Saturday, June 13, 2009

Kindle: Of Faith, Depression and Love of Him and Family

In His Name, The All Merciful, the All Forgiving
The Wadud, The Jabbar

For those whose loved ones
Struggle with depression, and their faith Oscillates

In the stillness of the night
The cold night, with patchy clouds
As the time for rest approached
Lingering thoughts, prayer, petition

When the head embraced the pillow
In the darkness of the room
He cried out His name from the heart
Did He even exist, he asked him-self
But, for a moment, it did not matter

What mattered was the invocation
Was on behalf of his loved ones
He knew that they held Him high
He knew that they were cognizant of Him
He knew that they had oriented to Him
He knew that they had set on a path and a journey
He knew that His attributes of perfection were raining down on them

His tears oscillated between several states
On the in-adequacy of invoking through their behalf
How could you, he asked him-self
A question put to him-self evoked a painful response
His heart kindled with shame, with the verse from the Quran
‘Mankind has been created in the best of creation,
Yet at the same time stoops to the lowest’
Ahhhh, the recitation of Sura at-Tin, the fig leaf
The lowest of the low he was
There was no doubt, he had no doubts
At this stage he could only look and gaze up and above

Choking with emotions, with teary eyes
With the pillow as his companion that silenced him
The other emotion, was that of pleading, to Him
It was strange, very strange
In one aspect, he believed that He existed
Only when he invoked on behalf of his beloveds
In the other aspect, he was doubtful
His faith was very weak
He doubted once again
And the doubt still lingers
When matters he thought of
Were related to his own self, his soul
He no longer cared for him-self

His pleadings were simple

O God, O Lord, I ask
I ask from You, not for my sake,
But for the sake of the one who love You
And Love you with an attentive heart
With an alert mind
With a polished soul
Grant them respite, grant them peace
Grant them a life of ease with him
Straighten their affairs, untie the knots

I know, O Lord, my words don’t mean much
There is a dichotomy in what I say and what I do
My Lord, this is not for me, this is for the loved ones
My love for them has transformed me
I see them through their words and deeds
That are to please You and You alone
Reminding me of You, a Loving God
But he has a difficult time holding on to this rope
Ya al-Wadud, Ya al-Jabbar

Forgive me O Lord,
Would you accept my love of them
As a token of my love for You?

Would you take all the good deeds I have
And bestow them to my loved ones

I don’t know of what other way to love You
To show an appreciation of you
To admit that there is a kernel of truth
Or a kernel, that would testify to my
Own acceptance of you, as a Sovereign Lord

My heart aches
When she is home with the children
My heart yearned yesterday to relieve her, to comfort them all
My heart ached yesterday
When his sufferings and struggles
Are a burden to her, and the children

I Lord, my soul is dark, my heart is weakened and my intellect
It has succumbed to depression
I just want to sit down in the ruins of a tavern
And be left in a state of ignonimity

Served as a reminder, of One who
Who is struggling with surrender
Who is struggling to surrender
Alas !!! even my age betrays me now
My health in a condition that belies matters
Of the self healing powers through the love
The Love of You O dear Lord

O dear Lord, this is for my loved ones
Make me not a source of grief and anxiety for them
Make me not a source of regret for them
Make me not … make me nothing

Let me not be ruined in the tavern of sadness
Brought about by separation
Separation from love
The love of them
The love of You through them
I have not recognized You
I have not recognized them

Alas ! madness prevails
I yet, hold onto You
I will hold onto You

Shukr Alhamdulillah Ya Rabbil Alamin
Ya Wadud, Ya Jabbar, Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim

Kindle: Words that are Unspoken

In the Name of the Highest
The All Loving (al-Wadud), asketh nothing in return
The Mender of Broken Affairs (al-Jabbar)

It is said, that words un-spoken carry meaning
A meaning only under-stood between hearts of hearts
Yet, it is also said, that words inscribed, give life

For what is life giving, is the interplay of characters
It creates a world of its own, of words giving life
The interplay of characters, speaking with each other
The ability to create a world, out-side ones immediate existence
Where one is comfortable, where one takes solace

The wonder of it lies, that if one is the author, one knows the end
As the words come alive, and the story un-folds, the end also changes
It is an oscillation between states, of tears rolling, of heart yearning
For a comfort, a warm embrace, for empathy, for kindness

One holds on to the book, one reads it in its different phases
One even asks the other to read and understand it from their perspective
It is a remark-able journey, of a legacy left, to the un-born souls
As the story un-folds, ones existence, in different planes of reality
One authored, created by the Creator, and the other from the creation
This is where wills collide, this is where submission is sought

The wish is to be consumed in the story narrated by His creation
An escape from reality, a reality that might be at odds

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be …………………….

Kindle: Time and Thought Transcendent

In the Name of the Highest
The Source of Love Abundant
The Source of Strength Unfaltering

In Living Memory
My bearish brother, adorable sister in law
Not to forget, the rambunctious Children

To think of some one
Is to transcend the reality
A reality based on the physical
A reality of the mundane
A reality that restricts
A reality confined within
Restriction and confinement
But in what?
In ‘Time’, dear friends, lovers

My dear friend, lovers
We think beyond Time

To envision of some one
Is also to transcend reality
A reality based on the physical
For even a brief moment
Of the closure of the eyes
Breaks the barrier of the physical
And the person appears before us

My dear friend, lovers
We envision beyond Matter

To pray for some one
Is to connect through the One
The One who is Transcendent
He becomes the source of it all
Then, the act of prayer for the other
Thus becomes an act of worship
For He Him-self declares
‘To remember of some one for My Sake
Is to Visit Me’
‘To remember of some one for My Sake’
Whether they be
Connects us to each other
Through and through Him

May God be the source of Our Connection
Always and Always, Amen, Rabbil Alaameen

Kindle: A Mothers Statement, 'My Daughter is Amazing"

In His Name, The All Merciful, The All Forgiving
The All Loving, asketh nothing in return
The Mender of Broken Hearts

An interaction between mother and daughter Witnessed
It was a union of Hearts

Elated was her state, bright were eyes
Her face reflected everything
That one would want to see
A sense of pride, a sense of confidence
It was a state of mother-hood, joyous

Encapsulated in the words for her daughter
‘She is Amazing ……’

Amazing, Indeed, by His Grace

They both had reached out to each other
They knew of each others states
One spoke of it recently, and the other
The other, spoke in past, hidden terms
There was an aura of maturity
There was an aura of sensibility
There was an aura of empathy
There was an aura of awareness
There was an aura of what would transpire

She said it again, for her daughter
‘She is Amazing …….’

Amazing, Indeed, by His Grace

There was a sense of similarity
It was the gentleness and the purity of her being
Of the younger one, and it radiated
One could not tell, who was the moon
One could not tell, who was the sun
Who was the source of light
Who was the source of radiance
Oh, foolish one, perhaps they are both
Both a source of light
How would you be privy of the intimacy
Of the bonds of parenthood and motherhood

I say it too, for her daughter
‘She is Amazing …….’

She is so to speak of what lies at the heart of matters
Matters of family
Matters that concern them all, but also them, the children
She reminds her mother, ‘Be Happy’
She knows, all else, will follow, By His Will
She knows, that time and tide will prove so
Time and tide will wait to bring it to her door-step


The mother says again
‘She is Amazing …….’

Amazing, Indeed, by His Grace

I can barely hold my breadth
I can barely hold my tears
To witness ones sense of vulnerability
To have it mirrored from ones love

The mother says again
‘She is Amazing …….’

