Tafsir Surah al-Fatiha and the concept of Tawhid

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Below is a translated extract by Mohammed Iqtedar from the Urdu book ‘Tafsir Surat-al-Fatiha awr Ta’mire-Shakhsiyyat’ by Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri.

From the dawn of humanity, people have been the victims of a variety of errors in matters of belief which is often due to ignorance in the following fundamental truths:

  • Tawhid (belief in the oneness or unity of Allah)
  • Risalah (belief in the Messengers of Allah)
  • Akhirah (belief in life after death)

Prophets and Messengers were sent to people in every age so that they might be granted true knowledge and tread the path of truth. Without contemplating tawhid, man could not have known his true origin and state. Without contemplating risalah, man could not have based his life and deeds on the correct way and without contemplating akhirah, man could not have understood the repercussions of his life and the necessity to live it in the correct manner. As it were, the knowledge of these three truths was so important that without it the beginning of human existence, its purpose and consequences would all have remained unknown and hidden. Human intellect has been engaged in conjecture and forming opinions with reference to these very three very concepts, whereby various philosophies, notions, conceptions and religious faiths have sprung into being.

The first three verses of Surat al-Fatiha clearly rectify the aspect of faith in human existence.  It throws light upon the three concepts mentioned above, since in reality these concepts form the basis of man’s complete faith structure.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds

The first ayah of Surah al-Fatiha not only states the tenet of tawhid but is itself a solid proof of tawhid. Here two things have been confirmed about Allah Almighty: His deservedness of praise since He is alone befitting and worthy of praise; and Him being the providence of everything as He alone is the sovereign and cherisher of all creation.

Al-Hamd (all due praise) means to describe ones virtues and it is a recognition of excellence. Worship has been made the most dignified form of praise. In reality, there is only a minority who are even worthy of ordinary praise. It can, henceforth, never be possible for anyone to be worthy of the most dignified and exalted form of praise; that being worship. This is why the Divine Essence, which is befitting of complete praise, is the only being entitled to be worshipped and contemplation of this is called tawhid.

The same verse also mentions Allah’s providence over all of creation. The significance of the creator, sovereign and cherisher of the universe is contained in the term ‘rabbil-alamin’ (Lord of the Worlds). This quality lays the foundation of tawhid since it is this being which is the creator of everything, the sovereign of mans existence which holds the power over life and death and is responsible for human sustenance.  In response the submissive and humble forehead of man can only bow down with gratefulness and gratitude before Him and none else. The very first words of Surah al-Fatiha acquaints man with this reality so that he may not think that his life came into being of its own accord. Rather he should know that Allah is responsible for exalting him and Allah alone has conferred upon him the honourable robe of existence. Man should thus be grateful to Him under all circumstances and continuously praise Him.

The Holy Qur'an, in another place, has used this very proof in support of the concept of tawhid. The command of Allah, the Most High, in the Qur'an is:

"O Mankind! Call to mind the Grace of Allah unto you! Is there a Creator, other than Allah to give you sustenance from Heaven or Earth? There is no God but He.  How then are you deluded away from the truth?" (Surah Fatir 35:3)

This splendid reasoning has been presented through mention of Allah's own khaliqiyyah (act of creation), His providence, His favours and kindness and is contained in the first verse of Surah al-Fatiha. In another place, it is commanded:

"O you people! Adore your Guardian Lord, who created you, and those who came before you.  That you may have the chance to learn righteousness. Who has made the Earth a resting place for you. And the Heavens your canopy; And sent down rain from the Heavens; And brought forth therewith fruits for your sustenance. So set not up rivals for Allah when you know (the truth)." (Surah al-Baqarah 2:21-22)

In these verses, Allah Almighty’s khaliqiyyah, providence and blessings have been established as evidence of tawhid. The contemplation of this aspect perfects a person's faith that the sole originator and sovereign of all of creation is Almighty Allah. All types of existence for example the moon, sun, stars, fire, air, water, earth, stones, animals, humans and angels who have been worshipped through the ages in various ways are all the originations, makings and cultivations of Allah Almighty. This is why none of them is fit to be even conceived of as a deity. As there is only one creator, sovereign and cherisher so there is only one who is worthy of worship and it is Allah Almighty. Surah al-Fatiha's first statement that "Allah is the Lord of everything and all the universe is His creation and subject to his Lordship. It unveils the reality that no existence in worldly life can be more prosperous than His divine essence. This crown is only befitting for the Lord of the Worlds and for none else but Him.