Tafsir of Surah al-Fatihah: Imam al-Sa’di

In the beginning of his book of thematic tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di provided the following brief but highly beneficial explanation of surah al-Fatihah. This explanation is slightly more detailed than his previous explanation of surah al-Fatihah in his well-known complete work of tafsir, Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman:

ـ {بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ – الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ – الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ – مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ – إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ – اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ – صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ} [الفاتحة: 1 – 7] ـ

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّ‌حْمَـٰنِ الرَّ‌حِيمِ * الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَ‌بِّ الْعَالَمِينَ * الرَّ‌حْمَـٰنِ الرَّ‌حِيمِ * مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ * إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ * اهْدِنَا الصِّرَ‌اطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ * صِرَ‌اطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ‌ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ

In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. * [All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds – * The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, * Sovereign of the Day of Recompense. * It is You we worship and You we ask for help. * Guide us to the straight path – * The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. [1:1-7]

أي: أبتدئ بكل اسم لله تعالى، لأن لفظ ” اسم ” مفرد مضاف، فيعم جميع أسماء الله الحسنى؛ فيكون العبد مستعينا بربه، وبكل اسم من أسمائه على ما يناسبه من المطالب، وأجل ما يستعان به على عبادة الله؛ وأجل ذلك الاستعانة على قراءة كلام الله، وتفهم معانيه، والاهتداء بهديه. ـ

Meaning: I begin with every name of Allah the Exalted, because the word “name” occurs in the singular and attached state, and it therefore includes all of Allah’s beautiful names. So the slave seeks the aid of his Lord with every one of His names according to what is appropriate for his goals, and the most lofty of things to seek His aid in is the worship of Allah. And the most lofty form of that is to seek His aid in reading the Words of Allah, understanding their meanings and being guided by their guidance.

ـ (الله) هو المألوه المستحق لإفراده بالمحبة والخوف والرجاء وأنواع العبادة كلها، لما اتصف به من صفات الكمال، وهي التي تدعو الخلق إلى عبادته والتأله له. ـ

Allah” – He is the One who is revered, the One deserving to be singled out exclusively with love, fear, hope and all varieties of acts of worship due to what He is characterized with of perfect attributes, and these are what call the creation to worship and revere Him.

ـ {الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ} [الفاتحة: 1] اسمان دالان على أنه تعالى ذو الرحمة الواسعة العظيمة التي وسعت كل شيء، وعمت كل مخلوق، وكتب الرحمة الكاملة للمتقين المتبعين لأنبيائه ورسله؛ فهؤلاء لهم الرحمة المطلقة المتصلة بالسعادة الأبدية، ومن عداهم محروم من هذه الرحمة الكاملة، لأنه الذي دفع هذه الرحمة وأباها بتكذيبه للخبر، وتوليه عن الأمر، فلا يلومن إلا نفسه. ـ

al-Rahman al-Raheem” – These two names show that He possesses the attribute of vast and tremendous Mercy which extends unto everything and encompasses every created being. And He decreed complete mercy for the muttaqoon – those who follow the His prophets and messengers. So for those ones, there is unrestricted mercy which leads them to everlasting joy, and whoever opposes them is deprived of this complete mercy because they are the ones who repel this mercy and refuse it by their denial of the message and their turning away from the command, so they only have themselves to blame.

واعلم أن من القواعد المتفق عليها بين سلف الأمة وأئمتها ما دل عليه الكتاب والسنة من الإيمان بأسماء الله كلها، وصفاته جميعها، وبأحكام تلك الصفات؛ فيؤمنون – مثلا – بأنه رحمن رحيم: ذو الرحمة العظيمة التي اتصف بها، المتعلقة بالمرحوم، فالنعم كلها من آثار رحمته، وهكذا يقال في سائر الأسماء الحسنى؛ فيقال عليم: ذو علم عظيم، يعلم به كل شيء، قدير: ذو قدرة يقدر على كل شيء . ـ

And you should know that one of the principles which is agreed upon by the salaf and leading scholars of this ummah which is proven in the Book and the Sunnah is: eemaan in all the names of Allah and in all of His attributes and in that which the attributes necessarily entail. So they believe, for example, that He is Rahman Raheem – He possesses the attribute of great mercy with which He is characterized and which is related to those upon whom He has mercy. So all blessings are from the effects of His mercy. And it is said likewise in regards to the rest of the beautiful names. So one says: ‘Aleem – the possessor of great knowledge by which He knows everything. Qadeer – the possessor of power by which He regulates everything.