Amazing, Indeed, by His Grace

What am I to do or say, my dear one

The one in motherhood
Fortuity indeed, blessings abundant
Light radiance, presence joyous
Words comforting, smile re-assuring

Let me say, O dear one

As amazing as your daughter is
So is the one who is the mother

Remind each other of it

Effaced, Effaced

Friday, June 5, 2009

Quran Commentary: al-Fatiha: Divine Providence [3 of 7]


Rabbul‑'Alamin: Lord of all Being

AFTER the praise of God, the chapter refers to four distinct attributes of God in succession‑‑Rabbul‑'Alamin (Lord of all Being), Al‑Rahman (The Compassionate), Al‑Rahim (The Merciful) and Malik‑i‑Yawmiddin (Master on the Day of Recompense). Since Al‑Rahman and Al‑Rahim are but two facets of one and the same attribute, the above four attributes may be reduced to three, viz. Rububiyat (Providence), Rahmat (Mercy) and Adalat (Justice).

The term Rabb like the term Ilah is an oft‑quoted common root for several words in the Semitic languages. In the Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic, it means Providence or Nourisher. Since the need for nourishment is of the basic needs of human life, the meaning given to the term Rabb as Providence or Nourisher may be regarded as but a natural first approach to God which the early Semitic mind could conceive of. The term was similarly applied to the teacher and the master or lord who in their respective spheres discharge the function of the Nourisher. For instance, the terms Rabbi and Rabbah were used in Hebrew and Aramaic for the Nourisher, the teacher and the master. A version of the term Rabii conveyed the same sense in the Coptic and Chaldean language, demonstrating incidentally the cultural affinity subsisting among the Semitic peoples of early times.

Anyway, in Arabic, Rububiyat means nourishing. But the term is to be conceived here in its widest sense, for in the opinion of some of the leading lexicographers, the term means, "to develop a thing from stage to stage in accordance with its inherent aptitudes, needs and its different aspects of existence, and also in a manner affording the requisite freedom to it to attain its full stature". If a person should feed the hungry or give alms to the indigent, it will be an expression of kindness, benevolence or favour on his part. But this will not amount to what is styled Rububiyat. Rububiyat is a process of tender or careful nourishment providing from moment to moment and from stage to stage all that one needs to gain the fullest possible development. And this process is always to be marked by the touch of tenderness; for, no activity which is not actuated by this' can claim to be regarded as Rububiyat.(In view of its expansive connotation, it has not been possible to suggest and exact equivalent to it in English. The original term Rubbbiyat is therefore retained in the English version.)
We may find an illustration, a comparatively poor illustration though, in the nursing of a child by the mother. When a child is born, it is but an active lump of flesh displaying an urge for living and for nourishment and direction. There then begins a lengthy process of love, of tender and timely care, and of unso­licited favours on the part of the mother. And this goes on till it develops adolescence, both of body and mind. Till then arise needs, not one or two, but numerous which have to be attended to. These vary or change from stage to stage; demanding, according to the nature of each stage, the requisite love and care and amenities of life. The wisdom of God has instilled into the mind of the mother these qualities of Rububiyat whereby she looks after the child from the day of its appearance till it enters the stage of adolescence.

When the stomach of the child cannot relish any food except milk, only milk is given. When it can bear stronger diet, such diet is provided. So long as the child cannot stand on its legs, the mother carries it, wherever she goes. When it develops the ability to stand, she holds its finger and helps it take steps one by one.

Rububiyat is thus a continuous process of providing one with all that it needs in every situation and at every stage.

Keep the above illustration in mind, hedged in though it is by its own limitations, and ponder over the limitless Rububiyat of Almighty God. To visualize God as Rabbul‑‑'Alamin or the Rabb of all creation is to conceive of Him as not only the Creator of everything in the universe but its nourisher and sustainer as well. The provision that He has made for the sustenance and growth of everything is made under a plan, so marvellous that every being is furnished with all that its particular nature demands for. its existence; and at the same time, it is furnished in a manner that takes cognizance of every changing situation and need. The ants crawl on earth, the worms push their way in mud , and dirt, the fish swim in water, the birds fly in air, the flowers blossom ingardens, the elephants wander in the jungle and the stars revolve in the heavens. But on every one of these, rests the protecting eye of Providence, and there is none that is denied its blessings.

Indeed, there are countless varieties of creation infinitesimally small in form that our naked eye cannot perceive them. For them, also, the Rububiyat of God has made the requisite provision for sustenance and growth with as much care as for the bulky elephant or the intelligent man. All this man can observe in his external world. Should he look into himself, he will notice that his life, at every moment of its existence, discloses a world of activity propelled by the Rububiyat of God.

On earth signs for men of firm belief; And also in your own selves: Will ye not then notice them? (Q:51:20‑1)

But distinction needs to be made here between the divine creation of the provisions of life and the function of Rububiyat. Forces and things there are which in their varied form are of value to the growth and sustenance of life. But the mere existence of them cannot be regarded as an act of Rububiyat. That is an expression of divine mercy or benevolence. It is not an expression of divine Rububiyat. They are the good things of life, denoting only creative activity. On the other hand, it is the method and manner of providing them or the system into which they are made to fit, which is Rububiyat, and it is under this system that whatever is needed for the existence and sustenance of every being is provided at appropriate time and in appropriate quantity, in order that the entire machinery of existence might run smoothly.

Life, for instance, needs for its sustenance water and humidity. We see around us in every direction storage of water in abundance. But its presence by itself will have no direct significance to life, unless it is available to life in a particular form and quantity at particular moments. We therefore find that a system is at work whereby water is formed and distributed in a particular style. This is Rububiyat. The creation of water, according to the Qur'an, is an expression of divine mercy, whereas it is His Rububiyat which lets this water come down to earth drop by drop and reach every corner of it only in particular seasons and particular quantity, and search out and quench even the tiniest particle thirsting for water.

And we send down water from the‑ heavens in its due degree, and We cause it to settle on the earth and We have power for its withdrawal too‑‑And by it, We cause gardens of palm trees and vineyards to spring forth for you, in which ye have plenteous fruits, and whereof ye eat. (Q:23:18‑9)

The Qur'an often refers to the value of the good things of life and the measure of each measured out to every living object, and thus points to the fact of life that nature provides everything in a particular measure and this under a particular system or plan.

And no one thing is there, but with Us are its storehouses; and We send it not but in settled measure.(Q:15:21) With Him everything is by measure. (Q:13:8) All things we have created after a fixed degree. (Q:54:49)

Mark! There is water on earth, but that is distributed in a particular manner. Why so? Why do the rays of the sun raise from the surface of the ocean sheets after sheets of water into the air, and why do the winds shake them so as to let them come down to earth in drops, and that in a particular season? Again, why is it that whenever it rains, it does so in a particular quantity, and in a manner that while a portion of it runs down the surface of the earth, a portion soaks into the earth to a particular depth? Why is snow found on the top of mountains in a particular season, and why does it melt in another and run down the mountains to form into huge rivers that meander over the plains, and water extensive areas of the earth?

Why should all this happen in a particular form and why not in any other? The Qur'an gives the reply. The Providence of God is at work in nature; and its purpose is to produce water in this particular fashion and arrange its distribution in this particular way. It is the Rahmat or the Mercy of God which produces water, but it is His Rububiyat or His attribute of providence which utilizes this water so as to give every living object its means of sustenance.

And one of His signs is that He sendeth the wind with glad tidings of rain, that He may cause you to taste His mercy, and that ships may sail at His command, that out of His bounties ye may seek wealth, and that haply ye may render thanks. (Q:30:48)

Mark that the things most needed in life are the things most profusely provided, and similarly, those needed in particular climes or in only particular situations are given local habitation and are limited in quantity. The thing primarily needed was air, for one can forego food and water for a while but can hardly live without air. Its provision therefore is so common and plentiful that there is hardly a corner of the earth from where it is absent at any moment. Next in importance is water, which next to air is the largest provision. In every part of the world rivers roam about on j the surface, and underneath the ground currents of water keep flowing. In addition, the atmospheric forces are at work to draw water out from the saltish ocean and sweeten it and store it in the air only to return it to the earth whenever it needs it. Next to air and water comes the need for food, and that is spread out in bounteous plenty over the entire globe, and there is not a species of creation which is not provided close at hand with its means of sustenance.

