.
In unit six, we reach in a crescendo manner the peak of our supplication. Here we see the human beings in the heart and in the midst of the movement. They are interested in moving with each other along a shared path. The movement is collective, and hence the supplication is collective. It is the supplication of the “umma” who has the perfect vision and definition of its path.
Unit seven shows the significance of the action and the direction of the action. The path is straight, aiming at the ultimate show of gratitude. The path is also independent of the foe and those who are immersed in wrath. At the end, there is an implicit invitation to look for and after those who are lost and have missed the straight path. They, indeed, need our help.
By Dr. Walid Khayr