فإن الله قد أثبت لنفسه الأسماء الحسنى، والصفات العليا، وأحكام تلك الصفات، فمن أثبت شيئا منها ونفى الآخر كان مع مخالفته للنقل والعقل متناقضا مبطلا. ـ

For indeed Allah has affirmed the beautiful names for Himself, as He has for the lofty attributes and what these attributes necessarily entail. So whoever affirms some of them and negates others, then that is a contradictory and false position in light of his differing from the texts and from what the rational intellect indicates.

ـ {الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ} [الفاتحة: 2] الحمد هو الثناء على الله بصفات الكمال، وبأفعاله الدائرة بين الفضل والعدل، المشتملة على الحكمة التامة؛ ولا بد في تمام حمد الحامد من اقتران محبة الحامد لربه وخضوعه له، فالثناء المجرد من محبة وخضوع ليس حمدا كاملا. ـ

All praise is due to Allah” – al-hamd is praising Allah for His perfect attributes and His actions which result from His favor or His justice and embody complete wisdom. And part of the completeness of one’s praise for Him involves a close link of the love of that person for his Lord and obedience towards Him, for praise devoid of love and obedience is not complete or true praise.

ـ {رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ} [الفاتحة: 2] الرب هو المربي جميع العالمين بكل أنواع التربية، فهو الذي خلقهم ورزقهم وأنعم عليهم بالنعم الظاهرة والباطنة، وهذه التربية العامة لجميع الخلق، برهم وفاجرهم، بل المكلفون منهم وغيرهم. ـ

Lord of all creation” – al-Rabb is the Lord who nurtures all of the creation with every type of care and cultivation, for He is the one who created them, provides for them and bestows blessings upon them both openly and concealed. This is the general care and cultivation granted to all created beings – both the righteous and wicked of them; moreover it is granted both to those charged with fulfilling His commands as well as to those not charged.

وأما التربية الخاصة لأنبيائه وأوليائه، فإنه مع ذلك يربي إيمانهم فيكمله لهم، ويدفع عنهم الصوارف والعوائق التي تحول بينهم وبين صلاحهم وسعادتهم الأبدية، وتيسيرهم لليسرى وحفظهم من جميع المكاره . ـ

But as for the specific care and cultivation given to His prophets and allies, then along with the aforementioned care He furthermore cultivates their eemaan such that He makes it complete for them and He repels the obstacles and adversities that come between them and their rectification and everlasting joy, and He facilitates ease for them and protects them from all disliked things.

وكما دل ذلك على انفراد الرب بالخلق والتدبير والهداية وكمال الغنى، فإنه يدل على تمام فقر العالمين إليه بكل وجه واعتبار، فيسأله من في السماوات والأرض – بلسان المقال والحال – جميع حاجاتهم، ويفزعون إليه في مهماتهم. ـ

And just as this directs one towards singling out of the Rabb with the act of creation, the management of the creation, guidance, and complete freedom from any need, so it also indicates the total and complete dependence of the entire creation upon Allah in every manner and respect. So whoever is in the heavens or the earth asks Him – whether by his tongue or by his very situation – for all of his needs and resort to Him for their important affairs.

ـ {مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ} [الفاتحة: 4] المالك هو من اتصف بالصفات العظيمة الكاملة التي يتحقق بها الملك، التي من آثارها أنه يأمر وينهى، ويثيب ويعاقب، ويتصرف في العالم العلوي والسفلي التصرف التام المطلق بالأحكام القدرية والأحكام الشرعية، وأحكام الجزاء، فلهذا أضاف ملكه ليوم الدين مع أنه المالك المطلق في الدنيا والآخرة؛ فإنه يوم القيامة الذي يدين الله فيه العباد بأعمالهم خيرها وشرها، ويرتب عليها جزاءها، وتشاهد الخليقة من آثار ملكه وعظمته وسعته، وخضوع الخلائق كلها لعظمته وكبريائه، واستواء الخلق في ذلك اليوم على اختلاف طبقاتهم في نفوذ أحكامه عليهم – ما يعرفون به كمال ملكه، وعظمة سلطانه. ـ

Sovereign of the Day of Recompense” – al-Maalik is He who is characterized with attributes of complete and perfect grandeur which entitle Him to sovereignty – from the effects of which is that He commands and forbids, rewards and punishes, and acts as He wishes towards all manner of created beings with complete and unrestricted freedom in terms of both his divine providential rulings and legislative rulings, as well as the decisions of recompense. So because of this, He attributed His sovereignty to the Day of Recompense despite being the absolute Sovereign in both this worldly life and in the hereafter, for it is the Day of Standing on which Allah will recompense His slaves according to their deeds – both good and bad – and the requital of deeds is predicated on that. The creation will witness the effects of His sovereignty, grandeur and greatness, and all of the created beings will humble themselves to His grandeur and greatness. And on that day the created beings will be sorted out according to their different levels during the process of Him enacting His judgement upon this – so that they would thereby know the completeness of His ownership and the greatness of His sovereignty.