Ponder over this system of universal Providence, the mainspring of life and activity, and it will appear as if it is devised to develop life and sustain and protect every latent capacity therein. The sun is there to give light and heat and methodically draw out water from the ocean. The. winds are there to produce alternately coolness and warmth. Sometimes they waft particles of water up into the skies and spread them into layers of clouds; sometimes they reduce these clouds into water again, and bring it down. The earth is there to serve as a perennial storehouse of the means of growth and sustenance, and contains within its bosom life for every grain and growth for every plant. In short, the workshop of existence is incessantly engaged in this process. Every force is displaying its talent, and every cause is looking out for its result. The moment a thing develops the talent to grow, the entire mechanism of life turns its attention to it. The phenomenal activities of the sun, the cycle of seasons in all their moods, the forces of the earth, and the inter‑action of elements, seem intent on seeing when the egg of an ant delivers its offspring and the peasant's bag drops its grain.

And He hath subjected to you all that there is in the heavens and all that there is in the earth: all is from Him. Verily, herein are signs for those who reflect. (Q:45:13)

The strangest thing about this scheme of Providence, though the most patent, is its uniformity and the harmony underlying it. The method and manner of providing means of sustenance for every object of existence are the same every where. A single principle is at work in all things. The stone may appear different from the fragrant flower, but the two receive their sustenance in the same way and are granted growth in the same style. The child of a human being and the twig of a plant may look like belonging to two different orders; but if you look into the way in which they grow, and develop, you will find that a single system of life and growth binds them together. Whether it is a slab of stone, a bud of flower, a human child, or an egg of an ant, everything has its birth; but the means of sustenance for one and all are provided in advance as they emerge into life. And then there is for every one a stage of childhood calling for needs appropriate to that stage. That is common to the human child, as to the twig, the stone, and the mound of earth. Everything has its childhood. Then comes in, so to say, the stage of youth for everything and of adolescence, manhood, maturity and obsolescence. The principle of rise and fall in life is common to them all.

It is God who hath created you in weakness: then after weakness hath given you strength: then after strength, weakness and grey hairs: He createth what He will; and He is the Wise, the Powerful, (Q:30:54)

Seest thou not that God sendeth down water from heaven, and guideth it along so as to form springs in the earth, then bringeth forth by it corn of varied sorts, then causeth it to wither, and thou seest it become yellow, then crumbleth it away? Mark! Herein is instruction for men of insight. (Q:39:21)

Look at the provision of food. Among the animal kind there are some animals whose young ones feed on milk, while others feed on a variety of food‑stuffs. Ponder over this system of nourishment devised for them. Take the case of man. The moment he takes his birth, the food that he needs provides itself for him in the exact form that his condition demands, and is provided very close to him. The mother, in the intensity of her affection, hugs him to her bosom, and at that very place the child finds the fountain‑head of his means of nourishment. And then look at the manner whereby his graded needs are attended to, calling for a continuous variation in diet. It has to agree with the successive changes in his condition. In the beginning, the stomach of a child is so tender that a highly diluted form of milk, is needed for him. That is why the milk of the mother, even as among other animals, is very thin to begin with. But as the child, grows and his stomach becomes stronger as time passes, the milk of the mother gradually thickens; so much so, that as soon as the stage of infancy is over and his stomach develops the capacity to digest the normal food, the breasts of the mother dry up. This is the sign of Providence indicating that the child should no longer depend upon milk, but should be able to try every other form of food.

With pain his mother beareth him; with pain she bringeth him forth; and his bearing and his weaning are thirty months. (Q:46:15)

Again, ponder over the way in which the principle of Providence has ingrained in the very nature of the mother the love that she has to bear towards her child ‑ love which is the noblest of feelings that human nature is capable of displaying.

It is this love of the mother‑which inspires in her the noblest of sentiments. Till the child grows into manhood, she does not live for herself, but for her child. For her child's sake, there is no sacrifice too great for her to bear. Her very love of self pales into insignificance before her love for her child. Instances of motherly sacrifice are too common, and give no occasion for any surprise.

Look further at the system of Providence! As the child grows in years, the love of the mother for the child instinctively or gradually diminishes in intensity and a time comes when, though this feeling does not completely die out as among the lower animals, there is a distinct subsidence in its warmth. Why should it be so? Why is it that the moment a child is born, this great feeling of motherly love takes a sudden rise, and why, having lasted for sometime, it gradually subsides? This is so because such is the working of the principle of Providence, such the condition of its existence. Providence desires that the child in its helpless state should be nourished by others. It has therefore fixed the feeling of love in the mother as a motive force for the child's nourishement. When the child has reached a stage when it no longer needs the careful attention of the mother, the need for it also does not remain. In fact, its continuance will cause unnecessary strain to the mother and hinder the child's development. It is only at the infant stage that the child needs tender nursing. That is why the love of the mother is intense at such a stage. But as the child advances in years, the need for external aid of every kind diminishes. There is, no doubt, that the mother's love keeps the grown‑up man continuous company. But this has only a social value. It is no longer that instinctive care for him as it was in his infancy.

There is, however, a little difference between the nursing of a human child and that of an offspring of the lower living order. When, for instance, a chicken comes out of its shell, its constitution is different from that of the young one who needs to be fed on milk. It is from the very beginning inclined to live on normal or ordinary food, provided there is some one to show it the way. You will have noticed that the moment the chicken comes out, it feels the urge to seek out its food, and the mother then shows it how to pick out its food. Sometimes she herself picks out food for it, softens it within her stomach and when the chicken opens its mouth brings it out from within and puts it into its mouth.

Stranger than the outward aspect of this scheme of Providence is the inward aspect of it.

Whatever provision that one might find in the visible material aspects of life, they will be of no value to it, if each living object was not gifted at the same time with an inward talent to make the right use of the provisions afforded. The two are so designed that the forces at work within are endowed with the capacity to harmonize with the outward material provisions of life. There is no object of creation the constitution of which is repellant to the demands of its sustenance.

Of the facts of life which in this connection call for consideration, there are two to which, because of their importance, the Qur'an repeatedly draws attention. One is what is called Taqdir, the other Hidayat.

The meaning of Taqdir is `to assign' a particular role to everything, whether quantitatively or qualitatively. We therefore notice that every object is bound both in its outward and inward aspects by conditions warranted or fixed by its very nature and that these conditions are in perfect consonance with the variegated demands of its growth and development.

Everything bath He created And measured out to each its measure. (Q:25:2)

Why is it that every object takes its rise in an environment most congenial to it, or why should every object of creation, both in its inward and outward aspect, agree with the character of its environment, and vice versa? This is so, because such is its Taqdir or conditions of life fixed for each object in its interests by its Almighty and Wise Creator. The law of Taqdir is not confined to the animal or mineral world alone, but is applicable to every­thing in the universe. Even the world of planets is bound by this very law of Taqdir.

The aim rolls on along its prescribed path. This, the ordinance of the Mighty, the Knowing. (Q:36:38)

It is due to this law of compatibility that every object of creation finds in its environment all that it needs for its sustenance and development. The bird that flies, the fish that swims, the quadruped that walks and the insect that crawls, has each a body which suits its environment or such as that environment demands. You do not find a bird live in water or the sea, because it cannot supply the environment a bird needs. The fish does not take its rise on the dry land, because dryness is not agreeable to its life. If an object born in a certain environment rushes into another, it comes into conflict with this law of life, the law of Taqdir. It either ceases to exist, or if it continues to exist at all, it gradually develops a constitution and a disposition which conform to the character and behaviour of its new surroundings.

And then, each species is moulded to suit a particular environment. An object which takes its rise in a cold climate is meant to thrive only in that climate. The same is true of those that take their rise in hot climates. The beast thriving round the North Pole is not noticeable along the Equator. The animals of the torrid zone are not found in the frigid.

It means "to show the way, to give direction along a path, to guide"; and there are several forms of this, of which mention will be made in detail at a later stage. Here attention is to be drawn only to that systematized form of Hidayat which opens out for every object of creation appropriate avenues of nourishment, and which helps it to proceed along the path of life, and stimulates its wants and directs it to the means of its satisfaction. This Hidayat or direction of nature is indeed the Hidayat of Rububiyat. Were it not for this Hidayat implicit in Rububiyat, no object of creation would have profited by the means of sustenance and growth provided around it, and indeed life itself would have ceased to display its activities.

But what is this Hidayat of Rububiyat or of Providence? The Qur'an says that this is the instinctive urge of nature, or the talent inherent in sense perception. This is a direction of nature which at first takes the form of an instinct, and then functions as sense perception. Instinct and perception are but two of the forms this Hidayat assumes.

Instinct in the present context is that inward force which actuates a thing to be drawn by its own inward urge to its means of sustenance; it does not need any external direction or aid. The offspring of a human being or of an animal, the moment it is delivered from the womb of its mother, instinctively feels that its means of sustenance is in the breasts of its mother and forthwith draws itself to them. The moment it touches the nipple of its mother's breast, it automatically starts the process of sucking. We often see how the kittens, the moment they are delivered and even before they open their eyes and the mother is still licking at them, rush themselves to the breasts of their mother. See how the infant which has just come out into life and which has not as yet been affected by its external world, instinctively realizes that the breasts of its mother are the store‑house of its nourishment, and promptly reaches its mouth to them. What angel, so to say, is that which whispers into its ears that this is the way to find nourishment? Surely, it is its instinct. It is this instinct which guides the infant to its nourishment, before it is guided to it by its sense perception.

If you happen to have a cat in you house, you will notice what she does when she gets pregnant. Suppose this is her first experience. The moment she feels the time for delivery is approaching, she begins to search for a place of security for her offsprings‑to‑be. She ransacks every nook and corner of the house for the right place. Once she deliver her offsprings in that place, she seems to feel a sort of apprehension for their safety, so much so, that she shifts them from place to place. What is it which impels this cat to search out places of security for its coming offsprings or what is it that gives the idea to her that they would need security? What is that which lets her feels that the moment her offsprings come out, their enemy, the he‑cat, will be roaming about to sense and hunt them, and that she should change their place of security from moment to moment? Clearly this is the Hidayat, the instinct provided in the cat by the divine Rububiyat. This instinct is inherent in every living object to open out for it the way to life and its nourishment.

The next stage in this scheme of direction is that of the senses, and of the reasoning faculty. The lower animals, though they do not possess the intellect which helps reasoning and reflection, have in them the talent of sense‑perception to the extent they need in their particular spheres of life, by means of which they regulate and satisfy their wants of life‑‑their needs of habitation, food, reproduction and safety. But this talent in them is not uniform. On the other hand, it is given to each in proportion to its needs. The sense of smell is very acute in the ant; for, it is through this sense that it has to fetch its food. The sight of the eagle and the vulture is very keen, for otherwise it cannot locate its food from a height. It is unnecessary to find out whether this talent in the lower animals exists in them from the very day of their inception, or that it develops in them gradually in response to the demands of their environment. It is enough to know that this talent in them is the gift of nature, and that the law of growth and development is also a law fixed by it.

In short, such is the character of Nature's direction which the Qur'an designates as Wahi or the inspiration stimulated by the divine Rububiyat. In Arabic Wahi means intuition or inward prompting or revelation. Indeed, it is a sort of nature's inward whisper which suggests to every object of creation its way of life.

And thy Lord revealed to the bee: "provide thee habitation in the hills and in the trees and in the hives which men provide for thee" (Q:16:68)

And it is to this directive of Rububiyat that the attention of Moses was drawn when in reply to the question of Pharoah:

"Who is your Rabb?" He was made to say: "Our Lord is He who hath given to everything its particular form, and then directed its development?" (Q:20:50)

It is this directive quality of Rububiyat which is referred to as the smoothening of the passage of life in the following verse:

Of what did God create man? Out of moist germs he created him and fashioned in accordance with his nature And smoothened his passage in life. (Q:80:18‑20)

This "smoothening of the passage of life" is the direction of instinct with which every object is endowed. For, were it not for this direction of Nature, it would not have been possible for us to obtain our means of existence.

At a later stage of this work, you will come to know that the Qur'an speaks of four stages in the process of creative activity ‑Takhliq (bringing into being), Taswiya (giving it a proper mould), Taqdir (assigning to it a specific role) and Hidayat (guidance)

Praise the name of thy Lord, the Most High I Who hath created, and balanced all things, Who hath fixed their destinies, and grants them guidance (in the passage of life). (Q:87:1‑3)

It is for this reason that wherever the Qur’an speaks of the existence of God, His unity and His attributes, it seeks its evidence from the order of life subsisting in the universe. It is this analogical deduction which forms the distinguishing feature of the . method of presentation which the Qur'an observes. But before any exposition of this method is attempted, it seems desirable to explain some of the bases on which it rests. For, this aspect of the Qur'anic manner of presentation has, for reasons into which one may not go here, been greatly neglected in the past, and needs, therefore, to be traced afresh.

The primary and the most important feature of the method of presentation observed by the Qur'an is the appeal to reason that it makes. It lays repeated emphasis on the search for truth, and on the need of exercising one's reason and insight and of reflecting over the inward and the outward experience of life and drawing valid conclusions. In fact, there is no chapter in the Qur'an wherein it has not made an earnest appeal to man to reflect over everything.

On earth are signs for men of firm belief, and also in your own selves : will ye not then notice them? (Q:51:20‑1)

Man, says the Qur'an, has been endowed with reason and insight, and so, will he be held responsible for the proper exercise of this talent. Surely the hearing and the sight and the heart (of man), ‑each of these shall be questioned. (Q:17:36)

The Qur’an points out that in everything that the earth contains and in every scene which the heavens present, and in every aspect that life puts on, there are signs of deep import for man, if only he cares to notice them.

And many as are the signs in the heavens and on the earth, yet they will pass them by, and turn aside from them. (Q :12 :105)

What is the truth that dawns on man when he reflects over the working of the universe? The Qur’an says: the first thing that will strike him will be this, that there is a universal law of life, the law of Takhliq‑bil‑Haq or of creation in right form, which binds all things together. He will find that everything in the universe is so designed that it is linked to every other under a single principle of life, and that everything is fitted into this scheme for a specific purpose, and that nothing is created in vain. He will find that the entire order has a definite objective before it.

God hath created the heavens and the earth for a serious end Verily in this is a sign (of divine purpose) to those who believe. (Q:29 : 44)

In the chapter, Ale Imran, there occurs the well‑known verse

Our Lord! All this, Thou halt not created in vain. (Q:3:191)

In another place, the term Takhliq‑bil‑Batil is used as a synonym for tala'ub or mere sport.

We have not created the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in sport .We have not created them but for a serious end but the greater part of them understand it not. (Q : 44 38‑9)

The Qur'an itself gives an exposition of the term used in the above passage, the term Takhliq‑bil‑Batil, in more than one place. For instance, at one place, it draws attention to an aspect of its connotation which emphasizes that everything that exists does not exist without its value to life, and that Nature itself desires that whatever is to be fashioned, should be so fashioned that it must contain within itself all that it needs for its welfare.