ـ {إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ} [الفاتحة: 5] أي: نخصك يا ربنا وحدك بالعبادة والاستعانة، فلا نعبد غيرك، ولا نستعين بسواك . ـ

It is You we worship and You we ask for help” – meaning: we single You alone out, O our Lord, for worship and seeking aid, so we do not worship any other than You nor do we seek the aid of any besides You.

فالعبادة اسم جامع لكل ما يحبه الله ويرضاه من الأعمال والأقوال، الظاهرة والباطنة، فهي القيام بعقائد الإيمان وأخلاقه وأعماله محبة لله وخضوعا له . ـ

For al-‘ibaadah (worship) is a word which comprises everything of both actions and words – both outwardly and inwardly – which Allah loves and is pleased with. So it is the enactment of the creedal beliefs, manners and acts of al-eemaan, done out of love for Allah and subservience to Him.

والاستعانة هي الاعتماد على الله في جلب المنافع ودفع المضار مع الثقة به في حصول ذلك، وهذا التزام من العبد بعبودية ربه، وطلب من ربه أن يعينه على القيام بذلك، وبذلك يتوسل إلى السعادة الأبدية والنجاة من جميع الشرور، فلا سبيل لذلك إلا بالقيام بعبادة الله والاستعانة به، وعلم بذلك شدة افتقار العبد لعبادة الله والاستعانة به. ـ

And seeking His aid is relying upon Allah for the attainment of beneficial matters and repelling of harmful matters while having confidence in His bringing these things about. This is a commitment on the part of the slave to the role of servitude towards his Lord, and asking his Lord to aid him in the fulfillment of that. Through this, he will attain everlasting joy and rescue from all forms of evil, and there is no way to attain this except through the establishment of worshiping Allah. And because of this, one can know the severity of a slave’s great need to worship Allah and seek His aid in doing so.

ـ {اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ} [الفاتحة: 6] أي: دلنا وأرشدنا، ووفقنا للعلم بالحق والعمل به، الذي هو الصراط المستقيم، المعتدل الموصل إلى الله وإلى جنته وكرامته، وهذا يشمل الهداية إلى الصراط، وهي التوفيق للزوم دين الإسلام، وترك ما سواه من الأديان الباطلة، ويشمل الهداية في الصراط وقت سلوكه علما وعملا؛ فهذا الدعاء من أجمع الأدعية وأنفعها للعبد، ولهذا أوجبه الله ويسره . ـ

Guide us to the straight path” – meaning: show us, direct us and grant us the accord to have knowledge of the truth and to act  accordingly – that is the Straight Path, moderate and leading unto Allah and to His Jannah and generosity. And this includes guidance unto the path, which is being granted the accord to adhere to the religion of Islam and to abandon any other false religions. And it also includes guidance upon the path while one is traversing it with both knowledge and actions. So this supplication is one of the most comprehensive and beneficial supplications for the slave to make, and so for this reason Allah has obligated it and facilitated it.

وهذا الصراط هو طريق و {صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ} [الفاتحة: 7] بالنعمة التامة المتصلة بالسعادة الأبدية، وهم الأنبياء والصديقون والشهداء والصالحون . ـ

And this path is the route and “The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor” with a complete blessing with results in everlasting joy. And these ones are the prophets, the siddeeqoon, the martyrs, and the righteous ones.

ـ {غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ} [الفاتحة: 7] وهم الذين عرفوا الحق وتركوه كاليهود ونحوهم . ـ

Not of those who have evoked [Your] anger” and these are those who know the truth but abandon it, such as the Jews and those like them.

  ـ {وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ} [الفاتحة: 7] الذين ضلوا عن الحق كالنصارى ونحوهم. ـ

Nor of those who are astray” and these are those who are misguided from the truth, such as the Christians and those like them.

فهذه السورة على إيجازها قد جمعت علوما جمة، تضمنت أنواع التوحيد الثلاثة: توحيد الربوبية يؤخذ من قوله: {رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ} [الفاتحة: 2] . ـ

So this surah, despite its brevity, has gathered a great amount of religious knowledge. It includes the three categories of al-TawheedTawheed al-Ruboobiyyah [singling Allah out in Lordship] is taken from Allah’s statement, “Lord of the worlds“.