In right form hath He set the heavens and the earth: It is of Him that the night returneth upon the day, and that the day returneth upon the night: and He controlleth the sun and the moon, so that each speedeth to an appointed goal. Is He not the Mighty, the Gracious ? (Q:39:5)

In another .place, while drawing attention to the benevolent working of the planetary system, the same term Takhliq‑bil‑Haq is employed.

It is He who hath appointed the sun for brightness and the moon for light, and hath ordained her stations that ye may learn the numbering of years and the reckoning (of time). God hath not created all this but for a serious end. He maketh his signs clear to those who understand. (Q:10:5)

Yet in another place, the term is used to mean the beauty of nature or to suggest that within the bosom of the universe or through and through it, there is at work a law of beauty or harmony which demands that everything that fashions or shapes itself within it, should be a thing of beauty or perfection.

He hath created the heavens and the earth in right form; and He hath fashioned you and given goodly forms. (Q:64:3)

In like manner, the Qur’an cites the law of causation as being implicit in the Takhliq‑bil‑Haq. Everything in this world has a talent appropriate to its role in life and which in its manifestation has to produce a specific result. These talents or characteristics and the results which flow from them are immutable. How then can we expect that the good or the evil character of our actions will not produce corresponding results ? Can the law of nature which discriminates between the good and the evil in everything fail to operate only in the field of human actions?

Deem they whose gettings are only evil, that we will dial with them as with those who believe and do right, so that their lives and deaths shall be alike ? Ill do they judge. In all truth hath God created the heavens that he may reward every one as he shall have wrought and they shall not be wronged. (Q:46:21‑2)

The 'life hereafter' or the life after death is also governed by same Takhliq‑bil‑Haq. Everything in the universe serves a purpose or moves towards a specific goal. So it is with the life of man which has a purpose to serve or a goal towards which it has to move. The goal is the 'life hereafter'. For, it is unthinkable that man should be created just to live for a few moments and then get completely annihilated.

Have they not considered within themselves that God With not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them but for a serious end and for a fixed term ? But truly most men believe not that they shall meet their Lord. (Q:30:8)

In short, the basis of the Qur'anic argument is as follows:

(1) At the time when the Qur'an was delivered, the concept of religion which prevailed everywhere was not only not allied to reason but rested on mere beliefs. The Qur'an on the other hand, came forward to let religion take its stand on reason.

(2) The supreme appeal of the Qur'an is to reason and the faculty of reflection. It invites everyone to study and reflect over the world of creation.

(3) It says that the secret of Takhliq-bil-Haq will disclose itself through the study of creation. It therefore calls on man to note that there is nothing that exists which has not to serve some purpose or other, and that everything fits into one supreme scheme of life. Everything is, in ways peculiar to itself, linked to every other under a definite system subserving a series of universal purposes.

(4) It says that when man reflects over those purposes, the way to reality will open out before him by itself and relieve him of all obsessions born of ignorance and intellectual and spiritual blindness.

In this connection it has to be pointed out that of all the manifestations of divine attributes which mark the course of the universe the most universal on which the Qur'an draws for its argument in support of the unity of God is that of Rububiyat. The very fact that the working of the universe should regulate itself in such a way that everything therein contributes to life and growth and provides for every situation and every condition, says the Qur’an, should instinctively raise the conviction in man that there does exist a being who provides life to the entire universe and looks after it and who for that purpose must neces­sarily possess certain specific attributes without the operation of which such a complete and flawless machinery of existence would never have taken its rise.

The Qur’an asks : Can the instinct of man ever impel him to believe that all this machinery of life has of itself come into existence and that no aim or purpose underlies it ? Is it possible that this machinery of existence which postulates clearly the hand of Provi­dence, has no design for it whatsoever ? Does this entire order of life owe its existence to just a blind and deaf Nature, a lifeless matter, or an insensitive electron, and not to a being possessing a will of its own and a directing intellect ?

If so, the position will be this. The function of Providence is at work everywhere, and this without an agent behind it. There is design in everything, and this without a designer. Mercy is dispensed, and this without a merciful dispenser. In short, everything is there, and this, without there being anything. The nature of man can hardly agree to believe that there can ever be an action without an actor, orderliness without a director, a plan without a planner, a building without a builder, a design without a designer, everything without the existence of anything. The very instinct of man cries out that such cannot be the case. His very nature is so constituted that it cannot but affirm. It has no room for doubt or disbelief.

The Quran points out that it is against the nature of man that he should ponder over the working of the universe and yet deny the existence of an all‑embracing Providence. The Qur'an says: Man can deny everything under the stress of indifference or arrog­ance, but he cannot deny his own nature. When he looks around and finds that the hand of Providence is at work everywhere, his very nature will cry out that what he beholds cannot exist without a Providence.

Be it noted that the method of presentation observed by the Qur'an is not to offer postulates or intellectual poses and to base its argument thereon. On the other hand, its appeal is to man's natural instincts and aptitudes. It points out that the sense of God is inherent in human nature. If one denies it through indifference, he needs to be warned against that indifference. But the method to employ for this should not wholly be intellectual in character. On the other hand, it should be such as could touch his heart also and rouse his conscience. Once that is done, he needs no argument to bring conviction to him. That will come to him as a matter of course. That is why the Qur’an cites man's own nature as an argument against himself.

Nay, man is a telling witness against himself, although he tenders excuses. (Q:75:14)

That is why the Qur'an repeatedly addresses itself to human nature and invites an answer from its very depths.

Say : Who supplieth you sustenance from the heavens, and the earth ? Who hath power over hearing and sight ? And who bringeth forth the living from the dead, and bringeth forth the dead from the living ? And who ruleth over all things ? They will surely say : " God ". Then say What I Will ye not therefore be mindful of Him? Such then is God, your true Lord : and when truth is gone, what remaineth but error? How then are ye so perverted (Q:10:31‑32)

The Qur'an asks further

Say: Is God the more worthy or the gods they join with Him ? In not He (the more worthy) who hath made the heavens and the earth, and hath sent down rain to you from the sky by which we cause luxuriant groves to spring up ? It is not in your power to cause the trees there to grow. What 1 A god with God ? Yea! They are people who ascribe equals (unto Him). Is not He (the more worthy) who hath set the earth so firm, and placed rivers in its fold and hath placed mountains upon it and set a barrier between the two seas ? What! A god with God ? Nay, most of them know not. Is not He (the more worthy) who answereth the oppressed when they cry to Him, and taketh off their ills, and maketh you to succeed your sires on the earth ? What! A god with God! Little do they reflect! Is not He (the more worthy) who guideth you in the darkness of the land and of the sea, and who sendeth forth the winds as heralds of His mercy ? What ! A god with God ? Far from God be, the Exalted High, what ye join with Him! Is not He (the more worthy) who projects creation, then reneweth it, and who supplieth you out of the heavens and the earth ? What! A god with God? Say: Bring forth your proofs if ye speak the truth. (Q:27:60‑64)

Every one of the questions raised here is a definite argument in itself ; for, to every one of these questions there is but one answer, and that is what human nature itself so forcibly furnishes. Our dialecticians of the past missed to take note of this. They failed to appreciate the Qur'anic method of presentation, and in consequence lost themselves in far‑fetched conceits.

The innumerable references made in the Qur'an to the means of life provided for every object in the universe and to the diverse aspects of its system of life and growth form, in fact, the basis of the Qur'anic argument.

Let man look at his food; It was We who (first) rained down the copious rains, Then cleft the earth with clefts, And caused the up‑growth of the grain, And grapes and healing herbs, And fruits and herbage. For the service of yourselves and of your cattle. (Q:80:24‑32)

Reflect here over the phrase, 'Let man look'. However indifferent man may grow, or avoid to face the realities of life, these realities will in their vast scope and universality always stair him hard in the face. One may shut his eyes to everything in the world; but he cannot shut them to the means of his own sustenance. Let him look at the food he places before himself. What is it ‑ a grain of wheat. Well ! Let him place that grain into the hollow of his hand and let him' think over what stages has it had not to pass through before it could emerge in its present form. Was it possible for this insignificant grain to have come into existence had not the entire frame‑work of life participated actively in its growth, and that, in a particular manner ? And when such a system of organised co­operation is at work, could it be said that it has no organizer to direct its operation ? In the chapter, Nahl, the argument is presented in another form.

Ye have (also) a lesson in the cattle. We give you drink of the pure milk from between dregs and blood, which is in their bellies ‑ pun beverage palatable to them that quaff it. And from the fruits of the palm and the vine, Ye get wine and healthful nutriment; in this, verily, there are signs for those who reflect. And. thy Lord hath revealed to the bee, saying 'Provide thee habitations in the hills, and in the trees, and in the hives which men do provide for thee. Feed then on every kind of fruit, and pursue the ways of your Lord." From its belly cometh forth a fluid of varying hues which yieldeth medicine to man. In this, verily, are signs for the thoughtful. (Q:16:66‑9)

Even as the Qur'an has cited the world of creation for a proof of the existence of a creator, so also, has it referred to the order of life and growth in the universe not only to prove the existence of a directing mind, but to establish that, even as this order is flawless and complete, so must be the mind that regulates it.

One may express this in plainer form. We notice that everything in this world needs sustenance and is provided with it. Surely, there must be some one who could provide it. Who then could it be t Certainly not the one who himself is in need of sustenance. Read the following verses where this method of argument is employed:
What think ye ? That which ye sow ‑Is it ye who cause it to grow, or do We cause it to spring forth ? If We pleased, We could so make your harvest dry and brittle that ye would lament and say: "Truly have we incurred expense, yet are we deprived of harvest". What think ye of the water ye drink ? Is it ye who send it down from the clouds, or We ? Brackish could We make it, if We pleased t Will ye not then be thankful ? What think ye of the fire you strike ? Is it ye who rear for it the trees or do We rear ? It is We who have made it as a remembrancer, and a benefit to the wayfarer of the desert. (Q:56:63‑73)

Likewise, the Qur'an bases its argument for divine unity on the order of life subsisting in the universe.

O men ! Adore your Lord who hath created you and tae who were before you : haply you may be mindful of Him. Who hath made the earth a bed for you and the heaven a covering, and hath caused water to come down from heaven, and by it hath brought forth fruits for your sustenance ? Do not therefore set up knowingly rivals to God. (Q:2:21‑2). O men ! Bear in mind the favour of God towards you. Is there a creator other than God who nourisheth you with the gifts of heaven and earth ? There is no god but He 1 How then are ye turned aside from Him. (Q:35:3)

In like manner, the Qur’an draws from this very order of divine Providence the principle of good and evil that is at work in the life of men, and draws also the argument for divine revelation. It is not conceivable that the God of all the worlds ‑ of all creation ‑ who has provided the means of physical growth and development for everything, should omit to devise a system or law of life which could attend to the spiritual needs of man. Even as in the realm of physical life, a system is provided to sustain the spiritual life of man and that is the provision of what is called divine revelation.

The revelation of the Book is from God, the Mighty, the Wise ! Assuredly in the heavens and the earth are signs for those who believe, And in your own selves: and in the animals scattered abroad are signs for those firm in faith And in the succession of night and day, and in what God sendeth down of sustenance from the clouds whereby He giveth life to the earth when dead, and in the change of the winds, are signs for a people of discernment. Such are the signs of God : with truth do We recite them to thee. But in what word will hey believe, if they reject God and His signs ? (Q:46:1‑6)

The Qur'an is certainly aware of those who doubt the principle of revelation.

No just estimate do they form of God when they say "Nothing hath God revealed to man". (Q:6:91)

For such, the Qur’an presents the analogy of the physical world so as to suggest by implication that even as the physical needs of man are provided in an organized form, so also there does exist an organized form of provision for his spiritual needs.

Verily God causeth the grain and the date stone to sprout forth: He bringeth forth the living from the dead, and the dead from the living! This is God! Why then, are ye turned aside from Him? He causeth the dawn to appear, and hath ordained the night for rest, and the sun and the moon for computing time ! The ordinance of the Mighty, the Wise! And it is He who hath ordained the stars for you that ye may be guided thereby in the darkness of the land and of the sea ! Clear have we made our signs to men of insight. (Q:6:95‑9)

Similarly, the Qur’an bases its argument for the life hereafter on the analogy of the visible, mundane system of divine Providence in the phenomenal world. A thing which has been devised with such meticulous care and circumspection has always a meaning to offer and purpose to serve. An object like the human being who is made to appear the best of objects on earth and for whose development so much has been carefully provided, is certainly not meant to be a thing which has no better purpose to serve than to strut on earth for a while and disappear for ever. The Creator of the universe who has created everything for a specific purpose will not throw away the best of his creation, viz., man, as a piece of no value or little consequence.

"What! Did you think that We had created you in vain and that ye should not be brought back to us ? " Wherefore, let God be exalted, the King, the Truth! There is no god but He ! Lord of the stately throne ! (Q:23:115‑6)

So far, we have presented the idea after the simple manner of the Qur'an. In the language of science, however, we may state that man is the latest and the noblest link in the process of creative evolution on the earth. If we look back across time to the very first impulses of life, the life on earth will be found to be an im­measurably lengthy evolutionary process aiming at and culminat­ing in the completion of man. In other words, Nature has taken billions of years in its endeavour to give shape to its noblest piece of art, viz., man. Visualize to yourself the far‑off distant event of the past when this planet of earth was thrown out of the moulten mass of matter, the Sun, and the long period that it must have taken to cool and acquire equable temperature and become fit for life .to grow thereon. Who knows how long did it take before the first germ of life, now called protoplasm, could emerge, or how long it took to mould a body for it, and carry it forward from a lower form to a higher, and so on, till it could assume its present human shape? And even then, who knows how long it must have taken to build the requisite intellect for him before man could take his station on the cultural plane? We shall not be wrong if we assert that all that has been wrought since the formation of the earth is but one long story of man's growth and development.
The question arises: Shall an object in the shaping of which nature has had to make such prolonged careful arrangement was meant just to eat and drink for a little moment on earth and get extinguished for ever?

A further question arises as a corollary. If the life of man has in the past undergone an endless series of changes only to assume a higher form every time, why should we not expect a continuation of the same process in future? when we are not surprised at the process in the past of one phase of life emerging out of another in succession, why should we grow sceptical, when it is said that the present form of human life disappears only to assume a still higher form?

Thinketh man that he is to be left to drift? Was he not a mere germ in the seminal state, And was he not then made into a clot of blood, Out of which God fashioned him, and made him perfect? (Q:75:36‑8)

Chapter LI entitled Al Dhariyat‑‑Scatterers, is devoted chiefly to the subject of requital, din, or the consequence in the life hereafter of what one does in this. "Surely", states the Qur'an, "it is the truth of which you are forewarned. Judgment is sure to be delivered." The idea is emphasized by a reference to the functioning of Rububiyat in nature.

By the clouds which scatter with scattering, By those (winds) which bear their load, And by those which speed lightly along, And those which apportion by command! (Q:51:1‑4)

This is reinforced by an appeal to the facts of life:

And in the earth are signs for those who are of firm belief, And also in your own selves: Will ye not then notice them? The heaven hath sustenance for you, and containeth that which ye are promised. (Q:51:20‑2)

To clench the whole issue, the Qur'an asserts: By the Lord of the heaven and of the earth, verily, this is the truth even as ye speak yourselves. (Q:21‑3)

The affirmation is emphatic and amounts to suggest that even as provisions of this life are provided by God, even so, a recompense in the life to follow is provided by God for every action one does in this life.
The method followed by the Qur'an to bring home its truths is not that of logic involving complicated argumentation. On the other hand, its appeal is direct and straightforward. Its questions posed prompt appropriate answerers. Indeed, the answers are implied in the very manner of its questioning. That is why it very often frames its appeal in forms of address such as: "O men! Server your Lord", ­"Serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord", "Verily, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so, serve Him", “This is Allah, your Lord; so serve him", "Of a truth, this your faith is the one faith and I am your Lord; therefore serve", "Say: will ye dispute with us about God, when He is our Lord and your Lord"?