وتوحيد الألوهية من قوله: {إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ} [الفاتحة: 5] فهو المألوه بعبادته والاستعانة به . ـ

And Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah [singling Allah out in worship] in taken from His statement, “It is You we worship and You we ask for help“, for He is revered through worship and seeking aid directly from Him.

وتوحيد الأسماء والصفات بأن يثبت لله صفات الكمال كلها التي أثبتها لنفسه، وأثبتها له رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم. ـ

And Tawheed al-Asmaa’ wa’l-Sifaat [singling Allah out in His names and attributes] in affirming all of the perfect attributes for Allah which Allah has affirmed for Himself and which His messenger (ﷺ) has affirmed for Him.

وقد دل على ذلك إثبات الحمد لله؛ فإن الأسماء الحسنى والصفات العليا وأحكامها كلها محامد ومدائح لله تعالى . ـ

And this surah demonstrates an affirmation that all of the praise belongs to Allah, for the beautiful names, lofty attributes and what they necessarily entail are all praise and exaltation of Allah the Exalted.

وتضمنت إثبات الرسالة في قوله: {اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ} [الفاتحة: 6] لأنه الطريق الذي عليه النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، وذلك فرع عن الإيمان بنبوته ورسالته . ـ

And this surah includes an affirmation of prophethood in His statement, “Guide us to the straight path” for that is the route which the Prophet (ﷺ) was upon, and that is a part of having eemaan in his prophethood and messengership.

وتضمنت إثبات الجزاء، وأنه بالعدل، وذلك مأخوذ من قوله: {مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ} [الفاتحة: 4] ـ

And this surah includes an affirmation of the recompense, and that it is done with justice. That is taken from Allah’s statement, “Sovereign of the Day of Recompense“.

وتضمنت إثبات مذهب أهل السنة والجماعة في القدر، وأن جميع الأشياء بقضاء الله وقدره، وأن العبد فاعل حقيقة، ليس مجبورا على أفعاله، وهذا يفهم من قوله: {إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ} [الفاتحة: 5] فلولا أن مشيئة العبد مضطر فيها إلى إعانة ربه وتوفيقه لم يسأل الاستعانة. ـ

And this surah includes an affirmation of the belief of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah in regards to al-Qadr; and that all things are according to the pre-determination and divine decree of Allah, and that the slave is the true performer of his actions – he is not compelled to perform them. And this is understood from Allah’s statement, “It is You we worship and You we ask for help“. For if it were the case that the slave’s will was forced to seek the aid and assistance of his Lord, then he did not (really) seek His aid.

وتضمنت أصل الخير ومادته، وهو الإخلاص الكامل لله في قول العبد: إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين. ـ

And this surah includes the foundation and very substance of goodness, which is complete ikhlaas to Allah. This is in the slave’s statement, “It is You we worship and You we ask for help.”

ولما كانت هذه السورة بهذه العظمة والجلالة أوجبها الشارع على المكلفين في كل ركعة من صلاتهم فرضا ونفلا . ـ

And due to the greatness and majesty of this surah, the Divine Legislator made it obligatory for those tasked with enacting His legislation to recite this surah in every unit of their prayers, whether they be obligatory prayers or optional ones.

وفيها تعليم الله لعباده كيف يحمدونه ويثنون عليه، ويمجدونه بمحامده، ثم يسألون ربهم جميع مطالبهم. ففيها دليل على افتقارهم إلى ربهم في الأمرين: مفتقرين إليه في أن يملأ قلوبهم من محبته ومعرفته، ومفتقرين إليه في أن يقوم بمصالحهم يوفقهم لخدمته، والحمد لله رب العالمين. ـ

And this surah contains instruction from Allah to His slaves about how they should first praise, exalt and glorify Him with His praises, and then ask their Lord for all of their needs. So it contains a proof of the slaves’ dire need for their Lord regarding two affairs: 1) their dire need for Him to fill their hearts with love for Him and knowledge of Him, and 2) their dire need for Him to enact their best interests and to grant them to accord to serve Him. And all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation.

[Taysir al-Lateef al-Manaan pg. 27-32]

This translation is part of a series of sound explanations of surah al-Fatihah, which also includes:

For more information about each of these explanations, please see: Tafsir of Surah al-Fatihah Guide.

 

See also: Ibn Kathir’s brief remarks on the contents of Surah al-Fatihah 

See also: The Levels of the Believers: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Tafsir of Surah al-‘Asr: Imam al-Sa’di

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9 thoughts on “Tafsir of Surah al-Fatihah: Imam al-Sa’di

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