It is a matter for deep regret that our commentators of the Qur'an have failed to notice this peculiarity of the Qur'anic presenta­tion. Losing themselves in dialectical disquisitions, they have neglected to note and appreciate the straightforward method of the Qur’an. The result is that the spirit of the Qur'an has been kept in the background on their account.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quran Commentary: al-Fatiha: Praise of God [2 of 7]


Significance of the term `Allah Al‑Hamdu Lillah': Praise is for Allah only

In Arabic, the word Hamd means praise. The grammatical prefix al denotes a definite article. So, al‑hamdu lillah really means, `Praise (strictly speaking) is for Allah only,' since all goodness and perfection exist only in Him and proceed from Him.

Why does the chapter begin with the praise of God? It is, because, such is the initial reaction inevitably created on the mind of one who takes his first step in the direction of God.

What then is the road one should take to seek knowledge of God? The Qur'an says there is but one road to it, and that is to reflect over the phenomenal world of creation. The study .of an invention take the student, so to say, directly into the very presence of the inventor himself.

Those who bear God in mind, standing, sitting and reclining, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and of the earth, they will say: "Our Lord! Thou has not cre­ated all this in vain (Q:3:191)

Visualize for yourself what his first impression will be when an earnest seeker of truth reflects over the working of the universe? He will notice that his very being and all that is at work outside of him are the handicraft of a consummate artist, and that the touch of his grace and tender providence is clearly felt in every particle of the universe. Naturally, his mind will be filled with wonder and admiration, so much so, that he will cry out instinctively: "Praise is for God only, Lord of all Being!" Praise truly is His who is the fountainhead of the grace, beauty, and perfection which subsist in every corner of His creation.

The tragedy of the human mind has lain in this that it tends to lose itself in the things of creation does not always strive to step beyond them to seek the Creator Himself. Man is dazzled by the artistry of the veils which first meet his eye, but rarely does he attempt to lift them and reach Him who has thrown such attractive veils over His own creative beauty. The worship of the phenomenal owes its origin to this defect in vision. The expression, 'Praise is for God, only' is a definite affirmation of the fact that the beauty and benevolence which subsist in a variety of forms in every field of existence are but manifestations of the attributes of God. Whatever the esteem in which we may hold beauty, perfection or goodness, the credit should go not to the phenomenal object which displays these qualities, but to the artist who fashioned it into a thing of beauty.

Allah Prior to the revelation of the Qur'an, the term Allah was used in Arabic as proper name for God, as is borne out by the writings of pre‑Islamic poets. It was never used in the sense of an attribute, although He was credited with numerous attributes. The Qur'an has but followed the usage:

Allah has beautiful names or attributes; so invoke Him by them. (Q:7:180)

Did the Qur'an adopt the term Allah merely out of regard for etymology, or was there any intrinsic appropriateness about it compelling adoption?

In the annals of ancient religious concepts, there was a period when man used to worship objects of nature. In course of time, this form of worship developed into the worship of demi‑gods. As corollary to this development, different names in different languages came to be applied to the new deities, and as time went on, with the widening of scope in worship, the significance of the terms applied also widened. But since it was not agreeable to human nature to let the human mind ignore the concept of a Crea­tor for the world, there lurked therein, alongside of the thought of demi‑gods, the idea, in one form or other, of a supreme being as well. So, in addition to the numerous terms coined to desig­nate demi‑gods, a term also had necessarily to be invented to apply to this unseen highest being as well.

For instance, a study of the Semitic group of languages‑‑Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, Chaldean, Himyarita and Arabic‑‑discloses that a special style of word formation and of sound had been in vogue among the Semitic peoples to denote the supreme being. The alphabets A, L and H combined in varied form to constitute the term by which this supreme being was to be styled. The Chaldean and Syriac term `Ilahia', the Hebrew `Iloha' and the Arabic `Ilah' are of this category. It is the Ilah in Arabic which assumed the form of Allah and was applied exclusively to the Creator of the universe.

But if the term Allah is derived from Ilah what the is Ilah? Lexicographers have given different stories. The most plausible is that it is itself derived from the root 'lah, an ejaculation expres­sive of wonder or helplessness. Some lexicographers trace the term to Walah which bear the same significance. Hence the term Allah came to be used as the proper name for the Creator of the uni­verse in respect of whom man can express nothing except his sense of wonder which increases in intensity, the more he thinks of Him, only to admit eventually that the road to the knowledge of God begins and ends in wonder and humility. Says a poet:

Thou art beyond my speech and thought.
Woe be unto my specifications of you and my comparisons!

Now consider whether, of all the terms which man has used, there could be any better term than this (Allah) to apply to God. If God is to be called by any attribute, an endless number of terms could be suggested. But attributes apart, if God is to be given a proper naive, what other term is there except this to designate a being which inspires nothing but wonder?

This is the reason why whenever anything was said in respect of the highest knowledge gained of God, it was to only admit that the utmost that man could say of God was simply to acknowledge the profundity of his ignorance about Him. The prayer of a gnostic has always been: "O God! increase me in my wonder over what You are". Likewise the admission of philosophers has always been: "We know this much that we know nothing".

Since the term Allah is used as a proper name for God, it has necessarily to cover all the attributes that can appropriately be associated with His Being. If we visualize God in any particular attribute of His, as when we refer to Him as Al‑Rabb or Al‑Rahim, we confine our vision within the limits of the attribute concerned. We shall think of Him only as a being who possesses the attribute of providence or mercy. But when we refer to Him as Allah, our mind instinctively clenches the sum total of all the qualities attributed to Him, or what He necessarily must possess.

Quran Commentary: al Fatiha: The Importance [1 of 7]

The Tarjumanul Quran
Vol. I, al-Fatiha - by Abul Kalam Azad,
Translated by Syed A Latif
Kitab Bhavan, India


Revealed at Mecca ‑ 7 Verses


1. Praise is for Allah only ‑‑ The Lord of All Being
2. The Benevolent, the Merciful
3. Master on the Day of Recompense !
4 Thee only do we serve, and Thee only do we ask for help.
5. Direct us to the Straight Path.
6. The path of those to whom Thou has been gracious,
7. Not of those who have incurred Thy displeasure, nor of those who have gone astray.


The Surat‑ul‑Fatiha is the first chapter of the Qur'an and is for that reason styled Fatihatul‑Kitab or the opening of the book. Because of its intrinsic value, it has been assigned a place of honour in the Qur'an and allowed to appear on the very first page of it. Indeed, the Qur'an endorses its importance in the following terms:

"O Prophet! It is a fact that We have given thee seven oft‑repeated verses and the great. Qur'an.”(Q:14:87)

It has been established by Hadith and athar that the reference here is to this chapter; for, it not only consists of seven verses but is repeatedly recited in daily worship. It is also called Sab'a al‑mathani, (the Oft‑repeated Seven). The same sources give it further names‑‑'Umm‑ul‑Qur'an (the Core of the Qur'an), Al‑Kafa (the Sufficient), Al‑Kanz (the Treasure House) and Asasul‑Qur'an (the Basis of the Qur'an), each emphasizing a particular aspect of its importance.

In Arabic, the term Umm applies to concepts and objects which, in one form or another, bear inclusive connotation, or by virtue of which, assume the role of genitives. It is why the central part of the human head is called 'Umm‑ul‑Ras, because it is the seat of the brains. The flag of an army is called 'Umm, because the army gathers round it. Mecca was known as 'Umm‑ul‑Qura, for, consequent upon the location of the Ka’aba therein and the association therewith of the institution of Hajj, it had grown into a place of assemblage for the people of Arabia. So, to style this chapter as 'Umm‑ul‑Qur’an is to acknowledge that in this tense comprehensiveness, it concentrates within its ambit the thought content of the entire Qur'an, and that, on that account, it rightly deserves the place of honour among its chapters.

Further, it is clear from some of the traditions of the Prophet that, even in his own lifetime, this unique role of the chapter had come to be recognized on all hands. The Prophet himself, according to one tradition, is stated to have expressed to 'Ubayy bin Ka'ab that there was no chapter to compare with it, and according to another, to have styled it as the greatest and the finest chapter.'

Looking into the character of the contents of this chapter, it becomes apparent that the rest of the Qur'an is but a detailed commentary of the concentrated substance that it contains, or that it gives out in an epitomized form the fundamental objectives of the Faith so elaborately expatiated upon in the rest of the Qur'an. If a person were to read nothing but this form out of the Qur'an and grasp its meaning, he could understand all the essentials of the Faith which form the subject of detailed exposition by the Qur'an. Further, when it is borne in mind that the form given to this chapter is one of invocation and that it is to be an integral part of a Muslim's daily prayer, not only the importance of the chapter is reinforced, but the fact emphasized that a deep purpose underlay the provision of a concentrated version of the Qur'an clenched to the full form of it. The purpose clearly was to make available to every one an easily intelligible brief version of the Qur'an such as might freely be recited in his daily prayers. It was intended to bring to mind every day the substance of his beliefs, or his spiritual ideology, as well as, his programme of righteous living. Hence, a knowledge of the contents of this chapter is regarded as indispensable to a Muslim. According to Bukhari and Muslim, the Islamic form of prayer is incomplete without a recitation of it.

Before we proceed further, the question may as well be posed: What are the essential objectives of the Qur'an, and in what, manner are they reflected in this chapter since it has to function as an epitome of it? These may briefly be stated. In the first place, the Qur'an aims to present the attributes of God in proper perspective, for, it is in his approach to them that man has often blundered. In the second place, it lays emphasis on the principle of causation in life so as to suggest that, even as in nature, every cause has its effect in the domain of human life, both individual and collective; so much so, that a good action produces a good result and an evil action an evil result. In the third place it aims to inculcate in man a belief in the life hereafter, by pointing out that man's life does not end with his earthly existence, but that there is a life to follow, where one has to account for his life on earth and where the effect of past deeds becomes manifest, as a matter of course. And lastly, it points the way to righteous or good life.

These objectives are all summed up in the Surat‑ul‑Fatiha. The chapter, be it noted, consists of just a few words easily counted. But they arc so aptly chosen that they seem invested with striking significance. They are so simple in form. There is nothing compli­cated about them nor do they confuse. The fact is that whatever is true to life is always easily comprehended. Look at nature. Nowhere does it appear elusive. Elusiveness is produced by arti­ficiality. All that is true and real will necessarily be plain and attractive, so attractive that when it appears before you, you do not feel any strangeness about it. Indeed, you accept it without hesitation.

Now, think it over. What plainer view can be taken of human devotion to God and all that it implies than what is presented in this chapter ? Here are but seven brief phrases, each of not more than five words, every word crystal clear and impressive. God is here invoked in His attributes, the manifestations of which man beholds day in and day out, however much he may, through indifference, neglect to reflect over them. Here you have man's admission of his absolute dependence on God, his acknowledgement of the divine kindness shown to him, his earnest yearning to be saved from the pitfalls of life and to be led along the straight path. Nothing is abstruse here ! Since we repeat this Surat so frequently and have grown so familiar with it, it may look as if it is but a commonplace concept of religion. But this very commonplace concept, till it emerged before man, was by no means commonplace or easy to grasp. So it is with everything real. So long as it does not come into sight, it looks as if there is nothing more difficult to perceive. When it is brought to view, what is there so clear and plain ?

Whenever a revelation from the divine has come, it has not brought to the knowledge of man anything strikingly novel; for, in respect of devotion to God, there is nothing novel to impart. The function of revelation has been simply to interpret, on the basis of knowledge and conviction, the inherent urges of man. And this is what the Surat‑ul‑Fatiha does. It expresses the instinctive urges of man so artfully and with such ease that he is impelled to affirm that every line of this chapter, nay every word of it, is but the compulsive voice of his own heart and mind.

Think it over again. Although by the very nature of it, this chapter is no more than a simple invocation, it reveals in every word of it, and in every turn of expression, one or other of the great purposes which underlie the Din or the way of life sponsored by the Qur'an.

The great mistake that man has made in this approach to the concept of God is that he has very often regarded God as the God, not of love, but of terror. The very first word of the chapter sets right this age‑long deviation from truth. It begins with hamd or the praise of God. It is a term signifying the most beautiful from of praise! 'Praise beautiful' is possible only of a being who truly is beautiful and good. The term cannot therefore sustain the concept of terror. The being which is Mahmud or worthy of 'the praise beautiful' will never inspire terror.

The hamd or praise over, the Surat draws attention to the all‑, encompassing providence of God, His mercy and His justice; and thus gives a comprehensive picture of divine attributes which op­erate to provide man with all that he needs to sustain and develop the humanity in him and prevent him from going down in the scale of life.

And then, by calling God Rabbul'‑Alamin, the Lord of all creation or of all forms of life, the Surat desires him to acknowledge the universal character of divine concern for every individual, group, community, country and every form of existence. The concept puts an end to all notions of exclusiveness which had hitherto prevailed among mankind assigning divine blessings and favours to one's own community.

The Surat then refers to God as Malik‑i‑Yawmiddin, or Master on the Day of Recompense. The word Din here postulates a law of recompense. It emphasizes that requital is but the natural re­action to one's own action and is its inevitable result. It is not fair therefore to assert that God deals out punishment to any one out of revenge or in anger, for, the word Din in this context simply means recompense or requital or what follows as a natural sequence.

The significance of Maliki‑i‑Yawmiddin in this that alongside of the attributes of grace and beauty, those of 'power' and pressure' are also at work in the universe, and this is not because of any sense of anger or revenge in its creator, but because He is just, and because His wisdom has assigned to each object a particular quality productive of a particular result. Justice, according to the Qur'a"n, is not a negation of mercy. It is mercy itself.

Moreover, the form of prayer suggested in the Surat is not, 'We serve Thee', but is specifically worded, 'Thee alone do we serve, and from Thee alone do we ask for help'. This manner of expression fulfils the primary condition of belief in the unity of God, and disallows room for every form of 'shirk' or associating with God anything beside Him.

Lastly, the path of goodness is styled 'Sirat‑al‑Mustaqim' or the Straight Path. There could be no better or more appropriate term than this to designate it, for, no one will fail to distinguish between a straight road and a road which is not straight, or disdain to choose the first. And then to enable him to know what a straight road is like, a clear pointer is furnished such as man can easily perceive for himself, and this, not in the form of any abstract idea, but in the form of a concrete reality, namely, the road followed by those on whom God has, as a result of their actions, bestowed favours. For, whatever the country or nation one may belong to, man has always found two ways lying clear before him. One is that of those who have lived successful lives, the other of failures. What is thus so obvious needs only to be hinted at, and that is exactly what is done here. This was the reason why the prayer form was adopted to stress the point. Had it taken the form of a regular catechism or of a specific command, the effect would have been lost. The prayer form helps to voice the inward condition of one who in sincerity invokes God. It clenches devotional though intent on seeking a spontaneous expression.